Wrapping up 2013 fall camp for the Florida Gators

By Adam Silverstein
August 30, 2013

It is less than 24 hours before the No. 10 Florida Gators host Toledo in the season opener for both teams at 12:21 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. With the offseason now coming to a close, it is time to empty out the notebook of saved thoughts from Florida student-athletes that did not make it into the dozens of stories written over the last few weeks. Check out links to a number of the preseason features below and the remainder of the quotes after the break.

» Florida QB Jeff Driskel learning to get down
» Gators LB Antonio Morrison apologizes but holds back details of arrests, punishments
» Gators RBs Mack Brown, Valdez Showers ready for opportunity
» Don’t forget about Gators CB Jaylen Watkins
» What the Browns can do for the Gators in 2013
» Hype train rolls on for Florida S Marcus Maye
» Emotional walk-on RB Mark Herndon earns UF scholarship
» Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler, Jr. rush Gators defense up a notch
» Mike Peterson impressed by Will Muschamp, ready to coach
» Appendix out, wound healed, Jeff Driskel ready to work
» Assistant Joker Phillips developing much-needed improvement at wide receiver
» Cody Riggs hopes to lock down a starting gig (he did)

» Senior cornerback Jaylen Watkins on how junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy looks heading into the season: “Loucheiz is very physical. He has all the things that cornerback needs. He can press you, he can off play you and he’s very, very fast. I think he has all the tools to be a great cornerback. Either you get better or you get worse during the offseason and as you progress during the year. Watching Loucheiz from his freshman year to how he is now, he’s made a really big improvement. I’m actually excited to watch him play this year, even though I’ll be on the field with him.”

» Senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley on changes he has seen from junior quarterback Jeff Driskel in the offseason: “I believe he has much more confidence in himself. He’s more confident in himself, so he’s more vocal to the team and understands what his role is.”

» Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Ronald Powell on sophomore LB Antonio Morrison and his offseason arrests: “First off, I want to say it’s very unfortunate. He’s a guy that’s really passionate about this game. He loves the game. That’s probably why he’s suspended because coach knows he loves the game so much. He has to step in and give some consequences. Once it’s all over, it’s going to be good to see a teammate that loves the sport as much as he does, and loves his teammates as much as he does, to be back out there and get the experience of running out there in The Swamp together as a team collectively, just sharing that with him. I know he’s excited for that and he’s waiting for that and this is something he’s not taking lightly.”

» Morrison on moving from Will to Mike at the linebacker position: “It’s not really a big difference position-wise. Will is more coverage, so I say for me Mike is a little bit easier position. Just more physical, more hitting linemen, hitting pulling guards and stuff like that. Will is more covering, covering slot receivers and tight ends. I feel more comfortable at Mike. Not saying I can’t cover, but I feel more comfortable at Mike.”

» Powell on wishing more of his classmates returned for the 2013 season: “Being out for my own selfish wants, I would have loved Matt [Elam] and Sharrif [Floyd] to come back to be able to play with those guys again because I feel like I missed out. I missed out playing with those guys. Those guys are like brothers to me. Just for my own selfish wants, I would have loved to have been out there with them again. It meant a lot to me to have a guy like Easley that I feel like that about o tome back with me and share this experience with me for one more time.”

» Powell on missing the 2012 season: “Not being able to do those things that I want to do like run out in The Swamp and go out and be protective with them guys, you miss the little things like when you see your guys make a play and they’re jumping up in the air together and you’re on the sideline. You just don’t have that. For so many years, I had that. When you lose that, it’s something that you struggle with.”

» Powell on planning to play last season but suffering a setback and how that changed his mentality during recovery: “Coming back from my last surgery, I was expecting to come back for LSU. I didn’t know how realistic that was but that was my goal. I pictured things like my mom being out there, just the feel of running out in The Swamp. So I kind of tried to stay away from that with this upcoming season and just focus on being ready, just being ready to go out and having the opportunity again to run out in The Swamp more than thinking about it being my first game, Toledo, or whatever. Kind of just embracing being able to go out there again.”

