Special teams, defense lead Florida to 24-17 win over Ohio State in 2012 Gator Bowl

Offense was not the Florida Gators’ strong suit this season, but Florida (7-6) got just enough of it Monday to compliment a sterling effort from their special teams and defense en route to a 24-17 toppling of the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-7) in the 2012 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL.

The Gators and Buckeyes were tied at a touchdown apiece minutes into the second quarter until a kickoff return and punt block were each brought back for touchdowns to give UF a 21-10 lead and help the team pull out a much-needed victory to end a tough first season under first-year head coach Will Muschamp.

Florida started out at their own 40-yard-line after the opening kickoff fell out of bounds at the one. The Gators got two quick first downs before redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was hit from behind and, after a review that overturned an incomplete pass, the loose ball was ruled a fumble and given to the Buckeyes. OSU moved down the field but consecutive sacks by UF sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd forced a punt.

The Gators took over on their own 20, and Brantley began leading his team down the field once again. On first-and-10 from the Buckeyes’ 22-yard-line, junior left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee) and Brantley (right forearm) both went down with injuries when the latter was sacked. Brantley would return to the game and two plays later threw a 17-yard strike on third down to redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thomspon for the first touchdown of the game.

Thompson’s reception was questioned by Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell as it appeared the ball came loose when he hit the ground, but Florida got on the field to kick the extra point before he could call a timeout to force a review.

A review wound up being called on the ensuing possession when OSU running back Dan Herron fumbled the ball on first down. UF recovered and won the challenge but coughed it back up to the Buckeyes just two plays later when Brantley mishandled a snap.

Ohio State took advantage of the miscue by tying the game. QB Braxton Miller, who did not attempt a pass in the first quarter, completed three throws for 41 yards as part of an eight-play, 72-yard drive that ended in a touchdown with 11:25 left in the first half.

Florida responded even quicker as redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, going down the field untouched and putting his team ahead 14-7 while setting a school record for longest play in a bowl game and a Gator Bowl record for longest play. He was named the contest’s Most Valuable Player after the game.

Two possessions later, the Gators were stopped for a three-and-out, but a shanked punt by freshman Kyle Christy allowed the Buckeyes to take over at midfield. After gaining two first downs, Miller was sacked for an 11-yard loss as redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard broke through the offensive line. OSU kicked a 47-yard field goal to reduce their deficit, heading into the half down four.

Forcing Ohio State to punt on their first possession of the second half, Florida had both redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey and sophomore WR Solomon Patton break through the formation. The former blocked the punt, which was picked up by freshman linebacker Graham Stewart and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown. It was the sixth blocked punt of Rainey’s career, setting a SEC record.

The Gators got another defensive stop and began moving the ball once again until Brantley’s third down pass was intercepted by LB Tyler Moller at Florida’s 47-yard-line. However, just three plays later, Miller completed a pass to Posey that was quickly fumbled (forced by freshman cornerback Louchiez Purifoy), recovered by UF, fumbled again and picked up by junior safety Josh Evans.

Brantley made up for his pick with a great 32-yard pass to redshirt junior TE Omarius Hines on his next play, starting the Gators off on a eight-play, 53-yard drive that stalled a half-yard short of the end zone. Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs netted a 17-yard field goal to provide Florida with a two-touchdown advantage.

Though the Gators stifled the Buckeyes’ offense much of the second half, Miller led Ohio State on a seven-play, 88-yard drive in just 2:08 that ended in an 11-yard touchdown pass to WR Jordan Hall, who made several players miss on his way to the end zone.

Florida, however, recovered the onside kick and kneeled the ball to end the game and earn the hard-fought victory.

Brantley finished his final contest in orange and blue 12/16 for 132 yards with a touchdown, interception and two fumbles. Rainey had team-highs in carries (16), rushing yards (71) and receptions (three) while also coming through with the game-changing punt. Thompson’s touchdown was his first of the season, and Demps was also efficient with eight touches for 34 yards.

