The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 13

SEC Network debuts on Thursday

Though fall practice for the Florida Gators is in full swing and there is plenty of football to discuss, let’s start this week’s TSL with a quick look at the SEC Network, which debuts nationwide on Thursday.

The list of cable and satellite providers is long. The talent signed to broadcast games, events and studio shows is strong. And the fact that the SEC Network will air three football games every Saturday, not to mention a ton of contests from the dozen other sports played by Southeastern Conference teams, means most of the time you tune in, there will be something exciting going on.

There are some that think the channel will fail to live up to its hype but there is not much to support that assertion. The SEC Network is better positioned to succeed than any of the other conference-only channels have been at the time of their debut. It has the strongest partner possible in ESPN and enough unique programming to give it some substance at launch.

All of that, coupled with the tremendous amount of live sports programming it will carry (especially in the spring during basketball and baseball season), gives the SEC Network every chance to be a major success right out of the gate.

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Are Florida’s receivers finally ready to break out?

It has been four years since the Florida Gators have seen one of their wide receivers get drafted by an NFL team, an especially jarring statistic when one considers that the program had 19 total selected in the 17 drafts the league held from 1994-2010.

Combining poor recruiting with lackluster development, inconsistent quarterback play and overall uninspiring offenses, Florida has been unable to get the necessary production out of the position to win football games and propel players to the next level.

As the 2014 season fast approaches, it appears to be unanimous around the team that the Gators possess more firepower at the position than they have since the 2009 campaign.

Florida does, however, face a couple of obstacles on its way to having the position perform as well as head coach Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper both expect with Roper’s newly-installed offense.

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Hype train rolls on for WR Demarcus Robinson

More than once this offseason – including at the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days on Monday – Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp called this season’s roster the most talented he’s had during his tenure at the school.

While corroborating that statement before the season is difficult considering Florida has lost a ton of top-end defenders in consecutive seasons and enters the 2014 campaign with its underwhelming specialists unchanged, the Gators certainly do possess a rebuilt stable of offensive talent.

Yet while Florida’s veteran wide receiver (redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar, incoming pass-catching tight end (redshirt senior Jake McGee) and three starting-caliber running backs (sophomore Kelvin Taylor, redshirt senior Mack Brown and redshirt junior Matt Jones) were all mentioned by the contingent in Hoover, Alabama, on Monday, it was a talent who frustrated and underwhelmed as a freshman that got the most praise.

“You heard it here first. He is that good,” sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III – a third-team Associated Press All-American, unanimous first-team Freshman All-American and unanimous first-team All-SEC nominee – said of the player.

Hargreaves was speaking to FOX Sports reporter Bruce Feldman about Florida sophomore wideout Demarcus Robison, the four-star prospect who was supposed to be a game-changer and big-time playmaker for the Gators as a freshman.

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2014 SEC Media Days – Will Muschamp pleased Florida’s roster, progress made in spring

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III represented the team on Monday by participating in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Below are highlights primarily from Muschamp’s sessions with the media.

BETTER THAN EXPECTED

If anyone is to believe in the possibility of Florida turning things around in 2014, rebounding from its worst season since 1979, it is going to start on the offensive side of the ball. Muschamp knew this and brought in offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to employ a spread offense and make the Gators a more dynamic playmaking team.

Not only will Roper’s offense put redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel back in the shotgun, where he is more comfortable and capable, it should give Florida more space to make plays. Muschamp is already extremely impressed with how much UF has been able to get accomplished in such a short period of time.

“I went back and looked at our numbers from 2012 when we were in the shotgun as opposed to being under center. When Jeff was in the shotgun, our yards were better, our explosive plays were better in both the run and pass game. He was recruited to Florida to be a gun quarterback,” he explained.

“In making that change, I felt like Kurt Roper was a great hire for us from a standpoint of a guy that philosophically is on the same page with me as what we want to be, that’s a balanced offense. …

“In our 15 days of springs, we got a lot more done than I thought we would. He’s an outstanding fundamental football coach, very positive. It was good to see our offensive kids having fun again on the field. Really excited about that. Probably what excites me the most is this is probably the most talent we’ve had on offense in my four years at Florida.”

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Florida Gators WR coach Joker Phillips resigns; Chris Leak to coach wide receivers

Updated on Thursday at 5:15 p.m.

After just one year on the job, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips has resigned from his position with the Florida Gators.

Graduate assistant Chris Leak, a four-year starter at quarterback and national championship-winning signal caller for the Gators in 2006, will take over coaching the position as a full-time staff member.

The second African-American head football coach in Southeastern Conference history, Phillips spent most of his 26-year coaching career with Kentucky before he was fired by the program during the 2012 season, his third as the Wildcats’ head coach.

He joined Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s staff that December, signing a two-year contract that was supposed to keep him at Florida through the 2014 campaign.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that the University of Florida and Will Muschamp provided to me and my family, but at this time I have decided to step down from my position on the UF coaching staff for personal reasons,” he said in a school release.

Neither Phillips nor UF provided any specific reason for his departure, though ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, citing a source, noted Phillips “resigned because of possible recruiting violations.” McMurphy retracted prior assertions that Phillips was forced to resign whether by Muschamp or someone else at the school.

FootballScoop.com‘s Scott Roussel cited a separate source which said “the issue at hand is a ‘bump’ [with] a [high school] junior” and that Phillips was “turned in by another program in Florida.” A “bump” in college recruiting is when a coach converses with a high school recruit outside of the allowable time periods at a “chance encounter,” whether the interaction was intended by the coach or not.

