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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Gameday: No. 10 Florida Gators vs. Toledo

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 85°F, partly cloudy / scattered t-stomrs (20%), winds SW at 6 mph
Time: 12:21 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Best deals on Florida Gators tickets starting at $28 on TiqIQ

TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Cara Capuano) [Affiliates]
SiriusXM: 136/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

No. 10 FLORIDA GATORS TOLEDO ROCKETS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Matt Campbell
Record: 0-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Mid-American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -22 | O/U: 55.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida and Toledo have never played on the gridiron*, but UF is 14-1 in the last two seasons against unranked opponents under Muschamp.
» The Rockets have never played a team from the SEC.
» The Gators are 79-27 all-time in season openers (64-6 in Gainesville) and have won 23-straight games to begin a season, the longest streak in the SEC and second-longest streak in the nation (Nebraska, 27).
» UF opens the 2013 campaign ranked in the polls for the 23rd-straight season but in the top 10 for the first time since 2010.
» Toledo finished 9-4 (6-2 MAC) in 2012 and are also coming a devastating bowl game loss, falling 41-15 to Utah in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
» Entering the season, Florida has what is widely considered as the toughest schedule in the country with four games scheduled against preseason top-15 opponents plus a road game at Miami in Week 2.
» In 2012, the Gators finished a 7-0 at home for just the third time in school history, a mark that matched the 2006 and 2009 UF teams.
» Florida is 12-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards). The Gators are also 14-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 10-2 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 12-3 when scoring first (6-5 when an opponent scores first) and 14-1 when leading at the half (4-7 when tied or trailing at the break).
» UF’s .878 (129-18) home winning percentage is best in the nation since 1990.
» Florida still leads the nation in interceptions (96), interception return yards (1,688) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (16) since 2008.
» Wide receivers coach Joker Phillips and special teams coordinator Jeff Choate are new additions to the Gators’ coaching staff. Also helping the team this season are thee former Florida players – undergraduate assistant Mike Peterson and graduate assistants Chris Leak and Duke Lemmens.
» Safety Jordan Haden, the brother of Joe Haden who transferred to Toledo after enrolling at UF in the spring of 2010, injured his collarbone and will not play Saturday.
» One-time Gators wide receiver commit Rodney Adams, who was unable to qualify academically, accepted an offer from the Rockets and will play in The Swamp.
» Toledo bested Florida in every offensive category rank in 2012, coming in ahead of their hosts in rushing offense (35-39), passing offense (48-114), total offense (32-103) and scoring offense (44-76) last season. The Gators, however, were miles ahead in defensive ranks including rushing defense (4-78), passing defense (17-116), total defense (5-109) and scoring defense (5-67).

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!

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Wrapping up 2013 fall camp for the Florida Gators

It is less than 24 hours before the No. 10 Florida Gators host Toledo in the season opener for both teams at 12:21 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. With the offseason now coming to a close, it is time to empty out the notebook of saved thoughts from Florida student-athletes that did not make it into the dozens of stories written over the last few weeks. Check out links to a number of the preseason features below and the remainder of the quotes after the break.

» Florida QB Jeff Driskel learning to get down
» Gators LB Antonio Morrison apologizes but holds back details of arrests, punishments
» Gators RBs Mack Brown, Valdez Showers ready for opportunity
» Don’t forget about Gators CB Jaylen Watkins
» What the Browns can do for the Gators in 2013
» Hype train rolls on for Florida S Marcus Maye
» Emotional walk-on RB Mark Herndon earns UF scholarship
» Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler, Jr. rush Gators defense up a notch
» Mike Peterson impressed by Will Muschamp, ready to coach
» Appendix out, wound healed, Jeff Driskel ready to work
» Assistant Joker Phillips developing much-needed improvement at wide receiver
» Cody Riggs hopes to lock down a starting gig (he did)

» Senior cornerback Jaylen Watkins on how junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy looks heading into the season: “Loucheiz is very physical. He has all the things that cornerback needs. He can press you, he can off play you and he’s very, very fast. I think he has all the tools to be a great cornerback. Either you get better or you get worse during the offseason and as you progress during the year. Watching Loucheiz from his freshman year to how he is now, he’s made a really big improvement. I’m actually excited to watch him play this year, even though I’ll be on the field with him.”

» Senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley on changes he has seen from junior quarterback Jeff Driskel in the offseason: “I believe he has much more confidence in himself. He’s more confident in himself, so he’s more vocal to the team and understands what his role is.”

» Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Ronald Powell on sophomore LB Antonio Morrison and his offseason arrests: “First off, I want to say it’s very unfortunate. He’s a guy that’s really passionate about this game. He loves the game. That’s probably why he’s suspended because coach knows he loves the game so much. He has to step in and give some consequences. Once it’s all over, it’s going to be good to see a teammate that loves the sport as much as he does, and loves his teammates as much as he does, to be back out there and get the experience of running out there in The Swamp together as a team collectively, just sharing that with him. I know he’s excited for that and he’s waiting for that and this is something he’s not taking lightly.”

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Peterson impressed by Muschamp, ready to coach

A Gainesville, FL, native, former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson has spent the last 14 years travelling across the country with three different NFL franchises but never strayed too far away from home.

With his family still in Alachua County and his charity – the Mike Peterson Foundation – based in Alachua, FL, he has been in and out of the area plenty over the years.

It was not until 2011, however, that Peterson rekindled his relationship with the Gators football program. That year, he learned of his induction into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a “Gator Great” and had the opportunity to meet new head coach Will Muschamp for the first time.

