11/7-8: Brantley, Howard, Demps, Debose, Koehne

With the Florida Gators finally earning a victory on Saturday after a difficult four-game losing streak, a number of players were made available to the media early in the week to discuss how the team is progressing heading into Saturday’s game on the road against the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks.

WINNING OUT FOR THE SENIORS

It would be hard to blame him, so redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard admitting that he did not want to be seen during Florida’s four-game losing streak through the month of October is certainly understandable.

Now that the Gators have picked up a victory, the team has one goal remaining: win the rest and send the senior class out on a high note.

“My goals are to win for the seniors,” redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose said Tuesday. “You come to Florida to win and we just want to win all the games. That’s my only goal – just to win. If we do win out, it’s a very successful season. We would have accomplished a lot of things this year. We didn’t get the ultimate goal of going to Atlanta but with the team we have that’s a good season.”

Just like Debose, redshirt sophomore tackle Kyle Koehne said the team wants to ‘finish things right for the seniors.” He believes the Gators are “hungry for another SEC victory” and have a great shot doing that this week against South Carolina.

Senior running back Jeff Demps, who only has two more home games before hanging up his orange and blue uniform, said winning is important but he what he cares about most going forward is the effort his teammates show. “As long as we finish out good and everybody plays hard, I’ll be fine with that,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley on the young QBs: “These young guys are maturing faster than usual because of these tough times. You learn from these times. Just like Jacoby [Brissett], [Jeff Driskel is] growing up and maturing each week. […] They’re going to have a good battle come springtime.”

» Howard on his NFL prospects: “Right now I’m just concentrating on winning. I want to win for my program and do it for Coach [Will] Muschamp. He really has been a tremendous change for me in my life. I just want to see him win and be successful. He motivates me. I talk to him every other day. He always has something positive to say. I needed that change.”

» Howard on what changed for him this year: “I took advantage of my time this year. I’m not taking any class so I’m in watching film with my classes every day, trying to get better. I have certain areas that I need to improve on. I’m still young. I’ve only been playing football since my freshman year in high school, so I still have a lot to learn.”

» Howard on which young defenders are improving the most: “Especially the [defensive backs]. They’ve really grown up over the last couple of weeks. you can just see them coming in, getting extra film work and carrying themselves like professionals.”

» Howard on his most improved player:Dominique Easley. He is completely a different guy from what he was last year. He’s all about football. That’s what he loves to do.”

» Howard on sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell: “He’s just learning the game also. That defensive line is going to be real good in the next two years. They’re probably going to be unstoppable.”

» Debose on the mood of the team after the win: “We’re definitely happy about the win. We’re a little bit more cheerful coming out to practice and stuff like that. We’re feeling more confident from losing four games straight.”

» Debose on losing so much this year: “You come to Florida to win. For you to just lose four-straight in a row, that’s not a fun feeling at all.”

» Koehne said redshirt junior center Sam Robey took first-team reps on Monday.

» Koehne on Brissett’s presence in the huddle: “He’s a calm guy. He’s slowly building confidence with us all and is taking the lead as a young quarterback.”

» Koehne on redshirt sophomore C Jonotthan Harrison being pulled: “We all wanted to help him out and pick him up. It’s up to him and how he responds to it to decide how he’s going to be in the future.”

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Florida Gators vs. No. 22 Georgia Gameday

Location: EverBank Field – Jacksonville, FL [Capacity: 84,000]
Weather Forecast: 71°F, sunny, winds NNW at 13 mph
Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: CBS/CBSHD
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: CBSSports.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS (22) GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Mark Richt
Record: 4-3 (2-3) Record: 5-2 (4-1)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +3; O/U 48.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week four 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 afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

Story: Gators QB John Brantley remains on schedule
Notes: Florida discusses Georgia rivalry week

