8/1: Muschamp breaks down Gators entering 2013

Florida Gators’ 2013 Media Day: Story: Injured Matt Jones, Jon Halapio, others join Jeff Driskel on sidelines | Story: Appendectomy a bump in the road for confident Driskel | Story: It’s now or never for Florida WR Andre Debose | Story: RB Brown, QB Murphy ready to step up for Gators

The Florida Gators will take the field for the first time since April on Friday morning at 6 a.m. for the official start of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

Head coach Will Muschamp, heading into his third year at the helm of the program, held a press conference during Florida’s annual media day on Thursday to discuss the make-up of the Gators heading into the fall. Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel spoke after Muschamp and addressed some similar topics.

OPENING STATEMENTS

» Overall: “I love this time of year, training camp. You see your football team develop through the offseason program, through spring practice, then on their own in the summer, preparing themselves for the season. You get to see the older guys and see the improvements they needed to make, whether it’s in the weight room or schematically, watching film, and preparing themselves for position battles and a lot of situations. You get to see the young guys you recruited and how they looked when they get on the field with the other guys and see how they mix it up. This is a huge time of the year as far as the development of your football team as you move forward and certainly an exciting time for us.”

» On the offense: “Do we need to be more balanced and efficient in throwing the football? That’s been well documented, but I think we’re better up front. We’ve been better at wideout, and I think we’re better at the quarterback position. But we need to do that August 31st, and we need to prepare that way to that point. We still have some questions at tight end, and what’s behind Jeff at the quarterback position, and continue to have playmakers at the running back position and outside. Those are some things we need to continue to work through.”

» On the defense: “Concerned about depth at the linebacker position more than anything. The experience, I think we’ve recruited well, but those guys need to gain some experience through training camp, and obviously we’re not as good at the safety position in spring. Very concerned heading into fall camp with those question marks up the middle of your defense. I do think we’re good enough up front to be fine. I think we’ve got a good combination of guys that can play, play well, and play the way we need to play to get to Atlanta.”

» On special teams: “Placekicker is an issue. Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips both have the ability to do the job, but they’ve never done it in the situations they’re going to be put into. So we may change that a little philosophically of what we think when we cross the 50.”

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Florida Gators 2013 post-spring depth chart

Below is the 2013 post-spring practice version of the Florida Gators depth chart. Though some fans will be excited to see where the team stacks up below, head coach Will Muschamp cautions each year that feeling that way is not worth the energy.

Muschamp makes it quite clear that he does not put a lot of stock into depth charts, even those that are published after spring practice is over. In fact, back in 2011 and again on Wednesday, he stated it is “not worth the paper it is printed on.” In other words, the depth chart seen here is just a starting-off point for 2013 and plenty can change between now and the start of the season.

Nevertheless, below is the depth chart as it was presented on April 24. Notations marked with (») denote changes from the pre-spring depth chart released March 12. Players marked with (*) were out for all or most of spring practice.

OGGOA will update this post with more from Muschamp shortly.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 10 Tyler Murphy
» Murphy inches ahead of 17 Skyler Mornhinweg for the No. 2 job.
RB: 24 Matt Jones, 33 Mack Brown
» Brown understandably inches ahead of freshman 21 Kelvin Taylor.~
FB: 43 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
» Ajagbe wins the second-string job over 29 Rhaheim Ledbetter.
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson
WR (Z): 13 Latroy Pittman, 4 Andre Debose, 83 Solomon Patton
» Debose switches from second X to second Z receiver though the players switch in those positions. Pittman takes over the top spot at Z from 15 Loucheiz Purifoy.
F Position: 8 Trey Burton, 13 Latroy Pittman
TE: 88 Clay Burton, 87 Tevin Westbrook OR 18 Kent Taylor OR 84 Colin Thompson

~ Muschamp on Brown edging past Taylor: “You’re not going to get through the SEC with one back. That’s not going to happen. Certainly Mack has distanced himself as a second-team back at this time, a guy that we’ve got a lot of confidence in, that we expect big things form in the fall to continue to progress. I think he’s done a nice job of running the football, and protections, catching the ball, finishing plays. Kelvin certainly has done some nice things and he needs to continue to progress – more than anything- mentally with the offense. Physically, he’s got some ability.”

