Former Florida Gators shine at 2013 Pro Day

Nineteen former Florida Gators football players – including five that have been off the team for more than a year – participated in Pro Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on a rain-covered Florida Field in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday.

Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance though many head coaches and general managers remained at their teams’ headquarters considering Pro Day was being held on the same day as the start of NFL free agency for the 2013 season.

“It’s an exciting time. That’s how Pro Day is supposed to look at Florida,” head coach Will Muschamp said after the event. “All 32 teams are here and that’s how it ought to be. As we continue to do a good job evaluating in recruiting and developing our players, which we will, our Pro Days will continue to look that way. Really proud of these guys that worked out today and appreciate all their contributions to the University of Florida. I want to congratulate our staff on doing an outstanding job developing these guys.”

“I think they’ve all worked extremely hard,” he continued. “They understand what’s at stake. These guys are at a great time in their life. Here they are the verge of playing in the arena on Sunday. That’s something, as you look at, you’re a football player and taking that next step. They understand what’s at stake. I’m proud of what I saw today just form the standpoint of how they worked and how they conducted themselves, the positive feedback I’ve gotten from general managers, head coaches, assistants and the National Football League of the character of our guys and how they handled themselves at the combine. All of it has been ultra-positive. I’ve been real pleased about that.”

Below are evaluations on and quotes from many of the Gators that participated on Tuesday. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Lerentee McCray and tight end Jordan Reed did not work out but will in a separate, private Pro Day event on March 22 in The Swamp. Reed did still participate in some on-field drills Tuesday.

Muschamp had nothing but high praise for Floyd when asked about him potentially going in the top five picks. “Turn on the tape,” he said. “The guy can anchor, he can play the run, he’s got great initial quickness, he can rush the passer. He’s everything you want from an inside player. The NFL teams, they don’t like to project. I’ve been there; I know. They want to see guys that play in 3-4 and 4-3. They’ve seen him play two-gap. They’ve seen him play nose. They’ve seen him play four-technique, They’ve seen him play one-gap, three-technique, five-technique, nine-technique. They’ve seen him play outside; they’ve seen him play inside.

“From a general manager prospective, talking to his owner and telling him he wants to spend money on a player – a clean player that has no issues off the field – that’s a very smart pick, in my opinion. You got a guy that can be a very dominating player that has got so many positive things surrounding him and he’s been exposed positionally to so many different things within our scheme.”

Other former Gators in attendance to root on the younger guys included wide receivers Reidel Anthony and Riley Cooper, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, linebacker Mike Peterson, running back Chris Rainey and linebacker Brandon Siler.

Safety Matt Elam

» NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock (via Florida’s website): “On tape he plays so close to the line of scrimmage, especially in their nickel package, he’s on the slot. He’s quick-footed, an aggressive tough kid. What I saw today was what I wanted to see, his ball skills, especially on deep balls. I could see him open his hips, take angles like a deep half or deep third. I thought he really helped himself today.”

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Three Gators sign undrafted free agent deals

Former Florida Gators quarterback John Brantley, wide receiver Deonte Thompson and defensive end William Green each signed undrafted free agent contracts hours after the conclusion of the 2012 NFL Draft on Saturday.

Brantley and Thompson, each of whom had an outside shot of being drafted but were ultimately passed over in the seven-round event, both signed with the Baltimore Ravens. It is the second-straight year that Baltimore penned a former Florida player to an undrafted free agent deal after picking up DE Terron Sanders a year ago (he was eventually released).

“I’m excited,” Brantley told the Ocala Star-Banner. “I was expecting the worst after the last two years (at UF). I just want to get a shot and that’s what I got. The Ravens started showing interest in the middle of the second round. There’s an opportunity there.”

Green will join former Florida cornerback Joe Haden on the Cleveland Browns.

Additionally, center/guard Dan Wenger told OGGOA on Sunday that he has been invited to participate in the New York Jets‘ team mini-camp. He had interest from three others teams but New York ultimately became his destination.

Cornerback Moses Jenkins has yet to sign an undrafted free agent deal or receive/accept any invitations as of press time.

