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65 posts from October 2013

October 31, 2013

“We do fell like it’s a majority of our fault”

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s porous offensive line has allowed 10 sacks during its two-game losing streak.

The Gators totaled just 391 yards in the two losses, as the line struggled to protect quarterback Tyler Murphy or open up many holes for UF’s tailbacks.  

While Florida lacks a full-cupboard of elite playmakers or consistent quarterback play, the staff teased the line as a strength of the offense in the preseason.

Such has not been the case -- especially against formidable defensive fronts.     

Changes are in order though, and during the idle week, the Gators coaching staff made three noteworthy refinements they hope help the line perform better Saturday against Georgia. 

1. Back to the basics…

“You change the protections where you just kind of, you don’t put them in charge of guys, kind of into a gap protection and more area,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “I’m not giving the whole game plan of everything, but you’ve just got to take off some. You’ve got to change the pocket form a little bit.”

2. A new different starting five…

“Tyler Moore will start at left tackle, and Trenton Brown will start at right tackle,” coach Will Muschamp said.

Max Garcia (LG), Jon Harrison (C) and Jon Halapio (RG) will play their traditional positions, but if either Brown or Moore struggles (especially with D.J. Humphries sidelined with an MCL sprain), Garcia could slide outside and senior Kyle Koehne would play guard. 

3. Minimize pre-snap audibles and protection changes…

“The thing we tried to go back and focus on simplifying is how much can we take off of them of what they really have to think and adjust,” Pease said. “There's still some that you've got to be able to do because defenses have changed their schemes and looks, their fronts, you've got to make sure you have answers to them. But as much as we can take off communication line to execute more on the run and just play fast and not be thinking up to the immediate snap of the ball or at the snap of the ball, that's what we've got to do.”

VIDEO: Garcia, who called Florida’s offensive failures the line’s fault, talked about the communication issues, refocusing on fundamentals, using Saturday’s rivalry game as a potential confidence builder and more. 

 

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HOOPS: Suspensions, season-previews & more

GAINESVILLE -- And you thought Florida’s football team was shorthanded.

Coach Billy Donovan’s No. 10 men’s basketball team will kickoff preseason play Friday night (Florida Southern, 7 p.m.) with just six available scholarship players following two more suspensions and multiple lingering injuries/illnesses. 

On Thursday, Donovan announced sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith and junior center Damontre Harris -- two transfers expected to play key roles this season -- are suspended indefinitely (games only) for an undisclosed violation of team rules. The two transfers join senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin on the bench -- suspended indefinitely since June 10 -- and will miss at least Florida’s first two games -- counting tomorrow’s exhibition opener.

Donovan remained vague at the exact length of the suspensions, saying, “We’ll make a decision. There’s some things they need to do as well. Hopefully, they will do it, and we’ll see how that translates going forward.”

The Gators will also be without sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, who was diagnosed with mononucleosis Tuesday and is sidelined indefinitely.

“He’s out, and we really don’t know when he’d be back,” Donovan said. “I think his illness will probably go into some regular-season games.”

Senior forward Will Yeguete is also unlikely to play against Florida Southern, as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. Yeguete has practiced this preseason, but not everyday.

“Earlier in this week, he was probably in the mindset that he wasn’t ready to play,” Donovan said. “It’s going to be on his terms. I’m not forcing him or telling him he can’t. We’re going to go into this situation where he’s going to have to evaluate where he’s at. He practiced pretty well on Tuesday. Yesterday he was out the whole entire day. … He’s back in today. I’m going to talk to him before and see where he’s at mentally.”

Meanwhile, Rutgers transfer guard Eli Carter (fibula) will play some Friday, but Donovan said the junior is hardly 100 percent and still runs with a noticeable limp.

Overall, the Gators are a depleted bunch facing a brutal non-conference schedule, including traveling to Madison to play Wisconsin in the second game of the season (Nov. 12).  

“The only constants have been Kasey Hill, DeVon Walker, Casey Prather, Patric Young, those four guys have been the only four constants. I would say from that point everybody has missed at least a minimum of three or four days of practice,” Donovan said. “It is what it is. … But the thing about it is our team needs to keep moving forward because regardless of what happens tomorrow night or when we open up next week the season is still coming.”

Florida hosts North Florida on Nov. 8 to kickoff its 2013-14 campaign.  

ICYMI: SEASON PREVIEWS

Yesterday, I wrote a pair of season-previews for Florida’s men and women’s basketball teams.

* MEN: On freshman point guard Kasey Hill and the uncertainty that clouds Florida’s start to season

* WOMEN: On coach Amanda Butler’s team being high on hopes, but short on numbers

THIS & THAT

Florida starts the year at No. 10 in the preseason Associated Press men’s college basketball poll -- released Thursday -- and Donovan thought his team’s ranking was a joke.  “I would say we’re not even remotely close to being 10 in the country right now,” Donovan said, laughing. The Gators are ranked No. 8 in the preseason USA Today poll. … Five-star forward Devin Robinson (Christchurch High, Va.) -- the nation’s No. 20 ranked prospect in the 2014 class according to Rivals.com -- verbally committed to the Gators on Wednesday afternoon. … Donovan was unsure of his starting lineup against the Mocs, but it’s likely to include a walk-on (forward Jacob Kurtz) and a shooting guard (DeVon Walker) destined for a redshirt season just 10 days ago.

VIDEO: WALKER TALKS IMPORTANT CONVO WITH DONOVAN & OFFSEAON GROWTH

   

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October 30, 2013

Keepin' it 100 with Mr. Taylor

GAINESVILLE -- Michael Taylor leads the Gators with 41 tackles, but the redshirt junior is also the team's top talker. 

On Wednesday, the linebacker dished on Florida's disheartening loss to Missouri and the defense's poor performance against the Tigers, his motivation for beating Georgia and on why Bulldogs tailback Todd Gurley will definitely play this weekend.

Enjoy.  