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 74 Trenton Brown
LG: 76 Max Garcia, 77 Ian Silberman*
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne
RG: 67 Jon Halapio, 63 Trip Thurman*
RT: 73 Tyler Moore OR 75 Chaz Green*
» Brown (an incoming JUCO transfer) replaces Thurman, who moves from back-up LT to back-up RG. Silberman replaces Koehne at back-up LG.

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2013 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Review

With the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut now officially in the books, OGGOA is here to take a look at what happened Saturday afternoon on Florida Field inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the Florida Gators spring game practice and how head coach Will Muschamp felt about the team and his players after the conclusion of the day’s events.

OFFENSE: STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS
* Separate story on passing game (quarterbacks, wide receivers) to be posted Sunday.

Running Backs
A starter emerges: Sophomore Matt Jones did not see a lot of action on Saturday by design. Why? Because Jones has played so well throughout the spring that he has all but officially been named Florida’s starter in the backfield. “Matt has really had an outstanding spring. We have a good comfort level where he is as a player,” Muschamp said. “He’s a physical runner. He understands our protections. He’s got great hands in the throwing game. There’s no question he’s an all-around back. He can do everything for us and he’s shown it to us for 14-straight practices.”

Four-deep with a freshman shining: Behind Jones there are three other players competing for carriers – redshirt junior Mack Brown, freshman Kelvin Taylor and sophomore walk-on Mark Herndon. On Saturday, Brown barely got any carries with the vast majority of snaps going to the latter two players. Unlike Jones, it did not look like the coaching staff was resting Brown. Taylor looked dynamic and Herndon made it quite clear why the coaches have praised him throughout the spring with multiple nice runs including a touchdown scamper from inside the 10-yard line. Though Taylor started slow, he showed nice patience running between the tackles, looked decent in pass protection and showed shiftiness breaking a tackle and moving the ball to the outside. Late in the scrimmage, he had a 15-yard run off-tackle and later scored a red zone touchdown from eight yards out when he stuck the ball over the goal line.

Asked about Taylor after the game, Muschamp gushed about how impressive he has been just 15 practices into his Gators career. “Kelvin’s got a really strong lower body. He runs through contact extremely well. He’s got natural instincts in the run game. You get the turns and reps and [need to learn] the protections and all the things that you got to be able to do for us at running back, but [I’m] extremely pleased with his progress,” Muschamp said. “He’s a very talented runner. Some positions are easier than others to contribute as a freshman. That’s a natural instinct position. You get the guy the ball and let his natural instincts take over and run for daylight. And he can do that. It’s the other things we got to brush up on.”

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Florida Gators 2013 spring practice depth chart

Readers may be excited to take a first look at the Florida Gators 2013 spring practice depth chart (see below). Don’t be. As he explained in each of his first two springs with the program, head coach Will Muschamp repeated Wednesday that he does not put a lot of stock in the spring’s first depth chart. In fact, back in 2011, he said it is “not worth the paper it is printed on.” In other words, the depth chart below is just a starting-off point for 2013 and plenty can change between now and the start of the season. Nevertheless, below is the depth chart as it was presented on March 12.

“Obviously we gave you a depth chart. I know it’s just the most critical thing that’s going to happen in the next 12 months of your year,” Muschamp said Tuesday.

RELATED: Muschamp, Pease on offense | Muschamp, Durkin on defense, team

Florida omitted players who are injured and not participating at all in spring practice. A list of those players can be found at the end of this post.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 10 Tyler Murphy, 17 Skyler Mornhinweg
RB: 24 Matt Jones, 33 Mack Brown, 21 Kelvin Taylor
FB: 43 Hunter Joyer, 29 Rhaheim Ledbetter* OR 25 Gideon Ajagbe*
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 4 Andre Debose, 11 Demarcus Robinson
WR (Z): 15 Loucheiz Purifoy*, 88 Solomon Patton^, Raphael Andrades
F Position: 8 Trey Burton, 13 Latroy Pittman, 30 Michael McNeely
TE: 88 Clay Burton, 87 Tevin Westbrook, 18 Kent Taylor, 84 Colin Thompson

