2012 Gator Bowl Gameday (Jacksonville, FL): Florida Gators vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Location: EverBank Field – Jacksonville, FL [Capacity: 84,000]
Weather Forecast: 57°F, sunny, winds WNW at 13 mph
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2/ESPN2HD
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Luke Fickell
Record: 6-6 Record: 6-6
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -2; O/U 44

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before the bowl game? No problem. OGGOA has been here since the end of the regular season compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam.

Muschamp on Gator Bowl, coaches | Coordinators discuss players, game

HISTORY / STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Ohio State 1-0, with the No. 2 Gators defeating the No. 1 Buckeyes 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship.
» Both teams are entering the game with a 6-6 record (each are 3-5 in their conference as well) and looking to finish the season above .500. UF losing would make them sub-.500 for the first time since 1979, while OSU would not have reached that low of a level since 1897 if they drop the game.
» Both teams are starting head coaches in their first year (and in Fickell’s case his last year) at the helm.
» This is Florida’s 21st consecutive appearance in a bowl game, good for first in the SEC and second nationally. The Gators have played in 18 January bowl games in the last 20 years dating back to 1993. The Buckeyes are second in most January bowl games since 1993 with 16 appearances.
» UF is 19-19 all-time in bowl games and 6-2 in the Gator Bowl but has not participated in this event since 1992. Florida is 7-6 in bowl games against current Big 10 teams.
» Ohio State has not played in the Gator Bowl since 1978 and has not played a bowl game in the state of Florida since 2002. The Buckeyes are 19-22 all-time in bowl games and 15-19 in those played in January.
» The Gators are 4-0 this season when rushing for more than 150 yards and 6-2 when gaining more than 100 yards on the ground. Florida, however, is 1-5 when being outrushed and 0-5 when tied or trailing at the half.
» UF had 18 players make their first career start in 2011 and the 15 true freshman that have seen the field is tied for seventh-most nationally.
» The Gators have half as many upperclassmen (14 seniors, 11 juniors) as they do underclassmen (27 sophomores, 24 freshmen) seeing action this season.
» Florida offense has struggled as of late, and the Gators have had major problems putting the ball in the end zone. Florida has scored points in just 33 of 48 quarters this season and touchdowns in only 25 of those quarters.
» UF’s 13.42 yards per pass completion is No. 1 in the SEC and 16th nationally.
» The Gators are only converting 49 percent (17-of-35) of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns but have scored at least a field goal when the offense has a possession inside the 20-yard-line 86 percent of the time.
» Florida is No. 9 nationally and fifth in the SEC in total defense (299.6 yards per game). The Gators are also No. 25 nationally and fifth in the SEC in scoring defense (20.6 points per game).
» The Gators’ defense is second in the nation in preventing third-down conversions, allowing just 27.7 percent of those attempted to be successful. However, UF is 66th nationally in preventing fourth-down conversions, allowing a 52.0 percent success rate.
» The Buckeyes have allowed the third fewest 100-yard rushers among all teams nationally since 2007, giving up just 11 such performances.
» Florida was one of the least disciplined teams in the country during the regular season, ranking 114th (out of 120 teams) nationally in penalties, committing 93 in 12 games for 699 total yards lost. Ohio State ranks 45th in that category, committing 66 in 12 games for 547 total yards lost.
» The Gators have a +1 turnover margin in six victories but a -12 margin in six losses.
» Florida’s defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (315) since 2000. UF also has the most interceptions in the nation (76) since 2008.

LAST TIME OUT

On the way to the team’s second national title, Florida defeated Ohio State 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship the last time these two teams squared off. The No. 2 Gators, led by quarterback Chris Leak (25/36 for 212 yards, touchdown), routed the No. 1 Buckeyes by outscoring them 41-7 after OSU wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Florida led 34-14 at halftime and stifled Ohio State’s offense, holding the team to just 82 yards over the course of four quarters. UF linebacker Earl Everett’s helmet-less sack on OSU QB Troy Smith is one of the most memorable moments from the game and the 2006 season.

FLORIDA’S PRE-GAME THOUGHTS

Muschamp on the team’s improvement: “We’ve made some progress, and I think a lot of that has to do with not having to get ready for a game in a game-week situation, being able to go back to a lot of fundamentals, a lot like training camp or spring practice to be able to work on a lot of those things.”

Muschamp on his team this year: “Coaching at the University of Florida is a dream of mine to be in this opportunity that I’ve been presented. I’m excited about work every day. I’m frustrated at the results maybe at times, but from the standpoint of how our players have worked, how they’ve committed themselves and these guys up here I think have done a good job. Is it the results we want? No. Are we where we want to be? No. But have I seen improvements and improvements within our program sometimes inside the building that maybe people don’t see? We’ve made tremendous strides as a team. It was a tough situation what we inherited, quite honestly. We’ve made tremendous strides.”

Muschamp on if the perception of being sub-.500 is worse than the reality: “It would be disappointing, obviously. It’s not something that we want to have happen. These players and myself and us as a staff don’t want to be saddled with that. Certainly is that a motivating factor? It certainly should be.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley on playing his last game: “I grew up as a Gator. Now that I’ll be exiting this program after this game, I’ll always be a Gator. Through thick and thin. I’ll always be wearing the orange and blue and watching them on Saturdays for years to come.”

Brantley on if he would have done things differently: “I’m just fortunate enough to wake up every day and put on the Gator uniform. To be able to have this opportunity to play major college football at such a great university and one that I’ve loved my entire life was a dream come true, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

INJURIES / ABSENCES

FLORIDA
» Active: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (head)
» Game-time decision: Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)
» Inactive: Redshirt sophomore tackle Matt Patchan (back), redshirt sophomore defensive end Kedric Johnson (undisclosed), sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (torn ACL), redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), freshman CB Marcus Roberson (neck)

