TWO BITS: Gators team awards, game-winners

1 » The Florida Gators football team participated in its annual banquet on Saturday in which members of the team are presented with a number of awards for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may be throughout the season. Below are the 2013 award winners along with some award explanations and additional details.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Michael McNeely
* Second-straight year that McNeely won the award.
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jaylen Watkins, Mark Herndon and Darrin Kitchens
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: Solomon Patton
Chris Patrick Courage Award: Solomon Patton, Damien Jacobs, Jon Halapio, Neiron Ball and Ronald Powell
* Second-straight year that Halapio and Powell each won the award.
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Antonio Riles, Tim Clark, Caleb Brantley | Defensive: Case Harrison, Adam Lane, Cameron Dillard | Special Teams: Chris Thompson, Ryan Parrish

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Michael Taylor
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Dominique Easley
* Second-straight year that Halapio and Harrison won the award for offense.
Most Valuable Player Offense: Solomon Patton | Defense: Dante Fowler, Jr. Special Teams: Jarrad Davis
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): Jon Halapio and Dominique Easley
* Presented to the “player who best exemplifies the mental and physical toughness and ‘iron-man’ determination.’ The award is traditionally won by offensive linemen.
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Solomon Patton
* Third-straight year that a senior offensive player won the award.
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Jeremy Brown, Kyle Koehne and Darrin Kitchens
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison, Solomon Patton, Trey Burton and Dominique Easley
* Second-straight year that Halapio was named a team captain.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Gators team awards, game-winners

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Senior Day – Gameday: Florida Gators vs. No. 2 Florida State Seminoles

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather: 66°F (feels like 66°F), partly cloudy, winds NE at 14 mph
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Tom Luginbill)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com [Blackout Map] | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS No. 2 FSU SEMINOLES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Record: 4-7 Record: 11-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +29 | O/U 52.5
and you can also bet on Super Bowl game in Feb 2014.

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!

Story: Changes ahead for offensive staff | Notebook: Will Muschamp talks coaching changes, fixing the Gators and more injuries | Q&A: Brent Pease asked 17 questions about job status, future at Florida | Notebook: Muschamp provides updates on injuries, thoughts about Pease | Friday Final: Bittersweet finale for Florida seniors

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Florida State 35-21-2 and holds a 20-9-1 record in Gainesville.
» The Gators will finish below .500 on the season for the first time since 1979 and below .500 in SEC play for the second time since that year (2010).
» UF lost to three unranked opponents this season and is now 18-4 against such teams under Muschamp. Last week, it dropped its first game to a Division I-AA/FCS team in school history.
» The Gators lost their second-straight game under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and are now 15-2 in such circumstances. Florida also lost for the second consecutive time under Muschamp (third overall) when leading at the half and are now 18-3 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 14-5 when scoring first in a game.

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!
Continue Reading » Senior Day – Gameday: Florida Gators vs. No. 2 Florida State Seminoles

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Emotional walk-on Herndon earns UF scholarship

Football players like to portray themselves as tough, emotionless machines, but Florida Gators sophomore running back Mark Herndon did not have a problem admitting on Tuesday that he cried on the practice field.

“Yeah, I did,” he said with an ear-to-ear smile.

That’s what happens when the team you rooted for your entire life, the one you walked on to instead of choosing accept a full ride from another university, offers you a scholarship a year earlier than you even expected it to be a possibility.

“I just earned my scholarship today, and it brought tears to my eyes. The first thing I did was call my mom and told her. She was ecstatic about it. I’m just trying to suck it all in right now,” Herndon explained.

“[Earning a scholarship was] always in my mind, but when I first got here, Coach [Will] Muschamp told me it’s two years until you get a scholarship,” the second-year player added. “I wasn’t expecting it. So when he told me, it just threw me way off. I thought I was in a dream. If you had seen me then, my mouth just dropped.”

