No. 17 Florida Gators at No. 1 LSU Gameday

Location: Tiger Stadium – Baton Rouge, LA [Capacity: 92,542]
Weather Forecast: 85°F, mostly sunny, winds E-SE at 14 mph
Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET) [3:39 p.m. kickoff]

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

(17/18) FLORIDA GATORS (1/2) LSU TIGERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Les Miles
Record: 4-1 (2-1) Record: 5-0 (2-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: LSU -14; O/U 42.5

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. on the road.

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

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against LSU 30-24-3 and is 6-5 against the Tigers since 2000. The Gators are also 16-13 all-time in Baton Rouge (4-2 since 1999).
» Muschamp was a former defensive coordinator at LSU under now Alabama head coach Nick Saban, while Tigers passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales coached Florida’s pass catchers from 2005-09.
» Miles is 3-3 in his career against the Gators.
» Florida has half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 64-13 in the first quarter and 106-44 in the first half this season. UF has also scored on their opening drive in four of five games.
» Florida ran the ball for 15 net yards on Saturday after the Gators rushed for 405 yards the week before, the sixth-best single-game performance in team history and the most since 1989. The team had a 100-yard rusher in four consecutive games, its second-longest streak ever, before failing to accomplish that feat against Alabama.
» UF’s offensive line has only allowed five sacks through five games, making them second in the SEC team and tied for 20th nationally allowing just one sack per contest.
» Though Florida is 19-for-21 (90.4 percent) in red zone conversions, the Gators have only scored touchdowns on 11 of those opportunities.
» Florida did not acquire a single turnover against Alabama after forcing four in their previous game and seven total over the prior three weeks.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (311) since 2000. Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (72) since 2008.
» UF’s defense is six in the nation in preventing third-down conversions, allowing just 27.7 percent of those attempted to be successful.
» Florida is No. 7 nationally and second in the SEC in total defense (258.6 yards per game). The Gators are also No. 13 nationally and third in the SEC in scoring defense (14.8 points per game).
» LSU is the only team in the nation with three victories over ranked opponents; they are looking for their second-straight 6-0 start to a season.
» The Tigers have won 13-straight games in their home stadium. LSU’s last loss in Baton Rouge was to Florida, 13-3 in 2009. They are also 4-0 against the SEC East since.
» LSU’s defense has held opponents without a touchdown in 15-of-20 quarters played.
» The Tigers have forced 12 turnovers in 2011 and have converted 75 percent of those into points (eight touchdowns, one field goal). They lead the SEC and are No. 4 nationally in turnover margin at +1.8 per game.
» LSU’s run defense has not allowed a rush of more than 17 years, and the Tigers have allowed just 13 rushing plays of 10 yards or more.
» Florida and LSU are split down the middle when it comes to the four major statistical categories. The Gators top the Crimson Tide in national averages of rushing yards 210.2-172.6 (21st-48th) and passing yards 203.6-177.0 (86th-100th), while LSU leads Florida in points scored 38.0-34.2 (18th-37th) and points against 12.8-14.8 (9th-13th). The teams both defeated Kentucky this year with UF winning 48-10 on the road and LSU earning the victory 35-7 at home.

LAST TIME OUT

Like this year, Florida started the 2010 season 4-0 before being routed by Alabama one week prior to taking on LSU. The Gators returned home to The Swamp and stuck around with the Tigers all night long, leading 29-26 with more than three minutes to play after Andre Debose returned a kick 88 yards for a touchdown and Mike Gillislee ran for a score late in the fourth quarter. LSU engineered a crazy final stand, using a fake field goal to continue their drive and end it with a three-yard passing touchdown with just six seconds remaining in the game. The Tigers accumulated 142 more yards in the game (70 more through the air and 72 additional yards on the ground) , and Jordan Jefferson scored twice on the ground while Jarrett Lee threw two touchdowns to Terrance Toliver.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

Aside from the first hour of GameDay being hosted by Florida alum and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, the Gators will be featured during Saturday’s broadcast from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Because the Tigers are the No. 1 team in the country and the game is at LSU, the focus will primarily be on them with video packages and discussions about the team. Andrews interviewed both Les Miles and Tyrann Mathieu this week. There will be talk about Florida’s quarterback situation and, of course, the three hosts along with a guest picker will make their selections as to who will win the game.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

FLORIDA
» Inactive: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (lower leg)
» Unknown: Freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel (ankle)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Freshman quarterbacks Jeff Driskel (#16) and Jacoby Brissett (#17)…either of whom would start their first career game in one of the most hostile environments in college football. Driskel, who has been the backup all season and has gone 7/16 for 73 yards with two interceptions, is expected to start but may be replaced by Brissett due to a bum ankle. Brissett has not seen action during the regular season and did not participate in the team’s spring game either as he was still in high school at the time.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 661 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 17.6 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing and receiving this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally. He also rushed for 100 yards or more in three-straight games, the first UF player to do so since Fred Taylor last accomplished that feat 14 years ago.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who has averaged 8.8 yards per carry so far this year including a career-high 157 two weeks ago. After sitting out most of the team’s second game, Demps now has 324 yards and four touchdowns on the ground this season. He also has the second-most receptions (10) on the team this year. Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark against Florida Atlantic.
» Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose…who jumped to second on the Gators’ receiving list after posting a 65-yard touchdown last week on the first play of the game. Fans have been waiting for Debose to emerge for some time, and his 154 receiving yards are the second-best on the team through its first five games.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary in only his second year. He is third on the team in tackles (22) and created turnovers in three-straight games (fumble-INT-INT) before failing to do so last week.
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (22 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for 7.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks (Howard) through the first five games.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-2 on the team in tackles. Bostic (29) and Jenkins (26) have each excelled in different areas for Florida. The former has four tackles for a loss and two sacks while the latter has one sack and four pass breakups on the year.
» Sophomore Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who is tied for a team-high with 2.0 sacks and forced two interceptions via quarterback pressures against Tennessee. Powell has 13 tackles on the season including two for losses.
» Redshirt junior Sam LB Lerentee McCray (#34)…who is starting for the first time in his career and is third on the team in tackles for loss with 3.5. He also has two three breakups and three QB hurries on the season.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who has returned for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is 12-for-13 in field goal attempts on the season (long: 51) and perfect with 19 extra points, leading the Gators with 55 points scored this season.