OHIO STATE
» Active: Linebacker Andrew Sweat (head, shoulder)
» Game-time decision: Tight end Jake Stoneburner (knee)
» Inactive: Running back Rod Smith (undisclosed)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 58.9 percent of his passes (132-of-224) this season for 1,912 yards and 10 touchdowns but has also thrown six. He had a career-best game against Furman, throwing for 329 yards and four touchdowns, but followed it up with a career-worst performance against Florida State, throwing for 104 yards with three interceptions.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 1,140 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 12.5 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally. He also rushed for 100 yards or more in three-straight games, the first UF player to do so since Fred Taylor last accomplished that feat 14 years ago.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who is second on the Gators in carries (91) and rushing yards (539) this season but leads Florida in touchdowns scored (six). Injuries and poor run blocking have limited Demps’s effectiveness in 2011, but he continues to do whatever he can to help the team each week.
» Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (#4)…who jumped to first on the Gators’ receiving list with a career-high 151 yards and two touchdowns two games ago against Furman. Debose had mirror image 65-yard touchdowns against Alabama and LSU earlier in the season. Fans have been waiting for Debose to emerge for some time, but his 423 receiving yards now lead the team. Additionally, his 28.2 yards per catch is the highest average in the SEC and third nationally.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary. He is second on the team in tackles (72) and at one point created turnovers in three-straight games (fumble-INT-INT). His 12 tackles against LSU a month ago marked a career high, and his nine tackles for loss this season are a team-high.
» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard (#6)…who has helped solidified the interior of the Gators’ strongest unit. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (29 starts) and has registered 8.5 tackles for loss along with four sacks and two recovered fumbles this season. He is fourth on the team in total tackles (60) and has even broken up two passes).
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-3 on the team in tackles. Bostic (86) and Jenkins (71) have each excelled in different areas for Florida. The former has six tackles for a loss and three sacks while the latter has one sack, seven pass breakups and two interceptions (one pick-six) on the year.
» Sophomores DT Sharrif Floyd (#73) and Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who are each looking to make a statement in Monday’s game. Floyd moves back to his more natural position after spending all season at end and registering 44 tackles and just five for a loss with no sacks, while Powell wants to build on his solid performance against FSU. He has registered 30 tackles (eight for a loss), five sacks and a forced fumble.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who has returned for Florida after missing eight games one year ago with an injured back. He is 21-for-25 in field goal attempts on the season (long: 55) and is perfect with 28 extra points, leading the Gators with 91 points scored this season. Sturgis is fourth in the nation with 21 field goals made but tied for 22nd in kicking points.

OHIO STATE
» QB Braxton Miller (#5)…who was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year after completing 50 percent of his passes for 997 yards with 11 touchdowns and four picks on the season while also leading Ohio State in rushing with 144 carries for 695 yards and seven more scores. All of this and Miller did not start until the fourth game.
» RBs Dan Herron (#1) and Carlos Hyde (#34)…who are also toting the ball quite often for the Buckeyes with over 100 carries each this year. The duo has combined for over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns.
» WR Devin Smith (#15) and tight end Jake Stoneburner (#11)…who are two of three players on the team with double-digit receptions on the season. Smith (12) leads the team with 247 yards and has four touchdowns, but Stoneburner (who may not even play due to injury) has a team-high seven touchdowns on just 14 catches.
» LB Andrew Sweat (#41) and DL John Simon (#54)…who are two of OSU’s best defenders. Sweat has totaled 68 tackles along with five for a loss, an interception and a forced fumble this season. Simon is even more dominant with 50 tackles including 15 for a loss and seven sacks.

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12/21: Patchan says Gators will improve, notes

With the Florida Gators hoping to end the season on a high note with a victory in the 2012 Gator Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes, three players were made available to the media Wednesday to discuss a number of topics.

PLENTY OF ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

There is no questioning that Florida’s offense in 2011 left a lot to be desired. Just because it struggled at times during the year – especially when redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was out of action or limited – does not mean it cannot improve before the bowl and heading into the 2012 season, redshirt sophomore tackle Matt Patchan said Wednesday.

“Obviously we have to get a lot better. Everybody has to get a lot better,” he noted referring to how the offense played through the first 12 games. “We’re going to see a marked improvement here after a short while for sure.”

Patchan also explained why the Gators’ offense struggled this season and how he thinks things will get better sooner than later.

“There’s lots of room for improvement all over the board. It’s only going to get better as long as everything stays the same. The mark of a good offense is it gets better as time goes on – the more consistency and fluidity within it,” he said. “Also there’s timing issues involved and everything, and you’ve really got to communicate well with the line of scrimmage as far as calls and everything and knowing exactly what each call means.

“In our playbook we’ve got like 20 pages worth of just calls – like a call sheet – that we have to audible at the line as far as the way we’re going to attack a defense. If everybody’s not on page with that – meaning all five offensive linemen along with the tight ends and the fullback that’s doing it – then the littlest difference, that six inches makes the biggest difference in the play. That’s been the result that we’ve seen so far with the six losses this season.

“It’s easy to sit here and say there’s going to be a lot of improvement next season, but we still have to put the work in [during] the offseason obviously. But there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. on losing the team’s offensive coordinator: “It kind of threw me for a loop, but like I said he got a better opportunity as the head coach job at Kansas. I wish him the best of luck. That’s the world we live in, where a coach is here for a year and then they move on and get a better opportunity.”

Hammond on why Urban Meyer is such a good recruiter: “His drive to get you here, and he’s a good coach. He knows football like the back of his hand. The opportunity that presents itself when he’s around and the guys that he recruits and just the energy that he has definitely makes him a good recruiter. He got me here. He just comes after you and stays on you, makes sure you’re appreciated and [know] that he cares about you. At the end of the day he wants the best for you.”

» Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray on the defensive coaches returning: “Our whole defensive coaching staff is coming back next year, so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. We’re not going to have a problem with that, they’re all coming back. It’s going to be great to have the same system, getting ready knowing what to look for going into the offseason, knowing what to work on, knowing what the coaches have, knowing the plays and everything. It’s going to be real good.”

» Patchan on why he got better at the end of the season: “I’ve been hampered and it’s been a while since I’ve been able to be on the field for as long as I have [this year]. It’s like riding a bicycle. One day you get back on and you never really forget how to play, but it takes a while to knock all the dust off and everything. I feel like I’ve been taking advantage of my opportunity and try[ing] to improve every day whenever I go out on the field to practice. And I’ve done that. I’ve gotten consistently better, and I hope to keep getting consistently better.”

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FOUR BITS: Elway apologizes to Tebow, Gators earn awards, volleyball falls, Macklin ready

1 » Nothing that Denver Broncos executive vice president John Elway has done to this point – whether it be verbal comments or body language – has shown that he fully supports quarterback Tim Tebow. Despite the fact that Tebow is winning games and doing so in a variety of ways, Elway recently answered “no” when asked by a radio station if he was “any closer to having your quarterback on this team” than he was a month earlier. With Tebow continuing to win and Elway receiving more and more criticism, he told FOX Sports this week that he “could have done a better job answering that question.” “It was a little too blunt,” he went on to say. “I should have said, ‘We’re not talking about the future. We’re talking about right now. Tim Tebow is definitely our guy.’”

Tebow recently avoided a question asking whether or not he felt the entire organization was behind him; that non-answer is likely what led Elway to personally apologize to his star, which FOX Sports notes he did recently. In fact, Elway has also told Tebow that he plans to work with him alongside QB coach Adam Gase in the offseason – not to “fix’ his throwing motion but rather to improve his accuracy. “I don’t believe you change a throwing motion. I do believe you can really help your accuracy by your feet,” Elway said. “That’s where, to me, Tim has so much upside. He’s improving. It’s just a matter of getting it burned into his reactions and mind.”

