The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (9-1)

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.

9 – Josh Evans (Irvington, NJ)
Senior safety
6’2” 201 lbs.

Quick Bio: One of only five true seniors on the roster, Evans was a four-star recruit coming out of high school who appeared in 21 games over his first two seasons. He was forced into a reserve role because of the Gators’ extreme depth at safety but bided his time until his junior season.

Career Stats (34 games): 71 tackles (52 solo, 2.5 for loss), sack, fumble recovery, two interceptions, pass defense

2011 Season: Evans started eight games his junior year but played in all 13 contests, registering 51 total tackles including a career-high 11 against South Carolina. Arguably his best game of the season came in his last, the Gator Bowl, where he notched five tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.

2012 Outlook: Evans made additional strides this offseason, according to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who said his communication and confidence has improved. Now making more plays than ever in the defensive backfield, he is once again listed as a starting safety and should hold down that position all year. “I think Josh has improved tremendously, and it has nothing to do with athleticism, it has to do with communication and being on the same page and anticipation. The safety position, a lot of it is anticipation for the communication,” head coach Will Muschamp said recently. “That’s where I think Josh has taken the next step, and he certainly has done that. And he’s been very good in camp, and he was very good throughout spring as far as taking the next step.”

8 – Jeremy Brown (Orlando, FL)
Redshirt junior cornerback
5’10” 184 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star prospect, Brown was sidelined by back problems for two full seasons and earned a redshirt as a freshman. He made it a point to rehab his back as much as possible during and after the 2009 season and sought to earn a starting role when Joe Haden declared early for the NFL. Brown succeeded in that goal in 2010, winning the job across from Janoris Jenkins and starting 10 contests. He missed the final two regular season games with a hamstring injury but played in the Outback Bowl.

Career Stats (11 games): 15 tackles (11 solo, one for loss), three interceptions, five pass defenses, touchdown

2011 Season: Brown suffered a knee injury right before the season began and was expected to only miss a few weeks of action. Many accused Muschamp of misleading the public as to the severity of Brown’s injury, but the coach explained in the spring that was not the case. “Our medical evaluation was he was going to be out for a week,” Muschamp said. “That’s what I was told. […] Jeremy was a situation where he rehabbed, it didn’t work, we rehabbed a different way, it didn’t work. We continued to progress, we tried to work him back in practice as the season was going, and he just never responded to rehab, so eventually we had surgery.”

2012 Outlook: Returning to practice this summer, Brown fractured his wrist and had surgery on July 18. He was reevaluated on Aug. 28 to see if he could return to practice though the result of that check-up is not yet known. Brown would have had an opportunity to start at cornerback for Florida this season, but his injuries allowed four other players to jump ahead of him in the pecking order. He should see the field eventually if he can get back healthy but may have to focus on 2013 (his sixth and final season) to regain his starting job.

Check out 11 more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!

Continue Reading » The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (9-1)

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8/24: Injury, playing time notes from Muschamp

With the Florida Gators just eight days away away from the beginning of the season on Sept. 1 at home against Bowling Green, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday to provide updates on the team.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan – strained his pectoral on Saturday, held out of contact and will miss the season opener

Sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders – “pulled a hamstring” on Thursday and will probably miss the season opener

Junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell – starting the last phase of rehab from his torn ACL and will be cutting and changing direction with hopes of returning in October

Redshirt junior DB Jeremy Brown – set to have his wrist checked on Tuesday to see if he can return to practice

Freshman OT left tackle D.J. Humphries – expected to be back practicing on Tuesday or Wednesday after injuring his MCL

Redshirt freshman guard Tommy Jordan – minor shoulder injury

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Redshirt juniors DB Tim Clark and offensive lineman Cole Gilliam and redshirt senior running back Scott Peek are three walk-ons that were awarded scholarships this week.

» Redshirt sophomore Mack Brown and freshman Matt Jones are competing for the back-up running back job behind senior Mike Gillislee.

