« July 2013 | Main | September 2013 »

55 posts from August 2013

August 31, 2013

Saturday Selections: Florida-Toledo thread

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's gameday. 

Finally. 

Swamp

I'm late on this week’s 6-pack of picks (sad, cause it’s only Week 1) but here they are:

* Toledo (+23.5) at Florida

* Alabama (-20) vs. Virginia Tech (ATL) 

* Georgia (-1.5) at Clemson

* LSU (-4.5) vs. TCU (JERRY WORLD)

* Oklahoma State (-12) vs. Mississippi State

* Florida State (-10) at Pittsburgh 

Gators kickoff in just under 30 minutes. I think they’ll win ugly (when don’t they lately) but with so many injuries and suspensions is should be a close game. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit picked a Toledo upset. 

PREGAME NEWS & NOTES

- Defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick is not suspended for today’s opener and will play, according to a UAA spokesperson.

- Tailback Matt Jones (illness) warmed up in full pads (as anticipated) but will not play. The sophomore appears certain to play at Miami next weekend.

- Gator Bowl representatives are in attendance. They must love free tickets.

- Suspended linebacker Antonio Morrison, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and defensive tackle Darious Cummings were spotted wearing street clothes on the sidelines.

Enjoy the weekend, everybody. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

REPORTS: Five additional Gators suspended vs. Toledo

Florida will purportedly be without star cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and four reserves against the Toledo Rockets today (12:21 p.m., SEC Network). 

Citing unnamed sources, Gatorcountry.com first reported the suspensions of Pufifoy, junior-college transfer defensive tackle Darious Cummings, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Quinteze Williams, sophomore wideout Latroy Pittman and freshman defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick for unspecified rules violations. The Gainesville Sun later reported the suspensions. 

Linebacker Antonio Morrison is also suspended for the opener after multiple arrests this offseason

UF has not confirmed the latest suspensions or returned messages seeking comment.

***UPDATE***

Florida confirmed the suspensions of Purifoy, Pittman, Cummings and Williams. No word on Bostwick. 

During Wednesday's SEC teleconference, coach Will Muschamp said no player other than Morrison would miss the opener due to a suspension.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 30, 2013

ICYMI: Questions, Questions, Questions

*** Note *** This article ran in the Herald's 2013 College Football Preview

GAINESVILLE -- Remember actor Jim Carrey going insane as The Riddler in Batman Forever?

“There’s too many questions. There’s too many questions. I’ll show you how it works!”

Meet the 2013 Florida Gators.

On the heels of an unexpected BCS bowl berth, Florida reestablished itself among the nation’s elite.

The Louisville debacle notwithstanding, coach Will Muschamp’s team perfectly embodied his personality a year ago: tough, nasty and a little crazy.

The Gators won 11 games pulverizing their opponents into submission with a suffocating defense, a powerful running game and a fantastic turnover margin.

Florida is the consensus preseason No. 10 team in the country, so expectations -- despite significant losses on both sides of the ball -- remain high in 2013.

Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel said the Gators plan to reach Atlanta, Ga. for the SEC Championship game -- something they haven’t done since 2009.

“I think we have a really good team. We’re a close-knit bunch of guys. We were so close last year, we could taste it,” he said. “We really want to get there this year, and I think we have a good chance.”

But this is a new season, a new team and a lot fresh of questions.

Florida, with three top-five recruiting classes in the last four years, is extremely talented but flawed.

Driskel continues to blossom, yet an already pedestrian offense (No. 104 nationally) struggled with continuity during training camp due to so many injuries. Starting tailback Matt Jones, a potential breakout player, may miss games because of a serious viral infection, while the rebuilt starting offensive line has played a total of zero scrimmage snaps together. 

At receiver, electric freshman Demarcus Robinson and improved junior Quinton Dunbar emerged as two viable options in camp, but as a whole, the unit remains a black hole. Ditto for tight end.

Defensively, the Gators must replace several standouts including defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, safety Matt Elam and linebacker Jon Bostic, although their identity will remain the same.  Muschamp’s team is constructed from the defensive line and secondary first, and UF is ridiculously talent-rich at both spots. Florida’s trio of cornerbacks -- Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins -- are better than most in the country, while linemen Dante Fowler Jr., a future star pass rusher, and Dominique Easley, a run-stuffing tackle, should propel a menacing front-four.

But the known’s stop there.

Florida’s linebackers lack depth, experience and versatility, while its safeties -- albeit very highly regarded -- are green too.

Florida’s success last season was particularly predicated by its top-notch turnover margin (+15, good for No. 4 nationally), rush-defense (No. 4 nationally) and the nation’s top kicker (Caleb Sturgis) -- three key components likely to regress.

The Gators’ grind-it-out attack also meant they forcibly played with little margin for error, even against lesser teams (see: close wins over Bowling Green, Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette). 

“We won 10 games when we won the turnover margin, and we lost two when we didn't,” Muschamp said. “That is something that's obviously very critical for our success.”