2 » The Florida Gators football team participated in its annual banquet on Saturday in which the team is presented a number of awards for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may be throughout the season. Below are the 2011 award winners along with some award explanations, courtesy of the University of Florida.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Caleb Sturgis
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jesse Schmitt
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: William Green
Chris Patrick Courage Award: John Brantley
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Tim Clark Defensive: Mike McNeely Special Teams: Hygens Succes and Solomon Schoonover

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Jeff Demps Defense: Dominique Easley
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Matt Patchan Defense: Dominique Easley
MVP Offense: Chris Rainey Defense: Jon Bostic, Matt Elam ST: Caleb Sturgis
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): John Brantley
* Presented to the “player who best exemplifies the mental and physical toughness and ‘iron-man’ determination.’ The award is traditionally won by offensive linemen.
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Chris Rainey
* As voted on by the entire team.
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Lerentte McCray, John Brantley
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: John Brantley, Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, William Green, Jaye Howard

3 » Florida volleyball’s inspiring run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament came to an end Saturday evening as the No. 3 Illinois Illini defeated the Gators 3-1 in four sets (25-22, 23-25, 25-14, 25-20) in Elite Eight action at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. UF has been ranked higher heading into the tournament in recent memory, but Florida reached the regional final this year for the first time since 2005. Seniors setter/right-side Kelly Murphy and outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel once again led the way for their squad. Murphy’s triple-double (13 kills, 21 assists, 17 digs) was the 30th of her career. Murphy posted 19 kills and 11 digs for a double-double. Each will end their careers in the top 10 of a number of categories in the Gators’ record book. Transfer Colleen Ward, who joined the Illini, posted 23 kills and 11 digs in the contest for a double-double of her own. Florida finished the season 27-6 and was on a 10-match winning streak before falling to Illinois.

4 » As one Gators rookie waits to sign his deal, center Vernon Macklin has already agreed to terms with the Detroit Pistons, which selected him in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Macklin, who stayed in shape during the lockout by maintaining his college conditioning and working out with NBA players like Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Lakers F Metta World Peace, Atlanta center Al Horford and Chicago C Joakim Noah, recently told The Detroit News that he was star struck when he saw Detroit C Ben Wallace practicing. “It’s kind of a weird feeling,” he said. “Him going to Virginia Union, a lot of my family members idolized him and learned from him.”

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11/14: Muschamp speaks after Florida’s fifth loss

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators‘ next opponent. Florida fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 17-12 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a home game against the Furman Paladins on Nov. 19. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from Saturday and Monday.

INJURY UPDATES

In addition to announcing that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck) will be out for the season, Muschamp said redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) and sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (“banged up”) should all be able to play on Saturday. Green and McCray were tested pre-game on Saturday and could not play; both are expected to return to practice early in the week and try to give it a go again versus Furman.

COSTLY ERRORS AT CRITICAL JUNCTURES

The Gators once again failed to impress on Saturday and continued to make major mistakes after being put in a position to succeed. Florida was inside the five-yard-line twice against South Carolina and came out of the situations with a total of six points rather than the 14 they should have posted. UF also committed a costly offsides penalty continuing what wound up being USC’s final offensive drive. Muschamp said Saturday after the game that Florida’s miscues continue to disappoint him.

“We’ve had three ballgames where we had our opportunities. It comes back to turnovers, critical errors when you got to make plays, you got to make a play on the ball down the field,” he said. “You’re in a situation where it’s a field goal game, and you have to execute in those situations. It comes back on me. [I’ve] got to do a better job coaching, a better job in those critical downs and critical situations. In four of our last games, three of them have come down to the last drive of the game. We have got to win in those situations and we haven’t.”

He expanded on those comments on Monday, explaining what he and the players spoke about during their meeting earlier in the day.

“I told the team this morning at 6:00 a.m. Every football game you play in or you coach in, there are 8-10-12 plays in the game that really determine the outcome. It isn’t one play but generally those collective plays and you never know when those plays are going to happen,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to make plays in those situations. We’ve been very inconsistent obviously in our play, and that falls back on my shoulders, doing a better job putting our guys in situations to be successful.

“We watched plays from the game as an entire team this morning to show them when those situations arrive and how we’re hurting ourselves in a lot of those situations. We’ve got to eliminate that from our game if you expect to win those games. Those critical plays we’ve got to do a better job [on].”

A SILVER LINING TO THE STRUGGLES

Muschamp is not using 2011 as an evaluation season per se but while the team is struggling to get into the W column on a consistent basis, he is noticing some qualities about the players that give him a sense of promise for the future.

“I see a lot of improvement regardless of the results,” he said Saturday. “In the big picture of things, we’ve made tremendous improvements. We play blocks much better up front at times. We do a better job in the run game against a quality defensive football team. [...] We ran the ball in the second half. Is there improvement? Yes. Is it what we want? No. Is it where it needs to be? No. Are we going to get there? Yes, it’s going to get there. You play three quality teams that you feel like you had opportunities to win the games. Is it frustrating? Yeah. But it’s frustrating to lose one when you don’t play very well, too.”

He went into further detail on Monday, discussing specifically the improvements he is seeing game-in and game-out. “We all look at the result at the end of the game and feel like nothing good is happening. That’s not the case. We have a lot of positive things happening, just not enough to get us over the hump to win those games,” Muschamp said.

“The effort. Guys are playing hard with great effort. Individually guys that are doing nice things, as a team doing nice things. We’re just very inconsistent. You can attribute it to a lot of different things, but the bottom line is that it’s inconsistent. I see things that are very promising as far as where we are and what we’re trying to do. It’s not what we want right now, but we’ll certainly get there.

“We improved our tackling defensively. Both linebackers have played extremely well this season. We’re a little inconsistent in some situations Saturday, but we’ve played blocks better up front. We’ve improved in the secondary. Jordan Reed is playing really well. A.C. Leonard is coming along and playing really well. The running backs have played well all season. I think John [Brantley] continues to play well, and I think we’ve got a bright future with Jacoby [Brissett] and Jeff Driskel. Matt Patchan is playing his best football, and Jon Halapio is playing very well. We’re not consistent enough across the board, but there are some guys who are playing good football. Jon Bostic is having an outstanding season.

“There’s a fine line in winning and losing. It’s a really fine line from being 5-5 and possibly 8-2. There’s really fine line, and it goes back to those 8-10-12 plays in a game – you got to make those plays. You got to put your guys in situations to be successful and that’s my job.”

