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17 posts from October 2012

October 31, 2012

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas alum Cody Riggs (foot) still out

Junior defensive back Cody Riggs is still not ready to return from a broken foot he suffered against Texas A&M in the second week of the season, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said Wednesday.

Riggs was originally expected to be out 4 to 6 weeks with the injury, but the Missouri game will mark 8 sinces since the injury occurred. Before Florida's game against South Carolina, Riggs was seen walking on the sideline without the protective boot he had worn in previous weeks, but Quinn said Wednesday there was no update on his status.

"Each one (injury) is different, and it's hard to put a timetable on it," Quinn said.

A medical redshirt is certainly in the cards for Riggs, which is something Quinn attested to Wednesday, saying it's "something we'd certainly consider moving forward."

"At this time, we're just kind of trying to push to try and get everybody back available as we needed," Quinn said. "With him just not being back yet, at [defensive back], if you can't go and run and do the things you need to do then you're not ready yet. Certainly, at that position, when you get outside there on the freeway at corner or safety, you better be able to run."

To receive a medical redshirt, a player must not have played in more than four of a team's games and not past the sixth game of the season. The school must also prove an injury, which would not be an issue in this case. But Quinn said the coaching staff has not yet discussed a redshirt.

October 29, 2012

Gators injuries: Patton out for the year; McCray, Jacobs, Nixon, Wilson updates

Wide receiver Solomon Patton is out for the season after suffering a broken upper arm in Saturday's loss to Georgia, coach Will Muschamp confirmed on Monday.

Patton's arm was trapped underneath his body as he was tackled around the neck by Bulldogs safety Shawn Williams on a fourth-and-1 jet sweep in the first half Saturday. Patton was the team's third-leading rusher with 14 carries for 140 yards. He also had one catch for 17 yards. Muschamp said he will return in the spring, seemingly ruling out any chance of playing in a bowl game in about eight weeks.

Defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (hip) could return to practice on Tuesday, Muschamp said. "I think he will, based on the report I got this morning," Muschamp said. Jacobs did not travel to Jacksonville for Saturday's game.

Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray (ankle) is probable for Saturday's game against Missouri but will not practice until Wednesday, Muschamp said.

Offensive linemen Xavier Nixon and James Wilson both twisted a knee in Saturday's loss and should return to practice on Tuesday, Muschamp said.

 

UF falls in BCS, other polls; time set for Missouri game

After falling to Georgia 17-9 on Saturday, Florida fell from No. 2 to No. 7 when the new Bowl Championship Series standings were released Sunday.

The Gators dropped from No. 3 to No. 8. in the USA Today/Coaches Poll, the AP Top 25 and the Harris Poll.

In the BCS, the Bulldogs moved up from No. 10 to No. 6, while LSU, which UF defeated on Oct. 6, is now No. 5. Alabama retains the top spot and is followed by new No. 2 Kansas State, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Oregon. The strength of the Irish's win over Oklahoma has them ranked first overall and no lower than second in all the computer polls and helped propel them past Oregon.

No. 7 South Carolina, No. 8 Florida State and No. 9 Louisville round out the BCS Top 10.

Early kick this Saturday

Florida's game against Missouri at home this Saturday will kick off at 12 p.m. eastern and be televised on ESPN2. It will be the earliest the Gators have played this season and only the second game to kick off before 3:30 p.m.

October 26, 2012

Gators offensive lineman arrested, facing two alcohol-related charges

Florida offensive lineman Trip Thurman, 20, is facing charges of possession of a driver's license or identification card with an altered date of birth and possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21, Alachua County Court records show.

Both charges are second-degree misdemeanors.

Thurman, a redshirt freshman whose legal name is Frederick Alexander Thurman III, was originally charged on June 15 with a third-degree felony for possession of a forged driver's license or identification card after University of Florida police stopped Thurman's vehicle at the intersection of Gale Lemerand Drive and Stadium Road on UF's campus.

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Trip Thurman (GatorZone.com)
It is unclear why Thurman was initially stopped, but when the officer who stopped him asked for his driver's license the officer noticed within Thurman's wallet "what appeared to be a forged Florida driver license" which "made Thurman over the age of 21 and in turn able to purchase alcoholic beverages," according to a UPD report.

The officer read Thurman his Miranda rights and afterward, according to the report, Thurman allegedly stated the license was a "fake" and that he "used the license to gain access into night clubs."

Gainesville attorney Huntley Johnson, who has represented numerous Florida athletes in the past, filed a written plea of not guilty in Alachua court on Thurman's behalf a little more than a week after the arrest. The felony charge was reduced to the misdemeanor charge, and Thurman accepted a deferred prosecution agreement on Sept. 25 that stated he must pay $50 in prosecution fees and donate $100 to a local not-for-profit organization called Pleasant Place or perform 10 hours of community service. The agreement also stated he must "refrain from, violating any federal or state law or county or municipal ordinance" for four months. If he met those requirements, the charge would be dropped from his record.

