Floyd stepped up; players on Meyer, Marotti, Weis

With the Florida Gators hoping to end the season on a high note with a victory in the 2012 Gator Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes, three players were made available to the media Tuesday to discuss a number of topics.

FLOYD DID “WHAT’S BEST FOR THE TEAM”

A career defensive tackle, sophomore Sharrif Floyd moved to defensive end before the season began at the request of head coach Will Muschamp, who was searching for a capable starter and depth at a very shallow position. “It was good on my part because it shows that I can do more than just what I’m here for. I can do what’s best for the team and learn things the best I can. I think it was a good fit for my resume this year,” Floyd said, putting a positive spin on the move.

With redshirt senior Jaye Howard and sophomore Dominique Easley manning the inside, Floyd played out of position on the end but still finished sixth on the team (and second on the defensive line) in tackles with 44 (18 solo, five for loss). “As I started to progress at D-end, I started noticing more teams just not coming my way. It was frustrating but at the end of the day it was make a play however it happens,” he said. “It was frustrating at the beginning until I started talked to my coaches about it. They told me to just hang in there and work with them. I did what was best for the team and came out as one of the leaders in tackles.”

That is exactly what Floyd did and though the plan was always for him to move back inside in 2012, Easley tearing his ACL has prompted that move to occur one game earlier. “[I’m] definitely more comfortable,” Floyd said of moving back to tackle. “Don’t like the way it happened or the reason why I went back in[side], but it happens in the game of football. I can’t be more excited. Three-technique is definitely my position now and until I’m done. Since I’ve been playing over eight-nine years now, I’ve been at D-tackle. I know it. I know all the blocks. I know what’s coming at me. There’s no thinking, there’s just going. I understand it a little more and there’s no need to be patient at D-tackle.”

PLAYERS ONLY SLIGHTLY FAZED BY DEPARTURES

Floyd, junior safety Josh Evans and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose each spoke about the impact and provided their unique opinions on former head coach Urban Meyer taking a new job at Ohio State, strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti leaving Florida to join him, and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis taking the head coaching position with Kansas.

Floyd on how the team felt about Meyer’s decision: “There’s a lot of the guys on the team. We all got own opinions about things. I can’t really talk for everyone else but for me personally, I think that’s good for him. He’s going to do what’s best for him and his family. No hard feelings over here. If I saw the guy today, I would still shake his hand, talk to him, have a normal conversation. That’s the name of the game and it can happen anywhere. Congrats and good luck to him.”

Evans on Meyer’s choice and if the team was angry: “It was a shock. It was a little surprising, but we moved on and we’re past it. […] He’s a good coach, and I wish the best for him. […] I’m pretty sure there are some people that feel some type of way about it, but we don’t really discuss it as much.”

Evans on Marotti being a huge loss for the Gators: “That was big for us because he was a good coach and like a father to some players. That was a big loss because we came in here and basically everybody knew him as the strength coach. We got [Scott Holsopple] now and he’s a good strength coach, too. We kind of figured once Meyer took the job that it was a chance he probably was going to leave because we knew they were close, so everybody kind of had a heads-up on it.”

Debose on Weis suddenly departing: “It was a total shock. We had no clue that he was leaving. My reaction was that he had a great opportunity to be a head coach. I wouldn’t turn that down either. I wish him the best of luck.”

Debose on if Meyer’s decision or Marotti moving on was tougher: “Coach Marotti was just as important as Coach Meyer. I think Coach Marotti was a bigger shock to everybody because that’s our strength coach. He makes a lot of good decisions and he helps our bodies. For him to leave, that was a big shock.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Floyd on Muschamp’s proclamation that training camp was not hard enough: “If coach thinks it should have been tougher, than it should have been tougher. I’m behind whatever he wants to do.”

» Evans on redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Brown not playing: “To me that was a big loss because when I came in that was one of the first guys I met. Seeing him not play was difficult for me because we are real tight like brothers. He should be healthy after the season so he can get back in the spring and hopefully he can [play].”

» Debose on interim offensive coordinator Brian White: “Coach White is a great play caller. He has a track record; he has done it before. I’m behind him 100 percent. Coach White is a genius I feel like.”

» Debose said he had to work on his consistency each practice and looked to redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson as a model of consistency and high effort for him to follow.

» Debose on having so many transfers this year: “All I can say about that is: If you don’t want to be a Gator, you won’t be a Gator. And if you don’t, you’ll leave. They left.”

» Debose on how redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley will be thought of after the bowl game: “I think John Brantley will be remembered as a hard worker, great guy, good football player. I want him to go out with a bang. I want him to have a career game for the bowl game. Even if he didn’t, I would still think he had a solid career, but I want him to go out like a champ in his last game.”

» Debose on Muschamp hiring a replacement offensive coordinator: “Whoever he brings in, we know that he’s going to be the best for this program. We’re behind him 100 percent.”

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12/19: Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media Monday to answer some questions and look ahead to the Florida Gators‘ next opponent, the Ohio State Buckeyes. Florida and Ohio State will go head-to-head in the 2011 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL on Jan. 2 at 1 p.m. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from Monday’s availability.

