10/10: Quinn, players talk defensive improvement

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics concerning his unit including how it is preparing for the upcoming road game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday at 6 p.m. A handful of Florida players spoke on Tuesday about LSU and their teammates.

YEAH, YEAH, YEAH

When head coach Will Muschamp hired Jeff Dillman as the team’s new strength and conditioning coach, he cited Dillman’s similar mindset and personality as two reasons why he felt that it would be a perfect fit. Just a handful of games into the 2012 season, it is looking like Muschamp made a superb hire, especially when one considers how similar the two men are in their persona and work ethic.

“Both high-energy, a lot of passion for what they do. They both bring it every day,” Quinn said.

Junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins, whose improved play has been a revelation for the Gators, said Wednesday that Dillman has done wonders for the players’ focus.

“[Dillman’s changed] our mentality as football players,” he said. “He coached us to be more physical in everything we do and before we had a lot of speed, so that’s pretty much what we worked on a lot.”

Muschamp has been preaching physicality since he arrived at UF, but he has also been known for his consistent high energy, another characteristic that Dillman shares.

“He’s always like that and that’s the best thing about him,” Watkins said of Muschamp. “He’s always genuine with us. It feels good to know your coach is right there with you celebrating.”

IT’S A TEAM EFFORT

Florida’s entire defense, a unit ranked eighth nationally one year ago, has still managed to take a big leap in season two, one which Quinn believes is fueled by the physicality that the players exhibit in each and every game.

“I thought we played with real toughness at the line of scrimmage. It was an area of emphasis for us for the game,” he said of the Gators’ effort on Saturday. “When we talk about that [with] that group, they have pride in how they do it. So I wasn’t surprised in that way and how they performed on the line.”

He also thinks it helps that the defense plays together as a unit instead of individual players trying to stand out by making highlight plays. “I think the best player on our defense is our defense,” Quinn added. “We don’t need one guy to feel like, ‘Man, if he doesn’t do it, we’re not going to be able to make it.’ We have a number of guys that we feel can make plays on our defense. I think that’s good.”

Muschamp estimated on Monday that Florida has only missed seven total tackles over its last three games, an impressive stat considering some teams have whiffed on as many as 20 in a single contest this season. Watkins explained Wednesday why that has been the case for the Gators.

“Our mental approach,” he said. “Last year, I don’t think we took tackling as seriously. We didn’t really realize how much a missed tackle can hurt the game. This year when we’re doing the tackling drills, we actually lock in and take it serious.”

Florida has also greatly reduced its discipline penalties, an area that really killed the team early in the season. Quinn discussed how the Gators have succeeded in making such a vast improvement in that category.

“Yeah, we have cut down on that. [Knocks on wood] It’s something – you get what you emphasize. It’s something that has been a big emphasis for us, and we just stay consistent in terms of message,” he said. “We have the officials at practice. They throw the flag. Each day at practice we try to create as many game-like situations as we can to let them know that you can’t line-up offsides, you can’t jump, illegal contact or whatever the penalty might have been.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Quinn on how to defend a mobile quarterback: “Certainly it’s a challenge when you play a mobile QB in terms of the different things that they can do. Not only do they have a mobile QB, they also have a quarterback running game package where there’s some direct quarterback runs and those kind of things. You have to do a really good job setting the edges because sometimes when you face a guy that has the speed to get outside, he’ll break contain and try to create a play that way.”

» Quinn on sophomore CB Loucheiz Purifoy: “He adds a lot to our team, even form a special teams standpoint the way he can cover. […] He was certainly one guy we highlighted in terms of the way he played on teams. He does carry a lot for us.”

» Quinn on if redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins will be able to play on Saturday: “We’re pushing Jelani as hard as we can to get him ready to play. We certainly need him to. We’re taking it day-by-day. We’re hoping to have Jelani available for us.”

» Watkins on Florida playing with swagger and intimidation: “Last year, I feel like teams tried to do that to us more. This whole summer we thought about that and it’s always in the back of our hands that we won’t be the ones to be intimidated this year.”

