No. 10/11 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made an appearance Wednesday during the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference and touched on a number of topics surrounding his team and its upcoming game against the No. 4/3 LSU Tigers on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. live on CBS.
VETERAN LINEBACKER RETURNS
After sitting out two games and three total weeks with a broken thumb he suffered in the first quarter against Texas A&M during the second week of the season, redshirt junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins has been cleared to play on Saturday.
“I feel very comfortable that he’ll be able to go and how much will sort of depend as we progress from here to Saturday,’’ Muschamp said. “We’ll still determine that through the week, but he’ll be able to play in all situations. We wouldn’t necessarily limit it right now in my eyes as we move forward. If he can play, he can play. That means he can play on 1st-and-10 and he can play on third down.”
Jenkins, who has notched 25 career starts and is one of the defense’s main leaders, will be a welcome addition back to a unit that has been relying on underclassmen to fill the void over the last two games.
FLORIDA: IMPROVED IN EVERY WAY
It is tough to find an area in which the Gators are not better than they were one year ago. Florida has a healthy starting quarterback, more effective running game, stronger offensive and defensive linemen, and a defense that is starting to come away with the turnovers that Muschamp has been demanding since he took over the program.
LSU head coach Les Miles, who also spoke with the media Wednesday, admitted as much when asked if he has seen UF take a step in the right direction.
“This team is more prepared, more competitive. They look like a very, very quality Florida team,” he said. “I don’t want to bemoan the other two teams because, to me, those guys were pretty good, too. I think they’re certainly very representative of some of the best teams that Florida’s had.”
He continued, “I think they have a nice tailback, guy that’s averaging 100 yards a game. I think they’ve been physical, and I think that they’ve demonstrated that not only this year but in each of the years that we’ve played. I think [Muschamp is] well down the road, in my opinion. I think he’s improving the team.”
The Tigers have a two-game winning streak over the Gators heading into Saturday’s contest. Florida is looking to prevent LSU from capturing three-straight wins, which has not been accomplished in the series between the two teams since UF won four-in-a-row from 1998-2001.
The Gators will try to do that with their increased physicality at the line of scrimmage, something Muschamp once again admitted was not a characteristic the team could boast in 2011.
“We weren’t physical enough on the line of scrimmage to compete and play in this league. Our depth was part of that issue because of the way we practiced,” he said. “Some of the things I wanted to do, and I felt like we needed to do, we couldn’t do because of numbers and attrition. We didn’t practice the way we always wanted to practice. And then as we went through the season, my realization of where we were sort of came to a head. We weren’t physical enough on either side of the line of scrimmage.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on the skill of tackling being down overall in college football and what he does to combat that with his team: “We tackle every day defensively. You can’t be a good defensive football team if you can’t tackle and learn how to leverage the ball. So we tackle every day. Now we may not take a guy to the ground, but we do what we call ‘thud tackling.’”
» Muschamp on the impact Florida-LSU can have on recruiting: “I’ve never felt like one game impacts recruiting at all. It’s over a test of time. Recruiting is building relationships with people and building trust with people. One game will not determine, hopefully, where a young man goes. If a young man is being determined off of one game, I don’t know if you want him on your roster.”
» Miles on the key to making fake kicks and punts work when other teams know you call those plays often: “To be honest with you, trying them a lot is not something I want to do, I promise you. I don’t really know exactly. I think it’s more of our kids accepting a part of the game plan and making it work. […] It’s more about the skill of the player and what he sees he can do. Many times we go into game weeks without a plan [to run those plays]. It’s kind of specific to each year.”