With another brutal late-season schedule -- the Gators play four teams ranked in the preseason top 12 including, three away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (UGA, South Carolina and LSU) -- can Florida reach Atlanta with the same ugly, yet effective formula, only with worse luck?

For Muschamp, his team’s confidence is a positive reassurance, but talk is cheap.
“You've got to do it on the field,” he said. “I'm glad that our guys have confidence that that's going to happen, and I feel like we have a deep roster. We've got some depth in some positions, but anytime you want to talk about a run to Atlanta, you've got to have things fall your way.”

With an improved offense and a still-scary defense, Florida could reach the SEC title game.

But with so many questions, it might not be until 2014. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Florida: A Game-by-Game Breakdown

*** Note *** This article ran in the Herald's 2013 College Football Preview

Gators
(media.miamiherald.com)

Aug. 31: Toledo, Noon (SEC Network)

Florida will cruise to its 24th straight season-opening victory. UF 30-9.

Sep. 7: @ Miami, Noon (ESPN)

In 2012, Florida ranked No. 78 nationally in scoring offense, while UM ranked No. 83 in scoring defense. Something’s got to give. UF 24-17.

Sep. 21: Tennessee, TBA (TBA)

The Gators have won six in a row over the Volunteers. The streak continues. UF 24-10.

Sep. 28: @ Kentucky, TBA (TBA)

New Wildcats coach Mark Stoops might have his team pointed in the right direction, but his promising recruiting class won’t be on campus yet. UF 35-0.

Oct. 5: Arkansas, TBA (TBA)

Even the Gators can score against a feeble Hogs defense. UF 33-13.

Oct. 12: @ LSU, TBA (TBA)

Florida isn’t holding LSU under 200 yards of total offense in Death Valley. LSU 23-16.

Oct. 19: @ Missouri, TBA (TBA)

Tigers quarterback James Franklin tossed four interceptions in a close loss (14-7) last season. Repeat performance? UF 20-7.

Nov. 2: Georgia (Jacksonville), 3:30 p.m. (CBS)

Will Muschamp has never won a game in the series -- sporting red and black or orange and blue. UGA 21-20.

Nov. 9: Vanderbilt, TBA (TBA)

This isn’t your daddy’s ‘Dores, but alas, the Gators still have better players. UF 26-17.

Nov. 16: @ South Carolina, TBA (TBA)

All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is still not impressed with Florida’s offense. USC 22-16.

Nov. 23: Georgia Southern, TBA (TBA)

A brief reprieve before another tough rivalry game. UF 38-0.

Nov. 30: Florida State, TBA (TBA)

The Seminoles won’t win in Gainesville twice in a row. UF 28-20. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Grading The Gators

*** Note *** This article ran in the Herald's 2013 College Football Preview

MPj04395130000[1](Courtesy iteach-and-ilearn.blogspot.com)

QUARTERBACKS | C

Jeff Driskel is no longer mired in a quarterback controversy, and the junior appears poised for a breakout season. UF’s starter has a live arm coupled with quick, powerful legs, but can he overcome his confidence and read-progression issues? In Florida’s conservative offense, Driskel threw for more than 175 yards just three times, yet he did do a nice job of mostly avoiding turnovers (12 TD: 5 INT).  As Florida aims for offensive balance, an improved and polished Driskel is a good start. UF lacks quality depth behind Driskel, as his backups -- (RJR) Tyler Murphy, (RFR) Skyler Morhinweg (FR) and Max Staver -- are an unproven and shaky group. Driskel’s health is vital to Florida’s potential success.

RUNNING BACKS | B+

Florida has never had consecutive 1,000-yard rushers in school history. That could change this season. Or maybe not. Matt Jones, a 6-foot-2, 228-pound sophomore, has battled a serious viral infection all August, jeopardizing his role early in the year. Jones was a spring star, and with an elite blend of size, speed and strength, was expected to replicate Miami Dolphins rookie Mike Gillislee’s production (1,152 yards) as Florida’s workhouse tailback. Freshman Kelvin Taylor, the state’s all-time leading high school rusher, and redshirt junior Mack Brown (40 career rushes) must now carry the load. Taylor is the son of Florida legend Fred Taylor and was an early enrollee this spring. Hunter Joyer, a junior, is one of the best fullbacks in the Southeastern Conference.

RECEIVERS | D+

Demarcus Robinson (6-2, 204) has never played a down of college football, but the ballyhooed freshman emerged as the team’s top wideout during camp. Florida’s beleaguered unit includes junior Quinton Dunbar (36 catches, 4 TDs), senior Trey Burton (18 receptions, 1 TD), junior Solomon Patton (8 career receptions) and five freshmen -- only two of whom are ready to contribute: Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood (6-4, 200 pounds). At tight end, Florida cannot replace Jordan Reed’s team-leading 45 receptions but Clay Burton, a reliable blocker, will assume the first-team duties.  