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

Q&A: D.J. Durkin

GAINESVILLE -- For the first time since his unit was shredded for over 500 yards in a 36-17 loss to Missouri, the assembled media met with Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin on Wednesday afternoon.

Florida’s first-year coordinator rehashed the loss, dished on Cody Riggs’ ejection, the importance of winning first down, confusing Aaron Murray and more.  

The major takeaways from Durkin’s press conference…

* Missouri punched Florida in the mouth and exposed some its defensive deficiencies, but Durkin’s unit is a prideful group (that practices hard) and won’t just lay down moving forward.

“I think there were obviously things we could have done much better in that game. They hit us on some plays. They are a talented team and they've got some guys outside that can do that. I think we just need to handle it, if that happens to us, to bounce back quicker. We're going to get hit on a play here or there, especially if you're playing receivers like they've got. Credit to them, a lot of 50-50 balls they went up and made the play. We've just got to line back up and go play. And I think at some point we didn't react the way we needed to on defense. That's something that hasn't happened with our group, and obviously we hope it doesn't happen again. … I just think it was something our guys are not used to. Quite frankly, we don't want to be used to it, so I think, we got some young guys and guys that maybe haven't been there before, haven't seen that experience before, I don't know. But it was obviously something we've addressed and talked about. I think our guys are resilient. They work hard, and they're confident in what we're doing. I think you'll see it. "

* The Gators rank second nationally in third down defense (27.38 percent conversion rate), but during their recent two-game losing they are giving up way to many yards on first and second down for the stat to matter -- especially against the run.

“Part of it is winning on first down. We talk a lot about winning on third down, which is obviously is critical, that’s how you get off the field. To better your chances on third down, you’ve got to win on first down. So, stopping the run becomes a big thing for us. Obviously, this week, these guys run the ball well. With [UGA tailback Todd] Gurley being back, he’s a dangerous back. He presents an issue that way. We have to do a good job of it.”

* With depth issues up front, freshmen defensive linemen Jay-nard Bostwick and Joey Ivie want to play -- and have been recently praised by coach Will Muschamp -- but is it too late to burn a redshirt(s)?

“I think all our guys want to play. They come here with the intent of playing, we recruit those types of guys that want to play as freshmen. So obviously for various reasons, some guys do, some don't. It's never all positive or negative. It just it what it is. So [Bostwick] is continuing to prepare in practice and he's getting better and better. And I think his time will come."

* True freshman linebacker Jarrad Davis -- a special teams ace and captain against Missouri -- has emerged as a potential rotational player in an underwhelming linebacker corps. 

“Jarrad’s done a great job with the snaps he’s had on special teams. He hasn’t had a ton on defense leading up to that point, but on specials teams he’s been an elite performer for us playing in all phases. He’s got a great career, a bright future ahead of him. He’s learning the defense better and better and doing better in practice. He’ll continue to play more on defense.”

* Gators safety Cody Riggs was ejected for targeting on the game’s first play in the loss to Missouri, and Durkin -- like Muschamp -- is no fan of the rule (or severe penalty). 

“It’s one of those things where I understand where everyone’s coming from in the movement of safety. That’s a smart decision by everyone involved. I want safety of our players to be first and foremost. In terms of that, the officials when it’s a close call they’re going to call it. That’s what they’re told to do and if I was one of them I’d call it close too, you can’t let one of those slide. Looking back on it and we have more time to look back on it and see it in slow-mo I don’t think Cody lowered his head and targeted, he did end up hitting helmet-to-helmet but he led with his hands. So it was a close call it could have went either way.  … You go into every game being prepared for whether it’s by injury or -- obviously you usually don’t do it by a guy being ejected but you plan on contingencies in case something happens. We said it before the year even started that ‘it’s going to be hard for safeties to make it through the season without things happening’ and we’ve seen that first hand as well as a lot of other teams have and those are the guys that get in those positions the most and it’s hard. Football’s a fast game and things happen fast even if a guy’s not intending to do that and Cody wasn’t but you just get yourself out of position and it happens fast. It’s two moving parts going together so ya it is something we’re prepared for and talk about.”

* Despite Florida forcing Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray into multiple poor decisions (7 total INTS vs. UF) over the past three seasons, Durkin believes the senior signal caller is really, really good (and smart).

“He's a very talented passer. That's pretty clear to anyone. He can also beat you running the ball, too. He runs better than people give him credit for. He makes a lot of plays in terms of converting on third down, whether it's designed or not. He's got great command of that offense. He's been playing there for four years with the same staff, same everything. So, I think he knows that offense probably as well as the coaching staff does and it shows when you watch it on tape. He's very comfortable in what they're doing, and they check him out on a lot of things and I think put a lot on him in terms of protections and checking the play, and he handles it well. He presents a lot of issues that way, and he's a guy we have faced many times. We know what his ability is."

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Hits keep coming: Humphries out against Dawgs

GAINESVILLE -- On the eve of Halloween, Florida’s beleaguered offensive line just got even scarier. 

Struggling, but talented left tackle D.J. Humphries sprained his right medial collateral ligament in Monday’s practice and will be sidelined up to four weeks.

According to coach Will Muschamp, the sophomore is “a quick recovery guy” but the 6-foot-5, 285-pound tackle will definitely miss Saturday’s game against Georgia, forcing another reshuffling up front.

Former right tackle Tyler Moore, publically benched Tuesday following two straight poor performances, will now start in Humphries’ place at left tackle, and junior-college transfer Trenton Brown will make his first career FBS start at right tackle.

While Florida has been hamstrung by injuries all season, the offensive line has mostly avoided the ruthless injury bug.

Not anymore.

Georgia’s defense, ranked No. 9 in the SEC, has labored for much of the season, but the Bulldogs are a quality pass rushing team with 19 sacks on the year (third in the SEC). 

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Notebook: New right tackle?

GAINESVILLE -- During Florida’s idle week, coach Will Muschamp promised changes on offense and several moves are starting to take shape before Saturday’s border-war with Georgia.