Miller was also quite efficient, going 18/24 for 162 yards in the air and two scores; he also carried the ball 15 times for 20 yards, losing a lot of ground due to the number of times he was sacked.

OSU outgained UF 299-263, passing and rushing for more yards, but was held to just 2-of-10 on third down conversion attempts. The Buckeyes also forced one more turnover (3-2) than the Gators and held the ball for slightly under five minutes longer. Florida, however, converted 50 percent of their third downs (6-of-12) and scored twice on drives of one play or fewer.

The Gators avoided a losing season but handed the Buckeyes their first seven-loss campaign since 1897. Florida now has 24-straight winning seasons and 32 consecutive years ending with a record at or above .500, two accomplishments which lead the country. UF also posted four-straight bowl wins for the first time in school history.

Ohio State is now 0-10 all-time against SEC teams in bowl games due to a victory in 2010 being vacated. The Gators also improved to 2-0 all-time against the Buckeyes with their last victory coming 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship.

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2012 Gator Bowl Gameday (Jacksonville, FL): Florida Gators vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Location: EverBank Field – Jacksonville, FL [Capacity: 84,000]
Weather Forecast: 57°F, sunny, winds WNW at 13 mph
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Luke Fickell
Record: 6-6 Record: 6-6
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -2; O/U 44


Need to catch up on the Gators before the bowl game? No problem. OGGOA has been here since the end of the regular season compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam.

Muschamp on Gator Bowl, coaches | Coordinators discuss players, game


» Florida leads the all-time series against Ohio State 1-0, with the No. 2 Gators defeating the No. 1 Buckeyes 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship.
» Both teams are entering the game with a 6-6 record (each are 3-5 in their conference as well) and looking to finish the season above .500. UF losing would make them sub-.500 for the first time since 1979, while OSU would not have reached that low of a level since 1897 if they drop the game.
» Both teams are starting head coaches in their first year (and in Fickell’s case his last year) at the helm.
» This is Florida’s 21st consecutive appearance in a bowl game, good for first in the SEC and second nationally. The Gators have played in 18 January bowl games in the last 20 years dating back to 1993. The Buckeyes are second in most January bowl games since 1993 with 16 appearances.
» UF is 19-19 all-time in bowl games and 6-2 in the Gator Bowl but has not participated in this event since 1992. Florida is 7-6 in bowl games against current Big 10 teams.
» Ohio State has not played in the Gator Bowl since 1978 and has not played a bowl game in the state of Florida since 2002. The Buckeyes are 19-22 all-time in bowl games and 15-19 in those played in January.
» The Gators are 4-0 this season when rushing for more than 150 yards and 6-2 when gaining more than 100 yards on the ground. Florida, however, is 1-5 when being outrushed and 0-5 when tied or trailing at the half.
» UF had 18 players make their first career start in 2011 and the 15 true freshman that have seen the field is tied for seventh-most nationally.
» The Gators have half as many upperclassmen (14 seniors, 11 juniors) as they do underclassmen (27 sophomores, 24 freshmen) seeing action this season.
» Florida 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 just 33 of 48 quarters this season and touchdowns in only 25 of those quarters.
» UF’s 13.42 yards per pass completion is No. 1 in the SEC and 16th nationally.
» The Gators are only converting 49 percent (17-of-35) of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns but have scored at least a field goal when the offense has a possession inside the 20-yard-line 86 percent of the time.
» Florida is No. 9 nationally and fifth in the SEC in total defense (299.6 yards per game). The Gators are also No. 25 nationally and fifth in the SEC in scoring defense (20.6 points per game).
» The Gators’ defense is second in the nation in preventing third-down conversions, allowing just 27.7 percent of those attempted to be successful. However, UF is 66th nationally in preventing fourth-down conversions, allowing a 52.0 percent success rate.
» The Buckeyes have allowed the third fewest 100-yard rushers among all teams nationally since 2007, giving up just 11 such performances.
» Florida was one of the least disciplined teams in the country during the regular season, ranking 114th (out of 120 teams) nationally in penalties, committing 93 in 12 games for 699 total yards lost. Ohio State ranks 45th in that category, committing 66 in 12 games for 547 total yards lost.
» The Gators have a +1 turnover margin in six victories but a -12 margin in six losses.
» Florida’s defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (315) since 2000. UF also has the most interceptions in the nation (76) since 2008.


