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62 posts from November 2013

November 20, 2013

See your injury crisis and raise you a catastrophe

GAINESVILLE -- Sheesh. There's a Black Knight Monty Python joke somewhere in here.  Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 3.46.47 PM

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November 19, 2013

"We had them"

GAINESVILLE --  A pair of early evening videos...

* Florida linebacker Michael Taylor, the team's leading tackler (61 stops), candidly dishes on UF's five-game losing streak, the "frustrating loss" to South Carolina, stopping Georgia Southern's triple option and fixing the defense's assignment issues.


* Defensive tackle Leon Orr, a redshirt junior who met with reporters for the first time since media day in August, talked about the team's failed fake punt in the loss to USC, the origins of the play, his development at Florida and slowing down an offense (triple-option) most guys haven't seen since high school. 


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Prognosis negative

GAINESVILLE -- No. 14 Florida point guard Kasey Hill did not break his left ankle and X-rays revealed no further ligament damage, the school announced Tuesday. 

Hill sustained a high-ankle sprain early in the second half of Florida's 67-53 win over Southern on Monday night. 

Usatoday.com(Courtesy usatoday.com)

The freshman point guard will likely miss a month of action, but Tuesday's negative X-rays quelled any further potential damage. 

Hill attended Tuesday's practice on crutches. 

On the season, Hill was averging 10.3 ppg., 4.25 apg. and 2.25 spg.

A shorthanded Florida team -- without Hill or suspended point guard Scottie Wilbekin -- hosts Middle Tennessee State on Thursday evening. 

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Notebook: With Murphy doubtful, Mornhinweg in line for second start

GAINESVILLE -- Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy (AC shoulder sprain) remains day-to-day and is unlikely to practice early this week, so Florida is preparing to start redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg for the second game in a row.

The Gators (4-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) host Georgia Southern (6-4, 4-4 SoCon) on Saturday (2 p.m., PPV) hoping to snap a five-game losing streak.

Murphy attempted some light throwing Sunday, but his session was short due to lingering soreness.

“It was just painful,” Murphy said. “There wasn’t much velocity on the ball. ... It wasn’t coming out pretty.”

Florida coach Will Muschamp said the team is moving forward with the notion Mornhinweg will start again, and if Murphy were able to play it would be “a bonus.”

Bleacherreport.com(Courtesy bleacherreport.com)

Morhinweg was 9-of-12 for 107 yards and an interception in his first-career action in Florida’s 19-14 loss to South Carolina on Saturday. 


Sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL sprain) remains doubtful for Saturday’s game, according to Muschamp.

“I'll probably know more Tuesday or Wednesday whether or not he'll be able to play, but it looks doubtful at this time,” Muschamp said.

Meanwhile, cornerback Marcus Roberson -- suspended against South Carolina for violating unspecified team rules -- fulfilled his punishment even though the junior was unlikely to play in Columbia with a lingering ankle injury. Muschamp said the team hopes to get Roberson back this weekend.

Freshman wideout Ahmad Fulwood (shoulder) left Florida’s loss to USC, but is “fine” and not expected to miss any time.

“We had no other significant injuries from the game,” Muschamp said. “We had a couple guys banged up, but everyone should be available for this weekend.”


No longer a marquee matchup this season, the Sunshine State showdown -- normally reserved for primetime -- is scheduled for an early afternoon kickoff.

Florida will host No. 2 Florida State at noon on Nov. 30, the Southeastern Conference announced Monday. The game will be televised on ESPN.

The last time to two teams played at noon was in 2006, when No. 4 Florida tripped up unranked FSU 21-14 in Tallahassee. 


“Shoot I didn’t even see what happened there, I’m not even quite sure what happened still. I just saw him with the bloody fingers.”

-- Mornhinweg on Muschamp punching a chalkboard sometime during Florida’s loss to USC.