A source close to the program confirmed to OnlyGators.com that Phillips was indeed turned into the NCAA for a “bump” violation by a representative of Miami but could not say whether that incident led to his resignation.

Thursday update: Charles Robinson and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports report that Phillips’s resignation came on the heels of the NCAA receiving “a photo of the coach sitting in a restaurant with a high school recruit during a mandated dead period in recruiting.” Citing three sources, the duo further reports that “the photo was turned over to the NCAA by an individual with ties to the Miami Hurricanes athletics program. Should the NCAA determine Phillips improperly recruited during a mandated dead period, it could be considered a major NCAA violation.”

Read the rest of the original story…after the break!
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Muschamp gathers Gators in Fort Lauderdale

Florida Gators fans in Broward County got the chance to hear head coach Will Muschamp speak for the first time since 2011 when he stopped by the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for his second Gator Gathering of the spring.

Muschamp touched on a number of topics during his hour-long appearance behind the podium on May 1 and stuck around afterward to sign autographs for all of the nearly 250 fans in attendance.

Below is a recap of some of the most newsworthy and interesting subjects that Muschamp discussed both in front of the public and in his pre-event media availability, which was attended on behalf of InsidetheGators.com.

» Muschamp said he has definitely learned some lessons through his first three seasons on the job: “Keep your quarterback healthy. Number one through five. I think every year you go back and look at the growth stages from being a coordinator through now being a head coach. I don’t know that I was a much different coach than I was when we won 11 games. Keep your quarterback healthy. Anticipating issues that come up, maybe, after being through an experience like that. I’ve never been through an experience as an assistant coach. I’ve had head coaches that have been coaching for a long time call me and say, ‘I had no idea the amount of things that happened and occurred.’ You live and you learn. I never want to experience it again, I can assure you of that. But I think as much as anything anticipation of things that come up.”

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2014 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Preview

OnlyGators.com will offer full coverage of the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut via an on-site live blog on Saturday, April 12 as fans are unable to watch the spring game live for free either on television or online.

A live blog link is now available, so be sure to check OnlyGators.com to bookmark the page and stay with us as we take a first look at Florida football ahead of the 2014 season.

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather: Sunny, 80 degrees, winds east at 8 mph
Time: 1:30 p.m. (EDT)

TV (5:00 p.m. Tape Delay): Sun Sports (Larry Vettel, Nat Moore, Jessica Blaylock)
SiriusXM: None | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Free Online Video: None | Mobile Video: None
Free Live Updates: OnlyGators.com and @OnlyGators on Twitter

Reference: Roster | Schedule

EXPANDED VIEWING INFORMATION

Television:
Florida’s 2014 spring game will not air live on television but rather on tape delay at 5 p.m. due to a conflict with the Tampa Bay Rays. OnlyGators.com contacted Sun Sports and the Gators but received conflicting information as to why the game was not available live elsewhere on television, even as a pay-per-view broadcast.

Saturday, April 12 at 5:00 p.m. | Sunday, April 13 at 10:00 a.m.
Tuesday, April 15 at 12:00 p.m. | Thursday, April 17 at 12:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 19 at 12:00 p.m. | Tuesday, April 22 at 4:30 p.m.

Online:
While the game is not being offered live on television, you can pay $3.99 to stream the Orange & Blue Debut live online as a pay-per-view via GatorVision.tv.

However, OnlyGators.com is running a free live blog during the Orange & Blue Debut, so you can also check here on Saturday for full coverage without paying a cent.

EVENT FORMAT

Unlike 2013, when Florida only had six healthy offensive linemen and head coach Will Muschamp felt the team did not have enough healthy players to play a true spring game, the Gators will be reverting back to that format with four 12-minute quarters and a running clock, which will only stop during the two-minute drill at the end of each half.

Though Florida, for marketing purposes, held a “selection show” picking the first 12 players of each team, Muschamp previously stated that the Gators will run “good-on-good” during the game, meaning the first-team offense will play against the first-team defense and the same for the second-team units.

Therefore, even though there are supposed to be two teams – one wearing orange, the other blue – going against each other, both defenses will wear orange and both offenses will wear blue. Good luck keeping score.

Injury report, player notes and much more…all available after the break!

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Roper enthused heading into Gators spring game

Two days before spring practice ends with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut, new Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media to provide his final thoughts on his unit heading into Saturday’s spring game.

“LET’S GO SCORE SOME POINTS”

Fans that had time to attend got a sneak peak at Florida’s uptempo offense during the Gators’ open spring practices, but the rest of the base has been patiently waiting to see how Roper has turned around a downtrodden unit in just over two dozen practices.

Roper believes his group is ready to deliver and hopes that fans come away from the spring game confident in Florida’s ability to move the ball up and down the field in 2014.

“What you want to see from the offense is really, ‘Hey, let’s get the right personnel on the field, let’s get lined up, let’s get set with motion, get the ball snapped before the play clock runs out, and let’s have possession of the ball at the end of the play.’ If we’ll do those things and look like a well-coached offense and guys that are locked in, we’re going to make plays in this offense,” he confidently explained.

“That’s going to happen. There’s enough opportunities that will take place. The biggest thing is not beating ourselves, going out there and looking like a well-coached team.”

In order for that to occur, the players need to be as confident as their coach, which Roper believes they are even though the system is still quite new to these Gators. But he is not concerned about their confidence heading into the game. Rather, he wants to see the same thing as fans: points on the scoreboard.

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