2014 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Review

The 2014 Orange & Blue Debut is in the books with the Florida Gators coming away from their spring game without a winner as the first-team Blue and second-team Orange left the field tied at 23-23 at the end of the fourth quarter.

Florida’s offense certainly looked much improved, though there were questions about the Gators defense – specifically the line – especially by the time the scrimmage concluded.

OnlyGators.com offered free live coverage of the event as well as head coach Will Muschamp post-spring game press conference and now wraps it all up with evaluations, notes and quotes in the Orange & Blue Debut Review.

OFFENSE

» The running backs showed off with redshirt senior Mack Brown (Blue) toting the rock eight times for 55 yards and a touchdown. Brown pulled off a tremendous 19-yard rush by stopping short on an off-tackle run, reversing field and carrying the ball down to the one-yard line before rumbling into the end zone on the next play.

» Sophomore Kelvin Taylor (Blue) only got five total touches in the scrimmage (one reception for no gain) but looked impressive while on the field. Faced with three defenders on his way to the goal line, Taylor juked inside to avoid all three and took the ball down to the two-yard line on an 11-yard gain. He found pay dirt on the next play for the first touchdown of the game.

» Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (Blue) completed 10-of-17 passes for 125 yards and 31-yard touchdown on a drag route to sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Blue) in the first half. Robinson took Driskel’s pass across the middle and charged upfield for the score. Driskel went 0-for-3 on his first series but calmed down, made some nice passes and moved his unit nicely in both the run and pass game. Driskel finished 19-of-33 for 171 yards.

Muschamp said he was “real pleased” with how Driskel played, especially considering he had not played football all offseason until these 15 spring practices. “Probably one of the better throws he had today was a throwaway, a scramble pass in a one-minute situation before half that he threw out of bounds. Decision making and all those things will continue to improve as he processes information within what we’re trying to do. I think he’s in the shotgun and that’s what he was recruited here to do.”

» Robinson finished with five receptions for 53 yards on the afternoon and also had a fourth down conversion when he caught a pass on a curl route and took it for a first down. “I think we’re as deep as we’ve been at wideout with some guys that can make plays on the ball,” Muschamp said. “Demarcus Robinson is a home run threat on every play,” Driskel added.

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Muschamp on new offense and a real spring game

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

INJURY UPDATES

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

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

RUNNING AWAY WITH THINGS

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

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

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3/19: Renewed optimism as Gators open practice

The Florida Gators began 2014 spring practice on Wednesday, taking the field for the first of 15 times over the next few weeks. The pad-less practice was open to fans and reporters, which got a first-hand look at the team as it went through the motions of offensive and defensive installation. Afterward, head coach Will Muschamp discussed practice, provided injury updates and went over a number of hot topics.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE OFFENSE

Muschamp made no bones about it on Wednesday when he matter-of-factly stated that Florida’s “number one priority … is the installation of the offense.” So important is the Gators improving on offense, in fact, that he has explained to defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and the defensive players that they will need to be patent as offensive coordinator Kurt Roper helps get things on track with his new system.

“There’s a lot of give and take in the installation process,” Muschamp said, “and you have to make sure [the defense does not] get too far ahead of the offense.”

To that end, he confirmed that the Gators will be operating their up-tempo in the shotgun. He now prefers to save Florida’s players under center for when the team has to “kneel down at the end [of a game] after a good win.” He quipped, “I don’t want to be in shotgun doing that.”

Roper will try to instill two important tenants into the heads of the players on his side of the ball. The Gators have to play with urgency and need to master execution…and do all of it at a pace that will keep opposing defenses on their toes.

“They understand the advantages of [lining up] quickly and getting themselves in the right spots and the disadvantages it can create for a defense,” explained Muschamp. “Our players talk between offense and defense. The defensive kids talk about how difficult it can be and how stressful it can be under the circumstances of when they do align fast and get aligned quickly.”

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Updated: Controversy surrounding QB Tyler Murphy’s decision to leave the Florida Gators

Updated on Monday at 6:15 p.m.

Quarterback Tyler Murphy, who was expected to be a redshirt senior competing for a starting job with the Florida Gators in 2014, chose on Sunday to leave the program and pursue other options, a decision that reportedly shocked head coach Will Muschamp.

Muschamp, who denied to The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley this week that Murphy was planning to leave the Gators after saying he had already spoken with the player and his family, told him on Sunday that Murphy did not attend the team’s annual postseason banquet and suddenly became aloof over the weekend.

He called Murphy, who didn’t answer but eventually responded with a long text message saying he felt he needed to go somewhere where he’d get a chance to start, Muschamp said.

