Gators CB Jeremy Brown ready for last go-around

After suffering through and working his way back from multiple back injuries during his first two years with the Florida Gators, cornerback Jeremy Borwn finally put it all together. He got healthy, played in 11 games and even made 10 starts while tallying 15 tackles, three interceptions and five pass defenses.

That was in 2010 and even that year he missed the final two games of the regular season with a right hamstring injury.

Then came the 2011 campaign, head coach Will Muschamp’s first at Florida. Brown expected to retain his starting job and go into the season as a player Muschamp could count on in the secondary.

Unfortunately for him, the injury bug reared its ugly head again. Brown suffered a knee injury in August and did not play a single snap in 2011 despite the coaching staff holding out hope that he would be able to return at some point. He never did and watched from the sidelines for the third time in his four years in Gainesville, FL.

But Brown picked himself back up, again.

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Gators open spring practice notes and opinions

While Florida Gators basketball was participating in the 2013 SEC Tournament, the football team held a pair of open spring practices on Friday and Saturday that OGGOA was unable to cover at that time.

Below is a smattering of notes and opinions from the InsidetheGators.com staff, which was in attendance at the practice sessions and delivered six premium reports (as well as two free roundtable discussions) following the proceedings. Each tidbit below has been re-written by OGGOA, but the parts in quotation marks are the specified writer’s own words. Corresponding articles have been linked accordingly.

FREE: Friday Practice Roundtable | Saturday Practice Roundtable

It is important to note that Friday’s gathering was a shirts-and-shorts practice while Saturday’s was the team’s first in full pads this spring.

FRIDAY, MARCH 15

OFFENSE

» Sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore had a rough day overall and was beat off the edge consistently by some of Florida’s most talented rushers like sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. and senior defensive end Dominique Easley. [Bryan Holt, InsidetheGators.com]

» In addition to senior wide receiver Solomon Patton, who took nearly all of the Gators’ jet sweeps when he was healthy in 2012, four other pass catchers got a chance to run the ball on that play including sophomore Raphael Andrades, junior Loucheiz Purifoy and freshman Demarcus Robinson. [Bryan Holt, InsidetheGators.com]

» Good news for redshirt senior WR Andre Debose who “showed flashes of the player Florida fans have wanted him to be for four years. Debose is as fast as ever and showed the kind of ball skills that have been missing on a jump-ball catch over Brian Poole.” [Bryan Holt, InsidetheGators.com]

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Florida Gators 2013 spring practice depth chart

Readers may be excited to take a first look at the Florida Gators 2013 spring practice depth chart (see below). Don’t be. As he explained in each of his first two springs with the program, head coach Will Muschamp repeated Wednesday that he does not put a lot of stock in the spring’s first depth chart. In fact, back in 2011, he said it is “not worth the paper it is printed on.” In other words, the depth chart below 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 March 12.

“Obviously we gave you a depth chart. I know it’s just the most critical thing that’s going to happen in the next 12 months of your year,” Muschamp said Tuesday.

RELATED: Muschamp, Pease on offense | Muschamp, Durkin on defense, team

Florida omitted players who are injured and not participating at all in spring practice. A list of those players can be found at the end of this post.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 10 Tyler Murphy, 17 Skyler Mornhinweg
RB: 24 Matt Jones, 33 Mack Brown, 21 Kelvin Taylor
FB: 43 Hunter Joyer, 29 Rhaheim Ledbetter* OR 25 Gideon Ajagbe*
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 4 Andre Debose, 11 Demarcus Robinson
WR (Z): 15 Loucheiz Purifoy*, 88 Solomon Patton^, Raphael Andrades
F Position: 8 Trey Burton, 13 Latroy Pittman, 30 Mike McNeely
TE: 88 Clay Burton, 87 Tevin Westbrook, 18 Kent Taylor, 84 Colin Thompson

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 63 Trip Thurman
LG: 76 Max Garcia, 64 Kyle Koehne
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne
RG: 67 Jon Halapio^, 64 Kyle Koehne
RT: 73 Tyler Moore, 98 Quinteze Williams*

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Gators 2013 Spring Football Preview: Defense

Spring practice for the Florida Gators football program begins on Wednesday, March 13 and lasts for 15 practices concluding with the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut spring game on Saturday, April 6 at 1 p.m. Below is the second half of OGGOA‘s new two-part series that takes a look at the team on a position-by-position basis.

