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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6 BITS: Bonner, Miller, Johnson, Simpson, Beisel

1 » In South Florida for about a week while his team participated in the first two games of the 2013 NBA Finals, San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner told ProBasketballTalk that he was getting a lot of support from Florida Gators fans in the area. “I’ve been getting ‘Go Gators’ everywhere,” Bonner said. “Even people with Miami Heat jerseys, walking down the street will yell at everyone else then see me, wait for no one to look and [whisper] ‘Go Gators.’ It’s the whole spectrum, older Gators, younger Gators. You know, it’s six degrees of separation, except here it’s like two or three degrees of Gator separation.” Bonner, who OGGOA noted last week is a big fan of sandwiches, also said that he enjoyed a few Cuban sandwiches while in town.

2 » Miami guard Mike Miller looks every bit of 33 years old most of the time, but his ability to drain threes in the playoffs has made him a hot name for the second-straight postseason. On Sunday during Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Miller went 3-for-3 from downtown, scoring nine points on the evening as his team pulled off a victory. Though he still looks old, Miller feels young for the first time in a while; during the 2012 playoffs, he could not run without limping. “I’ve got a lot of basketball left. It’s the best I’ve felt in five years,” Miller told ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez. “Sometimes, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even when you’re frustrated. I feel great. Knock on wood it stays that way.”

Check out four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 6 BITS: Bonner, Miller, Johnson, Simpson, Beisel

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Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: Pro Day

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 fifth entry covers his second return to Gainesville, FL during the offseason, the Pro Day workout on Tuesday and what his plans are for the next three weeks as he continues to workout and meet with teams.

I came back up to Gainesville late last week and the first thing I did was settle in to my place and meet up with a massage therapist to get my hamstring rubbed down. It’s just a strain. It’s something I felt during the combine. It’s kind of nagging, but it feels alright. Once I get to top speed, it is sometimes hard to maintain without it giving out. But I’m feeling better each day and we have a phenomenal training staff here at Florida so I know they’ll get me back to 100 percent in no time.

Over the weekend I also worked out a bit, did a few starts and warmed up, nothing too big because the Pro Day was in a couple of days. So I basically just worked on my flexibility and made sure I was good to go. I also met with San Francisco on Monday and had a great talk with them.

A lot of people noticed how I now have a yellow stripe in my hair. I got that done two days ago just to do something a bit different. I don’t plan to have it long, but I wanted to have it for Pro Day because I figured it would definitely help me stand out on the field.

As far as Pro Day goes, I was pretty comfortable the whole time. Any time you come back to your home field, The Swamp, there’s always that comfort you have being around your teammates and seeing the coaching staff you’ve dealt with for the last few years. I did not feel nervous; however, you still want to go out there and perform well in front of the head coaches, general managers and scouts. It was a pretty good day to get out there and run around, and I felt like all went well.

We were all concerned a bit when we first got out there saw it was raining because you don’t want to run on a wet field if you can help it. We try not to use excuses of course, but to be honest, the field was wet. The balls were even wet sometimes. We managed to overcome the obstacle and all performed well.

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FOUR BITS: NCAA, volleyball, Mularkey, Dillman

1 » The NCAA on Tuesday chose to recognize some of the top players and teams that have participated in NCAA Tournaments, as well as many of the top moments to occur in those events, over the last 75 years. The organization picked the 2006-07 incarnation of the Florida Gators as one of the top-25 teams and also recognized center Joakim Noah as one of the top-75 players ever to participate in the tournament. Noah was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2006 tourney after he registered a then-record 29 blocked shots in the event and averaged 13.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. Both Noah and the 2006-07 UF team are finalists in their respective categories, which will be voted on before awards are presented at the 2013 NCAA Final Four in Atlanta, GA.

2 » Florida junior middle back Chloe Mann, who put together an impressive 2012 campaign for a Gators volleyball program that exceeded its preseason expectations, was named a First Team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) on Wednesday. Mann was honored along with outside hitter Ziva Recek, who was named Freshman of the Year by the organization. Florida as a team lasted until the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament where it fell to three-seed Texas. The Gators concluded the season with a 27-5 record and their first SEC Championship since 2010.