» On Gillislee stepping up this offseason: “Mike has always been a hard worker, but I think as much of anything [he stepped up] in spring. You watch some of the carries; we got a decent front, running through some tackles and doing some things. I was very impressed with his lunch pail attitude. He goes out and works. He goes out and puts his time in. He goes and works. A guy that, again, I’ve just been really pleased with his approach, his physical mentality. I’ve just been overall very pleased with him as a player and as a person.”

» Muschamp said he expects to have 5-6 defensive backs on the field 90 percent of the time over Florida’s first three games against Bowling Green, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

» On redshirt sophomore LB Neiron Ball playing so well after missing an entire season: “What a wonderful young man. Handled it very maturely; has been through a tough road, not just with the injury but a lot of things. He has responded as maturely and as well as you can respond to a tough situation. To have a guy that is as happy as he is to play football again, he’s a great example for our guys. On those days when you don’t want to practice, this was a guy that had it taken away from him for a year. He’s very appreciative of his opportunities; I know that.”

» Muschamp said that redshirt senior James Wilson will start at left guard mostly because redshirt junior Kyle Koehne (who was competing for the job) can play all five positions on the line and will be filling in as a reserve tackle with Humphries (likely) and Patchan out for the game.

» “I think we’ve improved tremendously. […] Talk is cheap. We need to go line up and play. I can sit here and tell you how I feel, but at the end of the day we’ll be judged on September 1st and how we perform and then the following weeks from that on Saturday.”

» On redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose: “He needs to be more consistent as far as his assignments are concerned and finishing plays down the field. [He has to] continue to work at those things. He certainly has the ability, but you got to do it all the time, you can’t just talk about it.”

» On if playing two quarterbacks means a team has no true quarterback: “I don’t know. I look at two talented guys we can win with. It didn’t seem to affect LSU last year, so…”

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8/10: Muschamp announces injuries, updates QBs

Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday following the Florida Gators‘ seventh fall practice. He spoke about a number of hot topics including some major injuries, the quarterback competition and how certain players are progressing.

KNEE INJURIES DOOM ALAJAJIAN, JOHNSON

Muschamp announced Friday that true senior defensive lineman Nick Alajajian suffered a fractured right knee after getting “rolled up on in a drill” and will be out for the season. He is not sure what his future holds and whether or not he will take a redshirt year, which he has not used yet. “It’s disappointing for him in his senior season. Hurt for him right now; we all need to pull together and support him,” he said.

Moments later Muschamp dropped another bombshell by announcing that redshirt junior DL Kedric Johnson will also miss a significant amount of time after dislocating his left knee in practice. Johnson’s recovery timetable has not yet been set though the loss of both he and Alajajian means that some freshmen should get even more playing time as reserves this season.

IT’S CALLED A “COMPETITION” FOR A REASON

Asked whether either of his sophomore quarterbacks – Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel – has separated himself through seven practices, Muschamp quipped that the competition between the two talented signal callers is “pretty even” right now.

“We have purposely let them manage and gotten our offensive staff off the field because they need to manage our team,” he explained. “I think both guys have done a really nice job of that. I think both guys have had their moments when they’ve really shined and both had moments where we probably could have been better in some areas.”

Muschamp said that he would like to have Brissett and Driskel compete in at least three full scrimmages before the coaching staff begins to make a decision on the future of the position. “When the decision is right and the time is right, we’ll know,” he added.

SCRIMMAGE SET FOR SATURDAY

The next time the Gators line up in pads they will be going head-to-head in a game-like scenario at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. Muschamp is trying to mimic game day so much that he is even going to put some of his coaches upstairs to work out a system for in-game play calling.

“The first groups, we need to go let them play,” he said. “Those guys need to get out there. We’ve got a collection of guys that need to go out and play on their own and not have a coach let them know where to line up, what to do, where to shift, where to motion, where your eyes need to be. We need to get off the field and let them play.