PART ONE: Offense

DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (0/2): None
Fresh faces: Junior Darious Cummings, redshirt freshman Quinteze Williams

The Gators have plenty of holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball and it will be up to new defensive line coach Brad Lawing and assistant defensive line coach Bryant Young to figure out how to plug up the middle. With Sharrif Floyd set to become a top-five pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and Omar Hunter finally graduating after five years at the school, Florida will be looking to replace both of its starters. Senior Damien Jacobs, a junior college transfer who played in 12 games during his first season with the Gators, likely has the edge for one of the jobs but will still go up against Cummings (a 2013 JUCO transfer from the same school as Jacobs), Williams and redshirt junior Leon Orr, all of whom will compete for the two positions.

DEFENSIVE ENDS
Returning starters (1/2): Senior Dominique Easley
Fresh faces: Redshirt freshman Bryan Cox, Jr., redshirt freshman Alex McCalister, freshman Joey Ivie

Easley started all 12 regular season games at defensive tackle in 2011 and will be used inside some in 2013 despite starting 11 games at defensive end last season. His flexibility leaves the door open for a number of other players to make an impact. Sophomore Jonathan Bullard earned a pair of starts in 2012 and got rave reviews from the coaching staff; he is next in line to start and/or see major field time as a pure defensive end. McCalister, who won three Scout Team Player of the Week awards and was named Most Valuable Defensive Scout Team Member at the team banquet in Dec. 2012, was praised by head coach Will Muschamp at the end of the season.

Florida’s defense also features a Buck, which can line up with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end or upright as a linebacker. (For the purpose of this feature, Buck has been included in this position group.) Redshirt junior Ronald Powell was praised as much as any member of the team in the 2012 offseason but wound up missing the entire campaign with consecutive ACL tears. Lerentee McCray started in his place but graduated after his redshirt senior season. Though Powell will not participate in spring practice, he will retake his role as starter in the summer assuming he is medically cleared. He will be joined by sophomore Dante Fowler, Jr. – Powell’s heir apparent – and McCalister.

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TWO BITS: football awards, less Tebow on ESPN

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 2012 award winners, according to the University of Florida, along with some award explanations and additional details.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Jeff Driskel, Michael McNeely, Caleb Sturgis
* Second-straight year that Sturgis won the award.
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jon Bostic, Jeremy Brown, Caleb Sturgis
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison, Omarius Hines, Lerentee McCray, Sam Robey
Chris Patrick Courage Award: Dominique Easley, Chaz Green, Jon Halapio, Ronald Powell, James Wilson
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Max Garcia, Mark Herndon | Defensive: Alex McCalister, Jeremi Powell | ST: David Campbell, Rhaheim Ledbetter

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Xavier Nixon | Defense: Dominique Easley, Matt Elam
* Second-straight year that Easley won the award.
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd
Most Valuable Player Offense: Mike Gillislee | Defense: Matt Elam ST: Loucheiz Purifoy, Caleb Sturgis
* Second-straight year that a running back won the award for the offense (Chris Rainey). Second-straight year that Elam and Sturgis won the award for defense and special teams, respectively.
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): Jon Bostic, Matt Elam
* 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): Mike Gillislee
* Second-straight year that a running back won the award (Chris Rainey).
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Jon Bostic, Josh Evans, Sharrif Floyd, Frankie Hammond, Jr.
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: Jon Bostic, Matt Elam, Mike Gillislee, Jon Halapio, Omar Hunter

2 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has barely seen the field since being traded last offseason. Now the head of ESPN is promising fans that they will see much less of him on their television sets as well. In an conversation with John Ourand of SportsBusiness Journal, ESPN President John Skipper said he recently told his production staff to reduce the amount of coverage that the networks give to Tebow and his exploits. “I said, ‘Guys, we didn’t handle this very well. Going to training camp wasn’t a problem. We just stayed on it relentlessly and too long,’” Skipper explained. “Training camp was fine. The guy’s very popular. In our business, we want to drive ratings. You’ve just got to keep long-term, short-term in mind.”

