TE Christian, WR Clark to transfer from Florida

The Florida Gators announced Tuesday that sophomores tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark plan to leave the program and transfer.

“Both of these players have expressed a desire for more playing time and felt that it would be in their best interests to transfer,” head coach Will Muschamp said in an official release from the school. “We wish them both the best of luck and appreciate their contributions to the program.”

Christian, who moved between tight end and linebacker in the spring before returning to his primary position this fall, had caught four balls for 72 yards and a touchdown this season. He played mostly on special teams as a freshman.

“I’m looking for an opportunity to play more,” said Christian in the same release. “I have no bad feelings about Florida or the coaching staff, I just want to get a fresh start and see the field more.”

Clark has barely played in 2011 after seeing brief playing time one year ago, catching seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown in 2010.

“I’ve enjoyed being a part of the Gator program but at the same time I’m excited about future opportunities to play more,” Clark said. “I will have nothing but good memories from my time in Gainesville.”

Christian and Clark committed to Florida in 2010 along with sophomore safety Matt Elam; all three players were graduates of Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, FL with Christian and Elam the most highly recruited of the trio.

Elam played extensively as a freshman and is arguably the Gators’ most consistent defensive starter this season. He is second on the team with 43 tackles (3.5 for loss) and has two interceptions as well as a forced fumble.

The duo are the eighth and ninth players to leave Florida since Muschamp took over the team. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed following two marijuana rests in less than 90 days. Defensive end Chris Martin, WR Chris Dunkley, WR Javares McRoy, running back Mike Blakely, TE Michael McFarland and LB Dee Finley transferred.

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10/18: Muschamp’s Tuesday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

AN APOLOGY FOR HIS LANGUAGE

Muschamp was caught by ESPN cameras on Saturday not only berating officials for what he perceived as a blown call on what was ruled a muffed punt by redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey but also using some foul language while doing so. He felt it was necessary to apologize for his language and did just that on Tuesday.

“I do want to apologize for my language on the sidelines the other night. That’s not something that’s going to be tolerated here at the University of Florida first of all by me and our program. That’s certainly not represented of what this program or this university is about,” he said, specifying that he was not apologizing for his intensity on the sideline.

“It’s the language. You got a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old at home and you got to go home and explain to them what you said. It’s not good and it’s not how we’re going to run our program. That’s it. As far as the sideline stuff is concerned, we’re going to be who we are. I’m just apologizing for the language, nothing else.”

OPENING STATEMENTS

“It’s tough to always have an open week after a loss – certainly after three. We really are a banged up football team. We really need to work on fundamentals and what we need to do up front on both sides of the ball. We’re searching for some answers offensively. Tuesday and Wednesday are fundamental days of really just working on us good-on-good, and then Thursday we will start our preps on Georgia as far as on the field. We start[ed] as a staff on Sunday. That’s kind of where we are and then Friday we’ll have a team lift and run them and then Sunday come back for a team dinner, some walkthroughs and some meetings as we move forward to Georgia.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Oct. 29, Georgia.

“They have a talented football team with three seniors on the offensive line. Aaron Murray is a guy that can hurt you running and throwing; he’s completing over 60 percent of his passes. Isiah Crowell is a guy that has come in as a freshman and done a really nice job in their run game. Orson Charles is a very talented tight end, a guy that can stretch the field vertically, block at the point. Malcolm Mitchell is a freshman receiver that has been really good for them playing the X position. Defensively they have really improved from a year ago. They’re playing well on the defensive side of the ball.”

WEEKLY INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

In addition to his statement about the health of redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Muschamp gave one general status update for a number of other players on the team who are banged up and were limited last week.

He said that the following Gators should practice at some point this week, most likely Wednesday or Thursday depending how their injuries are healing: sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (shoulder/neck), senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle), redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (strained knee), junior RB Mike Gillislee (ankle), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (ankle) and redshirt senior left guard Dan Wenger (foot). “We’re hoping to get all of those guys this week for practice and certainly for the Georgia game,” he added.

POSITION-BY-POSITION EVALUATIONS

Muschamp took time Tuesday before answering any questions to provide a short evaluation of the team position-by-position.

Quarterback: Outside of Brantley, Muschamp said he was pleased with how freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are progressing. “They both have natural leadership ability because of their presence. They’re both competitive,” he said. “They’re very well-liked on the team and very well respected on the team for a freshman, which is hard. It’s hard at that age to have the command and the respect and the presence, and I think both guys have that. They have the ‘it’ factor in my opinion. They have a lot of the intangibles you look for at that position. They certainly are guys that I am very pleased with, and I think the future is bright as far as those two young men are concerned.”

Offensive line: Muschamp said that redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio has been the most consistent performer and that redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan has played great over the last two games. “Up front we need more consistent play in being able to run the football. We got to play better around the quarterback position regardless of who is playing,” he said. Muschamp added that others aside from those in the standard rotation are still competing for playing time but they have to show they deserve it in practice.

Wide receiver: “We need more playmaking ability outside and more consistent play,” Muschamp said. He noted that redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr. was the most consistent pass catcher and Debose has “done some nice things” as far as making big plays vertically.

Running back: Aside from Rainey, Demps and Gillislee, Muschamp said he was pleased with freshman fullback Hunter Joyer’s freshman campaign. He also praised sophomore Trey Burton for succeeding in the package of plays that he has been given. “We’ve been able to move the football in the last two games using that package,” he said, “so we’ll continue to build on that.”

