8/21: Pease talks Gators receivers and rushers

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media 10 days before the team’s first game of the 2013 season on Aug. 31 against Toledo.

PLAYMAKERS: FOUND?

Outside of running backs and tight ends, the Gators have been searching for a set of reliable playmaking wide receivers for the last few seasons. Though he still wants to see what will happen when these players on the field, Pease said Wednesday that Florida should be able to spread the ball out more in 2013 thanks to the talent of the pass catchers on its roster.

“I feel pretty good [about them]. It’s really more centered [on] the kids that are playing wide receiver now,” he said. “Obviously we took a big loss when Jordan [Reed left for the NFL] – because he was our leading pass reception guy last year – so I think things got to become more balanced out in throwing to the wide receivers.”

Leading the pack, of course, is freshman Demarcus Robinson. Considered the most important commitment in the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class, Robinson (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) has the size, speed and athleticism to make a difference for Florida.

“I think he’s got great hands. Size-wise, he’s really what you want. And his strength that he’s got in his body. For a young kid to face as much man coverage and have to get off of that but have the body to do it, you don’t see that a lot,” Pease explained.

“Every repetition you can see him get better. The one thing he does have is, he can get knocked off at times on a reroute, but he has the ability to explode to go get a ball. So he’s got a lot of range. … I’m not pointing him out as the greatest thing on Earth yet, because he’s got to play a game, but he’s worked on his skill and understanding what his opportunity and job is on each play.”

Robinson, who Pease called “a phenomenal athlete,” is not the only wide receiver performing well during fall practice. Senior Solomon Patton, redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar and freshman Ahmad Fulwood are names that have been on the tips of the coaches’ tongues over the last two weeks.

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8/12: Muschamp on Joyer’s injury, Jones missing games, standouts from Florida’s scrimmage

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media during his team’s second full week of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

INJURIES CONTINUE TO MOUNT

There appears to be no slowing down Florida’s rash of fall injuries. Though junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (appendectomy) returned to practice over the weekend and both redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia (back) and redshirt sophomore G Trip Thurman (shoulder) were cleared – as expected – on Monday, the Gators added another player their long injury list over the weekend.

Junior fullback Hunter Joyer pulled his hamstring Sunday and will miss a 7-10 days.

He joins sophomore running back Matt Jones (viral infection – out indefinitely), redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral – 7-10 days), senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (sprained patella – one week), senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins (sprained foot – one week) and freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (meniscus surgery – 3-4 weeks) on the sidelines.

Jones began participating in cardiovascular activities last week but is not close to returning to practice. Muschamp said team doctors want to avoid a “relapse of the situation” and ensure that he makes a full recovery before returning to the field. He also indicated that Jones’s absence could stretch into the 2013 campaign.

“Beginning of the season, at some point, whether it’s the first week or the second week or as you head into the open week, he’s going to play for us this year,” he said. “It’s totally up to [the doctors] as far as the things they’re telling me right now. That’s why I said we’re a little bit in uncharted waters coming into having the type of infection he had and then you’re talking about the heat we’re in and that sort of thing. I think we just need to be really careful right now.”

Muschamp then reiterated what one of Jones’s doctors told him about his recovery. “When you’re dealing with the human body, you never know. You don’t know how he’s going to respond and how quickly. The great thing is he’s young, he’s in great shape and it knocked him down a little bit, but he’s a guy that’s going to respond very quickly.”

Halapio was reevaluated on Friday when Muschamp said he expected him to be cleared for action by Monday. Instead, he will miss at least another week of action.

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8/9: Muschamp on injuries, Morrison, team issues

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media after his team’s first full week of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

ILLNESS / INJURY UPDATES

The bad news: In addition to announcing the re-torn anterior cruciate ligament for freshman linebacker Matt Rolin and expressing his hope redshirt senior wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose returns for a sixth year of eligibility (see “Notes & Quotes” below), Muschamp discussed three new injuries on Friday.

Seniors defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (sprained knee) and defensive back Jaylen Watkins (sprained foot) will each miss approximately 10 days with their ailments.

Additionally, freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson, who enrolled in the fall and entered camp with a pre-existing injury to his meniscus, will have knee surgery on Friday and sit out the next 3-4 weeks. It was unlikely that Johnson saw the field for the Gators this season anyway, but the surgery certainly puts him further behind and makes a redshirt season appear all but guaranteed.

The good news: Redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia (back) has been cleared for non-contact individual work, according to Muschamp. Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) is meeting with doctors Friday and hoping to be cleared to return to action by Monday at the latest. Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder) remains on track to return Monday as well.

While there is not a full update on sophomore running back Matt Jones (viral infection), Muschamp said he should know more next week. Jones has been able to participate in cardiovascular exercise this week but has not practiced with the team.

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Florida assistant Joker Phillips developing much-needed improvement at wide receiver

It’s not every day that a respected offensive mind and experienced head coach will join a program as an assistant, but the Florida Gators and Will Muschamp certainly lucked out in December when ousted Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips agreed to take over UF’s much-maligned wide receivers.

At 49 years of age and entering his 26th year as a coach, Phillips is a former wideout who played in the NFL and CFL before deciding to get into coaching.

He had been in charge of Kentucky’s offense since 2005 and developed some major NFL-caliber stars while in Lexington, KY, and elsewhere including Randall Cobb, Stevie Johnson, Jacob Tamme and Troy Williamson.

