10/15: Muschamp updates injuries, quarterbacks

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp participated in the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday, looking to his team’s next game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. (ESPN2).

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (knee) and junior wide receiver Latroy Pittman are both expected to be practicing with the team on Wednesday. Orr is expected to be available for Saturday’s game, while Pittman’s status is a bit more up in the air as he will only be taken limited practice repetitions.

QUARTERBACK DECISION

Outside of offensive coordinator Kurt Roper declaring Tuesday that redshirt junior Jeff Driskel would get the start, Muschamp said there has been no solid decision made about how the quarterback rotation will go on Saturday.

“We’re going to see who has the hot hand and see who’s helping move our football team and gives us the best opportunity to win. We’ll make that decision as we go through the game,” he said. “Both guys deserve and have earned the opportunity to play. We’re still kind of going through that through [Wednesday]‘s practice into the game. Kurt and I will sit down Friday morning and make a decision on what we need to do.”

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10/14: Roper explains Florida’s rushing approach

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday to provide some thoughts on Florida’s second loss (at home against LSU) and the Gators’ upcoming contest against the Missouri Tigers, which is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

RUNNING THINGS

To say that Florida’s approach to running the football last Saturday was questionable is an understatement. The Gators entered the game with their starter, junior running back Matt Jones, injured (ankle) and questionable. UF planned to run redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel a lot in the contest, too.

Despite Jones’s health and the prospect of overworking a quarterback who had not carried the ball that much in any other game this season as very real concerns, Florida did not appear to have a power rushing backup plan.

Sophomore Kelvin Taylor and redshirt senior Mack Brown, who combined to tote the rock 259 times for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, touched the ball early in the contest but were not used late when it mattered the most – on 1st and Goal at the 2-yard line, 2nd and Goal at the 1-yard line, and 3rd and Goal at the 1-yard line.

Instead, the Gators ran 5-foot-9, 177-pound freshman tailback Brandon Powell on first down, gave Driskel a chance to run it in out of the shotgun on second down, and ran a triple option on third down (that would have succeeded had the pass not been dropped).

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Snell’s Slant: Gator Nation deserves better

By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist

You do not need me to tell you that losing sucks. Watching uninspired football? That sucks, too. There is a problem in Gainesville, Florida, and the most frustrating thing in my life right now is the realization that the Gators, a top-tier program in the nation, are currently a bottom-tier team in the Southeastern Conference.

It may be tough to realize sometimes when reading this column, but I am a positive person and try to look on the bright side of things when writing about Florida. Part of that is from being a former player, caring so much about the program and wanting to give the Gators the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible.

I would love to tell you about the progress Jeff Driskel is making at quarterback, but he’s not. This is as matter-of-fact as I can make this statement: he is not the answer behind center. He may have a strong arm, but he cannot consistently connect down the field. He may be athletic, but he does not get the opportunity to showcase that often enough. He may be a leader in the locker room, but turning the ball over three times in a single game – like he did on Saturday – is not an example to set for your teammates.

When I played for Steve Spurrier, he made it perfectly clear that if you didn’t play well in games, your ass would be benched. And one of the things that I respect most about him – to this day – is that he never played favorites.

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10/13: Muschamp says Gators will play two quarterbacks – Driskel and Harris – on Saturday

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team continues to recover from its latest loss while preparing for the Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday evening. Florida will host Mizzou at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida; kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the agme will air live nationally on ESPN2.

INTRODUCING THE TWO-QUARTERBACK SYSTEM

In what was likely to be the original plan last week against LSU, Muschamp confirmed Monday that Florida will employ a two-quarterback system this week against Missouri with redshirt junior Jeff Driskel likely to take the first snaps in the contest.

“They both will play this week. We’ll work through the week and see how things go. We’ll see how it goes there,” he said. “Right now, Jeff would probably start, but they’re both going to play.”

Driskel, who learned of his demotion to part-time player when Muschamp made the announcement, said he has no qualms with the decision because he knows he needs to pick up his play going forward. Freshman Treon Harris, of course, will be the other signal caller taking reps with Driskel.