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

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Georgia leads the all-time series against Florida 46-40-2 and holds a 40-37-1 advantage in games played in Jacksonville, FL. However, the Gators are on a three-game winning streak against the Bulldogs and also hold records of 8-2 in the last 10 match-ups and 18-3 dating back to 1990.
» Florida’s victory over Georgia in 2010 (34-31) marked the first time in the history of the series that a game went into overtime. Neither UF nor UGA was ranked in that contest for the first time since 1979.
» For the first time in series history, both the Gators and Bulldogs enter Saturday’s game coming off of a bye week. Florida took a three-game losing streak into the off week, while Georgia had won five consecutive games before getting a week of rest.
» The Bulldogs are 12-4 under Richt following a bye week.
» Richt is 2-8 against UF since taking over as head coach of UGA.
» Muschamp, who played college football for Georgia, will be facing his alma mater for the eighth time in his coaching career; he is 3-4 in the prior seven contests. As a player with the Bulldogs from 1991-94, Muschamp’s teams were 0-4 against the Gators.
» Florida is undefeated this season when out-rushing their opponent or leading at the half; however, UF is winless when tied/trailing at the half or being out-rushed.
» In their four victories, the Gators are outscoring opponents 54-3 in the first quarter, while in their losses they have been outscored 31-10. UF has also scored on their opening drive in four of seven games.
» The Bulldogs are outscoring their opponents 61-10 in the first quarter; Georgia’s defense has only allowed three first-quarter points to be scored this season.
» Florida has half as many upperclassmen (19 seniors, 14 juniors) as they do underclassmen (35 sophomores, 33 freshmen) on the roster the season.
» The Gators had a 100-yard rusher in four-straight games to start the season, the team’s second-longest streak ever, before failing to accomplish that feat in each of the last three games (all losses).
» Fourteen different Florida players made their first career start this season including five freshmen; 15 total freshmen have seen game action this year.
» The Gators offense has struggled as of late, and Florida has had major problems putting the ball in the end zone. UF has scored points in 19 of 28 quarter this season and touchdowns in only 15 of those quarters.
» Turnover margin has also been a consistent issue for the Gators. Florida is -7 on the season and has given up the ball exactly that many times in their three losses.
» The Gators not forced a turnover in three weeks after acquiring four in their previous game and seven total over the first four weeks of the season.
» UF’s offensive line has only allowed 11 sacks through seven games, making them second in the SEC in that category.
» Florida is No. 11 nationally and fifth in the SEC in total defense (289.1 yards per game). The Gators are also No. 16 nationally and third in the SEC in scoring defense (18.9 points per game).
» UF’s pass defense is allowing just 168.4 yards per game, good for third in the SEC and sixth nationally.
» The Gators’ defense is fifth in the nation in preventing third-down conversions, allowing just 27.5 percent of those attempted to be successful.
» Florida’s defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (311) since 2000. UF also has the most interceptions in the nation (72) since 2008.
» Georgia is the only team in the SEC to score first in every game this season.
» The Gators and Bulldogs each lead in two of the four major statistical categories. Florida tops Georgia in national averages of rushing yards 175.7-162.4 (41st-54th) and points against 18.9-20.4 (16th-27th), while UGA leads UF in passing yards 248.7-178.0 (47th-100th) and points scored 32.3-26.9 (36th-71st). The teams each defeated one common opponent – Tennessee – this season, with the Gators winning 33-23 in week three and the Bulldogs claiming victory 20-12 in week six.

LAST TIME OUT

The Florida-Georgia game one year ago was one for the ages, ending in overtime after Gators punter Chas Henry kicked a 37-yard field goal to claim a hard-fought victory. Florida led 21-7 at the half after scoring on three rushing touchdowns in the second quarter. Georgia fought back to tie the game 24-24 in the middle of the fourth quarter, but a 51-yard touchdown run by Trey Burton (his second score of the game) gave UF the late advantage. Aaron Murray’s 15-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green tied the game once again, sending it into overtime for the first time in series history. On the Bulldogs’ first overtime possession, Will Hill intercepted Murray and nearly returned it to end the game, falling just short of the goal line. The Gators took over and Henry iced the game, making up for a missed field goal earlier in the contest.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

Aside from the first hour of GameDay being hosted by Florida alum and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, the Gators and Bulldogs rivalry game will be featured in a separate segment about the series and will also be one of the games argued about during the pickets segment on Saturday’s broadcast at approximately 11:45 a.m.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

Read the remainder of OGGOA’s Gameday Preview including an injury report, players to keep an eye on and multiple preview videos…after the break!

Continue Reading » Florida Gators vs. No. 22 Georgia Gameday

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10/26: Quinn used bye to work on fundamentals

As the Florida Gators prepare for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs on Oct. 29 at a neutral site in Jacksonville, FL, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media late Wednesday to discuss the bye week and his team’s upcoming contest.

GATORS GET BACK TO THE BASICS

With so much to improve on after three-straight losses, Quinn said he used the bye week to focus on the players themselves and not the game plan for Georgia. He gave each player – and each position – separate assignments to concentrate on in order to improve the most efficient way possible.

