8/6: Burton cam, Murphy stepping up, receivers improving, defenders getting ejected

A handful of Florida Gators football players met with the media on Tuesday to discuss how the team is looking at the start of fall practices.

VIDEO: PRACTICE THROUGH THE EYES OF A PLAYER

Senior Trey Burton, who is still listed as a running back, said Tuesday that he has been working the most at wide receiver though he did admit that he is doing “a little bit of everything.” In a prior practice, Florida strapped a Go Pro camera to Burton’s helmet so fans can get a player’s view of what it is like to go through the motions.

MURPHY SOLID BUT DRISKEL STILL THE LEADER

With junior quarterback Jeff Driskel still sidelined following his appendectomy, redshirt junior back-up Tyler Murphy has been running with the first team in practice and appears to be doing a good job as a substitute. The reviews are positive from his teammates and coaches thus far, and Murphy believes he taking a major step forward in his development as a signal caller.

“It’s been a good experience,” he said, according to The Gainesville Sun “I’m just trying to be productive. Things have been going well for me. There’s still a lot I need to work on. But I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better, especially with the amount of reps I’ve been able to get. I want to continue to build trust in my teammates so they feel comfortable with me being the guy if that ever happens. I’m really just trying to develop and grow as a leader and help this team become successful in any way, shape or form.”

Though Murphy is doing an admirable job, Driskel remains Florida’s leader and has been taking mental reps from the sidelines while watching the Gators’ first few fall practices. Burton said Tuesday that the team is pleased with how Driskel has been attacking playing quarterback and being the one guy his teammates can count on whether on or off the field.

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8/1: Muschamp breaks down Gators entering 2013

Florida Gators’ 2013 Media Day: Story: Injured Matt Jones, Jon Halapio, others join Jeff Driskel on sidelines | Story: Appendectomy a bump in the road for confident Driskel | Story: It’s now or never for Florida WR Andre Debose | Story: RB Brown, QB Murphy ready to step up for Gators

The Florida Gators will take the field for the first time since April on Friday morning at 6 a.m. for the official start of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

Head coach Will Muschamp, heading into his third year at the helm of the program, held a press conference during Florida’s annual media day on Thursday to discuss the make-up of the Gators heading into the fall. Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel spoke after Muschamp and addressed some similar topics.

OPENING STATEMENTS

» Overall: “I love this time of year, training camp. You see your football team develop through the offseason program, through spring practice, then on their own in the summer, preparing themselves for the season. You get to see the older guys and see the improvements they needed to make, whether it’s in the weight room or schematically, watching film, and preparing themselves for position battles and a lot of situations. You get to see the young guys you recruited and how they looked when they get on the field with the other guys and see how they mix it up. This is a huge time of the year as far as the development of your football team as you move forward and certainly an exciting time for us.”

» On the offense: “Do we need to be more balanced and efficient in throwing the football? That’s been well documented, but I think we’re better up front. We’ve been better at wideout, and I think we’re better at the quarterback position. But we need to do that August 31st, and we need to prepare that way to that point. We still have some questions at tight end, and what’s behind Jeff at the quarterback position, and continue to have playmakers at the running back position and outside. Those are some things we need to continue to work through.”

» On the defense: “Concerned about depth at the linebacker position more than anything. The experience, I think we’ve recruited well, but those guys need to gain some experience through training camp, and obviously we’re not as good at the safety position in spring. Very concerned heading into fall camp with those question marks up the middle of your defense. I do think we’re good enough up front to be fine. I think we’ve got a good combination of guys that can play, play well, and play the way we need to play to get to Atlanta.”

» On special teams: “Placekicker is an issue. Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips both have the ability to do the job, but they’ve never done it in the situations they’re going to be put into. So we may change that a little philosophically of what we think when we cross the 50.”

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2013 SEC Media Days – Gators ready to rock

Florida Gators at 2013 SEC Media Days: Game times vs. Toledo, Miami set | Muschamp: I’m “100% responsible” for players | Easley steals the show | VIDEOS: Florida players have fun interviewing each other

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley and redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio represented the team on Tuesday by participating at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, AL. Below are highlights from Muschamp’s session along with some player comments.

MUSCHAMP FIRES A SHOT AT URBAN MEYER

Before he stepped up to the main podium, Muschamp spoke with reporters in a side session and was asked about Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer turning in Florida and running backs coach Brian White (Meyer’s former team and former assistant coach) for a minor secondary recruiting violation. Meyer and OSU also reported UF for what they perceived to be another recruiting violation last year.

