Florida Gators 2012 spring practice depth chart

You may be excited that, in a few lines, you are getting a look at the Florida Gators 2012 spring practice depth chart. Don’t be. As he explained one year ago, head coach Will Muschamp does not put a lot of stock in the spring’s first depth chart, referring to it in 2011 as not worth the paper it was printed on. In other words, it is just a starting-off point for 2012 and plenty can change between now and the end of spring, the start of summer, the beginning of fall or when the season starts. Nevertheless, below is the depth chart as it was presented on March 13.

RELATED: Muschamp, Pease talk offense | Muschamp, Quinn talk defense

Florida omitted players who are injured or limited and not participating in spring practice. A list of those players can be found at the end along with some additional explanations.

QB: 12 Jacoby Brissett OR 6 Jeff Driskel
RB: 23 Mike Gillislee, 33 Mack Brown
FB: 8 Trey Burton OR 43 Hunter Joyer
WR (X): 4 Andre Debose, 89 Stephen Alli
WR (Z): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 83 Solomon Patton
WR (Slot): 85 Frankie Hammond, Jr., 13 Latroy Pittman
TE: 11 Jordan Reed, 20 Omarius Hines* OR 88 Clay Burton

LT: 71 Matt Patchan*, 73 Xavier Nixon
LG: 66 James Wilson, 50 Sam Robey*
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne*
RG: 67 Jon Halapio, 74 Jessamen Dunker
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 71 Matt Patchan*

DE: 73 Sharrif Floyd*, 91 Earl Okine
DT: 44 Leon Orr*, 4 Damien Jacobs*
NT: 99 Omar Hunter, 58 Nick Alajajian
Buck DE: 7 Ronald Powell, 25 Gideon Ajagbe*
SLB: 49 Darren Kitchens, 55 Graham Stewart
MLB: 1 Jon Bostic, 51 Michael Taylor
WLB: 3 Jelani Jenkins, 72 Antonio Morrison

CB: 15 Louchiez Purifoy, 27 Willie Bailey
CB: 31 Cody Riggs*, 14 Jaylen Watkins
Nickel CB: 22 Matt Elam*, 31 Cody Riggs
S: 22 Matt Elam*, 26 De’Ante Saunders
S: 9 Josh Evans, 10 Valdez Showers*

K: 19 Caleb Sturgis, 97 Brad Phillips
P: 44 Kyle Christy
H: 47 John Crowfoot, 44 Kyle Christy
LS: 46 Drew Ferris, 43 Kyle Crowfoot
KR/PR: Not listed

LIMITED FOR SPRING: LB Neiron Ball (vascular condition), CB Marcus Roberson (neck)

OUT FOR SPRING: CB Jeremy Brown (knee), DT Dominique Easley (ACL), OL Cole Gilliam (shoulder), DE Kedric Johnson (shoulder), OL Tommy Jordan (shoulder), LB Lerentee McCray (shoulder), OL Ian Silberman (shoulder)

*BEING CROSS-TRAINED: Floyd – DE/DT/NT, Jacobs – DT/NT, Riggs – S/CB/NCB, Elam – S/NCB, Hines – RB/TE, Patchan – LT/RT, Orr – DT/DE, Ajagbe – SLB/Buck, Jabari Gorman – S/NCB, Showers – S/NCB, Robey – C/G, Koehne – G/C

OGGOA NOTES
– TE A.C. Leonard remains indefinitely suspended from the team for his recent arrest for misdemeanor domestic battery. He would fit in at the first or second slot at his position.
– Wilson was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, a big win for the Gators and their lack of depth and experience on the offensive line.
– Freshman D.J. Humphries, expected to make an impact at offensive tackle, is not yet on the two-deep depth chart likely due to an off-the-field reason like weight or conditioning.
– Brown (CB), Roberson (CB), Easley (DT), McCray (SLB) are four other starters/potential starters who are currently off the depth chart due to injury.

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11/9: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators coming off their first win in over a month and set to face the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks this Saturday, head coach Will Muschamp spoke during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at heading into the contest.

STATUS AND INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion) and redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger are all good to go and expected to play Saturday. Redshrit junior LB Lerentee McCray (shoulder), on the other hand, will be a game-time decision.

Though redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison was pulled from the Vanderbilt game due to inconsistencies in his shotgun snaps, he is working this week and trying to earn the job back. He is competing with Wenger (a center at Notre Dame) and redshirt junior Sam Robey, who replaced Harrison on Saturday.

“Jon’s played well for us,” Muschamp said. “His consistency in snaps since we’ve gone to strictly shotgun formation due to John’s ankle [has been an issue]. That has been the only issue. As far as his assignments and blocking, he’s been fine.”