However, two days after signing the agreement, Thurman on Sept. 27 was issued a written arrest/notice to appear for allegedly being in possession of a beer at The Florida Theater at 233 W. University Ave. during a concert by country singer Corey Smith.

According to a Gainesille Police Department record, officer Lonnie Scott observed Thurman holding a half-full can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and when he saw the officer, Thurman "immediately placed the drink down on the ground (next to his left foot) in an attempt to discard the alcoholic beverage." The report also states that Thurman had black "X's" on his hands to indicate that he was under the age of 21.

Because he violated the terms of his deferred prosecution agreement, it's likely Thurman will now be again facing the charge for misdemeanor possession of a forged driver's license. Both cases are listed as "open" in the Alachua County Court system, and a court date has been set for December 5 at 9 a.m.

A spokesperson for the Florida football program did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Thurman is the 10th player and 12th and 13th individual arrest since Will Muschamp took over for Urban Meyer as the Gators' head coach. He is the first player to be arrested since tight end A.C. Leonard was charged with domestic battery in February defensive tackle Leon Orr was cited in May for driving with a suspended license, breaking the agreement he signed following an arrest on marijuana charges in January.

Thurman appeared in four games as a freshman last season before undergoing shoulder surgery and taking a redshirt. He has not made a start but has appeared in three games this season, mostly on special teams. Thurman, 6-6, 320 pounds, was rated by Rivals.com as a four-star recruit out of Dover High in Dover, Del.

No. 3 Florida plays No. 12 Georgia at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Jacksonville. The Gators can clinch the Southeastern Conference East division with a win.

October 25, 2012

Gators aware of change in public perception, return of fans and 'believers'

Florida Handling Succ_Inde
AP Photo


Winning changes everything.

For everyone with a stake in the Gators' football program, last year wasn't much fun. Mired in a second straight year of mediocrity on the field, fan interest in the Florida football team expectedly dwindled.

You know what I'm talking about. After four straight losses in October, it was a lot harder to wear that Tebow jersey or Gators T-Shirt to work for casual Friday, right? (Note: I'm a fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, so you know I get it.)

It's only natural. It happens to every team in every sport. Not even the beloved Boston Red Sox are immune, as evidenced by the paltry crowds at Fenway late in the year. Who wants to watch your favorite team implode, especially when it was on top of the world as recently as the Gators and Red Sox have been.

Well, the players notice that, too.

Defensive tackle Omar Hunter said the change in public perception from a 7-6 season in 2011 to a 7-0 start in 2012 has been noticeable.

"It's pretty funny actually," he said. "Just hearing everybody say, 'Go Gators,' you know, whereas last year it was, 'Man, we suck.' Hearing 'Go Gators' now, it's been a complete 360."

Headed up by strength coach Jeff Dillman, the Gators have rallied around the slogan "Florida Never Breaks," represented by the acronym "FNB." Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd had it written on his tape during Saturday's win against South Carolina. Players wear shirts with the slogan or letters as constant reminders.

"They've been preaching it to us all offseason," Hunter said. "When times were the worst this offseason and beginning of the season when no one believed in us, we kept saying it: Florida Never Breaks, Florida Never Breaks. And I think it's just really stuck with guys."

The doubt didn't subside much after the season-opening win against Bowling Green failed to wow most fans. Even after Florida won two conference games on the road in the season's first three weeks, there was still skepticism. Attendance for the first two home games was spotty, with nearly 6,000 empty seats against Bowling Green and roughly 3,000 against Kentucky.

"Coming into the season, we really didn't have many fans like what we're used to," center Jonotthan Harrison said. "We weren't really worried about it. We're playing for each other. We're playing for the players in the locker room, the coaches, the training staff."

But now, after two wins against top-10 opponents, the Gators are ranked No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings and suddenly people care again. Funny how that works.

Before the home game against South Carolina, a sellout, fullback Hunter Joyer said there was a different atmosphere around the school.

"You walk through the campus and there's people telling you good job and keep it up, saying they're really excited for this weekend, so it's a pretty good vibe," he said, adding that the BCS rankings and wins have brought attention from friends "and a couple of old teachers" who he doesn't usually hear from.

Joyer was then asked if it was like that last year, if the Gators had people approach them during game weeks.

"For like the Alabama game, we did," he said.

That game, a devastating blowout loss, set the stage for the winless October and the downturn in fan interest. The stands were nearly empty well before the game ended. They were full three weeks ago when Florida beat LSU, and the bandwagon filled up quickly after the Gators won.

Harrison knew what was coming. After the 14-6 win over the Tigers, he was asked what it meant to play on such a big stage after the nature of the last two seasons. Nothing, he said.

