Gators LB Antonio Morrison’s suspension reduced to one game, will return vs. Hurricanes

Game Week – Monday: Opening Week Depth Chart | RT Chaz Green Out for Season, RB Matt Jones Set for Miami | New Mr. Two Bits, Muschamp on Tight Ends, Season Opener

Florida Gators sophomore Mike linebacker Antonio Morrison‘s two-game suspension has been dropped to one game, head coach Will Muschamp announced on Monday.

Morrison, who was suspended by Muschamp on July 21 after being arrested for the second time in five weeks, will be held out of the lineup when Florida hosts Toledo on Aug. 31 but return for UF’s trip to Miami on Sept. 7.

“After a thorough review of the Antonio Morrison situation and how he’s handled his punishment, I’m going to suspend him for this game only,” Muschamp said. “I just don’t feel like his actions warranted a two-game suspension.”

Expected to start for the Gators, Morrison was first arrested on a charge of misdemeanor simple battery on June 16 after allegedly striking a bouncer. He accepted a deferred prosecution agreement from the state of Florida, agreeing to pay fines, perform community service and complete other tasks during a six-month probationary period in order to get the charge expunged from his record.

Morrison was then charged with resisting arrest without violence and harassing an on-duty animal after he barked at a police dog early in the morning of July 21.

Muschamp immediately suspended Morrison for two games after learning of the second arrest, but the charges were completely dropped two days later with state attorney Bill Cervone saying Morrison’s arrest was “overzealous to the point it was embarrassing.”

Due to the nature of the second arrest and the punishment Morrison has already received – missing numerous practices and undergoing internal punishment – Muschamp felt it was necessary to allow him to the field early.

“He’s very remorseful about the whole situation, and we’ve moved forward,” Muschamp added. “Guys make mistakes and have poor judgment at times. I’m just disappointed with how the entire night was handled.”

Redshirt junior Michael Taylor will start in Morrison’s place against Toledo.

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Florida Gators 2013 opening week depth chart

Game Week – Monday: LB Antonio Morrison’s Suspension Reduced | RT Chaz Green Out for Season, RB Matt Jones Set for Miami | New Mr. Two Bits, Muschamp on Tight Ends, Season Opener

Though things could still change over the next five days, the Florida Gators on Monday morning released the team’s first official depth chart for the 2013 season.

Florida omitted players that are not participating in the season opener due to injury or suspension; therefore, the depth chart below is an “active” version rather than a “best-case scenario” version. Notations marked with (») can be found below certain positions.

OnlyGators.com will update this post shortly with additional details and thoughts from head coach Will Muschamp‘s Monday press conference.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Tyler Murphy
RB: 33 Mack Brown, 37 Mark Herndon, 10 Valdez Showers
» 24 Matt Jones is not playing on Saturday.
FB: 43 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson
WR (Z): 83 Solomon Patton, 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 85 Chris Thompson
» 13 Latroy Pittman and 4 Andre Debose (out for season) knocked out of Z.
F Position: 8 Trey Burton, 13 Latroy Pittman, 30 Mike McNeely
TE: 88 Clay Burton, 87 Tevin Westbrook, 84 Colin Thompson
» 18 Kent Taylor not on the three-deep.

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 76 Max Garcia
» 74 Trenton Brown no longer the back-up to Humphries.
LG: 76 Max Garcia, 63 Trip Thurman
» 77 Ian Silberman no longer the back-up to Garcia.
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne
RG: 64 Kyle Koehne, 77 Ian Silberman
» 67 Jon Halapio is not playing Saturday; Thurman moved to left guard.
RT: 73 Tyler Moore, 74 Trenton Brown
» 75 Chaz Green is out for the season; Brown moved to right tackle.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators 2013 opening week depth chart

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Powell, Fowler rush Gators defense up a notch

If Will Muschamp is to believe what he sees on the practice fields, the Florida Gators may have finally put together a reliable and consistent pass rushing duo for the first time in his tenure as the head coach in Gainesville, FL.

Couple the return of redshirt junior Ronald Powell with the emergence of sophomore Dante Fowler, Jr., and the Gators have a potentially productive one-two punch that could very well move Florida’s defense from a top-five contender to best in the nation.

Powell, who missed the entire 2012 season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament that was ruptured again during practice just as he was set to return to the field, is finally off of doctors’ tables and on the field for the Gators. He worked out with the team all summer long and shined for Florida early on when fall camp convened.

“He’s really excited to practice, and I’m maybe more excited than him to see him on the field in practice,” Muschamp said of Powell. “I’ve been through these situations before with guys that come back from injuries. You just manage them through it, and sometimes with a guy like him, it’s hard to manage it because he’s going to want to go, go, go all the time, and there are days we’re going to want to shut him down and make sure we prepare him the right way for a long season.

“But I have tremendous expectations of where he is. The strength levels are very good. The knee is very stable. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s in really good shape. He’s worked as hard as any of our players have all summer to put himself in a situation to have a great year.”