MUCH RESPECT FOR SPURRIER

A Florida fan and football player growing up, Muschamp kept a close eye on South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. When he faced him both as a player at Georgia and defensive coordinator at Auburn, he understood even more why Spurrier is so good.

“I’ve got great respect for coach Spurrier as an opponent when I was a player and the job he did with his football teams. Being a player wanting to be a coach, you see the success he had here at Florida and how he really turned this place around to winning championships. As an opponent, I have tremendous respect as a player and now as a coach,” he said. “It’s the way he does things. He does things the right way. He goes by the rules, works hard and his teams compete each Saturday every time out. I have a lot of respect for the man and what he’s accomplished.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the Penn State story: “It’s obviously tragic. I don’t know all the facts; we’ve been working. If the allegations are true, my thoughts are with the victims and the victims’ families at this time.”

» On how the quality of college football teams have changed with freshmen wanting to play right away: “I don’t know that the quality of the game is a whole lot different. There are some teams right now a little ahead of the others. There are younger players playing – a lot of guys are coming out [early] now for the NFL and that sets you back a little bit as a program because you count on a guy to be here and then he’s not there. Generally if he’s leaving early, he’s a really good player. […] All of the freshmen coming in because of recruiting now think they’re going to start as a freshman. They don’t want to go to a school that has an incumbent starter. Some of those things make your depth not as good as it’s been in past years where you’re a little paper thin at certain areas as far as positions are concerned.”

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11/8: Weis evaluates Brantley, center, players

As the Florida Gators prepare for their next road contest against the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 12 in Columbia, SC, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss his team’s upcoming contest.

BRANTLEY’s BACK AND HELD IN HIGH REGARD

Though he returned two weeks ago against Georgia, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley has been anything but 100 percent over the last two games. His ankle injury may be subsiding, but Brantley dinged up his arm in the fourth quarter against Vanderbilt and sat the final few series. He did not practice Monday but was supposed to return to the field Tuesday, something Weis confirmed after practice. “John looked pretty good. He could have practiced yesterday. He got more rest and the other guys got more work. That worked out for everyone. He took almost all the reps today,” Weis said.

He also discussed the pistol set and said he did not install it against Georgia because Brantley was so banged up that he could not have even run plays like that. Nevertheless, he is impressed with how quickly Brantley picked up the changes and believes it is indicative of the type of player he is dealing with. “I wish I had him another year. I’d love to have him,” Weis said. “He’ll move on and I don’t think his football playing career will end when he leaves here.”

Weis also praised Brantley for his strong mental makeup and gumption, two things he certainly needed to have after a rough 2010 season. “I like the fact that when I got here he was a beaten down young man, and he stood as tall as you can possibly stand. That’s what I like more than anything else,” he said. “You don’t think these kids hear the boo birds when they come off the field? They hear it. They take it to heart. There is no doubt that the team looks to him as the leader of the team. That’s something that I didn’t know whether or not that would happen or not, but they definitely do.”

ROBEY REPLACING HARRISON?

Many wondered why redshirt junior Sam Robey did not win the starting job in the preseason and how redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, who had not played the position in years, was able to supplant him. Now nine games in, it looks as if Robey may be regaining the job due to Harrison struggling with his snaps.

In addition to a few high snaps that Brantley has had to jump on this season, Harrison’s shotgun snaps have been a bit low, something that is messing up the timing of plays. “That’s why we made a change in the game because the timing of when the back gets the ball – whether its protection related or in the run game – it’s significant,” Weis said about pulling Harrison for Robey on Saturday.

Weis added that Robey has taken reps as the starter this week but did not mention whether or not Harrison has as well. “One thing we’re not going to do is just stand pat,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we put ourselves in the best position whether we’re underneath center or in the shotgun.”

Should Harrison lose his job, he could regain a starting guard job, possibly supplanting redshirt senior Dan Wenger who has been dealing with various injuries.

PLAYER EVALUATIONS

Freshman fullback Hunter Joyer: “For a young guy, his arrow is pointing way up. He’s still figuring it out, but he’s a football player. He’s got good football intelligence. He’s physical and he’s not even playing as physical as he can yet because he’s still feeling his way through.” Weis said he was in for more than 30 snaps during the game and will be a great player to run inside zones with and pound the ball in the future.

Senior running back Jeff Demps: “When he puts his foot in the ground and accelerates, he has that track explosion. There aren’t that many people that have explosion like that. Once he plants his foot in the ground, he can explode.”

Freshman QB Jacoby Brissett: “On the play [that drew a pass interference call], which was a bootleg, I told him that they were bringing a lot of heat and to expect some pressure coming off the right edge and he might have to bail out a little bit to bide him some time. Fortunately he’s athletic enough to do that. He saw nothing shallow […] and went to the deep route and they were all over Frankie. He made a couple plays with his athleticism in the game. […] It doesn’t surprise me that he’s making those plays. He’s shown since the first game he was out there that he has pretty good composure.”

