Muschamp: Townsend out 8-10 weeks, issues at line of scrimmage, Florida playmakers step up

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media just over one week before the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game to provide updates on individual players and how the team as a whole is progressing heading into its final practices.

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore punter Johnny Townsend, who took over the starting job from senior Kyle Christy in 2013, underwent surgery on his wrist and will miss 8-10 weeks of action. Muschamp expects Townsend to be fine for the regular season and disclosed that Townsend’s injury happened over time – wear and tear through his years of playing football. The surgery does open a door for Christy to prove that he can once again handle the starting job in his final year with the program.

Redshirt senior fullback Gideon Ajagbe has also been ruled out for the remainder of spring practice with a shoulder injury. Though he does not need surgery and likely would have come back had there been two weeks of spring left, Ajagbe will heed the caution of Florida’s trainers, which suggested that he just rest up and get ready for the summer.

Sophomore safety Keanu Neal (hamstring) finally returned to the field but was limited, and redshirt junior right guard Tyler Moore (elbow) has been pushing through a weak arm while wearing a brace. Muschamp noted that Moore did not do any strength training until the start of spring practice.

The Gators also hope to get redshirt freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (concussion) back on Monday and believe freshman running back Brandon Powell (foot) could be able to participate in non-contact work if his X-ray comes back clear.

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Muschamp on new offense and a real spring game

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Tuesday to provide updates on team injuries, spring practice and the upcoming spring game.

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore safety Keanu Neal (hamstring) is at 90 percent according to Muschamp, who said the Gators want to get him back as soon as possible but want to ensure that the injury fully heals first. “He needs to be a part of the spring game. He needs to get in front of the crowd and play,” Muschamp said. “He needs to be in practices 10, 11, 12, 13. I didn’t want to lose him another day [by practicing him Monday].”

Sophomore wide receiver Chris Thompson (undisclosed) has returned to practice, though redshirt freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (concussion) has not yet been given the go-ahead. Muschamp hoped that Johnson would be available to see the field on Wednesday.

RUNNING AWAY WITH THINGS

The Gators will be without junior running back Matt Jones this spring, but the productivity of Florida’s other rushers has apparently filled his void quite well.

Sophomore Kelvin Taylor is more confident running the ball and “much better in protection, which is where he needed to take some big steps,” Muschamp said. Taylor is obviously the most explosive of UF’s rushers and is easily the favorite to start the first game of the season after a strong conclusion to 2013.

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Florida defense solidifying as spring continues

Last Friday, one day before the Florida Gators‘ Saturday scrimmage, head coach Will Muschamp provided a number of updates about his players and discussed some hot topics concerning the team.

REBUILDING THE PASS RUSH

Once Florida lost defensive tackle Dominique Easley to a season-ending injury in 2013, the Gators pass rush suffered. With Easley now headed for the NFL, UF is on its way to ensuring that it will be able to pressure the quarterback this season.

Leading the pack, of course, is junior Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr., who led Florida with 10.5 tackles for loss and finished second with 3.5 sacks as a sophomore. “Dante Fowler continues to play extremely well, hard, tough. He’s practicing with a purpose every day. He goes out there every day and really competes,” Muschamp said. “I think we have a special rusher in Dante.”

Junior defensive end Jonathan Bullard, long expected to be Fowler’s bash brother coming off the edge, played well in 2013 but continues to be worked inside at tackle as well in order for the Gators to build depth and get as much top-tier talent on the field as possible. Muschamp likes how Bullard matches up against guards because of his athleticism and is able to play him inside because of how redshirt sophomore Bryan Cox, Jr. has developed as an edge rusher.

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3/25: Florida defense years ahead of offense, Gators injury and depth chart updates

Spring practice remains underway for the Florida Gators with the team participating in workouts, many of which have been open to the public, for the second-straight week. Head coach Will Muschamp discussed practice, provided injury updates and went over a number of hot topics when he met with the media Tuesday afternoon.

FOUR DAYS VS. FOUR YEARS

Twice on Tuesday, Muschamp made it a point to note that there is quite a disparity between the respective preparedness of Florida’s offense and defense.

“Our team, let’s see, has had four days of installation offensively…and about four years of installation defensively. I think that puts things in perspective a little bit about where we are,” he explained.

