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14 posts from November 2012

November 26, 2012

Gators LB Jelani Jenkins to miss bowl game, could be NFL bound

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Linebacker Jelani Jenkins (3) runs for a touchdown after picking up a blocked punt during the second half of Florida's game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 10. Florida won 27-20. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

 

Starting weakside linebacker Jelani Jenkins will miss Florida's bowl game after suffering a broken bone in his foot during Saturday's game against Florida State, coach Will Muschamp confirmed Monday.

Jenkins had surgery on the foot Monday and Muschamp said he will be out for four to six weeks.

"It’s a medical term for it," Muschamp said. "It’s a small bone in his foot. Should be fine. It’s a four- to six-week recovery time, and he’ll be fine."

Jenkins was in street clothes with his foot in a boot and using crutches while the Gators celebrated their win against the Seminoles in Tallahassee. He spoke to reporters afterward but said he did not know the extent of the injury at the time.

A redshirt junior, Jenkins missed four games earlier in the season due to a broken thumb that also required surgery. Jenkins also left Florida's game against Georgia without recording a tackle after injuring his hamstring. Jenkins finished the season with 29 tackles, including five tackles for a loss,two sacks and one interception.

He will be replaced by freshman Antonio Morrison, who stepped in Saturday against Florida State and caused the fumble of quarterback EJ Manuel that helped Florida take over the game. Morrison delivered a punishing hit on the play, sending Manuel to the sideline to be evaluated by the Seminoles' medical staff. He missed FSU's next offensive series but did return to the game.

"He does that in practice," Jenkins said of Morrison. "There's nothing abnormal about that. He's a big playmaker. A big hitter. He loves to hit."

The question now becomes whether or not Jenkins returns for his senior season at Florida.

Earlier this season, ESPN analyst Todd McShay said on a conference call with reporters that Jenkins is "the best cover linebacker in college football today" when healthy. McShay said Jenkins' speed, instincts and anticipation in coverage mean he could be selected as early as the second or third round of the NFL Draft in April should he choose to forgo his final year of eligibility.

It's unclear how injuries could affect that projection, but there is a possibility Jenkins has played his last game as a Gator.

Notes: Quarterback Jeff Driskel (ankle) is wearing a walking boot, but Muschamp said it is just to treat soreness. Driskel is expected to be fully healthy for the bowl game. ... Center Jonotthan Harrison (ankle) is also in a boot for precautionary reasons. ... Linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) will return for Florida's bowl game after missing the last two games. ... Reserve offensive lineman Ian Silberman (torn labrum) will miss the bowl game.

November 25, 2012

Are unimpressive wins keeping Florida out of BCS National Championship Game?

On Sunday night's BCS Countdown show, ESPN analysts David Pollack, Jesse Palmer and Kirk Herbstreit all agreed that Florida has a legitimate case for being ranked No. 2 in the BCS Standings and getting a chance to play for a national title.

The reasoning?

-Florida played the nation's toughest schedule, and its only loss came to No. 3 Georgia in a game that featured six Gators' turnovers. In UF's 11 wins, it turned the ball over a total of six times.

-The No. 4 Gators have beaten four teams ranked in the top 13 of the standings. The three teams ahead of them combined have a record of 4-2 against the top 13.

-Alabama lost to Texas A&M at home. Florida beat Texas A&M on the road, holding Johnny Manziel in check in the second half like no other defense has this season. Manziel torched the Tide late.

-Georgia lost to South Carolina by 28 points. Florida beat South Carolina by 33 points.

Following Saturday's win against Florida State, Florida coach Will Muschamp was uncharacteristically emphatic when stating Florida's case.

"I think it was a really sexy win," he said. "Guys, our résumé speaks for itself, come on. You’ve seen where we’ve played, who we’ve played and the quality of football teams we’ve beaten. We’ll play anyone anywhere -- whatever that slogan is."

"I’d play anybody in the country (in the national championship game). You play in our league and it’s gonna give you confidence."

And the only thing preventing such a chance, apart from the loss to Georgia? Lackluster offensive showings in the final weeks of the season, Pollack said. Pollack theorized that the campaigning Muschamp did following the win against the Seminoles would have been better received had Florida blown out teams down the stretch.