Tears also started flowing from Herndon’s eyes. And when he approached running backs coach Brian White to celebrate, he saw the emotion reflected right back to him.

“Coach White cried with me. That was a big thing because it makes me feel like he really cares about us. I can feel that. It was just a real emotional thing for me,” he said.

“I usually don’t cry but that was enough to do it.”

Continue Reading » Emotional walk-on Herndon earns UF scholarship

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12/27: Gators arrive in New Orleans for Sugar Bowl

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Thursday upon his team’s arrival in New Orleans, LA to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the Louisville Cardinals and provide updates on his team heading into the game.

TRANSFERS CONFIRMED

Muschamp confirmed two more transfers, which gives the Gators three in the last two weeks. He said that both redshirt junior offensive tackle Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders “just needed a fresh start given their situations.”

“I really appreciate their time at Florida, and we wish them the best,” he added.

He also spoke about keeping Florida players out of trouble and how those practices have unfolded over the last year or so. “It’s a continual education and stressing to the players everyday about making good choices,” Muschamp said. “Everyone makes bad decisions here and there, but these are good kids. It’s also about recruiting the right kind of guys and understanding the standard of excellence at the University of Florida on and off the field.”

Senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic explained that he is proud of how the team has stayed out of trouble most of the year but is nevertheless sad to see Saunders leave the program. “Our guys have been smart all year. We work together to have each other’s back and stay out of trouble. We all make sure that we are always going in the right direction,” he said. “[Saunders is] one of our brothers and it’s tough to see him leave the program. Though at the same time, this might be what’s best for him personally.”

GETTING TO 12 WINS

Though the coach admitted that the Cardinals are going to put up a fight on Jan. 2, Muschamp has been “very pleased” with the team’s preparation through practice last Friday when everyone dispersed for the holiday break. He has also put a great importance on winning this game for Florida.

“It’s absolutely critical. We are trying to become just the sixth team in Florida history to reach 12 wins, which is huge considering how successful this program has been,” Muschamp said. “It’s also an opportunity to finish the season ranked in the top five, possibly No. 3. These things are important to our program as we continue to move forward. This is a one-game season. We haven’t played in a long time but there’s a lot of motivation to play well in this game since it’s a BCS game. We have a special team, and they deserve a special night. We want to send them out the right way and that can only be done with a win.”

The seniors that have stuck with this program through thick and thin will be all-in next Wednesday, but sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel also sees this as a great opportunity to completely knock the 2011 season out of the team’s memory and focus on moving forward.

“It goes back to the offseason. We didn’t have a season that Florida expects year in and year out, so we kind of took that to heart in the offseason. We trained hard, we practiced hard and we really came together. It’s kind of cool to see all the hard work in the offseason pay off during the season,” he said.

Driskel is excited for the opportunity to win a bowl game as a starter “on a national stage [in] one of the biggest games of the year.” He continued, “We’re honored to be in the game. We’re honored to be in the Sugar Bowl, so we’re going to practice well and we’re going to prepare well so we can play well when the game rolls around.”

Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/27: Gators arrive in New Orleans for Sugar Bowl

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8/24: Injury, playing time notes from Muschamp

With the Florida Gators just eight days away away from the beginning of the season on Sept. 1 at home against Bowling Green, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday to provide updates on the team.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan – strained his pectoral on Saturday, held out of contact and will miss the season opener

Sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders – “pulled a hamstring” on Thursday and will probably miss the season opener

Junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell – starting the last phase of rehab from his torn ACL and will be cutting and changing direction with hopes of returning in October

Redshirt junior DB Jeremy Brown – set to have his wrist checked on Tuesday to see if he can return to practice

Freshman OT left tackle D.J. Humphries – expected to be back practicing on Tuesday or Wednesday after injuring his MCL

Redshirt freshman guard Tommy Jordan – minor shoulder injury

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Redshirt juniors DB Tim Clark and offensive lineman Cole Gilliam and redshirt senior running back Scott Peek are three walk-ons that were awarded scholarships this week.