LSU
» CB Tyrann Mathieu (#7)…who is one of the most feared defenders in the nation this season due to his propensity for making game-changing plays. Mathieu leads the SEC in forced fumbles (four) and fumble recoveries (three). He also nabbed an interception this season, scored two defensive touchdowns and leads his team in tackles (35).
» QB Jarrett Lee (#12)…who torched UF for two touchdowns in 2010. He has thrown for 793 yards with seven touchdowns and just one interception in 2011 but is only completing 59.3 percent of his passes.
» QB Jordan Jefferson (#9)…who returned to action last week after missing the first four games due to suspension. Jefferson rushed for two scores against Florida in 2010 and is expected to be mixed into LSU’s offense this week.
» RBs Spencer Ware (#11) and Michael Ford (#42)…who have combined for 625 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Ware is the more powerful of the two, while Ford is elusive and averaging more yards per carry on fewer touches each game.

CBS SPORTS VIDEO PREVIEW

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#12 Florida Gators vs. #2 Alabama Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 68°F, clear, winds N-NW at 6 mph
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: CBS/CBSHD
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: CBSSports.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(12) FLORIDA GATORS (2/3) ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Nick Saban
Record: 4-0 (2-0) Record: 4-0 (1-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Alabama -4.5; O/U 44

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 evening at 8:00 p.m. on the road.

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

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Alabama leads the all-time series against Florida 22-14 and is 5-2 against UF dating back to 1999. The Crimson Tide defeated the Gators in the 2009 SEC Championship game (32-13) and during the 2010 regular season (31-6).
» Florida achieved more turnovers vs. Kentucky (two interceptions, two fumbles) than they did in their first three games combined (two interceptions, one fumble).
» The Gators’ 405 rushing yards last week was the sixth-best single-game performance in team history and the most the team has accounted for since 1989.
» Muschamp, Saban and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart all worked together when Saban was head coach of LSU from 2001-04. Muschamp, Saban, Smart, Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and UA tight ends/special teams coach Bobby Williams all worked under Saban with the Miami Dolphins during his short tenure (2005-06). Muschamp and Smart previously worked together at Valdosta State in 2000.
» Saban is 4-4 in his career against UF.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Florida’s offense has been impressive early this season with only six three-and-outs in 52 total offensive drives and only 11 punts in four games.
» UF’s offensive line has only allowed two sacks this year, making them the only SEC team to give up two or fewer sacks and one of seven teams nationally to average fewer than 0.5 sacks per game.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (311) since 2000. Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (72) since 2008.
» Florida is fifth nationally and third in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing just 56.5 yards per game. Alabama is third nationally and first in the SEC in the same category, allowing just 45.75 yards per game.
» Conversely, the Gators and Crimson Tide are 1-2 in the SEC and 9-19 nationally in rushing offense with 259.0 and 230.75 yards per game, respectively.
» Florida has had a 100-yard rusher in four consecutive games, the team’s second-longest streak ever. One more game of 100+ rushing yards would tie the school record streak of five games first set in 1999.
» Though the Gators are 18-for-19 (94.7 percent) in red zone conversions, the Gators have only scored touchdowns on 11 of those opportunities.
» UF’s defense has only allowed three first-quarter points through our games.
» Florida is No. 4 nationally in scoring defense (9.0 points per game) and No. 5 in total defense (231.8 yards per game); however, Alabama is No. 2 nationally in both scoring defense (8.0 points per game) and total defense (184.0 yards per game).
» The Gators have blocked a total of two punts in four games so far this season.
» Florida has made 16-straight field goals dating back to the 2010 season, which is the third-longest streak in school history and the longest active streak in the nation. Two more made field goals will give the team its second-longest streak ever behind 28-straight makes from 1984-85.
» The Crimson Tide have the second-most wins (40) since 2008, two more than the Gators (38) in that same period of time.
» Alabama is returning 19 starters and 51 lettermen from its 2010 team.
» The Crimson Tide’s defense has surrendered just 47 first downs through four games while holding opponents to 30.43 percent (21-of-69) on third-down conversion attempts.
» Florida and Alabama are split down the middle when it comes to the four major statistical categories. The Gators top the Crimson Tide in national averages of rushing yards 259.0-230.8 (9th-19th) and points scored 40.3-38.5 (15th-21st), while Alabama leads Florida in passing 225.3-202.8 (64th-79th) and points against 8.0-9.0 (2nd-4th). The teams have not played a common opponent this season.

LAST TIME OUT

After starting out the 2010 season with a 4-0 record, Florida was brought back down to earth when Alabama trounced them 31-6 in Tuscaloosa, AL. The Gators turned the ball over four times in the contest but otherwise held even with their opponent in yards gained and time of possession, snapping their 24-game regular season winning streak as the Crimson Tide rushed for 170 yards including 63 from Trent Richardson and 47 along with two touchdowns from Mark Ingram. Florida’s John Brantley threw two interceptions in the game and fumbled the ball on Alabama’s one-yard-line in the third quarter, negating any chance of a late UF comeback.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

Aside from the first hour of GameDay being hosted by Florida alum and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, the Gators will be prominently featured during Saturday’s broadcast. There will be a live interview with Muschamp, and former head coach Urban Meyer will also be live on the program speaking about the Florida-Alabama match-up. The three hosts and guest picker Jerry Ferrara (Turtle from Entourage) will make their selections as to who will win the game, and there will also be an entire segment about the game.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

FLORIDA
» Active: Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (lower body), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (unknown)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee)
» To be determined: Redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail (performance)

ALABAMA
» Inactive: Starting LB C.J. Mosely (elbow)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 64.0 percent of his passes (55-of-86) this season for 752 yards and four touchdowns but also threw two interceptions in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. Brantley turned the ball over three time in last year’s loss against Alabama.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 625 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 19.5 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing and receiving this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally. He has also rushed for 100 yards or more in three-straight games, the first UF player to do so since Fred Taylor last accomplished that feat 14 years ago.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who has averaged 9.4 yards per carry so far this year including a career-high 157 last week. After sitting out most of the team’s second game, Demps now has 320 yards and four touchdowns on the ground this season. He also has the second-most receptions (nine) and fifth-most receiving yards (70) on the team this year. Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark against Florida Atlantic.
» Sophomore “RB” Trey Burton (#8)…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver. He has already scored four touchdowns this season and has totaled 135 yards on 22 total touches.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary in only his second year. He is tied for second on the Gators in tackles (17) and has created turnovers in three-straight games (fumble, interception, interception).
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (21 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks (Howard) through the first four games.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-2 on the team in tackles. Bostic (26) and Jenkins (17) have eached excelled in different areas for Florida. The former has three tackles for a loss and two sacks while the latter has one sack and four pass breakups on the year.
» Sophomore Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who is tied for a team-high with 2.0 sacks and forced two interceptions via quarterback pressures against Tennessee. Powell has nine tackles on the season including two for losses.
» Redshirt junior Sam LB Lerentee McCray (#34)…who is starting for the first time in his career and is second on the team in tackles for loss with 3.5. He also has two pass breakups and eight total tackles.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on 11 field goal attempts (long: 51) and 18 extra points, leading the nation in both categories while leading the Gators with 51 points scored this season.