OFFENSIVE LINE | B

Florida’s line was a Jekyll and Hyde unit a season ago. Center Jon Harrison and left guard Jon Halapio propelled a group that mauled opponents on the ground (No. 3 SEC rushing offense) but struggled mightily in pass protection (No. 115 nationally in sacks allowed). Sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries (6-5, 185) should boost the pass blocking immediately, as will transfer linemen Tyler Moore (6-5, 315), Max Garcia (6-4, 307) and Trenton Brown (6-8, 363). Concerns remain though, as Halapio is the leader of group (33 career starts) and has missed all of training camp with a torn pectoral. Although the senior is expected to return to action early in the season, his effectiveness playing with a torn pectoral is unknown.

DEFENSIVE LINE | A-

Replacing defensive tackle Shariff Floyd, a first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, will be tough, but the Gators have plenty of firepower to survive. Florida’s nickel “rabbits” package includes four former five-star prospects: Ronald Powell, back after missing all of 2012 with an ACL injury, Dominique Easley, Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr. Fowler, a sophomore, is a budding star and is on the fast-track to be one of the nation’s elite pass rushers. Without Floyd and Omar Hunter -- last season’s nose tackle -- UF will not be as dominant against the run (No. 4 nationally), but with Fowler and Bullard, the self-titled “Bash Bros”, its sack numbers should increase big time. Leon Orr (6-5, 310), Darious ‘Bear’ Cummings (6-1, 309) and Damien Jacobs (6-3, 290) will rotate at nose tackle. 

LINEBACKERS | C

Here, Florida’s losses will be felt. Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins were two premier run-stopping and coverage linebackers. Antonio Morrison delivered several highlight blows as a freshman, but the sophomore is suspended for the first two games and has worked mostly with the second-unit in camp. Career role players Michael Taylor (6-0, 230) and Neiron Ball (6-3, 235) are two likely starters, while early enrollees Daniel McMillian (6-1, 225) and Alex Anzalone (6-3, 230) should contribute as rotational players.  Depth is a serious concern, especially with so many inexperienced players in the mix.

SECONDARY | A

Welcome to the no fly zone. Florida’s greatest strength is its volume, talent and experience at cornerback. Juniors Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson are All-SEC performers, while senior Jaylen Watkins has 19 career starts. Freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, the nation’s No. 2 overall recruit, and Brian Poole, a physical sophomore, are expected to play significant roles too. Due to coverage concerns at linebacker, the Gators will regularly play six defensive backs together to get the best players on the field.  Florida’s athletic trio mitigates many of the unresolved questions at safety but some still linger. Matt Elam, a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens, and Josh Evans, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ sixth-round selection, were a lethal combination and now the undersized Cody Riggs (5-9, 184) and training camp star Marcus Maye, a redshirt freshman, must take over. 

SPECIAL TEAMS | B

Kyle Christy might be the nation’s top punter. The junior was named a preseason All-American after averaging 45.8 yards per kick in 2012, fifth-best nationally. The kicking situation is a major quagmire with the graduation of All-American Caleb Sturgis. Redshirt freshman Austin Hardin is the probable starter. Andre Debose was an electric kick returner but his torn ACL has caused Florida to audition a collection of guys. Roberson will handle punts, and with Purifoy, Ball and others, the coverage units should remain among the nation’s best.

COACHING | A

With the additions of wide receivers coach Joker Phillips, formally Kentucky’s head coach (2010-12), and Brad Lawling, South Carolina’s defensive line coach (2006-12), Florida’s strong staff got even better this offseason. Will Muschamp opted for improvement over stability. Muschamp is entering the pivotal “Year Three,” while offensive coordinator Brent Pease is considered a potential future head coach. The up-and-coming D.J. Durkin replaces Dan Quinn, now with the Seattle Seahawks, as defensive coordinator, and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is a dynamic recruiter.  Also on staff are several ex-Gators, including former quarterback Chris Leak (2003-06) and linebacker Mike Peterson (1995-98).  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 29, 2013

ICYMI: Gators expect fast pace against Rockets

GAINESVILLE -- Will Muschamp expects Florida’s defense to play 80-85 snaps against Toledo’s up-tempo attack in Saturday’s season opener.

Muschamp said UF would rotate regularly along the defensive line to counter the game’s pace and noon-kickoff heat.

Toledo, ranked No. 32 nationally in total offense in 2012, returns a receiver (Bernard Reedy) and tailback (David Fluellen) who recorded more than 1,000 yards.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said the Rockets’ no-huddle offense presents challenges, but since Florida’s defense doesn’t huddle either, Toledo’s tempo is not a major advantage.

INJURY REPORT

Tailback Matt Jones (illness) practiced in pads for the first time since spring camp Tuesday. Muschamp said, “We tried to bang him around a little bit, and I think he’s a little sore this morning.”

Jones is expected to return against Miami on Sept. 7, and Muschamp said the sophomore would go through pregame warmups versus Toledo but not play. 

Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (sprained shoulder) and senior nose tackle Damien Jacobs (patella) returned to practice this week.

Meanwhile, freshman linebacker Matt Rolin and senior receiver Andre Debose had successful ACL surgeries.

TOUGH GUY

Jacobs missed most of training camp battling a patella injury, but Durkin said the senior backup is ready to play Saturday and called him “a tough, tough guy.”

“It’s really one of those things where if you didn't know you probably wouldn't know he had an injury,” Durkin said. “That's what great players do and tough guys do, not only play through an injury but play through it to the point where you can't tell the difference.”

CORNERBACK ROTATION

Defensive backs Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins -- three highly regarded NFL prospects -- are listed as co-starters on Florida’s depth chart, as Durkin said the trio will frequently play together this season.  

“It doesn’t make sense to have just two of them playing and one watching,” he said. “Whether that be rotating at corner or sometimes Jaylen playing at safety, whatever it is, we have a couple of different combinations and we use different packages on defense to get them all on the field.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

HOOPS: Walker not on campus

McDonald's All-American forward Chris Walker did not academically qualify for the fall semester. 

Florida's basketball signee -- a 6-foot-11, 230-pound five-star recruit from Bonifay -- missed Tuesday's deadline for the university's drop/add period for fall registration. 

Walker told ESPN's Jeff Goodman he plans to enroll in December and still play for Billy Donovan's team.

The athletic freshman remains optimistic he will complete his academic requirements for spring eligibility.

"It's a minor setback, and everyday I'm working hard to get to Florida," Walker told ESPN. "Now I understand how serious high school is and that you can't take the work lightly. I didn't do as well and work as hard as I should have early in high school." 

Walker was the nation's No. 6 player in the Class of 2013, according to Rivals.com  

(REALLY, REALLY, REALLY) Bold Predictions for 2013

Good morning, season. College football officially returns tonight, so that means it’s time for some bold -- mostly really, really, really, bold -- predictions.

All of these will be correct. If not, what was that line from Argo again?

Now, in no particular order: The Lucky ’13

* Loucheiz Purifoy catches a ball. Maybe a pass, possibly an interception, but he’ll catch something. (Hopefully not whatever Matt Jones had). Do you realize the All-SEC cornerback has the same number of career interceptions as me? I’M HEADED FOR THE LEAGUE TOO BABY.

Purifoy
(media.miamiherald.com)

* The Gators win no more than 14 games.

* Florida’s rush defense is better than Eastern Michigan’s but worse than Alabama’s.

* A Cerberus named DunRobTon becomes UF’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2002. YOU CAN SIT DOWN, TAYLOR JACOBS!

* The Gators’ offense averages 375 yards per game, meaning they finish the season somewhere south of No. 80 nationally. Ok, not bold.

* UF loses no more than 12 games.  

* The D is silent. UF’s F-E-N-S-E is awesome again, except when it’s not.

* Brad Phillips isn't informed he didn’t win the placekicking job until January.

* Melinda Lou “Wendy” Thomas is the season’s greatest “alumni celebrity” Two Bits impersonator. FROSTY’S FOR EVERYONE.

* Kelvin Taylor becomes buddies with Tank Black’s kid.

* Trey Burton: A 3-time Blutarsky. 

* Antonio Morrison talks to his other puppy brother, Uga, on Nov. 2.

* UF scores 40 points in a non-conference game, versus an SEC foe, against AN OPPONENT. Dammit. That is too crazy.

Enjoy the season y’all. It’s here.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 28, 2013

Morrison issues curious apology

Antonio Morrison is sorry.

Sort of.

Florida’s suspended linebacker held an impromptu press conference Wednesday, issuing an apology for his multiple arrests during a five-week period this summer.

On Monday, coach Will Muschamp announced Morrison’s suspension had been reduced from two games to one, saying the sophomore “handled his punishment” and “his actions didn’t warrant a two-game suspension.”

Morrison will miss Saturday’s opener against Toledo but will return to the field in Miami on Sept. 7.

Today, Morrison voluntarily met with the media to publicly apologize for his actions.

Again, sort of.

Morrison: “I’m very sorry to all the Gator fans, my coaches, my teammates. That’s me. That’s not me being forced to say this. I wanted to come do this. I can’t run from it.”

Morrison
(Courtesy @Bryan_Holt

He added, “I took responsibility for everything. … I learned a lot from the whole situation as a person. I learned to be a better person from it. I’m still the same person. Nothing changed. I just learned how to handle things.”

But when pressed for specific details on his arrests, punishments, potential lifestyle changes, conversations with Muschamp or thoughts on his suspension, Morrison coarsely refused comment.

“That is nothing I’m sharing.”

“That’s between me and him.”

“I ain’t going into detail what I did.”

“I ain’t setting no story straight.”

“I wouldn’t tell you either way.”

Morrison was first arrested June 16 on a simply battery charge for allegedly punching a bouncer at a Gainesville nightclub. He received deferred prosecution. Just over a month later (35 days), the linebacker was detained for harassing a police canine and resisting arrest without violence but charges were later dropped.

