TWO BITS: Gators team awards, game-winners

1 » The Florida Gators football team participated in its annual banquet on Saturday in which members of the team are presented with a number of awards for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may be throughout the season. Below are the 2013 award winners along with some award explanations and additional details.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Michael McNeely
* Second-straight year that McNeely won the award.
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jaylen Watkins, Mark Herndon and Darrin Kitchens
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: Solomon Patton
Chris Patrick Courage Award: Solomon Patton, Damien Jacobs, Jon Halapio, Neiron Ball and Ronald Powell
* Second-straight year that Halapio and Powell each won the award.
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Antonio Riles, Tim Clark, Caleb Brantley | Defensive: Case Harrison, Adam Lane, Cameron Dillard | Special Teams: Chris Thompson, Ryan Parrish

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Michael Taylor
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Dominique Easley
* Second-straight year that Halapio and Harrison won the award for offense.
Most Valuable Player Offense: Solomon Patton | Defense: Dante Fowler, Jr. Special Teams: Jarrad Davis
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): Jon Halapio and Dominique Easley
* Presented to the “player who best exemplifies the mental and physical toughness and ‘iron-man’ determination.’ The award is traditionally won by offensive linemen.
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Solomon Patton
* Third-straight year that a senior offensive player won the award.
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Jeremy Brown, Kyle Koehne and Darrin Kitchens
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison, Solomon Patton, Trey Burton and Dominique Easley
* Second-straight year that Halapio was named a team captain.

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What the Browns can do for the Gators in 2013

There is not much that Georgia products redshirt junior running back Mack Brown and junior offensive lineman Trenton Brown have in common aside from their last name, but the two upperclassmen could have a lot to say about how successful the Florida Gators will be over the course of the 2013 season.

Mack Brown has played in 25 games during his four years but has amassed just 167 yards on 40 carries with a career long of 13. He was passed on the depth chart in 2012 by Matt Jones, and the sophomore will likely leap Brown once again when he returns from his serious viral infection.

In the meantime, Mack Brown is Florida’s first-string running back, and he’s acting like he’s not just ready for the opportunity but prepared to make an impact.

“[The] confidence is coming back, getting my groove back. Running with the ones, we’ll see what I can do,” he said last week. “I know my protections and stuff so I know the offense inside and out. I’m just going to keep practicing and doing what I have to do. [I know the blocking schemes] and I’m healthy now. That’s the main thing. Whatever coach needs me to do, I’ll do it.”

Though Mack Brown says he does not regret his career path at Florida – “I met a lot of good teammates. I played with great coaches.” – he did acknowledge that “things happen for a reason.” He feels like the lack of repetitions he has had throughout his career caused him to lose his confidence, which he is just now regaining.

“Throughout the season, my coach told me the last couple of games I’m gonna get a lot of reps to rest [Mike] Gillislee because he was getting kind of hurt sometimes,” he said. “When I got hurt, I was like, ‘I lost my chance.’ This whole offseason, I’ve just been thinking about the last couple of games, not contributing to my team, not being able to play the bowl game. I just tried to train harder this summer, and I feel like it paid off.”

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8/9: Muschamp on injuries, Morrison, team issues

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media after his team’s first full week of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

ILLNESS / INJURY UPDATES

The bad news: In addition to announcing the re-torn anterior cruciate ligament for freshman linebacker Matt Rolin and expressing his hope redshirt senior wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose returns for a sixth year of eligibility (see “Notes & Quotes” below), Muschamp discussed three new injuries on Friday.

Seniors defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (sprained knee) and defensive back Jaylen Watkins (sprained foot) will each miss approximately 10 days with their ailments.

Additionally, freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson, who enrolled in the fall and entered camp with a pre-existing injury to his meniscus, will have knee surgery on Friday and sit out the next 3-4 weeks. It was unlikely that Johnson saw the field for the Gators this season anyway, but the surgery certainly puts him further behind and makes a redshirt season appear all but guaranteed.

The good news: Redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia (back) has been cleared for non-contact individual work, according to Muschamp. Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) is meeting with doctors Friday and hoping to be cleared to return to action by Monday at the latest. Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder) remains on track to return Monday as well.

While there is not a full update on sophomore running back Matt Jones (viral infection), Muschamp said he should know more next week. Jones has been able to participate in cardiovascular exercise this week but has not practiced with the team.

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8/2: Muschamp speaks after first day of practice

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media after his team’s first day of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

”TYPICAL FIRST DAY”

The Gators shook the rust off on Friday during the team’s first day of fall practice, and Muschamp was not yet ready to draw any conclusions from what he saw especially because he was unable to split the team up (veterans and inexperienced players) like Florida normally does during its first week.

“You like to be able to go split-squad. Of course, we’re limited with some numbers. Having everybody out there at once, it’s a different teaching progression for young players as opposed to old players,” he said. “That’s why you like to have two to three days to be able to divide the roster up but unfortunately we couldn’t do that. We had to do what’s best for our football team and that was to get out there together tonight.”