BOWL ELIGIBILITY NOT A CARROT TO BE DANGLED

As a coach who expects much from his players, Muschamp said he has never considered and certainly is not now using bowl eligibility as any type of motivator for his team going into the Furman game.

“For me it’s about playing better. It’s about coaching better. If you do that, things will take care of themselves,” he said. “We’ve had our opportunities in the last four weeks to do that. We haven’t exactly closed it out. I don’t know that bowl eligibility should be a motivating factor for you as a competitor.

“When you step on the field, you compete. You can do it every day in practice, you can do it every day in meetings, and you do it every day during game day regardless of who is lined up on the other side. That’s the mental attitude you want to have as a competitor. It’s to go out and compete. You don’t need to be motivated by external factors, in my opinion.”

One positive result of becoming bowl eligible, something that the Gators will be on Saturday after their likely victory over the Paladins, is that Florida will get nearly three additional weeks of practice before playing in the game. Those can be used not only to prepare for the upcoming opponent but to set the tone for spring practice in 2012.

“They’re very important,” Muschamp said of the additional practices. “You got a great opportunity to scrimmage your young players. Our young players have been scrimmaging all year. It’s an opportunity to go out and rep, get better, familiarize with your scheme a little more, get guys turns and reps in what they’re doing. There’s no question – generally you try to get 4-5 fundamental practices and then 4-5 practices on your opponent. And then you break for Christmas, come back to the bowl site and get 4-5 more practices. It’s in essence another spring ball. There is no question it is very beneficial for your program.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what adjustments he made at halftime: “Execute. Execute.”

» On playing a tough SEC slate of games: “We have two really good teams in our league in Alabama and LSU. The rest of us you could throw us in a sack and shake us up.”

» On his players fumbling the ball: “We just got to play different guys.”

» On deciding to kick the field goals and not go for touchdowns on fourth down: “The game is all about points. Neither offense was doing a whole lot. It was all about getting points early in the game to me. Get as many points as you can, don’t squelch opportunities in the red zone, which we did. You got to score touchdowns in there.”

» On Brantley’s mental makeup: “John’s a guy that, I’ll tell you, I’m very impressed with him as a person and what he’s all about. He’s all about the right things.”

» On the wide receivers not getting separation: “We got to play better. We got to coach better.”

» On the offensive and defensive lines: “Not very good. Real simple. We’re not deep enough. We don’t have enough numbers. It’s real simple. Just look at the roster. We’ve got good talent. We don’t have enough numbers.”

» On if it will take long to develop depth on the lines: “We’ll recruit well up front. I feel very excited about where we are from that standpoint. We’ll continue to improve and gain depth as far as the recruiting is concerned and do a better job coaching the guys here on campus.”

» On if the 5-5 season has affected recruiting: “None.”

» On why redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has not done more this year: “Given his opportunities, he has played well. A little bit is Andre has made some big plays for us, especially in the middle of the season as we’ve moved forward. They play the same position in most situations, so Andre [Debose]’s made a little bit more vertical plays down the field. Very pleased with Quinton recognized this morning for his effort on the field, his blocking in the game. I look for him to continue getting some opportunities.”

» On if Florida is getting enough out of the freshman class: “I’d have to individually think through in my head. Both quarterbacks are going to be outstanding; I’m pleased with where both of them are. Offensively right now A.C. Leonard has really come on. It really put him behind when he had the knee injury there in camp he missed a lot of time. For a freshman that’s very difficult when you miss that many turns and that many reps. I’m very pleased with the secondary players that have played extremely well for us. Graham Stewart has done some nice things at linebacker. Chris Johnson on special teams has been outstanding, Louchiez Purifoy. For a freshman class, there are a bunch of them playing and probably only three guys who will be redshirted in the class.”

» On why penalty numbers being down overall: “We’ve emphasized it as much as we can go over it. We have crowd noise at every practice. We hard count on defense probably once every 2-3 snaps. In critical situations we talk about it. We text the players about it. We’re exhausting every measure we can of jumping offsides and having false starts offensively. We’re going to continue to do a better job because we’re not doing a good job obviously. We’ve been doing that all along. That’s something that we’ve practiced and we do. That’s just what we do. [...] We’ve talked about it. We text them. We had a t-shirt made [that reads] ‘hard count.’ We’ve done everything. We’re exhausting all measures.”

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11/7: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Florida defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 26-21 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a tough road contest against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 12. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

INJURY UPDATES AND PLAYER AWARDS

The following players will return to practice Monday:
Redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)

The following players will return to practice Tuesday:
Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger (foot)

“He’s fine,” Muschamp said of Brantley. “He got a funny hit on [his arm]. He probably could have gone back in, but I told him to sit down and let Jacoby [Brissett] finish it. It was one of those things that was a funny injury. There is nothing serious at all.”

Additional injury notes:
Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) remain out of action this week. Freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan had surgery Monday morning and will take a redshirt for 2011. Fellow freshman OL Trip Thurman had shoulder surgery earlier this year and will also be redshirted.

Player awards from the Vanderbilt game:
Offensive Player of the Game: Senior running back Jeff Demps
Scrap Iron Award (best OL): Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan
Big Play Award: Jeff Demps (52-yard touchdown)
Extra Effort Award: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (blocking)
Defensive Player of the Game: Freshman cornerback Jaylen Watkins
Hard Hat Award: Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Special Teams Players of the Week: Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (55-yard field goal), sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd (blocked field goal), redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed (onside recover)
Scout Team Players of the Week: Ryan Parrish, Hygens Succes, Tim Clark

Demps was also named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

GAME AND FUTURE OPPONENT STATEMENTS

Muschamp first provided his general thoughts about Saturday’s victory.

“You go back and look at the game and we were balanced on offense. Being able to run the ball helped us with our play actions down the field. It slows the defensive linemen down a good bit up front. We converted on third down about 50 percent and had some big plays. We were able to get some chuck plays. Defensively we really needed to stop the run game and for the most part we did a decent job of that. We have to finish the game better and cover better – on the back end especially. We had some breakdowns [in the secondary] and obviously had some pass rush issues with Rodgers being able to scramble, create and extend plays. Those are the things we’ve really talked to the kids about.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Nov. 12, South Carolina.

“They’re very balanced on offense – 188 yards rushing per game, 180 passing. Offensively Alshon Jeffrey is an outstanding wide receiver. A guy that is 6’4″ or 6’5″ with great ball skills down the field. He’s a tremendous match-up issue in all situations. [...] Defensively Ellis Johnson does a great job. [The unit has] 27 turnovers this year and is led by Melvin Ingram, a guy from a fake punt against Georgia to sacking the quarterback to playing the runs well inside is a really good athlete, a big guy that plays hard with a great motor. I’m really impressed watching him on film. Defense and special teams for them have scored seven touchdowns, so that’s impressive.”