“That’s what I’m looking for Saturday – a good, crisp, physical scrimmage, good operation offensively. Our coaches will be in the box that’ll be in the box on game day, and I think it’s important for us to be able to get in that function of getting the play down.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say on Friday…after the break!
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2012 SEC Media Days – Muschamp ready to roll

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt senior linebacker Lerentee McCray and seniors LB Jon Bostic and running back Mike Gillislee represented the team on Wednesday by appearing at a number of press gatherings at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, AL. Below are highlights from Muschamp’s session along with some player comments.

TEAM INJURY UPDATE

» Junior Buck LB Ronald Powell (torn ACL): Cleared for all weight room activities including straight-ahead running but not changing direction or taking blocks. “He’ll play for us this year,” Muschamp said. “When that will be, I don’t know yet. There’s nobody that’s worked harder or has handled the situation better or more mature than Ronald has. He’s really grown up this summer, and I’m very proud of his efforts.”

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli (stress fracture – leg): Underwent successful surgery after spring practice concluded and is expected to be cleared in the “middle of August.”

» Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (fractured wrist): Having surgery Wednesday for an injury he suffered over the summer, should be cleared on Sept. 1.

» Freshman safety Marcus Maye (torn meniscus): Should be cleared for training camp after having surgery while still a senior in high school.

* Muschamp said no players are currently slated to be suspended for any games.

STARTING QUARTERBACK REMAINS A QUANDRY

The battle between sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel lasted all spring and as expected has continued into the summer session, should infiltrate fall training camp and may even extend into the regular season, Muschamp confirmed.

“If you saw our spring game, you saw what I saw for 14 practices – two guys that are very even in their competition. They’re even going into fall camp; they’ll get equal reps,” he said. “I would like to name a starter before the season, but I’m not going to put a timetable on that. If we need to play both of them, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what we got to do to win football games.

“Both guys have a similar skill set, so it’s not like there’s one offense we run with one and one with another. And there’s a possibility you could see both in the game at the same time. But they’re both guys that can contribute to our football team. Jeff and Jacoby have handled the competition very well. It’s been good for our football team. Their competition has made each other better, has made our offense better, has made our football team better. I’m really pleased with how that has worked and how it will work in fall camp.”

START FAST – START STRONG

Florida has traditionally begun seasons on a roll, but the Gators will be faced with some tough tests early in 2012 with a pair of conference road games against Texas A&M and Tennessee in the second and third weeks. Muschamp has been using those contests as motivation to ensure that he players are ready to go right out of the gate.

“I know that’s been a really good motivating factor for our players to understand that we need to start fast,” he said. “They understand the pride that we have in playing at home. We didn’t play well at home against our rival the last time we were in the stadium. So it’s critical for us, Sept. 1st against Bowling Green, to play well and be prepared well.

“Those other two games, we can get a leg up on the competition in the SEC by playing [well] early. I look at it as a great opportunity for our football team, a great motivating factor for our players this summer to report in shape, which they will be, and ready to go with a great mindset to have an outstanding year.”

Muschamp is pumped to turn things around beginning with fall training on Aug. 3 following a “very frustrating, disappointing first year” under his watch that “didn’t meet the expectation level that we expect at Florida on the field.”

“I do feel like we have built a very solid foundation for where we were headed,” he said. “We did not get the results we wanted on the field [last year]. But I feel like within the locker room, the weight room, the attitude of our football team, the discipline of our team, we’re headed in the right direction. I think we have an outstanding foundation. Every decision I make is for the long term success of our program. As I said plenty of times, we’re building a program, not a team. That’s where we are right now.”

Read the rest of Muschamp’s thoughts on the Gators…after the break!
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Muschamp gathers Gators in West Palm Beach

Florida Gators fans in Palm Beach County were visited by a head football coach for the first time since 2008 and came away both enthusiastic and impressed on Thursday when Will Muschamp dropped by the Expo Center at the South Florida Fairgrounds to discuss his first season at the helm and his expectations for 2012.