"We clear out all that clutter, especially since in the beginning of the season, our first Gator Walk especially, we had no fans out there," he said. "You know what I mean? Nobody was behind us. Nobody was supporting us, and that's just our motivation.

"The fact that this is a national audience or a full stadium or whatever it is, you know, we just block that out of our mind. We just keep it ourself that, you know, this isn't going to faze us. No matter how many people are watching, no matter how full the stadium is, we're playing for each other. We're playing for the coaches. We're playing for the players to the left and right of us. As long as we do that we will succeed."

Again, that's where "FNB" comes back into play. Quarterback Jeff Driskel called it a "unity-type thing," and it's become clear that the Gators are playing with the right mindset.

"Honestly, we really don’t care how people think we do," defensive end Dominique Easley said. "We take every game that we lost, every game that we lost, that we weren’t close, we take all of that personally. All of that is personal. Because that’s each other. We let down each other. So it’s more than a football game."

October 24, 2012

Pease pleased with local WR Dunbar after one-on-one talk

South Carolina Florid_Inde(1)
Florida's Quinton Dunbar (1) breaks away from South Carolina cornerback Jimmy Legree (15) on a 13-yard touchdown pass play during the first half Saturday, Oct. 20. (AP Photo/John Raoux)


WIth Florida's passing offense struggling to produce at least 100 yards in the team's last three games it's become difficult to find a bright spot, however offensive coordinator Brent Pease said he's seen an uptick in wide receiver Quinton Dunbar's play.

Pease said he had a recent conversation with Dunbar to ask him how things are going and provide some motivation for consistent play.

"I said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to continue to work hard and the ball comes your way if you’re doing the right things,'" Pease said.

Dunbar, a redshirt sophomore from Miami's Booker T. Washington High, responded with two catches for 29 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter of Florida's 44-11 win over South Carolina on Saturday. On the scoring play, a third-and-6 situation from the South Carolina 13, quarterback Jeff Driskel hit Dunbar on a curl route on the left hashmark and Dunbar made two defenders miss and scampered into the end zone untouched.

"In some situations, we’ve run the same play before, but coverages don’t allow the ball to go where he was at," Pease said. "That coverage in particular allowed the ball to go where he was at and he made a great play with it. So when your opportunity comes, you need to be in the right place and running the right route and making the plays and he did."

While Dunbar still has a ways to go to develop into a go-to receiver for the Gators, he has made strides in his second season as a regular contributor on offense. He leads all Florida receivers with 15 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow South Florida product Frankie Hammond of Hollywood Hallandale leads the unit in total yards (220) and touchdowns (3).

But in this offense, which is predicated heavily on running the football, more goes into being a productive receiver than filling the stat sheet, Pease said.

"[Dunbar] had a great game," he said. "I mean a lot of those guys, Frankie –- I look at the couple of plays he had on third down, a touchdown catch and the run by Omarius, Frankie had a great block that nobody noticed. It’s key that he gets the block and that’s why Omarius scores. A lot of guys think if you really look down the process in the end, they’re all kind of becoming the go-to or effective players and they’re all producing. And that’s my whole thing.”

 

 

October 22, 2012

Florida punter Kyle Christy sets school record, earns SEC weekly honors

After booming six of his seven punts at least 50 yards in Saturday's win against South Carolina, Florida punter Kyle Christy is raking in the accolades.

Christy's average of 54.3 set a new single-game school record, and it boosted his season average up to 47.49, which leads the nation. In recognition of his performance, the Southeastern Conference named Christy the Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday.

Christy's net average of 44.24 also leads the nation, and it's that number that he said special teams coach D.J. Durkin is most concerned with.

"We put a lot of value just on net punt," Christy said Saturday. "Hangtime is really important, but it's obviously got to go far, too. A lot of times coach Durkin would rather have a really high, somewhat short punt than a line drive because that gives them the chance to return it."

South Carolina Florid_Inde
AP Photo

With the offense stalled inside its own 20, Christy's first punt went for a season-long 62 yards and helped Florida flip the field position. Just a sophomore, Christy already has 24 punts of longer than 50 yards, and coach Will Muschamp has described him with words such as "gamechanger," "weapon" and "phenomenal."

"Again, he’s been outstanding for our football team this year," Muschamp said. "He’s a been a guy that’s flipped the field, created momentum, hung some punts up there and our coverage was outstanding again in the whole coverage units, whether it was kickoff or punt."

Thanks in large part to Christy's leg, Florida was able to keep South Carolina's dynamic return man Ace Sanders in check. Sanders attempted to return two of Christy's seven punts but only managed 1 total yard. Sanders was under pressure on each attempt, and he fumbled in the second quarter to set up Florida's second touchdown. In all, only three of Christy's seven punts were returned for a total of minus-13 yards.