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November 18, 2013

HOOPS: Hill sidelined with severe ankle injury in Gators win

GAINESVILLE -- No. 14 Florida downed Southern 67-53 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, but it was a UF player who scarily went down that was prevailing storyline Monday night.

Florida’s freshman phenom Kasey Hill injured his left ankle with 18:04 remaining in the second half, screaming loudly as he crashed to the floor on an aggressive drive to the basket.

The point guard, who writhed in pain after rolling his ankle to a near 90-degree angle, could miss -- at minimum -- a month of action with a severe ankle sprain, coach Billy Donovan announced afterwards.

“It’s one of those sprains where it’s certainly a longer healing process and when you try to rush guys back too soon it normally complicates things,” Donovan said. “So right now I think in talking to the doctor and talking to our trainer, the minimum right now is we’re looking at a month before we can consider getting him back on the floor.”

Hill will undergo X-rays Tuesday.

BZZY2fNIYAAalRw.jpg-large(Courtesy @GatorNicole)

The freshman point guard left the game with eight points, three assists and a steal. The former five-star recruit again flashed his sublime finishing ability -- especially in transition -- scoring all eight of his points in Florida’s dominant first half (35-19).

But the Gators, already shorthanded with multiple suspensions including senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, appeared shell-shocked after the injury, and so did a stunned and silent O’Dome crowd. 

Southern -- a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season -- actually outscored the Gators 34-32 in the second half, as Florida was lost on offense without a true point guard and played lazy defensively.

Shooting guards Michael Frazier and DeVon Walker both took turns handling the ball, as did forward Dorian Finney-Smith.

According to Donovan, Florida will utilize a combination of Walker, Frazier and even Finney-Smith in a point-forward role for the foreseeable future. 

“The hardest part for me is it really eliminates a real opportunity to get creative on offense because you really have to shorten up the play calls because for a guy like DeVon and Michael Frazier to know the 2, and the 3 and the point, their head would explode,” Donovan said. It's not fair to them. So there's some concepts and some things we can get into, we can run, we do and execute that puts them in a position they know exactly what is going on. We may have to add some things and make some different adjustments and because of the injuries we might be looking to play a little bigger.”

Donovan confirmed Wilbekin remains suspended and will not play Thursday against Middle Tennessee State (7:30 p.m., Sun Sports).

VIDEO: Donovan and senior center Patric Young talk Hill's injury. (Note: I apologize for the grainy Blair Witch project-esque footage. A TV light soiled the shot a bit. Apologies.)




Rutgers transfer guard Eli Carter played 10 minutes Monday night, but the hobbled junior appears destined for a medical redshirt with his broken leg still not fully-healed. Carter visibly limped up and down the court, unable to plant his leg with any force. … Donovan also announced sophomore guard Dillion Graham will miss the remainder of the season with bone spurs in both hips. “He’s having a very difficult time sleeping. He can’t lie on his side. Really was a decision that he decided to make with his family,” Donovan said. “There are options. That was the option they wanted to take. Whatever we can do to help him in that situation, we will. What he’s going to end up doing probably in the next week or so is probably get some kind of MRI from the doctors and try to figure it out. I think it’s a pretty complicated surgery and it’s a very, very long recovery (four months).”


Florida out-rebounded Southern 43-29, including a 18-9 advantage on the offensive glass. … Young finished with a season-high 12 points. Senior forward Casey Prather again filled up the stat sheet: 10 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal. … Frazier was 3-of-7 from 3-point range, while the rest of the team shot a combined 3-for-13. … The Gators tallied 19 points off 12 turnovers and 16 second chance points. 

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Appreciative of administration’s support

GAINESVILLE -- Embroiled in swirling negativity as Florida suffers through its worst season since 1979, coach Will Muschamp received a public vote of confidence from UF’s administration last week.

In Muschamp’s two media appearances since athletic director Jeremy Foley and school president Bernie Machen said they were "1000 percent" behind the embattled coach, Muschamp acknowledged his gratitude in Foley and Dr. Machen for “seeing the big picture” and “willing to stand up for what’s right.” 

