8/1: Muschamp breaks down Gators entering 2013

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

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

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

OPENING STATEMENTS

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

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

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

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

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2013 SEC Media Days – Gators ready to rock

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

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

MUSCHAMP FIRES A SHOT AT URBAN MEYER

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

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

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

PUNISHMENT STILL UP IN THE AIR

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

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

INJURY UPDATES

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

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

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

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

POSITION-BY-POSITION ANALYSIS

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

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Florida Gators 2013 post-spring depth chart

Below is the 2013 post-spring practice version of the Florida Gators depth chart. Though some fans will be excited to see where the team stacks up below, head coach Will Muschamp cautions each year that feeling that way is not worth the energy.

Muschamp makes it quite clear that he does not put a lot of stock into depth charts, even those that are published after spring practice is over. In fact, back in 2011 and again on Wednesday, he stated it is “not worth the paper it is printed on.” In other words, the depth chart seen here is just a starting-off point for 2013 and plenty can change between now and the start of the season.

Nevertheless, below is the depth chart as it was presented on April 24. Notations marked with (») denote changes from the pre-spring depth chart released March 12. Players marked with (*) were out for all or most of spring practice.

OGGOA will update this post with more from Muschamp shortly.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 10 Tyler Murphy
» Murphy inches ahead of 17 Skyler Mornhinweg for the No. 2 job.
RB: 24 Matt Jones, 33 Mack Brown
» Brown understandably inches ahead of freshman 21 Kelvin Taylor.~
FB: 43 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
» Ajagbe wins the second-string job over 29 Rhaheim Ledbetter.
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson
WR (Z): 13 Latroy Pittman, 4 Andre Debose, 83 Solomon Patton
» Debose switches from second X to second Z receiver though the players switch in those positions. Pittman takes over the top spot at Z from 15 Loucheiz Purifoy.
F Position: 8 Trey Burton, 13 Latroy Pittman
TE: 88 Clay Burton, 87 Tevin Westbrook OR 18 Kent Taylor OR 84 Colin Thompson

~ Muschamp on Brown edging past Taylor: “You’re not going to get through the SEC with one back. That’s not going to happen. Certainly Mack has distanced himself as a second-team back at this time, a guy that we’ve got a lot of confidence in, that we expect big things form in the fall to continue to progress. I think he’s done a nice job of running the football, and protections, catching the ball, finishing plays. Kelvin certainly has done some nice things and he needs to continue to progress – more than anything- mentally with the offense. Physically, he’s got some ability.”

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 74 Trenton Brown
LG: 76 Max Garcia, 77 Ian Silberman*
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne
RG: 67 Jon Halapio, 63 Trip Thurman*
RT: 73 Tyler Moore OR 75 Chaz Green*
» Brown (an incoming JUCO transfer) replaces Thurman, who moves from back-up LT to back-up RG. Silberman replaces Koehne at back-up LG.

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Room for improvement in Florida’s passing game

If Saturday’s 2013 Orange & Blue Debut was any indication, the Florida Gators still have a long way to go to get their passing game on track for the start of the season.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp had plenty on his plate this spring as began to fill in holes created by the departure of 13 starters, but he and offensive coordinator Brent Pease have also been focused on ensuring that the Gators improve a passing offense that was ranked 114th in the nation a year ago.

During the 2012 campaign, Pease’s first year at Florida, the team averaged just 146.31 yards per game through the air. UF was only one of two programs in the country to average fewer than 150 passing yards and boast a winning record (Navy).

How poor was the Gators’ passing attack? Florida ranked 111th in total passing yards (1,902) and 110th in yards per reception (10.39). The Gators were also just one of two teams in the nation to rank in the bottom seven for passing offense and not boast a top-six rushing offense (Temple) to off-set the lack of yardage.

In other words, there is plenty of room for improvement.

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Florida offense: Quick hitters on Garcia, Jones, Brown, Ajagbe, Andrades and the offensive line

Over the last week-and-a-half of Florida Gators spring football practice, a number of players met with the media to discuss their individual play and the team as a whole. Below are some of the stories, notes and quotes that have fallen through the cracks.

READY AND ABLE TO CONTRIBUTE

A lot has been made over the last two weeks about injuries to the unit, but a huge boon for Florida’s offensive line is newly-eligible redshirt junior Max Garcia, a transfer from Maryland who sat out the entire 2012 season and has accepted a position switch from tackle to guard. Garcia was listed as the starting left guard on the Gators’ initial spring practice depth chart and has received nothing but positive views thus far in camp.

Garcia, who missed a few days of practice with a sore back, explained last week that Florida’s depth concerns on the offensive line are legitimate but the players are doing whatever they can to make it work.

“This spring is tough with the numbers that we have. The coaches are telling us we’ve been doing a great job, but at the end of the day, it’s going out there and doing what we need to do. With the O-line, we’re the backbone of the team, so we just got to keep pushing forward and getting the job done,” he said.

Garcia also spoke about why he decided to transfer to the Gators, noting that he is sure he made the right decision. “I’ve had a lot of support with the coaches and the players. That’s the main reason why I came down here, just because of the players that were here, the players I interacted with on my official visit. We got a good O-line, great chemistry, so the transition has been going really well,” he said.

Though he is now fully in the mix, Garcia had to sit out the entire 2012 season, watching the team from afar as it completed an unexpected turnaround under head coach Will Muschamp. He discuss how that affected him as a competitor.