Freshman Kelvin Taylor appears poised to start at tailback, and on Tuesday, offensive coordinator Brent Pease not-so-subtly hinted at a reshuffled offensive line, suggesting mammoth junior-college transfer Trenton Brown (6-foot-8, 361 pounds) is in position to make his first-career start at right tackle.

“Trenton’s in line to play quite a bit,” Pease said. “He’s got to continue through practice and see where he’s at. I don’t think you can just say hey, you’re starting. He still has to accountable to his performance in practice. He was taking first-team reps last week, he’s taking first-team reps this week. We’ll go from there.”

Redshirt sophomore Tyler Moore has started all seven games at right tackle, but the former Nebraska transfer was benched late in the loss to Missouri following two straight poor performances. 

MURPHY UPDATE

Quarterback Tyler Murphy (AC shoulder sprain) did not throw during Florida’s bye week, but the fourth-year junior resumed his normal throwing schedule for the first time since UF’s 36-17 loss to Missouri.

“It's not bothering me,” Murphy said, regarding his sprained shoulder.  “I didn't practice last week much. It's been fatigued a little but other than that it's fine.”

M3TZ1859
(courtesy gatorzone.com)

Pease said Murphy’s passes weren’t particularly precise during Monday’s practice, but said the quarterback should be ready for Saturday’s game. 

“It’s really been about two weeks where he hasn’t [thrown much]. He’s thrown about 30 balls up till yesterday,” Pease said. So his arm -- his accuracy -- was off a little bit and he was just kind of getting back into the rhythm and the timing of everything and still kind of having to zip [the bal]. He’s fine that way that he can throw, it’s just kind of getting back into that flow after you haven’t done anything for 14 days.”

REDSHIRT FOR TAYLOR

Sophomore tight end Kent Taylor will be redshirted this season, according to Pease. Taylor -- the nation’s No. 1 recruit at the position in 2012 -- played very sparingly as a freshman but did catch a 5-yard touchdown pass in Florida’s loss in the Sugar Bowl and appeared poised to enter preseason camp as a potential replacement for Jordan Reed.

However, a nagging ankle injury (Taylor missed the first four games this season) and a lack of development caused the staff to reevaluate the tight end’s role in 2013.

"We had looked back on it and determined if he was ready or not and he wasn't ready at the time,” Pease said. “You got to be able to block in that position and run routes and we gotta see that you can perform and your performance has to show up. I don't know if his development is totally there.”

Taylor, now healthy, has been working as the scout team tight end.  

“Not every kid's going to be an immediate guy. He's a kid that's got to maintain weight to play in that position. He can't be too light. And sometimes I think in this sport, and at this level, you've got to give kids a chance to develop. It's not going to be just because he catches a touchdown pass in a game. It's gonna be one, two, sometimes three years. You look at the good teams and the good players, they really start showing up their junior year.”

QUOTABLE

"I'm excited. This has always been my favorite game of the year. This should be another good one. I [love] the atmosphere, how it's split half and half, coming over the bridge and seeing all the fans out there.  It's always really competitive."


-- Senior wideout Trey Burton on his last game in the Florida-Georgia series

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October 29, 2013

Full(y) circle(d)

GAINESVILLE -- In last season’s turnover-laden loss to Georgia, Florida fumbled away its unblemished record and an opportunity to bury its bitter rival.

It was a demoralizing defeat for the Gators, but their season didn’t end on a dreary afternoon in Jacksonville.

Solomon Patton’s season did, however, and he hasn’t forgotten it.  

“I've definitely been waiting on this game,” UF’s senior wide receiver said. “I had circled it since last year. This is like the main game that I've been waiting on all year.”

Patton -- then a jet-specialist but now Florida’s go-to playmaker -- broke his arm on a failed fourth-down conversion midway through the first quarter of last year’s rivalry game in Jacksonville. The wideout took a quick handoff towards UF’s sideline before UGA safety Shawn Williams awkwardly slung the diminutive speedster just short of the first down yard-marker, breaking Patton’s arm in the process.

701581media.247sports.com
(Courtesy media.247sports.com)

The brutal blow ended Patton’s 2012 campaign, as he finished the year with just a single reception and 140 yards rushing on 14 carries.

“He was just starting to come on and that particular play, I mean, it was kind of such a weird hit that he didn’t get hit directly,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “He didn’t fall on his arm. And that was kind of a play we put in figuring he could get around the edge. I felt bad about it because he meant a lot to us of what we could do at that time.”

While the wideout didn’t grow a bionic arm in the offseason, Patton’s overall game has transformed in the year since the injury.  No longer Pease’s gimmicky toy, the 5-foot-9, 168-pound slippery speedster has emerged as Florida’s offensive MVP in 2013.

“Obviously he’s come through it full circle,” Pease said. “The season he’s having now, good for him, because we need him.”

Ever since Percy Harvin bolted for the NFL in 2008, the Gators have desperately searched for their next electric and explosive playmaker, and as it turns out, he may have been under their noses all along.  

After entering the year with just 79 career receiving yards, Patton tops Florida in yards (426), yards per reception (15.21) and touchdowns (4), while also averaging 6.22 yards per carry and ranking second in the SEC in kickoff return average (28.92 y/r).

Media.miamiherald.com
(media.miamiherald.com)

Although Florida’s offense has stagnated to near-record lows this season, Patton has consistently stared in key moments and proven he’s no longer a one-trick pony.

In Florida’s romp over Arkansas, he powered the offense with two touchdowns, dashing for a pair of long scores (51-yards, 38-yards) on two short throws. In Florida’s 36-17 loss to Missouri, the elusive playmaker jumpstarted a potential comeback, returning the opening second half kickoff 100-yards untouched to make it a one-score game at the time.

Patton swears the ability has always been there, but he admitted he’s studied harder and drastically improved his route running under the tutelage of position coach Joker Phillips during in his senior season.

The results have shown up on the field.

“Sometimes when you know your opportunity is there to be a player your urgency picks up,” coach Will Muschamp said. “We told him he needed to be a guy that could help us, and that’s something he has done. You got to credit the young man and his work ethic. He’s having a special year.”