“I told him it would be an open competition, just like I told him Jeff Driskel would be our starter last year,” Muschamp said.

Murphy completed the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in the fall and graduated on Saturday. He can transfer to another program and be eligible to play immediately without being forced to sit out a full season.

But he tells a different version of the story to GatorCountry.com, stating that he did originally tell Muschamp earlier in the week that he had not decided to transfer but also made the coaching staff aware that he would be unable to attend the banquet as he was taking his parents to the airport at that time.

Once he and his family decided his fate during that car ride, he tried to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Muschamp on Sunday. Instead, he was told to call Muschamp. The coach did not pick up, so Murphy sent the aforementioned text message and waited for a return call, which he received immediately.

“He wasn’t happy with [the decision to leave]. He told me he didn’t think it was a good decision for me. We kind of just went back and forth a little bit, talking about the whole situation and stuff for next year. When he kind of felt where I was leaning towards he said he appreciated everything I’ve done and stuff like that. When we hung up I thought everything was good.”

Murphy said he never intended to break the news to Muschamp via text message.

“I never tried to tell him what was going on through text,” he said. “I sent him a text kind of just so when he saw the missed call he knew what I was calling about and I could get his attention so hopefully he would call me back when he was free.”

“I was never trying to duck on him or not do it in a mature way,” Murphy said. “It just so happened that he had to hear it from me through text because he didn’t pick up my call and I couldn’t meet with him in his office.”

Criticism began to rain down on both parties Monday with some upset about the way Murphy reportedly left and others infuriated that Muschamp would allegedly paint the player in a bad light, especially one who had been a model member of the program.

The quarterback’s father, Peter Murphy, fell in the later category and discussed his concerns later Monday with Phillip Heilman of the Palm Beach Post ($).

Continue Reading » Updated: Controversy surrounding QB Tyler Murphy’s decision to leave the Florida Gators

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Florida Gators end 2013 season with a whimper as No. 2 Florida State routs hosts 37-7

The 2013 season ended with a whimper for the Florida Gators (4-8), which lost for the third time in the last four years to the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (12-0), dropping Saturday’s contest 37-7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Seminoles continued on their path toward a national title while the Gators finished a season below .500 for the first time since 1979. UF, which ended the year on a seven-game losing streak, also failed to advance to a bowl game for the first time in 23 tries.

Heisman candidate and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston looked every bit the part on Saturday, completing 19-of-31 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns. All three of those touchdown passes went to Seminoles wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who tallied 212 yards on eight receptions.

Florida got out of the first quarter trailing just 3-0 thanks to a superb defensive effort.

Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy intercepted Winston on a pass down to UF’s 13-yard line, but the Gators were unable to convert the ensuing possession into points despite moving down to FSU’s 33 on a 50-yard rush by senior WR Trey Burton. Redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin missed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Burton, who head coach Will Muschamp said at halftime would have taken about 35 snaps at quarterback on Saturday, did not return to the game with a shoulder injury.

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11/23: Florida vs. Georgia Southern post-game report; Muschamp places blame on Gators offense

The Florida Gators (4-7) lost their sixth-straight on Saturday, dropping their first game to an FCS opponent in program history and guaranteeing a losing season for the first time since going winless in 1979. The Georgia Southern Eagles (7-4) upended the Gators 26-20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, dominating both sides of the ball on the way to their first-ever victory against an FBS program.

Following his team’s loss, the worst in program history, Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on the defeat.

DEFLECTING BLAME

Though Muschamp has made a habit in the past of taking accountability and putting pressure on his own shoulders following a loss, he did exactly opposite on Saturday – even if there were times in which he squeezed in similar phrasing.

After the game, Muschamp criticized Florida’s offense, which was led by a third-string quarterback in redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg but nevertheless only generated 279 total yards and 20 points on the afternoon.

“You got to change the scoreboard offensively. You got to be able to change the scoreboard. We’ve just struggled scoring points offensively. It’s been a week-in, week-out occurrence. My job to get it fixed and it will get fixed,” he said.

“Very disappointed for our program, an embarrassment in this situation. We had our opportunities there, the kids kept playing hard. It’s very difficult for us to create explosive plays to get anything down the field. Just don’t ever do it.”

Asked to pinpoint the Gators’ offensive struggles, Muschamp explained that there was no one thing wrong with it but rather the entire side of the ball was failing as a whole. Should he somehow remain Florida’s coach after this season, Muschamp has certainly set up his offensive staff to take the fall.

“Where do you start? From a protection standpoint, the run game, being able to consistently run the ball, move the front. It’s been an occurrence really for us all season for the most part,” he said. “We just have a hard time in protection. We hit the play-action pass where the quarterback got his chin splattered when he threw the ball, too.

