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.


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.”


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.


» 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.


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.”


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.”


» 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.


“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.”


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).


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.”


» 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.


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.”


“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.”


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.


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.


» 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.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.”


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.”


» 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.


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.”


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.”


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.”


» 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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10/11: Gillislee’s increased role, leadership void, quarterback battle, discipline issues

With the Florida Gators preparing for their second-straight road test in the middle of the 2011 season, four prominent players were made available to the media early in the week to discuss how the team is progressing heading into their showdown with the No. 24 Auburn Tigers on Oct. 15 at 7:00 p.m. in Auburn, AL.


For a team that had so much success running the football over its first four games of the season, it is a bit of a surprise that Florida will have to rely on a third running back to give the offense a bit of a spark going forward. Nevertheless, Gators junior RB Mike Gillislee – who has been stuck in a reserve role for the last three years – is expected to see an increased role on Saturday. “I feel like I earned it. I’ve been waiting of this time in my life to stand up and to be productive and for this offense to do what I can,” Gillislee said on Tuesday. “Every time I run the ball, I never know when I’m going to get it again, so I try to run it as hard as I can while I got it.”

He said he understands why he has not had the chance to get a large number of carries before (“I got two great running backs in front of me.”) and that has never been a concern for him. “I’m pretty much a team player. I put the team first,” Gillislee said. He also believes that, at 205 lbs. (up 30 lbs. from his freshman year), he gives the team a little extra power when running up the middle.

Even though he’s a bit stronger than senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey, Gillislee says he also has some speed and can hit the holes well. “I got pretty good vision,” he said. “When I see something, I try to hit it as quick as I can.” Rainey agrees. “He brings a lot to the table. I love when he runs the ball. I guess he’s probably going to be playing a lot more now, so I can’t wait to see that,” he said Monday.

Redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison said he has always known Gillislee could contribute. “He’s a hard runner, hard worker. He’s bringing this extra little “umph” we need in the backfield,” Harrison explained. “He’s getting more reps at practice and everything, and he’s going to see a little more playing time, coach was saying.”


One thing head coach Will Muschamp has been adamant about is that he needs players of any age to step up and prove they can lead game-in and game-out. With consecutive losses serving as extra weight on their shoulders and another road game ahead, Rainey said it is time to put up or shut up. “This is a time when leaders step up, talk to the team, tell people it’s all right that we still control our destiny and stuff,” he said. “I just try to do everything right, stay positive.”

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said that three sophomores – DT Dominique Easley, defensive end Sharrif Floyd and Buck linebacker Ronald Powell – have stepped up on his side of the ball. With redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley injured, it will be curious to find out who joins Rainey as an offensive leader.


As of practice on Tuesday, freshmen quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett were both playing and splitting reps 50/50. Harrison confirmed this fact Tuesday but said he did not know who would wind up winning the job and the start on Saturday.

However, both Rainey and Harrison spoke about Brissett’s performance as of late, offering a bit of praise for how he handled himself. “During the week he was taking more snaps than everyone else, so that’s when I figured out he was playing,” Rainey said about last week’s practice. “I trust him at practice. It all starts at practice. It looked like he was more ready. He was ready to step up.” Harrison said Brissett had a good demeanor and was poised with an up-tempo attitude on Saturday. “He actually, his first game and everything, he performed well. He was confident in the huddle and he can only build off that last game and get better throughout the season.”

That is, if Brissett wins the starting job over a healthy Driskel.


Unlike in years past, the discipline issues facing Florida in 2011 are not off-the-field but rather on-the-field. The Gators have been committing nearly double-digit penalties in every game on average, and it is costing them in numerous ways. Rainey said Monday that the miscues are simply unacceptable. “We did get a lot of penalties – people doing dumb mistakes or people ain’t focused or stuff like that,” he said. “It’s called ‘selfish’ when people do dumb mistakes like that.”

Harrison said the offensive line in particular is doing what it can to correct them. “[They are] unnecessary penalties and mental [mistakes on] assignments,” he explained. “[It’s] maybe a little bit more discipline, practice a little harder, practice with some more game-like situations.” Redshirt sophomore tackle Kyle Koehne said the unit needs to “stay more focused and keep our minds right” in order to avoid making those mistakes. “The undisciplined penalties are just false starts are lining up wrong,” he said. “They’re unacceptable right now how many we’re getting per game. They’re not being tolerated.”


» Rainey on the team losing back-to-back games: “We just don’t need to lose at all. We lost two so we don’t need to lose no more because we control our destiny.”

» Rainey on Alabama and LSU: “They’re two pretty good teams, but I felt that we was better than them. They just out-physicaled us, they was out-tough than us at the time. We just got to get together and regroup this week.”

» Rainey on redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose becoming a playmaker: “I’ve been waiting for him to step up for a while. He’s doing what I’ve been seeing since high school, so it’s nice to have him up there.”