Morrison admitted it was tough being away from his teammates and is excited to see the field soon, but said he’s done talking about the suspension/arrests moving forward.

“I’m not [fixing to] run from y’all. Not games, weeks down, the Kentucky game and y’all still asking about this. I want this to be done with. I’m coming and telling y’all right now, any of y’all interview me after this, I don’t want to talk about it. I already discussed this with y’all. It’s football from here on out. We talking football.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Meet The Rockets

2012 Record: 9-4 (6-2 MAC); Lost to Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Returning Starters: 11: Offense: 9, Defense: 3

Key departures: MLB Dan Molls (San Diego Chargers undrafted free agent, nation-leading 166 tackles), SS Jermaine Robinson (4 INTs, including two for touchdowns, New Orleans Saints undrafted free agent), OLB Robert Bell (second on the Rockets with 100 tackles), OT A.J. Lindeman (former walk-on with 13 career starts as a fifth-year senior, undrafted free agent of the Chicago Bears)

Player to watch offense: WR/return specialist Bernard Reedy – Florida’s deep secondary will get a first-hand look at one of the nation’s most explosive, but unheralded receivers. Toledo’s senior wide out caught 88 balls for 1,120 yards and six touchdowns in 2012, while also chipping in four return touchdowns. Reedy, a Lakewood High alum and first-team All-MAC performer, is super shifty.

Player to watch defense: DE Jayrone Elliot – With the Rockets returning just three starters from last season’s 11th ranked MAC defense, the pickins’ are a tad slim here. Elliot -- a senior -- recorded six sacks and seven tackles for loss as Toldeo’s top pass rusher in 2012. But with gaping holes at linebacker (especially) and in the secondary, the Rockets desperately need Elliot to develop into more than just a situational edge rusher. Elliot’s tag-team partner Christian Smith is another defensive end to keep an eye on.

2013 Outlook: Potentially promising: Toledo is expected to seriously compete for its first conference title in a decade.

Reedy is a seasoned star, as is Rockets junior tailback David Fluellen, the nation’s 12th leading rusher (1,498 yards and 13 TDs). Senior southpaw quarterback Terrance Owens is finally Toledo’s cemented starter after splitting time with the departed Austin Dantin the previous three seasons.

The Rockets also return four regulars from their offensive line.

The Rockets have two major obstacles if they want to win their first outright MAC title since 2004: Northern Illinois and an inexperienced, overhauled defense. Toledo hasn’t beaten its division rival since 2009 and the Huskies return their bulldozing duel-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch.

Toledo finished 2012 with the nation’s 113th ranked total defense, but the Rockets were surprisingly successful at forcing turnovers (25th nationally with 27).

However, top-tackler Dan Molls (3 INTs) and safety Jermaine Robinson (4 INTs, 2 FFs) no longer wear Toledo’s blue and yellow, and those are two monumental losses for a defense that already struggled with consistency.

The offense will undoubtedly score points in bunches, but with three new starters in the secondary and the team’s leading returning tackler a cornerback (Cheatham Norris), it could be tough sledding for the Rockets if their young unit doesn’t mature quickly.  

Florida hosts Toledo on Saturday at 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network)

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 27, 2013

Notebook: The Purifoy Package

Versatile cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy’s potential offensive role has diminished thanks to the emergence of freshmen receivers Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood, but offensive coordinator Brent Pease was adamant Florida would still install a weekly package for the dynamic junior.

According to Pease, Purifoy should receive around four offensive touches a game.

“There’s a lot of places you can put him to run the ball,” Pease said. “He’s got the potential that defenses got to be accountable to him.”

During the spring, Purifoy admitted he’s a cornerback at heart, but Pease said the junior is a natural at receiver.

“He’s just a kid that loves football,” Pease said. “To be playing defense and then all of a sudden switch over to do a play on offense and all of a sudden hit a post route. I mean, he makes it look so natural sometimes. He’s good at it.”

STARTING FAST?

Florida was a dominant fourth quarter team in 2012, topping the SEC with a 128-33 margin (+95).

But what about all the slow starts?

Coach Will Muschamp said, “Well we'd like to play well in all four [quarters], if we can. Again, I think that we've started talking to our guys more about starting fast, especially on the offensive side of the ball, creating some positive opportunities for our football team. … It's a team thing, and certainly we've emphasized it maybe moreso than we have in the past. And I know it's a huge point of emphasis offensively.”

INJURY REPORT

Starting fullback Hunter Joyer returned to practice Monday after missing the final two weeks of training camp with a strained hamstring.

Backup defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (patella) tweeted he was back at practice, but the redshirt senior’s official status has yet to be updated. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Mr. Two Bits 2.0

For 59 years, George Edmondson, aka Mr. Two Bits, was Florida’s “unofficial” cheerleader.

Edmondson, who started the Two Bits tradition in 1949, retired in 2008, but coach Will Muschamp is now resurrecting the tradition with a new flavor.