UNTIMELY ILLNESS CREATES “UNCHARTED WATERS”

Already without his starting quarterback, junior Jeff Driskel, due to an appendectomy, the last thing Muschamp needed was for his starting running back to go down as well. Unfortunately for the Gators, that is exactly what happened when sophomore Matt Jones recently contracted a serious viral infection. Though Jones is out of the hospital, Muschamp has not received any indication from doctors as to when he may be able to return to action or what kind of shape he will be in when he does suit up again.

“Our physicians have told me we’re in a little bit of uncharted waters here exactly about him coming back and when that’s going to happen and how good of health he’s going to be in,” he said. “I don’t know any of that right now. It’s been very uncertain. It’s very frustrating, for him first of all and then for us a little bit.

“It is what it is and we’ll handle the situation. Matt’s going to be fine, I do know that. Whenever he is able to join this football team and work and do the things we want to do [will be great]. Number one, he’s healthy, and that’s the most important thing.”

Though Jones was solidified as the starter entering the fall, Muschamp said Friday that redshirt junior RB Mack Brown, his primary backup, will certainly have a legitimate chance to try and earn the gig full-time.

“Absolutely. I think Mack Brown is ready for the job, ready for his number to be called. I look forward to him having that opportunity,” Muschamp said.

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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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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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4/2: Muschamp on spring game, injuries, updates

Now in the third week of 2013 spring football practice, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Tuesday to discuss some of the latest developments surrounding the team and provide updates on specific players.

ORANGE & BLUE DEBUT SPRING GAME PRACTICE FORMAT

Instead of a full scrimmage like the Gators normally run for the Orange & Blue Debut, this year’s event will be more like an open practice that also includes limited scrimmage snaps. Florida will mix approximately 40 scrimmage snaps between individual and team position drills. The format change is being made because the Gators currently only have six healthy offensive linemen and Muschamp feels it would be unfair 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 the team will be doing 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.”

Additionally, Muschamp announced that the coaching staff will be wearing microphones so fans in attendance can get a better idea of what is going on throughout the event. Coaches will be explaining each session before it begins and Brady Ackerman will be on the field to ask the coaches questions.

Due to the new format, Florida and the sponsors of the Orange & Blue Debut have made it completely free to the public. Anyone who pre-purchased a ticket for the event will have it refunded in full (special passes are still needed for the premium areas).

Schedule of Events:
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

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3/26: Muschamp talks injuries, evaluates players

Now two weeks into 2013 spring football practice, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss some of the latest developments surrounding the team and provide updates on specific players.

INJURY UPDATES

Freshman wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, one of eight Florida early enrollees and the one with arguably the best chance to make an immediate impact out of the bunch, went down with a high-ankle sprain during practice and will be out at least this week. “Probably next week, I hope, to be honest with you,” Muschamp said of when Robinson might return. “I’m not real sure when we’ll get him back. He’s in a walking boot right now trying to stabilize that.”

More seriously injured over the weekend was redshirt sophomore guard Trip Thurman (shoulder). “It does not look good right now,” Muschamp said. “We’ll know a bit more [Tuesday or Wednesday] where he is. That will certainly be disappointing [if he is out an extended period of time]. Trip has had an outstanding spring and really has made some progress but unfortunately those injuries sometimes happen.”

Other Gators who remain day-to-day with their injuries include sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard (hamstring), redshirt junior linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) and redshirt junior cornerback Cody Riggs (hamstring).

PLAYER EVALUATIONS

» On junior CB/WR Loucheiz Purifoy: “He went [back to] defense and he took some snaps on offense in skeleton. We had a move-the-ball period and he probably took the first eight snaps on offense. Other than that he was exclusively on defense. I think he’s an explosive guy, catches the ball well has got good ball skills he’s got good vertical speed. He plays the game fast. I don’t know what his time is in the 40[-yard dash], but when you get on the field he plays fast. You notice him on the field.”

» On junior quarterback Jeff Driskel: “I think [Monday] he made some really nice throws – hit a sail route to Quinton [Dunbar] and an over route to Loucheiz. Very pleased with where we are in the throwing game. Still got to take care of the ball a little bit better in some situations, but I was really very pleased [Monday] walking off the practice field with the progress and what we did.”

» On redshirt junior running back Mack Brown: “Mack Brown has been really solid, has done some nice things. He’s been solid in protection and has caught the ball well.”

» On freshman RB Kelvin Taylor: “Kelvin Taylor has really nice, natural running instincts, has just go to learn what to do and where to go. That’s no different than the other mid-year guys. … Kelvin caught a nice screen, made a great cut in the middle for a score from about 40 [yards] out on Saturday. That was a really nice play on his part. But again, natural running instincts take over, we’re good. Assignments and some different things, protection from front to back and all that, we’re still at baby steps.”

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