ALABAMA
» RB Trent Richardson (#3)…who is one of the best players at his position in the nation and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry this season. Richardson has rushed for at least 111 yards in three-straight games and started the season with eight rushing touchdowns through three contests.
» RB Eddie Lacy (#42)…who is Richardon’s back-up but is playing just as well this year. Lacy is averaging 8.9 yards per rush and has four touchdowns on the ground this year. He has only carried the ball 41 times but has amassed 365 yards already this year.
» QB A.J. McCarron (#10)…who (like Brantley) has thrown four touchdowns this season but posted two interception in Alabama’s season opener against Kent State. McCarron is completing 66.3 percent of his passes and threw for two touchdowns last week against Arkansas in his best performance of the young season.
» WR Marquis Maze (#4)…who is the Crimson Tide’s leading receiver but has fallen relatively silent over the last few weeks. Maze posted 118 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions in the season opener but has caught 12 balls for just 108 yards since. He is also the team’s punt returner and already brought back one for a score this year.
» LB Dont’a Hightower (#30)…who is one of the most feared defenders in college football this year. He is his team’s leading tackler with 25 on the season (4.5 for loss) and will be charged with ensuring Florida’s running backs do not reach the second level.

CBS SPORTS VIDEO PREVIEW

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No. 15 Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Gameday

Location: Commonwealth Stadium – Lexington, KY [Capacity: 67,942]
Weather Forecast: 67°F, partly cloudy, winds 5 mph
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
SiriusXM: 217/200
Online Video: ESPN3
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(15) FLORIDA GATORS KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Joker Phillips
Record: 3-0 (1-0) Record: 2-1 (0-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -20; O/U 44

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 evening at 7:00 p.m. on the road.

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

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Kentucky 44-17 and has won 24-straight contests including 11-in-a-row in games played in Lexington dating back to 1988. UF is also 30-1 against UK since 1980.
» The Gators achieved more turnovers (two interceptions) against Tennessee than they did in their first two games combined (one fumble).
» Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis (of Florida) and co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter (of Kentucky) served on the same staff when Weis was head coach of Notre Dame.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Florida’s offense has been impressive early this season with only three three-and-outs in 35 total offensive drives and only six punts in three games.
» UF’s offensive line has only allowed one sack this year, making them the only SEC team and one of six nationally to accomplish that feat through two three.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (307) since 2000. Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (70) since 2008.
» Though Florida is 15-for-16 (93.8 percent) in red zone conversions, the Gators have only scored touchdowns on nine of those opportunities.
» Teams are averaging just 1.2 yards per carry against Florida’s defense this season. The Gators are first in the country, allowing just 30.7 rushing yards per game, and are one of six teams in the nation that have not allowed a rushing score in 2011.
» Florida is No. 6 nationally in scoring defense (8.67 points per game) and No. 7 in total defense (209.33 yards per game).
» The Gators’ defense has only allowed 7-of-25 (20 percent) third-down conversion attempts to be achieved against them over the first three games.
» UF has blocked a total of two punts in three games so far this season.
» Saturday’s game is Kentucky’s SEC opener for 2011.
» The Wildcats upset then-No. 10 South Carolina last season at home.
» Kentucky is 5-0 under Phillips in games that they win the turnover margin.
» The Wildcats are 11th nationally in net punting, allowing 42.1 net yards per punt.
» UK has forced six turnovers in their first three games – all interceptions.
» Though it is early in the season, Florida is head and shoulders above Kentucky in national averages heading into Saturday’s contest. The Gators top the Wildcats in passing average 232.0-155.3 (58th-108th), rushing average 210.3-119.3 (30th-91st), points scored 37.7-19.3 (27th-100th) and points against 8.7-13.3 (6th-18th). The teams have not played a common opponent this season.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida may have started the 2010 season slow, but they still took it to Kentucky with a dominant 48-14 victory at home in Gainesville, FL. Quarterback Trey Burton scored a school record six-touchdowns as Florida helped Urban Meyer become the sixth-fastest head coach in NCAA history to reach 100 career victories. The Gators also had a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jeremy Brown in the second quarter and saw starting QB John Brantley throw for a career-high 248 yards on 24-of-35 passing.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

The Gators will not be featured on Saturday morning’s edition of ESPN‘s College GameDay, though former dazzler and current reporter Erin Andrews will host the 9 a.m. version and make an appearance on the primary program beginning at 10 a.m. Florida is one of two sites (the other being Madison, WI) expected to be in contention to host next week’s College GameDay. The Gators will take on Alabama on Oct. 1.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

» Active: Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (suspension)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (lower body), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (unknown), redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail (performance)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 65.3 percent of his passes (47-of-72) this season for 637 yards and three touchdowns but also threw two interceptions in the opener. Brantley had a career-high 248 yards last year vs. Kentucky.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 520 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and 19.5 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing and receiving this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who has averaged 6.8 yards per carry so far this year including 105 in the season opener. After sitting out most of the team’s second game, Demps returned Saturday against Tennessee and now has 163 yards and two touchdowns on the ground this season. He also has the second-most receptions (eight) and fourth-most receiving yards (68) on the team this year. Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark against Florida Atlantic.
» Sophomore “RB” Trey Burton (#8)…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver. He has already scored three touchdowns this season and has totaled 98 yards on 15 total touches.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary and moved into a starting role. He has the second-most tackles on the team with 13 including a career-high seven and his first forced fumble against UAB.
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (20 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks (Howard) throught he first three games.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who have combined for 29 tackles. Bostic, the leading tackler on the team, has already registered three for a loss, and Jenkins has accounted for four pass breakups already this season. Each player also has a sack.
» Sophomore Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who is tied for a team-high with 1.5 sacks and forced two interceptions via quarterback pressures against Tennessee. Powell has seven tackles on the season including 1.5 for losses.
» Redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray (#34)…who is starting for the first time in his career and is the team leader in tackles for loss with 3.5. He also has two pass breakups and seven total tackles.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on nine field goal attempts (long: 51) and 12 extra points, leading the nation in both categories while leading the Gators with 39 points scored this season.