Two-bits
(George Edmondson | Courtesy tampabay.com)

Florida will honor Edmondson’s legacy at every home game this season with a different “Gators celebrity” leading the cheer.

Errict Rhett, an All-American tailback under former UF coach Steve Spurrier (1990-93), will act as Mr. Two Bits on Saturday in the opener against Toledo.

“[Rhett] is certainly a passionate guy with a lot of energy,” Muschamp said. “You talk to him on the phone, he's almost going to come through the phone on you there. He's excited about it.

“It won't always be a football player, but it'll be obviously a Gator celebrity that means a lot to the University of Florida.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Jones inching towards return, Brown ready

After weeks of injuries piling up on No. 10 Florida, coach Will Muschamp finally delivered some positive news, announcing sophomore tailback Matt Jones “should certainly” return for the Gators’ in-state showdown with Miami on Sep. 7.

Jones, sidelined recovering from a serious viral infection, will miss Saturday’s opener against Toledo, but Muschamp said UF's starting tailback is running, cutting and lifting weights again.

Jones is still not cleared to practice in pads, but offensive coordinator Brent Pease quipped that’s non-issue. When asked how many practices Jones might need to be ready for the Hurricanes, Pease said, “Zero.”

Mack Brown will make his first career start in Jones’ absence this weekend, but the redshirt junior is not expected to see feature-back like carries.

Mack
(Mack Brown)

Mark Herndon, the former walk-on, and Valdez Showers, the recently converted safety, will also see reps in a tailback-by-committee approach. Pease said freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane may factor into the game plan, but maybe not.  

Brown (5-11, 215 pounds), a physical, downhill tailback, was a heralded recruit out of King High (Lithonia, Ga.) in 2010, but his career has been derailed by injuries and inconsistencies.

While not exactly disgruntled, Brown admitted frustrations over his playing time before quickly saying he’s ready to move forward.

“The past three years have been kind of hard. Probably getting two carries every four games. It hurts, but I’m not looking at the past no more.”

Brown has just 40 career attempts and zero touchdowns. He credited his parents and pastor for helping him remain motivated, saying they constantly preached, “Your time is coming. When your time do come, you got to show out.”           

Brown acknowledged he’ll be a tad nervous Saturday -- “I’m usually on the bench the whole game and probably get in the fourth quarter. Now you’re starting the game. You got a little bit of butterflies in your stomach.” – but is ready to run hard.

“I’ve been training hard for this opportunity,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

O-line depth takes another hit

“Injuries are part of the game. One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity.”

 -- Will Muschamp. A sage. 

Gators starting right tackle Chaz Green will miss the 2013 season after tearing his labrum, Muschamp announced Monday.

The junior, who started 10 games in 2012, will undergo surgery later this week. Tyler Moore, a sophomore transfer from Nebraska, will take over in Green’s absence.

Green
(Courtesy floridatoday.com)

“Chaz was playing his best football, was playing extremely well,” Muschamp said. “Certainly had solidified himself at the right tackle spot. Very disappointing news.”

Moore trained at right tackle all spring -- Green was recovering from a persisting ankle injury -- but the redshirt sophomore worked mainly at right guard during training camp replacing injured starter Jon Halapio (torn pectoral).

Last week, offensive coordinator Brent Pease reluctantly admitted he was a tad concerned UF’s projected starting o-line hadn’t practiced together (much, if any) during camp.

Now the situation has worsened.

Florida’s offensive line depth -- quality depth -- is dwindling.

During UF Media Day several weeks ago, Muschamp stated, “I've always sat down and asked the question to our staff, ‘Who can we count on?’ It's not about who is starting. I don't worry about that. ‘Who can we count on?’ This many guys at this position, this many guys at this position. ‘Tell me who six, seven, eight and nine are.’ That's what I want to know.”

Well the line is moving, so come on down, Trenton Brown (UF's behemoth JUCO-tackle) and Trip Thurman (a redshirt sophomore guard/center).

Florida has four offensive linemen who will absolutely probably contribute consistenly in 2013: D.J. Humphries (a budding star at left tackle), Jon Harrison (one of the league's top centers) and the two transfers, Max Garcia (12 career starts at Maryland) and Moore. 

Halapio???

The senior, a preseason all-conference pick at right guard, is slated to return for the Florida-Tennessee game (Sep. 21), but who knows -- despite his pectoral purportedly healing nicely -- if he can contribute at his 2012 level?

Suddenly, 7-8-9 are creeping dangerously close to legtimate playing time. 

Enter, Kyle Koehne, Florida’s latest starting right guard. The redshirt senior is a career backup -- an adequate one at that -- with only four starts. Koehne was solid in occasional snaps last season, but the reserve (at both guard spots and center) is no longer the team's [X player needs a breather] guy. 

The season hasn’t even kicked off yet and Florida is now just a single injury away from starting either Brown (definitely not ready) or Thurman (four career appearances).