“We appreciate our friends from Ohio making sure we are compliant with NCAA rules,” Muschamp said, according to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples. “They certainly know something about NCAA rules.”

Muschamp continued: “It’s really a dead issue. In both situations we were turned in by Ohio, the University of Florida didn’t do anything wrong.”

PUNISHMENT STILL UP IN THE AIR

Muschamp also told reporters that he has not decided whether sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison will be suspended for any games due to his arrest on a charge of misdemeanor simple battery one month ago. He has already been disciplined by the Gators but additional punishment has yet to be determined.

Morrison accepted a deferred prosecution agreement from the State of Florida and will pay fines, perform community service and complete other tasks during a six-month probationary period in order to get the charge expunged from his record.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp announced Tuesday that only two players would be limited heading into fall training camp – redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trip Thurman and freshman LB Alex Anzalone – both of whom are nursing shoulder injuries after going under the knife during the spring.

He expects both players to eventually return to practice in the fall but noted that each would likely miss 10-12 sessions before being cleared by team trainers. Otherwise, he believes the Gators are “pretty healthy” on the injury front.

Redshirt junior BUCK Ronald Powell, who missed the entire 2012 season with a pair of anterior cruciate ligament surgeries, will be cleared for the start of fall practice.

“Probably the guy I’m most excited to see is Ronald Powell,” Muschamp said. “Here is a guy who has been through a lot of adversity. He’s been cleared to go after it in fall camp. A guy I’m really excited to get back on the field to see is No. 7 running around in orange and blue, a guy that’s been through an awful lot. Two surgeries. Never complained. Never got down about anything. [He] is truly a great individual and excited that he’s a leader of our football team as well.”

POSITION-BY-POSITION ANALYSIS

As part of his 2,400-word filibuster opening statement, Muschamp went in-depth about each position on the Florida football team and often spoke at length about particular players. Below is a breakdown of what he had to say about those positions.

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Florida Gators 2013 post-spring depth chart

Below is the 2013 post-spring practice version of the Florida Gators depth chart. Though some fans will be excited to see where the team stacks up below, head coach Will Muschamp cautions each year that feeling that way is not worth the energy.

Muschamp makes it quite clear that he does not put a lot of stock into depth charts, even those that are published after spring practice is over. In fact, back in 2011 and again on Wednesday, he stated it is “not worth the paper it is printed on.” In other words, the depth chart seen here is just a starting-off point for 2013 and plenty can change between now and the start of the season.

Nevertheless, below is the depth chart as it was presented on April 24. Notations marked with (») denote changes from the pre-spring depth chart released March 12. Players marked with (*) were out for all or most of spring practice.

OGGOA will update this post with more from Muschamp shortly.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 10 Tyler Murphy
» Murphy inches ahead of 17 Skyler Mornhinweg for the No. 2 job.
RB: 24 Matt Jones, 33 Mack Brown
» Brown understandably inches ahead of freshman 21 Kelvin Taylor.~
FB: 43 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
» Ajagbe wins the second-string job over 29 Rhaheim Ledbetter.
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson
WR (Z): 13 Latroy Pittman, 4 Andre Debose, 83 Solomon Patton
» Debose switches from second X to second Z receiver though the players switch in those positions. Pittman takes over the top spot at Z from 15 Loucheiz Purifoy.
F Position: 8 Trey Burton, 13 Latroy Pittman
TE: 88 Clay Burton, 87 Tevin Westbrook OR 18 Kent Taylor OR 84 Colin Thompson

~ Muschamp on Brown edging past Taylor: “You’re not going to get through the SEC with one back. That’s not going to happen. Certainly Mack has distanced himself as a second-team back at this time, a guy that we’ve got a lot of confidence in, that we expect big things form in the fall to continue to progress. I think he’s done a nice job of running the football, and protections, catching the ball, finishing plays. Kelvin certainly has done some nice things and he needs to continue to progress – more than anything- mentally with the offense. Physically, he’s got some ability.”

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 74 Trenton Brown
LG: 76 Max Garcia, 77 Ian Silberman*
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne
RG: 67 Jon Halapio, 63 Trip Thurman*
RT: 73 Tyler Moore OR 75 Chaz Green*
» Brown (an incoming JUCO transfer) replaces Thurman, who moves from back-up LT to back-up RG. Silberman replaces Koehne at back-up LG.