After a 20-minute opening statement, Muschamp took questions for another half hour and stuck around to sign autographs for all of he nearly 200 fans in attendance. Below is a recap of some of the more newsworthy and interesting topics that Muschamp covered (and were not included in stories here and here):

» The competition between sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has not slowed down at all. “I have the utmost confidence in both guys. They’re working extremely hard here in the offseason. It’s going to be critical – it’s got to become their football team. And their competition will make each other better which will make our offense better and is going to make our football team better,” he said. “Jacoby and Jeff are both guys we can win a championship with. I do know that. […] We can win with both. I’d like to name a starter. If we have to play both, we will play both. We’re going to do what it takes to win games at the end of the day. If one guy will distance himself then certainly we will name him the starter.”

» Muschamp said Florida had a legitimate opportunity to match-up against and win every game but two in 2011. “There’s a fine line between winning and losing,” he said. “Last year we played two football teams that were better than us in Alabama and LSU. The rest of the games we had our opportunities. Whether it was maturity or coaching or whatever you want to say it was, at the end of the day we didn’t get the job done. 7-6 is not acceptable at Florida; neither is 15-11 – that’s what we’ve been the last two years.”

» Junior safety Matt Elam’s groin continues to be an issue for the Gators but Muscahmp is confident it will be all healed by the time summer rolls around. “He twinged it in the latter part of spring. We really needed to look at the young safeties Valdez Showers and Jabari Gorman – get those guys a lot of reps. Matt’s a good football player. I know what he can do,” he said. “I pulled him the last three practices before the spring game. I just felt like it was another opportunity for someone else to get the reps. I saw him in the weight room [Wednesday]. He looks great and is working hard. He’s a guy that is very instinctive, has great ball skills, toughness. He can cover; he can play in man and zone. He does a lot of things for our football team.”

» His pair of freshman offensive linemen are impressing him: “Jessamen Dunker from here in Boynton Beach and D.J. Humprhies from Charlotte, North Carolina are two really good players. I’d recruit them again. Glad they’re on our football team.”

» Muschamp said he learned plenty of lessons after his first season as a head coach but in the end you cannot change what happened, you can only move forward. “There’s a lot to be learned through last season. You can’t go back and re-do and press the reset button and start over. That’s not what you do. You learn from it, you move forward, and I think our guys have learned from it,” he said.

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Muschamp, Quinn talk Gators team, defense

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2012 spring practice on Wednesday, head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media Tuesday to discuss a variety of topics concerning the team’s defense.

RELATED: Muschamp, Pease talk Florida Gators offense | Spring depth chart

PRIORITIES FOR 2012

Just as offensive coordinator Brent Pease listed his five offensive philosophies heading into the season, Muschamp took time before answering questions on Wednesday to discuss – in detail – his three priorities for the Gators on both sides of the ball this year.

(1) As we hit spring, the emphasis to me as a team [is on] turnover margin. We’re minus 12 last year. We’re 113th in the country. It’s really a minor miracle we won seven games. You can’t win games turning it over and not getting turnovers. When I was at Texas my second-to-last year, I think we led the country in turnovers. We emphasize it. It’s not like we’re all of a sudden going to start emphasizing it. Dan talks about it with our defense every single day. We’ve got to find different ways to emphasize it. I don’t know what if you do the same things you’re going to get the same results. We had 15 dropped interceptions, so we had 15 times where we have both hands on the ball. And we’ve got to finish plays. We’re going to do more ball drills. We’re going to do some things that we’ve got to do to get the ball in position for our offense and let Brent and the guys have a chance. That’s a huge point of emphasis.

(2) We need to make a lot more explosive plays, but we need to limit them on defense, but turnover margin is really the emphasis we’re looking at. Ball possession, security of the ball offensively, big emphasis.