Defensive line: Muschamp praised redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard, sophomore DT Dominique Easley, sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd, redshirt junior DT Omar Hunter and senior DE William Green for all making improvements throughout the season. “Defensively I think we’ve taken some steps up front and played a little better,” he said. We’re not where we need to be, but I do feel good about the improvements we’ve made in the last three weeks as we head into the last five ballgames.”

Linebackers: He similarly praised redshirt junior Lerentee McCray and said the team would not be where it is from a defensive standpoint without junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins. “We need to develop some guys past those two to get more production from that position,” he said.

Secondary: The praise, of course, started with the position’s best player. “Matt Elam is having a solid year as we hit the half-way point. He’s paying very productive for us. We moved him to the nickel in the Auburn game because I saw a lot of the perimeter runs where they were very effective. We felt like we needed to put him in at a point of attack in the game, and he certainly was very effective,” Muschamp said. He added that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson has been a pleasant surprise but that the unit has a long way to go. “We need to be more productive on the back end,” he said. “Let’s be realistic. We’ve played three teams in a row that have run the ball over 40 times, so we haven’t exactly been tested on the back end. We need to play better when those opportunities come up.”

Special teams: Muschamp said that Sturgis has been “outstanding” and has been kicking the ball well not only on field goals and extra points but for kickoffs, too. As far as freshman punter Kyle Christy, who earned his first start Saturday, Muschamp noted that “he’s a guy that can flip the field for us” and said he was “really pleased with how he punted last week.” He reiterated that the team has had no problems at punt returner until Saturday night but that he is going to look at other players to do the job in addition to Rainey, Debose, Hammond and sophomore WR Robert Clark.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the team’s biggest flaw at this point: “Things that have really hurt our team obviously is turnover margin. We’re -7 – last in the SEC. We haven’t had a turnover defensively in the last three ball games. It’s something we emphasize and talk about. Obviously we’ve got to find different measures in order to create some positive momentum for our offense whether it’s in special teams or offense. Gaining possession of the ball is critical for us.”

» On improving the offense: “We’re looking for answers right now offensively. We’re working diligently as a staff to find what we can do to move the ball and score points. We certainly understand in the last three games we have not done that effectively enough. Regardless of the circumstances and the situation, we’ve got to find way to move the ball and score. That’s what we’re searching for at this point.”

» On the plan for the bye week: “This week for us is more focused on Florida and what we have got to do to get better. As we move forward in the open week here, we just need to make tremendous strides and improvements with our team, identify the weakness which we obviously have some and move forward with our guys. Our guys competed hard against Auburn. I thought they played hard and laid it on the line. We just came up short.”

» On if he thought about playing Georgia each year when taking the Florida job: “I’ve faced Georgia a lot before as a defensive coordinator. I enjoyed my time there, but I’ve worked at LSU, I’ve worked at Auburn in this league. I’ve worked for different coaches that are coaching at different universities. My loyalties reside with people, not places necessarily. Certainly my loyalty is here with the University of Florida.”

» On Driskel and Brissett possibly competing for three more years: “I wouldn’t necessarily want that to happen. Both guys are really good players and both guys deserve the opportunities that they have gotten. That’s something, as we work through the week, that we’ve got to manage. And there are no better hands to manage that then Charlie Weis’s, in my opinion. […] That’s something that we’re going to cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now we just need to get these guys the 50-50 reps for this week and continue to improve our football team moving on to Georgia.”

» On if playing Brissett changed his long-term plans at that position: “It doesn’t really alter anything.”

» On Christy stepping up into the starting punter role: “Kyle – from a leg-strength standpoint – has been the guy. It’s been an operations standpoint. He got his operation time down in being able to kick. Obviously he flipped the field and was a big difference in the game and for our team, that’s not something we necessarily have done well throughout the season up to this point.”

» On his own intensity on the sideline: “I don’t think it hurts anything. I can tell you that. I’m going to be who I am. That’s what I’ve said from the beginning.”

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10/15: Florida at Auburn post-game notes

The Florida Gators (4-3, 2-3 SEC) fell again on the road on Saturday, dropping a 17-6 decision to the No. 24 Auburn Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC). OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from both head coach Will Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.

“It was a tough, hard-fought game. Obviously three turnovers lead to 10 points. It’s tough to win the game. We’ve gone three games where we haven’t gotten a turnover defensively or on special teams. We’ve got to create some positive momentum for our football team and our offense, and we’re not doing enough of that. That’s something we’ve got to be able to do. [Turnovers] leading to 10 points was just really, really disappointing.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

In addition to redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (lower leg) and redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) being ruled out early in the week, it turns out that neither senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle) nor sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (neck) were cleared to play. Muschamp said Monday that both players were expected to be fine for the game but admitted Saturday that Powell did not practice all week and Demps was a game-time decision.

Perhaps even worse for Florida, injuries piled up for the Gators on Saturday. Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs, who hit two field goals, injured his leg and was unavailable for the remainder of the game. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose appeared to hurt his ankle and changed out of his uniform. Redshirt senior left guard Dan Wenger was wearing a boot on the sideline, junior left tackle Xavier Nixon appeared hobbled, and both junior RB Mike Gillislee and sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley were injured during the game but eventually returned.

ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

Will Brantley play against Georgia?
“I’m hoping so. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know. His rehab is going very well.”

Was there any indication in practice that there were punt return problems?
“We haven’t had any issues at all.”

