1/18: Dunker suspended, more Gators leave, injury updates, Sugar Bowl review, 2013 preview

Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday to wrap up the 2012 season, look ahead to the upcoming spring practice and discuss some of the recent changes and issues within the program.

PUNISHMENT HANDED DOWN

Muschamp announced Friday that freshman offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities pending the outcome of his legal affairs. Dunker was arrested Monday on a third-degree felony charge of grand theft of a motor vehicle as well as a second-degree misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license. He was released on his own recognizance on Thursday and claims that he paid $600 for the scooter not knowing it had been reported stolen.

“I met with Jessamen Dunker [Friday] morning. I have suspended him from all team activities until we get more information,” he said. “I just met to him face-to-face [Friday] morning for the first time for 15 minutes. Once we get a little bit more information, then we’ll move forward, but he’s suspended from the team at this time. We’ll address that further when I know more.”

THREE MORE GATORS LEAVING PROGRAM

It was also announced Friday by Muschamp that redshirt juniors wide receiver Stephen Alli and defensive lineman Kedric Johnson will both be graduating in the spring and moving on from the Florida football program.

Muschamp said that Alli plans to go to graduate school; should he remain at UF, he will have the opportunity to join the team as a graduate assistant. Johnson “may play somewhere [else] next fall,” Muschamp said, and the two are planning to discuss it.

Furthermore, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan, who never stepped on the field for the Gators due to nagging shoulder problems, has applied for a medical exception to remain on scholarship but no longer play football.

CLEANING UP SOME INJURIES

Muschamp once again noted that redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio (knee), redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) all had scopes on their various injuries this month.

“We expect all three of those [players] to participate at some point in spring. I don’t know when that will happen, how much contact there will be. I’ll know more as we move forward,” he said.

Junior WR Solomon Patton (broken arm) is “doing really well,” according to Muschamp. He has already been cleared for non-contact work during the spring.

Additionally, sophomore punter Kyle Christy had minor shoulder surgery and will be fine for spring football. “He played pretty well with it. I don’t know why we did surgery, but they felt like he needed it,” Muschamp said.

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 1/18: Dunker suspended, more Gators leave, injury updates, Sugar Bowl review, 2013 preview

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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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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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11/16: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators coming off a tough road loss and looking to become bowl eligible with a victory over the Furman Paladins 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.

CONSISTENCY THY NAME IS BOSTIC

All season long Muschamp has been saying that “consistency in performance” during practice is a determining factor as to who starts and gets to see the field. Providing that consistency both in practice and during games this year is junior linebacker Jon Bostic, who Muschamp noted continues to impress him with how well he’s played.

“We do a production chart by week for each game. Throughout the entire season, he’s a guy that has had a winning performance for the season as far as a production per play ratio,” he said. “[Bostic is] a guy that’s been productive, gets in and out of the right fronts, gets us lined up, does a great job communicating the calls. He’s played extremely well. He’s played very consistent week in and week out with his performance. There has not been a lot of up-and-down with him. He’s a guy that’s played a lot before so he’s had a lot of snaps, he’s got experience. He’s really blossomed in his role in what we’re trying to do defensively.”

Muschamp added that Florida’s defensive scheme has helped Bostic’s tackle numbers soar, especially considering how much better the Gators have been playing on the line in recent weeks.

“More than anything, we put a lot of emphasis on playing blocks up front and not letting people to the second level. As the year has gone on, we’ve done a nicer job of keeping him free,” he said. “We’ve kept him free in a lot of situations to be able to run and make plays. Our defense is really designed for both of those guys [Bostic and Jelani Jenkins] to make a bunch of tackles. Jon certainly benefitted from that. When he has his opportunities, he makes plays.

“He plays well in space, he plays with good toughness, he’s done a nice job disengaging on blocks. I’ve been very pleased with his consistent performance, and that’s been something we’ve struggled with as an entire football team. Consistency in our performance is week-in and week-out, and he has been a guy that has shown the consistent performance we got to have to be successful in this league.”

INJURY UPDATES AND FUTURE REDSHIRTS

Redshirt senior guard/center Dan Wenger (ankle) was ruled out for the game, while redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leon Orr (shoulder) were all listed as questionable. Muschamp said McCray is not responding well to treatment on his shoulder, Green is having a hard time coming back off the ankle, and Orr got banged up in practice this week. With the Florida State game looming, none of the four are expected to play Saturday against Furman.