On the way to the team’s second national title, Florida defeated Ohio State 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship the last time these two teams squared off. The No. 2 Gators, led by quarterback Chris Leak (25/36 for 212 yards, touchdown), routed the No. 1 Buckeyes by outscoring them 41-7 after OSU wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Florida led 34-14 at halftime and stifled Ohio State’s offense, holding the team to just 82 yards over the course of four quarters. UF linebacker Earl Everett’s helmet-less sack on OSU QB Troy Smith is one of the most memorable moments from the game and the 2006 season.


Muschamp on the team’s improvement: “We’ve made some progress, and I think a lot of that has to do with not having to get ready for a game in a game-week situation, being able to go back to a lot of fundamentals, a lot like training camp or spring practice to be able to work on a lot of those things.”

Muschamp on his team this year: “Coaching at the University of Florida is a dream of mine to be in this opportunity that I’ve been presented. I’m excited about work every day. I’m frustrated at the results maybe at times, but from the standpoint of how our players have worked, how they’ve committed themselves and these guys up here I think have done a good job. Is it the results we want? No. Are we where we want to be? No. But have I seen improvements and improvements within our program sometimes inside the building that maybe people don’t see? We’ve made tremendous strides as a team. It was a tough situation what we inherited, quite honestly. We’ve made tremendous strides.”

Muschamp on if the perception of being sub-.500 is worse than the reality: “It would be disappointing, obviously. It’s not something that we want to have happen. These players and myself and us as a staff don’t want to be saddled with that. Certainly is that a motivating factor? It certainly should be.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley on playing his last game: “I grew up as a Gator. Now that I’ll be exiting this program after this game, I’ll always be a Gator. Through thick and thin. I’ll always be wearing the orange and blue and watching them on Saturdays for years to come.”

Brantley on if he would have done things differently: “I’m just fortunate enough to wake up every day and put on the Gator uniform. To be able to have this opportunity to play major college football at such a great university and one that I’ve loved my entire life was a dream come true, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”


» Active: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (head)
» Game-time decision: Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)
» Inactive: Redshirt sophomore tackle Matt Patchan (back), redshirt sophomore defensive end Kedric Johnson (undisclosed), sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (torn ACL), redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), freshman CB Marcus Roberson (neck)

» Active: Linebacker Andrew Sweat (head, shoulder)
» Game-time decision: Tight end Jake Stoneburner (knee)
» Inactive: Running back Rod Smith (undisclosed)


» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 58.9 percent of his passes (132-of-224) this season for 1,912 yards and 10 touchdowns but has also thrown six. He had a career-best game against Furman, throwing for 329 yards and four touchdowns, but followed it up with a career-worst performance against Florida State, throwing for 104 yards with three interceptions.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 1,140 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 12.5 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 (#28)…who is second on the Gators in carries (91) and rushing yards (539) 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 two games ago 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 third nationally.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary. He is second on the team in tackles (72) 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 nine tackles for loss this season are a team-high.
» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard (#6)…who has helped solidified the interior of the Gators’ strongest unit. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (29 starts) and has registered 8.5 tackles for loss along with four sacks and two recovered fumbles this season. He is fourth on the team in total tackles (60) and has even broken up two passes).
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-3 on the team in tackles. Bostic (86) and Jenkins (71) 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, seven pass breakups and two interceptions (one pick-six) on the year.
» Sophomores DT Sharrif Floyd (#73) and Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who are each looking to make a statement in Monday’s game. Floyd moves back to his more natural position after spending all season at end and registering 44 tackles and just five for a loss with no sacks, while Powell wants to build on his solid performance against FSU. He has registered 30 tackles (eight for a loss), five sacks and a forced fumble.
» 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 28 extra points, leading the Gators with 91 points scored this season. Sturgis is fourth in the nation with 21 field goals made but tied for 22nd in kicking points.