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9/10: Muschamp talks Gators team improvement

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review his team’s 20-17 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies in the league opener for both squads on Saturday. He also discussed the game ahead this week as Florida will travel to Knoxville, TN to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at 6 p.m.

EXPERIENCE AND TOGETHERNESS

Muschamp said after Saturday’s game that he is not sure if the Gators would have prevailed in a similar situation a year ago. Asked Monday why that would be the case, he pointed to two things in particular that have improved as far as the team is concerned over the last few months.

“The number one thing is experience,” he said. “We had a bunch of guys playing for the first time last year. You look at our sophomore class from last year, I know I can’t tell you the exact number of snaps they played their freshman year, but it wasn’t many. So for the first time a lot of these guys were in those situations and playing for the first time.

“Togetherness – I think this is a pretty close team. You didn’t see any finger-pointing at halftime; you didn’t have any of that. You didn’t have the offense and defense divided in what we were trying to do. As a matter of fact, [offensive line coach] Tim Davis said in a staff meeting yesterday how good it was that the defense came off the field telling the offense, ‘Let’s go. Let’s keep it going.’ When you start to see things like that and guys pulling for each other and understanding it’s bigger than what’s on the back of their jersey – that it’s about playing for each other. I think this team has shown that they are willing and able to do that.”

PLAYER AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Game: redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison
* Muschamp said he was pleased with the way he directed the offensive line and got the team in and out of protections.

Scrap Iron: senior tackle Xavier Nixon and redshirt junior guard Jon Halapio

Defensive Player of the Game: senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic
* Muschamp said he made a bunch of good plays in space and in the run game and was also a big-time leader throughout the contest.

Hard Hat: freshman LB Antonio Morrison
* Muschamp said he liked his physicality and instinctiveness. “This guy. He’ll throw his stuff up in there.”

Special Teams Players of the Game: redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis and sophomore defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy
* Muschamp said Purifoy did an outstanding job playing coverage on punts and held a big-time returner to next to nothing throughout the game.
* Sturgis was also named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week

Big Play: redshirt sophomore running back Mack Brown
* Muschamp said Brown’s big play came on the kickoff after the final touchdown when he blew up the wedge and made a tackle inside the 20. “What a momentum change for us – to continue to have the momentum as opposed to letting him get to the 35-40-yard line. It’s a field goal game. People don’t see those things. What a huge play he made there; really proud of his efforts.”

Scout Team Players of the Week: walk-ons redshirt freshman defensive lineman Evan Holmes, junior wide receiver Ryan Parrish, freshman WR Darius Masline

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the overall game: “It was a great effort by our team. Very pleased in a team win, and I mean that in all parts as far as offense, defense and special teams. Not always exactly what we wanted in any phase but certainly picked each other up when we needed to throughout the game. That’s a credit to our players.”

» Muschamp n dominating the fourth quarter: “Won the fourth quarter. That’s something we emphasized to our guys – making plays in those situations and opportunities when they present themselves. Thought we did a good job of that.”

» Muschamp on the defense’s resurgence in the second half: “The second half they had six possessions and five of them were three-and-outs. Our guys came out poised at halftime, understood what we needed to do to be successful. Didn’t get any turnovers. We need to start the game better. We need to play with more discipline on defense, that’s the bottom line. I said it after the game. Our effort and your enthusiasm and our want-to is off-the-charts, but we’ve got to play more disciplined as a group as far as doing your job. You can’t cross-face on blocks and back-door blocks. It’s out of effort of wanting to make a play; it’s not out of defiance of not wanting to do something. It’s just guys that are trying to do a little too much. We just need to do our job.”

» Muschamp on how well the special teams unit played: “Special teams – back to our standard. Great effort. Outstanding effort on special teams. We’ve got some guys that were straining their guts out there, playing a bunch of snaps in a hot, hot day there in Texas. Very pleased with them.”

» Muschamp on Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley and the Volunteers: “He’s done a nice job there at Tennessee, especially if you look at their football team right now from a year ago. Obviously the injuries they had last year decimated their season. [...] You got an experienced team back. They want to be physical and run the football. They want to take advantage of their strengths offensively which are at the quarterback and receiver position this time. He wanted to get more aggressive defensively, and I think they’ve done that. His background has always been in special teams and I think they’re really good on teams. I think you’re seeing a little bit more of his identify and personality in this football team as maybe opposed to the previous two years.”