2012 NFL DRAFT
» DT Jaye Howard – Round 4, No. 114 – Seattle Seahawks
» RB Chris Rainey – Round 5, No. 159 – Pittsburgh Steelers
» CB Janoris Jenkins – Round 2, No. 39 – St. Louis Rams

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Florida Gators 2012 NFL Draft viewer’s guide

The Florida Gators may not have a proverbial dog in the race when it comes to the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft on Thursday but a handful of former Florida players still hope to see their childhood dreams come true this weekend.

As fans of the 32 NFL teams look on nationwide, those supporting the Gators may not be as excited about the event this time around considering there will be yet another a significant drop-off from the nation-leading nine players that were selected in 2010 (including a school-record three in the first round and six in the first two rounds). In fact, Florida is not expected to have a first-round pick for the first time since the 2006 draft when Chad Jackson was an early second-round selection by New England.

Few things are certain when it comes to the NFL Draft – trades can occur at any moment and each team views its most pressing needs and what each player brings to the table differently than analysts do. Rather than try to predict the unknown variables and tell you what could happen, we will stick with what likely will happen Thursday-Sunday.

» Cornerback Janoris Jenkins will be the only player with (close) ties to Florida to be selected in the first two rounds – probably in the latter part of round one.

Unless a team falls in love with running back Chris Rainey’s potential, Jenkins is the only name Gators fans can hope to hear on Thursday or early Friday. He has early first-round potential but what many teams apparently consider undraftable off-the-field character concerns. Reports coming out this week state that some teams have removed Jenkins from their draft boards entirely while others recognize that his talent may be too good to pass up. Many analysts even believe he has a higher upside than LSU’s Morris Claiborne, who is expected to be the first cornerback selected (somewhere in the top 10) on Thursday. With such a rush of anti-Jenkins reports, it appears as if a number of teams are trying to create a major smokescreen in the hopes that he falls to them late in the first round. Marijuana arrests and multiple children out of wedlock may matter to some front office executives, but they are not considered to be on the same level with felony arrests, for example. It is likely that someone takes a chance on Jenkins Thursday and does not let him slip into the second round where he would be an absolute steal.

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FOUR BITS: Pro Day, Tim Tebow, tennis, WBK

1 » Though the date has been set for at least a few weeks now, the Florida Gators officially announced this week that the team will hold its Pro Day on March 13. Free and open to the public, Pro Day will feature a number of draft-eligible Gators working out for NFL scouts and coaches from around the league right on Florida Field in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida also announced that seven players who graduated in 2011 – quarterback John Brantley, defensive end William Green, defensive tackle Jaye Howard, defensive back Moses Jenkins, running back Chris Rainey and wide receiver Deonte Thompson – are scheduled to participate. Also in attendance to work out for scouts will be former Gators including DT Troy Epps, DT Lawrence Marsh, DB Dorian Munroe, DB Wondy Pierre-Louis and WR Justin Williams.

2 » EA Sports announced via their Facebook page that QB Tim Tebow is one of two Denver Broncos players representing his team in the online voting for cover athlete for the Madden NFL 13 video game. Voting begins March 7; after the field is cut down to 32 players, head-to-head votes will take place until the final cover athlete is picked. Tebow, who was on the cover of NCAA Football 11 two years ago, may actually want to avoid winning this contest due to the dreaded and much-publicized Madden curse.

3 » No. 15 Florida women’s tennis (6-1) swept the Florida State Seminoles (5-4) at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex for the team’s 99th consecutive home victory. The Gators, now 52-1 all-time against the Seminoles, beat their in-state rivals 7-0. The No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen won 8-2, leading the way for three doubles victories. No. 1 Will (6-1, 6-2), No. 39 Oyen (6-2, 6-1), No. 18 senior Joanna Mather (6-3, 6-1), No. 23 junior Lauren Embree (6-2, 6-2) and sophomore Olivia Janowicz (6-4, retired) all won their singles matches as well in the rout. Florida will compete in back-to-back road meets against Tennessee on Friday and Georgia on Sunday before returning to Gainesville, FL looking for their 100th straight win at home next Friday against Vanderbilt.