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10/11: Florida-LSU post-game report

A soul-crushing 50-yard game-winning field goal pushed the LSU Tigers (5-2, 1-2 SEC) ahead of the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-1 SEC) on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, as LSU took advantage of multiple Florida miscues to pull off a 30-27 come-from-behind victory in The Swamp.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the close loss, and OnlyGators.com takes a look at a number of key moments in the game.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» After the win, LSU is now 27-31-3 all-time against Florida, trailing the Gainesville portion of the series 12-15-3. The Tigers have won four of their last five meetings with the Gators.
» Saturday was the 44th consecutive year, dating back to 1979, that UF and LSU squared off on the gridiron.
» The Gators are now 21-5 against unranked opponents under Muschamp and 12-3 against unranked SEC teams during his tenure.
» Florida has converted 19-of-20 red zone trips into points this season but have only scored 11 red zone touchdowns through five games.
» The Gators scored more than 21 points in regulation for the first time in nine SEC games.
» UF’s offensive line once again did not allow a sack; the Gators have only given up five through five games, including none against Eastern Michigan, Alabama and LSU.
» Florida entered Saturday with a +8 turnover margin but lost three turnovers in the game and did not gain any back; the Gators are now +5 for the season. UF gained 15 turnovers in its first four games.
» Florida’s run defense had only allowed 11 double-digit runs on the year entering Saturday’s game but gave up nine more over the course of the LSU contest.
» Redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar entered Saturday having caught a pass in 32-straight games. He dropped his only target of the evening and came three games away from tying a school record for most consecutive contests with a reception.

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Friday Final: Roper on quarterbacks, offensive problems; Durkin on fresh faces on defense

In this week’s special edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at what offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin had to say ahead of the team’s fourth Southeastern Conference game.

The Florida Gators (3-1, 2-1 SEC) return home to host the LSU Tigers (4-2, 0-2 SEC) on Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp addresses recent incidents, prep for LSU
Story: Coaches want Gators’ playmakers to step it up

BACK IN THE SADDLE

Quarterback Jeff Driskel is having a horrible redshirt junior campaign. As a full-time starter, he’s completing a career-low 54.7 percent of his passes and averaging a career-worst 5.0 yards per attempt. He has thrown more interceptions through four games (six) than he did in 13 starters in 2012 (five).

Simply put, Driskel has regressed in a major way, and there should be no doubt whatsoever that confidence is the biggest factor in his decline. While Roper understands what is wrong with Driskel, he does not see a player struggling with confidence or poise.

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How will Gators move forward at quarterback?

Finally, excruciatingly, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp decided enough was enough, and it was time for a change.

After he watched his starting quarterback, redshirt junior Jeff Driskel, combine to go 20-of-51 for 152 yards with one passing touchdown and five interceptions through seven quarters, Muschamp pulled the trigger and inserted true freshman Treon Harris.

The emotional boost was palpable from the field to the crowd and into homes and bars across the country.

“There’s no question that Treon brought some energy to us. The guy’s got a calmness about him, very confident. Very proud of how he responded in this situation,” said Muschamp. He added: “He came in and did an outstanding job and then Kurt [Roper] put him in some good situations. He certainly had a confidence about him that was nice.”

Described by the coaching staff as poised and decisive yet wet behind the ears, Harris finally got his shot on Saturday and responded by leading two scoring drives, the only ones of the day for Florida. The Gators scored 10 unanswered points to end the game despite Harris only throwing four passes (completing two for 17 yards) and carrying the ball four more times for 24 yards.

The intangible impact that Harris made was more important than what he physically accomplished. In fact, he did not do anything Driskel cannot or has not while Driskel has compiled a 14-4 record as a starter. Harris threw one particularly nice swing pass to sophomore running back Matt Jones, made another short throw and tossed a ball down the field that was nearly intercepted.

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Friday Final: Florida confident, prepared for UT

In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles the team’s confidence entering its third Southeastern Conference game, the emergence of a young offensive lineman and a look at the unofficial depth chart ahead of the contest.

The Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) hit the road for the second time this season when they face the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game kicks off at noon and will air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Tennessee, talks injuries and support
Notebook: Kurt Roper keeping Florida offense calm, focused
Story: With support, QB Jeff Driskel focused on improvement not criticism
The Silver Lining: QB Treon Harris not ready for prime time
Notebook: Muschamp, D.J. Durkin looking to fix Gators secondary

GOOD TIMING

According to players on both sides of the ball, Florida’s off week came at an opportune time for the program, just as it was coming off a devastating loss on the road to Alabama. It’s not that the Crimson Tide simply defeated the Gators while hosting them in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but rather that the victory was a dominant one which appeared to show that UF still has a long way to go to truly be competitive this season.

Simply put, not all of Florida’s players saw the gap as that wide.

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