Why didn’t Gillislee get the ball more as previously suggested?
“We weren’t really doing much in the run game. That kind of dictated that. We felt like we needed to open it up more and work the perimeter. We did have some read series runs where he was a part of that and didn’t get the ball in those situations.”

Why did freshman Kyle Christy take over at punter?
“We just had not been flipping the field in the punting. We felt like we needed to look at a possible change in that situation, and Kyle had been punting extremely well. His operation time had been the issue. He had his operation time down pretty much throughout the week, and we felt like he deserved that opportunity.”

MUFFED PUNTS AND NUMEROUS MISCUES

Two important factors have dug Florida into big holes over the last two weeks – penalties and turnovers. Though the Gators committed their fair share of penalties on Saturday, their turnovers were much more detrimental to the outcome of the game. UF muffed four punts in the game and gave up two of them. Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey fumbled one in a play that should have been an interference call against an Auburn player; it eventually cost Florida a short-field touchdown.

Replacing Rainey after his third muffed punt, sophomore WR Robert Clark followed suit and let one slip between his arms. Clark’s fumble resulted in a field goal. After the game, Muschamp explained why the change was made and why Clark was chosen.

“Bobby’s done an outstanding job. Chris was gassed a little bit and was tired and had a hard time fielding a couple,” he said. “Bobby’s been doing it all year for us and being very effective. We’ve had Frankie [Hammond] back and several guys back. Andre’s been back but he was hurt. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Bobby.”

DRISKEL AND BRISSETT SPLIT TIME

Freshman Jacoby Brissett was named the Gators’ starter this week after a full week of practice, but as offensive coordinator Charlie Weis mentioned on Tuesday, it appeared as if classmate Jeff Driskel would get his fair share of snaps, too. That is exactly what happened during the game, which wound up being a tale of two halfs as Brissett started the first portion of the game and Driskel led the team after halftime.

Muschamp explained that having just six points going into the locker room was unacceptable and that Florida “needed to do something different from what we were doing” in the second half. “We knew Jeff was going to play in the game,” he said. “We came in at halftime and talked. Jacoby’s play was nothing that we were disappointed with. We just weren’t moving the ball effectively enough, and we felt like we needed a change. Jeff had a couple nice drives. We need to do more. We need to play better around both guys.”

He also acknowledged that “playing as a true freshman quarterback in this league is difficult” and thinks both signal callers are “going to be fine” in the long run. Muschamp also refused to place the blame on their shoulders. “You can’t score six points and win games. It’s going to be tough. You got to score more points than that,” he said. “It’s not all their fault either. We got to play better up front. We got to play better at the wideout position. We got to develop some things in the run game. We got to do a lot.”

Nevertheless, Muschamp did point out that the passers have a long way to go. “Both guys didn’t do anything that really killed us in the game but again didn’t do enough to help our football team,” he said. “We had a missed throw there on the flea flicker – it was wide open and we need to hit that and we need to take advantage of those situations when we have opportunities to make those. The more reps and the more turns those young men get, they’re going to be really good football players. I’m excited about both of them. We just need to continue to move forward. It’s been tough with Jeff being hurt a little bit. Going into the fifth week of the season, Jacoby didn’t have a whole lot of reps because he’s a third stringer. That’s the reality of it and that’s part of the game.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on losing three-straight games: “I told [the players] that losing is hard. Losing is tough. It’s not fun. But we’re going to stay the course here, OK? The guys fought and competed hard in the game, and I felt that way a week ago. We didn’t get the results we wanted but we took a positive step forward. I saw some good things. I saw some things that we obviously need to correct. Very proud of our effort, how we competed in the game in a tough place to play. I thought that we didn’t win the game and that’s what everybody wants to see, but I see a lot more than that. I saw things that we’ve got to do as a program to take steps forward, and I thought that we did some of those things tonight. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get the win.

» Muschamp on if he is happy his defense played much better: “Well, it wasn’t good enough.”

» Muschamp on if he hoped a wide receiver would emerge this season: “It’s more than anything not necessarily somebody emerging, just somebody playing consistently. That’s the biggest issue right now – consistent play at the position. We’re not getting enough consistent play at the position.”

» Hammond on the team’s numerous issues: “It’s football. Nothing’s going to come easy. They did a good job scheming things up and playing at the line of scrimmage. We have to go back, look at the mistakes we made, see what the problems were and make a correction.”

» Hammond on how much of a difference Brantley would make: “You have a veteran quarterback with more experience. He makes things happen.”

» Hammond on having two weeks off: “The bye week I think will be beneficial for us. We can get guys who are banged up with nicks and knacks back. We got two weeks to prepare for Georgia, so we got kind of a jump start. We can break it down even more, analyze and see what they’re really all about.”

» Redshirt sophomore guard Jon Halapio on the offensive line’s play: “I could have done a better job. I don’t know where the mistakes were because we haven’t watched film.”

» Redshrit senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard on the play of senior defensive end William Green: “He went hard. Willie Green shows up to play every day and he went hard in the game tonight.”

» Howard on tough opponents: “The last few weeks have been pretty tough in the trenches. I think our defense stood up today. We played hard and we have to continue to do that.”

» Howard on the defense handling Auburn’s offense: “We had complete confidence coming into this game that we were going to play. Our coaches preached adjusting to the temp – the hurry-up offense. We adjusted well to it and came to play.”