» Redshirt sophomore Mack Brown and freshman Matt Jones are competing for the back-up running back job behind senior Mike Gillislee.

» On Gillislee stepping up this offseason: “Mike has always been a hard worker, but I think as much of anything [he stepped up] in spring. You watch some of the carries; we got a decent front, running through some tackles and doing some things. I was very impressed with his lunch pail attitude. He goes out and works. He goes out and puts his time in. He goes and works. A guy that, again, I’ve just been really pleased with his approach, his physical mentality. I’ve just been overall very pleased with him as a player and as a person.”

» Muschamp said he expects to have 5-6 defensive backs on the field 90 percent of the time over Florida’s first three games against Bowling Green, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

» On redshirt sophomore LB Neiron Ball playing so well after missing an entire season: “What a wonderful young man. Handled it very maturely; has been through a tough road, not just with the injury but a lot of things. He has responded as maturely and as well as you can respond to a tough situation. To have a guy that is as happy as he is to play football again, he’s a great example for our guys. On those days when you don’t want to practice, this was a guy that had it taken away from him for a year. He’s very appreciative of his opportunities; I know that.”

» Muschamp said that redshirt senior James Wilson will start at left guard mostly because redshirt junior Kyle Koehne (who was competing for the job) can play all five positions on the line and will be filling in as a reserve tackle with Humphries (likely) and Patchan out for the game.

» “I think we’ve improved tremendously. […] Talk is cheap. We need to go line up and play. I can sit here and tell you how I feel, but at the end of the day we’ll be judged on September 1st and how we perform and then the following weeks from that on Saturday.”

» On redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose: “He needs to be more consistent as far as his assignments are concerned and finishing plays down the field. [He has to] continue to work at those things. He certainly has the ability, but you got to do it all the time, you can’t just talk about it.”

» On if playing two quarterbacks means a team has no true quarterback: “I don’t know. I look at two talented guys we can win with. It didn’t seem to affect LSU last year, so…”

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FOUR BITS: Elway apologizes to Tebow, Gators earn awards, volleyball falls, Macklin ready

1 » Nothing that Denver Broncos executive vice president John Elway has done to this point – whether it be verbal comments or body language – has shown that he fully supports quarterback Tim Tebow. Despite the fact that Tebow is winning games and doing so in a variety of ways, Elway recently answered “no” when asked by a radio station if he was “any closer to having your quarterback on this team” than he was a month earlier. With Tebow continuing to win and Elway receiving more and more criticism, he told FOX Sports this week that he “could have done a better job answering that question.” “It was a little too blunt,” he went on to say. “I should have said, ‘We’re not talking about the future. We’re talking about right now. Tim Tebow is definitely our guy.’”

Tebow recently avoided a question asking whether or not he felt the entire organization was behind him; that non-answer is likely what led Elway to personally apologize to his star, which FOX Sports notes he did recently. In fact, Elway has also told Tebow that he plans to work with him alongside QB coach Adam Gase in the offseason – not to “fix’ his throwing motion but rather to improve his accuracy. “I don’t believe you change a throwing motion. I do believe you can really help your accuracy by your feet,” Elway said. “That’s where, to me, Tim has so much upside. He’s improving. It’s just a matter of getting it burned into his reactions and mind.”

2 » The Florida Gators football team participated in its annual banquet on Saturday in which the team is presented a number of awards for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may be throughout the season. Below are the 2011 award winners along with some award explanations, courtesy of the University of Florida.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Caleb Sturgis
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jesse Schmitt
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: William Green
Chris Patrick Courage Award: John Brantley
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Tim Clark Defensive: Michael McNeely Special Teams: Hygens Succes and Solomon Schoonover