But UF needed a punt block in the final seconds to beat Louisiana-Lafayette, and the team didn't perform much better in a 14-7 win against Missouri and a 23-0 win against FCS opponent Jacksonville State. Largely because of these showings, Florida's rankings in two important polls continues to suffer even after defeating previously No. 10 Florida State on Saturday.

The Gators are No. 2 in five of the six computer rankings, but at No. 5 Florida is behind Oregon, Georgia, Alabama and Notre Dame in both the Harris and the USA Today Coaches Poll, which comprise two-thirds of the BCS formula.

Muschamp admitted watching his team struggle in those games was not what he had in mind.

"Believe me, I was glad we won them," he said. "I wish our guys would get out of this mantra of playing to our competition. It frustrates me."

Said Herbstreit: "If they're guilty of anything it's playing up or down to the level of their competition."

But Muschamp has also time and again denied that one win means more than any other and that "style points" don't matter. Asked last week how long he has thought about criticism of the Gators' unimpressive wins, Muschamp said: "Well, those three seconds I just thought about it, that’s probably the most time I’ve spent thinking about it."

All that said, it will be interesting to hear Muschamp's take on the theory that "style points" could be keeping Florida out of the fight for the crystal. His final press conference of the regular season is Monday morning at 11:45. I'll have live updates on Twitter if you want to follow along.

November 21, 2012

Special teams gives Gators distinct advantage over Seminoles in a close, ugly game

With two of the nation's top defenses butting heads Saturday, points and offensive production will be at a premium. And so will field position.

Special teams play is often overlooked by the casual fan, but Florida would not be where it is at this point in the season without stellar play in that phase.

The Gators have made a habit of "winning ugly" by coming up with big plays on special teams that helped overshadow poor offensive performances, like when Loucheiz Purifoy blocked a punt and Jelani Jenkins returned it for a touchdown in the final seconds to allow Florida to escape against Louisiana two weeks ago. The unit has blocked four kicks this season, and place kicker Caleb Sturgis is routinely referred to by coach Will Muschamp as "the best kicker in the nation."

Sturgis was named Monday as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, and he is as close to automatic on field goals as there is in college football.

But the unsung hero is Gators punter Kyle Christy, who was named Monday one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award. Christy is averaging 46.29 gross yards per punt this season, which ranks fourth nationally, and Florida's net average of 41.6 is second-best nationally. He has 25 punts downed inside the 20, 24 punts of 50 yards or longer and 19 forced fair catches.

In a close game against LSU, Christy helped make the difference. He averaged 49.1 yards on seven punts with three downed inside the 20, including two inside the 10 after Florida's first two drives to help flip the field and bury LSU inside its own end.

In comparison, Florida State ranks 121st nationally with an average of just 35.87 yards per punt. With the leg of Cason Beatty, the Seminoles average just 34.5 net yards per punt. And the punt Beatty had blocked in the fourth quarter against North Carolina State was the deciding play in Florida State's only loss this season.

However, FSU wide receiver and return man Rashad Greene is one of the best in the country, averaging 15.35 per return with two touchdowns scored on punt returns this season. And Florida is facing some uncertainty at both return roles. Regular returner Andre Debose coming back from injury this week, but Muschamp said he will not immeditely resume the job. Plus, safety De'Ante Saunders, who filled in nicely for Debose, will miss the rest of the season with an undisclosed injury.

Both teams have shown the ability to force fair catches, as Florida and Florida State each allow fewer than 5.2 yards per return on average. The burden is on Christy and Beatty to hang it up there to prevent returns, and the gunners to get downfield and wrap up. By the numbers, and with how well Purifoy has played in that gunner role, it's hard to say the advantage here goes to Florida.

The difference between the two net averages doesn't seem like that much, but 7 yards of field position could mean the difference between making a 45-yard field goal to win the game late or missing a 52-yarder to lose.

November 19, 2012

With Seminoles on Saturday, Muschamp's Gators expectedly not talking BCS

For the first time in years, the Florida-Florida State rivalry game has year-end importance with both teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS Standings and fighting for the chance to clutch the crystal ball.

Currently No. 4 in the BCS Standings, the Gators must beat the Seminoles and then need only a Notre Dame loss to USC on Saturday to all but assure a berth in the title game.

After a 6-6 regular season in 2011-12, to even be in the discussion this late in the season is a feat in and of itself. In just his second year after replacing Urban Meyer as UF's coach, Will Muschamp has his team nearing the precipice it reached twice under Meyer. That's a big deal.