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 63 Trip Thurman
LG: 76 Max Garcia, 64 Kyle Koehne
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne
RG: 67 Jon Halapio^, 64 Kyle Koehne
RT: 73 Tyler Moore, 98 Quinteze Williams*

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Gators 2013 Spring Football Preview: Offense

Spring practice for the Florida Gators football program begins on Wednesday, March 13 and lasts for 15 practices concluding with the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut spring game on Saturday, April 6 at 1 p.m. Below is the first of OGGOA‘s new two-part series that takes a look at the team on a position-by-position basis.

PART TWO: Defense & Special Teams

OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (1/2): Redshirt junior Chaz Green
Fresh faces: Redshirt sophomore Tyler Moore

Out goes Xavier Nixon, in comes sophomore D.J. Humphries. After starting three games as a true freshman, Humphries – a former five-star prospect – appears to be all but a shoe-in for the left tackle job. However, both he and Green (who started 10 games at right tackle) have plenty of competition ahead of them. Moore started as a true freshman at Nebraska, sat out the 2012 season while attending a community college and is therefore eligible to play right away. He will be pushing Humphries and Green all spring is certainly talented enough to win either or both starting jobs. Chances are he will wind up either winning the right tackle role while Green continues to recover from ankle surgery or play well enough where he spells both players throughout games.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Returning starters (1/2): Redshirt senior Jon Halapio
Fresh faces: Redshirt junior Max Garcia

With James Wilson finally graduating, the starting left guard job is wide open and offensive line coach Tim Davis has a number of ways in which he can fill the position. Redshirt junior Ian Silberman is the only player on the roster who actually started at guard in 2012 but versatile redshirt senior Kyle Koehne (three starts at right tackle) is also quite experienced in SEC play. Garcia, who started 12 games at tackle for Maryland, has been moved inside and was even listed as the first-string left guard on the initial spring practice depth chart. Redshirt freshman Jessamen Dunker (if reinstated to the team) is a possibility at left guard as well. Halapio (28-straight starts) has a stranglehold on the right guard job.

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12/18: Pease, Driskel, Hammond talk offense

With the team beginning preparations for the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the Louisville Cardinals in New Orleans, LA on Jan. 2, No. 3 Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease – along with sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel and redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. – sat down with the media on Tuesday to discuss the team’s offense and how it is shaping up for the bowl game.

YOUNGSTERS SHOWING OUT IN BOWL PRACTICE

Head coach Will Muschamp has crowed all season long about the play of sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, often mentioning how he began breaking out for the team during practice leading up to the 2012 Gator Bowl.

Asked Tuesday which players are already standing out since the team has reconvened for the Sugar Bowl, Pease, Driskel and Hammond all mentioned that freshman WR Latroy Pittman is looking really good.

“Definitely Pittman,” said Driskel when he was asked to single out a player. “Pittman’s had great bowl practices. I expect him to make some plays in the bowl game.”

Despite drawing plenty of praise in the offseason, Pittman barely contributed during the 2012 campaign. He did play in 11 games but saw most of his time on special teams, hauling in just two balls and totaling six yards on the season.

Hammond called Pittman “an overall balanced receiver,” noting that he has a big body to go along with solid speed. “There’s a lot of things you can do with him when you’re dealing with a guy that size,” he said.

Other players mentioned by Pease as those that have stood out to him thus far include freshman running back Matt Jones, walk-on freshman RB Mark Herndon, freshman guard Jessamen Dunker, freshman tight end Colin Thompson, sophomore TE Tevin Westbrook, sophomore TE Clay Burton and freshman WR Raphael Andrades. Dunker (preparedness) and Thompson (foot) are both taking redshirt seasons and will not play in the bowl game.

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
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8/22: Pease on offense, versatility, pass catchers

With practice now in the books and the team getting ready to prepare for the first game of the season against Bowling Green on Sept. 1, Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media Wednesday to discuss the team’s missed scrimmage (scheduled for Tuesday) and potential impact players for 2012.