» Muschamp on the luxury of having Sturgis on the roster: “He’s very accurate and very dependable, never gets shook. He just lines up and does his job. [...] In my two years as head coach to have that opportunity to have a guy like him has just been a relief.”

» Bostic on the team’s winning streak against UT: “It’s a rival you never really want to lose to. Going into the season it’s always one of the games on your schedule that’s always circled. Pretty much a statement game. That’s usually our first SEC game but this year it’s our second, so we want to keep it going.”

» Bostic on the young linebackers: “Those guys, they can play. Even though they haven’t played as much, they can play. They learned the defense just like we did. It goes by game experience now. As soon as they get in they pretty much get to play and make checks just like I am.”

» Bostic on freshman LB Antonio Morrison: “He’s a physical linebacker, especially for a freshman. He doesn’t play like a freshman. He’s smart, pretty much learns from our mistakes. That’s one thing – you see him after every practice he’s beating me in the film room. That’s a good thing to start out with as a freshman because a lot of freshmen really don’t understand how important watching film is.”

» Bostic on redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown: “It just shows how much of a fighter he is. He’s open of those type of guys, you see him in the training room 24/7. He’s not one of those guys who is ever down. He’s always laughing, smiling with a positive attitude. I respect him for that. He’s one of those guys who has been through pretty much everything and just keeps coming back.

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Gameday: No. 23 Florida Gators at Texas A&M

Location: Kyle Field – College Station, TX [Capacity: 82,589]
Weather Forecast: 89°F, partly cloudy, winds N at 21 mph
Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT / 2:30 p.m. CDT

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox)
SiriusXM: 94/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network (affiliates)
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(23) FLORIDA GATORS TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin
Record: 1-0 (0-0 SEC) Record: 0-0 (0-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -1; O/U 49.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on what happened with the Gators over the last week? No problem. OGGOA has been here the whole time posting a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam on Saturday.

Jeff Driskel named starting QB | LS Drew Ferris out | CB Jaylen Watkins steps up | CB Jeremy Brown returns | Sumlin gives edge to UF | Quinn talks defense

EXTRA CREDIT: Four things Florida must do to top Texas A&M on Saturday

HISTORY / STREAKS

» Saturday’s contest between Florida and Texas A&M is not only TAMU’s season opener but also the school’s first-ever SEC game. The Gators are 1-1 historically against the Aggies with their last meeting coming in the 1977 Sun Bowl.
» Florida, however, is 1-7-2 all-time playing in the state of Texas and 10-11-2 all-time against seven total teams from the state. TAMU is 25-2 in home openers.
» Saturday’s game will be featured as a host site for ESPN’s College GameDay. It is the 21st time (14-7) that the Gators will be on the road for College GameDay. The Aggies will be hosting College GameDay for the third time (0-2).
» Florida is 8-1 against unranked opponents and 0-5 against ranked opponents since Muschamp took over the program in 2011.
» Sumlin is coaching his first game at Texas A&M after the team had its season opener postponed due to Hurricane Issac. He coached Houston to a 13-1 record in 2011.
» The Gators had eight true freshmen play in their season opener including three on defense, four on offense and one on special teams.
» Florida is not scheduled to face Tennessee to open their conference slate for the first time since 1996. (UF-UT was slated for the third week of the 2011 season but was postponed because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.)
» The Gators were scheduled to face Louisiana-Lafayette in week two but are instead playing an SEC game in the second week of the season for the first time since 1995.
» The Aggies are playing a conference opponent in their season opener for the first time since 1967 and just the third time in program history.
» Florida sophomore Jeff Driskel and Texas A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel will both start the first games of their respective college careers at quarterback on Saturday. Driskel played as a reserve in 2011 and saw plenty of action last week; for Manziel it will also be the first college football game in which he has ever played.
» The Gators rushed for 220 yards (5.2 yards per carry) last week in an effort to prove that the team has a power running game worth respecting. UF is now 8-2 under Muschamp when eclipsing the 100-yard rushing benchmark and 0-4 otherwise.
» Florida’s offense converted just 5-of-16 third-downs (31 percent) against Bowling Green last Saturday.
» The Gators held the Falcons to 4-of-17 on third down (23.5 percent), continuing a trend from 2011 in which UF was second nationally in third-down defense (27.3 percent).
» Florida has forced eight turnovers in its last five games dating back to last season.
» The Gators are 8-1 under Muschamp when leading at the half but 0-5 when tied or trailing at that point in the game.
» Florida has at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010.
» Texas A&M set school records in 2011 in passing, scoring and total offense (seventh nationally). TAMU is returning eight starters from that offense but neither their starting quarterback nor primary running back.
» TAMU’s offensive line allowed just nine sacks in 13 games in 2011 and was only flagged for holding twice (the last time in the second game of that season).
» The Aggies led the country in 2011 with 51 total sacks and are returning their top two pass rushers from last season.
» Some college football rule changes for 2012: kickoffs moved up to the 35-yard line, touchbacks moved up to the 25-yard line, player losing his helmet in action results in halting participation immediately and sitting out one full play.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Texas A&M have only met on the gridiron twice before with their last showdown occurring in El Paso, TX in the 1977 Sun Bowl. The Aggies stomped the Gators 37-14 that day, forcing five turnovers and enveloping their opponents with a hard-hitting defense. Then-Florida head coach Doug Dickey lost starting quarterback Jimmy Fisher to a dislocated ring finger in the first quarter and was irked at the end of the game when Texas A&M went for a two-point conversion on their final touchdown. The teams’ only other meeting was in Gainesville, FL back in 1962 when the Gators routed the Aggies 42-6 by winning the battle on the ground 206-72.