Fans will get the first opportunity to see Powell practice on Thursday evening as the Gators open up the first of four camps to the public. But if new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin’s evaluation of him thus far is any indication, Powell may very well be in for the double-digit sack season he hoped to achieve as a true sophomore in 2011.

Continue Reading » Powell, Fowler rush Gators defense up a notch

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8/14: Durkin on Morrison and McMillian, limiting Purifoy, Gators young secondary talent

For the first time this fall, new Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday to discuss some of the latest developments concerning his side of the ball and the team in general.

M&M BOYS

Sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison made a big splash for the Gators as a true freshman in 2012, starting three games in place of Jelani Jenkins and finishing the year with 34 tackles and a big sack/forced fumble in the final regular season game against Florida State. Though Morrison will miss the first two games of the 2013 campaign (as of press time) for off-the-field incidents over the summer, he returned to practice last week and is already looking like his old self.

“The guy brings great energy to practice. He’s very physical. He loves playing football. He’s very into what he does. He’s got great respect from his teammates and coaches. He’s been a pro about it since he’s been back,” Durkin said on Wednesday.

“Everyone was excited to see him back out there. He’s their guy, one of their teammates, so they were excited when he came back. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not, but we had a great practice the day he came back. But we’ve had several great practices, so I don’t know how much that had to do with it. But we’re all happy to see him back.”

Like Morrison a year ago, freshman LB Daniel McMillian is earning some high praise from the coaching staff for his tenacious work ethic and eye-catching athletic ability. Durkin certainly notices the similarities between the two players.

“Those guys, they really want to learn the game. They’re hungry for more. They’re not just out there practicing and then move on and don’t think about it again,” he said. “They’re both in their playbooks a lot and watching film. They don’t want to be on the field and not know what they’re supposed to do because they’re competitive. They want to be in a spot where they’re going to go succeed, so they put the time in to do it.”

He continued: “D-Mac is a guy that competes and loves football. He is in the film room all the time. He’s always trying to get better, asking questions on the field and off the field. He really wants to be great. He wants to play and contribute and he will. You mix that with the ability level he has and you have something pretty special right there. We saw that going into the recruiting process with him, and that’s what we got here.”

Continue Reading » 8/14: Durkin on Morrison and McMillian, limiting Purifoy, Gators young secondary talent

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8/8: Gators evaluate each other in practice

A handful of Florida Gators football players met with the media on Thursday to discuss how the team is looking at the start of fall practices.

“IT’S LIKE WE GOT TO PLAY WITH PILLOWS NOW.”

Suffice to say, redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor is not pleased with the NCAA’s new targeting and contact rules that restrict hits in games and allow referees on the field to assess penalties and eject players during games.

“It’s unfortunate. It’s kind of hard. It’s like we got to play with pillows now,” he quipped on Thursday. “[The coaches] tell you. We watch film. If you come through free on a blitz, they tell you that you got to target low. If you got a receiver flying across the middle, we don’t kill them in practice, but they let you know you can’t go targeting his head. I understand they’re trying to make the game safer.”

Taylor does not plan to change the way he plays, however, noting that thinking about the rule could result in mistakes being made on the field.

“I’m just going to react and play,” he said. “You can’t hold back because that’s when you give up plays, you give up big plays, giving up touchdowns. You can’t think when you’re on the field sometimes; you just got to react. So that’s what I feel. That’s all we have to do. And sometimes it’s out of our hands.”

Taylor also explained the message that head coach Will Muschamp conveyed to the team during meetings throughout the offseason.

“He’s telling us: ‘Be smart. Play smart about it. Don’t go running directly into a guy’s helmet. Don’t launch yourself. If you’re going to hit somebody, hit them face-up. Don’t launch yourself into them. If you’re making a tackle, wrap him up like you’re taught in Pop Warner.’”

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8/6: Burton cam, Murphy stepping up, receivers improving, defenders getting ejected

A handful of Florida Gators football players met with the media on Tuesday to discuss how the team is looking at the start of fall practices.

VIDEO: PRACTICE THROUGH THE EYES OF A PLAYER

Senior Trey Burton, who is still listed as a running back, said Tuesday that he has been working the most at wide receiver though he did admit that he is doing “a little bit of everything.” In a prior practice, Florida strapped a Go Pro camera to Burton’s helmet so fans can get a player’s view of what it is like to go through the motions.

MURPHY SOLID BUT DRISKEL STILL THE LEADER

With junior quarterback Jeff Driskel still sidelined following his appendectomy, redshirt junior back-up Tyler Murphy has been running with the first team in practice and appears to be doing a good job as a substitute. The reviews are positive from his teammates and coaches thus far, and Murphy believes he taking a major step forward in his development as a signal caller.

“It’s been a good experience,” he said, according to The Gainesville Sun “I’m just trying to be productive. Things have been going well for me. There’s still a lot I need to work on. But I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better, especially with the amount of reps I’ve been able to get. I want to continue to build trust in my teammates so they feel comfortable with me being the guy if that ever happens. I’m really just trying to develop and grow as a leader and help this team become successful in any way, shape or form.”

