8/15: Muschamp updates injuries, evaluations and competitions after Florida’s 15th practice

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday following his team’s second-to-last open practice of the offseason. The Gators are now 15 practices deep and will spend Saturday only wearing helmets during a one-hour Fan Day showing.

INJURY UPDATES

Freshman offensive tackle David Sharpe, who worked his way into being the fourth option at his position, suffered a high-ankle sprain during practice Friday morning and is currently day-to-day.

“We need to get him back. He’s a really good football player,” Muschamp said. “He’s very athletic, 6-foot-6, 330 pounds. He moves his feet extremely well. [He's] a guy that’s going to help us this year.”

The news is better for some other players. Junior running back Matt Jones (knee swelling) and redshirt junior guard Trip Thurman (shoulder) will return to action on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore defensive end Bryan Cox, Jr. (shoulder) could already be back in practice but will instead return on Monday after spraining his AC joint.

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2014 SEC Media Days – Will Muschamp pleased Florida’s roster, progress made in spring

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III represented the team on Monday by participating in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Below are highlights primarily from Muschamp’s sessions with the media.

BETTER THAN EXPECTED

If anyone is to believe in the possibility of Florida turning things around in 2014, rebounding from its worst season since 1979, it is going to start on the offensive side of the ball. Muschamp knew this and brought in offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to employ a spread offense and make the Gators a more dynamic playmaking team.

Not only will Roper’s offense put redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel back in the shotgun, where he is more comfortable and capable, it should give Florida more space to make plays. Muschamp is already extremely impressed with how much UF has been able to get accomplished in such a short period of time.

“I went back and looked at our numbers from 2012 when we were in the shotgun as opposed to being under center. When Jeff was in the shotgun, our yards were better, our explosive plays were better in both the run and pass game. He was recruited to Florida to be a gun quarterback,” he explained.

“In making that change, I felt like Kurt Roper was a great hire for us from a standpoint of a guy that philosophically is on the same page with me as what we want to be, that’s a balanced offense. …

“In our 15 days of springs, we got a lot more done than I thought we would. He’s an outstanding fundamental football coach, very positive. It was good to see our offensive kids having fun again on the field. Really excited about that. Probably what excites me the most is this is probably the most talent we’ve had on offense in my four years at Florida.”

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TWO BITS: Leon Orr, Billy Horschel at U.S. Open

1 » Florida Gators redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr on Monday poked some fun at Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (who was caught on tape shoplifting crab legs from a Publix supermarket this spring) by sharing an Instagram video of himself going to Publix for steak, milk and orange juice…and actually paying for it. He even has the cashier confirm his purchase. Check it out below.

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2 » No one was catching Germany’s Martin Kaymer (-9) as he ran away with the 2014 U.S. Open, beating the rest of the field by eight strokes or more, but former Gators golfer Billy Horschel did bring home 46 FedEx Cup points and a respectable $80,000 with a 23rd place finish thanks to a second-round 68 and final-round 70. The other two former Florida golfers that played did not fair as well with Spain’s Andres Echavarria missing the cut by a stroke and Matt Every missing the line by an even wider margin. Every remains 14th in FedEx Cup points (1,196) and 15th in earnings ($2.4 million) due in large part to his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational back in March.

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FOUR BITS: Orr, Hill, SEC Network, Parsons

1 » Florida Gators redshirt senior nose tackle Leon Orr sat down recently for a webcam interview with Campus Insiders where he spoke freely about a number of topics concerning himself and the team. Orr, one of Florida’s most important defenders entering the 2014 season, also did a decent job with some freestyling before signing off.

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Jonotthan Harrison tells tale of “crumbling” Florida Gators locker room during 2013 season

UPDATED STORY (8:00 p.m.): Jonotthan Harrison clarifies comments, defends Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp

Story below updated on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.

According to former Florida Gators center Jonotthan Harrison, a fifth-year senior in 2013 who was starting in the middle of the offensive line for his third-straight year, Florida’s continuously declining play and subsequent 4-8 record had as much to do with the team’s off-field issues as it did on-field performance.

Discussing the situation with Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Harrison provided insight into locker room incidents, pre-game distractions and significant infighting that derailed the Gators as they dealt with mounting injuries, a growing number of losses and increasing fan unrest.

Dunne begins by relating Harrison’s view of an incident that occurred following Florida’s embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern in its second-to-last game of the season.