Still, when speaking to media Monday morning, senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter and senior linebacker Jon Bostic said they weren't aware of the Gators' ranking, trying to dismiss any question related to potential national championship scenarios.

Asked if the Gators deserved a shot at the title if they beat the Seminoles on Saturday, Hunter said: "I don't even worry about that stuff. I didn't even know we were No. 4. I thought it was like 21 or something like that. I didn't even know we were No. 4. Somebody just told me we were No. 4. I didn't even know that."

Hunter said he doesn't watch the television show that releases the rankings on Sunday nights. He also said he hasn't heard a word from teammates about the BCS.

"Everything's been Florida State this week," he said.

For Bostic, he said he went to sleep Sunday night not knowing where Florida stood in the new BCS Standings.

"A lot of it is controlled outside of here," he said. "We’re going to control what we can control."

A reporter then asked Bostic a hypothetical question -- If the Gators were to beat the Seminoles on Saturday should they be considered worthy of a shot at the national title? -- and, again, his response toed the company line.

"We’re just going to try and go up to Tallahassee and play like we've been playing all season and let the rest play out for itself."

Later, a different reporter tried to lob Bostic a softball of a question about not focusing on the BCS because none of the conjecture would matter if the Gators don't win this weekend. Again, he didn't bite.

"Nah, I mean it’s another game for us," he said.

Thinking Bostic must of misunderstood the question, the reporter interupted his response, rephrasing the question and attempting it again. Again, Bostic repeated the words he has been coached to say.

"No, I mean it’s another game for us," he said. "That’s how we look at it."

To those who follow the Gators, it shouldn't come as a surprise that players this week are not gushing about the team's chances at making to the BCS National Championship Game in Miami in January.

Like his coaching mentor Nick Saban, Muschamp would never allow it. He preaches a week-by-week approach where each game is the most important "because it's the next one." During fall camp last year, his first as a head coach, Muschamp declared that there would be "one voice" -- his -- speaking on behalf of the program, meaning the message would be the same no matter who delivered it.

To that end, Muschamp has gone to great lengths to control what gets said about his program. Florida makes available each week offensive coordinator Brent Pease and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, experienced coaches who have dealt with media throughout respective long coaching careers and who will not answer any questions pertaining to injuries under Muschamp's instruction. None of the Gators' seven positional assistants are made available at any time during the season or offseason. And, like many programs and coaches around the nation, Florida and Muschamp restrict which players can speak to the media. Freshmen are not allowed to talk under any circumstance, and there is a list of players "approved" to speak during interview times, although none of them are required to do so.

That creates an atmosphere where the same players begrudingly deliver the same message each week. No players exemplify that more than Bostic and Hunter. It can be boring at times, but that's what Muschamp wants. And although you can certainly expect more of the same this week with everything on the line, it's hard to argue with the results: Florida is 10-1 and in the hunt for a national title, and Muschamp was named Monday as a semifinalist for the Maxwell Football Club's Collegiate Coach of the Year Award.

Why change now?

For comparison's sake, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher makes four weekly appearances with local media in addition to his obligatory ACC coaches teleconference. And he has an open period for media during at least one practice each week. But Fisher does not make any assistant coaches available at any time, and offensive coordinator James Coley and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops speak only at the team's preseason media day. And his players seem to toeing the same company line as Muschamp's this week.

On the other hand, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly openly admitted to cheering while watching Kansas State and Oregon lose on Saturday night, which opened the door for his Irish to be the new No. 1 team in the nation. And star tight end Tyler Eifert was refreshingly honest about what winning a national championship would do for the program.

"It would mean a lot, especially to the entire university," Eifert said. "Notre Dame, I don't know, has kind of lost its reputation, as far as how good we've been in past years. To be able to restore that reputation will be huge."

Sound familiar? Probably not, because no Florida player would ever say that. But swap the university name in that quote, and it describes precisely where the Gators find themselves right now.

So which approach is right: Deny what's out there in an attempt to focus on the task at hand? Or embrace it and move forward knowing that words don't have much of an impact once you step between the lines?

We'll find out this weekend.

November 14, 2012

Florida, Donovan sign pair of five-star recruits for 2013

Florida coach Billy Donovan inked Wednesday his most impressive class in recent years, receiving letters of intents from the state's top two recruits in point guard Kasey Hill and power forward Chris Walker.