(3) Mental and physical toughness. We had some discipline issues and that falls on my shoulders – 41 what I would call ‘discipline penalties,’ jumping offsides, false starts, 23 false starts, 18 offside penalties defensively, so that’s almost half of our penalties. Those are things we will not tolerate. We’ve got more depth on our football team now. There were some opportunities last year where a guy would jump offsides and we didn’t have anybody else to go to. That guy won’t play anymore, so we’ll get him out of the game and put somebody else in there. […] The physical toughness of stopping the run and being able to run the ball when you need to, and again, not being hardheaded, we’re trying to run the ball. When they load the box, you’ve got to be able to create some match ups outside and win, but to do the things you’ve got to do to win games, and we’ll talk a little bit about that further.

» Quinn on improving turnover margin: “There’s really two kinds of turnovers. There’s one that I’ll call a conscious effort: You strip the quarterback, you’ve got a big hit on the running back. Then there’s some that are just an unconscious effort: There was an overthrown ball, you picked it [up]. We’ve got to do a much better job of the conscious effort, making a big emphasis on taking the ball away. As coach had talked about, it’s something that we address a lot. So what did I do this offseason that was an important part for me, to call some other clubs and say what are some of the things you’re doing that you guys played so well to get the ball away. I talked to the guys at San Francisco; they had a terrific turnover margin this year so important for me to reach out. Are you doing anything different? […] It’s awareness for the players, and I emphasized it, and as Will said, if you can do the same thing you’ll get the same results. We’re going to challenge, do some different drills for it, and we’re going to improve in that area.”

» Quinn on mental and physical toughness: “The off season program was the first step in that, and that’s what you’re trying to do. Let’s face it, everybody in the country is talking about being a tough, physical team. Who wouldn’t want to be on a tough, physical team? We all would be. How do you put that into action? And I think it starts in the weight room. […] There’s something that you get accomplished when you go through a physical offseason program that you come out the other end and you feel a little stronger, and you feel a little more ready to take on a different role on the field. And then when you get out on the grass it’s the competition, and I think that’s one of the really exciting things about coaching at a place like here that there’s some really good competition on the other side of the ball. I think you gain something from that as a player when you have to go against a certain player, whether it’s covering him or taking him on at the line of scrimmage or in that physical element. So that’s one of the things that I’m looking forward to is competition going forward into spring practice.”

Read more about the defense’s players and the coaches’ philosophies…
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Florida Gators 2012 spring practice depth chart

You may be excited that, in a few lines, you are getting a look at the Florida Gators 2012 spring practice depth chart. Don’t be. As he explained one year ago, head coach Will Muschamp does not put a lot of stock in the spring’s first depth chart, referring to it in 2011 as not worth the paper it was printed on. In other words, it is just a starting-off point for 2012 and plenty can change between now and the end of spring, the start of summer, the beginning of fall or when the season starts. Nevertheless, below is the depth chart as it was presented on March 13.

RELATED: Muschamp, Pease talk offense | Muschamp, Quinn talk defense

Florida omitted players who are injured or limited and not participating in spring practice. A list of those players can be found at the end along with some additional explanations.

QB: 12 Jacoby Brissett OR 6 Jeff Driskel
RB: 23 Mike Gillislee, 33 Mack Brown
FB: 8 Trey Burton OR 43 Hunter Joyer
WR (X): 4 Andre Debose, 89 Stephen Alli
WR (Z): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 83 Solomon Patton
WR (Slot): 85 Frankie Hammond, Jr., 13 Latroy Pittman
TE: 11 Jordan Reed, 20 Omarius Hines* OR 88 Clay Burton

LT: 71 Matt Patchan*, 73 Xavier Nixon
LG: 66 James Wilson, 50 Sam Robey*
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne*
RG: 67 Jon Halapio, 74 Jessamen Dunker
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 71 Matt Patchan*

