Friday Final: Florida focused impressing in opener, running backs primed for breakout

A number of Florida Gators football players spoke at length this week ahead of Saturday’s season-opening contest against the Idaho Vandals, which is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, and air live on ESPNU.

Below are some of the week’s top stories along with notes and quotes that either fell through the cracks or did not make it into one of the six posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links below).

Tuesday: Depth chart for Idaho game | Notebook – Will Muschamp evaluates team, previews first game | Story – Treon Harris named backup quarterback

Thursday: Notebook – Kurt Roper addresses hot topics, D.J. Durkin evaluates unit

Friday: 54 Florida football facts, stats and tidbits

DYNAMIC DUO

No designations have been made as to which player will assume the role of Batman (and the other Robin) but the Gators certainly have a pair of running backs looking to wipe the floor with defenses like they are criminals roaming the streets of Gotham.

Junior Matt Jones was primed for a breakout campaign in 2013 after exploding during the end of his freshman season, but a serious viral infection seriously affected his health and kept him out of the season opener. Weeks later, a season-ending knee injury derailed the progress he made.

Florida looked prepared to redshirt freshman Kelvin Taylor, preserving his eligibility while using Jones and now-redshirt senior Mack Brown last season. But Jones’s injury thrust Taylor into the spotlight, and he responded with 508 yards and four touchdowns.

Rather than worrying about competing with each other, Jones and Taylor hope to bring UF’s running game to new heights. Neither is at all concerned with their touches but rather making the most of each carry and reception while pushing the Gators offense forward.

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Florida football preview: 54 facts, stats and tidbits

In an attempt to preview the 108th season of Florida Gators football, OnlyGators.com decided to find 108 interesting facts, important statistics and relevant historical tidbits about the team. The process proved to be more daunting than initially expected.

Below you will find 54 different notes to prime you for the 2014 campaign, which kicks off against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday, Aug. 30 live from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, at 7 p.m.

1. Florida finished 2013 with a 4-8 record, putting together its first losing season since it went winless (0-10-1) in 1979. UF rebounded to finish 8-4 in 1980, setting an NCAA record for best turnaround in major college football history at the time. The Gators were also the first team ever to play in a bowl game after failing to win a game the season prior.

2. Will Muschamp (43) is the second-youngest coach in the SEC behind Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen (42).

3. Muschamp’s 22-16 record through three seasons (2011-13) is the worst for a Florida head coach in that span since Charley Pell went 15-19-1 from 1979-81.

4. Kurt Roper is Muschamp’s third offensive coordinator in four seasons and UF’s fifth in the last seven years, while Mike Summers is Muschamp’s third offensive line coach in four seasons.

5…starters played in all 12 games for Florida in 2013.

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Florida coordinators Kurt Roper, D.J. Durkin evaluate units ahead of opener vs. Idaho

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media this week to provide some thoughts on the Gators and their first opponent of 2014, the Idaho Vandals ahead of Saturday evening’s showdown at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

PLANNING TO MEET EXPECTATIONS

Do not worry, fans, Roper is well-aware of what you expect to see out of his offense on Saturday. In his first year at the helm of Florida’s offense, Roper has every intention on lighting the scoreboard up and winning games with his up-tempo system, though it will be up to the players on the field to execute his vision.

In fact, he not only senses the pressure but embraces it and hopes that Gators fans will have smiles on their faces by the time they leave The Swamp late Saturday evening.

“I hope they’re excited. I want them to be excited. I hope we meet the expectations,” he said on Thursday. “Whenever you are coaching at the University of Florida, the expectations are to win football games. I think that’s really the bottom line.

“I hope we can do it with exciting offense and a lot of points. Obviously, I don’t want to let anybody down, much less the guys that we’re working with all the time. We want to go out and play well. I hope, at the end of the day, they’re happy I’m here.”