Redshirt freshman QB Tyler Murphy (possibly changing positions): “This is game 10. We’re just worrying about getting the team ready to play South Carolina. Those questions are ones that are answered in the offseason, they’re not answered in the middle of the season.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey practiced in full on Tuesday and is expected to be active for Saturday’s game on the road against South Carolina.

» On the penalties decreasing last week: “The head coach made it a point of emphasis, which he has been every week. The players played with more discipline, and I think that’s the way you have to play. You have to play with more discipline. There’s going to be an occasional holding call, but line of scrimmage penalties – especially playing at home – are things you have to avoid and eliminate.”

» On the offensive production disparity between halves: “We only had the ball three possessions in the second half. Sometimes you have to take that into account. I always look at why drives work or why they falter. The more possessions you have, the more opportunities you have to go out there and score. So when you play a game like that and only get three possessions in the second half except kneel down, you have to make the most of them.”

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

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

WINNING OUT FOR THE SENIORS

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

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

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

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

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

NOTES AND QUOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11/5: Florida vs. Vanderbilt post-game notes

The Florida Gators (5-4, 3-4 SEC) finally got off the schnide after a winless October with a 26-21 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-5, 1-5 SEC) on Saturday. Florida played a home game for the first time in over a month and held on to a victory after leading by double digits late in the fourth quarter. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game along with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP THANKFUL FOR FANS, PLEASED WITH EFFORT

At the start of his media availability, Muschamp made it a point to show his appreciation for the support of the Florida fan base. “I want to thank our crowd. We had 90,000 plus for a 12:21 p.m. kick and we have not performed very well on the field up to this point. So I am really proud of our fans and proud to be a part of the Gator Nation. It shows how powerful of a place this place is,” he said.

He also expressed his appreciation for the mentality his football team has had all season long. “I’m really proud of our team from the standpoint of continuing to push, practice and compete, which they do. They do every day in practice. I’ve never been disappointed with our effort or how we approach regardless of the negativity of what’s happened,” Muschamp said. “More than anything, I’m really happy for our team because these guys have really forged together with what we’re trying to do and where we’re headed with this thing. Their effort has been outstanding, and they really needed this today.

“They continue to fight. These guys have pulled together. Adversity either creates division or it unifies you. These guys have pulled together, they really have pulled together. You couldn’t walk on our practice field on Monday or Tuesday of this week – if we ever opened it – and see the team and know the difference if we were 5-4 or we were 9-0 by the way they compete on the practice field. I’m very proud of the effort that they put in. We’re building our battle scars right now, and we’ve got a bunch. I know one thing – we’re going to have a tough group as we continue to move forward with this. Some guys are going to be tight together in what they do. We will benefit from the tough times that we’re traveling through, and [our opponents] better enjoy it while they’ve got it.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played for a second-straight after injuring his ankle on Oct. 1 against Alabama and said it felt “strong” throughout the contest. However, Brantley suffered another injury in the fourth quarter that will be discussed further on Monday. Neither Muschamp nor Brantley would comment on it after the game, though Brantley did admit it came after a shot from a Vanderbilt player.

Also returning at full strength on Saturday were senior running back Jeff Demps, junior RB Mike Gillislee and redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis, who connected on a 55-yard field goal in the game after missing a 49-yard attempt earlier in the contest.

Unlike Brantley, redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion) and redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) were all held out of the game Saturday. Rainey was dressed and a game-time decision, but the other players did not dress and were ruled out until next week.

PLAYING SOFT AND NEARLY GIVING IT UP

Florida’s defense was strong most of the game but with a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Gators began playing soft. When UF went up 12 with just minutes to play, the secondary played even softer and allowed Vandy to drive 80 yards on five plays in 57 seconds, giving them an opportunity to try an onside kick and perhaps wind up winning the game. Muschamp was quite displeased with what he saw from that unit at the end of the game.

“When you get put in those situations – i.e. a two score game with 2:13 to go – you still play coverage. We were calling coverages we had been calling and had success with the whole game. Our guys felt like – just don’t get beat deep. That’s not what you can do in these situations,” he said. “It’s a great learning experience. Believe me, Monday morning at 6:00 a.m., we’re going to learn that you can’t play that way at the end of a game. You’ve got to continue to play the game.

“A lot of what I saw is very correctable, in my opinion. Any time you give up some yardage passing – it’s kind of like a sack on offense – everybody wants to point a finger on the offensive lineman. Fourth-and-12 we lose contain[ment] on the quarterback and he holds the ball for three days. That’s the defensive line’s issue. We’ve got to get a lot of things straightened out, some of our underneath coverage. The big emphasis this week, in my opinion going in, was to stop the run game and stop the quarterback runs. I felt like, for the most part, we did a decent job of that.”