“I’m very appreciative of Jeremy and Dr. Machen. Thank goodness I have two guys that see the big picture and understand where we’re headed with the program, where we were, in a two-year period what we’ve accomplished and understand the circumstances we’re in right now. And more than anything, where we’re headed. They’re in the day-to-day operation, so it’s very rewarding to have a strong athletic director and a strong president that’s willing to stand up and fight for what’s right. And I appreciate that very much.”

-- Muschamp after Florida’s demoralizing 19-14 defeat to No. 11 South Carolina. 

 “It says a lot about Jeremy and Dr. Machen from a standpoint of seeing where we were three years ago and understanding, making good decision within our program to see the day-to-day operation and understand the steps you made in year two and why we are where we are right now. And nobody’s happy with that. Absolutely nobody is happy. The expectation level here is to win championships, and we haven’t done it. But I think it’s seeing the big picture, too, and understanding where we are with the program and feeling good, not necessarily where we are right now, but understanding why we are where we are and where it’s headed. We’ve got a bunch of good young players in this program, a bunch of good kids in this program. We’re recruiting extremely well. Things are heading in the right direction, it’s just been a frustrating time for us this season.”

-- Muschamp on Monday during his weekly press conference.

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Muschamp clarifies fans comment

GAINESVILLE -- Florida dropped a hard-fought slugfest to South Carolina on Saturday night in Columbia, S.C. and an exasperated Will Muschamp criticized a portion of Florida’s fan base, saying some “need to get a grip.” 

On Monday, Muschamp slightly amended his comments, softening his tone while still censuring “a small percentage” of a fuming Gator Nation.

Florida (4-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) has dropped five-straight for the first time since 1979 -- UF’s last losing season.

“We have great fans here,” Muschamp said. “It’s a small percentage. It’s just frustrating for me. Anybody that knows me, I care about the kids. It’s just frustrating for me. I’m fine with it. That’s part of the profession. But for our kids it’s frustrating. They’re working extremely hard, and that’s who I hurt for. We have great fans. I’m talking to a small percentage of our fans.”

Florida’s 19-14 loss to No. 10 South Carolina was another bold ‘L’ in the win/loss column, but UF displayed tremendous resiliency playing with its third-string quarterback and a depleted offensive line. 

During Saturday’s postgame press conference, Florida’s coach was pressed to elaborate on his team’s fight despite so much adversity.

Muschamp’s fiery sound bite -- to the chagrin of many Florida fans -- went viral almost immediately.

“It’s not excuses. It’s real. It really is,” Muschamp said of the impact of UF’s serious injury situation. “You can say what you want to say and write whatever the hell you want to write, but it’s real. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for that locker room. To hell with me, I worry about the kids. These kids fought their butts off. There’s a lot of negativity out there, and some of our fans needs to get a grip. They really do. We have a bunch of kids in that locker room fighting their butt off. You can criticize me all you want. I’m great with that. They pay me enough money to deal with it, but those kids don’t. They really don’t. They fought their butts off, and they continue to fight and play hard. Nobody has ever questioned their efforts. I’m just extremely proud of them and of the resolve and the fight and coming together like Florida Gators do.”

Florida hosts Georgia Southern this Saturday at 2 p.m. (PPV),

VIDEO: Here's Muschamp clarifying his recent comments, as well as previewing GSU's triple option, discussing South Carolina's game-changing play (Shon Carson's 58-yard run) and more. 


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Brunch Buffet: South Carolina Rewind

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp will meet with the media shortly to preview Georgia Southern, update UF's quarterback situation and more.

But in case you missed all the content from Columbia this weekend here's a bunch of links and one awesome GIF. 



(courtesy sbnation.com) 

A postive spin on Florida's 19-14 loss to South Carolina...

"COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Florida is mired in its worst losing streak since its 0-10-1 season in 1979, but despite another disheartening defeat -- its fifth-straight -- the mood following UF’s 19-14 loss to No. 10 South Carolina on Saturday night was surprisingly optimistic.

Positive. Prideful. 

The Gators -- decimated by injuries and with a coaching staff fighting all sorts of swirling negativity -- rallied together and nearly pulled off a major upset on the road.

Florida (4-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) isn’t resigned to silver linings; it’s simply embracing them.

“They fought their butts off, and they continue to fight and play hard. Nobody has ever questioned their efforts,” coach Will Muschamp said. “I’m just extremely proud of them and of the resolve and the fight and coming together like Florida Gators do. Extremely proud of them. … The bottom line is winning, and we didn’t do it. We did not get the job done, so that’s on me. We’ll go back and continue to work hard and get these last two. I’m looking forward to that.”

A resilient team down to its third-string quarterback and a make-shift and reshuffled offensive line rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns against one of the top front-seven’s in college football. UF’s defense -- much-maligned in recent weeks -- frustrated USC’s duel-threat quarterback Connor Shaw, while limiting star tailback Mike Davis to a season-low 54 yards on 13 carries.

The Gators displayed toughness, grit and effort.

Despite so many odds, they didn’t quit. 

“That was the intensity of the whole week. We were gonna run the ball, play smash-mouth football, play Florida football,” left tackle Max Garcia said. “We didn’t come out with a win but I think we showed people that we’re physical, we’re still physical, we’re still Florida. ...”


* Florida Gators have sound gameplan but still fall short to USC

* A notebook with nuggets on Skyler Mornhinweg's first-career start, Marcus Roberson's suspension and Jadeveon Clowney's injury. 

* Gator Grades

* Video of Muschamp defends his team and slams some of UF's fan base, as well as the media 

November 17, 2013

Gator Grades: Almost

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Before I re-watch the tape of Florida's fifth-consecutive loss in a dismal 2013 season, here are some rapid reaction grades from UF's 19-14 defeat to South Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium. 


The total yardage was nothing to sneeze at (307 yards), but coordiator Brent Pease's gameplan was brilliant considering the cirumstances (third-string quarterback, down three offensive tackles). Skyler Mornhinweg attempted just two passes before halftime, but Florida rushed for 169 yards unitizing some trickeration (direct snaps, jet sweeps, Wild-Gators), unbalanced lines and misdirection.

Unfortunately, the whole "no passing" thing caught up to UF, as USC’s nasty front-seven eventually slowed Florida's rushing attack. Still Florida moved the ball despite so many uncertainties and few expectations. 


South Carolina tallied just 377 total yards, as tailback Mike Davis and quarterback Connor Shaw were both (mostly) held in check. Shaw struggled with his accuracy and rarely made plays with his legs, while Davis was slowed by an ankle.

Florida's secondary did lose multiple receivers, but Shaw was unable to take advantage. A tight end again killed slaughtered UF's linebackers (Rory Anderson, 3 catches for 69 yards).  

Florida’s red zone defense -- especially compared to last weekend -- was fantastic. Florida forced USC into five field goal attempts, a key component in keeping the game at striking distance. Ultimately though, Florida's defense still couldn't get off the field (USC's game-sealing 95-yard touchdown drive; Shaw's fourth-down touchdown pass) when it had to have a stop. 


A well-designed but failed fake-punt (deep in own territory too), another shanked field goal (Austin Hardin's seventh missed kick this year), solid coverage units -- pretty much the same old, same old. 

Thoughts? Comments? 


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"Get a grip" ... Muschamp defends team, slams swirling negativity

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp -- embroiled in heat as Florida suffers through its worst season in 34 years -- slammed some of UF's fan base, as well as the media, for the swirling negativity surrounding the program.

Muschamp also voiced his thanks for athletic director Jeremy Foley's public support.