Like always, Quinn wants the improvements to begin up front in the trenches. “Let’s play better at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “I thought at the last outing that performance was better. Playing blocks at the line of scrimmage and tackling were going to be such a big emphasis for us.

“As you go back through the bye week, you go through the games, take out some calls of what we’re doing well, statistically look at the film and [point out] the things we’ve had trouble with. Is it worth in these certain calls staying with it or getting rid of them and adding something new? That’s kind of what we did. We made a real big emphasis at the line of scrimmage and [with] tackling during the bye week. Just a hard ball, fundamental, hand placement technique [standpoint], and I felt it was real beneficial for the team.”

Quinn noted that the defense spent additional periods during practice on tackling drills, ensuring that this would not be an issue going forward this season. “The biggest thing is you drill it a lot,” he explained. “Each day you devote some practice time to not just the technique but angle tackles and open-field tackling. It’s more just the time spent on it.”

NEEDING ELAM AND POWELL TO SUCCEED

Sophomores safety Matt Elam and buck linebacker Ronald Powell have played quite differently through the first seven games of the season. While Elam has been the model of consistency and versatility, Powell had one big game and has struggled otherwise.

“Matt provides a lot for us on defense. For him to be a guy who can come from safety and then move down into nickel is really a key guy for us – he can play two positions. I was really pleased with the way he played nickel in the last ballgame,” Quinn said proudly. “He’s a good player at both spots. Sometimes with a lot of good players, the closer they get to the line of scrimmage, sometimes they get in the action. I wish I had another one. I’d play him at both spots.”

Quinn was less complimentary of Powell overall but said he believes the extra work during the bye week may have done a lot to help him going forward.

“When we got together, for him, two of the things we had were his pad level was one thing that we thought he could really improve on, and his use of the hands was something that he worked on hard in the week,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him play.”

In addition to Powell needing to improve his game, he appeared to injure his neck/shoulder during the LSU game and did not travel with the team to Auburn. He returned to practice during the bye and is a full-go this week.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On not having caused any turnovers in the last three games: “It’s a big emphasis for us. […] Certainly some are going to come from the way we can rush the quarterback better. That’s part of it. When we play on third down. We’ve played a few good running clubs the last few weeks – teams that were committed to running. That factors in a little bit. No excuses. [We] got to get the football. It’s something we address with everybody each day, too.”

» On Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray: “He’s really a talented quarterback. […] He gets a lot of velocity on the ball; he can really get it out of his hands fast. He’s a guy that can make plays both with his arm and with his feet. You make a big emphasis on how you pass rush him, get your contain and make sure you’re pushing the pocket and things like that. He provides a real challenge for you because he is a dual-threat.”

» On the Bulldogs’ big offensive line: “Both of their tackles are big guys. Usually you have to be leery of what the offensive line is listed at as you could be plus or minus some – both in the NFL and in college. Sometimes they’re listed at 330 and that guy hasn’t been 330 in four years. They certainly have a big front, and it’s a good challenge for us.”

» On if he is excited to participate in his first Florida-Georgia game: “It’s kind of cool that there are some Gators here that can talk you through that – with Terry Jackson and Marquand Manuel. […] It’s kind of cool to be a part of it. Everybody says the build-up and the ride to the stadium and everything. Although I’ve seen it on TV, and you’ve seen the pictures of the stadium and everything, and it looks like exactly like the kind of environment that you’d want to coach in. I can’t wait.”

» On the Bulldogs stomping on the field in 2007: “I have seen that reply a number of times – on an endless loops. I’m ready to see something else.”

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10/24-25: Florida discusses Georgia rivalry week

With the Florida Gators preparing for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on Saturday against the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs, a number of players were made available to the media early in the week to discuss how the team is progressing heading into the neutral site game in Jacksonville, FL.

GEORGIA (AND THE ST. JOHN’s BRIDGE) ON THEIR MINDS

All of the players were asked about what Georgia week feels like and if they are especially pumped up for this particular contest.

Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey: “[It’s] a big game, big week. I’ve been in the game twice and have seen what can happen in this game. It’s fun, exciting. […] This is a big one. This determines if we can still go to the SEC Championship and stuff like that. It’ll be big.”

Junior linebacker Jon Bostic: “It’s a big game. It’s another SEC game. We don’t really look at it as ‘Georgia;’ it’s another big SEC game.”

Redshirt sophomore guard Jon Halapio: “I didn’t realize the stories that they were telling me until I went to an actual Florida-Georgia game my first year. It’s probably one of the best games to play in all year. We’ve been waiting all year for this game, so it’s going to be a good experience this year.”