He touched on the subject again later, saying that the mistakes that players in the secondary made were mostly due to youth and inexperience – not discipline.

“It has to do with exposure to the situation. To understand it’s a two score game that doesn’t mean it’s a pass skeleton. We still are trying to compete to get the ball off people and make plays,” Muschamp said. “I was thoroughly disappointed with how we [played]; we’re not coaching them to play soft. You let them just throw the ball down the field? That’s not what we’re trying to do.”

“We couldn’t cover a bucket of water on the last drive,” Muschamp joked.

DISCIPLINE ON PENALTIES IMPROVED BUT JUST A SMALL STEP

The most penalized team in the country heading into Saturday’s game, the Gators continued to search for ways to become more disciplined each week. Florida committed just three penalties against Vanderbilt, down from their near double-digit average per game this season.

“It’s been emphasized every week. It’s like all results – you can go out and beat your chest this week and say you must have done a good job coaching penalties. When I was at Texas two years ago, we led the country in turnovers. We don’t coach turnovers any different than we coach today,” Muschamp said.

“Was I a better coach coaching turnovers two years ago than I am now? I don’t think so. We just had some balls bounce our ways a couple times, we got a couple tipped passes, they put the ball on the ground a couple of times. We’ve emphasized discipline in our program. We talk about it all the time. We talk about focusing a little better. We talk about taking a guy out if he jumps offisdes or lines up offsides in situations. We’ve tried to do that in some situations. We’ve explored all of the options. Over a period of time hopefully it’s helped. This is one game. I’m not ready for one game to be ready to waive the flag that we’re disciplined now. We need to work on it day in and day out because we haven’t been consistent all year.”

ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS

Below are a number of questions that have been Tweeted, e-mailed or left in the comment section regarding the game with Muschamp’s respective response.

What has been the problem with the running game recently and how were you able to rectify that this week?
Muschamp said that the team only has 9-10 healthy scholarship offensive linemen active right now. Combining that with a number of injured running backs and it has been tough for the Gators to improve in that area each week. He also touted the newly installed pistol offense (QB in shotgun, RB lined up behind him) as a big help. “Being able to get in the pistol and run the ball a little bit downhill helped our team in this football game. Being able to create some of that downhill running game instead of all the lateral running game, which is sometimes tough in our league.”

Were you going to go for it on the fourth down play that Vanderbilt wound up jumping offsides on?
“We were going to go for it. We were going to win the game.”

Why has the offense been stalling in the second half?
“As much as anything, we didn’t get some stops defensively – that threw us out of our rhythm offensively. You affect each other, whether we think we do or not. […] You complement each other in every game. I think we had some critical, critical times in the game where we could have made some stops defensively and we didn’t. We got to keep our guys in a rhythm offensively.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the five-point win: “We made it interesting there at the end; we shouldn’t have.”

» Muschamp on the offense stepping up this week: “Our game plan offensively was really good – to get to the line of scrimmage, see the pressures, bring the receiver in, block the edges, change the run game from one side to the other. We were very effective in doing that. You have to credit our offensive staff and Charlie; I thought they did a really good job with that.”

» Muschamp on the downfield passing opening up: “There’s no question – I’ve said it in our game against LSU and obviously in our game against Auburn – we struggle for a number of reasons to be able to throw the ball vertically down the field. When people in this league are able to outnumber you, you can’t get a hat-on-a-hat sometimes in the run game and you have a hard time running it. We’ve faced that. When John’s in there and you have the extra dimension of seeing coverage, taking it to the right spot, getting it to the right people, timing of the passing game, the timing of the offense, getting us in and out of the right protections, seeing the pressure coming off the edge, check the protection. We’re able to do a lot more of that because of a fifth-year senior and a guy who has played a lot of football for us. There is no question that John is a huge part of that.”

» Muschamp on removing redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison from the game in place of redshirt junior center Sam Robey: “We just need to be more consistent with our snaps, and we’ve had issues throughout the year so I felt like we needed to make the change. […] We’ve had some inconsistencies before in practice. Our decisions are pretty calculated.”

» Muschamp on freshman QB Jacoby Brissett coming in: “I’ve said it all along – not just Jacoby, Jeff Driskel as well – we have the utmost confidence in both of those players that they’re going to be outstanding players.”

» Muschamp on Demps returning: “Every time he’s been healthy for us this year he’s been very productive. […] He works hard every day, gives you everything he’s got. That’s what being a student-athlete is all about.”

» Muschamp said that over 20 former captains visited this past weekend for a special dinner and to celebrate homecoming.