» QB Braxton Miller (#5)…who was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year after completing 50 percent of his passes for 997 yards with 11 touchdowns and four picks on the season while also leading Ohio State in rushing with 144 carries for 695 yards and seven more scores. All of this and Miller did not start until the fourth game.
» RBs Dan Herron (#1) and Carlos Hyde (#34)…who are also toting the ball quite often for the Buckeyes with over 100 carries each this year. The duo has combined for over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns.
» WR Devin Smith (#15) and tight end Jake Stoneburner (#11)…who are two of three players on the team with double-digit receptions on the season. Smith (12) leads the team with 247 yards and has four touchdowns, but Stoneburner (who may not even play due to injury) has a team-high seven touchdowns on just 14 catches.
» LB Andrew Sweat (#41) and DL John Simon (#54)…who are two of OSU’s best defenders. Sweat has totaled 68 tackles along with five for a loss, an interception and a forced fumble this season. Simon is even more dominant with 50 tackles including 15 for a loss and seven sacks.

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Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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12/28-29: Coordinators talk players, Gator Bowl

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.


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 Floyd’s position on Monday and beyond: “It’s really going to depend on the situations. In this bowl practice, we’ve played a lot of him inside [in nickel formations], but we’ve also played a lot of him at the defensive end spot. [It will] just kind of be by the flow of the game. Fortunately for him, he’s had reps at both spots playing tackle and playing end. When it’s a running team, sometimes you like to have a bigger base end out there where you can play strong and hanker on the outside. And then in nickel, we’re going to need some speed to chase this guy down because he’s certainly a guy who can run and move on the field.”

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.”


» 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.

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12/27: Muschamp on Gator Bowl, hiring coaches

Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media Tuesday 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 Tuesday’s availability.


Four Florida starters were notable absent or hobbled during the team’s first practice since Christmas break on Monday. Muschamp explained that senior running back Jeff Demps had a “personal matter” to attend to and will be with the team Tuesday morning. Additionally, redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson was missing from the field due to being stuck in the hotel with an illness.

Two Gators – redshirt senior offensive lineman Dan Wenger (ankle) and redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray – are injured heading into the game. Wenger is “still struggling,” according to Muschamp, who said that he took some practice reps in Gainesville, FL and is expected to play in the game. McCray, on the other hand, is doubtful for the contest with a bad shoulder. “We’ve exhausted about every measure we can as far as the shoulder is concerned, trying to work to get total range of motion and strength back,” he said.


Despite a report that Muschamp has zeroed in on his next director of strength and conditioning, the coach said Tuesday that nothing could be further from the truth at this time. “I haven’t hired anybody. I’ve talked to a lot of people at the strength position and the offensive coordinator position, and when I make the hire everybody will know,” he said. “No one has been hired. No one has been offered a job yet. So that’s it.”

The primary reason Muschamp indicated for not having made a hire is that he is not done with the interview process. Though he has spoken with a number of candidates for both positions, he plans to continue doing so throughout the week and insisted that Florida will not make an announcement until after the bowl game.

“I still have people I want to talk to. I’ve talked to probably six, seven, eight people so far and some people over Christmas and some people this week I plan to talk to and then after the bowl game,” he said. “I’ve never put a timetable on it because it’s [what is] the right fit for Florida. It’s going to be the best decision for Florida. It’s an important hire – obviously both of them are – and I’ve talked to multiple people [for] both situations.”

One candidate for offensive coordinator is current running backs coach Brian White, who will be the team’s playcaller against Ohio State next Monday. Muschamp said he has not learned anything new about White as he’s watched him in his interim role but maintained that he continues to be impressed with him as a coach.