Still, for all his talent, Christy is not used to the attention his play this year has garnered. Surrounded by reporters after Saturday's win, Christy was noticeably uncomfortable. I asked him if he was more nervous talking to the media than he is when facing the rush before letting off a punt, and he answered with a resounding "yes."

"Is that bad? It's probably not good," he said, laughing. "I'm not used to this (the attention). I'm used to that (the pressure of the rush)."

October 18, 2012

Steve Spurrier's return to The Swamp: Still interesting or old news?

From a Heisman Trophy campaign as a quarterback in 1966 to coaching the Gators to the program's first national championship in 1996, the legacy of Steve Spurrier at Florida is well known -- at least to those 25 or older.

You might remember his playing days or know him as the head ball coach or the old ball coach, that tormented man who just couldn't keep his visor on his head for a whole game. But do today's players even know about all of his history at Florida? Current Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel said he's not sure he even remembers watching Spurrier's Gators as a kid.

"I don’t think so. I think I was more worried about cartoons at that time," he said. "But you see the film of him being a Gator coach and you see his visor and stuff like that. I was too young for that. I wasn’t a football fan at that time."

Miles vs Spurrier Foo_Inde
AP Photo

 

With Saturday's game marking the fourth time Spurrier has returned to play against the Gators in Gainesville, do people even care? Is it still a storyline? (Feel free to tell me your opinion in the comments below.)

However you feel about it, Spurrier is coming back on Saturday to the place he helped build. When Spurrier's team from South Carolina comes into The Swamp to play his former team, the Gamecocks will be playing in a stadium he named. Spurrier christened Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with its current nickname.

After losses in his first two return trips to Gainesville, Spurrier and the Gamecocks clinched the Southeastern Conference East division in The Swamp in November of 2010. South Carolina has won two straight in the series for the first time since the 1930s.

But both Spurrier and Florida coach Will Muschamp have said that the "Return of Spurrier" is much more of a story for the media and fans than the players.

"I think so," Muschamp said when asked Wednesday. "Kids nowadays, it's a lot different than when I grew up. I was glued to the T.V. set or I was sitting at Florida Field when I was growing up and watching the players and the coaches. Nowadays, they've got so much stuff going on in their lives. ... It's a little different in that there's a lot of distractions other than just watching college football. That's what me and you did growing up. Sometimes, it's amazing the football IQ now of the some of the young men we get that are advanced more from a football standpoint. It's kind of shocking."

Florida offensive coordinator Brent  Pease said he wasn't sure whether or not players are aware of everything Spurrier accomplished at the school.

"I think they respect what he’s done here," Pease said. "He’s probably been gone for a while."

Because they coached against each other, Pease said he has followed Spurrier's career. He also knows Spurrier's son, Steve Jr., who earned a graduate degree at Florida.

"We totally respect what he’s done," Pease said. "He’s a great player and a legend here — winning a Heisman. Our players are aware of that. They understand that."

But Spurrier said he thinks his return isn't a big deal at all.

"I don’t think it’s much of a storyline now that it’s eight years we’ve gone to play each other and fourth time I’ve been down there coaching," he said. "I guess it is a little unusual to be on the other team when you come into the ball park and your name is on the wall up there, but I think everybody handles it very well. It’s our team against their team. This is a game between the players. Us coaches, we just try to direct them a little bit, but these players are pretty much going to decide who wins this thing."

However, Spurrier also admitted that Florida, as well as Duke and now South Carolina, will always mean a lot to him.

"Florida is always going to be my school. I love Florida," Spurrier said Tuesday. "My wife, my daughter and even Steve (Spurrier) Jr. got a graduate degree from there. We're Gators, but we're Gamecocks now. When my coaching days are over, I'll be more of a Gator then. I'm a Gamecock now and this is our team. ... When I get through coaching I'll be Duke, Florida and South Carolina. I'll have feelings for all three schools."

Of course, he couldn't lay it on the Gators too thick. A fan base in Columbia, S.C. wouldn't like that.

"I hope the Gators finish second in the East this year," Spurrier said. "That would be a good finish for them. Hope we finish first."

Vintage Spurrier.

So what do you think? Is it a big deal? If so, should it make any difference to the players? Or is it just for the fans and hacks like me?

______________________________________________________________________________

Here's any remaining quotes about Spurrier from Florida's players and coaches:

WR Frankie Hammond

Was it tough watching South Carolina and Spurrier celebrate on Florida field two years ago after clinching the SEC East…

"It was tough. They’re a great football team and we’ve got another opportunity coming up. We’ve got all of this week to prepare and we’re going to prepare and get ourselves ready for the game."

