8/18: Muschamp on depth chart, competition heating up as season approaches

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to kick off his team’s final few days of practice before preparation finally begins for the team’s first opponent on Saturday, Aug. 30.

INJURY UPDATES

The Gators were dealt their first notable injury blow this season as Muschamp announced that freshman defensive tackle Thomas Holley, who was already dealing with scar tissue on a sports hernia he had repaired in high school, also had an undetected torn labrum in his hip and was scheduled for surgery on Monday. Holley will take a redshirt.

Senior offensive guard Trenton Brown (foot contusion), redshirt sophomore defensive back Marcus Maye (hamstring) and freshman offensive tackle David Sharpe (ankle) were all injured in practice this week, though all are expected back soon. Brown will return to practice on Tuesday, while Maye and Sharpe are scheduled to get back onto the field next Monday after a week on the sideline.

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8/3: Muschamp breaks down Gators entering 2014

The Florida Gators will take the field for the first time since April on Monday morning at 6 a.m. for the official start of fall practice ahead of the 2014 season.

Head coach Will Muschamp, heading into his fourth year at the helm of the program, held a press conference during Florida’s annual media day on Sunday to discuss the make-up of the Gators heading into the fall.

INJURY UPDATES, PRACTICE CHANGES

A pleasant change of pace for fans from a year ago is the Florida football team entering camp healthy with no major injury or illness concerns. The Gators do, however, have a couple of players who will be limited, two of which have been listed as so purely for precautionary reasons.

Freshman defensive back J.C. Jackson, a four-star prospect who underwent shoulder surgery in April, will start training camp as a non-contact participant despite being ahead of schedule for his recovery. Jackson will likely be cleared for contact after 7-10 days.

Both coming off ACL tears that sidelined them for the entire 2014 campaign, sixth-year redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose and redshirt freshman linebacker Matt Rolin have been completely cleared for contact but will nevertheless be limited to start camp. “Always in those situations, you want to make sure those guys are fully ready to go,” Muschamp noted.

Florida, which will open up with a split squad during the first two days of practice on Monday and Tuesday before practicing as a full team at night from Wednesday to Friday this week, has also adjusted its schedule to try and help prevent injuries.

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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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Muschamp gathers Gators in Fort Lauderdale

Florida Gators fans in Broward County got the chance to hear head coach Will Muschamp speak for the first time since 2011 when he stopped by the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for his second Gator Gathering of the spring.

Muschamp touched on a number of topics during his hour-long appearance behind the podium on May 1 and stuck around afterward to sign autographs for all of the nearly 250 fans in attendance.

Below is a recap of some of the most newsworthy and interesting subjects that Muschamp discussed both in front of the public and in his pre-event media availability, which was attended on behalf of InsidetheGators.com.

» Muschamp said he has definitely learned some lessons through his first three seasons on the job: “Keep your quarterback healthy. Number one through five. I think every year you go back and look at the growth stages from being a coordinator through now being a head coach. I don’t know that I was a much different coach than I was when we won 11 games. Keep your quarterback healthy. Anticipating issues that come up, maybe, after being through an experience like that. I’ve never been through an experience as an assistant coach. I’ve had head coaches that have been coaching for a long time call me and say, ‘I had no idea the amount of things that happened and occurred.’ You live and you learn. I never want to experience it again, I can assure you of that. But I think as much as anything anticipation of things that come up.”

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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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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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