Muschamp also commented on USC head coach Steve Spurrier:

I got great respect for Coach Spurrier, first of all as a player winning the Heisman Trophy here in 1966 and then the job he did as a head coach here for 12 years was outstanding. You look at the championship run and establishing the tradition of what Florida football is as far as winning championships. [...] I think he changed the SEC as far as the passing game is concerned. When he took over in 1990, the SEC was a running league. It was a ground-and-pound league. He came to Florida and did a great job in the throwing game, changing the perception of the SEC to an offensive league but still remained balanced in everything he did.”

PISTOL SET GIVES GATORS A RUN GAME

Between Brantley’s ankle injury and the numerous other problems the Gators have had running the ball, employing the pistol set on Saturday helped get the run game going again and keep the Commodores’ defense honest. In fact, Florida ran at a near two-to-one clip, though UF was also successful through the air.

Muschamp said Monday that employing the pistol helped in protection and opening up throwing seams down the field while also allowing the Gators to call play actions and run the ball inside. He said Florida plans to keep using the set because it assists in keeping defenses off balance.

Brantley is expected to be back under center at South Carolina but calling some runs from the pistol could still be smart in order to keep the turns he has to make on his ankle to a minimum. Muschamp also explained that UF’s pistol set is not the same as the pistol offense first run at Nevada and now UCLA.

“We were running from a set to be able to get to a downhill running game. What they run is a misdirection running game. It’s a different theory. What they run is a package; what we run is a set to be able to get to some downhill run game. What they do is a total package – they run a total offense that is called the pistol offense. We ran a set to get to our downhill running game. We ran it from a different set to enable John to run our downhill running game. We didn’t change what we were doing.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on how the secondary needs to improve: “As far as playing the ball, we’re in situations and we’re in position. You got to play the football. When you’re in position to cover the receiver, you got to play the ball. We just need to finish some plays. [...] Those things are all correctable. Those are all things that we can work on. We’re going to spend a lot time today working on perimeter drill where we work on our eye control, covering and leveraging formations. They just need to improve, and I need to do a better job coaching from my spot.”

» Muschamp on how long he plans on coaching: “I love what I do. I’m very passionate about it. I enjoy coming to work every day regardless of the situation. I can’t picture myself not coaching.”

» Muschamp on if Spurrier called him when he took the Florida job: “I called him to tell him that our doors were always open unless we’re playing South Carolina.”

» Muschamp on redshirt junior DE Earl Okine: “He’s done a nice job. He’s done a better job preparing himself throughout the week as far as practice is concerned and that gives him other opportunities to play.”

» Muschamp on if he is seeing he team mature: “From a competitive standpoint and how we’re practicing, how we’re approaching things, as far as the team is concerned, I do think we’ve made some positive strides.”

» Muschamp on not walking on with the Gators: “Not that Florida missed anything [with me] as a player. I can tell you that.”

» Muschamp on the strides redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard has made: “I think Jaye has played really well. I thought he played well Saturday. He’s a guy that we really challenged him as far as playing hard every snap, giving great effort all the time. Jaye is very talented. He’s strong. He’s a very good athlete. He can bend his lower body, play blocks. A lot of Jaye needs to play hard all the time and do it all the time and be a guy that really shines. I’ve been really proud of his performance and how he’s played this year. I think he’s been very consistent this year.”

» Muschamp on how sophomore safety Matt Elam has stepped up: “He is communicating very well. He was not a very vocal player when I came in here from a standpoint of communicating. He was more worried about getting himself lined up and with what he was doing. He’s got a better understanding of what we’re doing schematically to understand what the other safety needs to do, what the nickel needs to do. He’s got very good playmaking skills and ability. He’s got natural instincts as a football player. He sees the play before it happens a lot. He anticipates the route breaking off. He anticipates where the runner is going to break. He anticipates where the ball is going.”

» Muschamp on freshman fullback Hunter Joyer: “Wow. He’s had an outstanding year. He’s going to be a heck of a football player for us. He’s smart, understands football. He gets it. It’s important to him. He’s very intelligent and tough. He’s a guy who we like giving the ball too as he gets a lot of positive yards after contact. He’s a really good blocker and picks up the game very well. I think he’s had an outstanding freshman season. He’s basically been the starter for us all year.”

» Muschamp on if he watched Alabama-LSU: “I got through about halftime and then fell asleep [out of exhaustion].”

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10/29: Florida vs. Georgia post-game notes

The Florida Gators (4-4, 2-4 SEC) lost yet again on Saturday, dropping a close one to the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs (6-2, 5-1 SEC) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL. Florida has now lost four-straight game for the first time since 1988, leaving head coach Will Muschamp with a lot of questions and decisions to answer going forward. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from both Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.

“We had our opportunities in the game. You have two turnovers inside your 25-yard-line, you give up 14 points on two critical fourth-down plays, the lack of being able to run the football, too many penalties in critical situations. Obviously John [Brantley] went and [it was] a gutsy performance on his part. Very proud of him and his effort. He was a guy who really laid it on the line. We couldn’t get him under center to do some of the things we wanted to do; we knew that going into the game. We felt like we had some things in the throwing game and that’s why we stayed with what we wanted to do in that situations. We got to find some ways to run the football. We cannot be so one-dimensional. That’s something we’ve got to work on. We got a turnover inside the 10, we wind up with two sacks and are out of field goal range. Those are very frustrating to deal with, but we had our opportunities in the last two ball games. We got to close it out and win those games.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

Though redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley returned for the Gators, he was severely limited due to his ankle injury and was unable to take snaps from under center. Some other players were held out of the game, while even more were hurt during the contest, further hurting Florida’s already lacking depth going forward.

Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis did not play after straining his leg two weeks ago against Auburn, redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green hurt his ankle Wednesday in practice, and junior running back Mike Gillislee (ankle) dressed but did not play after injuring his ankle two weeks ago.

In the game Saturday, redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray hurt his shoulder, returned to notch a sack but wound up visiting the locker room and did not return for the second half. Sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs injured his wrist during the game and was also forced to leave the field.

PENALTIES, TURNOVERS AND MISCUES

The Gators had two weeks to figure out how to concentrate on discipline and fundamentals, yet their performance on Saturday seemed to indicate that absolutely nothing had been fixed over the bye week. Florida committed 14 penalties for over 100 last yards on Saturday, which unbelievably is their second-worst total of the season. UF remains last in the nation in penalties.

“There’s two different parts as far as penalties are concerned. Some of them are undisciplined and those are the ones that are tough to deal with. I’ve got to do a better job with the others, so I’ll work on it,” Muschamp said.