KENTUCKY
» WR La’Rod King (#16)…who leads the team with 226 yards and three touchdowns and achieved the first 100-yard game of his career this year against Central Michigan.
» QB Morgan Newton (#12)…who set career-highs against Louisville by going 27-of-41 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He has completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 466 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions over the first three games.
» S Winston Guy, Jr. (#21)…who is the second-leading tackler on the team with 30 (four for losses) but leads the Wildcats with two interceptions and a sack on the year.
» RB Josh Clemons (#20)…who is a freshman leading rusher with 193 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries. He posted a career-high 128 yards against Central Michigan and combined for just 67 yards on 23 carries in the other two contests.

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9/21: Quinn talks defense, evaluates players

With the Florida Gators preparing for their first road game of 2011 on Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, KY, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn spoke about the Gators defense and also evaluated some of Florida’s standout players.

DEALING WITH PASS INTERFERENCES AND DROPPED PICKS

For any coordinator, committing penalties and not taking advantage of turnover opportunities is a sore subject, but Quinn said Wednesday evening that he is not too concerned with either at this juncture. “We’re going to play physical and we’re going to coach aggressive and play aggressive. For us, some of those penalties, if they’re bang-bang plays, are going to happen,” he said about the pass interference calls on Saturday. “We’re certainly going to work our technique hard just like we do every week, but for us we’re going to stay to our style of play. [...] For [the secondary] to play on guys and challenge, that’s exactly the style that we’re looking to do.”

He also believes that the dropped interception problem – especially with redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins – is a correctable one going forward. “We’re trying to coach all the time, whether that’s ball drills in practice, we’re constantly talking about getting our hands on the ball in practice,” he said. “The more opportunities that you do that, even in practice when you’re getting in the ball, those will now transfer to the game. If you’re not getting hands on it and picking it in practice, for the first time for something to happen in the game, we would not like for that to happen. We would like for them to get their hands on it in practice, too.”

PLAYER EVALUATIONS

Sophomore buck LB Ronald Powell: “I thought that he got off the ball a lot quicker. I really thought some of the hesitant, the waiting and the thinking that we saw in the first two ball games, we didn’t see that quite as much in the [third game]. I was pleased with the progress that he made, it was more in line with what the position entails, and I thought he did a good job in the game.” On why there was a big improvement for him: “We went back through the first couple ballgames and watched the technique. We kind of talked about what we were looking for moving forward. I thought it was a little bit of that light coming on and telling somebody exactly what you want and then have him go out and do it. I think that was a good step for him, a really good step. For the position, it’s a unique one, and I think early on he was thinking maybe too much. We saw less of that in the ballgame.”

Junior LB Jon Bostic: “Just the level of preparation, that’s one of the things I’ve noticed with him. He gets football easy, so now it’s talking about the game plan. […] He’s really progressing nicely.”

Senior defensive end William Green: “He’s one of the guys that you really trust. He’s been that way ever since I met him. He’s a guy who does extra. I thought coming out of training camp, he might have been our most improved player from the spring.”

Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley: “He brings a lot of energy to the team. He plays a style that we like – he plays fast and physical and gets his hands on you. I think he’s a disruptive player inside. The more he’s playing and gaining the experience, six games from now, nine games from now, he’s going to be that much better.”

Cornerbacks sophomore Cody Riggs and freshman Marcus Roberson: “Outside at corner, I think we play an aggressive style. We coach aggressive and those guys play aggressive. That’s how we are built on defense. Both of them are really competitive. That’s one thing that jumped out to me with Cody early on is how competitive of a guy he is. He’ll challenge people and play on them. I’m pleased with the style that those two guys are playing [with]. Whether they’re taller guys or shorter guys, I think they really rise to it and play.”

Safeties sophomore Matt Elam and freshman De’Ante Saunders: “I’ve been impressed with Elam from early on. I really thought he was a guy who can get his hands on the ball. I thought he did a good job communicating. He was fast. He was a good enough safety that he can play down and play nickel. Usually you don’t see that. That’s not as common for a safety, usually you see a corner that can go in and play nickel. You don’t see it the other way around that often. That’s one of the cool things about both he and Saunders, is that they’re safeties with cover ability. That’s one of the things that jump out to you about the two safeties, is that not only can they play the deep part of the field but they can also come down and cover. As a defense that really gives you more options, and we’re glad that they can do that.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what he’s seen from Kentucky’s offense: “The first thing that jumps out at you is it’s a mobile quarterback – a guy that can move the pocket, play outside and make some plays with his feet. Outside No. 16 is a tall target that can really go and attack the ball. They use a number of different runners both inside-the-tackle runners and runners who are good screen and cut-back guys. Up front they have a better offensive line coming back. Usually when you have those guys that played some ball together, the communication and their technique is usually further along than most.”

» On communication between Bostic and Jenkins: “That’s true with really good defenses that you see – there’s a lot of good communication from position to position. […] I’m really encouraged, as we’re getting into our fourth ball game and moving forward, those are the kinds of things you expect.”

» On if sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd will see some more time at tackle: “It really depends just by the game. There are some games where we’re going to put him outside. Sometimes based on match-up, sometimes based on run-pass, and then there’s other times we’ll move him inside as a pass rusher there. He’s getting more comfortable with it. I think it’s just taking him some reps to do it.”

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9/20: Gators LB Powell stepping up at buck

With the Florida Gators in the middle of preparing for their first road game of the 2011 season, two prominent players were made available to the media on Tuesday to discuss how the team is progressing heading into their showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats on Sept. 24 at 7:00 p.m. in Lexington, KY.

THE BUCK STOPS HERE FOR POWELL

A player that head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn singled out in the spring to be their primary disrupter on defense, sophomore Ronald Powell found himself at the unique buck linebacker position, a hybrid spot held by such players as Jason Taylor and Sergio Kindle in previous versions of Muschamp’s defense.

Though he played well enough in the first two games of the season, Powell was not living up to the expectations Muschamp and Quinn had set for him long ago. They both said as much last week, perhaps partially as a motivational ploy to help Powell improve his game.

On Tuesday, Powell explained that he understood what the coaches wanted and explained why it took him a little bit to get going. “Just the position that I play, they want to see more coming from that position – playing faster, playing more physical,” he said. “[I was] just thinking, doing a lot of things, thinking before I react to things and stuff like that. It was just taking it from the classroom to the field and just going without thinking.”

That’s exactly what he did Saturday. Powell’s pass rushes on Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray forced two key interceptions for Florida. He hit the signal caller twice and also shared a sack with redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard. Now all he has to do is carry what he has learned forward throughout the rest of the season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Powell on if sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd’s return helped him: “It’s always good to have my boy back. We all are close, and we was missing him.”