3 » Former Florida tight end Mike Mularkey, now head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was hospitalized on Monday on the advice of a team trainer after feeling ill at his team’s facility. He was released shortly after being admitted and was healthy enough to return to practice on Tuesday. Mularkey’s first year with Jacksonville has been anything but productive as the Jaguars are currently 2-11 and have lost nine of their last 10 games. This is his second NFL head coaching stint as he previously led the Buffalo Bills to a 14-18 combined record from 2004-05.

4 » As much as head coach Will Muschamp has been credited with turning around the Gators football program, strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman is in many ways equally deserving of praise. Dilliman recently sat down with his hometown paper, the Richmond County Daily Journal, and discussed both how he arrived at Florida and what he thinks of what the team has accomplished this season. Throughout the year, Dillman received plenty of credit for the team’s performance against LSU and how it stood up to the long season from a conditioning perspective. In the interview, he turned around and put the praise back on Muschamp for how the team was run this year. “At the end of the day, it’s the program,” he said. “It goes back to Coach Muschamp and the kids because they worked their butts off. We all have a job to do and Coach Muschamp lets me do my job. All the kids come in and believe in what we are trying to accomplish. Coach is big on keeping it real. My staff and I will be honest with a player, but we also want to keep a positive environment. I have a philosophy of actions trigger feelings and feelings trigger actions. Good things come out of being positive and negative things come out of being negative. I always try to be positive while training an athlete.”

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11/19: Driskel will play, Florida no longer “soft”

No. 4 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s shutout victory over the Jacksonville State Gamecocks and preview Saturday’s game against the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles.

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who sprained his ankle two weeks ago and did not see the field against Jacksonville State, “will play” on Saturday against Florida State. Muschamp said Monday that Driskel could return to practice but will be held out until Tuesday for precautionary reasons and so he can get additional treatment. From there, he will see how well Driskel can play and how comfortable he is on his ankle, which will determine how much field time he sees Saturday.

“He will play in the game. To what degree? The week will determine that on how his health continues to improve,” he said. “We’re going to see how the week goes. I don’t know. I know right now, based on [Sunday], that he will play in the game. How much he’ll play, whether he’s going to start, I don’t know that right now.”

Muschamp was careful not to name Driskel the starter but that does not mean the designation will not come later in the week. He has yet to see Driskel practice on his injured ankle and is hedging his bets right now. If Driskel practices in full this week, especially towards the end of the week, there should be no doubt that he will start and be active for the full compliment of plays on Saturday.

Also coming off the injury report are redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle), redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose (knee) and sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer (thigh), all of whom will take Monday off as a precaution before returning to practice on Tuesday. Each is expected to be healthy enough to take on FSU in six days.

Muschamp said Saturday that sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders and redshirt sophomore guard Ian Silberman (shoulder) are out for the season, though no specifics were provided on Saunders.

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
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Muschamp managed expectations, set intensity

One of the primary jobs of a head football coach, especially in the Southeastern Conference, is to keep his team’s fan base engaged while also managing its expectations. Florida Gators fans are easily engaged but tough to manage, which is something that head coach Urban Meyer learned toward the end of his tenure but Muschamp knew from day one.

With Florida falling flat to .500 in the regular season last year, Muschamp repeatedly dismissed notions that Meyer left the cupboard bare in Gainesville, FL. What he mentioned time and time again at press conferences, media availabilities and fan gatherings was that he needed time to turn the program around, let the young players develop and have the entire team buy in to his philosophies.

“I said we were a very young team,” Muschamp recalled on Monday. “Over 70 percent of our roster was freshmen and sophomores. We had less starts than anybody in the SEC on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive line – two critical areas in our league that you need to be really good. We inherited a very young football team that had talent. We went through some growing pains last year.

“When you lose your senior quarterback – regardless of how many years you’ve been in the program – you’re going to probably face some struggles. And we certainly did. I felt like we inherited a young, talented team that just needed some growing up, needed some maturity, needed some more experience playing the game. We had a lot of guys playing for the first time last year in a lot of situations. We didn’t have depth and we’ve recruited well to that. We’ve added good depth on the defensive line and the offensive line this year. I think the depth has certainly helped us.”