Hill and Walker are both consensus top-10 players nationally and provide Donovan with a duo of top-flight talent comparable or better than any he has had as Florida's coach.

"How they rank to the rest of the country, doesn’t really matter to me because there are so many things they bring to the table,” Donovan said in a release on the school's website. "Being in-state guys, I’ve had a chance to watch them grow over a three-year period and I understand what we’ll be getting. They’re athletic, with speed and quickness and competiveness. They both have a chance to have tremendous careers here."

And in the NBA.

Last year's one-and-done shooting guard Brad Beal was the first of that type of player Donovan has recruited to be a Gator -- even the 2004 class that won back-to-back national championships did not have a five-star recruit or one ranked in the top 30 nationally. Both Hill and Walker are projected as NBA talents, and it will be interesting to see how they develop and how long Donovan can hold onto them.

At 6-1, 170 pounds from Eustis Montverde Academy, Hill brings a complete game to the point guard spot, providing Donovan with a weapon that's equally good at distributing as he is at scoring and creating for his teammates.

"He just as a presence on the floor," Donovan said in the release. "Great vision."

Walker (6-10, 195) from Bonifay Holmes County High has the explosiveness and athleticism to be a factor around the rim from his first game in Gainesville. He's raw, but has a high motor, something that can't be taught.

"The best frontcourt players to come through here -- the Horfords, Haslems, Bonners, Noahs -- they could all really run," assistant coach Matt McCall told the website. "And Chris Walker can really run."

 

Muschamp stands by Floyd in wake of USA Today article

 

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(AP Photo)

 

As he did last year when the then-sophomore defensive tackle was suspended by the NCAA, Florida coach Will Muschamp on Wednesday defended Sharrif Floyd and any criticism as a result of an article outlining his "unprecedented" adoption.

In the article that ran Tuesday in the USA Today, Rachel George reports that Floyd was legally adopted by Kevin Lahn, the man responsible for providing Floyd with $2,500 in impermissible benefits that led to his 2011 suspension. It's a controversial situation because it's being viewed by some as a potential loophole to circumvent NCAA bylaws that prevent such benefits. Now that Lahn is an legal guardian for Floyd, the vice president of a commercial real estate company is free to provide for Floyd as any other parent provides for a child that also happens to be a student-athlete -- essentially, spoiling your own child isn't an NCAA violation.

Since adopting Floyd in December, Lahn has leased him a 2012 Ford Explorer XLT and an apartment, signed Floyd up for a credit card and provided for him to take a trip to Disney World and then to Miami for his 21st birthday, where he was joined by teammates Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley for steak and lobster dinners at the Mandarin Oriental luxury hotel and a trip aboard an 80-foot, $3 million yacht, according to the article.

But Muschamp said Wednesday he was never concerned about Floyd's eligility, and he delivered strong words in support of Floyd.

"I knew everything, absolutely not ever worried about any eligibility issues," Muschamp said. "Sharrif is a fine young man, everything is above board that the University of Florida has handled with Sharrif and Kevin Lahn.

"What is wrong with someone caring about someone else? What is so bad about that is my question. The young man has done nothing wrong."

The people who criticize the situation see the potential for exploitation by people such as agents, runners, AAU coaches and the like looking to capitalize on the future financial gain of elite athletes. It could quickly become a slippery-slope situation, some believe.

The counter to that is that each case must be judged individually. Floyd comes from a difficult family situation, one similar to former Ole Miss and current Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, who was also adopted by a wealthy family. Why doesn't he deserve to have support like so many others have? Whose to say that Lahn and his wife Tiffany don't care about Floyd as their own? According to the article, Lahn said Floyd's great grandmother, who helped raise him, signed off on the adoption. Florida's compliance department knew about it and approved it. And it does not appear that the NCAA will investigate or that any sanctions are likely.

Muschamp certainly isn't worried.

"My statements speak for themselves and what I said a year ago, and I stand by it today," he said Wednesday.

George's article is a very interesting read and certainly worth your time. Give it a look if you haven't already. Let me know what you think in the comments.

November 12, 2012

Muschamp states Gators' case for BCS

Florida is the only team to win three games against teams ranked in the Top 10 of the current BCS Standings. And the Gators have a 9-1 record against the nation's most difficult schedule.