» Harrison on if changes are needed: “Maybe just work harder throughout the week, which we’re doing. We’re just going to change up our schedule, work a little bit harder to make sure we are successful.”

» Harrison on why Alabama and LSU’s defenses had so much success: “Alabama planned to stop the outside run, which was our strength. That was their advantage. LSU just certain plays we weren’t completely meshed as an offense.”

» Koehne on if he had jitters during the Alabama game: “It was our first big game and we all – on the offensive line – were pretty young. Personally, I had some jitters. I can’t speak for everybody. Personally it was my first big game and I was a little nervous. Everybody gets nervous. You kind of get hype dup with the whole mood of the night and you’re playing Alabama in a Florida-Alabama game. I grew up watching this game. You just want to come out and perform your best. You feel a lot of pressure and you want to perform at your best.”

» Koehne on if junior left tackle Xavier Nixon didn’t play due to a performance issue: “Yes, I believe so.”

» Koehne on if this is a defining week in the season: “This is a huge week. Every week is a huge week. One game at a time. We really have to come together as a team. Defense and offense have to come together and play as a group. We’re really being put to the test this week.”

» Koehne on why Alabama and LSU outperformed them: “Alabama and LSU recruits the top athletes in the nation, too. They’re coached well and they play well and they stepped up for the occasion.”

» Hunter on the team moving on from consecutive losses: “Right now the team has moved on pretty quickly from the last two weeks. All of our focus is on Auburn right now. Everybody has a clear head right now and everybody is just focusing on Auburn.”

» Hunter on getting up for Auburn: “We treat every game the same. This is as big as it was last week and the week before. Auburn is a great team. We’re really looking forward to going and playing them at their stadium. It’s a wild stadium and we’re going to enjoy the moment.“

» Hunter on what the defensive line can do to improve: “We can hold double teams a little bit better. I know I can hold a double team a little bit better. We’re doing a pretty good job at contact, but just letting the guard or center or whoever it is run off to the second level, we have to do a better job at that.”

» Hunter on an statement he heard a teammate make:Lerentee MccCray said something good the other day. We’re five or six games into the season. No one is a freshman anymore. We’ve all played six games; everyone should be ready to play right now.”

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10/8: Florida at LSU post-game notes, quotes

The No. 17/18 Florida Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC) fell on the road on Saturday, dropping a 41-11 decision to the No. 1/2 LSU Tigers (6-0, 3-0 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.


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.

“I’m obviously disappointed in the game. Defensively [there were] too many big plays. Penalties killed us in the game. We’ve got to get better on the line of scrimmage. We wore out as the game wore on. No forced turnovers for us and we committed two. We just got to play better on the line of scrimmage and big plays. We gave up some big plays trying to load the box in the run game. We gave up some big plays. [I’m] disappointed in the game. We’ve got to get better.”


In addition to redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (lower leg) and freshman QB Jeff Driskel (ankle) not dressing for the game, two notable absences from the field were junior left tackle Xavier Nixon and redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar During the game, sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (neck) and junior safety Josh Evans (arm) were injured, and senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle) came in for a play or two but quickly exited and was unable to continue.

Muschamp explained after the game that freshman Jacoby Brissett got the start at quarterback because Driskel’s health prevented him from taking the reigns of the team. “He practiced this week,” Muschamp said of Driskel. “We came to the conclusion Wednesday night that we just didn’t feel like he was healthy enough to go and play in that environment. We tried to rep him throughout the week and it wasn’t fair to him. It wasn’t fair to us.”

He continued, “[Driskel]’s more experienced and he’s played. So as far as the packages, you look at the number of reps that Jeff’s gotten through spring and into fall camp, obviously he’s gotten a lot more turns. That’s part of the game. You’re not going to hear me talk about youth or injuries. That’s pretty obvious with our teams.”

Muschamp said the staff with “reevaluate where Jeff is” before the Auburn game because Driskel may be able to return but said Brantley will “be out for the game more than likely.” He did not give a timetable for Brantley’s return (Georgia game would be the earliest) but said the coaching staff needed to “evaluate where we are on the offensive side of the ball and what we need to do to be successful” going forward.


Florida committed 12 penalties for 90 yards on Saturday, their second-highest total of the year. And that’s not counting lost yardage on plays that were called back. It was also the fourth time in 2011 that the Gators had nine or more penalties called against them in a single game. Florida kept two (in particular) LSU drives alive due to their penalties and even had consecutive offside calls on a possession that ended in a touchdown for the Tigers. The Gators also had a great run by senior running back Chris Rainey negated due to a holding call well behind the play.

“There’s aggressive penalties that are judgment situations and then there are penalties that shouldn’t happen. We got a 30-yard run in the first quarter and we’re blocking 20 yards behind the ball. That’s not very smart,” Muschamp said. “It’s something that’s been talked about 100 times and it needs to be talked about 200. We’re going to talk about it 200 times this week because that’s not very smart. We’re going to talk about it 205-12-15, something like that, to see if we can do a little better.”