» Watkins on which players help energize and motivate the defense:Matt Elam. He brings a different type of energy to the defense. If he’s down, I feel like the whole defense will be down. But when he’s up and he’s going, everybody will play around him. And Lerentee McCray, too. He and Matt Elam kind of have the same personality – that bad boy persona on- and off-the-field. And it works for them on the field. [Dominique] Easley is in his own category.”

» Senior linebacker Jon Bostic on his celebration penalty: “It was just really exciting for Matt to come up and set the tempo. I didn’t think it was too much, but I guess the ref did. That was a big play for us. We really saw that as one of those setting-the-tempo type plays.”

» Redshirt senior guard James Wilson on coming back to be a major part of the offensive line: “There was a little bit of doubt, but if there was any more doubt than that I would have hung up my pads. Scout team last year was pretty low. That didn’t feel good. We got a whole new change of offensive coaches and they saw what I could do. I’ll just say that these coaches believe in me more than coaches of the past.”

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10/9: Pease impressed with execution, Gillislee

With the team preparing for its sixth game of the season, a 6 p.m. road game in Nashville, TN against the Vanderbilt Commodores, No. 4/6 Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media Tuesday to discuss improvements being made by his side of the ball and some of the standout players on offense.

EXECUTION, BIG PACKAGE PAYING DIVIDENDS

Florida is 15-for-15 over its last two games on third down short-yardage plays, a major turnaround for the Gators considering how terrible the team was in those situations over the first three games. Pease on Monday noted that improvement in that area alone has been a major factor in UF’s recent offensive success.

“Obviously it’s a sign of improvement and some focus on what we’ve put on the kids and what we’re trying to design up each week,” he said. “If you can stay on the field in those situations [it can pay dividends]. Credit to them also on the downs leading up to that because they’re putting themselves in good situations where we’re not in third-and-long.”

Pease said that a combination of execution and play calling has kept defenses off-balance, which is a change of pass for Florida considering early in the season the Gators were “trying to go straight forward and hit tight gaps inside.” Another reason for the recent success is the institution of what are often referred to as “jumbo packages” featuring more than the standard five offensive linemen.

“Some of the [defensive] ends are used to having tight ends on them and then all of a sudden you got D.J. Humphries or Ian Silberman, you got a guy that’s 300 pounds,” said Pease while explaining why such packages can be successful. “A lot of that is Coach [Tim] Davis. He just likes getting big guys out there. You know what they say, mass kicks ass, so I guess that is our theory behind it.”

IT’S THE QUIET ONES YOU GOTTA WATCH…

Senior running back Mike Gillislee lets his play do his talking. If his play could actually speak, it would scream for acknowledgement as one of the best rushers in the nation considering it could boast an average of 5.3 yards per carry for a total of 548 yards and seven touchdowns in five games.

Unfortunately the only ones taking notice of Gillislee right now are those who have actually seen him play. His offensive coordinator said Tuesday that while his star running back may not speak up much in public, he has a great personality behind the scenes.

“He’s very personable. I love his personality. I love his attitude each day. He’s very polite,” Pease said. “In spring, I felt real comfortable that the kid showed something every day. I think he goes to practice with great preparation, worth ethic and attitude. He’s always got a smile on his face.

“I think he wants to be good. He’s very humble. He’s always asking, ‘What was this guy like? How was he?’ He’s trying to be like some of the good ones that he knows as coaches, either Coach [Brian] White or myself, have been around.

“I can see he’s [perceived as] quiet because I don’t think he clamors to the limelight. You can tell by the way he goes out to practice every day. He’s very unselfish. He’s never complained once about wanting the ball more.”

Pease also said that Gillislee has legitimate NFL aspirations and should be able to succeed at that level because of everything he brings to the table.

“I definitely feel that Mike has the ability because I think he’s got great strength. I think he’s got vision, balance, and I think he’s got the ability to bounce and have quickness. I think he’s got a lot of tangibles that you have to have to play at the next level,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On if sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel struggled on Saturday: “I don’t think he struggled. I think there was a point where maybe he was getting a little frustrated, but we knew that was going to happen. His maturity is improving every week. You’re going to face some of those [games], and you have to handle those situations, especially in this league. You see the one fumble – he knew he messed up, shouldn’t have done that, should have had better ball security. But he still did some good things throwing. There’s always thing that you learn from within watching a game film afterwards. I’m comfortable with what he did. He handed what we had to do. He still made the plays he had to make, and he’s a kid that was right back in there on Sunday looking to get better.”