» Powell on Muschamp’s excitable nature during games: “Muschamp is a real good coach, a lot of juice he brings to the table, and we expect that from him. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”

» Powell on if sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley talks trash when he dances: “Easley’s a special character. Easley – you don’t know what he’s doing out there. He’s dancing, he’s talking, that’s just the kind of player he is. I don’t even know if he’s talking trash, I don’t know what he’s doing, honestly.”

» Powell on his on-field personality: “It varies. I’m real focused, and I like to joke around and talk to my teammates and have fun.”

» Powell on his first impression of junior LB Jon Bostic: “When I first got here, he was real big and real fast and athletic. He was doing things that I never seen a dude like him do as far as size and stuff, the type of moments he can do.”

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines on his blocking ability: “I’ve improved a lot. That’s what I work on every day. I knew that was one of my weaknesses, so I had to improve that to help my team.”

» Hines on the running backs catching more passes than the receivers: “They’re two explosive guys. They’re open – give them the ball and let them work.”

» Hines on the touchdown pass he missed in the end zone: “[A.C. Leonard] tipped it and I lost track of it.”

» Hines on how much tight end he’s playing in practice: “I’ve been playing since camp started, and it’s starting to get more comfortable to me. I usually just stay straight tight end for a while and then go to run routes with the receivers and stuff.”

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9/19: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

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

OPENING STATEMENT AND PLAYER AWARDS

Muschamp began his portion of the press conference by commending Florida for a terrific team effort against Tennessee. “The thing that jumps out at you when you watch the film is that we played with great effort, toughness, passion, energy on both sides of the ball and in special teams,” he said. “I really thought our players really played hard in the game, and that’s the thing. If we can continue to have that kind of effort, we’re going to have a lot of success. [...] We got to clean some things up. We got to play smarter in some situations on both sides of the ball. There’s a lot of teaching points from the film.”

He also handed out his weekly awards, which can be found below along with honors that two Gators received from the Southeastern Conference:

Offensive Player of the Game: Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey
Scrap Iron Award (best OL): Redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison
Big Play Award: Rainey/redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley for the check-down pass that resulted in an 83-yard touchdown
Extra Effort Award: Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose and redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian for down field blocks that sprung big plays
Defensive Player of the Game: Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Ball Hawk Award: Sophomore safety Matt Elam, junior S Josh Evans, sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell (for helping create both interceptions)
Special Teams Players of the Week: Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (4/4 on field goals), freshman cornerback Louchiez Purifoy (four tackles on kickoff coverage)
Scout Team Players of the Week: Jabari Gorman, Tommy Jordan, Jason Traylor

Rainey was also named the SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week, while Sturgis earned the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honor for his performance.

INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown, who has yet to play in 2011 due to a knee injury, will be out “probably for a couple of weeks,” Muschamp said. “The knee has just not responded coming back off the injury. There’s no surgery required. Very frustrating for Jeremy. He’s a great young man, and I’m just hurt for him as far as that’s concerned.”

In other bad news, freshman offensive lineman Trip Thurman is now done for the season due to a shoulder injury. “Trip had shoulder surgery this morning, so he’ll be out for the season,” Muschamp explained. “He’s a guy we felt like could help us this year. He’s a very talented guy, we’re glad he’s a Gator, but we felt like with the situation with his shoulder, we needed to get that cleaned up.”

Redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) remains questionable for Kentucky, but the rest of the team’s injuries are bumps and bruises, none of which should affect the injury report for Saturday’s game.

Additionally, redshirt sophomore LB Dee Finely – arrested last week for two misdemeanors – will return Saturday after serving a one-week suspension. Muschamp did not comment on the situation last week, but Finley was not in pads for the game.

A TAKE ON KENTUCKY

Muschamp provided his perspective on Saturday’s opponent, Kentucky, from all three facets of the game.

“They lost a lot of their core offensive playmakers from last year – some really good players – so I think they’re still searching for an identity offensively.

“Defensively they’re only giving up 13 points a game, so they’re playing very well defensively. They’ve got some playmakers on defense that are doing a nice job.

“Special teams, they’re leading in kickoff coverage and kickoff return in the SEC – two of the four categories I know they’re leading the SEC.”

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

For the first time this season, the Gators will leave the friendly confines for Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and head out for a road game in Lexington, KY. Muschamp said Monday that even though 16 players on the two-deep depth chart will be making their first road trip with the team, he does not plan to change the team’s preparation.

“In the preseason I wanted to fly to Canada, but Jeremy [Foley] turned me down,” he said joking about the team preparing to go on the road. “We do the same routine through practice schedule, and then Friday we have our normal walk through and meetings that we have here. We get on the plane and go to the hotel. Generally we go to a movie the night before the game if we play a night game, which we are playing a night game. All of our game day stuff is the same; it’s just a different hotel and a different stadium to play in. We try to approach everything with a real methodical approach in everything we do. We don’t change a whole lot as far as what we do, just the surroundings are a little different.”

WEIS’s INFLUENCE DRIVING THE OFFENSE

It makes sense that the team’s offensive coordinator have a major impact on the performance of that unit’s players, but with Charlie Weis in the fold, the turnaround has been perhaps quicker than some expected even if it hasn’t been painless. Muschamp expressed on Monday how impressed he is with Weis from a coaching standpoint, especially how he deals with quarterbacks and his methods during the game.

“I think when you coach the quarterback, it’s a different mentality. It’s a different temperament. Quarterback is a position you’ve got to handle. Charlie, I think, does a great job on the sideline as far as finding out what’s working and what John feels good with,” he said. “His experience speaks for itself, and the experience he’s had with quarterbacks. He manages it the way he likes to manage it, and I think it’s been very productive obviously for us to this point.

“I really enjoy the interaction he and I have on game day as far as where we are and what we’re doing as far as how we’re playing defensively, how we’re playing offensively, special teams what we need to do in the game to take advantage to try to win the ballgame.”

Brantley agreed, stating that the conversations they have on the sideline after drives really help him throughout the game. “Depending on how the drive goes, he picks out the coverages, what they’re bringing, trying to figure out early what it’s going to be – a man-to-man game or a zone game,” he said.

The signal caller also mentioned that Weis is well-prepared from a play calling standpoint heading into each contest. “He’ll script, it seems like, two-to-three drives almost. He’ll try to stick with it as much as he can,” Brantley said. “He’ll put down some ideas and ask me how comfortable I feel about everything and if I feel comfortable with what he’s got, then we’ll go with that. So far so good.”

