Muschamp: Townsend out 8-10 weeks, issues at line of scrimmage, Florida playmakers step up

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media just over one week before the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game to provide updates on individual players and how the team as a whole is progressing heading into its final practices.

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore punter Johnny Townsend, who took over the starting job from senior Kyle Christy in 2013, underwent surgery on his wrist and will miss 8-10 weeks of action. Muschamp expects Townsend to be fine for the regular season and disclosed that Townsend’s injury happened over time – wear and tear through his years of playing football. The surgery does open a door for Christy to prove that he can once again handle the starting job in his final year with the program.

Redshirt senior fullback Gideon Ajagbe has also been ruled out for the remainder of spring practice with a shoulder injury. Though he does not need surgery and likely would have come back had there been two weeks of spring left, Ajagbe will heed the caution of Florida’s trainers, which suggested that he just rest up and get ready for the summer.

Sophomore safety Keanu Neal (hamstring) finally returned to the field but was limited, and redshirt junior right guard Tyler Moore (elbow) has been pushing through a weak arm while wearing a brace. Muschamp noted that Moore did not do any strength training until the start of spring practice.

The Gators also hope to get redshirt freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (concussion) back on Monday and believe freshman running back Brandon Powell (foot) could be able to participate in non-contact work if his X-ray comes back clear.

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Muschamp on new offense and a real spring game

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Tuesday to provide updates on team injuries, spring practice and the upcoming spring game.

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore safety Keanu Neal (hamstring) is at 90 percent according to Muschamp, who said the Gators want to get him back as soon as possible but want to ensure that the injury fully heals first. “He needs to be a part of the spring game. He needs to get in front of the crowd and play,” Muschamp said. “He needs to be in practices 10, 11, 12, 13. I didn’t want to lose him another day [by practicing him Monday].”

Sophomore wide receiver Chris Thompson (undisclosed) has returned to practice, though redshirt freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (concussion) has not yet been given the go-ahead. Muschamp hoped that Johnson would be available to see the field on Wednesday.

RUNNING AWAY WITH THINGS

The Gators will be without junior running back Matt Jones this spring, but the productivity of Florida’s other rushers has apparently filled his void quite well.

Sophomore Kelvin Taylor is more confident running the ball and “much better in protection, which is where he needed to take some big steps,” Muschamp said. Taylor is obviously the most explosive of UF’s rushers and is easily the favorite to start the first game of the season after a strong conclusion to 2013.

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Gators 2014 Spring Football Preview: Offense

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.

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.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (2/2): Junior D.J. Humphries, redshirt senior Chaz Green
Fresh faces: Redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson

By the time the 2013 campaign came to an end, the Gators lost three starting tackles for the season. The first of those absentees was Green, who had locked up the starting right tackle job over the summer but tore his labrum in practice and missed the entire season. Then came Humphries, who started the first six games at left tackle but missed the final five after an injured MCL kept him hobbled for the remainder of the year. Florida’s offense struggled mightily, in large part due to a weak offensive line, but Green and Humphries will almost assuredly start for UF as long as they can remain healthy. Johnson did not play in 2013 after suffering a physical setback early in camp but impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism when he was able to practice as a part of the scout team. He is a candidate to see a good number of snaps this year.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Returning starters (0/2): None
Fresh faces: Junior transfer Drew Sarvary, freshman Kavaris Harkless

With Jon Halapio and Kyle Koehne graduating – and Florida’s starting left guard changing positions (more on that below) – new offensive line coach Mike Summers will have the opportunity to hand-pick some players to help solidify the unit. Sarvary – a First Team All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference selection last season – and redshirt junior Trip Thurman will compete for the jobs, as will senior Trenton Brown and redshirt junior Tyler Moore, both of whom started games at tackle for the Gators in 2013. Florida’s guards are a work in progress, no two ways about it. Harkless could get in the mix as well though it is tough to know what UF can get from a freshman offensive lineman in the spring.