(Courtesy florida.247sports.com) 

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November 16, 2013

Saturday Selection: Florida-South Carolina thread

COLUMBIA, SC – I’m in the house here at Williams-Brice Stadium. With Georgia getting shellacked at Auburn, this should be a rowdy nighttime crowd. 


Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy is out stretching, but has yet to throw a pass. I still expect Skyler Morhinweg to make his first-career appearance today. That or we could see a whole-lotta Trey Burton Wild-Gator magic!

***** UPDATE *****

It's official, Morhinweg is the announced starter. Also, junior cornerback Marcus Roberson is suspended for violating team rules. 

My pregame teaser…

GAINESVILLE -- No. 11 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC) has won six of its last seven games, is fresh off an idle date and stars two of the top players -- tailback Mike Davis and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney -- in the Southeastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Florida (4-5, 3-4 SEC) limps into Columbia down to its fourth- and fifth-string offensive tackles and could start a redshirt freshman at quarterback taking his first-career collegiate snap. 

This could get ugly -- fast.

Florida and South Carolina square off in prime time Saturday night (7 p.m., ESPN2) in a battle of the ascending versus the fading. 

The Gators -- in the midst of their second four-game losing streak in three seasons -- must pull off at least one upset -- over No. 11 USC or No. 2 FSU -- to avoid their first losing season since the Iran hostage crisis (1979).

Embattled head coach Will Muschamp -- who received a public vote of confidence from the UF administration on Wednesday -- called his team “fragile” this week and cited a pervasive “woe-is-me” mentality after the humbling loss to Vanderbilt last Saturday.

“We’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to find ways to put our guys in better position, better situations to overcome that,” he said. “The psychological battle of getting our guys in the right situations to be successful. That’s our job as coaches.” 


Scoreboard: 39-22-2 ATS, 5-4 selecting Florida games 

I've been on the road today, so this week’s six-pack single selection: South Carolina (-13.5) vs. Florida. With so much uncertainty at quarterback, I’ll be impressed if Florida scores over 10 points today.  

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November 15, 2013

Notebook: Mike Davis, Spurrier endorses Muschamp & more

GAINESVILLE -- Sophomore tailback Mike Davis -- a longtime Florida commit before flipping to South Carolina late in the 2011 recruiting cycle -- poses a major challenge for UF’s leaky run defense Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN2) in Columbia, SC.

Davis tops the SEC in rushing with 1,058 yards, averaging 6.37 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns.

“He's a really good player, a guy we thought a lot of coming out of Stephenson (Ga.) there in Atlanta,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “He is having an outstanding year, and certainly has been a huge different in their run game, especially losing [Marcus] Lattimore last year.”

Davis, a 5-foot-9, 215-pound hammer, is also South Carolina’s second-leading receiver with 29 catches for 326 yards.

“I’ve seen a lot of explosive runs from him. He is physical, runs hard,” senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs said. “We’re going to have to really key in on him because he’s one of the top rushers in the SEC.”

Without star defensive tackle Dominique Easley (torn ACL), Florida’s run defense has slipped significantly in recent weeks. During the team’s four-game losing streak, the Gators have surrendered three -- LSU’s Jeremy Hill, Missouri’s Henry Josey and Georgia’s Todd Gurley -- 100-yard performances.


While much of the Florida faithful has soured on coach Will Muschamp, a former Gators legend continues to voice his support for UF’s maligned head coach.

“I admire the way he coach his team, runs the show down there,” said Steve Spurrier, in his ninth season as South Carolina’s head coach. “Obviously they’ve had a rash of injuries all over the team that’s really hurt them. But they’ve still got plenty of ball players and they’re still a very hard-nosed physical-type team. … I don’t know if I’ve ever seen quite as many [injuries on one team] as they’ve had.”


(Courtesy gatorzone.com)

Muschamp has never shied away from voicing his respect for Florida’s former coach from 1990-2001.