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (torn ACL): “That surgery went very well. He is rehabbing as we speak. He probably will miss spring but will certainly be cleared for the summer, so he’ll be ready to get back.”

– Sophomore Sharrif Floyd will move back inside and play his natural position of defensive tackle after spending the entire year at defensive end. “Sharrif will play inside. For lack of numbers, we played Sharrif at end,” Muschamp said. “He is a more natural inside player. When [Easley] was injured in the Florida State game, we moved Sharrif inside and he played extremely well.”

Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee): “We’re evaluating him right now. There’s a possibility he will have surgery to repair his knee. We’ve exhausted every measure as far as not having surgery at this point and we’re in that process at this time.” Muschamp hopes to have him back next season depending on the severity of the injury.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (concussion): “He’s fine. We gave our guys off the week after the game while we were on the road [recruiting]. We lifted him and [he] ran a little bit.”

SEARCHING FOR AN OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

Muschamp maintained Monday (sorry for the alliteration) that Florida will not officially hire an offensive coordinator until after the bowl game but that does not mean he has been stationary in his search for Charlie Weis’s replacement. “A lot of people have a tremendous interest in the job,” he said. “I’m taking my time. I’m talking to an awful lot of people and will continue to do so to find the best fit for the University of Florida. We will make that decision after the bowl game.”

Interim offensive coordinator Brian White, the team’s running back’s coach who is filling in for the bowl game, is a candidate at the top of Muschamp’s list and will have bowl practice and the game itself to convince his head coach that he deserves the job. “I’ll sit down and talk to Brian but again, he’s a guy I’ve been with every day. I like how he’s managing our offensive football team at this time,” Muschamp said. “He’s doing an outstanding job. He has experience at the position with Wisconsin and had great success. Certainly he’s a candidate.”

Other candidates – like Jacksonville head coach and former UF QB Kerwin Bell – are being interviewed in the meantime. In the end, Muschamp is looking for someone who can add his special touches but keep the status quo. “You’re also looking for the right fit. We’re not going to come in and change what we’re doing. We don’t think that it’s smart to hire a guy and have 40 guys learning as opposed to one guy learning,” he explained. “Obviously will he tweak some things? Certainly. Will he change some things? Yeah, maybe. But we’re not going to just take a playbook, throw it out the window and bring another one in. We got a young football team, and I think continuity is the most important thing at this point with our football team.”

IT STARTS WITH SELF-EVALUATION

Already looking back on the Gators’ 6-6 regular season, Muschamp (as he has all year) puts the blame primarily on himself, saying he is responsible because it all falls on his shoulders. Nevertheless, he thinks there is plenty for Florida fans to look forward to with the bowl game and offseason upcoming.

“At the end of the day, are we headed in the right direction? Yes, I emphatically believe that. Is it where we want to be at this point? No. Are we going to get there? Yes,” he said. Muschamp added that the 2011 season did not go as expected because, simply put, Florida did not play for a SEC Championship. “That’s what I understand, and that’s what I expect,” he said.

Asked if there was one thing he could change about how the year went, Muschamp said it would be one of the very first decisions he made as head coach. “The most disappointing thing or poor decision I made was training camp not having been more physical because of numbers. You get nervous about injuries. You get nervous about situations with guys as far as having a more physical camp to prepare our team for the season. If I had one thing I wish I could have changed, that would be it,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Florida began practicing on Friday and worked on fundamentals and technique over the weekend. Preparations for Ohio State began on Monday, and the team will practice Monday-Thursday this week before going to Jacksonville next week.

» On the sophomore class: “Without getting specific, there’s no question the majority of our playmakers are in that class. You look offensively, defensively and special teams of the guys who really contributed to our football team.”

» On there being so much attrition this year: “I would attribute it to a lot of different things. I think it is hard to really put your finger on one thing and say, ‘This is it.’ Anytime you have transition there is a natural attrition that occurs. Whether it is the coach that recruited you, the position coach, the coordinator, the head coach is different, the scheme is different. There are a lot of things.”

» On why Brantley impresses him: “Regardless if you pay attention to it or not, you hear negativity a lot. Quarterback is a tough position to play. It is the hardest position o play on the field. When it’s going well, you normally are put on a pedestal that you actually are playing probably better than you really are. At times when things aren’t going very well, you’re probably painted to be a little bit worse than you really are. From that standpoint, a guy that went through a frustrating year the previous year, came into our situation [and] really embraced it, did a good job with our offense, unfortunately had some injuries and some setbacks. The one thing I’m going to tell you about John is that he’s a positive guy. He loves being a Florida Gator. And that’s important to me. He’s a guy that does everything he can do in a first-class manner. He’s got a great family that supports him and is a guy I’m really proud of to be a part of this football group.”

» On how he will approach recruiting with so many empty spots: “You still want to evaluate and take the right guys. It’s a little different now because we have a whole year to evaluate. My philosophy at that point was not taking a guy you weren’t sure about. That’s the most important thing – right now we’ve had a full year to evaluate. We know what we’ve evaluated. We’ve ranked everybody at every position. We understand the numbers at certain positions that we want to take, but we’re not going to take a guy to take a guy. We’d rather – if there’s five at this position and you want to take three, you know you’re going to get two so you take four more at this position if you really feel good about those four. More than anything, at the end of the day, it’s kind of like the NFL Draft. You take the best player available at those situations.”