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Florida drops third straight, falls 17-6 at Auburn

Following consecutive blowout losses to two of the nation’s top-three teams, the Florida Gators were expecting to bounce back on the road Saturday evening against the No. 24 Auburn Tigers. Instead of taking a step in the right direction, Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) dropped their third-straight Southeastern Conference game, this time 17-6 to Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) after giving up three turnovers including two on special teams.

The Gators started the 2011 season 4-0 and dropped to 4-3 for the second consecutive year after Saturday night’s defeat. UF had not lost three-straight games since 1988 but have now done so in back-to-back seasons.

The miscues started early and occurred often for the road team.

Florida and Alabama traded possessions early in the game with Gators freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett throwing an interception on the second play of the contest and each team punting twice.

On the Tigers’ third punt of the game, UF redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey muffed the catch; the ball was recovered by AU linebacker Daren Bates.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp exploded in anger on the sideline, questioning the referees as to why interference was not called on Auburn.

Three plays later, Gators sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley jumped offsides, but Tigers QB Barrett Trotter continued the play and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeAngelo Benton for the first score of the game.

Down a touchdown, Florida employed F-back Trey Burton behind center and ran the ball on four of five plays to get down to Auburn’s 23-yard-line. UF ended the drive with a 47-yard field goal by redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis to reduce their deficit to 7-3.

The Gators struck again on their next possession. Brissett completed three passes to redshirt junior WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. as part of a 12-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal.

Auburn took over with 2:33 left and drove down to Florida’s 28 but failed to connect on a 45-yard field goal, taking just a one-point lead into the locker rooms.

The Tigers outgained the Gators 80-30 offensively in the first quarter, but UF took over in the second, compiling 76 yards of offense compared to just 22 for AU.

Auburn and Florida began the second half by substituting their quarterbacks. The Tigers sent in second-year player Clint Moseley for Trotter, while the Gators replaced Brissett with fellow freshman Jeff Driskel.

Both teams punted on the first possession of the second half, but Florida freshman punter Kyle Christy dropped his attempt, picked it up and shanked the ball just 18 yards. Auburn K Cody Parkey missed a 42-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, his second failed attempt of the game.

The Gators got the ball back and began driving down the field with Driskel. UF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis called a flea flicker on second-and-one at AU’s 48; though the first part was executed well, Driskel overthrew redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed, who was streaking down the middle of the field.

After another punt each from Florida and Auburn, the Tigers put together the longest scoring drive of the game, a seven-play, 66-yard effort that resulted in a 14-yard rushing touchdown by RB Onterio McCalebb.

The Gators tried to respond with a long drive of their own but stalled on fourth down in the red zone. Sturgis was ruled out with an injury after the half and kicking a field goal was not an option for Florida at the time.

UF punted once again but pushed AU back inside their own five. Auburn ran the ball three times but was stuffed by Florida’s defense and punted from their end zone.

Freshman WR Robert Clark replaced Rainey as punt returner after the latter muffed his first four punts of the evening. Clark did not do any better, letting the Tigers’ punt fall between his arms as he tried to field it.

Auburn recovered with less than three minutes to play and eventually kicked a 42-yard field goal to take an 11-point lead with 35 seconds remaining.

Miscues by the Gators wound up costing them the game. Florida’s three turnovers – two fumbles on special teams and an interception on the second play of the game – resulted in 10 points for the Tigers. Auburn outgained their opponent 278-194 on the evening and made sure to score when it counted.

Tigers RB Michael Dyer led all playmakers with 23 carries for 73 yards. Hammond had 40 yards on four receptions for the Gators, a season-high for a Florida wide receiver.

UF will now have a bye week to try and cure what ails them before heading into the World’s Largest Cocktail Party against Georgia in Jacksonville, FL on Oct. 29. The game will air live on CBS at 3:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press

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9/10: Florida vs. UAB post-game notes, quotes

With the No. 18 Florida Gators‘ early non-conference schedule now wrapped up and a 39-0 victory over the UAB Blazers in the books, OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp and some of Florida’s players.

ABSENCES AND INJURIES

Sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd missed his second-straight game due to suspension (he will return for Tennessee), but two other notable players did not dress on Saturday. Neither redshirt sophomore wide receiver Stephen Alli nor redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail donned a uniform and Muschamp did not provide reasons.

Additionally, redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) and sophomore WR Robert Clark (hamstring) continued to sit out due to injury. During the contest, senior running back Jeff Demps (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) got dinged up but Muschamp implied after the contest that neither injury was serious.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Before he answered questions about Saturday’s victory, Muschamp gave an opening statement about the game touching on some positives and negatives that he noticed.

“Obviously any time you win it’s a positive and to win 39-0, it’s very difficult nowadays in college football or in any level of football to get a shutout. I’m very proud of our defense but really you got to attribute a lot of that to our offense in the second half. The ability to be able to run the football – that was kind of the plan to win at halftime when we were presented those circumstances. Very pleased with the victory, but I think the red zone offense is disappointing, the defense created one turnover had an opportunity on two other situations.

“I thought we had a chance to get there. We had some miscommunications defensively; I don’t know if we played as well as we would have wanted to play against this football team defensively. Procedural issues are very frustrating – had to take two time outs in the first half – we can’t afford to do that as we move forward in the SEC.”

RAINEY RACKING UP THE YARDS, POINTS, PRAISE

Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey’s 162-yard effort on Saturday once again showed that he is turning into a one-man gang for the Gators’ offense. With four touchdowns in two games, he has accounted for nearly half of the team’s end zone trips and approximately one-third of their offensive yardage. Muschamp was, once again, impressed with Rainey’s output but said it is not coming as much of a surprise to him.