“I admire the job that he’s done as a head coach. Whether it’s at Duke or Florida or South Carolina,” Muschamp said. “Obviously him being a Gator, that’s important. Being the head coach at Florida, I think you ought to have that relationship with him. … He’s done it the right way, too. He does things the right way. He does things first class. He handles things the right way. I really have a lot of respect for the man.”


Quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder sprain) remains unable to practice. The redshirt junior appears doubtful for Saturday’s game. Redshirt freshman Skyler Morhinweg would make his first-career start if Murphy were unable to go.  … Left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL sprain) is officially out against the Gamecocks, while cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) is still listed as day-to-day. … Linebackers Antonio Morrison (torn meniscus) and Jeremi Powell (torn ACL) both had knee surgery Wednesday morning. Morrison (torn meniscus) is expected to return to action at the start of spring practice next year after injuring his knee in the loss to Vanderbilt. …  Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said freshman outside linebacker Jarrad Davis would make his first-career start against the Gamecocks. 

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They Said It: No Quit

GAINESVILLE -- Florida must win two of its final three games to avoid its first losing season in 34 years.

Despite losing four-consecutive conference games, players continue to preach hope and say all the right things -- even if their body language tells a different story.

Florida’s media access this week was particularly short (and that’s really staying something), but here’s a collection of comments from various players -- including several team leaders -- on the group’s ‘woe is me’ mentality, not becoming ‘that’ team, avoiding checking out and the emotional state of the team.

UF travels to South Carolina this weekend to square off in primetime against the Gamecocks on Saturday night (7 p.m., ESPN2).

On not becoming that team…

DT Damien Jacobs

“We don’t want to go down as the team that broke the streak for the bowl game. We already feel bad about the Vanderbilt thing. We don’t want to be those guys, just like coach said. That’s a bad feeling, knowing you’re the team that broke the streak. It would suck to be here and win four or five games, come up short.”

On not checking out mentally... 

LT Max Garcia

"I know that I can answer for myself. I have the same fight. I want to win, that's what I want to do. I'm a competitor. God have given me the ability to play this game and I want to use my ability and glorify him with it. I mean, I want to go out there and give it my best. I can only speak for the O-line and yes, I think we still want to fight and we still have the same goals. We're out there together and we're not going to give up."

RG Jon Halapio 

“We definitely need to look out for that. I feel like maybe younger players would have that mentality. I know the older players are trying to keep the team together. That’s something we’ve got to guard against with the younger players. We’re trying to keep everybody up and keep everybody together.”

QB Tyler Murphy

“We have to make sure that we stay on top of each other and make sure nobody gives up on the season because we still have three games. Things can get a lot worse if we do that stuff. We have to keep things going and try to find a way to pull two out of these next three so we can make a bowl game.”

C Jon Harrison 

“Obviously, it’s not an ideal season for how we wanted it to go. But we just have to keep fighting and keep battling adversity. Life is full of adversity. Life will throw curveballs at you. It’s how you deal with them that makes you a better person. … We just know that we have to keep fighting that the season isn’t done. Regardless of the circumstances or the outcome of the previous week, we still have to keep fighting and working.”

On the need for added leadership…

RG Jon Halapio

“Muschamp’s been saying that all year. I’ve been trying to do a good job about it. I’m more of a lead by example kind of guy. I’m not one of those go out there and hoorah the guys. I’m doing my part and I know Harrison’s doing his part and Solomon Patton’s doing his part.”

QB Tyler Murphy 

“Usually the quarterback is the leader of the group. I’m gonna make sure guys are focused and not giving up on the season. We have to do a great job, especially for the seniors. We want to send the seniors out the right way, send them to a bowl game, so they can make the best of their last year here.”