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Defensive line shake-up working well for Gators

It was no surprise when the Florida Gators defensive line struggled last season after defensive tackle Dominique Easley, the star of the unit and a leader on the team, went down with a torn ACL during a late September practice.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp tried to fill in the gaps the best he could, but the Gators had issues stopping the run, getting to the quarterback or doing much of anything at times with their defensive front seven.

So while the offense is in the middle of an overhaul under new coordinator Kurt Roper, Muschamp and defensive line coach Brad Lawing are tweaking a unit that must make significant improvements if Florida is going to have substantial success in 2014.

Before the Gators could begin improving came the realization that they would have to do so without redshirt senior Leon Orr, who is not expected to be cleared until May 1 as he recovers from a fractured wrist he suffered last season.

Filling in for him on the interior is junior Jonathan Bullard, a defensive end who played some tackle in 2013 despite not actually having the desire to switch positions. Bullard admitted Tuesday that he was frustrated when Muschamp asked him to move inside because he had never played the position before and felt like his production would significantly decrease (which it ultimately did).

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Gators 2014 Spring Football Preview: Defense

Spring practice for the Florida Gators football program begins on Wednesday, March 19 and lasts for 15 practices concluding with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game on Saturday, April 12. Below is the first of OnlyGators.com‘s two-part series that takes a look at the team on a position-by-position basis.

PART ONE: Offense

Due to extensive team injuries, more players started for Florida at times in 2013 than normal. In this case, the term “starter” is being used as applicable per position.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (1/2): Redshirt senior Leon Orr
Fresh faces: Redshirt freshmen Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick, sophomore Joey Ivie

Losing Dominique Easley so early in the season gave senior Darious “Bear” Cummings more field time than he likely would’ve had during his first year with the program as a transfer from East Mississippi. So while Florida will only be entering 2014 with one returning starter in Orr, who should be primed to finally put everything together at nose in his final season with the team, Cummings may also be poised to have a breakout year if everything lines up correctly. Ivie was on his way to a redshirt before having it pulled due to depth concerns; he saw action in three of the final games. Brantley and Bostwick, on the other hand, were able to go the distance without seeing the field in 2013. Both are expected to be major contributors this year with head coach Will Muschamp mentioning more than once last season that he was on the verge of pulling Bostwick’s redshirt and getting him some playing time.

DEFENSIVE ENDS
Returning starters (2/2): Juniors Dante Fowler, Jr. and Jonathan Bullard
Fresh faces: Redshirt sophomore Alex McCalister, redshirt freshman Jordan Sherit

Fowler returns as Florida’s starter at the hybrid Buck linebacker/defensive end spot after leading the Gators with 10.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in 2013. He also checked in second on the team with 3.5 sacks and seven quarterback hurries, amassing 50 total tackles in the process. Bullard was unable to find much of a groove at end – he rotated in at tackle on occasion – but still managed to be productive; he should be even more so this year as a matured junior. Neither McCalister, who entered the season with high praise from the coaching staff, nor classmate Brian Cox, Jr. saw much action last season, and Sherit (torn meniscus) wound up not stepping foot on the field in 2014. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing will have his work cut out for him not only helping his starters improve but coming up with a solid second-string to spell them at times.

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Gators 2014 early enrollees pick uniform numbers

Athletes care about their uniform numbers and now that Florida Gators football team is beginning spring practice, it was time for the nine 2014 early enrollees to choose theirs. Below is the list according to the school’s spring roster:

TRANSFERS
» No. 72 – Drew Sarvary (Tallahassee, FL), junior offensive lineman

FRESHMEN
» No. 5 – Jalen Tabor (Washington, DC), freshman cornerback
» No. 7 – Duke Dawson (Cross City, FL), freshman defensive back
» No. 7 – Will Grier (Davidson, NC), freshman quarterback
» No. 20 – Brandon Powell (Deerfield Beach, FL), freshman running back
» No. 30 – DeAndre Goolsby (Derby, KS), freshman tight end
» No. 53 – Kavaris Harkless (Jacksonville, FL), freshman offensive lineman
» No. 71 – Nolan Kelleher (Mount Pleasant, SC), freshman offensive lineman
» No. 93 – Taven Bryan (Casper, WY), freshman defensive lineman

NUMBER CHANGES
» No. 2 – senior safety Jabari Gorman switched from No. 21.
» No. 8 – redshirt senior nose tackle Leon Orr switched from No. 44.

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