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Riggs talks targeting ejection

GAINESVILLE -- Cody Riggs’ momma is no fan of the NCAA’s new targeting rule. Riggs was ejected on the first play from scrimmage in UF’s 36-17 loss to Missouri after he launched himself at the head of Tigers wideout L’Damian Washington following a 41-yard completion.

Riggs’ mom and seven other family members traveled from his hometown of Ft. Lauderdale and nearby St. Louis to watch the junior safety play just a single snap on the afternoon.

“They were really upset. They don’t agree with the rule at all, but they’re not on the field. They were really upset just because they came all the way up from South Florida to Columbia and they spent money coming up there to come see the game,” Riggs said.

“My mom was upset that she only got to see me play for 10 seconds.”

Riggs admitted his helmet-to-helmet hit was the correct call, but Florida’s starting safety expressed frustrations with a rule he called, “not fair.”

"It's a good rule because of concussions. I know people that have played in the NFL with concussions. I understand the intention of the rule, but at the same time my family came all the way up to Missouri from South Florida to watch the game, and they saw me play for 10 seconds off of a penalty that I really wasn't trying to hurt anybody. It has its pros and cons. It's just one of those rules that you have to live with,” Riggs said.

Steve Shaw -- the SEC head of officials -- ardently supports the targeting rule for players’ safety, but he announced last week he [along with league commissioner Mike Slive] will petition the NCAA to review the exact rule [i.e. the 15-yard penalty for an overturned ejection] after the season.

However, by the letter of the law Riggs’ penalty and subsequent ejection was the correct call -- even if he “had no intention of hurting the guy.” The safety was forced to watch the rest of the game on a laptop in an empty locker room.

It was a lonely and hollow feeling for Riggs, and yet the ejection won’t change the way he will play in the future.

“I’m not going to slow up. I’m going to keep playing hard. I’m not going to be hesitant when it comes to hitting a receiver that’s going across the middle,” he said. I’m just going to have to lower my target next time. I’m not going to slow down.”

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October 28, 2013

Notebook: Slim hopes alive

GAINESVILLE -- Late Saturday night, Gators safety Cody Riggs went wild with newfound optimism.

No. 10 Missouri’s shocking overtime loss to 14 South Carolina opened the door for the Gators to (technically) reenter the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division race as a longshot to reach Atlanta. 

“I went crazy. I was jumping around the house,” Riggs said. “I actually called [teammate] Jaylen Watkins and was like, ‘We’re back in it. We’re back. We still have a chance.’ So, thanks South Carolina, but we have to have to handle our business first. A couple of things have to go right, but we still have hope.”

Isportsweb.com
(Cody Riggs | courtsey isportsweb.com)

Florida must win out (vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, home against Vanderbilt and at South Carolina) and have Missouri lose two of its remaining conference games (vs. Tennessee, at Ole Miss and vs. Texas A&M).  

“We never really lost belief,” quarterback Tyler Murphy said. “[Missouri’s loss] Worked out in our favor, but at the same time we’re kind of just really focused on beating Georgia.  

“If we win out and things play out where we can win the East, you know, we’ll be very, very happy, but we’re just focused on beating Georgia.”

Coach Will Muschamp echoed Murphy’s centered approach moving forward.

“We just need to focus on Florida in this game and what our opponent does well and what we’re gonna try and take advantage of in this game. Not worry about all the other stuff at this point. We just need to concentrate on us right now.”

INJURY REPORT

Murphy (AC shoulder sprain) did not throw during Florida’s idle week, but fourth-year junior is expected to resume normal practice activities this week and start Saturday against Georgia.

Elsewhere, redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell (ankle) remains questionable, while senior linebacker Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) and redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) are doubtful for this weekend. 

QUOTABLE – 0-FER

"0-2 as a head coach. …None of it is fun, but certainly being here at the University of Florida and understanding the importance of this game to us and our people, we need to get a win."

-- Will Muschamp on which is worse: Being 0-4 as a player (with Georgia) or 0-2 as a head coach in the SEC East rivalry.

THIS & THAT
For just the third time in 33 years (1980, 2010), both Florida (4-3, 3-2 SEC) and Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC) are unranked entering Saturday’s showdown. … Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was named one of 15 semifinalists -- and the lone freshman -- for the Jim Thorpe Award. … UF’s homecoming game against Vanderbilt (Nov. 9) will kickoff at noon and will be televised on either ESPNU or Fox Sports. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Taylor gets the nod

GAINESVILLE -- For 11 seasons, ex-UF star running back Fred Taylor called EverBank Field home as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But Saturday afternoon’s annual Florida-Georgia battle along the St. Johns River will be a different sort of homecoming for Taylor’s son, Kelvin, UF's freshman tailback.  

The former five-star prospect is most-likely slated to make his first-career collegiate start in the very same stadium where his dad became a household name.  

According to coach Will Muschamp, the running back has earned and deserves an increased role in UF’s downtrodden offense.

“[Kelvin] has continued to improve throughout the season week to week He's always been a very instinctive, natural runner. It's very obvious. Again, with assignments and different things, I think he's done a nice job and deserves the opportunity,” Muschamp said.

For the season, Taylor has rushed for 172 yards on just 28 carries (6.14 y/c), but his breakout performance in the loss to Missouri (74 yards and a touchdown) coupled with Matt Jones’ season-ending knee injury prompted the staff to reevaluate Talyor’s potential as an offensive spark-plug.

“He’s shown that he can do a lot of good things with the ball in his hands. The coaches and myself have to find ways to get him the ball so he can create big plays for us,” Muschamp said. “We’re gonna need some explosive plays and he’s shown that he has the ability to do that. We’re gonna have to find ways to get him the ball and eventually he's going to break. He's very talented, very elusive player.”

Junior fullback Hunter Joyer praised Taylor's natural talents, but also said the freshman recognizes his new-found opportunity. 