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Jeff Demps Defense: Dominique Easley
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Matt Patchan Defense: Dominique Easley
MVP Offense: Chris Rainey Defense: Jon Bostic, Matt Elam ST: Caleb Sturgis
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): John Brantley
* Presented to the “player who best exemplifies the mental and physical toughness and ‘iron-man’ determination.’ The award is traditionally won by offensive linemen.
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Chris Rainey
* As voted on by the entire team.
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Lerentte McCray, John Brantley
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: John Brantley, Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, William Green, Jaye Howard

3 » Florida volleyball’s inspiring run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament came to an end Saturday evening as the No. 3 Illinois Illini defeated the Gators 3-1 in four sets (25-22, 23-25, 25-14, 25-20) in Elite Eight action at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. UF has been ranked higher heading into the tournament in recent memory, but Florida reached the regional final this year for the first time since 2005. Seniors setter/right-side Kelly Murphy and outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel once again led the way for their squad. Murphy’s triple-double (13 kills, 21 assists, 17 digs) was the 30th of her career. Murphy posted 19 kills and 11 digs for a double-double. Each will end their careers in the top 10 of a number of categories in the Gators’ record book. Transfer Colleen Ward, who joined the Illini, posted 23 kills and 11 digs in the contest for a double-double of her own. Florida finished the season 27-6 and was on a 10-match winning streak before falling to Illinois.

4 » As one Gators rookie waits to sign his deal, center Vernon Macklin has already agreed to terms with the Detroit Pistons, which selected him in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Macklin, who stayed in shape during the lockout by maintaining his college conditioning and working out with NBA players like Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Lakers F Metta World Peace, Atlanta center Al Horford and Chicago C Joakim Noah, recently told The Detroit News that he was star struck when he saw Detroit C Ben Wallace practicing. “It’s kind of a weird feeling,” he said. “Him going to Virginia Union, a lot of my family members idolized him and learned from him.”

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8/20: Muschamp discusses injuries, names position leaders, rewards walk-ons

With the Florida Gators now having completed training camp and headed into fall practice, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media early Saturday to provided updates on how the team is progressing on both sides of the ball heading into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic.

STATEMENT ON COACH HILL

As allegations from a Yahoo! Sports report suggesting he could have been involved in the illegal and illicit recruiting of players while with the Miami Hurricanes, Florida wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill received a vote of confidence from Muschamp on Saturday. “I’ve talked to Aubrey after the article came out. I feel very comfortable with he and I’s conversation,” he said. “I support Aubrey 100 percent. I’m glad he’s here at Florida, and that’s all I’m really going to comment on.”

BROWN INJURED, BACK SOON; BRANTLEY AND REED RESTING

Confirming a report from the Independent Florida Alligator, Muschamp noted that redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown has indeed been out with a knee injury but is respected to return to practice next week. “I expect him probably next Wednesday or Thursday of next week,” Muschamp said.

He also said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley got the day off to rest his sore back and will return to action for the team’s scrimmage on Wednesday, while redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed returned to practice Saturday after missing 3-4 days for a sore hamstring. “[Brantley] has had a very productive camp,” he said. “We felt like Wednesday’s scrimmage was much more important as far as progressing our offense further to get ready for game plan than this one and if we needed to take a day off, [Saturday] was the best day to do it.”

LEADING FOR STARTING JOBS

Plenty of positions are up for grabs this fall due to graduations, players leaving early and the new coaching staff implementing difference schemes than a year ago. On Saturday, Muschamp explained that a few more starting jobs have been coming into focus over the last week of camp.

Senior punter David Lerner is currently set to start over freshman Kyle Christy. Lerner, a walk-on who learned in late July that he has Chron’s disease, has been practicing through the health issue and was put on scholarship by Muschamp this week. “Kyle Christy has done some really good things, has got a tremendous leg,” he said, “but David has punted consistently better.”

Redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan, who had been competing with redshirt freshman Chaz Green for the starting gig, has currently taken the lead and the chance to solidify the right side of the line.