DT Damien Jacobs 

“It’s not really been that hard for me because I know we’ve got to just try to keep the intensity. So I just try to be a role model for the younger players because I know it’s probably hard for them just watching us go through this. So not for me, but I’m pretty sure for the other guys it might be. That’s why we try get it to them. …  I think especially this week we’re trying to pick it up a little bit. We’re just trying to stay positive around here, man. Attitudes are not going to help us.”

On the emotional state of the team and the ‘woe is me’ mentality…

FB Hunter Joter

"We're just trying to get these wins. You never want to have a losing record or not be able to make it to a bowl game, so we're just trying to win for our pride and for ourselves. You know most of our goals, as you know, are out so there's no SEC Championship to be playing for but we're still trying to win, trying to compete. … It’s very shocking, but it's life and we just got to deal with it and move on.” 

C Jon Harrison

“The more mature your team is, the better you are at being able to handle adversity because you've been through more adverse situations. But the fact that you have a young team that maybe hasn't been through as many ups and downs as the older players have, it's hard for them to stay focused through all the adversity. I agree with coach Muschamp, I really do. It's unfortunate, but it's just something that we are working on as a team, just being able to work through adversity and not letting adversity beat us down.”

On tuning out the criticism…

LT Max Garcia

"I was really into sports journalism and the media and things like that. That's why I went up to Maryland in the first place. I did want to be a sports journalist. So I understand what the media does and how it has its effects on players and teams. So I kind of just did away with the media from when they started bashing us. So I kind of just tuned that out as a whole, because I know what it's all about -- trying to get the best story, trying to get the most clicks on your site."

C Jon Harrison

“It comes with maturity it really does come with maturity. It took me about four years to be able to tune out all the distractions to be able to tune out the nonsense that’s going on off the field, to tune out fan’s comments and what people may have to say about you and really just until up about halfway through the season I haven’t been able to master that. But that’s something that comes from growth and maturity, being able to tune out all the distractions, all the adversity, being able to focus on the task at hand, it’s almost like having blinders up really. … We can feel the tension, obviously because we’re not having the season that the University of Florida is known to have, so that’s why the tension it there. We’re fully aware that we need to gel as a team and we need to pull together if we want to finish this season.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

November 14, 2013

Muddled thoughts on Muschamp's (still) murky future

GAINESVILLE -- It was nice. It was (probably) necessary. It changes little.




Ultimately, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley’s platitude-filled word salad vote of confidence Wednesday afternoon hardly moved the needle for embattled coach Will Muschamp’s future.

Again, it was nice.

But the prevailing sentiment in recent weeks -- even after a third-straight loss to Georgia -- was that Muschamp’s job was safe for 2014.

Yes, the Vanderbilt defeat was humiliating, catastrophic and [enter any hyperbole and multiply it by 1000. Hey just like Foley!!!], but to think one loss should suddenly change Foley’s judgment on a coach is myopic and stupid.

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

Foley’s declaration was bold, but hardly tangible and definitely not black or white.

Muschamp is 22-13 at Florida with a fluky, funky, fortunate 11-2 season sandwiched between his tough first season as a head coach (7-6) and now Florida’s worst fall campaign since the Iranian hostage crisis.

There’s little need to rehash Muschamp’s line-by-line resume, but it’s suffice to say, he’s breaking too many wrong records. Florida’s third-year head coach is a defensive savant, but he’s presided over an offense even masochists find appalling.  Florida’s program might’ve been “broken” in 2010, but it wasn’t devoid of talent -- as so many experts wailed. 

To date, Muschamp’s credentials as a bonifide CEO remain unknown -- a frightening proposition for a school with such history and resources.

Significant issues with talent evaluation, player development and, yes, basic wins and losses (even with so many injuries this year) have led to Muschamp’s comeuppance.

It appears when not if he’s no longer the head coach of the Gators.

And yet, maybe not and that’s what makes Foley’s PR move so interesting.

Foley’s “1000 percent convinced” could be one-billionth percent, but it doesn’t change Muschamp’s murky future.