"He looks more focused than he did early in the year," Joyer said. "He understands that we’re kinda relying on him now and he has to grow up and produce for us."

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October 27, 2013

The faintest of hopes

After Missouri's heart-breaking loss to South Carolina on Saturday night, Florida fans be like...

 

Technically, the Gators [and this week's opponent Georgia] can still win the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.

There's tons of (potentially) wild scenarios but basically, UF must win out (vs. UGA in Jacksonville, home vs. Vanderbilt, at South Carolina) and have Mizzou lose (at least) twice (vs. Tennessee, at Ole Miss, vs. Texas A&M).

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

October 26, 2013

Saturday Selections: Bye Week Blues

GAINESVILLE -- I don't imagine Will Muschamp can sing, but if he could, this would be the perfect ballad considering how the season's played out thus far.

 

Onto the Saturday Selections... 

PICKS 

3-3 last week.

Scoreboard: 27-18-1 ATS, 3-4 selecting Florida games

This week's six-pack:

Oklahoma (-7) vs. Texas Tech

Vandy (+18) at Texas A&M

N.C. State (+30) at Florida State

Baylor (-35) at Kansas

Missouri (-2.5) vs. South Carolina

Louisville (-19.5) at South Florida 

Enjoy the games, all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 24, 2013

The Midseason Edition: Rank'em

GAINESVILLE -- It’s the bye week, so what better time to rank Florida’s top 10 players to date…

1. WR/KR Solomon Patton – 28 catches for 426 yards, 5 total touchdowns: Florida’s most explosive and reliable playmaker. Think how inept UF’s offense would be if the senior were still a jet-sweep specialist?

Solo
(Solomon Patton | courtesy rantsports.com)

2. CB Vernon Hargreaves III – 19 tackles, 3 interceptions, 7 passes broken up: ‘Nuff said. 

3. LB Michael Taylor – team-leading 41 tackles, 3.5 TFL: Florida’s top linebacker on a unit that’s struggled all season. It’s strange to live in a world where Taylor is a better linebacker than Antonio Morrison, but alas, that’s where we are and it’s a major reason why Florida suddenly cannot stop the run.

4. UT QB Nathan Peterman DL Dante Fowler Jr. – 27 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 7 quarterback hurries, 3 FF: The sophomore is still learning how to set the edge in the run game, but the baby-faced pass rusher remains Florida’s most menacing defensive line presence.

Zimbo
(Dante Fowler Jr. (No. 6), Jon Bullard (No. 90) | courtesy zimbo.com)

5.  WR Trey Burton – team-leading 29 receptions for 336 yards, 1 touchdown: The sheriff of Checkdown Central. With minimal zero tight end production, the senior is quarterback Tyler Murphy’s favorite target, especially on third down.

6. ARK QB Brandon Allen DL Jon Bullard – 20 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 quarterback hurries: Not as heralded or dynamic as Fowler Jr., but Bullard has been one of Florida’s most consistent (despite playing out of position inside) linemen in Dominique Easley’s absence. 

7. CB Loucheiz Purifoy – 14 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 FF, 1 blocked punt: Borrowing ESPN Bill Simmons’ 90-10 theory, 90 percent of what Purifoy brings to the table is still better than almost any cornerback in the country. 

Cbsports

(Loucheiz Purifoy | courtesy cbssports.com)

8. Kentucky’s whole team K Francisco Velez – 3-for-3 on field goals, long of 44 yards: The walk-on hasn’t missed since leapfrogging Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips on the depth chart.

9. S Jabari Gorman – 30 tackles, 1 interception: The unsung junior is the team’s best tackler in the secondary and is better in coverage than Cody Riggs.  

10.  LG Max Garcia – At tackle it’s a different story, but when at guard (his natural position) Garcia has been UF’s most consistent and productive offensive linemen -- hands down. 

Thoughts? Comments? Your own list(s)… 

Have at it.

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Searching for solutions

A teaser to a piece I wrote on Florida's coaching staff and Will Muschamp's vote of confidence. 

GAINESVILLE -- The Gators -- unranked and unraveling -- will have no mid-season coaching changes, Will Muschamp emphatically announced Wednesday.

Florida, crippled by injuries and a stale and inept offense, is reeling following consecutive drubbings against LSU and Missouri, but Muschamp endorsed his staff -- specifically offensive coordinator Brent Pease -- 100 percent.

“This is the same staff that came a game away from playing for [the] national championship, OK?” he said. “Obviously we’re not where we want to be right now, and nobody knows that more than our staff. So we need to go back and re-evaluate what we’re doing and continue to improve our football team over the next five weeks.”

The Gators’ (4-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) have continued to regress on offense, as they rank No. 106 in total offense (336.9 y/g) -- this following consecutive seasons finishing in the bottom 20 nationally of total offense. 

With no identity and few playmakers, it’s been agonizing for Florida to even gain first downs in recent weeks.

UF’s floundering offensive line has allowed 10 sacks in last the two games, while it’s rushing attack has averaged a conference-worst 3.70 yards per carry.

Changes are afoot though, including the coaching staff’s normal bye week schedule.

Muschamp pulled several assistant coaches off the recruiting trail Sunday, cancelling a two-day tour for an emergency meeting to address Florida’s endless offensive woes. ..."

For more click the link...

Also a notebook on Florida's ever-expanding injury report, a baby for Darrin Kitchens and Aubrey Hill's two-year, show-cause penalty.  

INJURY UPDATES

Florida’s injury report continues to read longer than a Faulkner novel.

Reserve linebacker and special teams ace Jeremi Powell will miss the remainder of the year with a torn ACL. It’s UF’s eighth season-ending injury in 2013.

“It’s just one of those years,” coach Will Muschamp said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the game. You’ve got to coach through it and you’ve got to play through it. We don’t make excuses around here. We need to play better than we did the last two weeks.”

Powell was hurt on a punt block in the 36-17 loss to Missouri last weekend, but the injury was caused in a non-contact situation.

