8/26: Muschamp announces new Mr. Two Bits tradition, gives thoughts on upcoming season

Game Week – Monday: Opening Week Depth Chart | LB Antonio Morrison’s Suspension Reduced | RT Chaz Green Out for Season, RB Matt Jones Update

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the team as it heads into its first game of the season on Saturday, Aug. 31 against Toledo. The game will kick off at 12:21 p.m. from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, and air live on SEC Network affiliate stations.

CELEBRITY MR. TWO BITS

Muschamp announced Monday that Florida will be honoring George Edmonson, better known as Mr. Two Bits, by continuing the tradition at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with Gators celebrities (rather than the mascot Albert) – leading the crowd in the traditional cheer – “Two Bits! Four Bits! Six Bits! A Dollar! All for the Gators, stand up and holler!” – before home games.

The first celebrity that will try to step into Edmondson’s bow tie? Former Florida running back Errict Rhett (1990-93).

“Errict Rhett will be the first guy to do that, certainly a passionate guy with a lot of energy. You talk to him on the phone he’s almost going to come through the phone on you there. He’s excited about it,” Muschamp said.

Added Rhett in a school release: “[Mr. Two Bits] always gets the crowd so excited. We’ve been down in games and all of a sudden you see him over there and he has so much enthusiasm, he gets the crowd pumped. There is not one dull moment.

“Every time he does it he puts his heart into it. I want to do the same thing, put all my enthusiasm into it. … I want to look exactly like him. I’ve been watching it and I can’t wait. I want it to be memorable.”

MAKING DUE AT TIGHT END

Two of the top tight end prospects in the country in 2012, sophomore Kent Taylor and redshirt freshman Colin Thompson, committed to the Gators but neither is in the two-deep depth chart at the start of the 2013 season. Instead, while Thompson holds on to the third-string role and Taylor is nowhere to be found, a pair of juniors have stepped up in starter Clay Burton and back-up Tevin Westbrook

Muschamp likes what Burton and Westbrook bring to the table for Florida and is positive that both will be able to contribute for the Gators this season.

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8/23: Muschamp on injuries, Powell, freshmen

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday, just over one week before the team’s 2013 season opener against Toledo on Aug. 31.

STATE OF THE GATORS

“I do feel good about this team. I met with the seniors and the leaders [Thursday], talked about our camp and where we are. Some of my issues had to do with the sense of urgency with the team. We have a lot of young guys at some positions we’re counting on. I think everyone in the country would say the same thing. That’s part of it. I think we’re experienced in the places you need to be experienced. That’s the quarterback position, both lines of scrimmage have some snaps about themselves. They’re mature lines of scrimmage. We’re going to be a little green as far sat he running back position heading into your first ball game, receiver a little bit, and then some situations on defense depending at linebacker, how we’re able to rotate those guys in. But I feel comfortable – very comfortable – about the talent level at those positions. So that’s kind of where we are.”

INJURY UPDATE TRENDS POSITIVE

Though the Gators will be without two offensive starters for the season opener due to injury, Muschamp did present a relatively positive injury report otherwise.

Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (knee), junior fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring), freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (shoulder) and sophomore wide receiver Raphael Andrades (turf toe) will all return to practice on Monday.

“All those guys we feel like will be back and ready for game week,” Muschamp said.

RONALD POWELL READY TO CUT IT LOOSE

By the time he steps on the field on Aug. 31, it will have been 607 days – nearly 20 full months – since redshirt junior Sam linebacker Ronald Powell has played in a college football game. Muschamp on Friday said Powell is continuing to improve on a daily basis and looks more explosive than he has all offseason.

“You’ve seen him gain more confidence each time in contact. We’ve had two live scrimmages and different live periods throughout some other practices. A guy that’s gained a lot of confidence as he’s moved forward,” he said.

“That’s the thing you worry about – a guy really cutting it loose and playing. I’ve seen a guy that kind of early on – tentative is not the right word because he wasn’t tentative – but [he was] cautious. Now you’re seeing him cut it loose and play, and that’s what you’ve got to do. It’ll come back fast for him as far as the tempo and the speed of the game. I’m sure he’ll have some anxious moments. That’s part of it. It’s expected when you have an injury like he’s had.”

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8/19: Muschamp updates injuries and defensive depth chart, discusses freshmen playmakers

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media before the team’s 20th fall practice (the third open to the media) ahead of the 2013 season.

INJURIES UPDATES POSITIVE…FOR ONCE

Sophomore running back Matt Jones remains out of action while recovering from a serious viral infection but is looking healthier than he has in quite some time and could be on his way to returning to practice if some Monday tests come back with the results that please team doctors. “Matt Jones is getting some blood work done this afternoon,” Muschamp explained. “He’s got his weight back up. He’s at about 223 [pounds]. When this happened, he was 226. So I’ll know a little bit more as we move through he week, but he’s been jogging and moving around a little bit more, which is good.”