That ain’t good.

Fact: Chaz Green was bad in 2012. Some might say really bad. But in 2011, Green was a Freshman All-American and was a lone bright spot on an abominable offensive line. Green battled multiple injuries last season, but once his health improved this summer the coaching staff noticed a significant change in Green’s effort, attitude and aptitude. 

Quoth Pease: “I've seen from Chaz at this point is a guy who's competing more. He's healthier. … He's a guy that's just practicing smarter. I think he understands the protections and how he has to fit into them, the blocking schemes. He's a great athlete, and he's good at what he does, but I think his health, he had a bad ankle last year, and I think he just had to deal with that and he let some of that cause inconsistencies in his game. He stayed healthy now, and I think how he’s playing up front has been a lot better for him. He’s competing harder and he has more repetitions built up in him to be a more consistent player.”

Green's loss hurts, no matter how it's parsed. Muschamp & Co. believe the offensive line is a strength of this year's team.

Maybe it still will be. Then again...

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

August 26, 2013

Week 1: Depth Chart vs. Toledo

OFFENSE

Odep

DEFENSE

DephNOTHING EARTH SHATTERING HERE, BUT…

* Austin Hardin (RFR) won the placekicking job over senior walk-on Brad Phillips, but technically it remains an open competition. Muschamp said, “Brad was slowed by a groin. Again, Brad kicked well when he kicked, he just didn’t have as many attempts or at-bats as Austin did. But Austin sort of distanced himself as a kickoff guy and the placekicking duties. But Brad is a guy who has been in the game before and done it when the lights were on, so that’s something we’re going to work through during the season.”

* Brian Poole is the listed starter at nickel over Vernon Hargreaves III, but since Muschamp didn’t update VG3’s injury status (sprained shoulder) here’s guessing this gets flip-flopped once the freshman is cleared for contact.

* Clay Burton is the No. 1 tight end, with Muschamp saying, “I think Clay is just a very dependable guy who can play multiple spots as far as playing on the line and also playing what we call the “move” position. He's able to do some different things.” Sophomore TE Kent Taylor is nowhere to be found.

* The tailback situation remains in flux. Mack Brown, Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers are all listed, while Muschamp refused to name/compliment freshmen running backs Adam Lane or Kelvin Taylor.

* Solomon Patton (WR) and Valdez Showers (RB) are the main two kick returners, but Louicheiz Purifoy (CB/WR) will return kicks too. 

Any questions on the depth chart? 

Shoot.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

He's back...

GAINESVILLE -- Antonio Morrison will play against Miami on Sept. 7, coach Will Muschamp announced Monday.

Florida’s starting middle linebacker will miss Saturday’s opener versus Toledo, but the sophomore’s suspension has been reduced from two games to one.

“I just don’t feel like his actions warranted a two-game suspension,” Muschamp said.

Morrison was arrested twice in a five-week period this summer, including a July 21 detainment for allegedly harassing a police animal. The charges were later dropped.

“He’s very remorseful about the whole situation, and we’ve moved forward,” Muschamp said. “Guys make mistakes and have poor judgment at times. I’m just disappointed with how the entire night was handled.”

Junior linebacker Ronald Powell said Morrison has taken his punishment in stride and is ready to return and help the team win.

“It’s going to be good to see a teammate who loves the sport as much as he does, and loves his teammates as much as he does be back out there,” Powell said. “I know he’s excited for that. He’s waited and this is not something he’s taking lightly.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

ICYMI: Robinson grabbing attention

Teaser... A feature on freshman receiver Demarcus Robinson

GAINESVILLE -- The Demarcus Robinson hype-train is rapidly approaching maximum velocity.

The 6-foot-2, 201-pound receiver is just a freshman, yet Robinson has already been tabbed Florida’s savior at a position starved for playmakers.

Good luck, kid.

“I'm not appointing him the greatest thing on Earth yet because he's got to play a game,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “But I know he’s worked at his skill, and I think he’s understanding what his opportunity and job is on each play.”

Robinson, who enrolled early in January, has starred in both spring and fall camp, electrifying teammates, coaches and fans with his physical frame and downfield explosiveness. 

Expectations were already high for Robinson, a four-star prospect from Peach County (Ga). Now they’re getting higher. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 24, 2013

All Day: Powell ready for season

*** NOTE *** A version of this piece ran in the paper/sister page Thursday. This is an updated version with some addional comments from D.J. Durkin, Will Muschamp and Ronald Powell. Enjoy

GAINESVILLE -- Strong-side linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell was inspired by Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson’s near record-setting 2012 season.

Now, he hopes his comeback season will be just as successful.

Powell led Florida in sacks (6.0) in 2011 before tearing his ACL twice in the past year. He never played a down last season, and the redshirt junior said he’s ready to bust out this fall.

“Just the feeling of running out in the Swamp. I can feel it, man. It’s going to happen for me.” 

Powell, the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2010, said he keeps a Sports Illustrated cover story on Peterson’s incredible comeback in his locker for motivation.