» On strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman’s effect on the team: “I think he’s a very positive guy. I think he believes in his staff around him. I sent him a text Saturday night after the game to him and Jesse [Ackerman] saying, ‘Hey, when I look down there and they got their hands on their hips and our guys are still raring to go, that’s a product of what they’ve done from the summer on.’”

» On what Silberman brings to the offensive line: “About 310 lbs. He’s got some learning curve because he moves to an outside position and he’s normally attached to the center. You’re dealing with different techniques with the defensive linemen in front of you.”

» On if Florida has the ability to beat each opponent left on the schedule: “If they prepare, we got the ability to beat everybody. And if we don’t prepare, we got the ability to be beat.”

» On redshirt senior tight end Omarius Hines: “He’s probably one of our most athletic, explosive kids, and he’s got the ability to, once he catches a pass, go. He’s got the ability to break tackles. He’s an explosive, explosive weapon. Early in the game we tried to get one to him deep and we missed him. He’s a guy that figures in because he can be in a lot of different spots. We’ll continue to get him the ball more.”

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Muschamp directs Florida to signature win

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp ensured the fans all offseason that their team was headed in the right direction. He spoke at Gator Clubs, appeared on national television, did radio interviews and repeated himself over and over again, promising that Florida was tougher and deeper than one year ago.

Muschamp’s emphatic Gator Chomps following his team’s 14-6 victory over the LSU Tigers on Saturday were his way of releasing the pent up frustration that was visible on his face but not communicated in 2011. The Gators were simply not good enough to win football games one year ago.

“We weren’t physical enough on the line of scrimmage to compete and play in this league. Our depth was part of that issue because of the way we practiced,” he said on Wednesday. “Some of the things I wanted to do, and I felt like we needed to do, we couldn’t do because of numbers and attrition. We didn’t practice the way we always wanted to practice. And then as we went through the season, my realization of where we were sort of came to a head. We weren’t physical enough on either side of the line of scrimmage.”

That does not sound like the Florida team of today, one which boasts one of the best defenses in the nation and an offense that has succeeded by running the ball down opponents’ throats while out-toughing them for four quarters.

“You saw two very physical teams going at it [Saturday] on both lines of scrimmage. Obviously it’s easy to see our improvements that we’ve made,” Muschamp said after the game. “I can’t speak any further without talking about Jeff Dillman, our strength coach. It was very evident out there on the football field tonight. We had a very strong, physical football team that had good endurance against an outstanding, athletic bunch, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Credit [him] and his staff; those guys do an outstanding job.”

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Florida adds former Nebraska OL Tyler Moore

Former four-star 2011 recruit Tyler Moore (Clearwater, FL), an offensive lineman who was set to start at left tackle for the Nebraska Cornhuskers this season but instead decided to leave the program and skip the 2012 campaign due to being unhappy at the school, has chosen to transfer and play for the Florida Gators.

According to ESPN, which first reported the player’s decision on Thursday, Moore chose UF over Florida State as his next destination because of his “comfort level with the Florida coaches” including head coach Will Muschamp.

“I’ve never seen a staff work as hard as their staff,” his father Brian Moore told ESPN. “From Muschamp, to the strength coach [Jeff] Dillman, to the director of player personnel Jon Haskins, there was just a different energy at Florida.”

Since Moore left the Cornhuskers prior to the 2012 season and enrolled at a community college, he is able to take this year as a redshirt and will be eligible to play for the Gators beginning in 2013. Florida added Max Garcia (Norcross, GA) as a transfer from Maryland in the offseason, which means the Gators will have two brand new offensive linemen available to play at the start of next season.

Moore, the No. 67 overall player in the nation as ranked by Rivals in 2011, played in nine games and made four starts at right tackle as a freshman with Nebraska in 2011; Garcia made 12 starts at left tackle for Maryland as a sophomore that same year.