“Honestly, when we were winning, it wasn’t really hard. With a great season, you’re just happy to be part of the team, happy to contribute. It was good getting recognized at the end of the year as the Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year. The hard work didn’t go unnoticed. The coaches did a good job just telling me I’ve been doing well. I was really excited. It wasn’t really a burden on me. I was just happy to be a part of the team.”

“It was tough on the away games sitting in front of the TV, wishing I could be out there trying to help the team. But for the most part we had a really successful season, so it wasn’t really that tough.”

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4/2: Muschamp on spring game, injuries, updates

Now in the third week of 2013 spring football practice, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Tuesday to discuss some of the latest developments surrounding the team and provide updates on specific players.

ORANGE & BLUE DEBUT SPRING GAME PRACTICE FORMAT

Instead of a full scrimmage like the Gators normally run for the Orange & Blue Debut, this year’s event will be more like an open practice that also includes limited scrimmage snaps. Florida will mix approximately 40 scrimmage snaps between individual and team position drills. The format change is being made because the Gators currently only have six healthy offensive linemen and Muschamp feels it would be unfair to ask them to participate in 60-100 snaps over the course of a single afternoon.

“It’s not fair to go into a spring game situation and ask these guys to take 60-70 snaps in a row,” he explained. “That’s not healthy. That’s not good, it’s not good for our team.”

Muschamp also detailed what the team will be doing during the practice/scrimmage (in order): (1) Field goal/point after touchdown drills, (2) punting and individual drills, (3) one-on-one work with the secondary and receivers going head-to-head while the quarterbacks throw the ball, (4) one-on-one work with block reaction for the offensive line, (5) linebackers and running backs picking up blitz protection and coverage responsibilities, (6) two series of scrimmage with the ball on the 35-yard line, a total of 8-12 plays, (7) red zone one-on-one, (8) offensive and defensive line two-on-ones, (9) two series of scrimmage with the ball at the 35 yard line, a total of 8-12 plays, (10) two full cover punts and a punt/punt block drill, (11), two series of scrimmage from midfield, (12) two full cover kickoffs and a kickoff/kickoff return drill, (13) two series of scrimmage from midfield, (14) red zone 7-on-7s with the ball at the 18-yard line, (15) additional drills including pass rushing, (16) backed up punt drill, (17) one-minute scrimmage drill.

“It’s about getting good-on-good work. It’s about getting your best players going against your best players. … You get better when you’re going good-on-good,” Muschamp said. “This is good work. It’s good special teams work. This is a normal scrimmage-type situation for us as far as our football team is concerned. It’s good-on-good and that’s all I’m concerned with.”

Additionally, Muschamp announced that the coaching staff will be wearing microphones so fans in attendance can get a better idea of what is going on throughout the event. Coaches will be explaining each session before it begins and Brady Ackerman will be on the field to ask the coaches questions.

Due to the new format, Florida and the sponsors of the Orange & Blue Debut have made it completely free to the public. Anyone who pre-purchased a ticket for the event will have it refunded in full (special passes are still needed for the premium areas).

Schedule of Events:
9:00 a.m. – Gator Locker Room Yard Sale (outside Gate 9)
10:00 a.m. – Verizon Fan Fest in North End Zone Lawn
10:30 a.m. – Gator Walk
11:30 a.m. – Gates Open to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
11:30 a.m. – Warm-ups begin on the field
12:30 p.m. – Alumni Flag Football Game
1:00 p.m. – Orange & Blue Debut

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Gators offense improving; various team notes

Covering both Florida Gators basketball and spring football this week naturally forced some news, notes and quotes to fall through the cracks. Saturday’s spring football practice update covers everything that was not touched on previously this week on OGGOA. Be sure to check out the posts linked below in case you missed anything.

3/19: Three Gators injured, others progressing | Story: Brown ready for last go-around | Story: Dunbar coming into own | 3/22: Practice notes, Morrison, kicking

TAKING THE NEXT STEP ON OFFENSE

Though most fans chose to blame junior quarterback Jeff Driskel for all of Florida’s passing game struggles in 2012, offensive coordinator Brent Pease looked at the entire situation another way. If Driskel has no one to throw the ball to, how can he be blamed for being protective of it and not forcing it into windows that were simply not there?

“Looking back and seeing what they faced on a week-to-week basis from defenses, knowing the picture that he had to see at times for throwing, it’s a struggle when there’s nobody there for you. Guys got to get open,” he said.

To that end, Pease expects the Gators offense to continue its evolution in 2013 and noted two specific reasons why he thinks Florida will be able to move the ball better.

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Florida WR Quinton Dunbar coming into his own

For a team that has lost three of its top four pass catchers from a year ago, the Florida Gators sure are confident that the passing game will be much improved in 2013.

With junior quarterback Jeff Driskel entering his second year as Florida’s starter and a bunch of talented young receivers jockeying for position in spring practice, offensive coordinator Brent Pease has a lot more to work with now than he did in 2012.

While hopes seem to be pinned on junior Loucheiz Purifoy becoming a reliable part-time offensive playmaker, freshman Demarcus Robinson breaking out as a first-year player and will-he-or-won’t-he redshirt senior Andre Debose finally coming into his own after years of accomplishing little on the field, it is actually redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar who has been standing out the most early on during spring practice.

“They want me to be that guy. They want me to be the leader of the group and they want me to lead by example, so I’m looking forward to taking that role,” Dunbar said on Tuesday. “It’s just a humbling experience. I want to continue getting better each and every day, continue to work hard and lead by example.”

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