4 » Eight-seed Gators women’s basketball (18-11, 8-8 SEC) is set to begin action in the 2012 SEC Tournament by taking on the nine-seed Auburn Tigers (13-16, 5-11 SEC) on Thursday at 1 p.m. With the game airing live on FOX Sports Network, fans can watch as Florida tries to pull out a victory for the opportunity to square-off with one-seed Kentucky on Friday at 1 p.m.

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Florida Gators vs. Florida State Seminoles

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 69°F, mostly cloudy, winds ESE at 5 mph
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2/ESPN2HD
SiriusXM: 219/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Record: 6-5 (3-5) Record: 7-4 (5-3)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +3; O/U 45.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week this week’s game? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m.

Story: Seniors can end Gators careers on high note
Story: Seniors talk about their careers, final home game

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Mid-week update

HISTORY and STREAKS
» Florida leads the all-time series against Florida State 33-20-2 and boasts a 20-8-1 record in games played in The Swamp. FSU ended UF’s six-game winning streak (the longest since 1981-96) with a 31-7 victory in 2010.
» The Gators have not lost at home to the Seminoles since 2003 and have not dropped consecutive games to their in-state rival since 2002-03.
» All five Florida’s losses this season have come to ranked opponents.
» Muschamp and Fisher were both coaches at LSU under Nick Saban from 2001-04. A number of assistants on each team have coaching relationships with one another from stints as players or coaches at Georgia, Auburn and LSU.
» UF is 5-0 when outrushing their opponent but 1-5 when being outrushed.
» The Gators are 6-1 this year when leading at the half but 0-4 when tied or trailing at the midway point in a ballgame.
» Florida became bowl eligible for the 21st season in a row with their victory over Furman last week. It is the longest streak in the SEC and second-longest in the nation.
» The Gators and Seminoles are tied for 118th (out of 120 teams) nationally in penalties, each committing 89 in 11 games. Florida has lost up 674 yards due to those miscues, while Florida State has given up 746 yards.
» UF’s 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 32 of 44 quarters this season and touchdowns in only 24 of those quarters.
» The Gators have half as many upperclassmen (13 seniors, 12 juniors) as they do underclassmen (27 sophomores, 24 freshmen) seeing action this season. The roster is equally split with 19 seniors, 14 juniors, 33 sophomores and 33 freshmen.
» Florida is only converting 48 percent (16-of-33) of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns but has scored at least a field goal when the offense has a possession inside the 20-yard-line 88 percent of the time.
» The Gators’ defense is fourth in the nation in preventing third-down conversions, allowing just 29.1 percent of those attempted to be successful. However, UF is 66th nationally in preventing fourth-down conversions, allowing a 52.2 percent success rate.
» Florida is No. 11 nationally and fifth in the SEC in total defense (318.2 yards per game). The Gators are also No. 25 nationally and fifth in the SEC in scoring defense (20.5 points per game).
» UF’s pass defense is allowing just 176.5 yards per game, good for fourth in the SEC and 11th nationally.
» Florida State is No. 7 nationally in total defense (282.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (15.9 points per game). The Seminoles are No. 30 nationally in pass defense, allowing 198.5 yards per game.
» The Gators’ defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (315) since 2000. UF also has the most interceptions in the nation (76) since 2008.
» Florida State leads Florida nationally in two of the three major offensive statistical categories this season. The Seminoles score more points 32.6-27.3 (31st-62nd) than the Gators and acquire more passing yards per game 275.2-195.6 (25th-87th), but UF outrushes FSU 152.2-126.1 (65th-86th) on average. The teams have not played a common opponent this season.

SENIOR DAY

The Gators’ 2011 senior class consists of 19 players who have either spent four or five seasons wearing the Orange and Blue. The true senior class heads into the game with a four-year record of 40-12 (22-5 in The Swamp) including four victories against Tennessee, three over Georgia and a 2-1 record against Florida State. It is 3-0 in bowl games including wins in the 2011 Outback Bowl (vs. Penn State), 2010 Sugar Bowl (vs. Cincinnati) and 2009 BCS National Championship (vs. Oklahoma).