But when the latest standings were released Sunday, UF again checked in at No. 6, behind one-loss Alabama and one-loss Georgia, which beat Florida three weeks ago in Jacksonville.

When asked Monday whether his team is getting the respect it deserves, coach Will Muschamp said that he's not worried about a potential lack of respect or the opinion of his program among those outside Gainesville.

"I don’t really worry about the perception of what might be out there," he said.

Then he wised up and proceeded to state the Gators' case for a better ranking, as most coaches in Muschamp's position do this time of year.

"Unfortunately, in our profession, sometimes perception becomes reality," Muschamp said. "I don’t apologize for being 3-1 and the only team in the BCS Top 10 that has that record and a better record than anyone else and has a tougher schedule than anyone else in the country.

"So, I don’t know what else you need to do."

But the problem for Muschamp is that even though his team certainly has the best resume of any one-loss team, the perception circulating in college football circles is that Florida doesn't pass the eye test. Sure, the Gators beat LSU and had a convincing win against South Carolina, but the offense has regressed in the last month and Florida struggled mightily against Louisiana on Saturday.

The USA Today Coaches' Poll and the Harris Interactive Poll, which both use human voters, comprise two-thirds of the BCS Standings, and thus have a large impact on the rankings. Currently, due to their strength of schedule and quality of wins, the Gators are ranked No. 3 in four of the six computer polls, No. 2 in one and No. 6 in the last. Their computer ranking when averaging all six is No. 3. But, in the human polls, they fare much worse. Both the coaches and the Harris poll have Florida at No. 7.

No matter how much hot air Muschamp blows, the Gators aren't likely to move up into contention for the BCS National Championship game unless several teams ahead of them lose. Even then, it's a longshot. Muschamp knows that.

"I don’t really worry about it," he said. "You control the things you can control. That’s one thing I learned last year. Some things you can’t control, so don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about them. Figure out what you can handle, what you can deal with and move forward."

Plus, should the top three remain undefeated, and Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, there is a chance Florida misses a BCS bowl completely, whether it beats Florida State convincingly in two weeks or not.

That's the last thing Florida fans want to hear -- that, in the team's magical turnaround season, it's possible for the Gators to go 11-1 and play in the Outback or Capital One Bowl. But that's reality.

"You look at our record, you look at our schedule and what we’ve accomplished this year," Muschamp said, "we’ve had a hell of a year."

A year that might not be rewarded with a high-paying berth in a BCS bowl.

Gators starting QB Driskel doubtful for Saturday; Time set for UF-FSU game

Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel is doubtful for Saturday's game against Jacksonville State, coach Will Muschamp said Monday morning.

Driskel suffered a sprain to his right ankle during the third quarter of the win against Louisiana and did not return to the game. Muschamp said that nothing is broken in the ankle, but the severity of the sprain and his availability going forward are in question. Driskel is currently wearing a protective boot on his right foot and ankle as a precautionary measure to help keep the area stabilized.

If he can't play, fellow sophomore Jacoby Brissett will make the start.

"We'll try to get (Driskel) on the field Wednesday," Muschamp said. "If he can't go by then, certainly we'll go with Jacoby. We have all the confidence in the world Jacoby will play well. ... We're going to continue to work through the week and see if he can do anything. If he can, great. If he can't, we'll move forward."

Florida-Florida State time set

The annual rivalry game between two of the state's top football programs  will be played at 3:30 p.m. and aired on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced Monday.

The Gators and Seminoles each have just one loss, and this year's game is shaping up to be one of the biggest in recent history.

Florida has not had a game with a kickoff later than 6 p.m. this season.

 

November 08, 2012

Gators to be without two key pieces in season opener against Georgetown

When Florida opens its basketball season on Friday night against Georgetown in the Navy-Marine Corps Classic aboard a ship docked at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, the Gators will be without starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Casey Prather.

Wilbekin did not make the trip to Jacksonville on Thursday. Coach Billy Donovan announced that Wilbekin has been suspended indefinitely, but added that the suspension is not due to any legal trouble or NCAA issues.

"Sometimes the decision a person makes, is not who that person is," Donovan said, according to a school release. "People are trying to figure out what's going on. But to say any more would not be fair to Scottie."