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Florida Gators 2014 season-opening depth chart

Though things will undoubtedly change for the Florida Gators throughout the 2014 season, likely even before its season-opener against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday released the team’s first official depth chart in nine months.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Treon Harris
RB: 21 Kelvin Taylor OR 24 Matt Jones OR 33 Mack Brown
F/B: 41 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
TE/B: 88 Clay Burton, 83 Jake McGee
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson, 89 Alvin Bailey
WR (Z): 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 4 Andre Debose, 85 Chris Thompson
WR (Y): 9 Latroy Pittman, 10 Valdez Showers, 14 C.J. Worton

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 78 David Sharpe
LG: 63 Trip Thurman, 73 Tyler Moore, 71 Antonio Riles
C: 76 Max Garcia, 72 Drew Sarvary
RG: 74 Trenton Brown OR 73 Tyler Moore
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 55 Roderick Johnson

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Florida opponent previews – Missouri and Georgia

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

After squaring off against two bitter rivals, the Florida Gators will square off against one of the two newest additions to the Southeastern Conference, the Missouri Tigers.

The 2013 Florida squad drew comparisons to Missouri’s 2012 team, under-performing because of excessive injuries that ravaged its roster. The Gators hope to replicate what the Tigers did in 2013 as well as the program rebounded from that injury-plagued season to win the SEC East with a 7-1 conference record.

Head-to-Head

FLORIDA GATORS MISSOURI TIGERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp (Year: 4) Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (Year: 14)
2013 Record: 4-8 (3-5) 2013 Record: 12-2 (7-1)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Common Opponents: 3-3 Common Opponents: 5-1
Scoring Offense: T-112th (18.8 ppg) Scoring Offense: 13th (39.1 ppg)
Scoring Defense: 15th (21.1 ppg) Scoring Defense: 34th (23.1 ppg)

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8/22: Muschamp’s last update before game week

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday to conclude his team’s last week of practice before game week. Florida will get the weekend off and return to practice on Monday in preparation for its season-opener against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

INJURY UPDATES

For the first time in a while, Muschamp did not have much to say on the injury front.

Freshman offensive tackle David Sharpe, who is fourth on the depth chart and an important player for Florida this fall, is expected to return on Monday after missing some time with an ankle injury. Redshirt sophomore Marcus Maye, in competition for a starting job in the secondary, will be back in action on Tuesday or Wednesday coming off a significant hamstring strain.

Additionally, redshirt freshman linebacker Matt Rolin, who has been fully cleared to practice all fall after undergoing a second surgery for a torn ACL in as many years, is “coming along slowly” as planned by the coaching staff.

Muschamp remarked that the Gators only having two “soft tissue issues” is “outstanding” and “the best I’ve been around.” He added: “It tells you we’re training the right way.”

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Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III injures left knee

Updated at 11:10 p.m.

Florida Gators sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, widely considered the team’s best returning player on either side of the ball, injured his left knee in the middle of practice Thursday evening.

Hours later, results of an MRI determined that it was not a serious injury.

“An MRI revealed that Vernon Hargreaves suffered a bone bruise, and he is listed as day-to-day,” said head coach Will Muschamp in a statement released by the team.

According to reporters on-site, including the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson and the Independent Florida Alligator’s Richard Johnson, Hargreaves was helped off the practice field by two trainers after a scuffle broke out between Florida’s defensive backs and wide receivers during a drill.

He was reportedly unable to put any significant pressure on his left knee while trainers were testing it in a tent far removed from reporters and fans, all of which gathered Thursday night for the Gators’ first open fall practice of 2014.

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3/25: Florida defense years ahead of offense, Gators injury and depth chart updates

Spring practice remains underway for the Florida Gators with the team participating in workouts, many of which have been open to the public, for the second-straight week. Head coach Will Muschamp discussed practice, provided injury updates and went over a number of hot topics when he met with the media Tuesday afternoon.

FOUR DAYS VS. FOUR YEARS

Twice on Tuesday, Muschamp made it a point to note that there is quite a disparity between the respective preparedness of Florida’s offense and defense.

“Our team, let’s see, has had four days of installation offensively…and about four years of installation defensively. I think that puts things in perspective a little bit about where we are,” he explained.

Though the Gators defense lost most of its best players to graduation and the NFL Draft, the remaining student-athletes are all familiar with the system and simply building their knowledge base from one season to the next. In fact, Muschamp said Florida has “not cut back at all defensively” with formations or play calling, trying to make things “as hard as possible” on an offense that is much less comfortable in its own skin.

New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has only been able to work with his unit on the field for four days, but Muschamp noted that he is “really pleased with the production” the offense has shown thus far, saying it is “really playing fast, physical” and “really limiting negative plays.” He also praised Roper for his approach to this point.

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