They also discussed what it is like to cross over the St. John’s Bridge on game day and see the festivities already ongoing and awaiting their arrival.

Bostic: “Going across that bridge – when you see it split down the middle, it really doesn’t get better than that. It’s crazy how it’s split right down the middle. When I first got here as a freshman, I really didn’t know too much about it. A lot of the older guys were telling me. As soon as you go across the bridge, that’s when you really start feeling it. Most of the time it’s when you step in the stadium as soon as you get out of the bus, but there it starts as soon as you cross the bridge.”

Halapio: “That’s when it hits you that it’s the Florida-Georgia game, when you cross over that bridge and all you see is red-and-black and orange-and-blue, RVs everywhere, Georgia flags, Florida flags everywhere. That’s when it really hits you that it’s the Florida-Georgia game.”

Redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.: “[My older teammates] broke it down, but until you experience it yourself, you can’t really know what to expect. You hear about it and, when it finally happens, you’re like, ‘OK. This is more than what they were saying.’ You take it all in. It’s a rivalry game, and you wouldn’t expect nothing less. Once you go over that bridge it’s game time. It’s time to focus and get ready for the game.”

REMEMBERING BEING DISRESPECTED IN 2007

Many of the players also felt strongly about the Bulldogs rushing onto the field after scoring in the first quarter of the 2007 game. To this day they feel it was disrespectful and still want some sort of revenge.

Rainey: “All I can remember of this team is when they were dancing on us. That’s embarrassing and we lost that game, too, at the same time. […] It stays in my head when people do something like that to me.”

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard: “I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen anything like that. I had never witness that in a football game before. Just to see it was like they don’t care about Florida really. It’s respect. You don’t do anything like that. Total disrespect. We went out there and made a statement the following year. Just keep the tradition alive and get a win this year.”

Hammond: “That definitely plays a role. I was in high school when that incident happened, but I came that following year. I feel that and I know what some of the players went through that are actually still here that actually experienced that. It definitely makes that rivalry game have that intensity. […] Every week we play against Georgia they replay it. We’ll probably end up seeing it today. They replay it just as a reminder of how that team – obviously it was unnecessary – and they went ahead and did that. Just stay professional and just play football the way it’s supposed to be played and move forward.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd on what his unit worked on during the bye week: “We didn’t just focus on what the D-line had to fix. As a defense we worked on fundamentals, tackling and form and everything over the bye week. We knew it was going to be tough going into it, so we just got our minds right, dealt with it and did what we had to do. We prepared well and did a good job as a whole during the bye week.”

» Floyd on Georgia’s offense: “I really didn’t see nothing outstanding. I’m just ready to go, do my job, worry about the offensive line first and play everything else after.”

» Rainey on the team’s mentality heading into the UGA game: “It’s hard that we lost three games, but all we can do is keep our head up, stay focused, stay positive and just get ready for a big game and hopefully we can pull out with a win.”

» Rainey on how Tim Tebow looked this week: “It’s just like he did back here. He’s a leader, works hard, never gives up.”

Bostic on what his unit worked on during the bye week: “The whole bye week we just worked on fundamentals. Everything – hand placement, tackling, playing smart, trying to focus on not getting as many penalties as we’ve had in the past.”

» Bostic on needing to create turnovers: “We’re just trying to play hard, do our job. Turnovers are going to come. They may not come as much as we like every game, but we just got to keep playing like we’re playing knowing they’re going to come.”

» Howard on the defense needing to create turnovers: “We need to get turnovers badly. We haven’t had a turnover since the Kentucky game, and we have to get that back going to be successful and give our offense a chance.”

» Howard on how sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell is playing: “He’s doing fine. He’s playing well. He wasn’t able to travel with us last week, but he’s growing each week. He has three sacks on the year so far, so the production is there, but he’s young and still learning the game. He’s just going to keep getting better the more he plays.”

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10/24: Muschamp’s Monday 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. Florida had a bye this week and planned for their contest with the Georgia Bulldogs on Oct. 29. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

OPENING STATEMENTS

“We had a good open week, really worked hard on fundamentals and worked on Florida. We needed to improve our football team on both lines of scrimmage, working on offense, defense and special teams. I thought our players had a great attitude. [We] went out Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in full gear, and I thought we had really good work and we started our prep on Georgia with the players on Thursday; we started as a staff last Sunday. I thought we got a good head start on where we need to go. We’ll be in full gear [Monday and Tuesday] and then work in shells on Wednesday and Thursday as we prep to go to Jacksonville.”