» On redshirt junior tight end Omarius Hines not seeing the field much: “He had some injuries early in the year. As we moved forward, you look at Jordan Reed and A.C. Leonard were very productive at the position. […] We expected more of an impact on special teams as well, not just on offense. The injury put him behind a little bit as far as moving forward.”

» On his plan for redshirt freshman QB Tyler Murphy: “To compete at the quarterback position.”

On sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell: “He played better as the year rolled on. He’s having a nice bowl practice as we progress to this point. He’s had his best practice since we’ve been here the other day as far as just his pad level, his hand placement and affecting the quarterback in the rush. He always plays with good effort and toughness.”

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Gators CB Marucs Roberson out for season

The Florida Gators secondary was further depleted Monday when head coach Will Muschamp announced that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson would miss 4-6 weeks with a neck injury that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Roberson, who has started every game this year for Florida, is the third talented Gators’ cornerback now unavailable for the team. UF dismissed Janoris Jenkins over the summer, and redshirt junior Jeremy Brown has yet to play in 2011 after injuring his knee in the offseason; the duo was slated to start opposite one another.

Muschamp referred to Roberson’s injury as a strained neck but did not go into further detail, simply saying that the doctors are going to be cautionary and hold him out the remainder of the season rather than try to press him back into action or a potential bowl game. He added that no setbacks are expected and Roberson should be completely healthy when he returns for spring practice in 2012.

“It’s nothing that’s going to be permanent,” Muschamp said. “He’s going to be fine in 4-6 weeks. He strained his neck there and [the training staff is] just taking the precautionary measures obviously with something like that.”

Roberson registered 22 tackles this season, nabbed an interception and recovered a fumble in the 10 games he played, most of which he spent covering the opponent’s best wide receiver. Sophomore Cody Riggs, senior Moses Jenkins and fellow freshmen Jaylen Watkins and Louchiez Purifoy will all see increased time on the field over the next 2-3 games due to Roberson’s injury.

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11/7: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Florida defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 26-21 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a tough road contest against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 12. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

INJURY UPDATES AND PLAYER AWARDS

The following players will return to practice Monday:
Redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)

The following players will return to practice Tuesday:
Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger (foot)

“He’s fine,” Muschamp said of Brantley. “He got a funny hit on [his arm]. He probably could have gone back in, but I told him to sit down and let Jacoby [Brissett] finish it. It was one of those things that was a funny injury. There is nothing serious at all.”

Additional injury notes:
Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) remain out of action this week. Freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan had surgery Monday morning and will take a redshirt for 2011. Fellow freshman OL Trip Thurman had shoulder surgery earlier this year and will also be redshirted.

Player awards from the Vanderbilt game:
Offensive Player of the Game: Senior running back Jeff Demps
Scrap Iron Award (best OL): Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan
Big Play Award: Jeff Demps (52-yard touchdown)
Extra Effort Award: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (blocking)
Defensive Player of the Game: Freshman cornerback Jaylen Watkins
Hard Hat Award: Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Special Teams Players of the Week: Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (55-yard field goal), sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd (blocked field goal), redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed (onside recover)
Scout Team Players of the Week: Ryan Parrish, Hygens Succes, Tim Clark

Demps was also named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

GAME AND FUTURE OPPONENT STATEMENTS

Muschamp first provided his general thoughts about Saturday’s victory.

“You go back and look at the game and we were balanced on offense. Being able to run the ball helped us with our play actions down the field. It slows the defensive linemen down a good bit up front. We converted on third down about 50 percent and had some big plays. We were able to get some chuck plays. Defensively we really needed to stop the run game and for the most part we did a decent job of that. We have to finish the game better and cover better – on the back end especially. We had some breakdowns [in the secondary] and obviously had some pass rush issues with Rodgers being able to scramble, create and extend plays. Those are the things we’ve really talked to the kids about.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Nov. 12, South Carolina.

“They’re very balanced on offense – 188 yards rushing per game, 180 passing. Offensively Alshon Jeffrey is an outstanding wide receiver. A guy that is 6’4″ or 6’5″ with great ball skills down the field. He’s a tremendous match-up issue in all situations. […] Defensively Ellis Johnson does a great job. [The unit has] 27 turnovers this year and is led by Melvin Ingram, a guy from a fake punt against Georgia to sacking the quarterback to playing the runs well inside is a really good athlete, a big guy that plays hard with a great motor. I’m really impressed watching him on film. Defense and special teams for them have scored seven touchdowns, so that’s impressive.”

Muschamp also commented on USC head coach Steve Spurrier:

I got great respect for Coach Spurrier, first of all as a player winning the Heisman Trophy here in 1966 and then the job he did as a head coach here for 12 years was outstanding. You look at the championship run and establishing the tradition of what Florida football is as far as winning championships. […] I think he changed the SEC as far as the passing game is concerned. When he took over in 1990, the SEC was a running league. It was a ground-and-pound league. He came to Florida and did a great job in the throwing game, changing the perception of the SEC to an offensive league but still remained balanced in everything he did.”