Perhaps worst of all, many of the Gators’ miscues in this area came at inopportune times. A pass interference call on third down extended a Georgia drive that Florida needed to stop. A personal foul call on Buck linebacker Ronald Powell on special teams pushed the Gators back to the goal line, and multiple delay of game and false start penalties either took Florida out of scoring range or pushed them far enough back where they could not put together a solid drive.

And then there are the turnovers. The Bulldogs scored 14 points off of two UF fumbles near their own red zone. Georgia posted both touchdowns through the air via jump ball passes on fourth down, each of which was converted rather easily.

“We were in position – there were a couple well-thrown balls and well-caught balls,” Muschamp said. “Both touchdowns, they’re in position to make the play and we’re playing the ball and trying to get the ball off the guy and the guy makes a heck of a throw and a heck of a catch. There’s a couple situations. They’re on scholarship too. They made nice plays, but we got to find a way to get them out though.”

INABILITY TO RUN THE FOOTBALL

Florida struggled with their running game for the fourth-straight contest but unlike previous attempts, this time it was because of a lack of trying. Due to Brantley being limited with what he could do on his ankle, the Gators were unable to call plays from under center, which in turn reduced the team’s chances of putting together a consistent power running game.

“No question it affects the run game,” Muschamp said of Brantley’s limitations. “When you’re in the [shot]gun so much and you run the ball so much east and west, you need to be able to run the ball downhill. When you’re in the gun, it’s hard to run the ball consistently downhill. He was limited with his ankle, but we felt like he gave us the best opportunity to be successful in the game, so that’s what we went with. I would do it again. John played well. We just got to figure out how we can run the ball a little bit more effectively.”

One of the other reasons that Florida has struggled running the ball is that their personnel does not fit the type of offense the team wants to run. Muschamp explained that improvement in that area will come with time.

“I think we got to get better on the line of scrimmage. It’s very difficult to run a power running game with what we want to do right now with who we have,” he admitted. “I like the guys we got, but the bottom line is looking at the situations of where we are. It doesn’t take anybody real educated to figure it out right now.”

SACK ISSUES MOSTLY – BUT NOT ALL – ON OFFENSIVE LINE

With Brantley seemingly being sacked whenever the Gators were trying to put something together, the offensive line was immediately blamed for letting too many rushers through. While that may be true most of the time, Muschamp was quick to point out after the game that there are other things going on at the same time.

“When you look at a sack, everybody wants to look at the offensive line. Did the quarterback hold the ball too long? I think there were some situations like that. There are some situations where we didn’t get open down the field and had a busted route,” he explained. “There are a lot of situations when you have a sack; it’s not just the offensive line’s fault every time it happens. That’s the easiest thing to say, but that’s not always the offensive line’s fault. If we’re in a one-back protection or two-back protection, did the backs block right? There are a lot of things that happen as far as protection issues, and that’s not always the offensive line.”

That being said, tackles junior Xavier Nixon and redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan each had their share of struggles on the evening. Nixon kept bouncing off the line for false starts and both men struggled blocking the edge rushers. Muschamp said that Florida’s inability to run the ball ensured that the edge rushers did not have to respect that part of the game, making it even tougher on the tackles and blockers.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the team’s penalties: “I was disappointed with it.”

» Muschamp on not taking advantage of momentum: “It’s disappointing. You felt good about getting the kickoff return, getting some points on the board, getting some momentum for your team. And then we lay it on the ground twice. We only get one turnover defensively, and we just had some critical mistakes at critical times. We got to make those plays. I told them the last two ball games the bottom line was Auburn and Georgia made those plays and we didn’t. We’re going to have our opportunities and when we get in those situations we need to make the plays.”

» Muschamp on offensive coordinator Charlie Weis calling plays from the booth: ”Just to see the game better. We didn’t feel like we were getting the information right and were searching for some answers for this time offensively to figure out what we can do well. That was something we felt like we could benefit from.”

» Muschamp on sophomore Brad Phillips filling in for Sturgis: “Brad was outstanding. Here’s a guy that steps in, missed the first one, came back and hit two more. Kicked off extremely well with a pretty good wind coming from the one side. He kicked one real deep in the end zone when he was with the wind. I was really proud of his efforts; he stepped up when another guy went down.”

» Muschamp on defensive struggles: “We didn’t get lined up a couple times and had some tempo issues there late. That’s something we worked on and prepared for. We got to make some stops in the red zone. You got to force field goals when they’re in those situations. That’s about where it is.”

» Muschamp on now just playing for pride: “That’s the way it is all the time with me. I don’t ever really talk about the SEC race. I talk about what we got to do to get better as a program every day and stay the course of what we’re trying to do. It’s not always just about the SEC race. We don’t always talk about that. We understand our goal at the beginning of the season. We understand our expectation – the University of Florida has to go to Atlanta. Our job as a competitor is to go out every day – whether you’re a coach or a player – is to work hard to get better, work hard to improve yourself. And that’s what we’re going to do. “

» Muschamp on losing four-straight games: “I don’t really think about losing a whole lot, but obviously it’s happened so we got to regroup and reevaluate where we are. We need to move forward. It’s disappointing, and you can believe there is no one more disappointed or impatient than I am. We’ve got to evaluate ourselves first of all starting with me and then we work from there.”

» Muschamp on how he felt during the game: “I felt good the whole game. I felt like we were in a situation to go win the football game. We had the ball late to win the game. That’s what you want to be in these situations. You got to make the plays in those situations to get it done.”

» Muschamp on how far away the team is right now: “This year? We’re not close. No, I don’t. I think we’re close. I think we got to build our numbers back. I think we got to get better on the line of scrimmage.”

» Senior RB Jeff Demps on the fourth-straight loss: “Things just didn’t go our way tonight like we wanted it to. We just got to stick together as a team. We have to unite from this and stay together.”

» Demps on his kick return touchdown: “All of the credit goes to those 10 guys that were blocking. They gave me a big hole to run through and made it easy.”

» Brantley said that he was still considered “probable” up until game time. He went out early to test the ankle during warm-ups but went back to the locker room to get a bit more treatment and stay off of it was much as possible until the game began.

» Brantley on the 4th and 10 design: “It was a little bit deeper midfield. I was stepping up and knew I had to get it out – the time clock in my head said I had to get it out.”

» Brantley on Weis calling plays from the booth: “He can see the field better up there. I had the headset on each time and we were communicating just fine. There wasn’t too much of a difference.”

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10/18: Muschamp’s Tuesday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

AN APOLOGY FOR HIS LANGUAGE

Muschamp was caught by ESPN cameras on Saturday not only berating officials for what he perceived as a blown call on what was ruled a muffed punt by redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey but also using some foul language while doing so. He felt it was necessary to apologize for his language and did just that on Tuesday.

