The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (89-80)

With the 2010-11 athletic season now in the books and the 2011-12 season about to begin, the focus has shifted from some of the school’s smaller sports to, of course, Florida Gators football. In this new series, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, until the season begins.

89 – Stephen Alli (Toronto, ON)
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver
6’5” 220 lbs.

Quick Bio: A social & behavioral sciences major, Alli is a SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll member who did not see the field in 2009 but played in all 13 games last season. He is also the only Canadian on the team.

Career Stats/2010 Season: Played in all 13 games, registering three receptions for 17 yards. He spent most of his time on the kickoff return and punt block teams.

2011 Outlook: Singled out as a leader by head coach Will Muschamp during spring practice, Alli was listed as the second X-receiver on the depth chart behind redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr.. He is one of nine scholarship receivers on the roster entering the 2011 season.

86 – Clay Burton (Venice, FL)
Freshman defensive end/linebacker
6’4” 234 lbs.

Quick Bio: The younger brother of Florida standout sophomore Trey Burton, Clay is an early enrollee who was a three-star defensive end coming out of high school.

2011 Outlook: Previously penciled in as a third-string defensive end behind senior William Green and redshirt freshman Chris Martin, Burton will likely move up into the back-up role unless the Gators move another defensive lineman into the position.

86 – Josh Postell (Atlanta, GA)
Redshirt junior tight end
6’4” 218 lbs.

Quick Bio: Originally enrolled to compete with the track & field team while studying health education and behavior, Postell walked on to the Florida football team in the fall of 2009. He participated on the scout team that year before finally seeing game action in 2010.

Career Stats (two games): Two receptions for 16 yards

2010 Season: Postell caught a pair of balls against Vanderbilt and stepped on the field against Appalachian State but did not play the rest of the year.

2011 Outlook: Listed on offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s early depth chart as a back-up at the F-12 position (when the team features one halfback and two tight ends), Postell saw his other competition for the job (redshirt freshman Michael McFarland) transfer in early July. If he does see the field, his work will mostly be limited to blocking duties, though he could haul in a ball or two.

85 – Frankie Hammond, Jr. (Hollywood, FL)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’1” 176 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star wideout, Hammond is a dual-sport athlete who is also a jumper with the track team. He majors in social & behavioral sciences and earned his way back on scholarship this year after being arrested for driving under the influence in June 2010.

Career Stats (26 games): 26 receptions for 333 yards, three touchdowns; five punt returns for 16 yards; one kick return for 23 yards

2010 Season: Catching just four balls during his redshirt freshman year in 2009, Hammond missed the first two games of 2010 due to suspension but played in the 11 remaining contests. He posted career highs in receptions (five) and yards (69) against Mississippi State and was Florida’s leading receiver that game.

2011 Outlook: Hammond steps into a starting role this season and will likely see time as X-receiver during most offensive possessions. Possessing impressive speed and soft hands, he will be catching passes from redshirt senior John Brantley for the second-straight season and should provide a bit of familiarity for the quarterback.

84 – Quinton Dunbar (Miami, FL)
Sophomore wide receiver
6’1” 170 lbs.

Quick Bio: Teammates with redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail at Booker T. Washington in Miami, Dunbar was also a four-star recruit who, like his teammate, majors in social and behavioral sciences.

2010 Season: Saw action against Miami and LSU.

2011 Outlook: Poised to be one of the Gators’ breakout players this season, Dunbar received high praise from Muschamp and Weis during the spring. He dropped a gift of a pass in the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut but really opened the eyes of his coaches and teammates during practice. “You can’t take away from what Quinton Dunbar has done vertically down the field through the entire body of work of spring,” Muschamp said after the scrimmage. “Dunbar has made more big plays than anybody else.”

83 – Solomon Patton (Mobile, AL)
Sophomore wide receiver
5’9” 175 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star prospect coming out of high school, Patton badly wanted to play for UF and chose Florida over his hometown team of Alabama during the recruiting process. A social & behavioral sciences major, Patton was one of a handful of freshman to see meaningful time on the field one year ago.