PISTOL SET GIVES GATORS A RUN GAME

Between Brantley’s ankle injury and the numerous other problems the Gators have had running the ball, employing the pistol set on Saturday helped get the run game going again and keep the Commodores’ defense honest. In fact, Florida ran at a near two-to-one clip, though UF was also successful through the air.

Muschamp said Monday that employing the pistol helped in protection and opening up throwing seams down the field while also allowing the Gators to call play actions and run the ball inside. He said Florida plans to keep using the set because it assists in keeping defenses off balance.

Brantley is expected to be back under center at South Carolina but calling some runs from the pistol could still be smart in order to keep the turns he has to make on his ankle to a minimum. Muschamp also explained that UF’s pistol set is not the same as the pistol offense first run at Nevada and now UCLA.

“We were running from a set to be able to get to a downhill running game. What they run is a misdirection running game. It’s a different theory. What they run is a package; what we run is a set to be able to get to some downhill run game. What they do is a total package – they run a total offense that is called the pistol offense. We ran a set to get to our downhill running game. We ran it from a different set to enable John to run our downhill running game. We didn’t change what we were doing.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on how the secondary needs to improve: “As far as playing the ball, we’re in situations and we’re in position. You got to play the football. When you’re in position to cover the receiver, you got to play the ball. We just need to finish some plays. […] Those things are all correctable. Those are all things that we can work on. We’re going to spend a lot time today working on perimeter drill where we work on our eye control, covering and leveraging formations. They just need to improve, and I need to do a better job coaching from my spot.”

» Muschamp on how long he plans on coaching: “I love what I do. I’m very passionate about it. I enjoy coming to work every day regardless of the situation. I can’t picture myself not coaching.”

» Muschamp on if Spurrier called him when he took the Florida job: “I called him to tell him that our doors were always open unless we’re playing South Carolina.”

» Muschamp on redshirt junior DE Earl Okine: “He’s done a nice job. He’s done a better job preparing himself throughout the week as far as practice is concerned and that gives him other opportunities to play.”

» Muschamp on if he is seeing he team mature: “From a competitive standpoint and how we’re practicing, how we’re approaching things, as far as the team is concerned, I do think we’ve made some positive strides.”

» Muschamp on not walking on with the Gators: “Not that Florida missed anything [with me] as a player. I can tell you that.”

» Muschamp on the strides redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard has made: “I think Jaye has played really well. I thought he played well Saturday. He’s a guy that we really challenged him as far as playing hard every snap, giving great effort all the time. Jaye is very talented. He’s strong. He’s a very good athlete. He can bend his lower body, play blocks. A lot of Jaye needs to play hard all the time and do it all the time and be a guy that really shines. I’ve been really proud of his performance and how he’s played this year. I think he’s been very consistent this year.”

» Muschamp on how sophomore safety Matt Elam has stepped up: “He is communicating very well. He was not a very vocal player when I came in here from a standpoint of communicating. He was more worried about getting himself lined up and with what he was doing. He’s got a better understanding of what we’re doing schematically to understand what the other safety needs to do, what the nickel needs to do. He’s got very good playmaking skills and ability. He’s got natural instincts as a football player. He sees the play before it happens a lot. He anticipates the route breaking off. He anticipates where the runner is going to break. He anticipates where the ball is going.”

» Muschamp on freshman fullback Hunter Joyer: “Wow. He’s had an outstanding year. He’s going to be a heck of a football player for us. He’s smart, understands football. He gets it. It’s important to him. He’s very intelligent and tough. He’s a guy who we like giving the ball too as he gets a lot of positive yards after contact. He’s a really good blocker and picks up the game very well. I think he’s had an outstanding freshman season. He’s basically been the starter for us all year.”

» Muschamp on if he watched Alabama-LSU: “I got through about halftime and then fell asleep [out of exhaustion].”

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10/24: Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Florida had a bye this week and planned for their contest with the Georgia Bulldogs on Oct. 29. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

OPENING STATEMENTS

“We had a good open week, really worked hard on fundamentals and worked on Florida. We needed to improve our football team on both lines of scrimmage, working on offense, defense and special teams. I thought our players had a great attitude. [We] went out Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in full gear, and I thought we had really good work and we started our prep on Georgia with the players on Thursday; we started as a staff last Sunday. I thought we got a good head start on where we need to go. We’ll be in full gear [Monday and Tuesday] and then work in shells on Wednesday and Thursday as we prep to go to Jacksonville.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Oct. 29, Georgia.

“Georgia has got a good football team. Three seniors on the offensive line. I said it last week, Aaron Murray is playing well for them and completing over 60 percent of his passes. He’s very mobile in what he can do directing this offense as second year being a starter. Isaiah Crowell is playing really well for them. Orson Charles is a threat at the tight end position; he’s a really good athlete and a guy that does a nice job vertically down the field. Malcolm Mitchell has played really well for them as a freshman at the X position; he was out last week versus Vanderbilt with a hamstring and they expect him back. Their defense is playing really well as the season has progressed as far as their points per game allowed, and they’re doing a nice job on third down mixing some different packages as far as over-and-under and what they’re doing with their fronts. Got a good football team and look forward to this.”