“Man, I’m all for him,” Peterson told OnlyGators.com in April 2011. “I had a chance to meet with him. I love everything about him. I love the passion he brings to the game. [I’m] loving that he’s a defensive-minded guy. I’m all for him, man.”

As luck would have it, Peterson is now working on the same coaching staff as Muschamp after a suggestion from his academic advisor at Florida – he is two classes away from graduating with an undergraduate degree in sociology – led him to reach out and inquire about a coaching position with the Gators.

“I had been talking with him and going to class and slowly trying to get towards my degree. He mentioned to me, ‘Why don’t you go out and work with the team?’ It’s something I had thought about but never taken the initiative,” Peterson explained Tuesday. “I went and spoke with Coach Muschamp about it and he was very accepting of it. A little different than I would have expected, but he was very accepting of it. Just knowing him over a couple years, coming back and speaking with the team, I knew it would be a place I would definitely fit in. And the rest is history.”

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8/12: Muschamp on Joyer’s injury, Jones missing games, standouts from Florida’s scrimmage

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media during his team’s second full week of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

INJURIES CONTINUE TO MOUNT

There appears to be no slowing down Florida’s rash of fall injuries. Though junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (appendectomy) returned to practice over the weekend and both redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia (back) and redshirt sophomore G Trip Thurman (shoulder) were cleared – as expected – on Monday, the Gators added another player their long injury list over the weekend.

Junior fullback Hunter Joyer pulled his hamstring Sunday and will miss a 7-10 days.

He joins sophomore running back Matt Jones (viral infection – out indefinitely), redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral – 7-10 days), senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (sprained patella – one week), senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins (sprained foot – one week) and freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (meniscus surgery – 3-4 weeks) on the sidelines.

Jones began participating in cardiovascular activities last week but is not close to returning to practice. Muschamp said team doctors want to avoid a “relapse of the situation” and ensure that he makes a full recovery before returning to the field. He also indicated that Jones’s absence could stretch into the 2013 campaign.

“Beginning of the season, at some point, whether it’s the first week or the second week or as you head into the open week, he’s going to play for us this year,” he said. “It’s totally up to [the doctors] as far as the things they’re telling me right now. That’s why I said we’re a little bit in uncharted waters coming into having the type of infection he had and then you’re talking about the heat we’re in and that sort of thing. I think we just need to be really careful right now.”

Muschamp then reiterated what one of Jones’s doctors told him about his recovery. “When you’re dealing with the human body, you never know. You don’t know how he’s going to respond and how quickly. The great thing is he’s young, he’s in great shape and it knocked him down a little bit, but he’s a guy that’s going to respond very quickly.”

Halapio was reevaluated on Friday when Muschamp said he expected him to be cleared for action by Monday. Instead, he will miss at least another week of action.

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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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SIX BITS: NFL, Rainey, Beal, Rosario, track

1 » In addition to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey (who is expected to be released from his contract) and Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson (a restricted free agent), six other former Florida Gators currently under contract with NFL teams will be unrestricted free agents the day after the Super Bowl. Those players include Atlanta Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Louis Murphy, Kansas City Chiefs LB Brandon Siler, Oakland Raiders guard Cooper Carlisle, Pittsburgh tackle Max Starks and Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman.

On rosters for Super Bowl XLVII are San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald and Baltimore Ravens WR Deonte Thompson. The end result and may very well come down to which quarterback stands out and makes as few mistakes as possible.

2 » Speaking of Rainey, the former Gators running back had his recent simple battery charge reduced to disorderly conduct by Alachua County Judge Walter Green after the State Attorney’s Office decided it did not have enough evidence to pursue the more serious offense. The judge withheld adjudication and fined Rainey $200 to go along with court costs of $300 for the offense, effectively ending the legal issue, according to Florida Today. The alleged victim in the case denied that Rainey hit her the day after his arrest and contradicting statements from witnesses made the state’s case inconclusive. The Steelers announced the day of Rainey’s arrest that they had decided to waive him; however, NFL transactions made during the postseason cannot be completed until after the Super Bowl. With the charges being significantly reduced, Pittsburgh could theoretically have a change of heart or consider bringing Rainey back on a cheaper free agent contract.

Check out four more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: NFL, Rainey, Beal, Rosario, track

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Former Florida Gators in NFL: Conference (2012)

The 2012-13 NFL Playoffs continued this past the weekend with seven former Florida Gators football players spread over all four teams that competed on Sunday.

At the conclusion of play there were two total players on rosters of teams that advanced to Super Bowl XLVII.

A total of five players participated in Conference Championship Round action with two others either inactive or injured.

For the third-straight year, OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what all of these Gators accomplished during the third week of the 2012-13 postseason.

ACTIVE (5)
LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Played as a reserve
DE JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Nine receptions [team-high] for 83 yards (targets: 14 – team-high, long: 17); rush for six yards [Player of the Week]
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: 11 tackles (six solo) [team-highs], QB hit
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Five tackles (three solo)

INACTIVE (1) / INJURED (1)
WR DEONTE THOMPSON*, Baltimore Ravens: Inactive
RB JEFF DEMPS*, New England Patriots: Injured – “ankle” (season)

NFL PLAYOFFS NOTES
– San Francisco (McDonald) will face Baltimore (Thompson) in the Super Bowl.
– A former Gators football player is guaranteed to win a Super Bowl ring.

* Rookie

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