The Cornhuskers had Moore listed at 6’6″ and between 290-305 lbs. in their latest update to his profile. The team’s website notes that he is the “first true freshman offensive lineman in school history to start [a Nebraska] season opener” and has the “most starts by a true offensive lineman in school history.”

The Gators are set to lose two starting offensive linemen (and one reserve) to graduation this season though Florida has only one player at that position committed as a member of their 2013 recruiting class.

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9/17: Muschamp, players discuss Florida’s win

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review his team’s dominant 37-20 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday in Knoxville, TN. He and some players also looked ahead to this week’s game as Florida hosts Kentucky on Saturday at 12:21 p.m. in Gainesville, FL.

INJURY UPDATES

Junior cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) and redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (thumb) remain out with their respective injures though Muschamp expects to have an update on Jenkins (he may be able to play with a club on his hand if swelling goes down).

Muschamp also announced that junior defensive end Dominique Easley, who appeared to injure his knee in the fourth quarter on Saturday but was said to be fine after the game, has swelling in the knee and is currently day-to-day. Easley tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee last season against Florida State.

Finally, senior running back Mike Gillislee appears to be fine once again after carrying the ball 18 times on an injured groin. “He felt better after the game than he did before is what he told me. Everything we have from the injury report [Sunday] was very positive,” Muschamp said.

PLAYER AWARDS

Offensive Players of the Game: sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel and junior RB Trey Burton (Driskel was also named SEC Offensive Player of the Week.)

Scrap Iron: entire offensive line

Big Plays: redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. and redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed (touchdowns)

Defensive Player of the Game: redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray

Hard Hat: junior defensive end Dominique Easley

Special Teams Players of the Game: sophomore punter Kyle Christy and redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis

Scout Team Players of the Week: freshman guard Jessamen Dunker, redshirt freshman walk-on defensive back Ben Peacock, freshman walk-on RB Mark Herndon

27-0 vs. 22-72

The biggest takeaway from the first three games of the season for the Gators is how well the team has played in the second half. Florida spent the entire offseason focused on being better conditioned and more mature late in games, which is evident by what the team has shown on the field so far this year.

Three of the four players that spoke with the media on Monday expressed that exact same sentiment.

“Over the offseason [Jeff] Dillman pretty much engrained that in our minds basically to finish out games. I think they had a score up from last year about the fourth quarter scores from us as far as our opponents. We just keep that in the back of our minds,” Hammond said. “We just want to outscore opponents and finish games. I want to say it was 72-22. Every workout we came into he reminded us. It stuck in our heads and we don’t want to have that score. I mean, it needs to be flipped around this season, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

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8/27: Muschamp on Gators injuries, playing time

Participating in his first game week press conference of the season, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the team’s first official depth chart and preparations heading into Saturday’s season-opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 1 at 3:30 p.m. live on ESPN.

OGGOA RELATED: QB Driskel cleared, Gators will split first-half snaps by quarter between him and Brissett

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan – strained his pectoral on Saturday, will miss the season opener

Sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders – “pulled a hamstring” on Thursday and will miss multiple games – “He has a hamstring at this time. He’ll sit the first two games for right now. But he’s got a hamstring problem, so he wouldn’t be able to go the first game at least anyways,” Muschamp said.

Redshirt junior DB Jeremy Brown – set to have his wrist reevaluated on Tuesday to see if he can return to practice, will miss the season opener

Freshman OT D.J. Humphries – outside shot he will play if doctors clear him to return to practice from an injured MCL

Redshirt freshman guard Tommy Jordan – will miss opener with a shoulder injury

PLENTY OF FRESHMEN WILL PLAY

Though only five true freshmen (two offense, three defense) are listed on the opening week depth chart, Muschamp said Monday that as many as 10 are in line to see time on the field throughout the course of the game.

Wide receiver Latroy Pittman (X), guard Jessamen Dunker (right), linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. (Buck), LB Antonio Morrison (Will) and defensive back Brian Poole (dime cornerback) are all listed on the depth chart and will assuredly see plenty of action.

Joining them will be Humphries (if healthy enough to compete), defensive end Jonathan Bullard (“a guy that is definitely going to play Saturday, probably very early in the game”), running back Matt Jones, WR Raphael Andrades and tight end Kent Taylor.