Does it make a difference that Spurrier is on the other sideline…

"With him being an alumni from here and basically all of the great accolades with the Heisman and everything and championships he’s done for this university, it’s definitely a certain type of, you feel a certain type of way. But hey, we’ve got to prepare, and we’ve got to somehow get it done, so."

LB Jon Bostic

"I know he's always one of those guys, he likes to air it out. He can draw up a lot of different things and give a defense headaches. We got to make sure we're on our keys. We're playing smart. Everybody's eyes are in the right place."

Thoughts on his stature at UF and the state?

"I know a lot of people, they like him around here. He's been here a while. He's won a championship here, too. So a lot of guys are probably excited for him to come back and want to get a win just as much as we do."

DT Omar Hunter

Do you think Spurrier's mystique still hangs over UF?

"Oh, yeah. Definitely. Coach Spurrier, he's a legend in Gainesville. Some of the older guys, like a few coaches that we have played under him, coach Spurrier. They're very excited with him coming back into town. I know a lot of guys really pumped up for that."

QB Jeff Driskel

Thoughts on Spurrier?

"He’s definitely a Gator great. I drive by his statue every day. But it’s not really anything that’s going to bother us. All of our players here didn’t play for him or weren’t here when he was around. So it’s definitely a media-type and fan buildup thing. It’s definitely bigger for the media and the fans."

Are there some players who don’t realize Spurrier was coach here?

"I don’t know. I don’t think so. It’s hard to miss the statue. It’s hard to miss a guy that named our stadium what it’s called. But like I said, I don’t think we’re too worried about it. But I think they know that he coached here."

Is this game bigger for Muschamp because it's Spurrier?

“I don’t think so.  The whole team you just have to take it one game at a time and you can’t get caught up in the hype. It’s another SEC game. We’re going to have to play well to win and we’re going to have to practice well to win.”

HC Will Muschamp

"Obviously coach Spurrier winning a Heisman Trophy here and his 12 years as head coach here and his 12 y ears as head coach here probably will never be repeated. You look at six SEC titles and the 1990 season had the best record in the SEC, national championship, and really put Florida on the map as far as winning championships in football. I’ve asked him before why it didn’t happen before and he never gives me a good reason, but he just did a phenomenal job here as the head football coach. And a guy that’s very well respected and a guy that I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for."

Does your history as Gator fan mean this game and the opportunity to beat Spurrier means more to you?

“Not really. I mean, at the end the day, we're about winning championships on and off the field here at Florida. And it's another step to Atlanta. That's the way I look at it. But I knew about him winning the Heisman Trophy, not just being a Florida fan but being an SEC fan. And then the job he did as coach here was pretty amazing.”

What has been Steve Spurrier's stamp on the SEC?

"Well, you know, honestly, being an SEC guy growing up in this part of the country and being a huge fan of the Southeastern Conference, there are really two coaches that come to the forefront of your mind as far as what they've done for this league, and that's Bear Bryant and Steve Spurrier for winning, bringing championships to the University of Florida and understanding what that's about. But those would the two guys that would, you know, jump out in my mind. That's just personally my opinion. You look at what he did when he came to our league. It was more of a 'three yards and a pile of dust' league, and he came in and spread the ball out a little bit. He was credited with throwing the ball a bunch, but they were 50-50. They ran the ball extremely well when he was here. But it became a little more of a throwing league and changed things defensively. It helped advance this league from an offensive mindset, in my opinion.Again, that's my opinion. Those would be the two guys that jump out to me as coaches in this league that for a long period of time had tremendous success."

Steve Spurrier on WNKT: "Marcus is not going to start the game, but he’s going to go (to Florida). We’ll see how he does in warmups."

October 17, 2012

Muschamp: Injured offensive linemen to play Saturday against South Carolina

Speaking on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference Wednesday morning, Florida coach Will Muschamp said injured offensive linemen James Wilson, Jonotthan Harrison and Xavier Nixon will play this weekend against South Carolina.

Wilson, who did not travel with the team to Nashville for last weekend's game against Vanderbilt, was the most in doubt after he suffered an eye injury in practice last Wednesday when his helmet was dislodged during a play. But Muschamp said Wilson practiced on Tuesday and "should be ready to go" for Saturday.

Harrison (arm) and Nixon (concussion) are expected to return to practice today, Muschamp said.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring) and defensive end Dominique Easley (knee) also practiced Tuesday and are expected to play on Saturday. Freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle) is questionable still, however.

October 16, 2012

Lack of passing game matters, but not huge concern for UF OC Pease

The Gators currently rank No. 2 in the BCS standings, and last in the Southeastern Conference in passing.

Florida's passing offense ranks 118th nationally with an average of 145 yards per game. Georgia Tech with its triple-option attack currently has more passing yards. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said while he cares about being ranked last in the conference in passing a year after leading Boise State to the 11th-ranked passing offense, the emphasis is really on winning -- no matter what the stats say.