While it is unknown when Jones will be cleared, Muschamp said the Gators have been operating with the assumption that he will miss Florida’s season opener against Toledo on Aug. 31. The good news is that Jones has a positive attitude and seems to be progressing exactly the way trainers have hoped. “I get a daily update,” he said. “He feels good. He’s doing more and more every day from a workout standpoint. That’s all I know. We’re playing it by ear.”

Beginning Thursday, the focus for the Gators turns to game week. Florida will begin additional preparation for Toledo, and Muschamp said Monday that he expects to have most of his nicked-up players back for the contest.

Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (knee), junior fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring) and freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (shoulder) should all be ready to practice next week. Additionally, senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins (foot) returned to practice on Sunday, and senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley (shoulder) is practicing after getting dinged during practice last week.

Muschamp also expects to have redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (pectoral) back but said he is still awaiting approval from doctors, which he could get on Friday. “Right now, everything has gone extremely well [with his recovery],” he said. “They feel like the cavity has filled in where the pec was torn. They feel good about it, but I won’t know more until Friday.”

Sophomore wide receiver Raphael Andrades (turf toe) – “It’s a pretty good one.” – will miss at least 10 days.

Though UF appears to be suffering through a variety of ailments and injuries, Muschamp pointed out that the team is “probably healthier than [it was] a year ago” because most of the “setbacks have been non-football and non-contact,” including the two anterior cruciate ligament tears. “That’s been the frustrating part,” he said. “We’re healthier now than we have ever been since I’ve been at Florida, at this point in camp.”

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8/7: Pease on Debose’s knee, Driskel as a 300-yard passer, new players and Florida’s offense

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media after the team’s first full week of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

A RESURGENCE HAMPERED BY INJURY?

Universally praised by his coaches and teammates this offseason for being more focused and dedicated, redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose may have his sudden resurgence hampered after going down with a knee injury during practice on Tuesday. Though Pease would not go into details about Debose’s injury – head coach Will Muschamp does not allow his assistants to discuss team ailments – he did say that the knee will be evaluated by doctors on Wednesday.

“Yeah, he tweaked his knee a little bit, so they’re evaluating it at this time and we’ll go from there,” he said. He later added: “I saw him walk off [the field], but I don’t know the severity of it right now.”

Pease also said that Debose has “done a great job” in practice up to this point.

UPDATE: Debose out for the season with torn ACL

MORE DYNAMIC PASSING GAME IN YEAR TWO?

Muschamp, Pease and junior quarterback Jeff Driskel have all mentioned this offseason that Florida must become more explosive in the passing game, and Pease stood by that statement on Wednesday.

He noted that while the Gators did get big chunks of yardage at times in 2012, the vertical passing game was not sufficient for what he wants to do at Florida and he must call the corresponding plays to allow that goal to come to fruition.

“The thing that I saw that we didn’t have was throwing the ball vertically over the top. We had explosive plays, probably a lot more in the run game or catching short passes and making plays out of them. We determine explosive plays as 16 yards or more,” Pease explained.

“It’s more probably throwing the ball over the top, just stretching the field vertically, which we need to do. That’s route running, accuracy with the ball, protection at times. There’s a lot involved with it. That’s where hopefully, with the respect our running game has gained and the kids we have back there, when people start to pack the box we got to be able to do that.”

He continued: “Some of it is on me. I got to be willing to pull the trigger and let them perform. But I’m confident [that they will],” he said.

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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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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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3/19: Three Gators injured, others progressing

Now a week into 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.

INJURY UPDATES

Freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone, who got knocked out of spring practice on Saturday after colliding with sophomore tight end Kent Taylor, had surgery on his shoulder Sunday and will be out for the remainder of the spring. Muschamp said on Tuesday that Anzalone should return for fall practice after a four-month recovery.

“It was his labrum, right shoulder, I believe. It’s a freak deal. It was in a tackling drill and he got hit on it the wrong way. I’m disappointed for him, but he’s going to be a really good player, so we’re going to be fine,” he explained.

Muschamp also announced that sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard and redshirt junior cornerback Cody Riggs tweaked their hamstrings. Bullard is expected to return Monday while Riggs is technically listed “day-to-day.”

Additionally, redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio, who will be limited throughout spring practice while recovering from a knee injury, was able to get on the Sunday but only for individual work. He is not yet ready for 11-on-11 drills but “looked good.”

THREE-WAY PLAYER, YES, BUT DEFENSE COMES FIRST

Though junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy has been spending spring practice playing offense and special teams exclusively up to this point in time, Muschamp made it clear on Tuesday that he expects him to primarily be a presence on the defensive side of the ball but hopes his work on offense allows the Gators to be more multiple in the ways that offensive coordinator Brent Pease uses him during the season.

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