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3/11: Muschamp provides Florida football updates ahead of the start of 2014 spring practice

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2014 spring practice on Wednesday, March 19, head coach Will Muschamp media Tuesday to discuss a variety of topics concerning the team. He provided injury updates, offseason player evaluations and went over a number of hot topics entering the season.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose (ACL): Cleared on March 28 – “Has been in our offseason program, has progressed very well, and we’re pleased with his progress and where he is. He’ll be in non-contact situations for us in the spring.”

Freshman RB Brandon Powell (foot): Cleared late in spring practice – “Had a pre-existing issue with his foot from high school, had a small fracture. We decided in February to go ahead and have surgery and put a pin in that. … To that point, in January, had done an outstanding job in our conditioning drills. Great change of direction and speed. We’re really excited about that. He’s one of the guys we’re really excited about. It’s unfortunate that something like that happened from high school.”

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (wrist): Cleared on May 1 – “He has a fractured wrist from the season. It was a situation at the end of the season, he had about a month to go in the year and we felt like it would rehab itself. Going back and looking at it the first of February, we got a second opinion of whether to have surgery. … He would probably have been limited reps anyway with as many young guys as we need up front go help reps.”

Junior running back Matt Jones (meniscus): Cleared on May 1 – “Matt Jones is progressing well. … He will not go through spring. He will not go through non-contact. He will rehab there in the pit during practice but extremely pleased with his progress and where he is.”

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Muschamp updates Gators injuries, filling voids

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Wednesday primarily to discuss the new recruiting class on National Signing Day, but he also touched on a number of issues concerning the team with six weeks to go until the start of spring practice on March 19 ahead of the 2014 season.

INJURED STARTERS STILL ON THE MEND

The Gators’ rash of season-ending injuries last season was highlighted by two big losses on the offensive side of the ball – redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (fibula) and junior Matt Jones (knee).

While Driskel is slowly but surely working his way back – Muschamp noted that he has resumed jogging and is expected to be cleared for the start of spring practice – Jones on Wednesday went under the knife for the second of potentially three surgeries to repair a complete radial tear of his meniscus.

Doctors have told Muschamp that Jones’s meniscus was already “90 percent healed,” which puts him “further along” than the initial projection for his return, but he will not be able to suit up in March and remains on target to get back to work in the summer.

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1/13: Will Muschamp updates the Florida Gators’ major injuries, talks plans for offseason and 2014

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday for the first time since the conclusion of the 2013 season in which his team finished 4-8. Muschamp updated the team’s injuries and provided some thoughts about a number of subjects.

Additional information about Florida’s offense, the three new members of its coaching staff and the Gators’ nine early enrollees will be published in subsequent posts.

CLOSING STATEMENT

“You are what your record is. I’m a 4-8 coach and we’ve got a 4-8 ball club. We need to work hard to get better and improve in every facet.”

INJURY UPDATES FOR SPRING PRACTICE

» Redshirt sophomore running back Matt Jones: “He had a radial tear of the meniscus, which basically splits the meniscus in half. … Generally, when you have a radial tear, one of two things you try and mend the meniscus back where you take it out and create a bone on bone situation, which, for a running back, is not good. In the first operation, our orthopedics put 60 percent back, which is very good. We’re very optimistic about the meniscus being fine. We’re going to go back and build the quad back and then we’re going to come back in three to four weeks to have a scope to repair the remaining 40 percent. And our orthopedics feel very confident that they’re going to be able to do so. But it is a little more lengthy. When you hear a ‘meniscus,’ you feel, ‘OK, it’s just a meniscus.’ You go in and reattach it and it’s fine. But this was torn all the way through. It’s a little more serious than a regular meniscus. He will miss spring; we feel like he’ll be ready to go for summer.”

» Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (broken fibula): “We did bump back spring [practice] about 10 days or so, which [he] should be fine. His rehab is coming very well.”

» Redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose (torn ACL): “He is doing well with the ACL, but he probably won’t be in any contact drills.”