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

“Georgia has got a good football team. Three seniors on the offensive line. I said it last week, Aaron Murray is playing well for them and completing over 60 percent of his passes. He’s very mobile in what he can do directing this offense as second year being a starter. Isaiah Crowell is playing really well for them. Orson Charles is a threat at the tight end position; he’s a really good athlete and a guy that does a nice job vertically down the field. Malcolm Mitchell has played really well for them as a freshman at the X position; he was out last week versus Vanderbilt with a hamstring and they expect him back. Their defense is playing really well as the season has progressed as far as their points per game allowed, and they’re doing a nice job on third down mixing some different packages as far as over-and-under and what they’re doing with their fronts. Got a good football team and look forward to this.”

WEEKLY INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Muschamp said redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) is the only one definitely out for the game because he “just continues not to respond to treatment” on his injury. Every previously injured player will practice on Monday.

Other players who were listed as injured last week include redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (lower leg), sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (shoulder/neck), senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle), redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (knee), junior RB Mike Gillislee (ankle), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (ankle) and redshirt senior left guard Dan Wenger (foot).

BREAKING NEWS: MUSCHAMP PLAYED FOR GEORGIA

By now most fans are keenly aware that Muschamp used to play for the Bulldogs, and he is tired of being peppered with questions all season about his relationships with certain programs and their coaches. Muschamp tried to put that to rest Monday. “I know there will be a lot of wasted ink on the fact that I played at Georgia and am coaching now at Florida. This is not the first time I’ve coached against Georgia. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of taking the Gators to Jacksonville,” he said.

Nevertheless, he wound up talking about it when questions were posed later in his availability. “Wherever I played has no bearing on this game at all. They’re all important. They’re all really, really important games. They’re all very important games. It’s a SEC East opponent, it’s a big rival and it’s important to the University of Florida, so it’s important to me,” he said.

“This profession is different from a lot of professions in that you do your job for the school you’re working for, and that’s my job – to do a great job for the University of Florida, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone, but I’m loyal to people not places. The people you work for – and I work for Jeremy Foley and Dr. Bernie Machen – those are the people that I need to do a good job for – and this football team and this staff. That’s how I view things. I’ve worked at Auburn. I’ve worked at LSU. I’ve worked at Texas. I’ve worked at a lot of places, and this is not the first time I’ve played against Georgia.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville: “You get charged when you come over that bridge and you see all the RVs and the passion and the tradition of the game. Growing up in the south, you understand the impact of that game. There’s no question that when you come over that bridge, it charges you up. You get goose bumps talking about it.”

» On using the bye as a teaching week: “When you have an open week, you can approach it several different ways. We took the approach of we needed some time off and we gave them Sunday and Monday off. We came in Tuesday and we had a very physical practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I thought we improved fundamentally on the things I have identified that we needed to work on. I thought we got better. I thought we improved. I thought we had a great attitude. I thought the guys went out and worked. And then we had a team lift Friday morning and gave them Saturday and Sunday off coming back last night. I thought we took a step forward. You either get better or worse when you step on the field, and I thought we improved our football team and continued to take the steps forward in what we need to do to be successful.”

» On Powell’s status with the team: “He’s good to go. He’s back off his injury, and he practiced Thursday full-go, so he should be fine.”

» On if there will be changes to the lineup: “Not significant changes. We looked at some guys at some different spots, and we’re going to continue to move forward with that at this point.”

» On the SEC East still being an “open” race: “When you come to the University of Florida, you play to go to Atlanta. That’s part of the deal here. I understand that. Each week, that’s what I’m trying to remove is all the external circumstances of why you want to play hard. You ought to want to play hard because you play for Florida and you play for your teammates. That, to me, ought to be motivating enough. Certainly winning the SEC East, yeah that’s great. That’s what we want to do, and we want to beat Georgia. In order to do that, we’ve got to take care of business this weekend.”

» On not getting enough turnovers: “We’re minus-7 for the season, so we’re last in the SEC. We’ve got to create some positive momentum for our team whether it’s in special teams or on defense. [We have to] continue to eliminate turnovers offensively and get some turnovers on defense.”

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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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10/12: Quinn focuses attention on defensive line

As the Florida Gators prepare for their second-straight road game on Oct. 15 against the No. 24 Auburn Tigers, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss last week’s game and the team’s upcoming contest.