Muschamp also updated the redshirt situation, saying that offensive linemen Tommy Jordan and Trip Thurman as well as wide receiver Ja’Juan Story and safety Valdez Showers will all receive them this year. Tight end Clay Burton and defensive end Tevin Westbrook, both of whom played early in the year but were injured, are potential medical redshirt candidates after the season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the inconsistency of Florida’s offense: “More than anything just being so inconsistent, that’s what’s hurt us the most. At times we’ve run the ball well – you look at the second half of the South Carolina game – we ran the ball pretty well against a very good defense. We get in the red zone and you look at the three games that we had opportunities there – Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina – we’re 1-for-7 as far as touchdowns in the red zone. That’s been a killer for us. Those games are certainly different outcomes if we cash in on those opportunities. The inconsistency in which we’re playing with has been the most frustrating. It’s not one position; it’s across the board, different things we’re not doing well enough to win those games. That’s been the most frustrating part of our season thus far.”

» On if the 5-5 record has anything to do with him being a first-year head coach: “I don’t know that there’s been anything reflected in our record based on me being a rookie head coach. I honestly don’t. [...] I don’t think our record is indicative of me being a first time head coach. I don’t think that has anything to do with it.”

» On why the wide receivers are so inconsistent: “When teams play man-to-man, you got to get open. You got to be able to be a threat vertically down the field. We have some deeper developing routes where you try to come off of a comeback or some curls inside. You got to create some separation in those situations and continue to challenge people vertically down the field which we try to do. [...] More consistent play at that position in catching the ball, finishing the plays; we’ve had some drops that have certainly hurt us in some situations. We’ve done some nice things, but we’re just not playing very consistent outside.”

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11/7: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Florida defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 26-21 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a tough road contest against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 12. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

INJURY UPDATES AND PLAYER AWARDS

The following players will return to practice Monday:
Redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)

The following players will return to practice Tuesday:
Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger (foot)

“He’s fine,” Muschamp said of Brantley. “He got a funny hit on [his arm]. He probably could have gone back in, but I told him to sit down and let Jacoby [Brissett] finish it. It was one of those things that was a funny injury. There is nothing serious at all.”

Additional injury notes:
Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) remain out of action this week. Freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan had surgery Monday morning and will take a redshirt for 2011. Fellow freshman OL Trip Thurman had shoulder surgery earlier this year and will also be redshirted.

Player awards from the Vanderbilt game:
Offensive Player of the Game: Senior running back Jeff Demps
Scrap Iron Award (best OL): Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan
Big Play Award: Jeff Demps (52-yard touchdown)
Extra Effort Award: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (blocking)
Defensive Player of the Game: Freshman cornerback Jaylen Watkins
Hard Hat Award: Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Special Teams Players of the Week: Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (55-yard field goal), sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd (blocked field goal), redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed (onside recover)
Scout Team Players of the Week: Ryan Parrish, Hygens Succes, Tim Clark

Demps was also named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

GAME AND FUTURE OPPONENT STATEMENTS

Muschamp first provided his general thoughts about Saturday’s victory.

“You go back and look at the game and we were balanced on offense. Being able to run the ball helped us with our play actions down the field. It slows the defensive linemen down a good bit up front. We converted on third down about 50 percent and had some big plays. We were able to get some chuck plays. Defensively we really needed to stop the run game and for the most part we did a decent job of that. We have to finish the game better and cover better – on the back end especially. We had some breakdowns [in the secondary] and obviously had some pass rush issues with Rodgers being able to scramble, create and extend plays. Those are the things we’ve really talked to the kids about.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Nov. 12, South Carolina.

“They’re very balanced on offense – 188 yards rushing per game, 180 passing. Offensively Alshon Jeffrey is an outstanding wide receiver. A guy that is 6’4″ or 6’5″ with great ball skills down the field. He’s a tremendous match-up issue in all situations. [...] Defensively Ellis Johnson does a great job. [The unit has] 27 turnovers this year and is led by Melvin Ingram, a guy from a fake punt against Georgia to sacking the quarterback to playing the runs well inside is a really good athlete, a big guy that plays hard with a great motor. I’m really impressed watching him on film. Defense and special teams for them have scored seven touchdowns, so that’s impressive.”

Muschamp also commented on USC head coach Steve Spurrier:

I got great respect for Coach Spurrier, first of all as a player winning the Heisman Trophy here in 1966 and then the job he did as a head coach here for 12 years was outstanding. You look at the championship run and establishing the tradition of what Florida football is as far as winning championships. [...] I think he changed the SEC as far as the passing game is concerned. When he took over in 1990, the SEC was a running league. It was a ground-and-pound league. He came to Florida and did a great job in the throwing game, changing the perception of the SEC to an offensive league but still remained balanced in everything he did.”