* John Brantley – #12 – QB – Ocala, Fla. (redshirt)
* Jeff Demps – #28 – RB – Winter Garden, Fla.
* William Green – #96 – DE – Hoover, Ala.
* Jaye Howard – #6 – DT – Apopka, Fla. (redshirt)
* Moses Jenkins – #36 – CB – Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (redshirt)
* David Lerner – #40 – P – Gainesville, Fla.
* Chris Rainey – #1 – RB – Lakeland, Fla. (redshirt)
* Deonte Thompson – #6 – WR – Belle Glade, Fla. (redshirt)
* Dan Wenger – #56 – G – Coral Springs, Fla. (redshirt)
* James Wilson – #66 – G – St. Augustine, Fla. (redshirt)
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* Phillip Bellino – #38 – RB – Boca Raton, Fla.
* Brian Biada – #31 – CB – Naples, Fla.
* Zack Brust – #98 – K – Jacksonville, Fla.
* Cody Hampton – #50 – LS – St. Petersburg, Fla.
* Newton Lizima – #45 – DB – Plantation, Fla.
* Minch Minchin – #33 – LB – Gainesville, Fla.
* Solomon Schoonover – #29 – WR – Aventura, Fla.
* William Steinmann – #87 – TE – Daytona Beach, Fla.
* Jason Traylor – #34 – FB – Melbourne, Fla.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

» Probable/Questionable: Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt senior guard/center Dan Wenger (ankle), redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (ankle), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder), senior defensive end William Green (undisclosed)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), freshman CB Marcus Roberson (neck)

LAST TIME OUT

Florida State ended its six-year losing streak to Florida by drubbing the Gators 31-7 at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL. UF held an early 7-3 lead on FSU but was outscored 28-0 the rest of the way, allowing the No. 22 Seminoles to cap their regular season on a high note. Florida State wound up earning a spot in the ACC Championship game with the victory because Maryland defeated North Carolina the same day. Florida’s sole touchdown came on a 20-yard pass from John Brantley to Robert Clark early in the first quarter. Christian Ponder torched the Gators for 221 yards and three touchdowns through the air, though UF did hold FSU to just 2.7 yards per carry on the ground.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 58.9 percent of his passes (123-of-209) this season for 1,808 yards and 10 touchdowns but also threw three interceptions including one returned for a score. Brantley had missed 10 quarters of action after injuring his ankle against Alabama but returned with limited health and mobility against Georgia. He had a career-best game last week, throwing for 329 yards and four touchdowns against Furman. Brantley has thrown 114 passes without tossing an interception, the seventh-longest streak in school history (he also has the second-longest streak in UF history at 157 attempts without a pick).
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 1,093 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 14.4 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 (#2)…who is second on the Gators in carries (87) and rushing yards (547) 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 last week 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 second nationally.
» Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (#11)…who has vaulted up UF’s production chats with at least three receptions in four-straight weeks. Reed has also gone for 56 or more yards in three of the last four weeks and scored touchdowns against Georgia and Furman.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary. He is second on the team in tackles (64) 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 8.5 tackles for loss this season are a team-high.
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of the Gators’ strongest unit. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (28 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for 13.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-3 on the team in tackles. Bostic (81) and Jenkins (60) 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, six pass breakups and a pick-six on the year.
» 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 27 extra points, leading the Gators with 90 points scored this season. Sturgis is second in the nation with 21 field goals made but tied for 14th in kicking points.

FLORIDA STATE
» QB E.J. Manuel (#3)…who has passed for 2,352 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season. He has not thrown a pick since Oct. 29 and is completing 66.3 percent of his passes. Manuel can also make an impact on the ground and has rushed for 20 or more yards five times this season.
» RB Devonta Freeman (#8)…who is FSU’s leading rusher with 487 yards and six touchdowns on the year. He rushed for 100+ yards in consecutive games this year and at one point scored five touchdowns in four contests.
» WR Rashad Greene (#80)…who has more receptions (33) and yards (497) than any Florida player despite missing four games this season. He is complimented by WR Rodney Smith (#84), who has 511 receiving yards and four touchdowns of his own.
» LB Nigel Bradham (#13)…who leads the Seminoles defensively with 75 tackles (nine for loss), two sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
» CB Greg Reid (#5)…who is also Florida State’s dynamic returner and can change a game on a dime.