With junior Xavier Nixon holding down the starting left tackle job, redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne (who was backing him up) has been moved to left guard and quickly jumped ahead of redshirt freshman Ian Silberman and redshirt senior James Wilson, both of whom were competing for the position.

Florida’s starting offensive line (for now) consists of: LT Nixon, LG Koehne, C redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, RG redshirt sophomore Jon Halapio, RT Patchan.

WALK-ONS REWARDED

Three other Gators walk-ons in addition to Lerner earned scholarships from Muschamp this week. The coach informed redshirt sophomore safety Tim Clark, redshirt junior linebacker Scott Peek and senior OT/TE William Steinmann that they had all received the honor after performing well during the spring and summer. Muschamp, a former walk-on himself, described them as, “Four guys that have all been in our program for a number of years, have both demonstrated themselves well on-and-off-the-field, academically they’ve done an outstanding job.” Muschamp said they made the announcement in front of the team and it was very emotional for all involved.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On practices being closed: “It was hot out there today. Ya’ll glad it was closed today?”

» Muschamp said the team got in a lot of good work in Saturday including stuff in the red zone, on third down and with all four special teams units. He said the band was at practice (so it was not totally closed) and the team worked an end-of-game scenario with 5:18 left on the clock. The Gators were in “full game day operation,” which Muschamp said resulted in a “very productive day.”

» The team will take pictures on Sunday and have its next scrimmage on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are when the Gators will start preparations for the Florida Atlantic game on Sept. 3.

» Muschamp said sophomore safety Matt Elam had an interception on Saturday and is easily the most consistent player at his position. Everyone else has “shown flashes” but is still competing and trying to earn a spot.

» On the defensive line: “I really like our guys, but we don’t’ have any depth. […] I feel very good about our talent level; we just don’t have any depth.”

» On redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose’s recent improvement: “Andre made a nice catch on a deep ball today. Andre, really the last couple of days, has taken a step forward. […] I was very pleased with Andre today. He made a nice play on the side – well-covered, well-thrown ball. He just continues to show the consistency in his performance, and I’m very pleased.”

» On the AP Top 25 preseason poll: “I could care less about the poll.” When told the phrase is “couldn’t” care less: “I was never very good in English, I’ll be honest with ya.”

» On offensive coordinator Charlie Weis: “Charlie’s experience speaks for itself, and his track record – you all know that. From the standpoint of him working with the players is probably his strongest point. You really talk to people that played for him – whether it was at Notre Dame, New England or Kansas City – the players have a great respect for him because he’s all about the players. He’s hard on them, he’s tough on them, it’s tough love, but they have a great respect because he has answers when things don’t go right.”

» On closing practices to hide details: “That’s why we’ve closed everything. I do think it is an advantage for us this season. […] We put a wild rumor out there about Wildcat. […] That’s why we’ve closed things.”

» On redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar’s improvement this offseason: “The hardest thing for a young player is to consistently perform every day. You try to explain to them it’s your consistency in your performance [that’s important]. We’ve really challenged Quinton as far as, ‘OK, you want to be a starting receiver, I’m good with that. But to add your value as a player to this football team, you need to be on special teams.’ So when we have scout-look teams as far as our special teams, Quinton Dunbar’s the first guy that jumps in there if he’s not already on the special team. That to me shows tremendous strides and commitment to help our football team. He’s willing to go in there and give our guys a good look.”

» On comparisons between freshman QBs Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett: “Well, I think they are very similar. They’re both athletic, big, strong, big arms, good decision makers. They both have a certain command about themselves as quarterbacks. Jeff’s probably a little more of a scrambler and a runner, as opposed to Jacoby. But they are very similar quarterbacks. Their skill set is very similar. Talking to Charlie about our plan as we move forward is – will be a very similar plan as far as gaming for them and putting them in situations to be successful.”

» On his demeanor at practice: “I’m just myself. There is a key to every young man and you have to find that key. I’m going to be who I am, and I don’t plan anything. I just kind of do what I do.”