Career Stats/2010 Season: Patton reeled in four balls for 27 yards and returned seven kickoffs for 196 yards last season. He appeared in 10 games and was a special teams standout who not only brought the ball back on occasion but also blocked one punt and returned another block punt for a touchdown. His 48-yard kickoff return and blocked punt in the Outback Bowl were two of the most memorable plays of the season.

2011 Outlook: Though the Gators have plenty of speedsters, Weis plans to utilize Patton at F-11 during one halfback and one tight end sets. He looked good running the reverse during the Orange & Blue Debut and is excited about the direction of the team. “The coaching staff that we have this year, I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “I just feel like our swag is back. This coaching staff is so laid back, but at the same time they’re coaching us hard. They’re letting us play how we’ve been recruited to play. I’m really excited.”

82 – Omarius Hines (Corsicana, TX)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’2” 211 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star wide receiver, Hines majors in social & behavioral sciences like many of his teammates and has been moved around a lot during his collegiate career. He used his redshirt in 2008 after dressing but not playing in four games.

Career Stats (17 games): 34 receptions for 453 yards, two touchdowns; 12 carries for 152 yards, two touchdowns

2010 Season: After seeing the field in small bursts one year earlier, Hines started seven contests in 2010 and played in every game. He ended the year with 20 receptions for 281 yards but was moved around a lot due based on others’ injuries and suspensions. He went into the year slotted to play tight end but saw time at receiver and running back. Hines caught a career-high four balls against Georgia and led the team in rushing against Mississippi State (six carries for 58 yards and a TD). He also converted a 36-yard fake punt run against Tennessee.

2011 Outlook: A do-everything player who has soft enough hands to play wideout, Hines will fall back into that role as he is slated to be the team’s starting Z-receiver this season. Muschamp called him the most versatile and consistent pass catcher on the team, noting that he can play in the backfield in the F position and also line up at X-receiver.

81 – A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL)
Freshman tight end
6’4” 245 lbs.

Quick Bio: Considered a top-five player at his position nationally coming out of high school, Leonard was a four-star prospect who was part of both the Rivals100 and ESPNU 150. He enrolled early for 2011 and was a bit homesick but eventually got over it and quickly impressed his teammates and coaches on the field.

2011 Outlook: Listed as the back-up to redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed, Leonard made some nice catches during the Orange & Blue Debut. Muschamp spent some one-on-one time with him in the spring and has a good handle on what he can do for the team in the future. “As he ended the offseason program, he really started to mature and grow up,” the coach said. “I’m very proud of where he is right now. He’s doing a nice job academically. He’s a guy that can really help us in the fall as he continues to mature. Another guy that this time of the year is very important for.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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Gators TE Michael McFarland will transfer

Florida Gators redshirt freshman tight end Michael McFarland has decided to transfer out of the program, the University of Florida confirmed in a statement.

McFarland, a three-star recruit in Florida’s much-heralded 2010 signing class, becomes the sixth player to transfer away from the Gators since Will Muschamp was hired to replace Urban Meyer as head coach.

Senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team following two marijuana arrests in less than 90 days. Redshirt freshmen defensive end/linebacker Chris Martin and wide receiver Chris Dunkley as well as freshmen WR Javares McRoy and running back Mike Blakely all decided to transfer for various reasons.

“Michael and I have come to the conclusion that it is in his best interest to transfer from the University of Florida,” Muschamp said in release from the school. “We wish him the best as he continues his career somewhere else.”

Like Martin just one week ago, McFarland never had the opportunity to step on the field for the Gators and will leave the program without making any notable mark.

He was listed at the F-12 position in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis‘s spring depth chart, meaning he would play only in two tight end sets. Redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed, redshirt freshman Gerald Christian and freshman A.C. Leonard were all listed ahead of him at the position. Florida already has four-star TE Colin Thompson (Warminster, PA) committed for the 2012 season.

McFarland’s decision to transfer was first reported by InsideTheGators.com.

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2011 Orange & Blue Debut – Gameday Preview

Event: 2011 Orange & Blue Debut – Florida Gators spring football
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 12:00 p.m. (EST)

TV: Sun Sports

Online Video: —–>

Live Updates: @OnlyGators Reference: Roster | Schedule 2010: Blue 27, Orange 24

Radio appearance: Adam Silverstein will be previewing the Florida Gators’ spring game Saturday on Sirius-122/XM-143 College Sports Nation at approximately 11 a.m. Tune in.