» Muschamp on not ending a long home winning streak against Vanderbilt: “I don’t think a game in 1945 had anything to do with a game today.”

» Muschamp on if he wavered about trying the 55-yard field goal: “When you get to that 37-38 yard line, I’m kicking a field goal. There’s not a whole lot of kickers in the country you can say that about. […] In normal situations you might have to get to the 25 to attempt a field goal. When you’re able to have a guy like Caleb, it certainly helps your football team.”

» Redshirt junior defensive end Earl Okine on seeing the field and playing well: “It took me a while to keep progressing. Every week and every day it’s been a grind. Coach Muschamp and Coach Dan Quinn have been pushing me the entire season, and that’s why I’m improving.”

» Okine on the mood of the locker room after the game: “Ecstatic. Ecstatic. Everybody was very happy, relieved, all of the above positive emotions.”

» Demps on getting back out on the field: “It was definitely a good feeling. The offensive line did a great job of opening holes all game, and the wide receivers did a great job on the perimeter blocking.”

» Demps on having just a few games left in his final year: “I’m going to play my last three games here and give it all I got. I enjoyed the whole ride. It’s been tough but anybody can win. When you lose it’s how you face adversity.”

» Demps on the team being close: “We’re definitely a tight group. Throughout the whole offseason, the summer and the spring, I wasn’t around much but when I was there were leaders stepping up all over the place. That really bonded everybody. Even though we’re having a tough season like we are, we have each other’s back. We were there when we started and we’re going to be there at the end.”

» Sophomore safety Matt Elam on the significance of the win: “We got our confidence back. After losing the whole month, a win is a great feeling.”

» Elam on correcting the penalties: “I know there’s been a lot of stuff about us being young and undisciplined. Coach Muschamp is very hard on that, trying to make us more disciplined.”

» Elam on if the win was a relief: “It was a relief we got our win. We got another win, man. It’s been a long time. We ain’t sing the fight song in a long time. It was a great feeling.”

» Elam if the team matured over the losing streak: “We learned. Everybody stuck together. We stuck together and we continued to fight. Everybody went out and practiced hard.”

» Elam on how the secondary will play in 2012: “No, we won’t have those problems.”

» Gillislee on seeing the field again:“I had to just continue doing what I was doing, get back healthy to 100 percent and go out there and produce. Our rushing yards were low the past few games, so we knew we had to go out there and prove a point that we could run the ball.”

» Brantley on picking up a win: “The month of October was rough for us. To get this first win – the first game of November against a good Vanderbilt team – was huge because we’ve got some good teams ahead of us.”

» Brantley on the pistol offense: “It’s easier to establish a downhill run game in that formation. We did a great job all week preparing. The o-line did a great job blocking. You noticed today that Gillislee and Jeff ran hard.”

» Brantley on the penalties being cut down: “It felt really good. We focused on that and focused on our mental discipline all week and it paid off.”

» Brantley on having just three regular season games left: “We had our captains dinner last night. They just kept stressing that we have three more times to run out of the tunnel. That set home on us. We’ve got to cherish these moments, go out there and play our hardest.”

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8/13: Muschamp on offensive line, returners, pass rush issues, mental mistakes and more

With the Florida Gators fully entrenched in fall practice and now working with coaches off the field and crowd noise pumped in, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media late Saturday night and provided updates on how the team is progressing on both sides of the ball heading into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3.

OFFENSIVE LINE COMING TOGETHER

Stuck with a depleted unit that is being rebuilt from the ground up, Muschamp, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci are beginning to hone in on their rotation up front. Muschamp previously noted that he was looking for eight or nine players to bring in and out; Saturday he praised the unit for beginning to solidify and provided the following rough depth chart:

LT: Junior Xavier Nixon, redshirt sophomore Kyle Kohene
LG: Redshirt freshman Ian Silberman/redshirt senior James Wilson
C: Redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, redshirt junior Sam Robey
RG: Redshirt sophomore Jon Halapio
RT: Redshirt junior Matt Patchan/redshirt freshman Chaz Green

The left guard and right tackle spots are still being decided. Robey is taking reps as the back-up center but is also being worked at both guard spots. The same goes for redshirt sophomore Nick Alajajian and redshirt senior transfer Dan Wenger, both of whom are also playing all three positions. Green can play both tackle positions but is still fighting for the starting job on the right side, leaving Kohene to be the back-up for Nixon.

“You’d like to have a deeper group. We think the two freshmen are going to be good players – Tommy Jordan and Trip Thurman – very pleased with both of those young men,” Muschamp said. “Their movement, their toughness, what they bring to the table. We’re excited about that group, but you’d like have 18 instead of 13.”