"I care because you don’t want to be last and we talk about balance. But you’ve got to understand something. There’s always give and take and we’ve got a game plan every game. And there’s a situation where, especially in my spot, I’m going to probably have to rely on that more," he said.

Against Vanderbilt, Pease said certain plays continued to work throughout the game and there is no reason to change what you're doing until the opponent proves it can stop it.

"They didn’t find some answers to a few plays," he said. "So whether that kid (Jeff Driskel) ends up throwing for 300 or rushing for a record like he does, I don’t really care how it gets done as long as we’re productive with what we do and score points."

Florida is running the ball on nearly 70 percent of its offensive snaps this season, and while Pease said that balance is certainly ideal, he also said he plans to stick with what's working until it's not.

"When we go in and you hit 10 plays for explosive plays, the bottom line is run them again," he said. "Run them again, OK. Let's not get greedy here as a coach and say, 'I don't like that, I'm throwing the ball because that's what we all love to do.' If Jeff Driskel can carry the ball 70 yards and outrun everybody, he's getting the ball. If Mike Gillislee can get the ball and outrun everybody, he's getting the ball. And if our O-line blocks like they block, we're giving them the ball. I'm not going to be stubborn as far as playing off numbers every week. I'm going to do what's best for this team and what they create for us to be productive and score points and win football games.”

October 15, 2012

Florida expects three injured offensive linemen to return against South Carolina

The Gators played the majority of Saturday's game without three starting offensive linemen, but coach Will Muschamp said Monday he expects left tackle Xavier Nixon (concussion), left guard James Wilson (eye) and center Jonotthan Harrison (elbow) to be probable for this week's matchup with South Carolina.

Wilson did not travel with the team for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt, while Harrison and Nixon both went down during the first quarter and did not return.

Tight end Jordan Reed (eye), defensive end Dominique Easley (knee) and linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring) are also expected to be probable for Saturday, but freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle) will be questionable, Muschamp said.

Safety Cody Riggs (foot) and offensive tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral) remain out.

October 10, 2012

Vandy coach James Franklin praises Florida's defense

Speaking to the media on the Southeastern Conference teleconference on Wednesday morning, second-year coach James Franklin had some interesting things to say regarding Florida's defense.

"They’re playing very well on defense. The things that’s kind of interesting to me is a lot of defensive coaches and defensive coordinators they’ll try to take something away. It might be the run or it might be the deep passes, and you look at these guys, they really take everything away," Franklin said. "They don’t give you any of the short, high-percentage throws. They load the box up. They play really aggressive."

The Gators are coming off a game in which they allowed just six points to then-No. 4 LSU and have not allowed a touchdown in their last two games. The unit is ranked 12th nationally in total defense and has forced three turnovers in back-to-back games. Most impressive, however, is the fact that Florida has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter all season.

"Obviously they have the depth to rotate and keep those guys fresh," Franklin said. "I think Sharrif Floyd is going to be a challenge. He’s a very good player. ... They’re playing great defense, great special teams and on offense they’re going to run the ball and a have toughness to them. That’s what you see. So a tremendous challenge and our guys are looking forward to it."

October 08, 2012

Muschamp: Gators need "drastic improvement" in return game, changes in personnel likely

Although Florida is fresh off an upset win over LSU, coach Will Muschamp sees plenty of areas in need of work.

"Punt return and kickoff return, we need drastic improvement," Muschamp said on Monday, adding that changes in personnel are likely.

Florida currently ranks last in the Southeastern Conference and 94th nationally in kick return average at 18.82 and 50th nationally in punt return average at 9.57. Wide receiver Andre Debose is the only Gators player to return a punt this season, and he has returned nine of the 11 kickoffs the team has received.

Against Kentucky three weeks ago, Debose was benched for the first half and then muffed a punt in the second half. His next return went for eight yards, but Debose has done more dancing and lateral movement in an attempt to break a big return than Muschamp would like. He also fumbled on a return he fielded inside UF's own 10-yard line in the fourth quarter of a one-score game against Texas A&M in Week 2.

"Punt return, we’ve worked on fielding punts and not losing yardage in those press situations. We cannot afford to continue to do that," Muschamp said. "That’s something we’ve addressed. We have not done a good job. We’ll find somebody different and figure out what we can do there."

"We’ve just got to make better decisions. We work on it every single day. It’s not something we haven’t worked on."

Florida forced seven punts in Saturday's win against LSU, but Debose and De'Ante Saunders did not attempt a return on any of them. Cornerback Marcus Roberson has also worked as a returner this season, but Debose is the only one of the three to attempt a return. His longest return (32 yards) came against Bowling Green in the season opener, and it's been downhill since with an average of just 4.2 yards on his six other returns.