Senior shooting guard Kenny Boynton will likely start at point guard in Wilbekin's absence, with fellow shooting guard Mike Rosario and freshman point guard Braxton Ogbueze also seeing time at the spot. Florida will likely play more big lineups than usual with Will Yeguete at small forward, and Yeguete will be asked to log more minutes than he is accustomed to because the additional absence of forward Casey Prather.

Prather suffered his second concussion in a little more than a week during practice Monday. He has been ruled out for the game and a date for his return date has not been announced.

November 07, 2012

Florida running back Mike Gillislee has NFL attributes, Pease says

Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease knows what an NFL running back looks like. For the past four years, he coached first-round pick Doug Martin at Boise State, who is quickly becoming a rookie of the year candidate after breakout performances in back-to-back weeks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On Tuesday, Pease said his current running back, Florida senior Mike Gillislee, has a similar skillset and attributes that will translate well to the next level.

“He’s got good hands. He’s willing to block. He has all the phases that he can do it at the next level -- catching, running, blocking," Pease said. "I think those are the things they’re looking for first. They all want to know if you’re coachable."

Last year, Gillislee said his weakness was pass protection. Pease said Gillislee has made strides in that area in this season, but still has some work left to do.

"In the NFL they have way more protections than we probably have," Pease said. "They’re always constantly changing. Then physically, do you match up against the guys, linebackers that you’re going to have to block at that level with their strength and speed. ... He’s consistent. He understands the scheme. Sometimes we’ve missed a guy here or there, but you know everybody... you always learn. The one thing with Mike, he’s good at making adjustments and understanding what you need to get done within the game."

 

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Florida's Mike Gillislee (23) runs for a 45-yard touchdown as Missouri's Braylon Webb (9) tries to catch him during the second half of Florida's 14-7 win over Missouri on Nov. 3. (AP Photo)

 

Most importantly, Gillislee has shown in his senior season that he has the speed and vision to run at the next level. Through nine games, he has 177 rushes for 797 yards and 7 touchdowns with a 4.5-yard average. Gillislee is on pace to become Florida's first 1,000-yard back since Ciatrick Fason rushed for 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2004. Fason was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

Although Gillislee likely will not reach the lofty preseason goals of 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns he set at SEC Media Day this summer, he said that doesn't matter as long as the Gators keep winning.

"I just want to finish the season and win out, win out at home," he said, adding that the NFL is also on his mind. "That’s always been a dream and a goal. With God’s will I someday will play in the NFL."

November 06, 2012

Gators OC Brent Pease says he will not address Kentucky rumors during season

Nearing the end of his first season as Florida's offensive coordinator, Brent Pease is becoming a hot name for the number of head coaching jobs set to open at season's end.

Pease, however, on Tuesday said he will not address during the season any rumors of taking the Kentucky job or leaving Florida after just one year.

I'm not going to approach it in-season at all," he said. "If the opportunity comes up afterward, I'd do whatever's appropriate at that time."

"That situation is out of the question right now because I haven't heard anything. I wouldn't do that. I'm focused on here. I've only been here one year. I've made a commitment to be here, especially with my family. ... Ask me that question later when something happens, I guess. I can't comment on a ghost story right now."

But Pease that he would certainly hear Kentucky out if atheletic director Mitch Barnhart comes calling.

"I mean, you always visit with people," Pease said. "That's what we're in the profession for."

Kentucky on Sunday announced that coach Joker Phillips will not return next season, and soon thereafter Pease's name popped up in an article by Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde theorizing the potential candidates for the job. Pease spent the 2001 and 2002 seasons in Lexington serving as the Wildcats' offensive coordinator, and Forde named Pease as a likely candidate.

"Sources tell Yahoo! Sports that the candidate list includes Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, plus several college offensive coordinators. Among those believed to be interested in the job are Florida's Brent Pease and Texas Tech's Neal Brown, both of whom have ties to UK – Pease as a former assistant and Brown as a player."

Florida coach Will Muschamp has endorsed Pease twice now, saying that he would be in favor of any of his assistants getting an opportunity for advancement.

"Brent certainly an outstanding football coach," Muschamp said Monday. "Any opportunity he has as a head coach I know that I will fully endorse that as well as Jeremy Foley our athletic director, and our president. He is a really good football coach and that goes for any of our coaches. If they have an opportunity to be a head coach I am all for it."

Pease, despite dispelling any rumors, had positive things to say about Kentucky and its program.