“Since I’ve been at the University of Florida, I’ve watched a guy who is extremely competitive; he’s a great practice player. You ought to come watch a practice – you know, if we ever open it up. It may not happen and he’s a senior,” he joked. “He is extremely electric with the ball in his hands and a lot of fun to watch. You watch him compete in practice – he blocks hard in practice – he does everything that you want a good football player to do to contribute to your football team.

“He brings a certain energy to the football player. He’s done everything we’ve asked. He’s worked hard. He’s competitive, he’s tough and God’s blessed him with an awful lot of ability. […] You see certain guys that have a certain bounce about themselves every day in practice. Chris has that. He positively affects everybody in the organization. A guy that’s really passionate about what he does. He likes football, really enjoys playing football, and I’m glad he’s a Gator.”

REMEMBERING 9/11

Florida honored America during the game by commemorating September 11th with a pre-game video, halftime band tribute, ribbons painted on the orange stadium walls and in-game announcements but nothing was more stirring than watching cheerleaders and players run onto the field with American flags before the game began. Muschamp said that everyone who carried a flag has/had a relative in the military.

Those players included sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley, Brown, redshirt junior linebacker Lerentee McCray, sophomore safety Matt Elam, junior left tackle Xavier Nixon, freshman CB Loucheiz Purifoy and freshman S Jabari Gorman. Additionally, sophomore fullback Jesse Schmitt (who got a carry in the game), will be a commissioned second lieutenant upon graduation.

“9/11 affected us all in different ways. Certainly a very irrational occurrence that happened – very difficult to deal with – so I wanted to pay our respect to those people,” Muschamp said. Nixon also spoke about what it was like to carry the flag out of the tunnel. Flag: “It feels great and prideful. I felt good,” he said. “I saw my mom’s face and it almost brought tears to my eyes because I’m very proud of my parents.”

PENALTIES A MAJOR CONCERN

Through two games, the Gators have accounted for 18 penalties for 120 yards (not counting yardage lost due to plays being called back). Muschamp was aggravated with the fact that the team committed nine penalties for 65 lost yards on Saturday and let it be known that would be a point of education this week.

“We had a miscommunication one series on a call on third down – it’s not what we wanted to be in. We had some penalties that put us behind. I believe we finished the game with nine penalties – too many penalties,” he said. “We had offsides defensively in critical situations, especially third down – disappointing. Discipline issue – penalties, and you can’t afford to have those. You can’t put yourself behind the sticks offensively, especially in the red zone when the pass zone is condensed and it’s tougher to run the football and then people outnumber you in the box. We’re going to go back and look at it and make the corrections we need to make.”

BURTON SEES THE FIELD, SUCCEEDS AS A RUNNER

Having left the season opener early due to a bruise, sophomore RB Trey Burton came on strong in Florida’s second contest, rushing for 46 yards on just a handful of carries and accounting for a touchdown as well. Burton came in as a power back and also took some Wildcat snaps, including one he ran in for a score. “Most importantly it gives Rainey and Demps a break,” he said of his performance on Saturday. “They don’t have to be in every single play. Thankfully Coach [Charlie] Weis is giving me the opportunity to play running back and I really enjoy it.”

Muschamp said he was pleased with what Burton is able to accomplish with his versatility. “I think you see him line up in the slot, you see him line up at fullback, you see him line up at halfback. He’s really good in protection. He’s an outstanding receiver,” he said. “You saw him tonight running the football, getting his pads downhill. It provides for us to get a bigger back in the game with the same personnel grouping on the field with taking a Chris or a Jeff and putting them in the slot with some of our one-back stuff. He’s just a really good player. Football comes very easy to him – he gets it, he understands it. Really happy he’s a Gator.”

RED ZONE EFFICIENCY STILL A CONCERN

The Gators may have scored every time they entered the red zone on Saturday, but Weis was visibly upset on the sideline because Florida failed to convert each trip into a touchdown. Not only did some penalties push UF back, miscommunications and badly executed plays forced the Gators to kick more field goals than they want. Considering Weis believes kicking a field goal in the red zone is a failure, Florida’s offense has a long way to go to be successful in his eyes.

“We moved the ball the whole first half, we just got in the red zone and you just can’t have those critical errors in those situations. It’s demoralizing for an offense to kick field goals in the red zone,” Muschamp explained. “You want to leave with points regardless, that’s the first thing, but when you get down there, you got to put seven on the scoreboard, especially with where we’re heading.

“That’s something we got to get corrected. And it’s disappointing. If they make a good play defensively, we can live with that. We don’t like it, but we can live with it. But when you shoot yourself in the foot, that’s what you can’t [have]. And that’s what we did tonight.”

TURNOVER FOUND, PASS RUSH NOT SO MUCH

Elam ripping the ball out for the first fumble recovery of his career also resulted in the Gators’ first turnover of the year – more than six quarters into the 2011 season. Junior LB Jon Bostic said after the game that it was nice to get the monkey off the unit’s back, but he agreed with Muschamp, who said that one is not nearly enough. “We want to get three. Your chances of winning a game go to 90 percent when you get three turnovers,” Muschamp said. “We just preach over and over again – the game is called ‘football’ for a reason. It’s all about the possession of the ball.”