EVENT INFORMATION

» Gator Walk: North side of stadium, exterior, 9:30 a.m. start
» Parking: The following parking locations are available first-come, first-serve for fans wishing to attend the game – O’Connell Center garage, O’Connell Center lot (disabled), Commuter Lot (Lemerand Dr.) with shuttle
» Heisman Statue Ceremony: UF will unveil three statues of the school’s Heisman Trophy winners – Steve Spurrier (1966), Danny Wuerffel (1996) and Tim Tebow (2007) – on the westside of the stadium at halftime of the game near the skybox entrance. Those inside the stadium will not be allowed to exit for the ceremony but will be able to watch the unveiling live inside The Swamp after watching a brief video introduction. Spurrier, Wuerffel and Tebow will all provide remarks to the crowd after the unveiling, though only Wuerffel and Tebow are expected to be in attendance.
» Former Gators in attendance: QB Tebow, QB Wuerffel, LB Mike Peterson, RB Fred Taylor, C Maurkice & Mike Pouncey, WR Riley Cooper, WR David Nelson, LB Brandon Spikes, DE Carlos Dunlap, DB Dorian Munroe, DE Jarvis Moss, DT Joe Cohen, RB Kesthan Moore, etc.
» Recruits in attendance (List courtesy of InsideTheGators.com): LB Jeremi Powell (commit), RB Matt Jones (commit), LB Tyriq McCord, OT Patrick Miller, OT Avery Young, DE Jelani Hamilton, ATH Angelo Jean-Louis, ATH Amos Leggett, ATH Nelson Agholor, LB Noor Davis, OL Evan Goodman, ATH Marcus Maye, DT Korren Kirven, TE Kurt Freitag, DE Jhaustin Thomas, LB Tashon Whitehurst, S Ladarion Young, LB Trey Johnson (2013), RB Kelvin Taylor (2013), LB Leon McQuay III (2013), etc.

Additional information including the game format, injury report, team notes and who to keep an eye on all are available…after the break!
Continue Reading » 2011 Orange & Blue Debut – Gameday Preview

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4/1: Health of Florida’s linemen a concern, etc.

With the Florida Gators 2011 spring practice now in full swing, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media at the conclusion of the third week on Friday. Maintaining a serious and balanced demeanor, Muschamp discussed a number of topics including the team’s health at the line of scrimmage, how many days of practice have actually been successful and how both players and coaches are performing thus far.

OFFENSIVE LINE BANGED UP

An ongoing story throughout spring practice is that linemen on both sides of the ball are missing much-needed time on the field due to injury. Another player was officially added to that list Friday. Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Nick Alajajian, who wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday that he tore his meniscus in practice, will officially miss the remainder of the spring after undergoing surgery that will sideline him for approximately three months. Also currently out of action is junior tackle Xavier Nixon, who sprained his ankle but should be back in action on Monday.

Asked how many players are functional now on the offensive line, Muschamp was quite forthcoming in his reply. “We’re working about seven. That’s total bodies, too. That’s all we got,” he said. “Injuries are part of the game. There’s nobody feeling sorry for the Gators right now, I can tell you that. You got to have other guys step up. One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. Somebody else has got to step up. You build depth on your football team through these situations; you find out a lot more about your football team in these situations. It’s something that happens. We don’t have any excuses around here.”

Because Florida is getting thin up front on both sides of the ball, the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut on April 9 may be a bit of a mix-and-match between the two squads. “We need to have a good functional day within teaching our schemes. We’re too thin to divide up,” Muschamp said. “I don’t want to get a guy matched up in a bad mismatch issue and you can’t get the ball off in some situations. That certainly can happen, especially as thin as we are. That’s the operation we’re going to have. We met as a staff [Friday] morning, talked about the spring game and the procedures we will go through.”