With the new kickoff rules this season, making the right decision has become paramount. But twice against LSU, Debose took the kick out from deep in the end zone only to not make it to the 20-yard line. Because a touchback now sets up the offense at the 25, those poor decisions were also something that drew Muschamp's ire. 

Debose was effective in the return role last season, averaging 26.1 yards per kick return with a 99-yard long that went for a touchdown in the Gator Bowl game against Ohio State. That number is down to 21.5 this season, but Debose remains the best option for kick returns.

However, at punt returner, it's likely Muschamp goes with someone else this week against Vanderbilt. Roberson, Saunders and wide receivers Frankie Hammond and Solomon Patton are options. Regardless of who earns the job, Muschamp said he knows it's a difficult job, but an important one nonetheless.

"[The returner has] got to make a judgment as he sees the flight of the ball and then see where the coverage and how close the coverage is to him, to whether or not he can return it, field it or fair catch the ball, which is easy for you and I to sit here on Monday afternoon and talk about," he said. "It's a little different when it’s hung up there and you’ve got some guys that can really run well down the field, and you’ve got to make that decision. We need to make better choices and decisions in those situations." 

“It’s one of the toughest deals. You’re standing looking at a ball, and you’ve got guys running down the field ready to hit you. I never did it, so I don’t know. I can imagine it’s pretty daunting.”


October 06, 2012

They Said It: Quotes from the Gators after upset win of LSU

Will Muschamp picked up his biggest win as head coach at Florida on Saturday, upsetting No. 4 LSU 14-6 at home in The Swamp. Here are some of the best quotes from postgame interviews with Muschamp and players.
 

DEFENSIVE END DOMINIQUE EASLEY

"Honestly, we wanted to come into this game and win, but more we wanted to come in and hurt them. we wanted them to feel the pain that we had last year. We had hurt in our hearts, so we wanted them to feel the pain that we had."

On pain of last year's loss...

"That's one thing that we felt, like I said, last year. It was hurtful how we got beat. It was real hurtful. So that game, it stuck with us just for the fact that we got our ass kicked."

On wearing down LSU in second half...

"Third quarter, them boys were huffing and puffing. I was looking at people's eyes and they were scared. We want to take somebody's will. We like to take people's will, not just win the game. Take their will and make them remember this night."

"I knew it was over, but I knew we still had more business to do. We wasn't going to let off until that clock said 0:00."

SAFETY MATT ELAM

On his game-changing forced fumble...

" I had to make a play, I had to stop him. My plan was to stop him from getting into the end zone. Ball came out, so thank God for that."

"Hustle play. It’s all instincts. I’m not going to say I tried to do it. it was all on instincts. Be hustling, give a great effort, and it’ll pay off."

On the feeling coming into the game...

"We had to come in and hit them in the mouth. They beat us down last year, so we had to come back. We had a plan, 'hit 'em in their mouth.' We had a great gameplan and we executed and we were victorious."
On the feeling afterward...
"I mean, it's great to beat a top-five team, beat LSU. Everybody talking about it and to be the underdog and get a win. Coming into this game, nobody think we was gonna win. To be the underdog and get a win is a great feeling. It's another step to Atlanta, and that's our goal. I feel like the sky's the limit from here."

On finishing games well…

"In the offseason that was our thing. Finish. That was our problem last year, we couldn’t finish, and you’ve got to be finishing in the SEC. You’ve got to play 60 minutes, and we did."

On what win means for program…

"It’s a great win. Our goal is to great to Atlanta. We took another step to get to Atlanta. And beating LSU, top-five team, we talked about not having a chance and things like that, and we were victorious. Coach had a game plan, we followed it, we executed it, and we were victorious."

RIGHT GUARD JON HALAPIO
On wearing down LSU with the rushing attack...
"There was one point in the game where I was looking -- I don't even know his name -- No. 77 (senior DT Josh Downs), I was looking in his eyes and he was dead tired. It's a great feeling, it means we did our job. It just gives us the extra measure of intensity for the next play in order to motivate us to finish him off. We come in there in the fourth quarter and our strength coach was just reminding us all the prowlers, all the 110s that we did, we prepared for this moment right here."
RUNNING BACK MIKE GILLISLEE
On the test going against LSU's defensive front...

"It was just like any other team to me. It wasn't really a test. It was just that, me having faith in the offensive lineman, knowing that they was just going to keep on doing what they was doing, and I was going to keep on pounding the ball."

Is the swagger back?

"Well we never lost our swag. A lot of people just keep on doubting us. I think the swag never left."
On doing to them what their RBs did to you guys last year...

"Yeah we had a saying coming in, 'Now or never,' and I pretty much worked with my offensive line throughout the game. I kept telling them 'Now or never.'"
QUARTERBACK JEFF DRISKEL
On Muschamp calling this team "soft" last year...
"We're not soft. No one can call us soft now. If we didn't have people's respect, we gained it today. We're a physical team on both sides of the ball and special teams."
WILL MUSCHAMP

On finishing the game with 25 straight runs...