“It’s a combination of things. It’s just hard right now. It’s hard, as many moving parts as we’ve had, it’s difficult. It becomes infectious. It’s hard. When you give up 17 points, you hope you can score 17. So it’s hard right now. You can look at where we’ve rolled since about middle of the season to this point. That’s what’s happened to us.”

Nevermind that UF offense, indeed with a third-string signal caller and an incredibly banged up offensive line, managed to generate 20 points while the team’s defense coughed up 26 to Georgia Southern via 429 yards of total offense.

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Georgia Southern deals Florida worst loss in program history as Eagles top Gators 26-20

Already seemingly at rock bottom, the Florida Gators (4-7) on Saturday fell even deeper into a pit of despair, losing their sixth-straight while dropping a game to an FCS opponent for the first time in school history as the Georgia Southern Eagles (7-4) pulled off a 26-20 upset victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Eagles, set to join the FBS as a member of the Sun Belt Conference next season, earned their first-ever victory against an FBS opponent (previously 0-20). UF dropped its first-ever game to an FCS team and was outgained 429-279 on the afternoon despite the visitors not completing a single pass during the game.

Florida opened up with the football and immediately drove it down the field, picking up 63 yards on 13 plays before settling for a 27-yard field goal to take an early 3-0 lead. Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor accounted for 54 of those yards on eight carries.

The Gators found themselves with another scoring opportunity just moments later after the Eagles muffed a punt and gave UF great field position the 25-yard line. Florida moved the ball 17 yards on four plays but had redshirt junior walk-on kicker Frankie Velez 34-yard field goal blocked.

It did not take long for UF to earn another short field. On GSU’s first play of its ensuing drive, RB Johnathan Bryant fumbled the ball. Gators junior defensive back Jabari Gorman forced the fumble, and redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor jumped on top of it for the recovery.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Georgia Southern

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather: 80°F (feels like 81°F), sunny, winds W at 4 mph
Time: 2:00 p.m. EST

TV: Pay-Per-View* (Larry Vettel, Nat Moore, Brady Ackerman)
* Providers: AT&T U-Verse (Statewide), Advanced Cable (Coral Springs, Weston), Bright House (Central Florida), Comcast (Jacksonville, Tallahassee), Centurylink (Fort Myers, Orlando, Tallahassee), Cox (Gainesville/Ocala, North Florida), DirecTV (Statewide), Dish Network (Statewide), Home Town Cable (Port St. Lucie), Mediacom (Panhandle)

SiriusXM: 128/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com [Blackout Map] | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS GEORGIA SO. EAGLES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Jeff Monken
Record: 4-6 Record: 6-4
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southern (FCS)
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: OFF

PLAYER AVAILABILITY UPDATES

One hour before kickoff, Florida announced that freshman wide receiver Demarcus Robinson has been suspended for the remainder of the season (two games) due to a violation of team rules.

The Gators also announced that redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg will be making his second career start and sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard will miss the game after aggravating a previously undisclosed injury.

KEEP UP WITH THE GATORS

Busy during the week? Miss a feature, story or post on OnlyGators.com? No worries. Catch up on what you missed via the links below!

Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Georgia Southern, updates injuries, more | Notebook: Brent Pease talks offensive line, running game | Story: Florida’s freshmen wideouts still works in progress | Notebook: Two Gators ruled out for Saturday | Story: QB Tyler Murphy not ruled out, but Skyler Mornhinweg in line to start | Friday Final: Florida focused on defending triple option

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 2-0 all-time against Georgia Southern, earning victories in 1986 and 1996. UF has never lost to an FCS opponent.
» The Gators finished below .500 in SEC play for the second time in the last three years. Prior to that, Florida had not failed to reach that mark since 1979.
» UF has already lost to two unranked opponents this season and is now 18-3 against such teams under Muschamp.
» The Gators lost their first game under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and are now 15-1 in such circumstances. Florida also lost for just the second time under Muschamp when leading at the half and are now 18-2 in that situation. UF is 18-5 when holding opponents to 21 points or less, 13-3 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards and 14-4 when scoring first in a game.
» Florida has registered 105 interceptions since 2008, second-most nationally. UF is also first in interceptions returned for touchdowns (17) and interception return yards (1,860).
» The Gators have forced the most turnovers among SEC teams this century (363).
» Florida had forced at least one turnover in 19-straight games before failing to do so in consecutive weeks against Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
» Despite struggling for the last five weeks, the Gators are still ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense (288.6), pass defense (173.5), pass efficiency defense (100.9) and third down defense (.312).

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