Florida’s Solomon Patton transforms from “jet sweep guy” to game-breaking wide receiver

It’s fair to say senior wide receiver Solomon Patton was an afterthought for the vast majority of his career with the Florida Gators.

As Florida struggled to find playmaking wideouts in each of his first three years with the program, Patton (5-foot-9, 177 pounds) was viewed as not much more than speedy guy who could play a role on special teams and occasionally be used as a gadget player.

And he did all of those things quite well. In 2010, Patton appeared in 10 games on special teams. He returned some kicks, brought back a blocked punt for a touchdown against Vanderbilt and blocked a punt of his own in the bowl game against Penn State. In 2011’s season opener against Florida Atlantic, Patton blocked another punt.

Then in 2012, head coach Will Muschamp and then-new offensive coordinator Brent Pease handed him a new task – running jet sweeps on offense. Patton succeeded there as well, taking 14 for a total of 140 yards (with a long gain of 54) before breaking his arm against Georgia and missing the remainder of the season.

Through three seasons, Patton had registered just eight receptions for 79 total yards with a long gain of 17. The coaching staff, and Patton himself, decided it was time for a change in his final collegiate season.

Muschamp challenged Patton to become more than just a “jet sweep guy.” He wanted him to improve his route running and become a complete receiver, someone the Gators could count on to make vertical plays rather than just horizontal ones.

The first sign of his hard work paying off was the second week of the season against Miami when Patton grabbed a career-high six receptions for a career-high 118 yards and the first receiving touchdown of his career. He gained more receiving yards that game than in his previous three seasons combined.

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Friday Final: Florida prepares for Kentucky

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, offensive coordinator Brent Pease, defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and a number of players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s road game against the Kentucky Wildcats scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. from Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY, and air on ESPNU.

Below are some notes and quotes that fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the 10 posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links).

Monday: Updated depth chart released | Muschamp talks injuries, rushers and more | Special teams not so special (exclusive)
Tuesday: QB Tyler Murphy focused on preparation, leadership
Wednesday: Muschamp updates injures; Steve Spurrier and Mark Stoops join him on SEC teleconference | Ousted Kentucky coach Joker Phillips making an impact at Florida | QB Jeff Driskel undergoes successful surgery | DT Dominique Easley out for the season (torn ACL)
Thursday: CB Vernon Hargreaves III making an early impact | Gators hope BUCK Dante Fowler, Jr. continues to dominate

GETTING THE RUNNING GAME GOING

The Gators are currently ranked 48th in rushing offense, averaging 199.7 yards per game. It’s not exactly where Florida wants to be at this point in the season, and the coaching staff has altered its approach on how carries will be divided up going forward. Rather than having sophomore running back Matt Jones automatically take the bulk of the carries, UF will go with the hot hand each game.

“We know what Matt is capable of and he’ll be fine. What he can’t do is get down on himself emotionally,” Pease said on Tuesday. “He’s still part of the game pan. You just got to understand you just go back and work harder. Kids think everything is always going to be perfect all the time. No, it isn’t. There’s ups and downs, peaks and valleys. What he did last year, he obviously worked himself where he was pretty consistent where he was at. … Now you’re an every-down guy so your expectation of execution is much higher on a play-to-play basis on consistency, performance. He’s fine. He’s a good player. He’ll be alright.”

In addition to giving more carries to redshirt junior Mack Brown, Florida wants to get freshman Kelvin Taylor more involved. Pease believes consistency is the main issue holding Taylor back from making an impact at this point.

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Ousted UK coach Phillips making impact at UF

Joker Phillips’ career with the Kentucky Wildcats spanned parts of four decades including 23 seasons and hundreds of games as a player, graduate assistant, assistant coach, coordinator and head coach.

On Saturday, for just the second time in his 26-year coaching career, Phillips will step foot into Commonwealth Stadium as a visitor, an unwelcome guest looking to earn a victory with his new team, the Florida Gators.

Due to program regulations, Phillips – a position coach – was not made available to speak with the media, so he could not directly discuss his thoughts and feelings entering Saturday’s contest. But other coaches and players provided were able to provide their opinions on his behalf.

“I know as a player and a coach there, as a coordinator and a head coach, there’s no question I’m sure he’ll be emotional about that. Any time you spend a lot of time at a place, as much time as we spend hours in the office and working hard for a university, there’s no question that’s part of it,” head coach Will Muschamp said.

“Joker is a professional. He’ll handle it the right way. Any time you spend a large amount of your life as a player and as an assistant, a coordinator and a head coach [at one school], certainly you’re invested in that university. …

“You do feel a little different going back to a place like that that you spent so much time. People don’t realize the amount of time and effort we put in to what we do, giving our time to young people and dedication to the administration and all the things involved with a university. And then when you’re not there anymore, for whatever reason, it takes a little part away from you. You always leave something where you’ve been before. I’m sure Joker feels the same way.