“I know he’s a good football coach, and he’s just reassured my confidence in him as a football coach. He’s done a nice job of preparing our football team. It’s all about situational football and being prepared for situations when they occur in the game. As a playcaller, he’s got a knack for that,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s any question that being a playcaller for a long time, to have somebody in the room that has done it before [is a positive]. Everybody’s got great ideas until they’ve sat in that chair, and then they understand the difference and see the big picture. They understand all the things that go with running an offense or running a defense. There’s no question that his experience, I thought, was very critical in our growth as an offense to be a part of our offense as we move forward.”


» Muschamp said the team spent the first 4-5 days of bowl practice working on fundamental football and used the final four before Christmas break doing normal game week preparation. He decided to have Florida run, stretch and once again familiarize themselves with the game plan because there is an extra day of preparation.

» On the 2011 season as a whole: “It’s been a disappointing season from the standpoint of what our record is. It’s been very frustrating. It is what it is at the end of the day. We need to prepare well for this football game. We’re playing a good football team, and we need to play well.”

» On redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard’s play this season: “I thought Jaye played well. Jaye’s played himself into a decent situation there for April. He really has. He’s played well. He’s played blocks well. You talk to a lot of the people who’ve played us, they all compliment how he’s played and how much better he’s played, his pad level, his hustle to the ball, finishing plays. He’s done a nice job.”

» On if he’s spoken to Urban Meyer since he took the Ohio State job: “A couple times, more than anything about hiring coaches and stuff that he was looking at. He called for my opinion on a couple and that was about it.”

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12/21: Patchan says Gators will improve, notes

With the Florida Gators hoping to end the season on a high note with a victory in the 2012 Gator Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes, three players were made available to the media Wednesday to discuss a number of topics.


There is no questioning that Florida’s offense in 2011 left a lot to be desired. Just because it struggled at times during the year – especially when redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was out of action or limited – does not mean it cannot improve before the bowl and heading into the 2012 season, redshirt sophomore tackle Matt Patchan said Wednesday.

“Obviously we have to get a lot better. Everybody has to get a lot better,” he noted referring to how the offense played through the first 12 games. “We’re going to see a marked improvement here after a short while for sure.”

Patchan also explained why the Gators’ offense struggled this season and how he thinks things will get better sooner than later.

“There’s lots of room for improvement all over the board. It’s only going to get better as long as everything stays the same. The mark of a good offense is it gets better as time goes on – the more consistency and fluidity within it,” he said. “Also there’s timing issues involved and everything, and you’ve really got to communicate well with the line of scrimmage as far as calls and everything and knowing exactly what each call means.

“In our playbook we’ve got like 20 pages worth of just calls – like a call sheet – that we have to audible at the line as far as the way we’re going to attack a defense. If everybody’s not on page with that – meaning all five offensive linemen along with the tight ends and the fullback that’s doing it – then the littlest difference, that six inches makes the biggest difference in the play. That’s been the result that we’ve seen so far with the six losses this season.

“It’s easy to sit here and say there’s going to be a lot of improvement next season, but we still have to put the work in [during] the offseason obviously. But there’s a lot of room for improvement.”


» Redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. on losing the team’s offensive coordinator: “It kind of threw me for a loop, but like I said he got a better opportunity as the head coach job at Kansas. I wish him the best of luck. That’s the world we live in, where a coach is here for a year and then they move on and get a better opportunity.”

Hammond on why Urban Meyer is such a good recruiter: “His drive to get you here, and he’s a good coach. He knows football like the back of his hand. The opportunity that presents itself when he’s around and the guys that he recruits and just the energy that he has definitely makes him a good recruiter. He got me here. He just comes after you and stays on you, makes sure you’re appreciated and [know] that he cares about you. At the end of the day he wants the best for you.”

» Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray on the defensive coaches returning: “Our whole defensive coaching staff is coming back next year, so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. We’re not going to have a problem with that, they’re all coming back. It’s going to be great to have the same system, getting ready knowing what to look for going into the offseason, knowing what to work on, knowing what the coaches have, knowing the plays and everything. It’s going to be real good.”