DE: 73 Sharrif Floyd*, 91 Earl Okine
DT: 44 Leon Orr*, 4 Damien Jacobs*
NT: 99 Omar Hunter, 58 Nick Alajajian
Buck DE: 7 Ronald Powell, 25 Gideon Ajagbe*
SLB: 49 Darren Kitchens, 55 Graham Stewart
MLB: 1 Jon Bostic, 51 Michael Taylor
WLB: 3 Jelani Jenkins, 72 Antonio Morrison

CB: 15 Louchiez Purifoy, 27 Willie Bailey
CB: 31 Cody Riggs*, 14 Jaylen Watkins
Nickel CB: 22 Matt Elam*, 31 Cody Riggs
S: 22 Matt Elam*, 26 De’Ante Saunders
S: 9 Josh Evans, 10 Valdez Showers*

K: 19 Caleb Sturgis, 97 Brad Phillips
P: 44 Kyle Christy
H: 47 John Crowfoot, 44 Kyle Christy
LS: 46 Drew Ferris, 43 Kyle Crowfoot
KR/PR: Not listed

LIMITED FOR SPRING: LB Neiron Ball (vascular condition), CB Marcus Roberson (neck)

OUT FOR SPRING: CB Jeremy Brown (knee), DT Dominique Easley (ACL), OL Cole Gilliam (shoulder), DE Kedric Johnson (shoulder), OL Tommy Jordan (shoulder), LB Lerentee McCray (shoulder), OL Ian Silberman (shoulder)

*BEING CROSS-TRAINED: Floyd – DE/DT/NT, Jacobs – DT/NT, Riggs – S/CB/NCB, Elam – S/NCB, Hines – RB/TE, Patchan – LT/RT, Orr – DT/DE, Ajagbe – SLB/Buck, Jabari Gorman – S/NCB, Showers – S/NCB, Robey – C/G, Koehne – G/C

OGGOA NOTES
– TE A.C. Leonard remains indefinitely suspended from the team for his recent arrest for misdemeanor domestic battery. He would fit in at the first or second slot at his position.
– Wilson was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, a big win for the Gators and their lack of depth and experience on the offensive line.
– Freshman D.J. Humphries, expected to make an impact at offensive tackle, is not yet on the two-deep depth chart likely due to an off-the-field reason like weight or conditioning.
– Brown (CB), Roberson (CB), Easley (DT), McCray (SLB) are four other starters/potential starters who are currently off the depth chart due to injury.

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2012 Gator Bowl Gameday (Jacksonville, FL): Florida Gators vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Location: EverBank Field – Jacksonville, FL [Capacity: 84,000]
Weather Forecast: 57°F, sunny, winds WNW at 13 mph
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2/ESPN2HD
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Luke Fickell
Record: 6-6 Record: 6-6
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -2; O/U 44

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before the bowl game? No problem. OGGOA has been here since the end of the regular season compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam.