WEEKLY INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Muschamp said redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) is the only one definitely out for the game because he “just continues not to respond to treatment” on his injury. Every previously injured player will practice on Monday.

Other players who were listed as injured last week include redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (lower leg), sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (shoulder/neck), senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle), redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (knee), junior RB Mike Gillislee (ankle), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (ankle) and redshirt senior left guard Dan Wenger (foot).

BREAKING NEWS: MUSCHAMP PLAYED FOR GEORGIA

By now most fans are keenly aware that Muschamp used to play for the Bulldogs, and he is tired of being peppered with questions all season about his relationships with certain programs and their coaches. Muschamp tried to put that to rest Monday. “I know there will be a lot of wasted ink on the fact that I played at Georgia and am coaching now at Florida. This is not the first time I’ve coached against Georgia. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of taking the Gators to Jacksonville,” he said.

Nevertheless, he wound up talking about it when questions were posed later in his availability. “Wherever I played has no bearing on this game at all. They’re all important. They’re all really, really important games. They’re all very important games. It’s a SEC East opponent, it’s a big rival and it’s important to the University of Florida, so it’s important to me,” he said.

“This profession is different from a lot of professions in that you do your job for the school you’re working for, and that’s my job – to do a great job for the University of Florida, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone, but I’m loyal to people not places. The people you work for – and I work for Jeremy Foley and Dr. Bernie Machen – those are the people that I need to do a good job for – and this football team and this staff. That’s how I view things. I’ve worked at Auburn. I’ve worked at LSU. I’ve worked at Texas. I’ve worked at a lot of places, and this is not the first time I’ve played against Georgia.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville: “You get charged when you come over that bridge and you see all the RVs and the passion and the tradition of the game. Growing up in the south, you understand the impact of that game. There’s no question that when you come over that bridge, it charges you up. You get goose bumps talking about it.”

» On using the bye as a teaching week: “When you have an open week, you can approach it several different ways. We took the approach of we needed some time off and we gave them Sunday and Monday off. We came in Tuesday and we had a very physical practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I thought we improved fundamentally on the things I have identified that we needed to work on. I thought we got better. I thought we improved. I thought we had a great attitude. I thought the guys went out and worked. And then we had a team lift Friday morning and gave them Saturday and Sunday off coming back last night. I thought we took a step forward. You either get better or worse when you step on the field, and I thought we improved our football team and continued to take the steps forward in what we need to do to be successful.”

» On Powell’s status with the team: “He’s good to go. He’s back off his injury, and he practiced Thursday full-go, so he should be fine.”

» On if there will be changes to the lineup: “Not significant changes. We looked at some guys at some different spots, and we’re going to continue to move forward with that at this point.”

» On the SEC East still being an “open” race: “When you come to the University of Florida, you play to go to Atlanta. That’s part of the deal here. I understand that. Each week, that’s what I’m trying to remove is all the external circumstances of why you want to play hard. You ought to want to play hard because you play for Florida and you play for your teammates. That, to me, ought to be motivating enough. Certainly winning the SEC East, yeah that’s great. That’s what we want to do, and we want to beat Georgia. In order to do that, we’ve got to take care of business this weekend.”

» On not getting enough turnovers: “We’re minus-7 for the season, so we’re last in the SEC. We’ve got to create some positive momentum for our team whether it’s in special teams or on defense. [We have to] continue to eliminate turnovers offensively and get some turnovers on defense.”

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10/15: Florida at Auburn post-game notes

The Florida Gators (4-3, 2-3 SEC) fell again on the road on Saturday, dropping a 17-6 decision to the No. 24 Auburn Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC). OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from both head coach Will Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.

“It was a tough, hard-fought game. Obviously three turnovers lead to 10 points. It’s tough to win the game. We’ve gone three games where we haven’t gotten a turnover defensively or on special teams. We’ve got to create some positive momentum for our football team and our offense, and we’re not doing enough of that. That’s something we’ve got to be able to do. [Turnovers] leading to 10 points was just really, really disappointing.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

In addition to redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (lower leg) and redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) being ruled out early in the week, it turns out that neither senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle) nor sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (neck) were cleared to play. Muschamp said Monday that both players were expected to be fine for the game but admitted Saturday that Powell did not practice all week and Demps was a game-time decision.

Perhaps even worse for Florida, injuries piled up for the Gators on Saturday. Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs, who hit two field goals, injured his leg and was unavailable for the remainder of the game. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose appeared to hurt his ankle and changed out of his uniform. Redshirt senior left guard Dan Wenger was wearing a boot on the sideline, junior left tackle Xavier Nixon appeared hobbled, and both junior RB Mike Gillislee and sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley were injured during the game but eventually returned.

ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

Will Brantley play against Georgia?
“I’m hoping so. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know. His rehab is going very well.”

Was there any indication in practice that there were punt return problems?
“We haven’t had any issues at all.”

Why didn’t Gillislee get the ball more as previously suggested?
“We weren’t really doing much in the run game. That kind of dictated that. We felt like we needed to open it up more and work the perimeter. We did have some read series runs where he was a part of that and didn’t get the ball in those situations.”