Though the Gators defense lost most of its best players to graduation and the NFL Draft, the remaining student-athletes are all familiar with the system and simply building their knowledge base from one season to the next. In fact, Muschamp said Florida has “not cut back at all defensively” with formations or play calling, trying to make things “as hard as possible” on an offense that is much less comfortable in its own skin.

New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has only been able to work with his unit on the field for four days, but Muschamp noted that he is “really pleased with the production” the offense has shown thus far, saying it is “really playing fast, physical” and “really limiting negative plays.” He also praised Roper for his approach to this point.

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Gators 2014 Spring Football Preview: Offense

Spring practice for the Florida Gators football program begins on Wednesday, March 19 and lasts for 15 practices concluding with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game on Saturday, April 12. Below is the first of OnlyGators.com‘s two-part series that takes a look at the team on a position-by-position basis.

Due to extensive team injuries, more players started for Florida at times in 2013 than normal. In this case, the term “starter” is being used as applicable per position.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (2/2): Junior D.J. Humphries, redshirt senior Chaz Green
Fresh faces: Redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson

By the time the 2013 campaign came to an end, the Gators lost three starting tackles for the season. The first of those absentees was Green, who had locked up the starting right tackle job over the summer but tore his labrum in practice and missed the entire season. Then came Humphries, who started the first six games at left tackle but missed the final five after an injured MCL kept him hobbled for the remainder of the year. Florida’s offense struggled mightily, in large part due to a weak offensive line, but Green and Humphries will almost assuredly start for UF as long as they can remain healthy. Johnson did not play in 2013 after suffering a physical setback early in camp but impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism when he was able to practice as a part of the scout team. He is a candidate to see a good number of snaps this year.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Returning starters (0/2): None
Fresh faces: Junior transfer Drew Sarvary, freshman Kavaris Harkless

With Jon Halapio and Kyle Koehne graduating – and Florida’s starting left guard changing positions (more on that below) – new offensive line coach Mike Summers will have the opportunity to hand-pick some players to help solidify the unit. Sarvary – a First Team All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference selection last season – and redshirt junior Trip Thurman will compete for the jobs, as will senior Trenton Brown and redshirt junior Tyler Moore, both of whom started games at tackle for the Gators in 2013. Florida’s guards are a work in progress, no two ways about it. Harkless could get in the mix as well though it is tough to know what UF can get from a freshman offensive lineman in the spring.

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3/11: Muschamp provides Florida football updates ahead of the start of 2014 spring practice

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2014 spring practice on Wednesday, March 19, head coach Will Muschamp media Tuesday to discuss a variety of topics concerning the team. He provided injury updates, offseason player evaluations and went over a number of hot topics entering the season.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose (ACL): Cleared on March 28 – “Has been in our offseason program, has progressed very well, and we’re pleased with his progress and where he is. He’ll be in non-contact situations for us in the spring.”

Freshman RB Brandon Powell (foot): Cleared late in spring practice – “Had a pre-existing issue with his foot from high school, had a small fracture. We decided in February to go ahead and have surgery and put a pin in that. … To that point, in January, had done an outstanding job in our conditioning drills. Great change of direction and speed. We’re really excited about that. He’s one of the guys we’re really excited about. It’s unfortunate that something like that happened from high school.”

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (wrist): Cleared on May 1 – “He has a fractured wrist from the season. It was a situation at the end of the season, he had about a month to go in the year and we felt like it would rehab itself. Going back and looking at it the first of February, we got a second opinion of whether to have surgery. … He would probably have been limited reps anyway with as many young guys as we need up front go help reps.”

Junior running back Matt Jones (meniscus): Cleared on May 1 – “Matt Jones is progressing well. … He will not go through spring. He will not go through non-contact. He will rehab there in the pit during practice but extremely pleased with his progress and where he is.”

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Muschamp talks nine Florida injuries, bye week

No. 20/18 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made his scheduled appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference, his only media availability during the team’s first bye week of the 2013 season, and touched on a number of topics surrounding his team and Saturday’s game.

(MOSTLY MINOR) INJURIES MOUNT FOR THE GATORS

Muschamp announced or updated injuries for nine different players, though the biggest is to freshman defensive back Nick Washington, who injured his shoulder during practice on Monday and will have season-ending surgery next week.

