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
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.
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.”