» Powell on having the game taken away from him for 20 months: “I’ve always expected the most out of myself. That’s every day I wake up. I think I was raised like that. That’s coming I’ve kept with me all my life. It definitely gives you something else because it’s been taken away from you. All those years that you’ve been playing the game, you’ve never expected the game to be taken away. At that very moment, it’s been taken away. I was sidelined and I couldn’t do those things I wanted to do. It wasn’t like if I could, I wanted to, it was like I was on the sideline and I just had to watch or I was sitting at home and I was watching it on TV.”

» Powell on how being injured humbled him: “Definitely. Going through something like this, not to say that a lot of people in this room has probably said how humbled they were, but when you go through something you never thought you would go through, it don’t matter how humble you are, you get humbler because it’s a different experience. You learn the value in things you may have not valued before. One example for me was when you come into the defensive meeting rooms and that depth chart goes up. Your name is not on there. That was something that I had to really realize like, man, I appreciate when my name is up there.”

» Head coach Will Muschamp on if it was tough to recruit sophomores Buck LB Dante Fowler, Jr. and defensive end Jonathan Bullard because they would have similar roles: “No, that was one of the huge evaluations in the recruiting process for me is guy who aren’t afraid of competition. Those guys aren’t afraid of anybody. They’ll line up, and they’re very confident in their abilities and what they can do. They’re not worried about competition. Those guys that start asking you about the depth chart, about the third time, I’m done. We’re going to have good players at Florida. We’re going to have good players next year. We’re going to have good players two years from now. If you’re afraid of competition, this is not a good place to come.”

» Muschamp on how it will feel to see Powell returning to the field: “A guy that’s been through a tough deal. You go through two ACLs, the setbacks. As hard as he worked to get back the first time, that’s what people don’t realize, he was a guy that was going to probably end up playing the latter part of the season for us last season before the second tear happened. A guy that has just put so much into – as a coach you get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing somebody put so much into something and now you’re going to see them having the benefit of going out and playing. That’s really, at the end of the day, what’s fun about playing college football.”

» Muschamp on his expectations for Fowler: “I’ve got huge expectations, a guy that’s played extremely well. Number one, he had a great offseason. He approached it the right way, worked hard. He worked hard on the things we asked him to work hard on. He’s a very coachable young man and a guy that’s had a really good fall camp, really worked hard. He approaches it the way you’re supposed to. He goes after it every single day. He plays hard for the University of Florida.”

» Muschamp on Powell taking Fowler under his wing: “I think that’s about a maturing football team, a guy that’s willing to take somebody under their wing, a young player and help them develop. That’s what good football teams do.t hats’ what good football programs do. They helped develop the young players within how we practice, how we approach meetings, all of the things we need to do to be successful. That’s’ what we’ve got a bunch of older guys that understand that now.”

» Fowler on finally being able to play alongside Powell: “It’s going to be real nice having us on both sides and stuff like that. We talk about it a lot. He was like, ‘When I look at you on one side, I look at him on the other side, that should tell us that it’s go time and we’re ready to play.’ Especially what he had to deal with – with two ACL surgeries – a lot of people would just be like, ‘I’m done. I’m done with football.’ He never gave up. He kept pushing, and I can’t wait for him to play.”

» Fowler on how new defensive line coach Brad Lawing has helped his game: “He brought a lot of good things. I know he’s been coaching for 30-soemthing years, I guess. He’s coached a lot of greats like Jadeveon [Clowney] and Melvin Ingram, some players that I look up to a lot. Just his pass rush, the stuff that he gives us, some things that I never even knew about, some techniques that have really helped me and some other guys in the pass rush.”

» Fowler on the Gators’ pass rush in general: “I feel like the pass rush is going to be a lot better. I know last year we played a lot of DBs on the field, but I know this year, I think Champ is going to make us pin our ears back and allow us to rush a lot. From how it’s looking in camp, I think we’re going to do really good.”