Why did freshman Kyle Christy take over at punter?
“We just had not been flipping the field in the punting. We felt like we needed to look at a possible change in that situation, and Kyle had been punting extremely well. His operation time had been the issue. He had his operation time down pretty much throughout the week, and we felt like he deserved that opportunity.”

MUFFED PUNTS AND NUMEROUS MISCUES

Two important factors have dug Florida into big holes over the last two weeks – penalties and turnovers. Though the Gators committed their fair share of penalties on Saturday, their turnovers were much more detrimental to the outcome of the game. UF muffed four punts in the game and gave up two of them. Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey fumbled one in a play that should have been an interference call against an Auburn player; it eventually cost Florida a short-field touchdown.

Replacing Rainey after his third muffed punt, sophomore WR Robert Clark followed suit and let one slip between his arms. Clark’s fumble resulted in a field goal. After the game, Muschamp explained why the change was made and why Clark was chosen.

“Bobby’s done an outstanding job. Chris was gassed a little bit and was tired and had a hard time fielding a couple,” he said. “Bobby’s been doing it all year for us and being very effective. We’ve had Frankie [Hammond] back and several guys back. Andre’s been back but he was hurt. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Bobby.”

DRISKEL AND BRISSETT SPLIT TIME

Freshman Jacoby Brissett was named the Gators’ starter this week after a full week of practice, but as offensive coordinator Charlie Weis mentioned on Tuesday, it appeared as if classmate Jeff Driskel would get his fair share of snaps, too. That is exactly what happened during the game, which wound up being a tale of two halfs as Brissett started the first portion of the game and Driskel led the team after halftime.

Muschamp explained that having just six points going into the locker room was unacceptable and that Florida “needed to do something different from what we were doing” in the second half. “We knew Jeff was going to play in the game,” he said. “We came in at halftime and talked. Jacoby’s play was nothing that we were disappointed with. We just weren’t moving the ball effectively enough, and we felt like we needed a change. Jeff had a couple nice drives. We need to do more. We need to play better around both guys.”

He also acknowledged that “playing as a true freshman quarterback in this league is difficult” and thinks both signal callers are “going to be fine” in the long run. Muschamp also refused to place the blame on their shoulders. “You can’t score six points and win games. It’s going to be tough. You got to score more points than that,” he said. “It’s not all their fault either. We got to play better up front. We got to play better at the wideout position. We got to develop some things in the run game. We got to do a lot.”

Nevertheless, Muschamp did point out that the passers have a long way to go. “Both guys didn’t do anything that really killed us in the game but again didn’t do enough to help our football team,” he said. “We had a missed throw there on the flea flicker – it was wide open and we need to hit that and we need to take advantage of those situations when we have opportunities to make those. The more reps and the more turns those young men get, they’re going to be really good football players. I’m excited about both of them. We just need to continue to move forward. It’s been tough with Jeff being hurt a little bit. Going into the fifth week of the season, Jacoby didn’t have a whole lot of reps because he’s a third stringer. That’s the reality of it and that’s part of the game.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on losing three-straight games: “I told [the players] that losing is hard. Losing is tough. It’s not fun. But we’re going to stay the course here, OK? The guys fought and competed hard in the game, and I felt that way a week ago. We didn’t get the results we wanted but we took a positive step forward. I saw some good things. I saw some things that we obviously need to correct. Very proud of our effort, how we competed in the game in a tough place to play. I thought that we didn’t win the game and that’s what everybody wants to see, but I see a lot more than that. I saw things that we’ve got to do as a program to take steps forward, and I thought that we did some of those things tonight. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get the win.

» Muschamp on if he is happy his defense played much better: “Well, it wasn’t good enough.”

» Muschamp on if he hoped a wide receiver would emerge this season: “It’s more than anything not necessarily somebody emerging, just somebody playing consistently. That’s the biggest issue right now – consistent play at the position. We’re not getting enough consistent play at the position.”

» Hammond on the team’s numerous issues: “It’s football. Nothing’s going to come easy. They did a good job scheming things up and playing at the line of scrimmage. We have to go back, look at the mistakes we made, see what the problems were and make a correction.”

» Hammond on how much of a difference Brantley would make: “You have a veteran quarterback with more experience. He makes things happen.”

» Hammond on having two weeks off: “The bye week I think will be beneficial for us. We can get guys who are banged up with nicks and knacks back. We got two weeks to prepare for Georgia, so we got kind of a jump start. We can break it down even more, analyze and see what they’re really all about.”

» Redshirt sophomore guard Jon Halapio on the offensive line’s play: “I could have done a better job. I don’t know where the mistakes were because we haven’t watched film.”

» Redshrit senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard on the play of senior defensive end William Green: “He went hard. Willie Green shows up to play every day and he went hard in the game tonight.”

» Howard on tough opponents: “The last few weeks have been pretty tough in the trenches. I think our defense stood up today. We played hard and we have to continue to do that.”

» Howard on the defense handling Auburn’s offense: “We had complete confidence coming into this game that we were going to play. Our coaches preached adjusting to the temp – the hurry-up offense. We adjusted well to it and came to play.”

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10/3: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meet with the media each Monday to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

OPENING STATEMENTS

Muschamp began by discussing Florida’s flaws after a lackluster performance.