"
That was fun."

(More Muschamp coming later.)

October 04, 2012

McCray on LSU: 'If we come ready to play, they're not going to do nothing'

Double negatives aside, Florida defensive end/outside linebacker Lerentee McCray seems to have quite a positive attitude heading into Saturday's top-10 matchup with LSU.

Asked what aspect of the Tigers' offense is scary and needs to be locked down in order for the Gators to win, McCray said: "Nothing."

"The biggest thing that scares me on their offense is our defense," he said. "If we come ready to play, they're not going to do nothing."

Last season, Florida went into Death Valley and got whipped 41-11. It was a game in which LSU dominated every facet, pounding the Gators into submission in the second half with 24 minutes time of possession. McCray said "everything" went wrong in that game, but it wasn't due to a lack of confidence. 

"We was confident going into last year October. Things just didn't work out how we wanted it to," he said. "We just didn't really play well (against LSU).They scored 41 points, so I guess everything, everything just went wrong. They put up 41 points on the scoreboard."

But, according to McCray, things will be different this time around.

"That ain't going to happen this year," he said.

October 03, 2012

Driskel: This year's matchup with LSU 'won't be like last year'

Last season, Florida entered October with an identical 4-0 record before losing the next four.

Starting quarterback John Brantley was injured against Alabama on Oct. 1, 2011, and true freshman Jeff Driskel went in as his replacement. Driskel struggled and he also suffered an injury in that game, which prevented him from suiting up the next week at LSU. The Gators started freshman Jacoby Brissett and lost to the Tigers 41-11.

But now Driskel is healthy and leading the Florida offense, and he said Monday that this year's matchup with LSU is going to different.

"Going in last year we definitely felt like we had a shot, as well. We didn’t go in last year saying, hopefully we don’t lose by 20 or we’ll try to keep it close," he said. "We go into every game thinking we have a shot and knowing we have a shot. But this year we’re definitely confident.

"It will be a lot closer, that’s for sure. It won’t be like last year."

Driskel also said a win this year is much more realistic than it was last year.

"We’re a confident team," he said. "We’ve gotten better each and every game, and we’re going to do the same this week. We got a week off, so we got to rest our bodies. And we got a couple extra days to prepare for LSU. We’ll be ready to go."

Florida and LSU meet at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

October 01, 2012

Gators considering change from Nixon to Humphries at left tackle

With No. 4 LSU and its dominant defensive line coming to Gainesville this weekend, No. 10 Florida is considering a switch at arguably the most important spot along its offensive line.

Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon was replaced by freshman D.J. Humphries to start the second half of Florida's win against Kentucky on Sept. 22, and coach Will Muschamp said Monday that who starts on Saturday will be determined in practice this week.

"Whoever practices the best will play," Muschamp said when asked if it was possible Humphries would play this week. "We expect him to do a championship job.” 

Humphries is a true freshman who came in as a five-star recruit ranked No. 2 overall in the nation, according to Rivals.com. He played in a reserve role as early as Week 1 against Bowling Green and it seems Florida's coaches have been grooming him to replace Nixon sooner rather than later.

"D.J. deserves to play. He played well," Muschamp said after the Kentucky game. "I don’t care what year he is. He plays well and practices well and plays well and he deserves the opportunity.”

Muschamp was then asked if Humphries has a chance to start against LSU.

"We’ll see," he said. "We’ll see who practices the best."

Nixon has struggled during his time as a Gator -- weight issues, penalties and poor technique have prevented him from playing to his potential. He has not been a liability thus far this season, but with LSU coming to town, it's easy to see why Humphries is being considered.

"We know about their speed rushers," quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "They’re going to get in there quick."

Driskel said the Gators have some things prepared to counteract the Tigers' speed and power up front. Draw plays, quick passes and having tight ends and running backs assist in blocking the defensive ends will all help the offensive line against LSU. But UF can't help the linemen on every play, and each man up front is expected to hold up in a one-on-one situations.

Driskel said he's confident that Humphries can do that.

"He’s a guy that’s worked hard ever since he’s gotten here," Driskel said. "He came in in the spring, a little undersized but he’s really fast and he’s great in his technique. We have all the confidence in the world in him."

While Nixon's experience is certainly an asset, it's Humphries ability to keep up with LSU's speed on the edge that is the difference between the two. It's also why, as a true freshman, Humphries has a chance to play a pivotal role against one of the nation's top teams.

"It’s definitely hard (playing left tackle as a freshman), especially with the SEC defensive line that are so fast and have such good get-off off the ball," Driskel said. "But he’s quick as well. He has great technique, and he’s a smart player. He’ll be fine."

 

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