“He and I talked a little bit about it Sunday night, the amount of time he spent in Lexington and how much he enjoyed it and the situation there. He really has fond memories of his time at Kentucky.”

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9/18: Muschamp updates Gators injuries, redshirts

No. 18/19 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made his scheduled appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference, as did Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones. Both touched on a number of topics concerning his respective team heading into Saturday’s game.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp explained that junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) and redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) were both “a little gimpy” during practice on Tuesday but “should be OK” on Saturday and active for the game as the Gators take on the Volunteers. He also noted that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (knee) and redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio have looked “really good” in practice and said Florida is healthy heading into the game.

FRESHMEN / REDSHIRT BREAKDOWN

Asked to go in-depth on which freshmen Florida may be redshirting this season, Muschamp began discussing which players have already contributed for the Gators and others that could before the season is out. Below is a breakdown of the freshmen that have played, may see action or are already headed toward the redshirt designation.

Active (9): Running back Kelvin Taylor; wide receivers Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson; cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, linebackers Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian; safety Keanu Neal

Muschamp said Taylor is “a guy that we will continue to try to get involved with the offense,” while he considers Hargreaves “a starter for us at this time based on how he’s playing and performing and producing.”

Next up (1): Defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick

Redshirt likely (12): DTs Caleb Brantley and Antonio Riles; punter Johnny Townsend; wide receivers Alvin Bailey and Marqui Hawkins; defensive lineman Joey Ivie; QB Max Staver; RB Adam Lane; offensive linemen Cameron Dillard, Octavius Jackson, Roderick Johnson and Trevon Young

Medical redshirt likely (4): Defensive backs Marcell Harris (knee) and Nick Washington (shoulder); LB Matt Rolin (ACL); DL Jordan Sherit (ACL)

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Gameday: No. 10 Florida Gators vs. Toledo

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 85°F, partly cloudy / scattered t-stomrs (20%), winds SW at 6 mph
Time: 12:21 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Best deals on Florida Gators tickets starting at $28 on TiqIQ

TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Cara Capuano) [Affiliates]
SiriusXM: 136/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

No. 10 FLORIDA GATORS TOLEDO ROCKETS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Matt Campbell
Record: 0-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Mid-American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -22 | O/U: 55.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida and Toledo have never played on the gridiron*, but UF is 14-1 in the last two seasons against unranked opponents under Muschamp.
» The Rockets have never played a team from the SEC.
» The Gators are 79-27 all-time in season openers (64-6 in Gainesville) and have won 23-straight games to begin a season, the longest streak in the SEC and second-longest streak in the nation (Nebraska, 27).
» UF opens the 2013 campaign ranked in the polls for the 23rd-straight season but in the top 10 for the first time since 2010.
» Toledo finished 9-4 (6-2 MAC) in 2012 and are also coming a devastating bowl game loss, falling 41-15 to Utah in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
» Entering the season, Florida has what is widely considered as the toughest schedule in the country with four games scheduled against preseason top-15 opponents plus a road game at Miami in Week 2.
» In 2012, the Gators finished a 7-0 at home for just the third time in school history, a mark that matched the 2006 and 2009 UF teams.
» Florida is 12-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards). The Gators are also 14-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 10-2 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 12-3 when scoring first (6-5 when an opponent scores first) and 14-1 when leading at the half (4-7 when tied or trailing at the break).
» UF’s .878 (129-18) home winning percentage is best in the nation since 1990.
» Florida still leads the nation in interceptions (96), interception return yards (1,688) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (16) since 2008.
» Wide receivers coach Joker Phillips and special teams coordinator Jeff Choate are new additions to the Gators’ coaching staff. Also helping the team this season are thee former Florida players – undergraduate assistant Mike Peterson and graduate assistants Chris Leak and Duke Lemmens.
» Safety Jordan Haden, the brother of Joe Haden who transferred to Toledo after enrolling at UF in the spring of 2010, injured his collarbone and will not play Saturday.
» One-time Gators wide receiver commit Rodney Adams, who was unable to qualify academically, accepted an offer from the Rockets and will play in The Swamp.
» Toledo bested Florida in every offensive category rank in 2012, coming in ahead of their hosts in rushing offense (35-39), passing offense (48-114), total offense (32-103) and scoring offense (44-76) last season. The Gators, however, were miles ahead in defensive ranks including rushing defense (4-78), passing defense (17-116), total defense (5-109) and scoring defense (5-67).

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!

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Wrapping up 2013 fall camp for the Florida Gators

It is less than 24 hours before the No. 10 Florida Gators host Toledo in the season opener for both teams at 12:21 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. With the offseason now coming to a close, it is time to empty out the notebook of saved thoughts from Florida student-athletes that did not make it into the dozens of stories written over the last few weeks. Check out links to a number of the preseason features below and the remainder of the quotes after the break.