PLAYMAKERS PROVIDING A MEASURE OF CONSISTENCY

The Gators had a tough time making dynamic plays on offense in 2010, but Muschamp was happy to discuss how some of his offensive playmakers have performed so far in practice. Speaking of the wide receivers, he called redshirt juniors Frankie Hammond, Jr. and Omarius Hines the most consistent while raving about sophomore Quinton Dunbar’s ability to stretch the field in the vertical passing game. “He’s a guy that’s really a weapon outside,” said Muschamp of Dunbar. He also noted that redshirt senior Deonte Thompson “has done some nice things” and that redshirt sophomore Andre Debose (sprained ankle) will be back in action early next week.

Above anyone else, Muschamp went out of his way to praise redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed’s progress. “Jordan Reed is having a really good spring at tight end,” he said. “He’s a match-up issue for a defense. What are you going to put on him in your mans and your zones? He’s able to stretch the field vertically, block on the perimeter, block on the edge, block at the point of attack. I’ve been very pleased with his spring.” Getting the ball to these players will be redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, of whom Muschamp also offered positive reviews. “He’s managing out football team very well,” he said. “He’s got a lot on his plate. It’s a quarterback system as far as in the run game and pass game. We’re very pleased with where he is at this point.”

PRACTICING HARD AND INCREASING FLEXIBILITY

Out of the 10 practices that Florida has held up to this point, Muschamp said that nine have been great. The other? He doesn’t think the team made much progress in that one. However, he thinks the team is responding great overall. “The guys are working very hard. We’ve had great off days of watching film and learning,” he said. “For the most part, they’re paying attention to great detail in what we’re trying to do and learning what we do. It’s not just about learning what to do, learning why we do it is important, too.”

Stressing the ability for his players to perform at multiple positions, Muschamp noted that redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray has also been playing some SAM linebacker and that redshirt junior defensive tackle Earl Okine has also seen time at end. “There’s been some pleasant surprises for us in some cross-training work,” he said. The biggest surprise is certainly redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, who moved from guard to center and is learning the position at a fast pace. “Jon Harrison at center is a guy that’s done a nice job,” Muschamp said. “There’s an awful lot on the center as far as snapping and blocking. If you’ve never done it before, there’s an awful lot to it. I’ve been pleased with his progress.”

NOTES & QUOTES

» Sophomore running back Mack Brown had successful surgery on a broken fibula and remains on track to return to action in July.

» On what has been worked on recently in practice: “We’ve really [done] a lot of situational work as far as red zone, third down, coming off the goal line, end of game situations that come up. We’ve got a very experienced staff of guys that have come up with a lot of different situations that we’ll practice and go through. Because in this league, we’re going to have four or five games that will come down to the end of the game, and you’ve got to be good at the end of the game. [It’s about] making good decisions – not just as coaches but as players.”

» On if four-star QB Jacoby Brissett has received any teaching yet: “Jacoby came up during his spring break and spent three or four days with us sitting in the meetings and being out at practice. He will spend more time obviously when summer comes in. We’ve got a video playbook that we go through with our players that we put together on both sides of the ball that’s more teaching terminology, formations, sets, routes, run game. We have a pretty extensive video that you can learn from so when you get here you’re familiar with the terminology.”

» On allowing redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey to talk to the media after he was shunned in 2010: “I don’t know about last year. Chris is going to be a productive football player for us. I trust him. Chris Rainey has worked tremendously hard since I’ve been here. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. There’s been nothing that has been any glitch as far as how he’s performed on- and off-the-field for us since I’ve been at the University of Florida. That’s really all I go off of. We all go through a maturing stage in our life. Whatever happened, maybe he grew up from and learned from.”

» On offensive line coach Frank Verducci: “Frank is a great teacher. He’s not a holler and a screamer. Most of these offensive line coaches, they just want to hear themselves talk. Frank doe s a great job of teaching; he teaches the players very professionally. He does a great job of communicating with players about what to do and how to do it, demands great effort. I’ve been very pleased with their execution up to this point.” He also said that Verducci and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis have a noticeably great working relationship that is already paying dividends for the team.

» On defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson: “Travaris Robinson is an outstanding football coach. He has tremendous knowledge and appeals to young people. They gravitate to him as a coach, as a person. He does a phenomenal job on the field as far as coaching, getting the message across and the players playing for him. Motivation of players is as much important to me as far as teaching is concerned, that’s part of it. He certainly inspires learning in our group.”