“I do want to apologize for my language on the sidelines the other night. That’s not something that’s going to be tolerated here at the University of Florida first of all by me and our program. That’s certainly not represented of what this program or this university is about,” he said, specifying that he was not apologizing for his intensity on the sideline.

“It’s the language. You got a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old at home and you got to go home and explain to them what you said. It’s not good and it’s not how we’re going to run our program. That’s it. As far as the sideline stuff is concerned, we’re going to be who we are. I’m just apologizing for the language, nothing else.”

OPENING STATEMENTS

“It’s tough to always have an open week after a loss – certainly after three. We really are a banged up football team. We really need to work on fundamentals and what we need to do up front on both sides of the ball. We’re searching for some answers offensively. Tuesday and Wednesday are fundamental days of really just working on us good-on-good, and then Thursday we will start our preps on Georgia as far as on the field. We start[ed] as a staff on Sunday. That’s kind of where we are and then Friday we’ll have a team lift and run them and then Sunday come back for a team dinner, some walkthroughs and some meetings as we move forward to Georgia.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Oct. 29, Georgia.

“They have a talented football team with three seniors on the offensive line. Aaron Murray is a guy that can hurt you running and throwing; he’s completing over 60 percent of his passes. Isiah Crowell is a guy that has come in as a freshman and done a really nice job in their run game. Orson Charles is a very talented tight end, a guy that can stretch the field vertically, block at the point. Malcolm Mitchell is a freshman receiver that has been really good for them playing the X position. Defensively they have really improved from a year ago. They’re playing well on the defensive side of the ball.”

WEEKLY INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

In addition to his statement about the health of redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Muschamp gave one general status update for a number of other players on the team who are banged up and were limited last week.

He said that the following Gators should practice at some point this week, most likely Wednesday or Thursday depending how their injuries are healing: sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (shoulder/neck), senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle), redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (strained knee), junior RB Mike Gillislee (ankle), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (ankle) and redshirt senior left guard Dan Wenger (foot). “We’re hoping to get all of those guys this week for practice and certainly for the Georgia game,” he added.

POSITION-BY-POSITION EVALUATIONS

Muschamp took time Tuesday before answering any questions to provide a short evaluation of the team position-by-position.

Quarterback: Outside of Brantley, Muschamp said he was pleased with how freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are progressing. “They both have natural leadership ability because of their presence. They’re both competitive,” he said. “They’re very well-liked on the team and very well respected on the team for a freshman, which is hard. It’s hard at that age to have the command and the respect and the presence, and I think both guys have that. They have the ‘it’ factor in my opinion. They have a lot of the intangibles you look for at that position. They certainly are guys that I am very pleased with, and I think the future is bright as far as those two young men are concerned.”

Offensive line: Muschamp said that redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio has been the most consistent performer and that redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan has played great over the last two games. “Up front we need more consistent play in being able to run the football. We got to play better around the quarterback position regardless of who is playing,” he said. Muschamp added that others aside from those in the standard rotation are still competing for playing time but they have to show they deserve it in practice.

Wide receiver: “We need more playmaking ability outside and more consistent play,” Muschamp said. He noted that redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr. was the most consistent pass catcher and Debose has “done some nice things” as far as making big plays vertically.

Running back: Aside from Rainey, Demps and Gillislee, Muschamp said he was pleased with freshman fullback Hunter Joyer’s freshman campaign. He also praised sophomore Trey Burton for succeeding in the package of plays that he has been given. “We’ve been able to move the football in the last two games using that package,” he said, “so we’ll continue to build on that.”

Defensive line: Muschamp praised redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard, sophomore DT Dominique Easley, sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd, redshirt junior DT Omar Hunter and senior DE William Green for all making improvements throughout the season. “Defensively I think we’ve taken some steps up front and played a little better,” he said. We’re not where we need to be, but I do feel good about the improvements we’ve made in the last three weeks as we head into the last five ballgames.”

Linebackers: He similarly praised redshirt junior Lerentee McCray and said the team would not be where it is from a defensive standpoint without junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins. “We need to develop some guys past those two to get more production from that position,” he said.

Secondary: The praise, of course, started with the position’s best player. “Matt Elam is having a solid year as we hit the half-way point. He’s paying very productive for us. We moved him to the nickel in the Auburn game because I saw a lot of the perimeter runs where they were very effective. We felt like we needed to put him in at a point of attack in the game, and he certainly was very effective,” Muschamp said. He added that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson has been a pleasant surprise but that the unit has a long way to go. “We need to be more productive on the back end,” he said. “Let’s be realistic. We’ve played three teams in a row that have run the ball over 40 times, so we haven’t exactly been tested on the back end. We need to play better when those opportunities come up.”

Special teams: Muschamp said that Sturgis has been “outstanding” and has been kicking the ball well not only on field goals and extra points but for kickoffs, too. As far as freshman punter Kyle Christy, who earned his first start Saturday, Muschamp noted that “he’s a guy that can flip the field for us” and said he was “really pleased with how he punted last week.” He reiterated that the team has had no problems at punt returner until Saturday night but that he is going to look at other players to do the job in addition to Rainey, Debose, Hammond and sophomore WR Robert Clark.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the team’s biggest flaw at this point: “Things that have really hurt our team obviously is turnover margin. We’re -7 – last in the SEC. We haven’t had a turnover defensively in the last three ball games. It’s something we emphasize and talk about. Obviously we’ve got to find different measures in order to create some positive momentum for our offense whether it’s in special teams or offense. Gaining possession of the ball is critical for us.”

» On improving the offense: “We’re looking for answers right now offensively. We’re working diligently as a staff to find what we can do to move the ball and score points. We certainly understand in the last three games we have not done that effectively enough. Regardless of the circumstances and the situation, we’ve got to find way to move the ball and score. That’s what we’re searching for at this point.”

» On the plan for the bye week: “This week for us is more focused on Florida and what we have got to do to get better. As we move forward in the open week here, we just need to make tremendous strides and improvements with our team, identify the weakness which we obviously have some and move forward with our guys. Our guys competed hard against Auburn. I thought they played hard and laid it on the line. We just came up short.”

» On if he thought about playing Georgia each year when taking the Florida job: “I’ve faced Georgia a lot before as a defensive coordinator. I enjoyed my time there, but I’ve worked at LSU, I’ve worked at Auburn in this league. I’ve worked for different coaches that are coaching at different universities. My loyalties reside with people, not places necessarily. Certainly my loyalty is here with the University of Florida.”