“Obviously I’m disappointed at the outcome of the Alabama game and I think it all starts with me,” he said. “We need to do a better job of coaching and player. It’s a line of scrimmage game and that was really the story of the game. We were dominated up front on both lines of scrimmage. Our inability to run the ball consistently in the game – when you become a one-dimensional team against them, it’s tough. And defensively [we need to improve] stopping the run, playing blocks up front, leveraging the ball and tackling.”

He also touched on a few positives.

“First half we moved the ball extremely well throwing the football,” he said. “John [Brantley] was completing over 70 percent of his passes and really played well on third down. John Brantley played an outstanding football game. It was unfortunate with his injury. We started the game fast defensively, came out in the second half and had some good stops. Settled down a little bit and played a little better technique as far as upfront playing blocks.”

Finally, he talked about what the LSU Tigers bring to the table.

“They’ve got a balanced football team,” Muschamp said. “Offensively they run the ball extremely well. They’re big up front. Spencer Ware and Mike Ford are two outstanding backs. They throw the ball well down the field. Jarrett Lee has played really well for them to this point. Getting Jordan Jefferson back, a guy that has won a lot of football games for them, does give them a different wrinkle offensively. Very talented at the wideout position, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.

“Defensively very good up front. Tyrann Mathieu is a guy, No. 7, who shows up an awful lot on film as far as his playmaking abilities. He’s an outstanding player. Got a lot of respect for John Chavis, their defensive coordinator. A lot of guys up front that can play. They do a nice job with their defensive line and rotating their guys. Special teams they’re top 15 in the country in net punting and they’ve got some very talented returners.

“Again, we’ve got our work cut out for us. But again, I think it’s a great opportunity for our football team. I told the team this morning, ‘Football is a tough deal. If you don’t’ play as well as you’ve liked to play, you got to wait a week to play. It’s not like basketball where you go out and play the next night. You got to get that taste out of your mouth. There’s no better opportunity than going to Baton Rouge and playing LSU.”

WEEKLY INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) is out again this week, and Brantley will also miss the LSU game as expected. [More on Brantley’s injury and status here.] Freshman safety De’Ante Saunders, who was suspended for Saturday’s game due to a violation of team rules, will be available to play but will not necessarily get his starting job back right away. “We’ll work through the week and see who practices the best and gives us the best opportunity to be successful,” Muschamp said of Saunders.

STEPPING UP FOR DRISKEL

In order for freshman QB Jeff Driskel to step in and be successful while replacing Brantley, Muschamp indicated Monday that the entire team (not just the offense) is going to have to take their game to another level. “We got to pick it up around him,” he said. “We got to play better up front. We got to play better at wideout. We got to play better at tight end. We got to play better on defense. We got to do a better job on special teams in creating some momentum and controlling the field position. It’s not a one-man deal. It’s a collective deal around him as a football team.”

He also said that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis would work with Driskel this week to figure out exactly what he’s best at and scale down the playbook to better suit his skill set. “More than anything, you do what he can do and you do what he does well,” Muschamp said. “That’s what Charlie will do. We’ve talked about it this morning as far as how we’ll approach the game. There’s no question that you hit it with the mindset of doing the things he feels comfortable with. It’s no different than we did with John.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On junior linebacker Jon Bostic losing his cool during the game: “It’s not something that we’re going to have at the University of Florida and Jon understands that. Jon’s a good football player and a great young man. There are times that we lose our composure and our poise a little bit. We got to be able to maintain that.”

» On junior S Josh Evans taking some bad angles during the game: “We need to leverage the ball better. There’s no question about that. When the ball hits the second level, we need to get it on the ground.”

» On how the offensive line can improve its protection: “Movement up front as far as just gaining some movement so you can positively get the ball down the field. We were throwing the ball extremely well, so we kind of went with what was working at the time, and that was throwing the football. We threw for close to 200 yards in the first half and John was completing 70 percent of his passes.”

» On senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard coming in for extra film work on Sunday: “We have a lot of guys that come in on Sunday. That’s the day off for them.”

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9/28: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators just days away from their fifth game of the season under head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. against the Alabama Crimson Tide, he spoke during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at going into into week five action.

RUNNING PARAMOUNT TO PLAYING WINNING FOOTBALL

For Muschamp, being effective in running the ball and stopping the run are characteristics that he wants to help define the Gators. In addition to that, he believes those abilities will result in Florida being successful for the long haul.

“I have not and I don’t know that I’ve seen one,” Muschamp said when asked if he’s seen a winning team operate without a solid running game. “Running the football is number one to me, it creates toughness on your football team. You’re going to come to times in your schedule – whether it’s in the red zone or to end the game – it’s just a matter of toughness to me. Stopping the run and playing the run. I always wanted, when I got a head coaching opportunity, to be balanced in what you do.

“When you’re multiple and you’re balanced in what you do, now you get [the defense] a little uncomfortable. Generally when defenses are uncomfortable or unsure, that’s when they don’t play well – even if it’s good players. It’s a total program deal to me as far as running the football. You got to be able to do that to develop toughness.”

Even though running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey are a pair of undersized (for their position) speedsters, Muschamp said the Gators have concentrated on using them inside as well as outside the tackles.