Muschamp on Gator Bowl, coaches | Coordinators discuss players, game

HISTORY / STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Ohio State 1-0, with the No. 2 Gators defeating the No. 1 Buckeyes 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship.
» Both teams are entering the game with a 6-6 record (each are 3-5 in their conference as well) and looking to finish the season above .500. UF losing would make them sub-.500 for the first time since 1979, while OSU would not have reached that low of a level since 1897 if they drop the game.
» Both teams are starting head coaches in their first year (and in Fickell’s case his last year) at the helm.
» This is Florida’s 21st consecutive appearance in a bowl game, good for first in the SEC and second nationally. The Gators have played in 18 January bowl games in the last 20 years dating back to 1993. The Buckeyes are second in most January bowl games since 1993 with 16 appearances.
» UF is 19-19 all-time in bowl games and 6-2 in the Gator Bowl but has not participated in this event since 1992. Florida is 7-6 in bowl games against current Big 10 teams.
» Ohio State has not played in the Gator Bowl since 1978 and has not played a bowl game in the state of Florida since 2002. The Buckeyes are 19-22 all-time in bowl games and 15-19 in those played in January.
» The Gators are 4-0 this season when rushing for more than 150 yards and 6-2 when gaining more than 100 yards on the ground. Florida, however, is 1-5 when being outrushed and 0-5 when tied or trailing at the half.
» UF had 18 players make their first career start in 2011 and the 15 true freshman that have seen the field is tied for seventh-most nationally.
» The Gators have half as many upperclassmen (14 seniors, 11 juniors) as they do underclassmen (27 sophomores, 24 freshmen) seeing action this season.
» Florida offense has struggled as of late, and the Gators have had major problems putting the ball in the end zone. Florida has scored points in just 33 of 48 quarters this season and touchdowns in only 25 of those quarters.
» UF’s 13.42 yards per pass completion is No. 1 in the SEC and 16th nationally.
» The Gators are only converting 49 percent (17-of-35) of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns but have scored at least a field goal when the offense has a possession inside the 20-yard-line 86 percent of the time.
» Florida is No. 9 nationally and fifth in the SEC in total defense (299.6 yards per game). The Gators are also No. 25 nationally and fifth in the SEC in scoring defense (20.6 points per game).
» The Gators’ defense is second in the nation in preventing third-down conversions, allowing just 27.7 percent of those attempted to be successful. However, UF is 66th nationally in preventing fourth-down conversions, allowing a 52.0 percent success rate.
» The Buckeyes have allowed the third fewest 100-yard rushers among all teams nationally since 2007, giving up just 11 such performances.
» Florida was one of the least disciplined teams in the country during the regular season, ranking 114th (out of 120 teams) nationally in penalties, committing 93 in 12 games for 699 total yards lost. Ohio State ranks 45th in that category, committing 66 in 12 games for 547 total yards lost.
» The Gators have a +1 turnover margin in six victories but a -12 margin in six losses.
» Florida’s defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (315) since 2000. UF also has the most interceptions in the nation (76) since 2008.

LAST TIME OUT

On the way to the team’s second national title, Florida defeated Ohio State 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship the last time these two teams squared off. The No. 2 Gators, led by quarterback Chris Leak (25/36 for 212 yards, touchdown), routed the No. 1 Buckeyes by outscoring them 41-7 after OSU wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Florida led 34-14 at halftime and stifled Ohio State’s offense, holding the team to just 82 yards over the course of four quarters. UF linebacker Earl Everett’s helmet-less sack on OSU QB Troy Smith is one of the most memorable moments from the game and the 2006 season.

FLORIDA’S PRE-GAME THOUGHTS

Muschamp on the team’s improvement: “We’ve made some progress, and I think a lot of that has to do with not having to get ready for a game in a game-week situation, being able to go back to a lot of fundamentals, a lot like training camp or spring practice to be able to work on a lot of those things.”

Muschamp on his team this year: “Coaching at the University of Florida is a dream of mine to be in this opportunity that I’ve been presented. I’m excited about work every day. I’m frustrated at the results maybe at times, but from the standpoint of how our players have worked, how they’ve committed themselves and these guys up here I think have done a good job. Is it the results we want? No. Are we where we want to be? No. But have I seen improvements and improvements within our program sometimes inside the building that maybe people don’t see? We’ve made tremendous strides as a team. It was a tough situation what we inherited, quite honestly. We’ve made tremendous strides.”

Muschamp on if the perception of being sub-.500 is worse than the reality: “It would be disappointing, obviously. It’s not something that we want to have happen. These players and myself and us as a staff don’t want to be saddled with that. Certainly is that a motivating factor? It certainly should be.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley on playing his last game: “I grew up as a Gator. Now that I’ll be exiting this program after this game, I’ll always be a Gator. Through thick and thin. I’ll always be wearing the orange and blue and watching them on Saturdays for years to come.”