» Patchan on why he got better at the end of the season: “I’ve been hampered and it’s been a while since I’ve been able to be on the field for as long as I have [this year]. It’s like riding a bicycle. One day you get back on and you never really forget how to play, but it takes a while to knock all the dust off and everything. I feel like I’ve been taking advantage of my opportunity and try[ing] to improve every day whenever I go out on the field to practice. And I’ve done that. I’ve gotten consistently better, and I hope to keep getting consistently better.”

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Floyd stepped up; players on Meyer, Marotti, Weis

With the Florida Gators hoping to end the season on a high note with a victory in the 2012 Gator Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes, three players were made available to the media Tuesday to discuss a number of topics.


A career defensive tackle, sophomore Sharrif Floyd moved to defensive end before the season began at the request of head coach Will Muschamp, who was searching for a capable starter and depth at a very shallow position. “It was good on my part because it shows that I can do more than just what I’m here for. I can do what’s best for the team and learn things the best I can. I think it was a good fit for my resume this year,” Floyd said, putting a positive spin on the move.

With redshirt senior Jaye Howard and sophomore Dominique Easley manning the inside, Floyd played out of position on the end but still finished sixth on the team (and second on the defensive line) in tackles with 44 (18 solo, five for loss). “As I started to progress at D-end, I started noticing more teams just not coming my way. It was frustrating but at the end of the day it was make a play however it happens,” he said. “It was frustrating at the beginning until I started talked to my coaches about it. They told me to just hang in there and work with them. I did what was best for the team and came out as one of the leaders in tackles.”

That is exactly what Floyd did and though the plan was always for him to move back inside in 2012, Easley tearing his ACL has prompted that move to occur one game earlier. “[I’m] definitely more comfortable,” Floyd said of moving back to tackle. “Don’t like the way it happened or the reason why I went back in[side], but it happens in the game of football. I can’t be more excited. Three-technique is definitely my position now and until I’m done. Since I’ve been playing over eight-nine years now, I’ve been at D-tackle. I know it. I know all the blocks. I know what’s coming at me. There’s no thinking, there’s just going. I understand it a little more and there’s no need to be patient at D-tackle.”


Floyd, junior safety Josh Evans and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose each spoke about the impact and provided their unique opinions on former head coach Urban Meyer taking a new job at Ohio State, strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti leaving Florida to join him, and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis taking the head coaching position with Kansas.

Floyd on how the team felt about Meyer’s decision: “There’s a lot of the guys on the team. We all got own opinions about things. I can’t really talk for everyone else but for me personally, I think that’s good for him. He’s going to do what’s best for him and his family. No hard feelings over here. If I saw the guy today, I would still shake his hand, talk to him, have a normal conversation. That’s the name of the game and it can happen anywhere. Congrats and good luck to him.”

Evans on Meyer’s choice and if the team was angry: “It was a shock. It was a little surprising, but we moved on and we’re past it. […] He’s a good coach, and I wish the best for him. […] I’m pretty sure there are some people that feel some type of way about it, but we don’t really discuss it as much.”

Evans on Marotti being a huge loss for the Gators: “That was big for us because he was a good coach and like a father to some players. That was a big loss because we came in here and basically everybody knew him as the strength coach. We got [Scott Holsopple] now and he’s a good strength coach, too. We kind of figured once Meyer took the job that it was a chance he probably was going to leave because we knew they were close, so everybody kind of had a heads-up on it.”

Debose on Weis suddenly departing: “It was a total shock. We had no clue that he was leaving. My reaction was that he had a great opportunity to be a head coach. I wouldn’t turn that down either. I wish him the best of luck.”

Debose on if Meyer’s decision or Marotti moving on was tougher: “Coach Marotti was just as important as Coach Meyer. I think Coach Marotti was a bigger shock to everybody because that’s our strength coach. He makes a lot of good decisions and he helps our bodies. For him to leave, that was a big shock.”