Florida failed to register a sack on Saturday and the front seven continue to struggle getting consistent pressure on the opposting quarterback. UAB did have a veteran offensive line in the game, but UF must improve in that area overall if they want to win SEC games. Muschamp said he was not so much concerned about the sacks as he is about players hitting the quarterback.

“The sacks are going to come hard when you play an offense like that. The ball is out. It’s a quick passing game; it’s a controlled passing game. There’s not a vertical passing game down the field so it’s going to be difficult to get sacks,” he said. “I don’t look at sacks as much as I look at hits on the quarterback. That’s really important because you’re hitting the guy every snap. I think we got good pressure at times, but the turnovers we need to pick up. We need to do a better job of that.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on controlling the ball and running the clock: “I’m very proud of being able to line up and run it when they know we’re going to run it and we’re still able to run it and take possession of the ball because we’re going to have some games where we’re going to have to do that. Where we’re going to have to slow the tempo down offensively and help our defense play good team football. That was what we wanted to do at halftime.”

» Muschamp on opening up the offense with some wildcat/direct snaps: “We install for the season. We game plan each week to win the game and do what it’s going to take to win the game. Each week we pull a package offensively, defensively and special teams what we’ve got to do to win the football game. We wanted to use some of those things this week. We felt like it gave us a good advantage to win the game.”

» Muschamp on redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley’s performance: “I thought John again played very well, did what we asked him to do within the offense. Again with some of the communication issues, when we had a couple guys go down, we have to iron out. The first person I’m going to blame is me. As a staff we have to get those things communicated better on the field. We’ll get together as an offensive staff tomorrow morning and find out what we got to do.”

» Muschamp on Floyd: “I support Sharrif Floyd. My issue – I stand by it 100 percent – that’s how I feel about the situation. I’m going to move on with it and we’re going to move on with it as the University of Florida.”

» Muschamp on junior RB Mike Gillissle’s touches: “Mike certainly brings some value to our team because he’s different than what we have. You look at Jeff and you look at Chris and they’re both speed backs, they’re both perimeter backs. We do run them inside purposely at times. Mike certainly is a guy that can give us some tough yards in the middle. We run a little different path with him as far as the inside power, the inside zones. He’s a downhill runner. Very pleased with Mike’s progress to this point.”

» Muschamp said he is very pleased with the effort from redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs up to this point. He noted that Sturgis has hit from as far as 56 yards in practice but the team’s goal is always to get to the 35 because he is very solid from 52 yards out.

» Brantley on the heavy amount of running the offense did: “The running game was working. Our line did a great job opening up those holes for the running backs. If it’s working, stay with it. That’s Coach Weis’s mentality and that’s what we did.”

» Brantley on the game-opening flea-flicker: “We were working on it all week. We were hoping to get the right look and we did. I got hit on the play, so I really didn’t see much of it, but I heard the crowd cheering so I knew it was good.”

» Brantley on Floyd’s absence: “One of our brothers was down, and we just had to step up. The other defensive linemen, the offense had to step up to make up for that and we definitely missed him.”

» Rainey on his exciting performances: “I’m just doing my job and trying to score the touchdown for the team. I give a lot of credit to the O-line and the receivers because they’re doing a good job blocking out there.”

» Rainey on his quick moves: “I’ve been working on it a lot more – trying to cut fast and not slow down when I cut.”

» Rainey on taking direct snaps: “It was fun – the first time I was doing it so I liked it. I hope we keep doing it. You can see everything – you see like five different holes and you just got to choose one.”

» Rainey on how Muschamp relies on his mindset in practice: “When I’m happy, the team happy. They tell me if I’m down, they down.”

» Nixon on the offense’s ability: “It’s potential is limitless. We’re as good as we want to be any day. The only way we do bad is if we play bad against ourselves – if we mess our own game up with penalties, mental errors and things like that.”

» Burton on getting ready for SEC play: “These first two games help prepare the young guys for the SEC games because they get to get in, play, get a lot of reps. I know as a team we’re really excited to start SEC football. It’s going to be fun.”

» Burton on what he’s told freshmen about playing in the SEC: “I tell them it’s no joke. Every mistake you do they’ll capitalize on it. It’s a little faster. The guys are a little better. Just overall a lot more fun.”

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No. 18 Florida Gators vs. UAB Blazers Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 83°F, isolated thunderstorms
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: FSN/FSNHD
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: WatchESPN
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(18) FLORIDA GATORS UAB BLAZERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Neil Callaway
Record: 1-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Conference USA
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -23.5; O/U 53.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week two action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday evening at 7 p.m. in The Swamp.

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 1-0 in the all-time series against UAB, defeating the Blazers 51-3 in 2002, the only time the teams squared off.
» The Gators are 36-15-3 against current members of Conference USA and have not lost to one such opponent since 1979. Florida last squared off against C-USA member Central Florida in 2006 and claimed a 42-0 victory.
» Florida has won 88 percent of its home games (118-16) since 1990, the best home winning percentage in the nation. In that period, the Gators are 56-4 against non-conference opponents and 92-4 against unranked teams.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Nine Florida players earned their first starts last Saturday in the season opener as freshmen safety De’Ante Saunders and cornerback Marcus Roberson; redshirt freshmen tight end Gerald Christian, wide receiver Quinton Dunbar and right tackle Chaz Green; sophomores defensive tackle Dominique Easley and S Matt Elam; redshirt junior linebacker Lerentee McCray; and redshirt senior transfer left guard Dan Wenger took the field with the Gators’ first team. It is the first time in school history that a pair of true freshman started the season opener in UF’s secondary.
» Florida’s offensive line did not allow a sack last Saturday.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (304) since 2000; however, UF did not obtain any in its season opener, finishing with a -3 turnover margin (interceptions). Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (68) since 2008.
» UF did not punt the ball last week but sophomore WR Solomon Patton blocked one which was returned for a touchdown. He has blocked a punt in back-to-back games dating back to last season (2011 Outback Bowl).