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3/29: Brown hurt, Brantley leads, Demps around

Eight days into spring football practice, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp is starting to get a feel for his team. On Tuesday, he provided some injury updates, talked about the quarterback situation, updated the status of a missing player and provided a bunch of information about the team in general.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt freshman running back Mack Brown (broken fibula): “Mack Brown sustained an injury Friday in practice. Broke a fibula, which is a non-weight bearing bone. It is a three-month procedure, and he will be in fine.” Brown will have surgery on Wednesday and should be active in July.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (sprained ankle): Muschamp called his injury “nothing serious,” indicating that he will be back at full speed sooner than later.

Brown and Debose join junior RB Mike Gillislee (stress fracture in foot – limited for spring), redshirt sophomore defensive end Kendric Johnson (sprained knee – out for spring) and defensive tackles redshirt senior Jaye Howard (ankle scope) and redshirt junior Earl Okine (wrist) on Florida’s injured list.

BRANTLEY STEPPING GAME, LEADERSHIP UP

Coming off a rough first season as the starter, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley is doing well in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis‘s system. While Brantley is proving to be ahead of his primary competition – redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and freshman Jeff Driskel – he still has a way to go in order to be 100 percent comfortable.

“John, in the sense of learning a new offense, is a freshman again as far as the different ball handling and different things Charlie has him doing,” Muschamp said. “I’ve been very pleased with how he’s managed our football team and made plays down the field vertically.” Asked if he was already anointed the team’s starter, Muschamp deflected the question. “John’s had a good spring. He’s playing well right now. He’s doing a nice job managing our offense. We’re in practice eight, and we’ve got a lot of time to go,” he said.

DEMPS WITH TEAM – JUST NOT PRACTICING

Though senior RB Jeff Demps is spending the vast majority of his time practicing with the men’s track and field team for their outdoor season, Muschamp explained that he has been around the football practice facility often, is doing what he can to get engrained with the new program and will get to work with football as soon as track ends.

“He’ll work through the whole summer. He’s been a part of all of our meetings and all of our walkthroughs, so he’s been our building. He’s been working on football,” he said. “He’s been a part of what we’re trying to do. Mentally he has an idea of what we’re going to ask him to do in the fall. This summer, after the outdoor season is over, our players will conduct seven-on-seven and team drills throughout the summer on their own without coaches. He’ll be involved with that. When we start camp in August, he’ll still be competing for the starting job.”

Muschamp also discussed his philosophy about dual-sport athletes like Demps and incoming freshman QB Jacoby Brissett. Specifically of Demps, he said, “If a young man wants to play two sports here, as long as he handles what he’s supposed to off the field and academically, I’m 100 percent for it as long as it helps the University of Florida.”

TEAM NOTES & QUOTES

» Redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey continues to separate himself from the pack, impressing his coaches as well as his teammates. “[He] has really had a good spring. He’s a guy that makes an awful lot of plays. Getting the ball deeper to him in the backfield helps him. He’s got great vision, cut-back ability and bounce ability. You got to be really gap-sound on him and the run game.”

» Muschamp said the offensive line has “progressed well” overall.

» A number of players were listed as having standout performances on both sides of the ball. “[Tight end] Jordan Reed did some really nice things last Friday as far as catching the ball vertically down the field. [WR] Quinton Dunbar made some plays Saturday in the scrimmage.” Muschamp also pointed out sophomore defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley as well as junior linebacker Jon Bostic, redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins, redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray, sophomore safety Matt Elam and redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown as players who have impressed him.

» Muschamp said senior kicker Caleb Sturgis played well on Saturday and that he is “very pleased with his progress.” He also noted that freshman punter Kyle Christy was strong over the weekend.

» On how quickly the team is picking up the new systems: “We feel comfortable with where we are. It’s all relative. I’ve been pleased so far with retention on both sides of the ball and in special teams.”

» On Murphy and Driskel: “Both of them have made some plays. As far as the ability, the athleticism, the arm talent, the mental capacity to learn and to do things the right way – are all there [for Driskel]. He’s in his eighth college practice, and he’s in an offense where there’s a lot on the quarterback. […] There’s been some bright spots in both of those guys and a bright future in both of those guys.”