SECONDARY NEEDS TO SOLIDIFY, BUT IT IS GETTING THERE

Though Florida’s secondary had its share of struggles on Saturday, Muschamp was pleased with the overall effort of the young group. He insisted that, even though there were numerous pass interference calls against them, they remain aggressive even as they improve and get smarter going forward.

“You coach off the tape. You look at the tape technically and say, ‘You’re in position here. You could’ve done this, you couldn’t have done that. That’s a bang-bang play. You’re in good position, you make the play on the ball. Those things happen,’” he explained. “We’re going to stay and we’re going to play aggressively. I told them this morning, ‘Continue to play aggressively in what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.’”

NOTES & QUOTES

» Muschamp on Powell’s play and effort on Saturday: “Played his best game out of the first three, got some really good pressure. [...] More than anything he played fast, played physical, and that’s what we’re needing out of him. He certainly had it in him, and we just got to do a better job of coaching.”

» Muschamp on if he is worried he is garnering a reputation with officials: “No.”

» Muschamp on how the offensive line is playing: “We’ve made a lot of progress on the offensive line. I don’t know that we played our best game against Tennessee. We had a couple procedural issues that set us back on the sack in the red zone going in. A lot of missed protection, which was the first sack we have given up this season. I don’t think we played our best game up front offensively. Jon Harrison played very well, but across the board we can played better.”

» Muschamp on freshman CB Marcus Roberson’s penalties and positioning: “I thought he played extremely well. I thought he kept receivers cut off down the field. He’s very disruptive on the line of scrimmage. He’s got good ball skills and had some good opportunities in the game. Very pleased with his progress. He works hard at practice. He has good retention day-in and day-out in what we do and how we do it. I’ve been very pleased with his progress.”

» Muschamp on Florida having won 24-straight against Kentucky: “I think it has zero factor in what is going to happen Saturday night. Absolutely none. Most of our guys weren’t alive then.”

» Muschamp on if fumbles drive him nuts: “It’s not good. Fumbles…we don’t want it to happen. We coach and talk about holding the ball high and tight and the pressure points of the ball. We emphasize ball security a lot. We got to continue to emphasize that, especially in the situation the other day when you’re in a pile. Certainly the protection of the ball is the most important thing, possession of the ball.”

» Muschamp on if Purifoy is earning playing time on defense with his efforts on special teams: “He’s played well, he’s practiced well and deserves the opportunity.”

» Muschamp on looking ahead to Kentucky: “It’s a series of one-game seasons. Whatever you did the last time out really doesn’t matter. It’s about the next time out and the match-ups and the opportunity you have to make plays on the ball and play on the line of scrimmage and make plays on offense and special teams.”

» Brantley on if he trusts the receivers: “I think the receivers have done a fine job. I trust them no matter what happens. I’m going to keep throwing to them, and I trust that they’re going to be able to get open.”

» Brantley on the 24-game winning streak: “You got to put that in the past. That’s a cool thing, but we just got to worry about this year, this weekend coming up.”

» Brantley on reducing miscues on offense: “We just got to be better with the communication. We got to be more precise. There should be no mixed signals or anything. That’s what you try to work on during the week, have a little bit of noise out there during practice and work on that communication.”

» Brantley on the offensive line so far: “I have all the confidence in the world with my offensive line. We studied real hard this offseason during spring ball and camp, so we know where our outlets are. We’re just trying to give what the defense gives us.”

» Brantley on Muschamp’s intensity during the game: “I think Coach Muschamp has a different kind of energy – you saw him go after the refs a little bit. He’s really into the game just like any other coach would be. Very supportive with the offense and defense. He might just have a little different kind of intensity.”

» Brantley said he is able to recognize some of the stuff that New England QB Tom Brady does during games (when he watches him on TV). He notices how he identifies the Mike linebacker and even sees how some of the plays look familiar as they are being run. Though the two have never spoke, Brantley thinks he can learn from watching Brady, especially considering many of the plays they run are in Weis’s offense.

» Junior LB Jon Bostic on the defensive line helping blitzing linebackers: “It helps us out a lot. With them taking on double teams, basically holding those offensive linemen off us, basically they have to choose one, where we can come freely or it allows us to come freely.”

» Bostic on redshirt junior LB Lerentee McCray: “He’s one of those guys who can put his hand down and rush the passer, he can stand up and play Sam and drop back in pass coverage. From a physical standpoint, that’s where you’re seeing Lerentee come along. He’s one of those guys that can come down, hit a fullback right in the mouth, and make the fullback not want to come that way anymore. I’ve known that since I first got here. He’s always been one of those tough guys who likes to go hard and always likes to prove a point every play he’s on the field.”

» Bostic on Muschamp yelling at the officials: “He’s one of those coaches who kind of just likes to get after it. Wants to make sure all of the calls are right and the game is just played fair.”

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9/17: Florida vs. Tennessee post-game notes

The No. 16/17 Florida Gators (3-0, 1-0) began their Southeastern Conference slate in impressive fashion on Saturday, wrapping up a 33-23 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers (2-1, 0-1) with strong efforts from their offense, defense and special teams. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp.

RAINEY’s REDEMPTION TOUR CONTINUES

Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey was already in the midst of a great season before stepping on the field Saturday. While he may have scored three touchdowns in a single game in Florida’s week one victory over Florida Atlantic, there is no doubt that his performance this week was the best of the young season. Rainey carried the ball 21 times for 108 yards, grabbed two receptions for 104 yards (including an 83-yard touchdown) and blocked a punt that resulted in a field goal for the Gators.

“Rainey is a special athlete,” redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley said after the game. “He’s getting better each week, and he’s really grown up and bought into all of this. He deserves all of this that he’s been doing.”

He has now scored a total of five touchdowns through three games (two rushing, two receiving, one return) and is on pace for 2,080 yards of total offense. While his attitude and work ethic have helped motivate the team off the field, Rainey’s play on the field has been the brightest spot for an up-and-coming Florida team in 2011.

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.

“I thought we moved the ball well – very effectively early in the game especially. We had some opportunities that we squandered in the first half offensively. Defensively I thought we played very well. As the game kind of changed there throwing the football there obviously we had two mental errors on touchdowns [...] before half, which is disappointing. There are some communication issues we’ve got to clean up. But as the game changed there, you’ve got to play coverage and make them bleed the clock. That’s what we were trying to do in those situations. The worst thing you can do in that situation is give up a big play. Special teams block punt was huge. It was great designed by D.J. [Durkin]. I felt like we had them outnumbered in the protection, and it was a great job by Chris Rainey and the execution of our young men.”