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and UAB have only met on one other occasion – Aug. 31, 2002 – when the Gators stomped the Blazers 51-3 in Ron Zook’s first game as the team’s head coach. Florida outgained UAB 643-240 in the contest and Rex Grossman went 16/26 for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor Jacobs broke the Gators’ single-game receiving record with 246 yards and two scores on eight receptions, while Earnest Graham took 13 carries down the field for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

INJURIES

» Acitve: Soph. RB Trey Burton (bruise), redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson (head)
» Probable: Redshirt junior WR Omarius Hines (hamstring)
» Questionable: Redshirt jr. CB Jeremy Brown (knee), soph. WR Robert Clark
» Inactive: Soph. DT Sharrif Floyd (suspension), fresh. TE A.C. Leonard (meniscus)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley…who completed 70 percent of his passes (21-of-30) in the season opener for 229 yards and a touchdown but also threw two interceptions. Brantley only had a 60.8 completion percentage in 2010 with more picks than scores but is said to have been revitalized by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
» Running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey…who are co-starters in the backfield and two of the most dynamic and explosive players in the SEC. Demps and Rainey combined for 272 total rushing and receiving yards with five touchdowns against FAU. Rainey became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, while Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark and had four runs over 20 yards in the contest.
» Sophomore Trey Burton…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver.
» Elam…who stood out all offseason as the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary and moved into a starting role in 2011. He notched four tackles in the season opener good for second-best on the team
» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell…who steps into a new position somewhat unique to Muschamp’s defense. Powell started one game as a true freshman but has earned that role permanently this season and achieved a sack against FAU.
» Defensive tackles Easley and redshirt senior Jaye Howard…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (18 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard had a sack in the season opener, while Easley registered three tackles including one for a loss.
» Redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins…who had a team-high five tackles last Saturday including a big-time hit that earned him the team’s first Hard Hat Award.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on two field goal attempts including Florida’s first points of the season – a 51-yarder on UF’s first drive.

UAB
» QB Bryan Ellis…who started the final nine games of the Blazers’ 2010 season and finished with 2,940 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He leads a strong UAB passing attack that hopes to keep UF on its heels throughout the contest.
» RB Pat Shed…who is the team’s leading rusher for a year ago with 847 yards on the season. He also plays a role in the passing game and amassed 471 receiving yards as well as seven total touchdowns for the Blazers.
» LB Lamanski Ware…who is UAB’s defensive leader as well as a team captain in his senior campaign.

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9/7: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators just days away from their second game of the season under head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the UAB Blazers, he spoke with the media during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at going into into week two action.

PLAYER UPDATES

Aside from his opening statement, Muschamp did not have an opportunity to discuss the Gators specifically because all questions surrounded the Texas A&M Aggies joining the SEC any day now. At the start of the call, he said freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus) was the only player ruled out this week but did not provide updates on some other injured players including sophomore running back Trey Burton (bruise), redshirt senior wide recevier Deonte Thompson (head), redshirt junior WR Omarius Hines (hamstring), redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) and sophomore WR Robert Clark (hamstring). He said earlier in the week that Burton, Thompson and Hines were all expected to be healthy, while Brown and Clark would be either probable or questionable depending how they performed in practice and the training room.

Muschamp was not asked about the status of sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, though he likely would have avoided that question and provided a “no comment” reply anyway as the NCAA inquiry is ongoing.

SEC/TEXAS A&M THOUGHTS

On the future of the SEC and other conferences: “I really think we’re heading toward the 16-team leagues eventually. I think there will be four of them at some point, if you ask me personally.”

On if Texas A&M is good fit for SEC: “Their game day atmosphere is very much like the SEC. They’ve got a great backing and tradition and recruiting base is somewhat similar from the standpoint that they do go into Louisiana. When I was at LSU, we recruited against A&M a lot, especially in the southern region. I know they still continue to recruit in Louisiana, so certainly I think it’s a good fit.”

On if Texas A&M joining the SEC helps recruit Texas: “We recruit the state of Florida first of all, and then obviously our region, and if it were to happen, it would certainly help open up some things. […] We do recruit nationally from the standpoint of we’ve got a great, outstanding academic institution, we got a great tradition, and we do attract some kids maybe outside of the state of Florida who want to be Florida Gators.”

On how the SEC could be affected recruiting-wise: “If you look at LSU and Arkansas, and you think back to when Arkansas was in the Southwest Conference and the number of great players they had from the Dallas area, just because that’s where their games were played. The exposure – you’re constantly on television, you’re playing in the state, you’re getting closer to home – all of those things would certainly help those two schools and the Mississippi schools. After that, I can’t really comment on the schools on the eastern side because we really focus our recruiting closer to home here unless there’s a national kid here or there.”

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9/5: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each Monday to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from this week’s availability.