PISTOL SET GIVES GATORS A RUN GAME

Between Brantley’s ankle injury and the numerous other problems the Gators have had running the ball, employing the pistol set on Saturday helped get the run game going again and keep the Commodores’ defense honest. In fact, Florida ran at a near two-to-one clip, though UF was also successful through the air.

Muschamp said Monday that employing the pistol helped in protection and opening up throwing seams down the field while also allowing the Gators to call play actions and run the ball inside. He said Florida plans to keep using the set because it assists in keeping defenses off balance.

Brantley is expected to be back under center at South Carolina but calling some runs from the pistol could still be smart in order to keep the turns he has to make on his ankle to a minimum. Muschamp also explained that UF’s pistol set is not the same as the pistol offense first run at Nevada and now UCLA.

“We were running from a set to be able to get to a downhill running game. What they run is a misdirection running game. It’s a different theory. What they run is a package; what we run is a set to be able to get to some downhill run game. What they do is a total package – they run a total offense that is called the pistol offense. We ran a set to get to our downhill running game. We ran it from a different set to enable John to run our downhill running game. We didn’t change what we were doing.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on how the secondary needs to improve: “As far as playing the ball, we’re in situations and we’re in position. You got to play the football. When you’re in position to cover the receiver, you got to play the ball. We just need to finish some plays. [...] Those things are all correctable. Those are all things that we can work on. We’re going to spend a lot time today working on perimeter drill where we work on our eye control, covering and leveraging formations. They just need to improve, and I need to do a better job coaching from my spot.”

» Muschamp on how long he plans on coaching: “I love what I do. I’m very passionate about it. I enjoy coming to work every day regardless of the situation. I can’t picture myself not coaching.”

» Muschamp on if Spurrier called him when he took the Florida job: “I called him to tell him that our doors were always open unless we’re playing South Carolina.”

» Muschamp on redshirt junior DE Earl Okine: “He’s done a nice job. He’s done a better job preparing himself throughout the week as far as practice is concerned and that gives him other opportunities to play.”

» Muschamp on if he is seeing he team mature: “From a competitive standpoint and how we’re practicing, how we’re approaching things, as far as the team is concerned, I do think we’ve made some positive strides.”

» Muschamp on not walking on with the Gators: “Not that Florida missed anything [with me] as a player. I can tell you that.”

» Muschamp on the strides redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard has made: “I think Jaye has played really well. I thought he played well Saturday. He’s a guy that we really challenged him as far as playing hard every snap, giving great effort all the time. Jaye is very talented. He’s strong. He’s a very good athlete. He can bend his lower body, play blocks. A lot of Jaye needs to play hard all the time and do it all the time and be a guy that really shines. I’ve been really proud of his performance and how he’s played this year. I think he’s been very consistent this year.”

» Muschamp on how sophomore safety Matt Elam has stepped up: “He is communicating very well. He was not a very vocal player when I came in here from a standpoint of communicating. He was more worried about getting himself lined up and with what he was doing. He’s got a better understanding of what we’re doing schematically to understand what the other safety needs to do, what the nickel needs to do. He’s got very good playmaking skills and ability. He’s got natural instincts as a football player. He sees the play before it happens a lot. He anticipates the route breaking off. He anticipates where the runner is going to break. He anticipates where the ball is going.”

» Muschamp on freshman fullback Hunter Joyer: “Wow. He’s had an outstanding year. He’s going to be a heck of a football player for us. He’s smart, understands football. He gets it. It’s important to him. He’s very intelligent and tough. He’s a guy who we like giving the ball too as he gets a lot of positive yards after contact. He’s a really good blocker and picks up the game very well. I think he’s had an outstanding freshman season. He’s basically been the starter for us all year.”

» Muschamp on if he watched Alabama-LSU: “I got through about halftime and then fell asleep [out of exhaustion].”

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9/19: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

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

OPENING STATEMENT AND PLAYER AWARDS

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

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

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

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

INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

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

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

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

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

A TAKE ON KENTUCKY

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

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

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

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

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

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

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

WEIS’s INFLUENCE DRIVING THE OFFENSE

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

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

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

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

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

SECONDARY NEEDS TO SOLIDIFY, BUT IT IS GETTING THERE

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

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

NOTES & QUOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (69-60)

With the 2010-11 athletic season now in the books and the 2011-12 season about to begin, the focus has shifted from some of the school’s smaller sports to, of course, Florida Gators football. In this new series, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, until the season begins.