“He was just planting and got caught in the turf,” Muschamp said. “Unfortunate for him. He’s a guy who was really emerging, special teams-wise. He did a great job on kickoff for us.”

Meanwhile, linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell remains out with an ankle injury, but Muschamp is hopeful the junior will return against Georgia following the bye week.

Quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder) isn’t throwing in practice this week, but he too is expected to start versus the Bulldogs next weekend, as is defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head injury).

Senior linebacker Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) and redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) remain sidelined and their return dates are unknown.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 23, 2013

ICYMI: Changes afoot

GAINESVILLE -- News and notes from the last couple days...

Changes are coming for Florida’s hopeless and "inept" offense.

The Gators (4-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) enter their second bye week this year coming off another miserable road defeat, and following Saturday’s 36-17 loss to Missouri, coach Will Muschamp vented his frustrations with the struggling unit.

“We’re inept offensively right now, and we need to make some changes as we move forward,” he said Saturday in Columbia.

The Gators rank dead last in the conference in total offense (336.9 y/g), yards per play (4.94) and explosive plays from scrimmage (defined as 20-plus yards). 

“If you continue to do the same things, you're going to get the same results,” Muschamp said. “We have an awful lot to work on in the open week. We need to work on Florida, get better, do some things offensively where we feel like we can consistently move the ball, find out what our kids can do, regain our confidence on defense and continue to improve on special teams.”

INJURY REPORT

Florida -- unranked for the first time since October 2011 -- was without three key defensive contributors against the Tigers and the players’ return dates are uncertain.

Strong-side linebacker Ronald Powell (ankle), defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) and linebacker Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) all missed Saturday’s game, while reserve linebacker Jeremi Powell (knee) and starting safety Jaylen Watkins (hand) were banged up in the loss.   

TAYLOR BREAKS OUT

As unranked Florida -- hamstrung by injuries and inconsistencies -- searches for answers during its second bye week of the 2013 season, a rare bright spot did emerge in the two humiliating losses: freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor.

Taylor rushed for a career-high 74 yards on 12 carries in UF’s 36-17 loss to Missouri, displaying solid vision and sublime cutback ability.

“Kelvin’s a natural, instinctive runner,” Muschamp said Saturday.

The freshman’s 20-yard touchdown sprint late in the third quarter capped a 70-yard drive and made it a one-score game (23-17) -- with Taylor accounting for 52 yards on the ground.

Puzzlingly, Taylor tallied just a single carry the rest of the day.

In the loss to LSU on Oct. 12, the freshman rushed for 52 yards on 10 carries. With starting tailback Matt Jones sidelined for the season with a knee-injury, Taylor’s role should continue to expand as the Gators are in desperate need for playmaking talent.

MUSCHAMP STILL MIFFED BY TARGETING RULES

The NCAA’s new ejection penalty for targeting was a popular and controversial topic across the college football landscape last weekend.

Three Southeastern Conference players were ejected in the first half of three different league games, including Gators safety Cody Riggs, who was dismissed on the first play against Missouri for leading with his helmet on a sideline tackle against Tigers wideout L’Damian Washington.

Muschamp, who has voiced his displeasure with the new rule several times this season, called Riggs’ ejection “ridiculous.”

“I don't disagree with the call,” Muschamp said Saturday. “I disagree with kicking a kid out of the game in that situation. He wasn't maliciously trying to hurt anybody.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 22, 2013

Yowzers

GAINESVILLE -- Where offensive talent either leaves or rarely never develops... 

Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 11.51.38 PM

For those curious of the names...

2010 

Chris Dunkley (WR) - transferred to South Florida 

Chaz Green (OT)

Solomon Patton (WR)

Mack Brown (RB)

Ian Silberman (OT)

Gerald Christian (TE) - transferred to Louisville 

2011

Jeff Driskel (QB)

A.C. Leonard (TE) - transferred to Tennessee State

Ja'Juan Story (WR) - transferred to TCU

Jacoby Brissett (QB) - transferred to N.C. State

***Tyler Moore (OT) - He's not included in this "15" but Moore was an All-American commit to Nebraska 

2012

LaTroy Pittman (WR)

Jessamen Dunker (OT) - transferred to Tennessee State 

Colin Thompson (TE)

Kent Taylor (TE)

D.J. Humphries (OT)

And for good measure, the 2013 kids...

Alvin Bailey (WR)

Kelvin Taylor (RB)

Ahmad Fulwood (WR)

Demarcus Robinson (WR)

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 21, 2013

Free Fallin'

GAINESVILLE -- I’m pretty sure this is not what Tom Petty meant...

 

But make no mistake, the Gators -- now unranked (and probably a week too late) -- are in a dizzying tailspin with few solutions in sight. 

The rabid ramblers -- across message boards, Twitter and local radio programs -- have their pitchforks ready and want blood following UF’s 36-17 trashing at Missouri on Saturday.   

The 2013 season is lost for the (once) mighty Gators. There will be no trip to Atlanta -- but if you’d like to make plans for Shreveport I’ve heard it’s absolutely lovely around late December -- no BCS bowl game, no winning the state.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the program, the future and what Will Muschamp could possibly be eating for breakfast Monday morning, here are some muddled thoughts as the Gators enter a much-needed bye week.

* The dreaded vote of confidence. Muschamp isn’t going anywhere -- for now.

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 11.41.31 PM

Jeremy Foley, UF’s athletic director, handpicked Muschamp back in 2011 and the two reportedly have a close and open relationship. The hot seat scuttlebutt may be Speakerboxxx-loud everywhere outside of the Heavener Complex, but Muschamp would be owed upwards of $8 million is he were fired at season’s end. Also, the Gators don't want to get into any sort of potential bidding war for coaches with Texas (possibly) and USC. 

* And yet Foley is in the unenviable position of juggling the past with the present and future. The track record of elite successful SEC coaches reaching (or not) Atlanta by their third season is well-documented, but does Foley err on the side of prudence and the big picture or history? Either way, no (drastic) changes are coming now even if the Gators are regressing.  