» On position flexibility: “We’re going to play the best players. Play the best players that give us the opportunity to be successful and win football games. […] You’ve got to be able to move guys around to find out if they can to do it because you don’t even know until you try a guy at a different spot. […] We’re just trying to experiment to build depth on our football team to get the best 11 on the field instead of just plugging a guy in because he’s a backup.”

» In addition to Dunbar, Muschamp said four other receivers have stood out: Debose, redshirt senior Deonte Thompson, redshirt junior Omarius Hines and redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr.. He believes the team is in need of consistency past those five.

» On if he has any concerns about the size of sophomore CB Cody Riggs: “Cody’s a good football player. He’s got a tremendous heart [and] all the ability as far as playing hard and playing fast and doing the things you got to do to be a good football player. […] It’s not about how tall you are. It’s about if you make plays or not.”

» On the health of sophomore LB Neiron Ball: “He had a procedure done today and he’s going to be fine. We’re just working through that with him right now and his family. It’s an unfortunate situation but he’s a fine young man. Things happen in life sometimes that you don’t understand, but he’s handled this as well as you can handle it. We’re all praying for him and his family right now. He’s going to be fine; the prognosis is very positive and we feel very comfortable about where he is right now. […] I’m not worried about his football future. I’m worried about his overall health right now. The least part of my mind right now is worried about his football future.”

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Meyer says Gators used spread out of necessity

With quarterback Tim Tebow graduating and a number of talented play makers leaving for the NFL, it was a known fact that the Florida Gators had to reinvent themselves going into the 2010 season. So it certainly came as a surprise to both fans and analysts when head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio did not adjust the offense to fit then-redshirt junior QB John Brantley‘s skillset.

During an interview Wednesday on ESPN, Meyer did something he never chose to do while still wearing the orange and blue: provide an explanation as to why the offense was not better tailored for Brantley to succeed from the get-go.

“We wanted to do some more pro-style stuff, but our fullback was hurt for the year, our tailback got hurt for the year and we didn’t have a tight end,” he said. “That just mounted and then we got to the point where we had to win. The best way to win was to do some of the stuff – some of the spread stuff.”

Florida was aware the tight end situation was a rough one going into the season with then-redshirt freshman Jordan Reed‘s transition to the position being delayed by a knee injury suffered during fall practice. The Gators had also not truly utilized a fullback since Meyer took over the program and certainly had reserve running backs behind then-junior Jeff Demps who were more apt for a pro-style set.

“It’s going to be all positive,” Meyer said of Brantley’s situation. “We tried to adapt. We had issues at other positions. Tim Tebow had all the success, but you look around him and he had a first-rounder here, a first-rounder there. Johnny we had an exodus of juniors that left for the NFL Draft a year ago – I think we had nine guys drafted.”

Nevertheless, Meyer believes those things are in place now and that Brantley has a great chance to succeed in the new system.

“It’s going to be a very good transition,” he said. “You have a tight end now in the program – Jordan Reed’s going to go to tight end. You have a fullback in Trey Burton. Those kids weren’t even playing those positions a year ago. I think it’s going to be very smooth. Charlie Weis’s record is very impressive with development of quarterbacks. It’s going to be all positive for him.”

He is also pleased with how the Gators as a whole have adapted to the new coaching staff put in place days after his resignation.

“I can’t imagine a transition going better. Very rarely in college football – or any sport – when a coach leaves a program that there’s a smooth transition,” Meyer said. “The guys get along, the guys are helpful and there’s communication. It couldn’t be better. I love Florida. I’m very impressed with Will Muschamp and his coaching staff. I know there’s a bunch of good, young players there. They’re going to keep on marching in Gainesville and have a great year.”

Photo Credit: ESPN

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Coordinators Weis, Quinn energized and excited

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2011 spring practice on Wednesday, the team’s two new coordinators – Charlie Weis (offense) and Dan Quinn (defense) – met with the media Monday to discuss a variety of topics including personnel, schemes, position changes, their respective relationships with head coach Will Muschamp and transitioning from the NFL back to college football.