“He had a previously injury there in high school over in Jacksonville at Trinity. We’re going to have to have surgery on Monday, so he’ll be done for the season,” Muschamp said. “He was just reaching in for the ball, a non-contact injury, knocking the ball off a guy during the skeleton period. Unfortunately that happened, he was really progressing well as a defensive back for us and on special teams, doing a good job.”

Considering Washington only appeared in two games for Florida, he would be eligible for a medical hardship waiver (redshirt) by the NCAA as long as the school applies for one and submits the necessary documentation following the 2013 season.

Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who the program announced Monday suffered a minor knee injury in the second quarter against Miami, will be healthy enough to play against Tennessee, Muschamp reiterated. “We’re just precautionary just trying to get him off his knee a little bit. We got a long season ahead.”

He also announced that redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore, who suffered a sprained ankle late in the fourth quarter and was seen leaving the stadium Saturday on crutches with a boot on his foot, would not play if Florida had a game this week but “probably should be fine for Tennessee.”

Other players injured on Saturday but expected to be active for next week’s game include redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye (shoulder), junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (sprained knee), sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) and sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. (hip contusion).

Muschamp also announced that redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) will take contact in practice for the first time on Wednesday and is still on track to play against UT. Freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (knee) returns to contact next Monday but will likely take a redshirt this season.

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Gameday: No. 9 Florida Gators at No. 24 Miami

Location: Sun Life Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL [Capacity: 76,854]
Weather: 86°F (feels like 94°F), cloudy, isolated t-storms (30%), winds ENE at 6 mph
Time: 12:00 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Best deals on Florida Gators tickets starting at $152 on TiqIQ

TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese and Tom Luginbill)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter (Limited)

No. 9/12 FLORIDA GATORS No. 24 MIAMI HURRICANES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Al Golden
Record: 1-0 Record: 1-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3.5 | O/U: 48

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Miami leads the all-time series against Florida 28-26, though the Gators actually have a 14-13 advantage going head-to-head with the Hurricanes in Miami, FL.
» Though Florida won the last meeting between the two schools in 2008, that victory snapped a six-game winning streak for Miami in the series.
» The Gators and Canes played annually from 1944-1987 but did not square off at all in the 1990s. On Saturday, they will be sharing the field for the sixth time this century.
» Florida hopes to open the season 2-0 for the ninth-straight year.
» UM has not played a team from the SEC since facing UF in 2008.
» Florida was 4-2 against ranked opponents in 2012, posting a 164-133 scoring margin in those games. Miami, on the other hand, was 0-3 against ranked teams last season and got outscored 36-126 in those contests.
» The Gators are 13-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards). Florida is also 15-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 11-2 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 13-3 when scoring first (6-5 when an opponent scores first) and 15-1 when leading at the half (4-7 when tied or trailing at the break).
» The Hurricanes are 11-2 under Golden when scoring 30+ points.
» UF still leads the nation in interceptions (97), interception return yards (1,703) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (16) since 2008.
» Florida had two touchdown drives of 80+ yards against Toledo, the first time that’s happened in the same game since Nov. 5, 2011.
» Miami has amassed 500+ yards of offense in three-straight games along with a combined 126 points and average margin of victory of 22.0 points.
» The Gators’ defense held the Rockets to six points last week, the sixth time the team has held an opponent without a touchdown under Muschamp.
» The Canes have gone three games without allowing an opponent to score a touchdown on their home field. In those 160:39 minutes, Miami has only given up six field goals and 18 total points.
» Florida has forced at least one turnover in 12-straight games.
» The Gators have forced the most interceptions among SEC teams this century (349).
» UM will be making its 74th appearance on ESPN, second-most in the history of the network (Auburn – 75).

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar (Miami, FL), redshirt junior safety Cody Riggs (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL) are all South Florida natives named captains for Saturday’s game.
» Others playing in front of their friends and family include senior linebacker Darrin Kitchens (Homestead, FL), junior S Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL), junior tight end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL), redshirt freshman defensive lineman Bryan Cox, Jr. (Fort Lauderdale, FL), freshman running back Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) and freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, FL).

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!
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