Though Murphy is doing an admirable job, Driskel remains Florida’s leader and has been taking mental reps from the sidelines while watching the Gators’ first few fall practices. Burton said Tuesday that the team is pleased with how Driskel has been attacking playing quarterback and being the one guy his teammates can count on whether on or off the field.

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8/1: Muschamp breaks down Gators entering 2013

Florida Gators’ 2013 Media Day: Story: Injured Matt Jones, Jon Halapio, others join Jeff Driskel on sidelines | Story: Appendectomy a bump in the road for confident Driskel | Story: It’s now or never for Florida WR Andre Debose | Story: RB Brown, QB Murphy ready to step up for Gators

The Florida Gators will take the field for the first time since April on Friday morning at 6 a.m. for the official start of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

Head coach Will Muschamp, heading into his third year at the helm of the program, held a press conference during Florida’s annual media day on Thursday to discuss the make-up of the Gators heading into the fall. Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel spoke after Muschamp and addressed some similar topics.

OPENING STATEMENTS

» Overall: “I love this time of year, training camp. You see your football team develop through the offseason program, through spring practice, then on their own in the summer, preparing themselves for the season. You get to see the older guys and see the improvements they needed to make, whether it’s in the weight room or schematically, watching film, and preparing themselves for position battles and a lot of situations. You get to see the young guys you recruited and how they looked when they get on the field with the other guys and see how they mix it up. This is a huge time of the year as far as the development of your football team as you move forward and certainly an exciting time for us.”

» On the offense: “Do we need to be more balanced and efficient in throwing the football? That’s been well documented, but I think we’re better up front. We’ve been better at wideout, and I think we’re better at the quarterback position. But we need to do that August 31st, and we need to prepare that way to that point. We still have some questions at tight end, and what’s behind Jeff at the quarterback position, and continue to have playmakers at the running back position and outside. Those are some things we need to continue to work through.”

» On the defense: “Concerned about depth at the linebacker position more than anything. The experience, I think we’ve recruited well, but those guys need to gain some experience through training camp, and obviously we’re not as good at the safety position in spring. Very concerned heading into fall camp with those question marks up the middle of your defense. I do think we’re good enough up front to be fine. I think we’ve got a good combination of guys that can play, play well, and play the way we need to play to get to Atlanta.”

» On special teams: “Placekicker is an issue. Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips both have the ability to do the job, but they’ve never done it in the situations they’re going to be put into. So we may change that a little philosophically of what we think when we cross the 50.”

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2013 SEC Media Days – Gators ready to rock

Florida Gators at 2013 SEC Media Days: Game times vs. Toledo, Miami set | Muschamp: I’m “100% responsible” for players | Easley steals the show | VIDEOS: Florida players have fun interviewing each other

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley and redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio represented the team on Tuesday by participating at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, AL. Below are highlights from Muschamp’s session along with some player comments.

MUSCHAMP FIRES A SHOT AT URBAN MEYER

Before he stepped up to the main podium, Muschamp spoke with reporters in a side session and was asked about Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer turning in Florida and running backs coach Brian White (Meyer’s former team and former assistant coach) for a minor secondary recruiting violation. Meyer and OSU also reported UF for what they perceived to be another recruiting violation last year.

“We appreciate our friends from Ohio making sure we are compliant with NCAA rules,” Muschamp said, according to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples. “They certainly know something about NCAA rules.”

Muschamp continued: “It’s really a dead issue. In both situations we were turned in by Ohio, the University of Florida didn’t do anything wrong.”

PUNISHMENT STILL UP IN THE AIR

Muschamp also told reporters that he has not decided whether sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison will be suspended for any games due to his arrest on a charge of misdemeanor simple battery one month ago. He has already been disciplined by the Gators but additional punishment has yet to be determined.

Morrison accepted a deferred prosecution agreement from the State of Florida and will pay fines, perform community service and complete other tasks during a six-month probationary period in order to get the charge expunged from his record.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp announced Tuesday that only two players would be limited heading into fall training camp – redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trip Thurman and freshman LB Alex Anzalone – both of whom are nursing shoulder injuries after going under the knife during the spring.

He expects both players to eventually return to practice in the fall but noted that each would likely miss 10-12 sessions before being cleared by team trainers. Otherwise, he believes the Gators are “pretty healthy” on the injury front.

Redshirt junior BUCK Ronald Powell, who missed the entire 2012 season with a pair of anterior cruciate ligament surgeries, will be cleared for the start of fall practice.

“Probably the guy I’m most excited to see is Ronald Powell,” Muschamp said. “Here is a guy who has been through a lot of adversity. He’s been cleared to go after it in fall camp. A guy I’m really excited to get back on the field to see is No. 7 running around in orange and blue, a guy that’s been through an awful lot. Two surgeries. Never complained. Never got down about anything. [He] is truly a great individual and excited that he’s a leader of our football team as well.”

POSITION-BY-POSITION ANALYSIS

As part of his 2,400-word filibuster opening statement, Muschamp went in-depth about each position on the Florida football team and often spoke at length about particular players. Below is a breakdown of what he had to say about those positions.

Continue Reading » 2013 SEC Media Days – Gators ready to rock

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