LEAVING THE NFL FOR THE GATORS

For Weis and Quinn, each had different reasons for trading in a comfortable job in the NFL for a new opportunity with Florida. Weis’s main concern was his family. His daughter Hannah is a special needs child, and his family being spread across the country in three different locations was not desirable. Instead, Weis and his son Charlie Jr. (who will be a student assistant on the team seeing as he aspires to be a football coach) will be in Gainesville, FL while his wife and daughter primarily reside in South Bend, IN when the weather is warm before traveling down south for the winter.

“It was a fairly easy decision but almost all of it was directly related to family issues,” Weis explained. “When Will called and I thought about how I could best take care of my family, the fact that my son could end up going to school here, my wife’s a horse person so I’m buying a house in the Ocala area – so I got serious brownie points on that end right there, too. The fact that I could take care of my wife and my daughter and my son and kind of mesh everything together, really it’s as simple of an answer as that one.”

Quinn’s decision was more about familiarity and the desire to work with an old friend again. “When the opportunity came to come work with [Muschamp], it really was an easy [decision] for me. I thought the guy had all the right stuff about him as a coach, so when I had the opportunity to come to a place like this, it really was easy for me,” he said. “I had a great experience in the NFL – loved it and made some terrific connections – but it was just a new challenge for me and something I was looking forward to doing. […] Will and I see football a lot in the same way. That connection is what brought me here. We do see things along the same line.”

Read everything Weis and Quinn had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » Coordinators Weis, Quinn energized and excited

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Muschamp provides pre-spring practice thoughts

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2011 spring practice on Wednesday, new head coach Will Muschamp met with the media Monday to discuss a variety of topics including why practice is closed, who has stepped up as leaders, which players have changed positions and what he expects from redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley.

FIVE-WEEK OFFSEASON PROGRAM

Florida’s student-athletes participated four days each week in a five-week-long offseason program with spring break serving as a nice ending to the activities. Muschamp believes that the time is now to get the Gators in the proper mindset for the upcoming year.

“In the offseason, that’s where you build your football team,” he said. “You build the mental toughness it’s going to take to be successful. You find out a lot about individual players at this time – what they’re willing to push through. You find out a lot about where your leadership is on the football team. You start to develop your identity in the offseason. I’m really pleased with where we are. We still have a ways to go, but I’m excited about what those guys accomplished in our offseason program.”

NO SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT CLOSING PRACTICE

Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer shut fans and media out of fall practice last year, but spring practice was open throughout his entire tenure at UF. Muschamp, who announced last week that practiced would be closed, said that he had no second thoughts about the decision even though some fans are peeved by the choice.

“We’re a new staff. It’s important – on both sides of the ball and special teams – for our guys to focus on what we need to do to be successful. We need to do that in closed quarters,” he said. “I understand that our fans love the Gators and want to be a part of that. On April 9th, we want a full packed house at The Swamp. We need to concentrate on us right now. We need to get better and continue to develop the identity of what we want to be as a football team on both sides of the ball on special teams.”

He continued, “I’ve got to make a decision that I think is best for the program and about winning football games and doing it the right way. That’s something that will be evaluated in the fall by me and in the spring by me. If I think it’s best for the practices to be closed, they’ll be closed.”

CREATING AND ESTABLISHING LEADERS

Muschamp has a number of goals that he has set out to accomplish before spring practice concludes. One of those is finding a set of leaders who prove their worth by displaying a positive attitude, being productive and establishing themselves as both dependable and durable.

“Develop the leadership. Come together for that common purpose. I know we’ll all be excited on Wednesday; I want to see how we are [at] practice 12. That’s really where you find out what kind of team you’ve got,” he said. “We want to be a blue-collar, overachieving unit. We’ve got some good football players; we got a good football team on campus. We’ve got to come together as a cohesive unit, build for a common purpose and develop that workman-like attitude.”

Singling out a handful of players as early leaders, Muschamp pointed to Brantley, senior defensive end William Green, redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., redshirt sophomore WR Stephen Alli, sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs, redshirt sophomore safety Tim Clark, sophomore QB Chandler Carr and freshman QB Jeff Driskel as guys who have already stood out among their peers.

“They came out and played to a championship standard as far as their competition is concerned in the weight room and off the field,” he said of the players. “You’ve got to develop leadership; it’s not just something that happens. We’ve got to develop that within our organization. We’re implementing leadership, character development, mental conditioning for our football team.”