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Gators CB Marucs Roberson out for season

The Florida Gators secondary was further depleted Monday when head coach Will Muschamp announced that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson would miss 4-6 weeks with a neck injury that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Roberson, who has started every game this year for Florida, is the third talented Gators’ cornerback now unavailable for the team. UF dismissed Janoris Jenkins over the summer, and redshirt junior Jeremy Brown has yet to play in 2011 after injuring his knee in the offseason; the duo was slated to start opposite one another.

Muschamp referred to Roberson’s injury as a strained neck but did not go into further detail, simply saying that the doctors are going to be cautionary and hold him out the remainder of the season rather than try to press him back into action or a potential bowl game. He added that no setbacks are expected and Roberson should be completely healthy when he returns for spring practice in 2012.

“It’s nothing that’s going to be permanent,” Muschamp said. “He’s going to be fine in 4-6 weeks. He strained his neck there and [the training staff is] just taking the precautionary measures obviously with something like that.”

Roberson registered 22 tackles this season, nabbed an interception and recovered a fumble in the 10 games he played, most of which he spent covering the opponent’s best wide receiver. Sophomore Cody Riggs, senior Moses Jenkins and fellow freshmen Jaylen Watkins and Louchiez Purifoy will all see increased time on the field over the next 2-3 games due to Roberson’s injury.

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8/13: Muschamp on offensive line, returners, pass rush issues, mental mistakes and more

With the Florida Gators fully entrenched in fall practice and now working with coaches off the field and crowd noise pumped in, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media late Saturday night and provided updates on how the team is progressing on both sides of the ball heading into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3.

OFFENSIVE LINE COMING TOGETHER

Stuck with a depleted unit that is being rebuilt from the ground up, Muschamp, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci are beginning to hone in on their rotation up front. Muschamp previously noted that he was looking for eight or nine players to bring in and out; Saturday he praised the unit for beginning to solidify and provided the following rough depth chart:

LT: Junior Xavier Nixon, redshirt sophomore Kyle Kohene
LG: Redshirt freshman Ian Silberman/redshirt senior James Wilson
C: Redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, redshirt junior Sam Robey
RG: Redshirt sophomore Jon Halapio
RT: Redshirt junior Matt Patchan/redshirt freshman Chaz Green

The left guard and right tackle spots are still being decided. Robey is taking reps as the back-up center but is also being worked at both guard spots. The same goes for redshirt sophomore Nick Alajajian and redshirt senior transfer Dan Wenger, both of whom are also playing all three positions. Green can play both tackle positions but is still fighting for the starting job on the right side, leaving Kohene to be the back-up for Nixon.

“You’d like to have a deeper group. We think the two freshmen are going to be good players – Tommy Jordan and Trip Thurman – very pleased with both of those young men,” Muschamp said. “Their movement, their toughness, what they bring to the table. We’re excited about that group, but you’d like have 18 instead of 13.”

RETURNERS STILL BEING DEFINED

Though the coaching staff has a good idea who will be returning kicks and punts this year, the positions have not officially been won yet. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose and sophomore WR Solomon Patton at the primary kick return men, but senior running back Jeff Demps has also been working at that position as well.

For punt returns, redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey (“He’s an electric guy with the ball in his hands.”) would be the starter if the season began today, but Patton, redshirt junior WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. and even redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed have been fielding punts. The Reed experiment is going well so far. “We’ve put him back there and we feel comfortable about it,” Muschamp said. “He has great ball judgment and catches the ball extremely well.”

The coach is not hesitant to put Demps, Rainey, Reed or any other starter on special teams, noting (like head coach Urban Meyer before him) that he plans to let his playmakers see the field as much as possible. “We’re going to play our best players on special teams,” he said. “Injuries happen – that’s part of the game. We’re going to play our best players on special teams. I told the guys that from the day one meeting. Our best guys are playing. If it affords us to win a football game, then we’re going to do it and that’s part of the game.”