RETURNERS STILL BEING DEFINED

Though the coaching staff has a good idea who will be returning kicks and punts this year, the positions have not officially been won yet. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose and sophomore WR Solomon Patton at the primary kick return men, but senior running back Jeff Demps has also been working at that position as well.

For punt returns, redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey (“He’s an electric guy with the ball in his hands.”) would be the starter if the season began today, but Patton, redshirt junior WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. and even redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed have been fielding punts. The Reed experiment is going well so far. “We’ve put him back there and we feel comfortable about it,” Muschamp said. “He has great ball judgment and catches the ball extremely well.”

The coach is not hesitant to put Demps, Rainey, Reed or any other starter on special teams, noting (like head coach Urban Meyer before him) that he plans to let his playmakers see the field as much as possible. “We’re going to play our best players on special teams,” he said. “Injuries happen – that’s part of the game. We’re going to play our best players on special teams. I told the guys that from the day one meeting. Our best guys are playing. If it affords us to win a football game, then we’re going to do it and that’s part of the game.”

PASS RUSH NOT CONSISTENT; MENTAL MISTAKES BEING MADE

He might be best versed in the secondary, but Muschamp knows that it all starts in the trenches (a mantra he has repeated throughout the offseason). With that said, he is none too pleased with the team’s lack of consistency getting the quarterback without having to blitz and hopes that improves in the near future. “We’ve got to get more consistent rushing. It’s just not consistently winning the one-on-ones. If you’re going to play coverage, the best pass defense in America is a pass rush,” he said. “You can’t do it with pressure all the time and create middle-field coverage and a lot of one-on-ones outside. You got to be smart in how you pressure, and you’ve got to be able to pressure with four guys. That’s something that, when we’ve been able to affect the quarterback, we’ve had four good ones rushing up front. Whoever got the one-on-one was going to win. That’s the best pass defense in America.”

As Florida continues to work to that end, Muschamp thinks senior defensive end William Green, redshirt junior DE Lerentee McCray and sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell have been solid thus far for the Gators.

Another thing Muschamp is wary of is overloading the team from a mental aspect. Already concerned with the mistakes being made during the first week of practice (“[I’m] pleased with our physical effort, not as pleased with our mental effort as much – a lot of mental mistakes and things we’ve got to get cleaned up.”), he is making a conscientious effort not to overload the team with too much too fast.

“That’s a fine line,” he said when asked if the 3-4 defense was being heavily installed. “You can’t do so much that your players are confused. We’re right now weeding things out on what we do to get our guys to play fast and get them ready for the season. What I don’t want to do during the season is install new stuff each week. That makes for a slow player on Saturday. We need to install for the season. We’ve game planned; we’ve looked at all our opponents so we have an idea within our scheme what we need to do to be successful. We’re trying to pare down right now where we are.”

Asked how he felt the team was progressing up to this point, Muschamp would neither say that the team was behind nor ahead of his projection. “We are where we are. It’s a little frustrating because we’re thin with our numbers – on both lines of scrimmage,” he said. “We’re pushing through that, and I think the guys have worked hard. Mentally we need to be sharper; we need to be mentally tougher in training camp. That’s where you build the toughness of your football team from that standpoint. Training camp is hard, it’s not easy, it’s not supposed to be easy.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what the team has been doing recently in practice: “A lot of situational work in the last 4-5 practices – third down, coming out, a lot of special teams emphasis of different situations that are going to come up in different games, two minute situations, end of game, down a touchdown, down two scores, down three points – putting the offense and defense in those situations. We worked crowd noise for the first time tonight, worked a lot of up-tempo on both sides of the ball. I’ve been pleased with that. A lot of red zone work – we’ve been in the red zone the last four practices.”

» On units necessitating cohesion: “The offensive line position and secondary have got to be close knit as far as their communication and being on the same page for what we’re trying to do.”

» On Texas A&M possibly going to the SEC: “I’m trying to get pass rush. I could care less about what the Aggies are doing. I can certainly say that. I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought to be honest with you. Believe me, that decision is made way above my head, I can certainly tell you that.”

» On the team’s pass rush: “I’ve been thinking about that a lot more than I have the Ags, I can tell you that.”

» There are no other major injuries right now aside from that of freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus, 6-8 weeks). Muschamp said there are some bumps and bruises (hamstrings, shoulders, ankles) but “nobody will be out for any extended period of time to this point” while knocking on wood (his desk).

» Redshirting players is a decision the coaches will make a few games into the season. He said it is “too hard to project right now” with so many variables. The coaching staff has not yet discussed redshirts and it will not likely be a topic of conversation until after the team’s second scrimmage next Saturday (the first one is Monday).

» The back-up quarterbacks have not begun to separate themselves yet. “The scrimmage situation is a good evaluator for that,” Muschamp said. Over the course of the last four practices, the coaches have been off the field and letting the players play. Muschamp said the QBs have been identifying the mike linebacker well and communicating properly with their unit. “Obviously John [Brantley] has been way above the others, but I think all four at times have had nice moments.”