“I know he had a lot of anxiety about coming back and all that,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “But we’re seeing the flashes of No. 7 to say, ‘Alright we got what we think we had.’”

After two non-contact tears in a calendar year, the redshirt junior was tense early in camp, but head coach Will Muschamp said over time Powell has “gained a lot confidence” and “really cut it loose.”

The knee “feels great,” according to Powell.

Powell also admitted his resilient rehabilitation wasn’t strictly physical. Humbled by his adversity -- he matured. 

“You have to strap it up and take [the hardships] on full speed ahead,” he said. “You just have to grow from it. It’s in front of you. There’s no reason to harp on it. You know it’s there, so take it on full speed ahead and go at it.”

Somewhere, Muschamp is smiling.

“That’s one of the great feelings you have as a coach, to see a guy develop and come through so much adversity and handle it as well as he handled it,” Muschamp said. “That’s one of the joys you get in coaching when you see a young man like that develop.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 23, 2013

Notebook: Jones, Halapio & Morrison OUT vs. Toledo

GAINESVILLE -- It’s official, No. 10 Florida will kickoff the season without its top tailback, offensive guard and linebacker.

Coach Will Muschamp announced running back Matt Jones (illness) and right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) are out for the opener against Toledo (Aug. 31), while middle linebacker Antonio Morrison remains suspended.

Jones is set to have additional blood work on Monday and is “questionable” beyond Week 1. Halapio, a senior with 27 consecutive starts, is likely sidelined until the Tennessee game (Sep. 21).

“I think his pectoral is filling in and we feel really comfortable where is he, but this being his senior year we don’t want to push him with it,” Muschamp said.

Junior tailback Mack Brown will start in Jones’ place, but will not see feature back carries.

“It will be a little more spread out at this time,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in Mack, Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers.”

Nebraska-transfer Tyler Moore will start at right guard.

MORE INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp said fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring), cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (sprained shoulder), defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (patella) and wideout Raphael Andrades (turf toe) are all expected to return Monday.

FR STATUS REPORT

Off-the-cuff, Muschamp named every freshman he expects to play this season. He admited some kids are still being evaluated and he’d “be better suited to answer after the fourth or fifth game,” but…

WILL PLAY

WR Demarcus Robinson

WR Ahmad Fulwood

WR Chris Thompson (special teams)

CB Vernon Hargreaves III

CB Nick Washington (special teams)

LB Alex Anzalone

LB Jarrad Davis

LB Daniel McMillian

S Keanu Neal

MAYBE, BUT PROBABLY NOT

WR Alvin Bailey

WR Marqui Hawkins

OG Octavius Jackson

DT Antonio Riles

DT Jay-nard Bostwick

DT Caleb Brantley

DEFINITE REDSHIRT

QB Max Staver

LB Matt Rolin

OT Trevon Young

OT Roderick Johnson

DE Jordan Sherit

C Cameron Dilliard

P Johnny Townsend

Noticeably absent are four ballyhooed freshmen: DL Joey Ivie, S Marcell Harris and the two tailbacks, Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane.

“We haven’t made a decision on Lane or Taylor yet,” Muschamp said. “Right now both of those guys are taking some reps, and you never know how the season progresses and what they can and cannot do.”

The guess here is Ivie and Taylor will play, while Harris and Lane redshirt. We’ll see.

QUOTABLE

“It’s hard to go against the Heisman Trophy winner. I’m not going to express my vote though. That’s why it’s a private ballot.”

-- Muschamp on whether he voted for Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel for the preseason All-SEC first-team. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Embrace it

And on the third day, Will Muschamp delivered some zingers...

Boom1
(media.miamiherald.com)

Much has been made of Florida's 2014 schedule, released by the SEC on Wednesday. See here, here, here, oh wait, yup, here

On Friday, an animated Muschamp admitted what many refuse to acknowledge: It's about TV. It's about money. The new SEC Network (ESPN): They don't want Kentucky vs. Mississippi State. They want prime-time prize fights. 

"At the University of Florida we embrace whoever we play and whatever happens. ...At the end of the day, no one wants to say it but it comes down to matchups. People want to see the Gators play. They want to see Florida and Alabama play. I know that's not the company line, but that's the bottom line."

Muschamp ribbed the league a bit, but all in good fun. 

"A season ago we were asked to go to College Station and we embraced it and welcomed the [Texas A&M] Aggies to the SEC," he said, smiling. "We've been asked to kickoff at noon Aug. 31, Sept. 1 every year, we embrace it. We've been asked to play a cross-division opponent with LSU. We don't gripe and complain about it, we embrace it. We embrace things at Florida."

He finished his bit by saying, "There's a rumor going around they're going to ask us to play nine conference games next season and rest of the league play eight. And if they do, we'll embrace it. What a wonderful opportunity.”

It certainly is, but the 2013 season can't start soon enough. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


Categories


Archives


Powered by TypePad