Now at Florida, Phillips gets to take a bit of pressure off the shoulders of offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who had graduate assistant Bush Hamdan coaching up his pass catchers last season after the departure of Aubrey Hill.

“It’s been good. He’s a very experienced person at that position and has good ideas. He knows kind of what we run as far as our system. He fits into that. He’s willing to do it, obviously. I think he’s good in the fact that he’s challenged the kids at the wide receiver position,” Pease said of Phillips on Wednesday.

“You bring in a guy that’s got that much experience and you just look at his reputation and it provides the fact that I think he gives you the authority figure that knows what’s going on.”

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Florida Gators WR/KR Andre Debose out for entire 2013 season with torn ACL

By all accounts, redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose was in the midst of turning his college career around, becoming a more dedicated and harder working member of the Florida Gators football program throughout the offseason.

Unfortunately for Debose, he will not be able to showcase that newfound intensity this season as the school announced Wednesday afternoon that a knee injury he suffered in practice on Tuesday has been diagnosed as a torn anterior cruciate ligament, an impairment that will sideline him for the entire 2013 campaign.

“I know that Andre is disappointed,” said Florida head coach Will Muschamp in a school release. “He had been doing very well in camp and we were more than pleased with his effort and attitude. Andre was hurt in a non-contact situation. He just planted his foot and there was a tear.

“He will have surgery after the swelling goes down. It is unfortunate and you feel bad anytime that someone is injured, and the coaching staff and our team will be very supportive in assisting Andre during his recovery.”

When Debose goes under the knife, it will be his second time doing so while wearing orange and blue. As a freshman in 2009, he had season-ending surgery in the form of a graft on his biceps femoris, a muscle that connects the knee and hamstring. The procedure was required after an injury he suffered in high school failed to heal before the start of his college career.

Expected to be a dominant play-making receiver for the Gators, Debose has only hauled in 29 balls and totaled 543 yards of offense in three years. He struggled to get on the field as a redshirt freshman in 2010 but stepped up and made a dent for Florida with a pair of 75-yard touchdown receptions in 2011. Debose finished the campaign with career-highs of 432 yards and four touchdowns.

Entering his redshirt junior season in 2012, Debose once again fell out of the coaching staff’s good graces due to his questionable work ethic and barely saw the field on offense, catching just three passes for 15 yards on the year.

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8/6: Burton cam, Murphy stepping up, receivers improving, defenders getting ejected

A handful of Florida Gators football players met with the media on Tuesday to discuss how the team is looking at the start of fall practices.

VIDEO: PRACTICE THROUGH THE EYES OF A PLAYER

Senior Trey Burton, who is still listed as a running back, said Tuesday that he has been working the most at wide receiver though he did admit that he is doing “a little bit of everything.” In a prior practice, Florida strapped a Go Pro camera to Burton’s helmet so fans can get a player’s view of what it is like to go through the motions.

MURPHY SOLID BUT DRISKEL STILL THE LEADER

With junior quarterback Jeff Driskel still sidelined following his appendectomy, redshirt junior back-up Tyler Murphy has been running with the first team in practice and appears to be doing a good job as a substitute. The reviews are positive from his teammates and coaches thus far, and Murphy believes he taking a major step forward in his development as a signal caller.

“It’s been a good experience,” he said, according to The Gainesville Sun “I’m just trying to be productive. Things have been going well for me. There’s still a lot I need to work on. But I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better, especially with the amount of reps I’ve been able to get. I want to continue to build trust in my teammates so they feel comfortable with me being the guy if that ever happens. I’m really just trying to develop and grow as a leader and help this team become successful in any way, shape or form.”

Though Murphy is doing an admirable job, Driskel remains Florida’s leader and has been taking mental reps from the sidelines while watching the Gators’ first few fall practices. Burton said Tuesday that the team is pleased with how Driskel has been attacking playing quarterback and being the one guy his teammates can count on whether on or off the field.

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It’s now or never for Florida WR Andre Debose

Florida Gators’ 2013 Media Day: Injured Matt Jones, Jon Halapio, others join Jeff Driskel on sidelines | Appendectomy just a bump in the road for confident Driskel | News, Notes & Quotes – Will Muschamp breaks down the Gators | Story: RB Brown, QB Murphy ready to step up for Gators

He was hailed as the “next Percy Harvin,” though he never requested or embraced that moniker. He was supposed to be the next great wide receiver for the Florida Gators, an accolade he thought he would earn after just a few weeks on the collegiate gridiron.

Now four years after he was first supposed to electrify Ben Hill Griffin Stadium but instead missed the entire season after having surgery on a biceps femoris injury in his knee/hamstring that lingered from high school, redshirt senior Andre Debose knows he has just over a dozen games left to prove that he can continue playing football on the next level.

“I definitely would have told you that was nonsense,” Debose said Thursday at Florida’s media day when asked by InsidetheGators.com‘s Bryan Holt if he expected to play out his eligibility with the Gators. “I would have never thought I would have been here for my fifth year. I could obviously tell you that.”

Judging by his three active seasons, that reality has gradually sunk in for the former five-star prospect who has failed to impress two separate coaching staffs.

Expected to be a dominant receiver, Debose has only caught 29 balls and totaled 543 yards in three years. He struggled to get on the field in 2010 but stepped up and made a dent for Florida with a pair of 75-yard touchdowns in 2011 – finishing the year with 432 yards and four scores – only to once again fall out of his coaches’ good graces. Debose caught just three passes for 15 measly yards last season.

“I really don’t want to talk about last year. I don’t like last year like that,” he said.

Understandable.

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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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