* “Lost time is never found again,” 2013 is full of what-ifs for the Gators. The Cocktail Party in two weeks will be more like a funeral for all the fallen comrades on both Georgia and Florida. But while the two teams have been decimated by injuries and their collective failures have been coupled together nationally, the situations are much different. The Bulldogs -- at their peak in mid-September -- showcased as one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses with a young (and shoddy) defense and one of the worst special teams in the country. But overall, the Bulldogs were a good team, and the college football world knew who Georgia was at (mostly) full strength. 

Florida??? We still don’t know, and that’s Foley’s scariest food for thought moving forward. The Gators, winners of 11 games in 2012, were ravaged by injuries before Boom even tried out a new whistle on the first day of training camp this summer. Jeff Driskel’s preseason appendectomy was like a bad omen from The Ring. From there, the injury situation only snowballed, as the Gators eventually lost five starters to season-ending injuries while another half dozen contributors (some starters) have missed a number games due to ailment(s) X.  But did the injuries cripple a potentially solid team or was Florida -- with its yearly dumpster fire offense -- destined for a major regression and similar results anyways? We don’t know. We’ll never know. And that probably terrifies Mr. Foley.

* About that offense… Following the Missouri disaster, Muschamp told reporters, “I want to spread it out like everyone else does. But we can’t block anybody.”

Jim-Halpert crushable.com
(Courtesy crushable.com) 

Shrewd, Muschamp. But no. I’ll let the brilliant (or something like that) Spencer Hall of Every Day Should Be Saturday sum up Florida’s offensive philosophy during Muschamp’s regime:

“The recipe for what Florida wants to do in total leaves so little room for error that missing just one or two ingredients destroys the whole dish, since smashmouth manball assumes the ability to dominate at the line of scrimmage, and does not treat it as a luxury on just one side of the ball, much less both. It likes points, but it likes them in the context of control, not as pressure applied throughout the game on the opposing defense. It is SEC football from the 1980s--the kind Steve Spurrier all but ended for good, and that Nick Saban explicitly schemed against when assembling his LSU teams.

… At this point Florida is Virginia Tech under Frank Beamer: an outstanding defense, good special teams, and indifferent by design to the notion of offense.” 

For 2+ seasons, Muschamp has spit incessant fire of "THE SEC IS A LINE OF SCRIMMAGE LEAGUE,” and his Gators -- with a meat-grinder approach -- pummeling those pansy spread offenses. No doubt, Muschamp wants to score more, but only in homage to Herman Boone.

 

The GatorNation probably needs another shot immediately. And six plays? There's no need for a joke here. 

* As Bryan Holt, of Rivals.com's Inside the Gators, correctly pointed out every offensive coach aside from Joker Phillips is likely on notice. Florida’s offensive ineptitude yesterday was best illustrated in its drive (yards) chart: 18, 6, 12, 6, -2, 9, 6, -2, 70, -1, -10, 3, 19. Guess which drive freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor piloted for 53 rushing yards on one series only to tally just a single carry the rest of the game? Offensive coordinator Brent Pease has been much-maligned, and now (offensive line coach) Tim Davis has joined the public's (wrath) party too.   

* Florida’s problems run deeper than a rash of injuries. UF’s losses (on the lines of scrimmage) the last two weeks highlight Florida’s failure to recruit (just a total of six OL in ’10, ’11, ’12) and develop top-flight offensive linemen over the past several seasons. The Gators can’t run, can’t block, can’t pass, but damn they are consistent:

2011

Total offense: 105th

Total defense: 8th

2012

Total offense: 104th

Total defense: 5th

2013

Total offense: 106th

Total defense: 4th

* Florida -- despite three top-five recruiting classes in the last four years -- is the fourth best team in the state. Fun fact: Florida State, Miami and UCF have all developed a quarterback.

* Before the season, I listed linebacker, offensive line, turnover margin, kicker and rush defense as major question marks for Florida's 2013 team. 

Jonah-hill-moneyball-gif-87a84
(Courtesy moviespad.com)

* UF’s defense really, really misses defensive tackle Dominique Easley. The Gators miss Easley’s energy, infectious personality, constant motor, but most importantly, his sheer dominance inside. Easley best embodied Muschamp’s persona: tough, nasty and a little crazy. Without him though, UF’s run defense has been gashed for consecutive 100-yard rushers, as the Gators don't have anyone else who can consistently hold the point of attack. Florida allowed just a single tailback (UGA’s Todd Gurley) to go over the century mark in its previous 17 games before the LSU and Mizzou contests.

I'm sure I glossed over some things, but it's late. 

As always, the floor is yours.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 20, 2013

Foreshadowing

The signs were there. Presented (mostly) without comment… for now.

Snippets from a preseason back-and-forth I wrote with another Florida writer just before the 2013 season kicked off...

“As for Florida -- the consensus No. 10 team in the country -- I'm skeptical. I joked in a separate season preview the team reminds me of Jim Carrey's insane character (The Riddler) in "Batman Forever"." There's too many questions. There's too many questions."

Every team has uncertainties to start the season, but it just seems like the Gators have a helluva a lot right now to seriously compete for an SEC title. I am in no way prophesying some doomsday season (WHOOPS). With a pulverizing ground game and a still-scary defense, Florida could reach Atlanta. But with so many questions, it might not be until 2014.



The Gators obviously have talent -- three top-five recruiting classes in the last four years will that do for ya -- but their success last season was particularly predicated on three things: turnover margin, rush-defense -- both No. 4 nationally -- and Caleb Freakin' Sturgis. Are any of those things not going to regress in 2013? The offense isn't ready to shoulder the load. "Murderball" -- as the esteemed Bill Connelly calls UF's attack -- is effectively ugly, but can Florida duplicate last season's success with the same formula, only with worse luck? 