“They’ve been very effective. Charlie [Weis] has used them very well. The perimeter run game has been very good, but we’ve also run the ball well inside. That’s something we’re committed to doing regardless of the size of our backs,” he said. “If you do one thing too much, the defenses – they watch film too. They’re going to hold the edges and if you don’t run the ball inside. We still run the inside and we still run the power off tackle. We utilize all of the same run game with both Jeff and Chris in there because of defenses trying to stop what you do best. We’ve been very effective with the inside and outside running game.”

ADDING TEXAS A&M WON’T CHANGE RECRUITING PLANS

Since he took the helm at Florida, Muschamp has preached “taking care of the state of Florida” when it comes to recruiting, ensuring that the Gators get the best players in-state before targeting players nationally. He said that will not change with another team and a large recruiting base being added to the Southeastern Conference.

“That’s where we’re going to win championships, with players from the state of Florida,” he said. “That’s where we recruit first and then after that the southeast regions, the ties that our assistant coaches have in certain areas obviously, and then nationally looking at some guys we think can come in and make a difference.”

He also noted that, just because Texas A&M has joined the SEC does not mean Texas high school football players will suddenly have more of a reason to leave the state.

“Having worked in the state of Texas, a lot of those guys growing up in Texas want to be Longhorns and some of them want to be Aggies and Oklahoma has always done a good job in the Dallas-Fort Worth and East Texas area,” he said. “If there’s an attachment to Florida with a young man from the state of Texas, we’ll certainly recruit him if they’re athletically and academically what we’re looking for. I do think [recruiting will] open up a little bit, but I don’t think you’ll see a huge change of guys all of a sudden leaving the state of Texas to go to different places.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp reiterated in his opening statement that the entire team is healthy except for redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown, who will neither dress nor play on Saturday.

» Muschamp on if he’s pleased where Florida is through four games: “Well exactly. We’re 4-0. That’s where we wanted to be. I approach the season a little differently. It’s a series of one-game seasons. This week, this is our game, this is our season. Next week it’ll change. I just focus on the opponent and the task at hand throughout the week and the preparation that we need to have to do a good job and make good decisions on game day. I don’t really look at the total part until it’s over with as far as the season is concerned. Where we are right now is where we wanted to be. We wanted to be 4-0 at this point and that’s where we are.”

» Muschamp on throwing the ball this week: “You’ve got to be multiple against Alabama. You’re not going to be one-dimensional and have success. You have to stay balanced in what you do in both the run and pass and be effective and efficient in both areas.”

» Muschamp on Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron: “I think he’s been very efficient. He’s only had two interceptions so far this season. He’s taking the ball to the right spots.”

» Muschamp on Alabama RB Trent Richardson: “He’s an outstanding player and has got a low center of gravity, great balance, great vision. He’s a one-cut guy. When he sees the hole and gets it going north and south, he gets the ball downhill. You hardly do not see any negative run plays with him. He’s always moving the chains in a positive direction for their team. You got to gang tackle this guy. You’re not going to get him down single-handedly a lot of the time. We need to do a good job with eyes on the ball and leveraging the football the right well and tackle well and wrap and get him down which, at times in the secondary, we’ve been very average.

» Muschamp on the budding Florida-Alabama rivalry: “Both programs – the tradition speaks for itself as far as the championships and the tradition and the history of the two programs. I’m just looking forward to playing in the Florida-Alabama game Saturday night.”

ALABAMA HEAD COACH NICK SABAN

» Saban on going up against Florida: “This is the biggest challenge we’ve had all year which also makes it the greatest opportunity for our team in terms of playing a really good Florida team that has played extremely well in the first four games. Will has done a great job there from a discipline, execution and technique standpoint. Their guys are playing hard, and we’re certainly going to have to match that intensity on the road and get the kind of execution that we need and play smart so that we give ourselves a chance to play winning football. This is going to be a real test and a real challenge for us.”

» Saban on his first meeting with Muschamp: “Sometimes you just meet somebody and you really get a good feel for them. Will was a real good person, real genuine. You could tell he was hard-working and had a special intensity about him in terms of what he wanted to do. And a passion for football and how important it was to him. That first impression really held true in this case. It is pretty obvious based on the career he’s had and what he’s done so far as a head coach that all those things are correct.”

» Saban on how Gators redshirt senior QB John Brantley is playing this year: “I think he’s playing extremely well. I think he’s so far has taken what the defense gives and we certainly feel like he has the capacities to throw the ball down the field. A lot of what they’ve done to this point has been to utilize some of the playmakers that they have, which are two really, really good running backs who have great speed and explosive ability. They’ve gotten the ball to them a lot of different ways, and I think that’s probably good coaching on their part to take advantage of that. I do think they have capable receivers, good athletic tight ends, and John Brantley is certainly capable of throwing the ball down the field. There’s no lack of their respect for their ability to do that on our part.”

» Saban on how much change he sees from Florida this year: “I think [they are] significantly different. There’s not the zone read option-type basis for what they do. It’s more ‘pro-style’ in terms of they run a lot of sweeps and some direct runs with these guys. They do a good job upfront. The drop-back passing game is certainly a lot different in style in terms of what they’ve done in the past. To me there’s not many similarities.”

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