Interim offensive coordinator Brian White and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media this week to answer some questions and look ahead to the Florida Gators‘ next opponent, the Ohio State Buckeyes. Florida and Ohio State will go head-to-head in the 2011 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL on Jan. 2 at 1 p.m. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availabilities.
PLAYER UPDATES AND EVLAUATIONS
Despite both missing the first day of Gator Bowl practice, senior running back Jeff Demps (personal issue) and redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson (illness) were on the field on Wednesday. Additionally, White said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley is completely healthy and has even been routinely taking snaps under center during practice.
White also noted that, with 2012 being the offense’s second year in the pro-style system, he expects to see some major improvements and is already seeing players doing much better in these practices.
“There’s always a learning curve your first year in any program. Once you flatten that learning curve, you see an exponential jump, and certainly that’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of progress with our young players – Chaz Green being one of those players, Andre Debose being another one of those players, Hunter Joyer invaluable time and reps for a player like Hunter, Mike Gillislee. There are a lot of players that have improved dramatically and hopefully they can put the performance on the field and really use it as a springboard to 2012.”
Quinn spoke about five players in particular, praising three and providing some evaluations on two others. He said that redshirt junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter has been playing great in bowl practices, being strong and square and really jumping out with his technique. Quinn also noted that there are two players who have continued to get better as the year has gone on and should make a big impact next Monday.
“[De’Ante] Pop Saunders has been one that’s really come on and done some good things,” he said. “At linebacker, [Michael] Taylor has improved from where I saw him in the spring to training camp to now playing some meaningful and valuable reps for us. Those guys at those two spots would be two that have shown up and [I can tell] are coming on and doing a good job.”
He also spoke about sophomore Sharrif Floyd’s participation going forward and how redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard will fare in the NFL.
On Howard’s NFL prospects: “Inside is where I see him, playing nose tackle and three technique. I thought he’s really improved as the season went on. It was important for him from last year to this year to get his weight down and his conditioning up so he can finish on plays. I think he’s shown that on tape. I think he’s a real strong guy that can anchor. [...] He’s done a good job this year. He’s really done a good job with his hands being strong, improvement and I think the arrow is going up on him moving forward.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» White on calling plays once again:“What people don’t realize are game plans are a very collaborative effort. They’re very structured and your calls are very defined based on situational football – down and distance. Not to diminish the role of a playcaller, but it’s not as difficult as one would think. There is a knack to making the right call at the right time, but for the most part he could have picked anyone else on our staff – they are very qualified to do it, too.”
» White on how practice has been going: “We’ve had very good timing and practiced very wisely.”
» White on why Gillislee did not get more carries during the year: “The Florida State game was just a function of the way the game unfolded. We wanted to use him a lot more in that game, but you’re playing from behind. Sometimes it doesn’t go according to your plan. Mike has made improvement. We’re looking forward to him having a role in this game. To say it’s going to be anything more than a role would be disingenuous.”
» Quinn on what improvement he is most proud of this year: “Our situational awareness – I think our third down defense those guys deserve a lot of credit for that. Knowing that on 3rd-and-6 you play differently than 3rd-and-12 and 3rd-and-1. That situational awareness for me is one of the things that sticks out on the back end.”
» Quinn said that not getting takeaways on defense this year negates any positive statistics about the unit, including the fact that it is No. 9 in total defense and does very well against third downs. He said there was plenty of room for improvement in 2012.