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2013 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Review

With the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut now officially in the books, OGGOA is here to take a look at what happened Saturday afternoon on Florida Field inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the Florida Gators spring game practice and how head coach Will Muschamp felt about the team and his players after the conclusion of the day’s events.

OFFENSE: STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS
* Separate story on passing game (quarterbacks, wide receivers) to be posted Sunday.

Running Backs
A starter emerges: Sophomore Matt Jones did not see a lot of action on Saturday by design. Why? Because Jones has played so well throughout the spring that he has all but officially been named Florida’s starter in the backfield. “Matt has really had an outstanding spring. We have a good comfort level where he is as a player,” Muschamp said. “He’s a physical runner. He understands our protections. He’s got great hands in the throwing game. There’s no question he’s an all-around back. He can do everything for us and he’s shown it to us for 14-straight practices.”

Four-deep with a freshman shining: Behind Jones there are three other players competing for carriers – redshirt junior Mack Brown, freshman Kelvin Taylor and sophomore walk-on Mark Herndon. On Saturday, Brown barely got any carries with the vast majority of snaps going to the latter two players. Unlike Jones, it did not look like the coaching staff was resting Brown. Taylor looked dynamic and Herndon made it quite clear why the coaches have praised him throughout the spring with multiple nice runs including a touchdown scamper from inside the 10-yard line. Though Taylor started slow, he showed nice patience running between the tackles, looked decent in pass protection and showed shiftiness breaking a tackle and moving the ball to the outside. Late in the scrimmage, he had a 15-yard run off-tackle and later scored a red zone touchdown from eight yards out when he stuck the ball over the goal line.

Asked about Taylor after the game, Muschamp gushed about how impressive he has been just 15 practices into his Gators career. “Kelvin’s got a really strong lower body. He runs through contact extremely well. He’s got natural instincts in the run game. You get the turns and reps and [need to learn] the protections and all the things that you got to be able to do for us at running back, but [I’m] extremely pleased with his progress,” Muschamp said. “He’s a very talented runner. Some positions are easier than others to contribute as a freshman. That’s a natural instinct position. You get the guy the ball and let his natural instincts take over and run for daylight. And he can do that. It’s the other things we got to brush up on.”

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2013 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Preview

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 1:00 p.m. (EDT)

TV: Sun Sports (Larry Vettel, Nat Moore, Brady Ackerman)
SiriusXM: None | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: FOXSportsFlorida.com (nationally) | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Reference: Roster | Schedule

EVENT INFORMATION

Schedule:
9:00 a.m. – Gator Locker Room Yard Sale (outside Gate 9)
10:00 a.m. – Verizon Fan Fest in North End Zone Lawn
10:30 a.m. – Gator Walk
11:30 a.m. – Gates Open to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
11:30 a.m. – Warm-ups begin on the field
12:30 p.m. – Alumni Flag Football Game
1:00 p.m. – Orange & Blue Debut

Parking: Stephen C. O’Connell Center parking garage (first-come, first serve), Gale Lemerand Drive commuter lot (with shuttle)

Tickets: Free for alumni, students and the general public.

EVENT FORMAT

Instead of a full scrimmage, Saturday’s event will be an open practice that also includes limited scrimmage snaps. Florida will mix in approximately 40 scrimmage snaps with football drills. The format adjustment was made because the Gators currently only have six healthy offensive linemen and head coach Will Muschamp feels that it would be right to ask them to participate in 60-100 snaps over the course of a single afternoon. “It’s not fair to go into a spring game situation and ask these guys to take 60-70 snaps in a row,” he explained. “That’s not healthy. That’s not good, it’s not good for our team.”

Muschamp also detailed what will occur during the practice/scrimmage (in order): (1) Field goal/point after touchdown drills, (2) punting and individual drills, (3) one-on-one work with the secondary and receivers going head-to-head while the quarterbacks throw the ball, (4) one-on-one work with block reaction for the offensive line, (5) linebackers and running backs picking up blitz protection and coverage responsibilities, (6) two series of scrimmage with the ball on the 35-yard line, a total of 8-12 plays, (7) red zone one-on-one, (8) offensive and defensive line two-on-ones, (9) two series of scrimmage with the ball at the 35 yard line, a total of 8-12 plays, (10) two full cover punts and a punt/punt block drill, (11), two series of scrimmage from midfield, (12) two full cover kickoffs and a kickoff/kickoff return drill, (13) two series of scrimmage from midfield, (14) red zone 7-on-7s with the ball at the 18-yard line, (15) additional drills including pass rushing, (16) backed up punt drill, (17) one-minute scrimmage drill.