COACHING PHILOSOPHIES MESHED IMMEDIATELY

It did not take long for Pease and head coach Will Muschamp to get on the same page offensively, the former said on Wednesday when asked how long it took for their philosophies to mesh.

“I think it probably meshed on the phone when he offered me the job or I wouldn’t have been here,” he said. “I’ve known Will for quite a while. And I’ve done a lot of things in offense. The reason he came and talked to me – we were friends and we’ll probably always be friends – understanding what I have done in the past looking at offense. I think he just knew that’s what I’ve done and that’s what I’m comfortable with.

“I’ve done other things. I can go to four wides if we had to but that’s not what I’ve been the last six years, that’s not what I’ve kind of been groomed with at Boise State under Chris Petersen. Will knew there was a mesh already and that’s what he wanted. If he wanted spread offense, he probably would have gone somewhere else to Toledo and gotten their guy or something.”

Speaking of Boise State, Pease said that many of the philosophies in Florida’s offense are the same though there are a lot of differences that fans may not be able to necessarily see just by watching the game.

VERSATILITY THE KEY FOR HINES, BURTON

All offseason Pease has been high on the versatility brought to the table by redshirt senior Omarius Hines and junior Trey Burton. Though the pair are similar in some ways, they also have different specialties and are the types of talents that Pease said he really could have used at his last stop.

“They do create mismatches, so we will get them the ball and now they got to make plays,” he said. “Omarius is different because he’s got the ability to be a running back, a tight end, a receiver. Trey’s got the ability to be a running back, receiver, kind of a wing back, H-back type guy, quarterback. They’re going to have some stuff on their plate knowing some positions. We didn’t have a guy like that really at Boise State; we didn’t have players like that.”

Pease is especially excited to see what Hines can do; he views him as a game-breaker whose playmaking ability can really come in handy for the Gators this season.

“He’s very versatile. He’s a kid that, when the ball is in his hands, he can go the distance. He can create the huge, explosive plays. He can go 75-80 yards because he’s got the other gear,” Pease said of Hines. “He’s got ability to catch, got ability to run; he’s got strength. He’s an incredible talent so you just got to use him the right way, not burn him out, not overload him with thinking. He’s done a good job. He is a very smart kid on the field. He’s good and he understands things and he wants more. He’s always, ‘Hey, can I do this play, can I do that play?’ He’s a threat. He’s a weapon.”

Read the rest of what Pease had to say on Wednesday…after the break!
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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (89-80)

With the 2011-12 athletic season now in the books and the 2012-13 season about to begin, the focus has shifted to the return of Florida Gators football. For the second-straight year, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, in this series: The Countdown.

89 – Stephen Alli (Toronto, ON)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’6” 217 lbs.

Quick Bio/Career Stats: The only Canadian on the team, Alli made the SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll in 2009 despite not seeing the field in his true freshman season. He played in all 13 games in 2010 but spent most of his time on special teams, hauling in a total of three receptions for 17 yards on offense.

2011 Season: Though Alli played in all but one game in 2011, he saw almost all of his action on special teams and did not record any statistics.

2012 Outlook: Singled out as a leader by head coach Will Muschamp during spring practice in 2011, Alli did not get the opportunity to follow through on offense during the season. He was listed as the second X-receiver on the depth chart for the second-straight year in March but missed a number of spring practices with a groin injury. Muschamp said on May 8 that Alli would miss approximately three months of action after having successful surgery on a stress fracture on his leg. He rejoined the team in the middle of August but has not stood out as of yet among the receivers that have been getting regular repetitions during training camp.

88 – Clay Burton (Venice, FL)
Sophomore tight end
6’4” 232 lbs.

Quick Bio/2011 Season: The younger brother of Florida junior running back Trey Burton, Clay was an early enrollee as a freshman defensive end but transitioned to tight end in the fall of 2011 due to depth issues. He dressed for six games but only saw action in one, playing sparingly against UAB.

2012 Outlook: Still in the process of making the transition to tight end, Burton was listed as a reserve on the spring depth chart and is going head-to-head with plenty of others for playing time. Though the coaching staff has complimented his progress, Burton has a ways to go until he develops into a true tight end that can contribute on a regular basis.

Check out five more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!
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