» Redshirt junior offensive tackle Tyler Moore (elbow): “Tyler Moore should be fine for spring. He has another X-ray in about 2-3 weeks that will tell us more about when he will be clear for contact, but he should be fine for spring.

» Second-year linebackers Alex Anzalone (shoulder), Jeremi Powell (torn ACL) and Matt Rolin (torn ACL): “[All three] will be out. Rehab is going very well.”

» Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Octavius Jackson (shoulder): “Octavius Jackson had shoulder surgery on a chronic shoulder. We’ll know more about his future in the coming weeks. He’s having some issues there with his shoulder.”

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FOUR BITS: Muschamp, volleyball, Sloan, Driskel

1 » Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp apparently provided Pat Dooley, columnist for The Gainesville Sun, with a few minutes of his time at some point over the last week and dropped a couple tidbits of information about the program and where it is headed. Below are some of the most notable nuggets from the 2,000-word column, much of which makes excuses provides reasoning and perspective for Florida’s tough 2013 campaign. You can check out in full by clicking here.

* Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, who just last year saw his team get ravaged by injuries before finishing the 2012 season 5-7 (2-6 SEC), called Muschamp personally to provide support. “He said he couldn’t imagine what we were going through. I got a lot of calls like that. Everyone has injuries, but I had guys in this league who called and said, ‘I don’t know how I would have handled it.’”

* Out of all the injured Gators, only sophomore running back Matt Jones (torn meniscus) and freshmen linebackers Matt Rolin (torn ACL) and Alex Anzalone (shoulder surgery) are expected to miss spring practice. Dooley reports: “Muschamp told me he plans to bump the start of spring practice to later in the year to make sure [junior quarterback Jeff] Driskel is completely rehabilitated after his leg injury.”

* Muschamp said he tried to be more easy-going this season in order to combat much of the negativity the players had to face each week. He regrets that decision. “I tried to make it fun for them and they were used to me being an [expletive] for two years.”

Check out four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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Pease Out: Florida fires offensive coordinator; Gators release OL coach Davis, too

Updated at 2:45 p.m.

The Florida Gators on Sunday fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis less than 24 hours after the team fell 37-7 to the No. 2 Florida State and competed its worst season since 1979.

“I have a lot of respect for Coach Pease and Coach Davis,” said Gators head coach Will Muschamp in a school release. “They are both good football coaches and even better people. There have been a lot of unfortunate circumstances this year, but that is part of the game sometimes. I want to thank each of them for their contributions to the program both on and off the field.”

According to CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, Pease and Davis had “friction” throughout the season and were “never on the same page.”

Pease was hired by Muschamp before the 2012 season and charged with an improving an offense that ranked 105th nationally under Charlie Weis, who left to become head coach at Kansas after the 2011 campaign.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to come to the University of Florida and work with a bunch of great coaches, administrative staff and players,” Pease said in the same release. “I know we came up short of our ultimate goal, but I will carry on knowing I gained valuable friendships and relationships during my time here.”

The Gators finished 103rd in total offense under Pease in 2012, averaging 334.4 yards per game. UF was even worse in 2013, coming in 112th nationally with an average net gain of just 316.7 yards per contest.

Florida’s offense averaged 414 yards over its first two games before junior quarterback Jeff Driskel was lost for the season with a broken fibula. The Gators also played most of the season without their top three offensive tackles, starting running back and one of their expected starting wide receivers.

Nevertheless, Florida never scored more than 44 points in a single game under Pease and only eclipsed 30 points seven times in his 25 games as the team’s offensive coordinator. The Gators averaged 26.5 points per game in 2012 (76th nationally) and only 18.8 per contest in 2013 (111th nationally).

“You got to change the scoreboard offensively. You got to be able to change the scoreboard. We’ve just struggled scoring points offensively. It’s been a week-in, week-out occurrence. My job to get it fixed and it will get fixed,” Muschamp said after UF fell 26-20 to Georgia Southern two Saturdays ago. “It’s very difficult for us to create explosive plays to get anything down the field. Just don’t ever do it.”

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