ESPN: KEYS TO THE GAME

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M preview including injuries and absences and which players to look out for from both sides of the field.
Continue Reading » Gameday: No. 23 Florida Gators at Texas A&M

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Florida CB Jeremy Brown returns from injury

Updated at 11 p.m.

Making an appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference’s weekly media teleconference, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced that redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown has resumed practicing with the team after missing the season opener against Bowling Green.

Brown, who sat out the entire 2011 season with a knee injury after starting at cornerback for Florida in 2010, returned to working out extensively with the team this summer but fractured his wrist and had surgery on July 18.

He was reevaluated on Aug. 28 to see if he could begin practicing before the first game of the season but was not cleared and did not play last Saturday. Muschamp said he rejoined the team this week and impressed with what he was able to do on the field.

“Obviously Jeremy Brown coming back is going to be a difference for us as well,” he said Wednesday. “Jeremy Brown is ready to go. He actually looked really good [Tuesday], moving around and some things. He will play in the game.”

Speaking later in the day, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said that Brown’s ability to come back once again from a major injury is a testament to his work ethic and spirit. It also sets a great example for the team as a whole.

“Jeremy Brown coming back really is a great story of, ‘hang in there and keep persevering.’ I was really excited to see him come back,” Quinn said. “You know he’s had some set-backs over the last year and a half.

“For him to get out and be back I thought was really a big lift for our team and a good message, too, to say you don’t always get a chance to control what happens but you do have a chance to control how you react to it. I thought that was a good message for him and for the younger players on the team. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way but if you keep hanging in there usually you can come out the other end.”

The Gators very much need Brown against the Texas A&M Aggies. Muschamp expects Florida to be rotating defensive backs all game long, something he feels is quite necessary considering the speed of the Aggies’ offense and how many snaps they will be taking over the course of the game.

“We’re going to be in some situations where we’ll have six DBs on the field, especially with a high-tempo offense like [Texas A&M runs],” he said. “They’re going to be on-the-ball snapping. So they’re going to be taking a lot of snaps. It’s going to be hot, so we’re going to have to roll and play a bunch of guys.”

The wrist injury was Brown’s fourth major ailment since joining the Gators as a true freshman in 2008. He began experiencing back problems that summer and missed his freshman year as well as the entire 2009 campaign.

When Brown did play in 2010 he started 10 of the 11 games in which he played, missing the final two regular season contests with a strained hamstring before returning to compete in the Outback Bowl. He was eighth in the SEC with five passes defended and also registered three interceptions that season.

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