I'm actually pretty bullish on LSU and just the opposite on South Carolina. The East is a tricky pickle, but the annual Cocktail Party should decide the division again (OOPS, AGAIN). The Aggies, Tigers (purple, not navy), Dawgs and 'Cocks all have question marks too, but to me the Gators are the league's hardest team to handicap -- and I’m around this team everyday! Is the offensive line actually better? Will the losses of Jon Bostic, Matt Elam and Josh Evans be more significant than many anticipate? Can (a potentially blossoming) Driskel stay healthy? Is Demarcus Robinson more Amari Cooper or George Farmer? Florida absolutely has some studs -- head nods to Matt Jones, Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, D.J. Humphries, Fowler Jr. --  but as a whole I see it as a good, but not great team.

 

... Last season, I said Rome wasn't built in a day, but hey, Muschamp damn near built the Coliseum in 20 minutes. Florida -- winning with an ugly-duckling blueprint -- quickly reestablished itself among the nation's elite, so a 10-win season is a decent bet. But an 8-4 year might be too, so, I'll hedge at 9-3. When motivated, the Gators (talent-rich despite so many question marks) can compete with anybody. They can absolutely split the fearsome foursome (UGA-USC-FSU-LSU). And yet, Florida, forcibly playing with such a small margin for error, could totally get knocked off or upset or stunned, whatever by Miami or Vanderbilt or Missouri. By season's end, this group could actually be a more complete team than the 2012 boys (WRONG), but right now I just have a bunch of questions.”


And coach Will Muschamp during UF Media Days in August...

"You have to build and develop your team for a long season. There are going to be injuries. So to me, 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.

Because I know we're going to have injuries and that's part of playing in our league. You look at last year, as banged up as we got on the offensive line. Later in the year that contributed to us struggling as much as anything late in the year was the injuries we had. So, I think again, training camp is developing your roster as much as anything, especially young players. It's not going to be pretty early with a lot of them.

My whole thing is you've got to project, Game 4, where are we? Game 5, where are we? Are we investing time in a guy that he may know what to do, but athletically we're going to be better with this guy in Game 3, Game 4, Game 5. You invest your time with a better athlete."

Well...

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 19, 2013

Saturday Selections: Florida-Missouri thread

It's another Gators and Tigers affair (12:21 p.m, ET; SEC Network). 

ICYMI: The No. 18 Gators still control their destiny in the SEC East.

A tease...

GAINESVILLE -- The bumpy road to Atlanta -- technically -- runs through Gainesville.

No. 22 Florida -- down five starters with a daunting schedule ahead -- hasn’t lost hope of winning the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division title for the first time since 2009.

Despite all the season-ending injuries, ugly warts on offense and special teams snafus, the Gators (4-2, 3-1 SEC) control their own destiny.

Again.

“All of our goals are still in front of us,” senior guard Jon Halapio said. “But if we don't handle business and play like how we usually play, then those goals don't mean nothing.”

Truly.  …

Also…  a short piece on Florida’s theoretical high standards for both the defense and offense. Go ahead, giggle.

PICKS 

4-2 last week.

Scoreboard: 24-16-1 ATS, 2-4 selecting Florida games

This week's six-pack:

Oklahoma State (7.5) vs. TCU

Ohio State (-16) vs. Iowa

Alabama (-28) vs. Arkansas

LSU (-7) at Ole Miss

Clemson (+3.5) vs. FSU

And finally… Mizzou (+3.5) vs. Florida. Earlier in the week I was pretty sure I’d pick the Gators with the Tigers starting a redshirt freshman quarterback against a vulturous (yea I made up a word) UF secondary. Remember Nathan Peterman? But then I woke up and remembered Florida’s own offensive issues.

Gifs.gifbin.com
(gifs.gifbin.com)

This is UF’s biggest game of the season -- and not just because it’s the next game. If the Gators -- even with brutal injury luck -- fall in Columbia, the ship will start sinking faster than the Titanic in Gainesville. Only an upset win over Georgia (possible) or FSU (unlikely) could “salvage” a season with so many lofty preseason expectations.

Florida will be without defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (injury unknown) and starting strong-side linebacker/end Ronald Powell (ankle) today, so an already beleaguered front must overcome even more adversity.

It’s chilly up in Columbia -- with a game-high temperature of 44 degrees.

With Florida’s offense already frozen though, I’m not so sure the weather actually matters.

Meanwhile, the Tigers are without star cornerback E.J. Gaines.

Enjoy the game, everybody.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 18, 2013

Young calls out Kentucky

GAINESVILLE -- Florida and Kentucky -- the Southeastern Conference’s top two men's basketball programs over the past several seasons -- have alternated league championships since 2010.

Most expect the 2013-14 campaign to be another tightly contested race between the Gators and Wildcats.

While Florida bolsters an experienced and (potentially) deep squad, Kentucky is again built on the talents of six McDonald’s All-American freshmen.

The Wildcats are the preseason top-ranked team in the country, the league favorite and posses the media’s pick for the conference player of the year (freshman forward Julius Randle).

But Florida's senior center Patric Young -- speaking to reporters at the SEC’s annual Media Days in Birmingham, Al. -- isn’t amused with all the early hype surrounding Kentucky’s talented freshmen.

Py
(Patric Young | media.miamiherald.com)

“I hope they think they can just walk on the court and they’re going to beat everybody,” said Young, according to the Associated Press. “I hope that’s what they think. As soon as they play a real top team, they’re going to see it’s not just a walk in the park. One-and-done is not for everybody.”

INJURY UPDATES

Florida received some positive news Thursday when transfer guard Eli Carter (fibula) and senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) were cleared for limited practice, according to Gatorzone.com.

Meanwhile, sophomore guard Michael Frazier was tested for mononucleosis, but the results came back negative.

Also, transfer center Damontre Harris continues to battle a hamstring injury, while sophomore guard Dillon Graham left Thursday’s practice after rolling his ankle. 

THIS & THAT

Florida opens the 2013-14 season ranked No. 8 in the preseason USA Today Coaches’ Poll, released Thursday. … Young, a two-time SEC scholar athlete of the year, told the Gainesville Sun he is eying a three-peat. UF’s senior center is a telecommunications major. 

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