"I think it's a good program. I've been there. They've got great people," He said. "They've got a great program and the facilities are good. They're committed to winning. And they have won. They won when we were there, when I was there on staff. They won when Rich Brooks was there. You can get good kids there."

November 05, 2012

Addressing Florida's lack of playmakers, Will Muschamp says 'I want to score 60, too'

After another narrow victory in which his offense put together an underwhelming performance, it seems Florida coach Will Muschamp has grown tired of answering questions about the subject.

The Gators lagged to a 14-7 victory against Missouri (4-5, 1-5 SEC) on Saturday. The offense, once again, was woeful outside of two big plays. Even though quarterback Jeff Driskel came out throwing, Florida was again outgained in the first quarter, bringing the total to nine straight games -- or, every game this season. That's just the beginning.

The struggles have been well documented -- I've written about it twice (here and here) since Saturday's game. Plenty of writers who cover the team have dedicated inches in print or space online to critique the lack of firepower. However, when asked Monday about the lack of playmakers, Muschamp seemed to have had enough of the criticism.

"It is what it is. We’re where we are. We’re 8-1, alright?" he said. "It’s easy to go pick at that and that’s what everybody’s decided to do at this point. We’re not scoring 60 points a game, so obviously we’re all upset. I want to score 60, too, but I want to win first of all. That’s really what’s important, and that’s what we’re trying to do."

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AP Photo

But when your offense is ranked 103rd in the country and no team ranked in the BCS Standings carries a worse point-per-game average, then questions and stories are bound to come. No. 23 Rutgers and No. Florida are tied for 79th nationally scoring an average of 26.0 per game.

Notre Dame is the only other team ranked in the BCS Top 10 that scores fewer than 29 points per game. Both the Irish and the Gators have been able to get away with such low outputs on average because of dominant defenses -- Florida and Notre Dame are two of only four teams (Florida State, Alabama) to allow fewer than 110 points this season.

But if the offense has a bad day, like it did against Georgia with six turnovers, or if the defense is matched up against a dominant offense, like it will face against Florida State at the end of the month, then what?

Florida this season has played only one of the top 20 scoring offenses, and that was Texas A&M in the team's first game under new head coach Kevin Sumlin. The Aggies still managed to score 17 points to tie a season-high against the Gators, and they did it all in the first half. Muschamp and Dan Quinn made great adjustments to confuse freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel at halftime, but will they be able to do that against a more-balanced and just-as-dangerous Florida State team? Or against Alabama in the SEC Championship game should Auburn surprise Georgia this week? That remains to be seen.

Muschamp has been honest about the need for improvement on offense, and he should recognize it's probably not coming this season. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease has as well, and he was honest last week when asked if he thinks the Gators have a big-time playmaker at wide receiver on the roster.

"Do I see a big-time? I don’t know if I’d say that but I feel confident in with some of the kids that we have," Pease said. "Do we’ve got to get better? Yeah, we’ve got to get better everywhere."

"You run a route, you get open. ... In this league you’ve got to win on man-to-man coverage. I mean it’s easy, zones are easy. You just know the coverage you’ve got to beat."

Redshirt sophomore Quinton Dunbar leads the unit with 20 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Of the team's ranked in the BCS Top 10, Dunbar's numbers are the lowest for a leading receiver. Here's how the rest shake out:

No. 1 Alabama - Amari Cooper - 32 catches, 472 yards, 5 touchdowns
No. 2 Kansas State - Chris Harper - 35 catches, 542 yards, 2 touchdowns
No. 3 Oregon - De'Anthony Thomas - 29 catches, 277 yards, 4 touchdowns
No. 4 Notre Dame - TJ Jones - 31 catches, 383 yards, 3 touchdowns
No. 5 Georgia - Tavarres King - 27 catches, 551 yards, 6 touchdowns
No. 7 LSU - Jarvis Landry - 31 catches, 292 yards, 2 touchdowns
No. 8 South Carolina - Ace Sanders - 24 catches, 270 yards, 5 touchdowns
No. 9 Louisville - Damian Copeland - 33 catches, 414 yards, 1 touchdown
No. 10 Florida State - Rashad Greene - 28 catches, 374 yards, 2 touchdowns

Of those 10 teams, Florida (186 attempts, 1,261 yards) and Kansas State (196 attempts, 1,930 yards) are the only two to have attempted fewer than 200 passes this season, however the Wildcats have not had the same issues with production. While most of those teams have a quarterback more established than the sophomore Driskel, he can't be the sole recipient of blame for the lack of production.