STURGIS REMAINS PERFECT WITH FOUR SCORES

The biggest flaw in regards to the Gators’ offense at this point is their ability to convert red zone appearances into touchdowns. Unlike last season, Florida has been able to count on redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis to bail them out of these situations. With four field goals on Saturday (from 28, 30, 46 and 42 yards), Sturgis now a perfect 9/9 on the season (he is also 12/12 on extra points).

“Just to know you feel good and comfortable about when he walks on the field. When the ball’s on the 35 yard line, you’re talking about a 52-yard field goal, and you feel very comfortable that he’s going to make the field goal,” Muschamp said. “Caleb’s just been outstanding for us. A guy that certainly gives me a huge comfort level when we hit in that 35-yard-line to know that we’re going to get three points, and I feel pretty comfortable about that.”

PENALTIES…PENALTIES…PENALTIES…

For the third-straight game, the Gators absolutely blew it when it came to committing penalties. This week was historically bad, however, as Florida doubled up their season total and tied school records for second-most penalties in a game (16) and second-most penalty yards in a game (150). UF has now committed 34 penalties for 270 yards in three games, numbers that Muschamp obviously finds simply unacceptable.

Especially abhorrent on Saturday was the number of pass interference calls against the Gators – six total by five different players. Though two of the calls were questionable, freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson (two), junior safety Josh Evans, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins, sophomore CB Cody Riggs and freshman S De’Ante Saunders (one each) all committed the foul. These miscues extended drives by Tennessee, many of which concluded with the Vols putting points on the board.

In addition to the extreme number of penalties, Florida’s defense also had trouble holding onto passes they defended. Roberson and Jenkins combined for at least three dropped interceptions, and Roberson also had a caught pick called back due to one of his pass interference penalties. Muschamp commented on the entire situation after the game.

“I look at penalties a couple different ways. Are they discipline penalties? When you jump offsides, when we’re down in the red zone on the 13-yard-line – that’s an issue. When you have to call timeout because we don’t get the right personnel in the game – that’s an issue. Those are what I call procedural issues, and those are discipline penalties – jumping offsides or lining up offisdes on defense, which we did tonight. And we had that issue last week. Those are things that you got to get corrected. Are they being addressed? Yes. Are they being addressed the right way? Obviously not because they’re still happening. Then there’s penalties that are aggressive penalties that are judgement calls – those happen in the game of football, especially the way we play. We play a lot of bump-and-run, we play a lot of man-to-man, a lot of deny-the-ball defense. Those things happen sometimes. I’m not saying they’re OK and I’m not saying I tolerate them.”

BRANTLEY CONTINUES TO PROGRESS

Though he may not be setting the world on fire with his numbers, Brantley looked great to start the game, leading the Gators on a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive and 12-play, 68-yard field goal drive. “What we wanted to do was start fast like we did. We figured if we do that, go down and score, that’ll set the tone for the rest of the game,” he said. “I thought we did a really good job of that – like we did – and we just kept going on from there.”

He struggled a bit throughout the rest of the contest but also had a nice check down to Rainey for his 83-yard score in the third quarter.

“We work all week [on] all of our pass protections and everything. We know where our check downs are and where our outlets are,” he said. “Rainey got out clean and he was in that open area. I was looking for him all the way down and there he was. He can do some special things with the ball like he did tonight.”

Most importantly, Brantley did not turn the ball over for the second-straight game.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp began his post-game press conference by complimenting the fans who he said did a great job. “It was an electric atmosphere out there,” he said. “As you walked in the stadium through the Gator Walk, it was absolutely amazing.”

» He also said that Heisman Trophy-winning QB Danny Wuerffel and Hall of Fame RB Emmitt Smith spoke to the team over the weekend, something he thanked both men for doing and said was very meaningful to the team.

» On Florida’s pass rush: “We had some good pressures. The first interception of the second half was called by Ronald Powell. He was throwing off his back foot – elevated the ball – it was an overthrown ball. We’ve got to get pressure with four guys rushing.”

» On dropped interceptions and pass interference penalties: “We’ve dropped a bunch of interceptions this year. I guess do more ball drills or something. And on the other, I have no comment.”

» On Rainey: “This guy competes every day. Comes to work with his hard hat on. He talks a lot but he doesn’t complain about anything.”

» On whether or not the defense continues to improve: “It’s week-to-week, especially with our guys. We’re going to look at what we did that was positive and then we’re going to correct the things that got to get corrected. You got to constantly coach players, especially younger players, especially first-year scheme players.”

» On what he was yelling about at halftime: “I was upset about a bunch of stuff at halftime.”

» On if the team can win without the wide receivers being involved: “We’ll line up and run the wishbone if we can win. [...] It’s about winning. Do what you got to do to win the game. You can’t take winning for granted.”

» On getting amped at sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell’s forced interception: “When you see a player start to come around and see the light – I want these guys to play well. I play through them. So when you see a guy finally get the pressure, get the caused interception, I’m excited for him. I’m excited he made a great play for the Gators, but I was happy for him.”

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9/14: Quinn talks defense, evaluates players

With the Florida Gators preparing for their first Southeastern Conference game of 2011 on Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn spoke about the Gators defense and also evaluated some of Florida’s standout players.

DEFENDING TENNESSEE THROUGH THE AIR

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is looking like a top-notch signal caller through the first two games of the season. Having completed 78.5 percent of his passes for nearly 700 yards and seven touchdowns, Branty “certainly passes efficiently like a NFL quarterback,” Quinn said Wednesday. “It’s one thing that really jumps out to you,” he added. “When you put their tape on, it’s how efficient they are in throwing the ball. You can tell that they’re starting to get together as a quarterback and receivers [group].”

Unfortunately for Florida, the Volunteers’ passing game will be attacking the Gators’ weakness – their extremely young secondary. Quinn noted that Florida will have to do a great job schematically and with on-field communication in order to win the aerial battle. “Really when you’re facing a really efficient offense like these guys, you really got to be on point with communication and you got to be on your stuff,” he said. “Because they really are efficient, if we’re playing a certain coverage or a certain technique, it’s got to be communicated really fast. That’s one of the things we’ve been working on hard since we started here all the way through training camp.”

One positive for the Gators is that all offseason the defense has been able to go against Florida’s offense which, like Tennessee’s, features the same personnel in multiple package. Quinn sees this as a huge advantage for UF heading into the game. “One thing that’s great about our team is that there’s really great competition at practice,” he said. “One thing that you like [is] whether you’re a linebacker that has to cover Chris Rainey or a safety that has to cover Jordan Reed. That competition prepares you a little bit for what you’re going to face down the road. Not just from this club but from all the teams. We certainly enjoy going against our offense, and I hope they feel the same way getting the competition in practice. That’s a valuable part of what we do.”