» Floyd on Muschamp’s proclamation that training camp was not hard enough: “If coach thinks it should have been tougher, than it should have been tougher. I’m behind whatever he wants to do.”

» Evans on redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Brown not playing: “To me that was a big loss because when I came in that was one of the first guys I met. Seeing him not play was difficult for me because we are real tight like brothers. He should be healthy after the season so he can get back in the spring and hopefully he can [play].”

» Debose on interim offensive coordinator Brian White: “Coach White is a great play caller. He has a track record; he has done it before. I’m behind him 100 percent. Coach White is a genius I feel like.”

» Debose said he had to work on his consistency each practice and looked to redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson as a model of consistency and high effort for him to follow.

» Debose on having so many transfers this year: “All I can say about that is: If you don’t want to be a Gator, you won’t be a Gator. And if you don’t, you’ll leave. They left.”

» Debose on how redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley will be thought of after the bowl game: “I think John Brantley will be remembered as a hard worker, great guy, good football player. I want him to go out with a bang. I want him to have a career game for the bowl game. Even if he didn’t, I would still think he had a solid career, but I want him to go out like a champ in his last game.”

» Debose on Muschamp hiring a replacement offensive coordinator: “Whoever he brings in, we know that he’s going to be the best for this program. We’re behind him 100 percent.”

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12/20: White talks OC job, Gator Bowl prep

As the Florida Gators prepare for their 2011 Gator Bowl match-up against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Jan. 2 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL, interim offensive coordinator and running backs coach Brian White met with the media Tuesday to discuss the upcoming game.


White wanted to make one thing perfectly clear Tuesday: He loves the University of Florida and enjoys working under head coach Will Muschamp. He reiterated on three occasions that, whether or not the “interim” tag is removed from his title following the Gator Bowl, he anticipates being with the Gators in 2012 and beyond.

“Every day is an audition for the job that you have. I learned a long time ago: Do a great job with the job that you have and don’t worry about doing anything except the best job you can do with the resources you have and good things will happen,” he said. “That’s just the approach that I take to every day in this job. I love working for Coach Muschamp in any capacity and love this university, so I feel very fortunate to be here and be part of just a great university and a great athletic program.”

But would those sentiments change if he is passed over for offensive coordinator? “I’d be happy to be here,” White said. “I’d be happy to be part of this organization in every capacity every day I can be a part of it. My family loves it here. I love it here. Any opportunity to help this program get better in any way I’d be happy to be part of.

“Will’s going to do what’s in the best interest of the football program. That’s what he should do – what’s in the best interest of this university. He’ll make a great decision and it will be very beneficial to this program. I’m just happy to be here.”


Though he may not have had to create an entire game plan in a while, White is excited to have that opportunity once again – even if it is just for one game.

“I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s always a great experience to be able to put together a game plan with your coaches,” he said. “It’s always a collaborative effort. It’s fun to be able to play chess. Football is nothing but a game of violent chess, and the best part is that we as coaches don’t have to take any of the hits.”

He is also not concerned about the long layoff and believes football is the exact same game it was last time he had the permanent role of offensive coordinator.

“You may think football has changed but it hasn’t. Football is really still a very simple game,” White said. “It is who blocks and tackles the best and who scores more points than the other team, who is better fundamentally, who is tougher physically and tougher mentally. That’s who is going to win the game. It’s not nuclear physics. It’s about execution.”


» On how bowl practices have been going: “It’s been really good. I really like where the players are at right now. They seem very motivated and looking forward to playing in a big-time bowl game against one of the most traditional programs in America.”

» White said he and football Jeff Blasko are the ones currently working with the quarterbacks heading into the bowl game. “Jeff’s a wonderful young coach who has done a nice job with our players,” he said.

» On the health of the running backs: “They’ve made every practice; they’re probably as healthy as they’ve been all year. I’m really looking forward to them being at full strength for the bowl.”

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