» On freshmen playing early: “I always feel like the further your position is away from the ball, the better chance you got to play because your athleticism takes over quicker as opposed to you being close. I think it’s hard for offensive and defensive linemen – I’m not saying it’s impossible because I’ve had guys do it – to come in and play because the bodies are bigger, it’s a faster game, it’s a more complicated game than they’re used to.”

» On if he thinks the team is coming together: “I do. I’m cautiously optimistic when I say that form the standpoint of, what real adversity have we faced? I do think that we’ve battled through some tough practices heat, exhaustion, fatigue; I think we’ve managed that. I wouldn’t say we’ve passed with flying colors, but we’ve managed that. What’s going to happen when we get down 14-0? How are we going to respond to that? That’s when you find out a lot about your team.”

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Muschamp provides pre-spring practice thoughts

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2011 spring practice on Wednesday, new head coach Will Muschamp met with the media Monday to discuss a variety of topics including why practice is closed, who has stepped up as leaders, which players have changed positions and what he expects from redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley.

FIVE-WEEK OFFSEASON PROGRAM

Florida’s student-athletes participated four days each week in a five-week-long offseason program with spring break serving as a nice ending to the activities. Muschamp believes that the time is now to get the Gators in the proper mindset for the upcoming year.

“In the offseason, that’s where you build your football team,” he said. “You build the mental toughness it’s going to take to be successful. You find out a lot about individual players at this time – what they’re willing to push through. You find out a lot about where your leadership is on the football team. You start to develop your identity in the offseason. I’m really pleased with where we are. We still have a ways to go, but I’m excited about what those guys accomplished in our offseason program.”

NO SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT CLOSING PRACTICE

Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer shut fans and media out of fall practice last year, but spring practice was open throughout his entire tenure at UF. Muschamp, who announced last week that practiced would be closed, said that he had no second thoughts about the decision even though some fans are peeved by the choice.

“We’re a new staff. It’s important – on both sides of the ball and special teams – for our guys to focus on what we need to do to be successful. We need to do that in closed quarters,” he said. “I understand that our fans love the Gators and want to be a part of that. On April 9th, we want a full packed house at The Swamp. We need to concentrate on us right now. We need to get better and continue to develop the identity of what we want to be as a football team on both sides of the ball on special teams.”

He continued, “I’ve got to make a decision that I think is best for the program and about winning football games and doing it the right way. That’s something that will be evaluated in the fall by me and in the spring by me. If I think it’s best for the practices to be closed, they’ll be closed.”

CREATING AND ESTABLISHING LEADERS

Muschamp has a number of goals that he has set out to accomplish before spring practice concludes. One of those is finding a set of leaders who prove their worth by displaying a positive attitude, being productive and establishing themselves as both dependable and durable.

“Develop the leadership. Come together for that common purpose. I know we’ll all be excited on Wednesday; I want to see how we are [at] practice 12. That’s really where you find out what kind of team you’ve got,” he said. “We want to be a blue-collar, overachieving unit. We’ve got some good football players; we got a good football team on campus. We’ve got to come together as a cohesive unit, build for a common purpose and develop that workman-like attitude.”

Singling out a handful of players as early leaders, Muschamp pointed to Brantley, senior defensive end William Green, redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., redshirt sophomore WR Stephen Alli, sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs, redshirt sophomore safety Tim Clark, sophomore QB Chandler Carr and freshman QB Jeff Driskel as guys who have already stood out among their peers.

“They came out and played to a championship standard as far as their competition is concerned in the weight room and off the field,” he said of the players. “You’ve got to develop leadership; it’s not just something that happens. We’ve got to develop that within our organization. We’re implementing leadership, character development, mental conditioning for our football team.”

EXPECTATIONS FOR BRANTLEY

Brantley is the Gators’ No. 1 quarterback, and it is going to take a huge effort from either Driskel or redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy to unseat him. Not only does Brantley have the age factor going for him, Muschamp (and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis) both believe he is capable of doing the job that is necessary behind center. To his credit, Brantley has put the pedal to the metal so far this spring and is doing whatever he can to learn the position to the best of his ability.