DEFENSIVE LINE NEEDS TO STEP UP, BIG TIME

If this headline looks the familiar, it should, because it is unchanged from Quinn’s meeting last week. Speaking Wednesday about the area in which the defense must show the greatest improvement going forward, Quinn admitted he was disappointed with the defensive line and how it has performed over the last two weeks. “Us and our staff take a lot of pride in the way we play run defense. Certainly when one of the things that you really are counting on to be a backbone of your core, and you don’t play the technique quite as well as you want, certainly there was some frustration there,” he said.

One player in particular – sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd – earned some praise from Quinn, though he did not offer up much for the rest of the unit. “Floyd would have been one that stood out and had a better performance than the week before. Overall one of the things we’re really emphasizing is getting our hands and getting knock backs and separation – really moving back the line of scrimmage. It’s such an important part of playing defensive line. It’s something we’ve emphasized from the time we’ve gotten here,” he said.

“As as whole unit, there may be certain guys here and there that shined to us, but it was a tough performance for all of us and not a lot to pull from to be honest with you. We didn’t single anybody out necessarily that stood out to us one way or another.”

PICKING UP POWELL

One man who was expected to be a big playmaker for Florida’s defense, sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell, has been relatively quiet the last three weeks after helping force two interceptions with his pass rush against Tennessee. Quinn on Wednesday expressed his disappointment with Powell’s production lately.

“At that position we certainly want the production to be higher,” he said. “When the rush opportunities are there, converting faster into your rush. [The] technique of edge setting when we’re playing that way. I wouldn’t say it’s one thing. It’s something we’re working on daily in practice with him. In pass rush, it’s all about our get-off with him. In the run game, the outside guy has to set the edge. It’s a daily thing with he and a lot of the guys to say how are we going to play our brand of football better.”

Quinn was quick to note that changing Powell’s position to less of a hybrid role was not under consideration at this time. “He’s in the right spot for the system. What we’re looking for at that spot is a guy who has speed and length and he certainly has those two,” he said. “For him, like a lot of our guys, it’s just a function of us playing better. The evaluation on him, like a lot of the guys, is nowhere near complete. At that position, along with others, we really need to play better.”

STOPPING OFFENSES AND CREATING TURNOVERS

The main area in which the Gators have struggled over the last two weeks has been stopping the run. Florida’s opponents put up season-high numbers against them, which is not exactly the goal going into the game. Quinn, though he praised Alabama and LSU, did not want to make excuses for the line. “We’ve faced some talented backs and some talented offensive lines. Really it says we’ve got to play a certain way. When you face a good team – whether it’s a good offensive line or a good running back – you really have to be on your technique,” he explained. “It told us, ‘This is where we are today. This is where we have to get to.’ That’s the message I gave to the club. I told them, “These are the errors we made. This is how we’re going to play.’ And we’re working hard to getting back to the style we want to play.”

Quinn also spoke about the team’s inability to get off the field on third downs and how the Gators have been unable to secure a single takeaway in their consecutive losses. “It’s our job to stop them. Some of the times for the long drives we missed a critical third down where maybe we could have got off the field,” he said. “We’re firefighters and let’s go put out the fire. If it’s third down, we got to get off the field. If we didn’t stop it, we had to go another series, then it’s on us to get it stopped and really get the ball. That’s one of the things we’ve been most disappointed about the last few weeks – not creating opportunities for the offense. Zero takeaways for us is really hard to swallow. It’s something we’re working hard at.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Quinn said that an eight-man rotation on the defensive line is optimal.

» On how the linebacker rotation will change with Dee Finley transferring: “Certainly Mike Taylor is the top backup inside behind Jon [Bostic] and Jelani [Jenkins]. We’re kind of working in as we have been the last few weeks Graham Stewart and Juice Johnson.“

» On Finley transferring: “I wish him the best.”

» On preparing for an up-tempo offense like Auburn’s: “It’s not uncommon at times, when you have to prepare for a team that could do some tempo to use two huddles. When a group of five guys go out, maybe the offensive line stays the same and maybe a different set of running backs and receivers comes in. That’s one way to simulate the speed. Certainly our offense has the ability to go in and out of that system as well. For us, being able to go against our offense or try to simulate it in practice was really a critical part of our preparation this week.”

» On how the team has prepared for Auburn’s offense: “The scout guys had a really critical role in this to watch tape together and see how fast the action went. How fast you have to get back to the line of scrimmage. That was really an important part of it.”

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