His ability to handle the team (and its failures) last year with confidence and poise assured some fans that the Gators were in the right hands and on the right track even though a vocal minority was beginning to light fires under his seat.

Read the rest of this story on Muschamp…after the break!
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10/16-17: Florida players discuss team, USC game

Five Florida Gators players – redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., senior safety Josh Evans, sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer, redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio and redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green – met with the media this week to discuss No. 2 Florida’s upcoming game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks. Below are a few choice quotes from the players.

» Hammond on if he wishes the Gators threw the ball more on offense: “I’m a receiver. I’d rather them throw it to me the whole game because I’m the receiver. I want the ball. But you got to understand, that’s not the motive of the game. You got to run, you got to throw, you got to be balanced. If running is working, I have no problem blocking down field for [Mike] Gillislee, Matt Jones or any of those guys in the backfield. We’re just doing what it takes to win ballgames.”

» Evans on Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore: “He’s a good back, physical guy. I think he lost a step a little bit from what we’ve seen before, but he’s still showing statistics. Nothing to take away from him. […I think that’s due to the [ACL] injury.”

» Evans on head coach Will Muschamp ensuring that Florida plays better at home this year: “That’s something he talks to us about every day, about holding down The Swamp and make sure we keep everybody happy. [Losing] is one thing you don’t like to do. It’s a bad day when you lose in The Swamp. Everybody’s down and it takes a lot to get back after that. Winning in The Swamp means a lot to the defense and this team.”

» Evans on how the fans help each week: “Fans being behind us 100 percent gives us the energy and strength to move forward.”

» Joyer on not carrying the ball much and having a quiet role: “I really don’t care. That doesn’t bother me at all. I’m not looking for TV time or my name to be talked about a lot. I just want the team to do well and success for all of us.”

» Halapio on Gillislee: “Somehow he just finds little creases, little holes here and there. I feel like, when he gets to the second level, there is no stopping him.”

» Green on strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman: “Coach Dillman, he’s got a great plan and offseason for strength and containing. We like him a lot. We put a lot of our success towards him and the stuff he does. It benefits us on the field. We feel like we’re in the best shape we’ve been in, so we credit him a lot.”

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10/15: OL, Joyer praised; Driskel not concerned

Three Florida Gators players – sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, redshirt senior defensive lineman Omar Hunter and senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic – met with the media on Monday to discuss No. 2 Florida’s victory against the Vanderbilt Commodores and the upcoming game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks.

A PATCHWORK OFFENSIVE LINE?

Florida was without the entire left side of its offensive line on Saturday as redshirt senior left guard James Wilson (eye) did not make the trip to Nashville, TN, senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (concussion) got knocked out of the game and even redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (elbow) went down with an injury. Filling in for the trio, respectively, were redshirt sophomore Ian Silberman, freshman D.J. Humphries and redshirt senior Sam Robey. Those three still managed to open up holes and hold blocks to the tune of 326 rushing yards for the Gators.

“We had three guys go down. Whenever you have three starters go down, that’s huge, especially if they’re O-linemen. We had three guys that stepped up and that’s what we’ve been doing all year long. When a guy goes down, the next guy is going to have to go up. We have great depth and that really helped it out on Saturday,” Driskel said.

Though head coach Will Muschamp said Monday that all three should be healthy enough to play Saturday against South Carolina, there is a prevailing doubt that one or more will be unable to suit up by game time with Wilson being the most likely to fall into that category. Hunter, who has practiced against the reserves for months, believes Florida will not lose a step with reserves in the game.

“I don’t think there’s a drop-off. Those guys come out each and every day in practice and they go just as hard as our starters,” he said. “Robey is a very experienced guy, being a senior. Ian, he’s been around a long time too, and he works hard during practice. [Humphries is] young and aggressive. He doesn’t let too many things get to him. He never gets too high or too low or anything. It’s going to be a great match-up.”

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
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