The line hasn't held up at times, and the backs and tight ends have struggled in pass protection as well. And, frankly, as Driskel and Muschamp have said, the Gators haven't really yet needed to open up the offense and push the ball downfield to win. But that also means that there's no proof that they can when and if necessary.

The good news is Florida has its two easiest opponents of the season coming up in the next two weeks at home in The Swamp. It's a chance to get right offensively, pad the stats a little bit and, most importantly, develop some rhythm and confidence in the passing game against lesser opponents.

So, with all that said, tell me: What do you think? Can the Gators compete on offense with the big boys of college football? Is the defense good enough that it doesn't matter? What would happen if Florida somehow found itself in a game against Alabama for the SEC or national championship?

November 01, 2012

Could Alabama beat the worst NFL team? Will Muschamp says no chance

While which team is entitled to the dubious distinction of the NFL's worst is up for debate, the chance that it would lose to Alabama is not, according to Florida coach Will Muschamp.

Muschamp was asked about South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's comments from Tuesday about Alabama being favored in a game against one of the lowly NFL teams that are struggling right now, such as the Kansas City Chiefs or Jacksonville Jaguars.

Here's what Spurrier had to say Wednesday on "The Dan Patrick Show."

"Alabama, gosh, they look like they could beat a couple of those NFL teams that I've watched on Sundays," Spurrier said. "I think a lot of the oddsmakers out there that usually know what's going on, I'd guess Alabama would be favored by a little bit."

Muschamp was having none of it. He laughed at the notion when asked Thursday.

"I would have a hard time seeing that," Muschamp said.

Muschamp, like Spurrier, of course, has experience at the next level. But unlike Spurrier, Muschamp said he learned that there is a distinct difference between college and the pros.

"That maturity of those guys, there are full-grown men playing in that league," Muschamp said. "The speed of the game when I left LSU to go to the Miami Dolphins was more than noticeable on the field. It's a grown man's league."

On his Twitter account Wednesday, Todd Fuhrman, a former oddsmaker for Caeser's Palace in Las Vegas, also disagreed with Spurrier's take.

"Despite Spurrier's comments, he's not a linesmaker and Bama would be a 3 TD dog at MINIMUM to even the worst team in the NFL," Fuhrman tweeted.

And yes, that's counting that team up in Jacksonville.

"The Jaguars," Muschamp said, "are going to be fine."

Muschamp updates situation with injured DB Riggs, redshirt likely

A medical redshirt is likely for defensive back Cody Riggs, coach Will Muschamp said Thursday.

Muschamp sat down Tuesday with Riggs to discuss the likelihood of taking a medical redshirt this season. After practicing Monday and Tuesday of last week, it became clear that the aftereffects from the injury were still an issue although Muschamp said the team's medical staff feels like the broken foot he suffered against Texas A&M has healed properly.

“He’s come back, I guess last week and practiced Monday a little bit, but then went Tuesday and tried to go on it," Muschamp said. "It's just one of those deal when you’re dealing with a foot."

Jordan-matthews-cody-riggs-2010-11-6-17-0-0
Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews (87) catches a 6-yard touchdown pass as he is defended by Florida cornerback Cody Riggs (31) in November 2010. (AP Photo)

"He’s not as full speed as he has been, let’s just say that. He’s not playing as fast as he’s capable of playing. I’m not going to put a player out there that’s not going to play as well as he can play. It hasn’t healed as fast as maybe we thought. We’ve got to just kind of continue to evaluate the situation."

Muschamp said he has spoken to Riggs' family about the decision to redshirt, but added that he "can't make any promises for the simple reason of injury."

If Florida were to suffer another injury in the secondary, it's possible Riggs' chance at a redshirt this season would be null and he would return to the lineup. As of now, the depth is sufficient, but that could change, and Muschamp said that is the main reason for any uncertainty in the situation.

"Right now, probably would apply for a medical (redshirt) based on the time in the season left," Muschamp said. "We still have a lot of the games to go. ... We’ve made no 100% decision yet at all. That’s probably where we’re heading."

Riggs, a Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas alum, started 10 games at cornerback last season and one at safety this season before the injury.


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