Brantley on if he would have done things differently: “I’m just fortunate enough to wake up every day and put on the Gator uniform. To be able to have this opportunity to play major college football at such a great university and one that I’ve loved my entire life was a dream come true, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

INJURIES / ABSENCES

FLORIDA
» Active: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (head)
» Game-time decision: Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)
» Inactive: Redshirt sophomore tackle Matt Patchan (back), redshirt sophomore defensive end Kedric Johnson (undisclosed), sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (torn ACL), redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), freshman CB Marcus Roberson (neck)

OHIO STATE
» Active: Linebacker Andrew Sweat (head, shoulder)
» Game-time decision: Tight end Jake Stoneburner (knee)
» Inactive: Running back Rod Smith (undisclosed)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 58.9 percent of his passes (132-of-224) this season for 1,912 yards and 10 touchdowns but has also thrown six. He had a career-best game against Furman, throwing for 329 yards and four touchdowns, but followed it up with a career-worst performance against Florida State, throwing for 104 yards with three interceptions.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 1,140 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 12.5 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally. He also rushed for 100 yards or more in three-straight games, the first UF player to do so since Fred Taylor last accomplished that feat 14 years ago.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who is second on the Gators in carries (91) and rushing yards (539) this season but leads Florida in touchdowns scored (six). Injuries and poor run blocking have limited Demps’s effectiveness in 2011, but he continues to do whatever he can to help the team each week.
» Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (#4)…who jumped to first on the Gators’ receiving list with a career-high 151 yards and two touchdowns two games ago against Furman. Debose had mirror image 65-yard touchdowns against Alabama and LSU earlier in the season. Fans have been waiting for Debose to emerge for some time, but his 423 receiving yards now lead the team. Additionally, his 28.2 yards per catch is the highest average in the SEC and third nationally.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary. He is second on the team in tackles (72) and at one point created turnovers in three-straight games (fumble-INT-INT). His 12 tackles against LSU a month ago marked a career high, and his nine tackles for loss this season are a team-high.
» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard (#6)…who has helped solidified the interior of the Gators’ strongest unit. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (29 starts) and has registered 8.5 tackles for loss along with four sacks and two recovered fumbles this season. He is fourth on the team in total tackles (60) and has even broken up two passes).
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-3 on the team in tackles. Bostic (86) and Jenkins (71) have each excelled in different areas for Florida. The former has six tackles for a loss and three sacks while the latter has one sack, seven pass breakups and two interceptions (one pick-six) on the year.
» Sophomores DT Sharrif Floyd (#73) and Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who are each looking to make a statement in Monday’s game. Floyd moves back to his more natural position after spending all season at end and registering 44 tackles and just five for a loss with no sacks, while Powell wants to build on his solid performance against FSU. He has registered 30 tackles (eight for a loss), five sacks and a forced fumble.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who has returned for Florida after missing eight games one year ago with an injured back. He is 21-for-25 in field goal attempts on the season (long: 55) and is perfect with 28 extra points, leading the Gators with 91 points scored this season. Sturgis is fourth in the nation with 21 field goals made but tied for 22nd in kicking points.

OHIO STATE
» QB Braxton Miller (#5)…who was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year after completing 50 percent of his passes for 997 yards with 11 touchdowns and four picks on the season while also leading Ohio State in rushing with 144 carries for 695 yards and seven more scores. All of this and Miller did not start until the fourth game.
» RBs Dan Herron (#1) and Carlos Hyde (#34)…who are also toting the ball quite often for the Buckeyes with over 100 carries each this year. The duo has combined for over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns.
» WR Devin Smith (#15) and tight end Jake Stoneburner (#11)…who are two of three players on the team with double-digit receptions on the season. Smith (12) leads the team with 247 yards and has four touchdowns, but Stoneburner (who may not even play due to injury) has a team-high seven touchdowns on just 14 catches.
» LB Andrew Sweat (#41) and DL John Simon (#54)…who are two of OSU’s best defenders. Sweat has totaled 68 tackles along with five for a loss, an interception and a forced fumble this season. Simon is even more dominant with 50 tackles including 15 for a loss and seven sacks.

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