PASS RUSH NOT CONSISTENT; MENTAL MISTAKES BEING MADE

He might be best versed in the secondary, but Muschamp knows that it all starts in the trenches (a mantra he has repeated throughout the offseason). With that said, he is none too pleased with the team’s lack of consistency getting the quarterback without having to blitz and hopes that improves in the near future. “We’ve got to get more consistent rushing. It’s just not consistently winning the one-on-ones. If you’re going to play coverage, the best pass defense in America is a pass rush,” he said. “You can’t do it with pressure all the time and create middle-field coverage and a lot of one-on-ones outside. You got to be smart in how you pressure, and you’ve got to be able to pressure with four guys. That’s something that, when we’ve been able to affect the quarterback, we’ve had four good ones rushing up front. Whoever got the one-on-one was going to win. That’s the best pass defense in America.”

As Florida continues to work to that end, Muschamp thinks senior defensive end William Green, redshirt junior DE Lerentee McCray and sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell have been solid thus far for the Gators.

Another thing Muschamp is wary of is overloading the team from a mental aspect. Already concerned with the mistakes being made during the first week of practice (“[I’m] pleased with our physical effort, not as pleased with our mental effort as much – a lot of mental mistakes and things we’ve got to get cleaned up.”), he is making a conscientious effort not to overload the team with too much too fast.

“That’s a fine line,” he said when asked if the 3-4 defense was being heavily installed. “You can’t do so much that your players are confused. We’re right now weeding things out on what we do to get our guys to play fast and get them ready for the season. What I don’t want to do during the season is install new stuff each week. That makes for a slow player on Saturday. We need to install for the season. We’ve game planned; we’ve looked at all our opponents so we have an idea within our scheme what we need to do to be successful. We’re trying to pare down right now where we are.”

Asked how he felt the team was progressing up to this point, Muschamp would neither say that the team was behind nor ahead of his projection. “We are where we are. It’s a little frustrating because we’re thin with our numbers – on both lines of scrimmage,” he said. “We’re pushing through that, and I think the guys have worked hard. Mentally we need to be sharper; we need to be mentally tougher in training camp. That’s where you build the toughness of your football team from that standpoint. Training camp is hard, it’s not easy, it’s not supposed to be easy.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what the team has been doing recently in practice: “A lot of situational work in the last 4-5 practices – third down, coming out, a lot of special teams emphasis of different situations that are going to come up in different games, two minute situations, end of game, down a touchdown, down two scores, down three points – putting the offense and defense in those situations. We worked crowd noise for the first time tonight, worked a lot of up-tempo on both sides of the ball. I’ve been pleased with that. A lot of red zone work – we’ve been in the red zone the last four practices.”

» On units necessitating cohesion: “The offensive line position and secondary have got to be close knit as far as their communication and being on the same page for what we’re trying to do.”

» On Texas A&M possibly going to the SEC: “I’m trying to get pass rush. I could care less about what the Aggies are doing. I can certainly say that. I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought to be honest with you. Believe me, that decision is made way above my head, I can certainly tell you that.”

» On the team’s pass rush: “I’ve been thinking about that a lot more than I have the Ags, I can tell you that.”

» There are no other major injuries right now aside from that of freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus, 6-8 weeks). Muschamp said there are some bumps and bruises (hamstrings, shoulders, ankles) but “nobody will be out for any extended period of time to this point” while knocking on wood (his desk).

» Redshirting players is a decision the coaches will make a few games into the season. He said it is “too hard to project right now” with so many variables. The coaching staff has not yet discussed redshirts and it will not likely be a topic of conversation until after the team’s second scrimmage next Saturday (the first one is Monday).

» The back-up quarterbacks have not begun to separate themselves yet. “The scrimmage situation is a good evaluator for that,” Muschamp said. Over the course of the last four practices, the coaches have been off the field and letting the players play. Muschamp said the QBs have been identifying the mike linebacker well and communicating properly with their unit. “Obviously John [Brantley] has been way above the others, but I think all four at times have had nice moments.”