Another area that UF proved to be undisciplined was in tackling. For the second straight game, Florida had the opportunity to wrap up runs and short passes on the first level but failed by taking bad angles and using their arms instead of their bodies and legs. Muschamp was obviously none-too-pleased with that fact after the game.

“Tackling is ‘want to’ to me,” he said. “You either want to do it or you don’t. I’ll find guys who want to tackle.”


It is a rough situation to start a freshman QB against a SEC opponent, especially when that opponent is LSU, the game is at Tiger Stadium, and the signal caller has never taken a collegiate snap before. With all that being said, Brissett performed admirably on Saturday, finishing 8/14 for 94 yards with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Andre Debose. He also threw two interceptions in the game – one down the middle of the field that should not have been thrown and another to Debose in the end zone that Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu made a great play on.

Brissett worked well off the play action, had decent vision down field, stepped up in the pocket on occasion, showed he could be mobile and proved that he indeed has a big arm. “I thought he was solid under the circumstances against a good football team defensively,” Muschamp said. “I think he’s going to be a really good football player for us. We’ve got to play better around him in some spots and create some more situations in the run game.”

The Gators tried to do that by giving sophomore Trey Burton multiple snaps at the quarterback position. Burton mostly handed the ball off and was used more than anything because Brissett had a limited package of plays that he was prepared for heading into the game.

“[We did that] just to take the pressure off of Jacoby. We felt like we had a package for him that we could execute and execute well,” Muschamp said. “I thought, for the most part, [Burton] did a nice job. I was very pleased with that. Trey’s package, we got the ball moving in the second half with that package and it was effective for us.”


With a questionable offense heading into the season and a defense that was one of the best in the country against the run heading into last week’s game against Alabama, Florida looked to have at least one area of their team completely figured out. Wrong.

The Gators have allowed their last two opponents to rush for 226 and 238 yards, respectively, which equates to an average of 5.04 yards per carry. Muschamp is obviously aware of this and continues to say it will be a point of emphasis in practice this week.

“I thought we would play better than we did in the last two ball games. Again, we’ve got to come up with some ways to stop the run game better than we’re doing at this point, and that’s been disappointing because I did think we would play the fronts better,” he said. “We’re not tackling well when we’ve got the ball on the perimeter in some spots. It’s just a collective effort. It’s not one area.”

One reason he gave for why UF may be failing in this area is its lack of depth up front. “We’re really playing three or four guys inside and three guys at end,” Muschamp said. “We just got to do a better job of getting off the field earlier in the game in those situations.”


Debose was put on the spot this week to replicate his performance from last Saturday and he did just that with a mirror image 65-yard touchdown reception. He did not catch another ball in this week’s game but was open on occasion and had an early jump on Mathieu on a ball that was eventually intercepted.

Seeing increased playing time for the injured Demps, junior RB Mike Gillislee again proved that he can be effective with the ball in his hands. Gillislee carried the rock nine times for a team-high 56 yards and was integral on Florida’s sole scoring drive in the first half. “Mike was very effective in the game,” Muschamp said afterward. “He runs hard; he runs with his pads down. He does a nice job in the run game. He’s done a better job with protections. He’s got to continue working on catching the ball out of the backfield.”


» Florida has been outscored 79-21 over their last two games. The Gators’ 41-11 loss Saturday was their worst since the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (62-24 to Nebraska), and the team has not fallen so badly in consecutive games since dropping back-to-back decisions to Auburn (40-7) and Georgia (49-7) in 1971.

» On failing to properly cover the fake punt: “We had two guys assigned for the punt that didn’t do their job. We’ll move on with that. That’s coaching. We had two guys assigned to do their job that didn’t do it. They did what they wanted to do. And those guys aren’t going to play in our program anymore, guys that do what they want to do when they want to do it. It’s undisciplined football and that’s my fault and nobody else’s.

» On if he took any positives away from the game: “Not a whole lot. Not a whole lot.”

» On running the fake punt early in the first half: “We came here to win the game. And I felt like in that situation we were backed up. Worst thing we could do was punt again into the wind. The ball’s going to be at midfield. We had a hard time with the wind in the first quarter, so I felt like we had to get the first down. The fake punt we felt like was there. We hit it tighter than we wanted to. We felt like it was there, and I would call it again.”

» On deciding to kick the field goal in the first half: “We needed points at that time. It was a three-score game and we needed points. I didn’t want to come out without points.”

» On how he will handle consecutive losses against top -three opponents: “A loss is a loss regardless of how it looks. We just got to look at the film, evaluate where we are as a football team and that’s what we’re going to do to move forward with the guys that are willing to do the things we need to do to be successful. That’s what we plan on doing. We got a bunch of guys in that locker room who are hurting right now, as well as us, and we just need to get better.”

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