OPENING STATEMENT AND PLAYER AWARDS

Opening statement: “I thought it was a solid performance. I was really pleased with our mental focus coming into the game and how our kids approached the game, understanding we’ll play better people throughout the year to be realistic here. I thought for a first ball game we had some hiccups here and there, some things we got to get cleaned up, a lot to teach from the tape but a lot of positives as well.”

Offensive Players of the Game: RBs redshirt senior Chris Rainey and senior Jeff Demps
Scrap Iron Award (best offensive lineman): Redshirt senior transfer guard Dan Wenger
Big Play Award: Demps
Extra Effort Award: Junior left tackle Xavier Nixon
Defensive Player of the Game: Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Hard Hat Award (big hit): Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins
Special Teams Player of the Week: Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis
ST Big Play Award: Sophomore wide receiver Solomon Patton
Scout Team Players of the Week: Offense-Evan Holmes (fr.), Hygens Succes (jr.); Defense-Michael McNeely (fr.); Special Teams-Solomon Schoonover (sr.)

SEC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week: Redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore RB Trey Burton (bruise) and redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson (head) “should be fine” going into next week’s game. Redshirt junior WR Omarius Hines (hamstring) is expected to return this week.

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) and sophomore WR Robert Clark (hamstring) will be either probable or questionable based on how they perform throughout the week in both practice and the training room.

A TAKE ON ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM

Muschamp provided his perspective on Saturday’s opponent, Alabama-Birmingham. He said he is familiar with head coach Neal Calloway and knows that he “understands about toughness” in regards to a football team’s mentality. Muschamp expects a one-back offense behind a very experienced offensive line that has combined for 118 starts and is returning all five starters from a year ago. He said UAB moved the ball on every opponent they faced one year ago, noting that offensive coordinator Kim Helton played at and graduated from Florida before beginning his coaching career. Muschamp said a new defensive coordinator, Tommy West, will provide the Gators with some unknowns heading into the game and that UAB’s rugby-style punt team will be an something Florida will be prepared for going into the contest.

NOTES & QUOTES

» In regards to sophomore DT Sharrif Floyd’s NCAA eligibility and status, Muschamp partially deflected the question but seemed confident that all would work out in the end. “He’s fine. I have no comment on that at this point,” he said.”

» On if 32 combined touches were too many for Demps and Rainey: “A little of that had to do with Trey [being injured], but we scored 41 points, so we were kind of happy about that.”

» On redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley’s performance: “I thought John was outstanding. I thought he directed the offense, got us in and out of the right runs and passes – no different than I felt watching the film. I thought he was very accurate with the ball, took it to the right places with what they were giving us –t hey were playing more of a sink, soft coverage taking away some vertical things down the field. We hit swing passes all night.”

» On the 10th anniversary of September 11th: “That’s a tough deal. Obviously an attack on our country, to go through what I know a lot of people close to me went through with that is just a tough deal. To have to think through all of that happening – it seems like it was yesterday to me, not 10 years ago now. It’s a tough deal.”

» On how he dealt with his team that weekend: “Getting our team ready was an afterthought after that happened to me. It was more about circling the wagons, understanding why it happened, explaining it to young men why something like that happens. You can’t. You can’t think rationally with irrational people. What happened was totally irrational.”

» On freshman fullback Hunter Joyer’s performance: “We planned on playing him. He’s really progressed well. He really, for a first ball game going out there, was very productive for us in protections, in blocking. A guy that I’m very excited about having on our football team. He gives you a lot of variety of what he can do. He’s very tough; he’s going to be a really good football player for us and we’re very pleased with where he is right now in his progress.”

» Muschamp said that redshirt sophomore WR Andre Debose is getting better and better each time he sees him and is one back-up who really stood out to him on Saturday. “Andre Debose continues to make progress,” he said, “made a really nice catch on third own there on the seven-cut on our sideline.” Defensively Muschamp shouted out freshmen safety De’Ante Saunders, cornerback Marucs Roberson linebacker Graham Stewart and redshirt LB Michael Taylor as players who caught his eye.

» On not getting any turnovers but giving up three: “Yeah, it was a huge concern. That’s something we’re trying to emphasize I think in camp. We did a decent job with that. We were minus-three in turnovers and we were plus-eight in explosives. We had 10 explosives offensively and gave up two defensively. Those are the two factors that we can talk about – all the others you want to talk about – those are the two most critical ones: big play ratio and turnovers.”

» On whether or not he is pleased with how the team has bought into his blue collar mentality: “I want to credit Urban [Meyer] and his staff. A lot of that credit goes to Mickey [Marotti] in the weight room because that’s really where the foundation of your team [is set]. Coaches can only touch the athletes so many times out of the year by the rules. Mickey is with them 12 months out of the year. Certainly his work ethic, his approach and what they’ve been engrained through this program – and that’s why I wanted to retain Mickey for the job he does. They knew how to work, they knew how to compete, they knew how to work out, they knew how go to the practice field every day and have a business-like approach to what we’re trying to do. They certainly have bought in from day one, in my opinion. Some better than others and the ones that didn’t as much aren’t here anymore. I feel very comfortable where we are as far as the work ethic and the approach. Can we do it consistently? We’ve got some young guys that have got to display that over a period of time. We’re talking about one football game at this time. We’ve got a long season ahead of us. That’s the big challenge, and I’m going to challenge the football team today. ‘You’ve got to do it consistently. Now you’ve shown you can, now it’s a week-in, week-out deal. It’s a day-in, day-out. You can’t just show up some days because you’re excited because it’s the first game. It’s got to be week-in, week-out.”

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