» As far as the secondary goes, Muschamp is emphasizing substitutions a lot for the nickel set and is pleased with the work of cornerbacks redshirt senior Moses Jenkins and freshmen De’Ante Saunders, Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy. He also singled at sophomore Matt Elam as the most consistent safety but said junior Josh Evans mentally needs to get his assignments down and work on communication. Muschamp praised sophomore Jaylen Watkins and redshirt freshman Joshua Shaw, adding that sophomore CB Cody Riggs will be getting some reps at safety after Monday’s scrimmage.

» Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely has been “solid” at his position but is also playing “outstanding” on special teams, according to Muschamp. He missed Saturday evening’s practice due to an undisclosed injury, but the team expects him to be back in action on Monday.

» Freshman safety Chris Johnson (5’9”, 205 lbs.) has been taking reps inside at linebacker for the last few days.

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8/12: Brantley, Hammond, Dunbar talk offense

With the Florida Gators having completed their first two-a-day practice of the 2011 season, a number of prominent players from the offensive side of the ball met with the media on Friday to discuss how the team is progressing early on in camp.

OFFENSE COMING TOGETHER

The overriding sense on Friday is that Florida’s offense is a lot more fluid than it was at this time one year ago. Not only is redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley more confident in his abilities, his pass catchers are, too. And it doesn’t hurt that they are stepping up as well. “Coach [Aubrey] Hill has done a great job with them so far this camp,” Brantley said. “We’re seeing improvement every single day with route running. As long as they keep getting better everyday, we’ll be happy.”

Stepping out from among the pack is redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., who head coach Will Muschamp and some of his teammates agree is the most consistent of the bunch. “[He’s] making plays, making the touch catches and making the easy catches that he’s supposed to make. And making people miss after those catches,” Brantley added. “You can tell that he’s been studying his playbook, and it’s been showing on the field.”

Hammond himself agrees with Brantley’s assessment. “[I’m] just getting down the plays,” he said. “It’s a new offense, so the biggest change is putting in the new offense and everybody getting up to speed and learning the new plays.”

DUNBAR STANDING OUT

Just like he did in spring ball, redshirt freshman WR Quinton Dunbar is coming on strong in the fall, proving he can be an electric and dependable target. “[He’s] just making plays when plays need to be made,” Brantley explained. “Anyone can catch the ball when no one’s around, but it’s what you do in traffic and on the go routes – if you can go up there over the cornerback. He’s just making plays.”

Dunbar himself said his connection with Brantley is strong and, while he is getting some praise, he appreciates being an under-the-radar player. “It means a lot to me because I’m just trying to help the team in any way,” he said. “So I go out there and work hard every day to get better.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Brantley said there is a pretty even distribution of practice snaps behind him for all three reserve quarterbacks. “They’re doing real good. Jacoby [Brissett]’s picked up on it real quick because he’s been here the shortest amount of time. Just like the receivers and just like everyone else, they’re getting better reach day.”

» Brantley also said that having some veterans on the offensive line is giving him some confidence and he is impressed in their production as well as that of senior running back Jeff Demps after running track this summer.

» Brantley on if the offense is game-ready: “We’re really close. These past three days have been really good for our offense. As long as we keep going, in this next week we’re going to be very game-ready.”

» Dunbar said he prefers the go routes and comebacks but says overall the wide receivers are running a wider variety of routes this year. “Vertical is a big part of this offense,” he said. “[Running] to set up the pass is a big emphasis.”

» Redshirt senior cornerback Moses Jenkins on what he’s up to: “I’m just trying to grind. I’m just going hard, studying my playbook, asking coaches more questions [about] film.”

» Jenkins on coming back from injury: “People don’t understand that when we’re out there playing, we don’t think about injuries. But when you get injured and you’re not playing, not playing hurts more. You’re watching your team win games and have fun and all of that.”

» Jenkins on the defense as a whole: “We’re going to be a lot tougher, a lot faster, a lot more physical. I can’t wait to get started.”

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