EXPECTATIONS FOR BRANTLEY

Brantley is the Gators’ No. 1 quarterback, and it is going to take a huge effort from either Driskel or redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy to unseat him. Not only does Brantley have the age factor going for him, Muschamp (and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis) both believe he is capable of doing the job that is necessary behind center. To his credit, Brantley has put the pedal to the metal so far this spring and is doing whatever he can to learn the position to the best of his ability.

“John’s worked hard in the offseason. He’s a talented player,” Muschamp said. “John needs to worry about John’s expectations, mine, Charlie Weis’s and nobody else’s. That’s what I think about expectations. Ours are high – really high; we expect a lot. John himself expects a lot of himself, and we’re expecting him to have an outstanding year.”

Asked what his specific expectations are for Brantley, Muschamp instead discussed what he expects from any quarterback running his team. “From the quarterback position, and I don’t mean this in a conservative manner, it’s [about] managing the game,” he said. “Peyton Manning manages the game. Tom Brady manages the game. They don’t turn the ball over; they take care of they ball. They provide great leadership for their offense and their football team. They convert on third down. That’s managing the game; that’s what we want to see. He’s got the ability to do all of those things.”

POSITION CHANGES AND ADJUSTMENTS

As OGGOA covered yesterday in our depth chart post, there is plenty of movement going on throughout Florida’s roster. Here are some of the moves that have been made and what Muschamp had to say about the player involved.

Redshirt freshman Leon Orr from offensive line to defensive tackle: “He’s a bigger body guy that can hold the point inside.”

Redshirt freshman Gerald Christian from tight end to linebacker: “He’s got good lower body explosion [and is] a guy who is certainly bright enough to play two positions.” Christian will also see offensive work at tight end and fullback.

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed from QB/TE to tight end: “Jordan Reed will be a full-time tight end. [He] can stretch the field vertically and be a match-up issue for defenses with his athleticism. [I’m] excited about him.”

Sophomore Trey Burton from QB to “F” position: “We’re excited about the versatility Trey will play for us at the F and at the H position in some third-down work.” Learn more about the F position.

Redshirt sophomore Chris Martin from DE/LB to DE: “He’s got good pass rush skills, good pass rush ability. He can move his hands and feet in the rush, which is a natural talent. That’s not something that’s easily coached.”

Muschamp was also asked about sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who had some behavioral issues last season. “That was last season. This is this year,” he said. “I [told him], ‘You’re going to do it our way.’ Change is inevitable, growth is optional. You either do it our way or leave.”

Finally, he discussed where the Gators are weakest position-wise. “We are thin on both lines of scrimmage at this point. I like the quality of players; I don’t like the quantity of players. The SEC is a line of scrimmage league. We’re going in a little bit thin,” he said.

QUOTES

Muschamp on the depth chart: “I don’t know if that depth chart is worth the paper it’s printed on.”

Muschamp on the depth chart (II): “It’s not about where you start – it’s where you finish.”

Muschamp on the defensive philosophy: “We want to be multiple. We’ll be more of an over team, a 4-3 team, a one-gap team at this point. We will commingle some 3-4. We’ve got an outstanding defensive staff, and I’m really excited about what those guys are bringing to the table.”

Muschamp on Weis: “Part of buying in is instant credibility, and he brings instant credibility as a football coach because of what he’s accomplished.”

Muschamp on potentially butting heads with Weis: “You hire guys that you have tremendous confidence that you know their abilities. You hire the best coaches available. We’ve been allowed to do that here because of the support of our administration. You want to hire the best in the business. I don’t want a bunch of “yes” guys. I don’t want a bunch of guys who are going to agree with everything I say. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I don’t have all the answers – especially on the offensive side of the ball. I want guys that want to disagree.”

Muschamp on what excites him about the team: “There’s been a willingness and an eagerness to learn. We’ve got a bunch of prideful guys in that locker room that want to have a lot of success.”

Muschamp on it being “his” team: “It’s Florida’s program, not mine. I’m the steward and I’m driving the ship. Florida won a bunch of games before any of us showed up, and they’re going to win a bunch of games after we’re all gone.”

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