» As far as the secondary goes, Muschamp is emphasizing substitutions a lot for the nickel set and is pleased with the work of cornerbacks redshirt senior Moses Jenkins and freshmen De’Ante Saunders, Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy. He also singled at sophomore Matt Elam as the most consistent safety but said junior Josh Evans mentally needs to get his assignments down and work on communication. Muschamp praised sophomore Jaylen Watkins and redshirt freshman Joshua Shaw, adding that sophomore CB Cody Riggs will be getting some reps at safety after Monday’s scrimmage.

» Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely has been “solid” at his position but is also playing “outstanding” on special teams, according to Muschamp. He missed Saturday evening’s practice due to an undisclosed injury, but the team expects him to be back in action on Monday.

» Freshman safety Chris Johnson (5’9”, 205 lbs.) has been taking reps inside at linebacker for the last few days.

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8/8: Wenger, Robey, McCray, Powell speak

With the Florida Gators heading into their first full contact practice ahead of the 2011 season, redshirt senior center Dan Wenger, redshirt junior C Sam Robey, redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray and sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell met with the media to discuss how they are adjusting under the new coaches.

COACHING DIFFERENCES APPARENT

No matter who was asked, it is quite obvious that there are plenty of differences between the old coaching staff and new coaching staff – not necessarily in a good or bad way.

Asked how head coach Will Muschamp differs from Urban Meyer, McCray had some poignant thoughts. “He treats us like adults. He give us standards and then we’ve got to be held to those standards,” he said*. “If we mess up, that’s our fault. He doesn’t baby us and treat us like kids. He treats us like adults.”

Robey said the techniques of new offensive line coach Frank Verducci differ from the philosophy employed by Steve Addazio. “Coach Verducci’s great. It’s a whole different pace than Addazio,” he said. “It’s just more emphasis on our hands – a different type of coaching style.”

Perhaps no one can speak about the coaching style (at least offensively) better than Wenger, who transferred to Florida this year because of Verducci and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. He said that players need to be aware of one thing in order to stay on their good side. “We’re taught to just be always focused – always zeroed in on what we’re doing at the time,” he said. “There’s no room for slacking off – mentally or physically – whether it be in the classroom or on the field. Just be on top of everything and make sure you have your notebook out.”

WENGER HAPPY TO BE IN ORANGE & BLUE

From nearly never playing again to having a legitimate opportunity to see plenty of field time in 2011, Wenger could not be happier about his transition to playing for the Gators. After suffering two concussions while playing for Notre Dame, Wenger could not get clearance from doctors to return to the field. After visiting Florida and undergoing a battery of tests, he is finally good to go. “I went through probably seven hours of testing just for the concussions,” he said. “Then I had to drive back up here to Gainesville myself to do more testing.”

It was Wenger who reached out to Verducci when the NCAA gave him his clearance to play, and he is thrilled that Muschamp gave him an opportunity to play football once again. “I actually reached out to them. I had gotten the clearance from the NCAA; they had granted me a sixth year of eligibility,” he explained. “I received all my release papers. Once I told coach Verducci the situation, he brought it up to Coach Weis and Coach Muschamp, and they were all for it.”

After just a few weeks in Gainesville, Wenger already feels like a part of the team thanks to how inviting his teammates have been and how much they have looked to him for advice and help in learning the system. “It was pretty weird initially,” he admitted. “It was very surprising to me how welcoming the guys were. It wasn’t that awkwardness of, ‘Oh, here’s the new guy. He’s going to try to steal my position.’ I’m going to be a team guy – whatever needs to be done, whatever I can do to help us win I’m going to do. I’m not holding anything back, not holding any secrets. I played in this system under Coach Weis for four years, so any help I can give to anyone, I’m going to give it to them.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

Wenger on competing with redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison: “We’re pushing each other to our best abilities. He knows that I’m right behind him. […] It’s that good team competition that is going to build us stronger and make us better football players and a better team in general.”

McCray on the tone of practices: “The first couple of days, we’ve been going hard. We have to get in the groove of things and get back to football speed. We’ve been training for the whole summer, so we’ve got to get back into football shape right now.”

McCray on what has been accomplished so far: “Just getting the reads down, working on our technique and fundamentals, staying low, playing with pad level, DBs getting their coverages down, things like that, communication.”

McCray on also playing some linebacker: “It’s going pretty good right now. It’s a mental lapse sometimes, but I have to do it to help the team win.”

Powell on how he approached fall practice: “I definitely wanted to really understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. Really start working with my hands. I did a lot of footwork stuff, because I knew I was going to be asked to do a lot of coverage on the tight end and stuff like that.”