ADJUSTING TO THE NEW KICKOFF RULES

With the kickoff tee moved forward and the ball set to be placed at the 25 yard line for touchbacks, Muschamp and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin have spent plenty of time working with the team this offseason to help them adjust to the new rules.

Muschamp said Monday that ensuring that redshirt junior wide receiver and starting kickoff returner Andre Debose brings back kicks is of paramount importance.

“We’d like for Andre to bring it out. That’s what we’d like for him to do…depending how deep it is,” he said. “We’ve kind of given him a little bit of a landmark back there of when we want him to take it out. We’ve worked really hard on that and making a good decision for those situations. That’s also affected by the hang time of the kick.”

On the more “defensive” side of the play, Muschamp is confident that redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis will be able to kick the ball out of the end zone. However, he also cautioned that Florida may try to pin teams back on occasion. He is equally confident in the Gators’ coverage teams and their ability to eliminate any potential significant returns.

Read the rest of what Will Muschamp had to say on Monday…after the break!
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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (69-50)

With the 2011-12 athletic season now in the books and the 2012-13 season about to begin, the focus has shifted to the return of Florida Gators football. For the second-straight year, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, in this series: The Countdown.

67 – Jon Halapio (St. Petersburg, FL)
Redshirt junior guard
6’3” 321 lbs.

Quick Bio: A versatile offensive lineman in high school, Halapio settled into the right guard role in 2010 when he was named to the 2010 Sporting News All-Freshman Team. He has started 20 contests throughout his career after taking a medical redshirt as a freshman in 2009.

2011 Season: One of the most consistent players on the offensive line last season, Halapio started every game at right guard – the only member of the unit to completely lock down his position. According to UF, he “owns the most consecutive career starts” on the Gators offense with 14.

2012 Outlook: Nothing has changed as far as Halapio is concerned heading into his redshirt junior season. He has only strengthened his hold on the right guard job and has continued growing as a team leader both on and off the field.

66 – James Wilson (St. Augustine, FL)
Redshirt senior guard
6’4” 323 lbs.

Quick Bio: Ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect in his recruiting class by Rivals, Wilson was a five-star prospect who redshirted as a freshman and played in 24 of Florida’s 28 games from 2008-09, earning four starts. He was slated as the starting left guard in 2010 but missed the final 10 games of the season with a left knee injury.

2011 Season: Originally left off of the spring depth chart as his participation was very limited, Wilson wound up playing the final 12 games of the season, was a key member of the team’s field goal unit and even earned a start in the Gator Bowl.

2012 Outlook: Wilson participated in his first spring game in his six years at Florida, crediting strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman with his improved health. He is a candidate for the starting left guard job this season (competing in practice with redshirt junior Kyle Koehne) but at worst will be a reserve who will see plenty of action.

Check out six more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!
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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (79-70)

With the 2011-12 athletic season now in the books and the 2012-13 season about to begin, the focus has shifted to the return of Florida Gators football. For the second-straight year, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, in this series: The Countdown.

77 – Ian Silberman (Orange Park, FL)
Redshirt sophomore guard
6’5” 303 lbs.

Quick Bio: Silberman enrolled early in January 2010 coming out of high school as a four-star recruit. He was the No. 8 player at his position nationally according to Rivals but only saw action in the season opener that year.

2011 Season: Though he bulked up some between his freshman and sophomore years, Silberman was moved to guard and only appeared in three games as a reserve.

2012 Outlook: Silberman has gained 19 lbs. since last season but has not been spoken about much other than as a third-string reserve on the offensive line. He will play plenty of special teams though, according to head coach Will Muschamp.

76 – Max Garcia (Venice, FL)
Junior offensive lineman
6’4” 307 lbs.

Quick Bio: A two-sport athlete in high school who competed in shot put and discus in addition to playing football, Garcia committed to Maryland and despite not seeing much action as a freshman started at left tackle in all 12 of the team’s games during his sophomore season.

2012 Outlook: Due to NCAA transfer rules, Garcia is being forced to redshirt and will miss the entire 2012 season. Coaches, however, have noted that he is playing quite well during practice and they are very high on his potential to be an impact player in 2013.

Check out five more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!
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