» Florida QB Jeff Driskel learning to get down
» Gators LB Antonio Morrison apologizes but holds back details of arrests, punishments
» Gators RBs Mack Brown, Valdez Showers ready for opportunity
» Don’t forget about Gators CB Jaylen Watkins
» What the Browns can do for the Gators in 2013
» Hype train rolls on for Florida S Marcus Maye
» Emotional walk-on RB Mark Herndon earns UF scholarship
» Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler, Jr. rush Gators defense up a notch
» Mike Peterson impressed by Will Muschamp, ready to coach
» Appendix out, wound healed, Jeff Driskel ready to work
» Assistant Joker Phillips developing much-needed improvement at wide receiver
» Cody Riggs hopes to lock down a starting gig (he did)

» Senior cornerback Jaylen Watkins on how junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy looks heading into the season: “Loucheiz is very physical. He has all the things that cornerback needs. He can press you, he can off play you and he’s very, very fast. I think he has all the tools to be a great cornerback. Either you get better or you get worse during the offseason and as you progress during the year. Watching Loucheiz from his freshman year to how he is now, he’s made a really big improvement. I’m actually excited to watch him play this year, even though I’ll be on the field with him.”

» Senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley on changes he has seen from junior quarterback Jeff Driskel in the offseason: “I believe he has much more confidence in himself. He’s more confident in himself, so he’s more vocal to the team and understands what his role is.”

» Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Ronald Powell on sophomore LB Antonio Morrison and his offseason arrests: “First off, I want to say it’s very unfortunate. He’s a guy that’s really passionate about this game. He loves the game. That’s probably why he’s suspended because coach knows he loves the game so much. He has to step in and give some consequences. Once it’s all over, it’s going to be good to see a teammate that loves the sport as much as he does, and loves his teammates as much as he does, to be back out there and get the experience of running out there in The Swamp together as a team collectively, just sharing that with him. I know he’s excited for that and he’s waiting for that and this is something he’s not taking lightly.”

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Appendix out, wound healed, Driskel ready to work


Six days standing on the sidelines.

Six days watching someone else take his snaps.

Six days waiting to work with the teammates he corralled and led through player-run practices over the summer was more than enough for Florida Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who returned to practice on Thursday less than two weeks after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis and undergoing an appendectomy.

“It was good. Everything felt good in my stomach. I thought I threw the ball really well, and I thought we had a good day offensively,” Driskel said of his first practice back.

“I wasn’t limited at all. I was full-go, didn’t have any pain, no issues. Didn’t get all the reps I would like to because I’m still in the acclimation period, so I couldn’t be out there in pads, so there was a couple things I couldn’t do. But other than that, I wasn’t limited.”

According to NCAA rules, Driskel must return to practice by working in shorts for the first two days. He can then move on to two days of practice in shells before putting on the pads for the duration of fall camp.

Driskel spent the previous six days attending meetings, watching film and standing next to coaches during practice. He felt right at home when he put on his red non-contact jersey on Thursday, like nothing had changed during his short time not wearing cleats.

“I didn’t miss too much. I missed six days and feel like I didn’t miss a beat,” he said. “I definitely didn’t like standing there. Practice goes by a lot slower when you’re not involved, that’s for sure. …

“I think I’m up to speed. Second year in the offense, so there’s not really anything I haven’t done yet. I think I’ve done a good job staying alert in the meetings and getting the mental reps. I think I’m good to go.”

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Florida assistant Joker Phillips developing much-needed improvement at wide receiver

It’s not every day that a respected offensive mind and experienced head coach will join a program as an assistant, but the Florida Gators and Will Muschamp certainly lucked out in December when ousted Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips agreed to take over UF’s much-maligned wide receivers.

At 49 years of age and entering his 26th year as a coach, Phillips is a former wideout who played in the NFL and CFL before deciding to get into coaching.

He had been in charge of Kentucky’s offense since 2005 and developed some major NFL-caliber stars while in Lexington, KY, and elsewhere including Randall Cobb, Stevie Johnson, Jacob Tamme and Troy Williamson.

Now at Florida, Phillips gets to take a bit of pressure off the shoulders of offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who had graduate assistant Bush Hamdan coaching up his pass catchers last season after the departure of Aubrey Hill.

“It’s been good. He’s a very experienced person at that position and has good ideas. He knows kind of what we run as far as our system. He fits into that. He’s willing to do it, obviously. I think he’s good in the fact that he’s challenged the kids at the wide receiver position,” Pease said of Phillips on Wednesday.

“You bring in a guy that’s got that much experience and you just look at his reputation and it provides the fact that I think he gives you the authority figure that knows what’s going on.”

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