Powell on if he didn’t understand everything last year: “Coming in as a freshman, the game is so fast that really you’re just trying to get the play down. Now not only understanding the play but…Why do I have to use the blood technique on this? Why do I have to be back-and-forth? Stuff like that.”

Powell on how he has matured in the offseason: “To be honest, I was the type of guy that stayed to myself. If a guy wanted to talk to me, I wouldn’t talk to him. Now I have to step in and be a leader. I got to still be me – be friendly, ‘How’s your day going?’ Get to know guys and what they’re going through.”

Redshirt senior G James Wilson on how long he’s been healthy since joining the team: “I made it through my sophomore year halfway through…so I’ve probably made it through a full season [combined].”

Wilson on how he feels now: “The last time I really had any problem was spring ball. Ever since then it’s been nothing but good news.”

* Quote courtesy of the Palm Beach Post.

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (59-50)

With just 50 days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the fifth part of OGGOA‘s new series, The Countdown, takes a look at those players expected to contribute on the field wearing jersey numbers ranging from 59-50.

58 – Nick Alajajian (New Port Richey, FL)
Redshirt sophomore center
6’4” 295 lbs.

Quick Bio: Majoring in sociology, Alajajian saw some time as a back-up offensive lineman in 2009, playing in seven games including the season opener. He was a four-star guard coming out of high school but has since changed positions.

2010 Season: Played in all 13 games mostly on the field goal unit, seeing just a few snaps on the offensive line as a reserve right tackle.

2011 Outlook: Originally listed as the back-up center on the spring depth chart, Alajajian may be back down to third string after tearing his meniscus in practice and seeing redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison take the first-string job. His surgery, which occurred in April, was supposed to keep him out three months but allow him to participate in summer workouts.

55 – Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT)
Freshman linebacker
6’1” 216 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Stewart was ranked as the best prospect coming out of Connecticut by Rivals.

2011 Outlook: Stewart may earn the opportunity to see some time on special teams but could be in line to take a redshirt for his freshman season. Head coach Will Muschamp is excited about what he can bring to the team. “He has all the critical factors. We had him in camp; he has all the good measurable on him,” Muschamp said in February. “He’s a very physical player, plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

54 – Christopher Guido (Altamonte Springs, FL)
Redshirt sophomore long snapper
6’2” 225 lbs.

Quick Bio: A former high school team captain who majors in health science, Guido took a redshirt after dressing but not participating in game action during his freshman season.

2010 Season: Played in all 13 games for the Gators during his third year with the team, starting as the long snapper for the punt unit.

2011 Outlook: With John Fairbanks having graduated, Guido will also take over starting long snapper duties with the field goal team.

52 – Jon Bostic (Wellington, FL)
Junior linebacker
6’1” 240 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit and health education & behavior major, Bostic returns as a veteran defender and team leader. He has appeared in 25 games throughout his Florida career and goes into his third year looking to break out.

2010 Season: After leading all freshmen with 18 tackles in 2009, Bostic started six games in 2010 but was out on defense for the majority of snaps during the season. He appeared in all 13 games and registered 57 tackles (third on the team), 1.5 sacks and three interceptions.

2011 Outlook: Named to the Preseason All-SEC Third Team by the league’s coaches and placed on the watch list for the 2011 Butkus Award, Bostic earned high praise from Muschamp during spring practice for his work ethic and leadership. He is set to begin the season as the starting middle linebacker.

51 – Michael Taylor (Atlanta, GA)
Redshirt freshman linebacker
5’11” 220 lbs.

Quick Bio: The No. 3 linebacker in the country coming out of high school, Taylor was a four-star recruit who currently majors in social and behavioral sciences. Though he dressed for four games in 2010, he did not see the field and took a redshirt.

2011 Outlook: Taylor was listed as Bostic’s back-up on the preliminary spring depth chart but could have that role adjusted as the Gators try to figure out how the final depth chart will look for the middle men on defense. Either way, he should see the field in 2011 and could earn additional playing time if he makes an impact early.

50 – Sam Robey (Louisville, KY)
Redshirt junior center
6’4” 295 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Robey sat out his freshman year with an injured left knee but played in 13 games in 2009 including the SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl.

2010 Season: Played in 10 games, seeing time at center in four contests. Served as an extra lineman in Florida’s goal line package and on the field goal unit.

2011 Outlook: A player who some fans wanted to see get time as a starter at center instead of then-senior Mike Pouncey, Robey looked to finally have the job to himself in the spring. However, after starting as the No. 1 guy on the first depth chart released, he was supplanted by Harrison, who worked at the position for the first time since high school. Robey can still win the job during fall practice, but early word about Harrison is that he is comfortable and succeeding in his new role.

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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