DEALING WITH THE VOLS ON THE GROUND

For the Gators to be successful, it all starts with stopping the run, getting pressure on the passer and creating turnovers – three things that are paramount to any team putting together a standout performance. Quinn was quick to note that even though the Volunteers are making their money through the air, they can also run the ball quite well.

“Although their stats are really high, they do have a run game, too. I’ve coached against their line coach before and have a lot of respect for the way they run the ball. Certainly they’ll try to establish that too,” he said. “I thought [their offensive line] was one unit that really improved when you watched their first two ball games of the year. Although they may be young like us at some spots, I think they’re a talented group, too. I really think on both sides the line of scrimmage is going to be a fun match-up to watch. They play hard, physical and tough, and our guys do, too.”

Once Florida gets that under control, they will also have to find a way to get to Bray consistently. The Gators registered two sacks in their season opener against Florida Atlantic but did not earn any against UAB’s passer last weekend.

“Sometimes you’ll hear me talk about affecting the quarterback. In our rush, we kind of talk about hits on the QB. We also use a term called a ‘reset’ where the quarterback has to move in the pocket, reset his feet and make a harder throw,” Quinn explained. “Some people talk about getting the quarterback off the spot, where he can’t just go to his five-step drop and then make his throws. Some of it will be pressure; some of it will be with our four-man rush. We certainly need to do a better job of collapsing the pocket from the outside in with our defensive ends.”

AFFECTING THE QUARTERBACK THE ENTIRE DEFENSE’s JOB

The return of sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd will help in that goal, Quinn said, but the defense as a whole (everyone from the defensive tackles to the safeties) must step up to rattle Bray from multiple standpoints. “I think he’s a big part of it but, like I said, and this is going to sound unusual, it might be the disguise of a coverage where the quarterback might have to wait a little longer [that does the trick]. This week’s match-up is really affecting the quarterback with our whole defense. Although [Floyd’s] going to be a part of it, in a way we’re all tying together to do it

“It might be a linebacker who is blitzing or a safety who is showing one coverage and playing something different to affect the QB. At the end of the day, you want to make it hard on a quarterback. Sometimes that’s with the four man rush where you get hits on the guy and he can really feel it. Sometimes it’s the mental pressure you can put on him. Those are kind of some of the games you play as a defensive coach when you go against a talented offense.”

PICKING WEIS’s BRAIN

Quinn was a big name when it came to defensive coaches in the NFL. He was very revered and praised by such players as Jason Taylor as the best position coach he ever had. However, even Quinn would agree that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is at another level in terms of reverence and appreciation for what he has accomplished in his career. When Weis decided to leave Kansas City for Florida, many were surprised and wondered how he would handle being second-fiddle to head coach Will Muschamp. So far so good, Quinn explains.

“The great thing about Charlie, when he stepped into that role, there was no doubt that he was in support of Will. That’s a real credit to him,” he said. “It’s a good person for Will to talk to and say, ‘Hey, in this situation, have you been there?’ And he’s kind of done that. It has been good for me too, to be honest with you. If I have a question about something, Charlie is, in my opinion, one of the sharpest offensive coordinators in football at any level. If I have a question, ‘How would you see us playing this? How would you [attack] this?’ Not only for Will but he’s also been a good resource for me from a football standpoint.”

In fact, Quinn will pick Weis’s brain often not just for schematic considerations but also specific concepts like the best ways to defend a two-minute drill, for example. “In my opinion, he’s been on teams that were the best in the world at [two-minute drills],” Quinn said. “Certainly during the week of game planning, we’re both dealing with our own issues on our side of the ball. But certainly if it would come up, I would certainly ask him.”

PLAYER EVALUATIONS, NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what area of the defense he is most frustrated with: “There’s a lot of areas that we really need to come along at. To me, I think affecting the quarterback is one that’s a big emphasis for us. Even more importantly than that is taking the ball away. Coach and I made a big emphasis on that, and it’s something we so strongly believe in – being a ball hawk, getting your hands on balls and being disruptive. If I had to circle one area that I would aim for improvement, it would be taking the ball away.“

» On Floyd’s ability and what it means for him to return to the team: “Any time you have a guy with size and with length to him – Sharrif’s a big guy. He’s got some size but he’s got some speed to move. He’s a defensive tackle who can also play D-end. We line him up in multiple spots. He’s a good technician. He’s strong when he gets his hands on you. He’s very heavy handed. He’s a good inside pass rusher. He’s such an outstanding teammate. He’s a terrific teammate and everybody’s looking forward to having him back out there. We certainly missed not having him out there.”

» Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (who has returned from a knee injury and has gotten much healthier over the last two weeks): “Jeremy looked good on the early part of the week. It’s good to see him back out there. He’s been gone for so long so now it was just cool to kind of get him back in the mix. I think we’ll find out more as we go further on during the week and as he gets through the whole week and then kind of make the decisions from there.”

» Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley’s dancing: “For me, I think he brings a lot of energy to our defense. That has certainly been brought up a lot lately. To be honest with you, I don’t notice it as much maybe as the next guy because I’ve been around him so much. You see him and that’s just Ease. He does bring a lot of energy and juice to the defense.”

» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell needing to step up: “At that position, which is called our buck, it’s kind of a unique spot. It’s a guy who can stand up at rush, play over the tight end, and it’s really one of our featured spots where we play to the open side of the defense a lot. That guy is counted on to be one of our big rushers. With Ron, we’re certainly looking for more production from his as a rusher; it’s something we’ve been working really hard at through training camp and over the start of the season. I’m looking forward to seeing him develop and move forward in that way. It’s a little bit of the system. You’re up in a three-point, you’re down. It’s just for him feeling more comfortable and playing all the different techniques. When you first start, it’s like you can be so many different things it’s kind of hard to master something. Now that he’s been playing in the system all the way through spring and training camp and now he’s got some experience with two games under his belt, I think we’ll see that production increase.”

» Redshirt freshman DE Lynden Trail, who is healthy but did not dress for Saturday’s game due to his performance in practice: “[We’re] just looking to increase his performance right now. No disciplinary action along those lines. Just looking to get more out of Lynden, and I think we’re getting that this week.”

» On if he is excited to open SEC play even though his players say Tennessee is a nameless and faceless opponent: “I’m certainly looking forward to it. That’s part of the reason why you come to a place like Florida, for the opportunity to play in cool games like this. Our approach has been that we take the same approach each week in how we prepare, how we study, how hard we practice and that kind of thing. But you definitely feel a buzz about the opponent and that kind of stuff.”

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