“It’s about getting good-on-good work. It’s about getting your best players going against your best players. … You get better when you’re going good-on-good,” Muschamp said. “This is good work. It’s good special teams work. This is a normal scrimmage-type situation for us as far as our football team is concerned. It’s good-on-good and that’s all I’m concerned with.”

MORE: Injury report, offensive and defensive notes, list of commitments and recruits in attendance…all available after the break!
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Josh Evans – Path to 2013 NFL Draft: Workouts

Through the 2013 NFL Draft from April 25-27, Florida Gators safety and 2012 leading tackler Josh Evans will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

Evans’s sixth entry covers his thoughts on spring practice, first team workout (New England Patriots) and decision to leave Gainesville, FL a week earlier than scheduled. Evans also details a busy week ahead as he has meetings set with three teams.

Though it has been a few weeks since I last checked in, most of my time has been spent working out, staying in shape, just getting better and hanging out with my teammates that were still in Gainesville doing the same thing. I’ve also been fielding calls from my agent and some teams just as he helps get my meetings set up and my schedule all together heading into the draft.

For workouts, usually it was me, Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins and sometimes Omarius Hines would come out there with us, too. We’re all close friends so we would just schedule a time and go in and workout. Maybe we would call someone else to come in and throw us the ball, too.

I know before the Pro Day and everything [Hines] may not have been on a lot of teams’ radar, but before I left to come back to New Jersey, he told me what sounded like some good news. He was originally expecting to wind up somewhere as an undrafted free agent but now it is looking like he might be a late-round pick, sixth or seventh round. If he can do that, that would be great for him to get on a team. And it’s a plus for the Gators to have another player drafted.

In between working out and chilling with the guys, a bunch of us would stop by spring practice. Florida is looking like it’s going to be a tough, physical team again next year. You can see a lot of the younger players really working hard, looking to make a statement. The coaching staff was getting after it as usual, getting on those guys and definitely getting the best out of them when they step on the field.

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Florida defense: Quick hitters on Fowler, Bullard, McMillian, Gorman, Maye and Christy

Over the last week-and-a-half of Florida Gators spring football practice, a number of players met with the media to discuss their individual play and the team as a whole. Below are some of the stories, notes and quotes that have fallen through the cracks.

BIG EXPECTATIONS FOR HIGH-WORK ETHIC DEFENDERS

With so many starters now off the team due to graduation and the draft and redshirt junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell still recovering from his ACL injuries, Florida head coach Will Muschamp is looking to a trio of young players to be impact players for the Gators defense in 2013.

Sophomores Buck Dante Fowler, Jr. and defensive end Jonathan Bullard both impressed as freshman in 2012, combining for 13 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. Each player appeared in all 13 games and earned a start or two but now must take the next step and potentially become full-time starters for Florida. As far as Muschamp is concerned, both have what it takes to do just that for the Gators.

“Football is really important to both of those guys, I mean extremely important. There are guys that come in and meet extra, they watch extra film, they come up after practice if they don’t feel like they played well and they’re going to go in a meeting room with a coach or myself and say show me what I’m doing,” Muschamp explained.

“Dante walks up to me every single day and says, ‘What can I do to get better?’ It starts, to me from a maturity standpoint, of off the field understanding what it takes to be successful. A lot of guys, when they are a dominant player in high school, come to college and they’ve never had to work hard, never had to watch extra film, never had to do the extra things to be successful.

“That’s what those two guys do. They work extremely hard at being good football players. God has blessed them; they got ability. But you can walk in the weight room and see how they work; you walk on our practice field and see how they work. They’ve got tremendous work ethic away from just having good talent. That’s the difference in those guys. They’re both mature guys from that standpoint because they want to be really good players.”

Fowler, who said Tuesday that he knows there are “a lot of high expectations” and he is “looking forward to living up to them,” is excited for the season to begin. He has heard all about players making their biggest leap heading into their second year and believes he is posied to continue that trend.

“I feel really good getting my freshman year under my belt, getting to play a lot of reps and experience. I feel really good about that. I feel a lot stronger being able to play against the offensive lineman,” he said. “Getting that experience, just knowing the game and stuff like that, being more mature about the game. I feel really good.”

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