68 – Leon Orr (New Port Richey, FL)
Redshirt freshman defensive tackle
6’4” 299 lbs.

Quick Bio: A social & behavioral sciences major, Orr was a four-star recruit coming out of high school who was rated as the No. 8 player in the nation at his position.

2010 Season: Dressed for four games but did not play and took a redshirt. Orr practiced a bit as a tight end and offensive lineman but transitioned back to his natural position as the season went on.

2011 Outlook: Now playing defensive tackle once again, Orr has a shot to see the field in 2011. Head coach Will Muschamp described him as “a bigger body guy that can hold the point inside” and had him listed as the back-up to sophomore DT Dominique Easley on the spring depth chart. However, two veterans were unable to participate in spring practice, and Orr will likely have limited opportunities to make an impact.

67 – Jon Halapio (St. Petersburg, FL)
Redshirt sophomore guard
6’3” 315 lbs.

Quick Bio: Though the mane poking out the back of his helmet makes him easy to spot, Halapio is quickly becoming a lineman that defenders hope to avoid when lining up. A social & behavioral sciences major, he played in three games as a freshman in 2009 but ended up receiving a medical redshirt. Halapio saw time at all five positions on the offensive line in high school.

2010 Season: The Gators’ starting right guard for seven games last year (including four of the final five), he played in 12 games in total and graded out as a Champion against both Kentucky and Georgia. Halapio was named to the 2010 Sporting News All-Freshman Team for his efforts.

2011 Outlook: Unless something changes, Halapio will start at right guard for Florida when the season begins. He has added a few pounds to his frame and was praised by sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell for his work during the spring. “Jon Halapio is a beast, man-child, doing great things on and off the field,” Powell said. “[He’s] just a great guy. You’d never know he’s the type of player he is when you see him off the field. He’s kind of a cuddly guy. On the field, he’s rough – rough.” He also received high acclaim from Muschamp, who said he is also thoroughly impressed with Halapio.

66 – James Wilson (St. Augustine, FL)
Redshirt senior guard
6’3” 325 lbs.

Quick Bio: The No. 2 overall prospect according to Rivals in his recruiting class, Wilson was a five-star recruit who redshirted as a freshman and played in 24 of the Gators’ 28 games from 2008-09, starting four contests. He is a social & behavioral sciences major who is looking to take his talents to the next level in his final collegiate season.

2010 Season: Wilson started at left guard against Miami (OH) but was unable to play in Florida’s final 10 games of 2010 due to a left knee injury.

2011 Outlook: Left off the spring depth chart and called “very limited” by Muschamp while continuing to recover from his knee injury, Wilson’s role in 2011 remains up in the air. With redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison moving to center, the left guard job is available for him to claim but there is plenty of competition he must beat out first.

65 – Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT)
Freshman guard
6’5” 297 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit, Jordan was the No. 2 prospect coming out of Connecticut and enrolled during the summer.

2011 Outlook: With plenty of depth at the position, he is a candidate for a redshirt.

64 – Kyle Koehne (Indianapolis, IN)
Redshirt sophomore tackle
6’5” 300 lbs.

Quick Bio: A social & behavioral sciences major like his linemates, Koehne was a three-year starter in high school who left as a three-star recruit. He dressed six times in 2009 but did not see the field.

2010 Season: Though he played in all 13 games, Koehne did so mostly as a member of the field goal unit. He lined up at both tackle and guard on occasion in a reserve role.

2011 Outlook: Slotted as the back-up left tackle on the initial spring depth chart, Koehne will move down to third string once redshirt junior Matt Patchan is declared healthy. He will likely reprise his 2010 role in 2011 unless he can impress enough to move up in the depth chart on the right side.

63 – Trip Thurman (Dover, DE)
Freshman guard
6’6” 302 lbs.

Quick Bio: The top recruit in his state, Thurman was a four-star recruit coming out of high school who also chose to enroll in the summer.

2011 Outlook: Another candidate for a redshirt as a freshman.

60 – William Steinmann (Daytona Beach, FL)
Senior tackle
6’5” 265 lbs.

Quick Bio: A scout player most of his freshman season, the unheralded Steinmann ended up playing against the Citadel in 2008 and saw action in five games in 2009 after suiting up for nearly every contest. He is a political science major who earned a spot on the Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2009 and 2010.

2010 Season: Steinmann participated in 12 of the 13 games, mostly on special teams as a part of the field goal unit.

2011 Outlook: He was listed as the second-team left guard during the spring but will likely only see the field for special teams downs this year.

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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