“John’s worked hard in the offseason. He’s a talented player,” Muschamp said. “John needs to worry about John’s expectations, mine, Charlie Weis’s and nobody else’s. That’s what I think about expectations. Ours are high – really high; we expect a lot. John himself expects a lot of himself, and we’re expecting him to have an outstanding year.”

Asked what his specific expectations are for Brantley, Muschamp instead discussed what he expects from any quarterback running his team. “From the quarterback position, and I don’t mean this in a conservative manner, it’s [about] managing the game,” he said. “Peyton Manning manages the game. Tom Brady manages the game. They don’t turn the ball over; they take care of they ball. They provide great leadership for their offense and their football team. They convert on third down. That’s managing the game; that’s what we want to see. He’s got the ability to do all of those things.”

POSITION CHANGES AND ADJUSTMENTS

As OGGOA covered yesterday in our depth chart post, there is plenty of movement going on throughout Florida’s roster. Here are some of the moves that have been made and what Muschamp had to say about the player involved.

Redshirt freshman Leon Orr from offensive line to defensive tackle: “He’s a bigger body guy that can hold the point inside.”

Redshirt freshman Gerald Christian from tight end to linebacker: “He’s got good lower body explosion [and is] a guy who is certainly bright enough to play two positions.” Christian will also see offensive work at tight end and fullback.

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed from QB/TE to tight end: “Jordan Reed will be a full-time tight end. [He] can stretch the field vertically and be a match-up issue for defenses with his athleticism. [I’m] excited about him.”

Sophomore Trey Burton from QB to “F” position: “We’re excited about the versatility Trey will play for us at the F and at the H position in some third-down work.” Learn more about the F position.

Redshirt sophomore Chris Martin from DE/LB to DE: “He’s got good pass rush skills, good pass rush ability. He can move his hands and feet in the rush, which is a natural talent. That’s not something that’s easily coached.”

Muschamp was also asked about sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who had some behavioral issues last season. “That was last season. This is this year,” he said. “I [told him], ‘You’re going to do it our way.’ Change is inevitable, growth is optional. You either do it our way or leave.”

Finally, he discussed where the Gators are weakest position-wise. “We are thin on both lines of scrimmage at this point. I like the quality of players; I don’t like the quantity of players. The SEC is a line of scrimmage league. We’re going in a little bit thin,” he said.

QUOTES

Muschamp on the depth chart: “I don’t know if that depth chart is worth the paper it’s printed on.”

Muschamp on the depth chart (II): “It’s not about where you start – it’s where you finish.”

Muschamp on the defensive philosophy: “We want to be multiple. We’ll be more of an over team, a 4-3 team, a one-gap team at this point. We will commingle some 3-4. We’ve got an outstanding defensive staff, and I’m really excited about what those guys are bringing to the table.”

Muschamp on Weis: “Part of buying in is instant credibility, and he brings instant credibility as a football coach because of what he’s accomplished.”

Muschamp on potentially butting heads with Weis: “You hire guys that you have tremendous confidence that you know their abilities. You hire the best coaches available. We’ve been allowed to do that here because of the support of our administration. You want to hire the best in the business. I don’t want a bunch of “yes” guys. I don’t want a bunch of guys who are going to agree with everything I say. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I don’t have all the answers – especially on the offensive side of the ball. I want guys that want to disagree.”

Muschamp on what excites him about the team: “There’s been a willingness and an eagerness to learn. We’ve got a bunch of prideful guys in that locker room that want to have a lot of success.”

Muschamp on it being “his” team: “It’s Florida’s program, not mine. I’m the steward and I’m driving the ship. Florida won a bunch of games before any of us showed up, and they’re going to win a bunch of games after we’re all gone.”

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