» On Driskel and Brissett possibly competing for three more years: “I wouldn’t necessarily want that to happen. Both guys are really good players and both guys deserve the opportunities that they have gotten. That’s something, as we work through the week, that we’ve got to manage. And there are no better hands to manage that then Charlie Weis’s, in my opinion. […] That’s something that we’re going to cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now we just need to get these guys the 50-50 reps for this week and continue to improve our football team moving on to Georgia.”

» On if playing Brissett changed his long-term plans at that position: “It doesn’t really alter anything.”

» On Christy stepping up into the starting punter role: “Kyle – from a leg-strength standpoint – has been the guy. It’s been an operations standpoint. He got his operation time down in being able to kick. Obviously he flipped the field and was a big difference in the game and for our team, that’s not something we necessarily have done well throughout the season up to this point.”

» On his own intensity on the sideline: “I don’t think it hurts anything. I can tell you that. I’m going to be who I am. That’s what I’ve said from the beginning.”

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10/11: Weis on Gillislee, flexibility, Gators’ offense

As the Florida Gators prepare for their second-straight road test on Oct. 4 against the No. 24 Auburn Tigers, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s loss and the upcoming contest in Auburn, AL.

WHY GILLISLEE DESERVES MORE TIME

Junior running back Mike Gillislee has continued to prove to his coaches, teammates and fans that he deserves to carry the ball more often. After his performance on Saturday against LSU, Gillislee showed that hard work, determination and positive attitude can really pay off in the long run.

“He’s probably the perfect example of a team guy. Most of these guys they all have illusions of grandeur like they’re the best guy on the team,” Weis said on Tuesday. “You come in and now all of a sudden you have [Chris] Rainey and [Jeff] Demps ahead of you that are playing very well. You’re kind of waiting in the wings and just playing hard in practice every day, never opening your mouth and just going hard every single snap that you get and on special teams.

“All of a sudden, you get in there and you start getting more reps and more reps and you produce. He’s a lesson to a lot of these guys that are backups to see what can happen if you’re prepared to be ready, and they call your number and you produce. That’s going to get him on the field more.”

Another reason that Gillislee will get an increased workload? Unlike Rainey and Demps, he has seen success running between the tackles in Southeastern Conference play. Though he only weighs in at 205 lbs., Gillislee has proven he is better suited and better equipped physically to run the ball inside than the starters.

“He likes to run in there. Most running backs can’t get to the outside fast enough,” Weis said. “He likes it in there. He likes contact. Most running backs don’t like contact. They prefer not to get hit rather than get hit. Getting hit is part of his game. There’s times where, if he has a choice to make somebody miss and try to dance or try to run through somebody, he’s one of those guys were a lot of times he’ll try to run them over. He plays way bigger than his size.”

BECOMING A MORE FLEXIBLE COORDINATOR

With his starting quarterback out at least one more week and an offense that has only scored 21 combined points against top of the top teams in the country, Weis realizes that the Gators have to make some changes. It did not help that he had to start his third signal-caller on Saturday with a limited package of plays that did not allow Florida to pass the ball as much as he wanted.

“If you score 10 or 11 points on a weekly basis, you’re going to lose most of them – if not all of them. What we have to do is be more aggressive. You’re in that catch-22 when you’re dealing with inexperience at the quarterback position. We will be more aggressive [this week],” he said.

Weis also explained why he was unable to keep the offensive momentum going two weeks ago when redshirt senior John Brantley went down and freshman Jeff Driskel was forced to enter the game. He placed the blame on his lack of preparation.

“Let’s go back two weeks. John gets hurt. What you could do is you could have a better auxiliary plan in place so that if John goes down, we’re going to go just to this auxiliary plan,” he said. “But to be honest with you, I thought we were going to have to throw the ball to win – as you saw what our game plan was. You don’t go into that auxiliary plan with guys that have been here for three days saying, ‘OK we’re going to let you throw it on this defense on every snap.’ It’s quite a drastic change from what the plan really was to win the game.”

Part of Weis’s auxiliary plan against LSU was using RB Trey Burton behind center for many of the running plays. He said that Burton was a viable option for the team and will be one going forward if UF must continue using young quarterbacks.

“You better have, especially going into that game, you better have some options, some versatility within your package,” he explained. “I wasn’t going to wait around and let us be stagnant. […] We had the package. I used it the second series. Didn’t intend to use it quite so early, but what you didn’t want to do was – it was already 7-0 – you don’t want to let the game get away from you too quickly.“

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On freshman QBs Driskel and Jacoby Brissett: “I like both these guys. I like them a lot. I don’t like one of them a lot. I like both of them a lot. They both have attributes to be a very good quarterback. [...] I’d love Brantley to be here this week, but you can only play one quarterback at a time. Right now my job is to make sure I just get those guys ready to go.”

» On learning about Brissett’s presence during recruiting: “I was scrambling a bit to help get him here, but one of the things that I liked the most besides watching him on tape was actually watching him play basketball. I watched his basketball team, which was really good. But I watched him play on his basketball team and watched his presence and his command playing basketball. It’s so much easier when you can watch a guy physically doing it. That’s something that’s different. Presence is not something that you can watch on tape. You can watch production, but you can’t watch presence.”

» On rumors about redshirt freshman QB Tyler Murphy transferring: “He’s been with me for the last five hours, so that would be news to me.”

» On if he’s concerned about the blocking of tight ends and running backs: “If you can’t block then you can never be a regular player. You can never be an every-down player. Because a running back who can’t pick up the blitz, you have to take him out when there’s a blitz. A tight end who can’t block the run, you’re going to be looking for somebody better. And the same is true for wide receivers. If they can run and catch but they can’t block anyone, you can’t play them on a regular basis because you’re going to run the ball at least half the time.”

» On if his offense is physically capable of matching up with teams like Alabama and LSU: “That’s a moot point because I’m just worried about Auburn. That’s what I’m worried about. Hopefully we’ll get to revisit that question down the road. Hopefully that question has some merit this year. Right now, we can’t be worrying about that. We have to be worrying about Auburn.”

» On the improvement of redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan: “He’s played with a lot of physicality. That’s what’s got him more time. Matt is a physical player, but when he knows what he’s doing and can really turn it loose, he can be a dominant physical presence. That’s what he’s shown to earn himself more playing time. In that last game, he was one of the players for us that stood out and played with physicality the whole game.”

» On if his offensive line is undersized: “It depends on who you’re playing against. If you really look out our offensive line versus LSU last week, no, they weren’t undersized. It depends on the opponent and how big they are versus how big you are. I’ve been with offensive lines where everyone averaged 280 and I’ve been with offensive lines where everyone averaged 315. And I’ve won with both of them. Size isn’t always the factor.”

» On if using so many special packages early has hurt his playbook: “Now [other teams] practice that and you do other stuff. That’s part of coaching. There’s other things you can do off of the same thing. We only ran a handful of things.”

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