» Fowler on Bullard: “Jon Jon is like my brother. That’s just how it is. We was two good guys coming out of high school. We told each other that we’re just going to have to face the fact of us being compared to each other a lot. Jon Jon brings some stuff to the table that he does, and I bring some stuff to the table that I do well. He’s a great run stopper; I’m a great pass rusher. We just take it as a good thing. We love each other. We call each other the Bash Bros. and whatever, we got our little nicknames. We just go out there and try to compete every time, and I think that’s what makes us good.”

» Fowler on if the Bash Bros. have a celebration: “We got a little something. We got a high-five type of celebration that will be something for y’all to see.”

» Fowler on not playing too much as a freshman: “It’s just a learning experience, you know? I was a freshman so I had to play a freshman role. I wasn’t really expecting to come in here and start and be a big-time defensive end. I would’ve liked that, but I just came in here and did what I was supposed to do to be a great defensive end. Looking at Lerentee McCray and Easley, I just learned some things and added my type of spice to it. Now that I’m in that role, I’m ready to go.”

» Bullard on Lawing: “I feel like he’s doing a lot of stuff with my hands and my hip work. Me being a bigger end, I didn’t always have the best hips last year, really setting the edge of the pass rush. I was more of like a run stop guy last year, but l feel like my hips are getting better so it’s better for me this year.”

» Bullard on almost committing to South Carolina and starting his career playing under Lawing: “Actually it’s funny because I’m going through recruiting with Coach Lawing and he told me, every time I talked to him, ‘Bullard, I’m going to coach you, I’m going to coach you.’ So when he came here, the first time I saw him he said, ‘Bullard, I didn’t think it was going to be here, but didn’t I tell you I was going to coach you?’”

» Bullard on how he plans to improve in his second season: “Last year, me learning, I wasn’t the guy they were looking at. But now I got to set an example for the younger guys that are coming in. it just makes me want to push myself that much harder to show them that it takes work. It’s a different level than high school, which I experienced fast being thrown in that fast. It’s just stepping up, trying to be a good role model.”

» Watkins on how Fowler has looked during the offseason: “Dante had a great camp. … He took more strides than I’ve previously seen from any freshman, pretty much. Him playing last year in those big games got him ready for being a starter this year. Everybody is proud of him, and he’s embracing the role of being a starter instead of being complacent and not wanting to work hard for his position. He’s definitely a mature guy. He was a mature guy coming in last year and that’s why he saw the field.”

» Driskel on getting Powell back: “He’s a physical presence out there, a guy you got to account for. You got to know if he’s a stand-up linebacker or a hand-in-the-ground defensive end. He can do it all. His knee is looking great out there, and I’m really excited for him to get back out there. He’s had a long road, and he’s worked really hard to get back where he is, so I’m excited for him to show it in-game.”

» Redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin on what he learned from Caleb Sturgis last year: “I learned a lot about the mental side of kicking. Before in high school, it came naturally to me. I didn’t realize there was such a mental aspect to it, especially at this level where everyone can kick and everyone can do a good job at their position. Really from him, it was just about getting a routine and learning different mental aspects of kicking.”

» Hardin being involved in a kicking competition with senior Brad Phillips: “When I came here, it’s like now I actually have to compete for the job, it’s not just going to be handed to me. I think that really brought out the best in me and also helped me grow a lot as a kicker. … Just going through that competition really helped me prepare for I think all the stresses of a game. What it’s like to miss one and then have to come back and make one because your job is on the line.”

» Hardin on keeping his starting job: “It’s college football. It’s a business. I feel like every practice, every day I’m going to have to go out and prove I am the starter for a reason. So I’m going to take that to heart every day and act like my job is on the line every day.”

» Hardin on if he would like to run a fake field goal: “I would love to run a fake, to be honest. I played other positions in high school. I played soccer growing up. I think I’m fast and athletic, so I think I could run a fake. I would love for them to put one in for me.”

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