But if taken literally??? Foley could be committing to Muschamp well past 2014 -- even with a third (out of four) rebuilding season in sight.

Staff changes appear in order -- although Foley’s comment about UF’s Sugar Bowl season at least hints this too may fall in the grey -- but that’s a slippery slope that almost always leads to the head coach seeking future employment too.

While conventional wisdom says what should be done eventually must be done immediately, [COVER YOUR EYES AND EARS, GATOR NATION] there’s a chance additional staff turnover could only further exacerbate the problems in the present. So how long is Foley willing to wait on the future?

How long is that rope? Is the investment -- and chance Muschamp does develop into a great CEO -- worth doubling-down?

While many have called Muschamp’s pressure Zookian -- they’re wrong. It’s worse. Florida won two national championships after Ron Zook was not-so-kindly asked to exit stage left.

The malaise surrounding Florida’s program is part Muschamp’s bunker-mentality and part unbridled delusion of a fan base.  After losing just seven games in a ridiculous four-year stretch, Florida’s lost 18 games (and counting) in the four seasons since. That’s as many as Texas and more than Virginia Tech (15), Michigan (14), Kansas State (15) or Nebraska (15). The Gator Nation considers itself a class above all those teams. 

Even with a pair of beatdowns looming, Muschamp -- with all the injuries, one-season removed from a BCS appearance and his yearly recruiting exploits -- deserves a fourth year, but the lame duck questions won’t go away.

A ringing endorsement from one of the nation’s most powerful ADs simply confirmed the consensus for this offseason, but 2014 is still shaping up to be a tumultuous year in Gainesville.

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November 13, 2013

1000% Committed

GAINESVILLE -- Florida -- a preseason top 10 team -- appears poised for its first losing season since 1979, but embattled head coach Will Muschamp has not lost the support of the UF administration.

For the first time since hiring Muschamp in December 2010, athletics director Jeremy Foley and school president Bernie Machen publically reaffirmed their commitment to Muschamp in an official statement released on the school website Wednesday afternoon.

“As athletic director, I’m a thousand percent convinced that Will Muschamp is the guy to lead this football program,’’ Foley said. “Nothing has changed in what we feel about Will Muschamp from the day we hired him. “Everyone around here wants the same thing. We want to do what is right for the University of Florida. We understand that this football season has not gone the way any of us wanted it to go, certainly not the way our fans wanted it to go, and most of all, not the way Will Muschamp wanted it to go.”

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

Added Machen: “I want the Gator Nation to know that I have full confidence in Coach Muschamp and his leadership of the football program.’’

Muschamp is 22-13 as Florida’s coach. The Gators went 11-2 just a season ago, but in the midst of their  second four-game losing streak in three seasons -- Florida’s only such skids since 1990 -- the Gator Nation has grown restless.

Florida was humiliated last Saturday, losing to Vanderbilt 34-17 at home for the first time since World War II (1945). 

But despite a season marred by injuries (10 season-ending surgeries), offensive ineptitude (a likely third-straight finish in the bottom-20 nationally in total offense) and all the wrong records being broken (Florida’s 22-season bowl streak), Foley remains assured Muschamp is the right man for the job.

“I understand the passion and the disappointment,’’ Foley said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got great fans, they love the Gators and their passion makes this place special. They are hurting, they want the program to be successful and we feel that hurt.”

“We have a history of being successful, we have a history of fixing things when they need to be fixed, and that is what is going to happen here, and Coach Muschamp is the one that will fix it.”

Muschamp’s contract runs through 2017. Foley pleaded for fans’ patience, while also citing his faith in Muschamp’s coaching abilities.

“We will get better under Will Muschamp’s leadership,’’ Foley said. “This is not the quote-unquote dreaded ‘vote of confidence.’ This is just how we all feel around here. We have a strong faith and a strong belief in his capabilities, in his leadership skills, in his ability to evaluate what needs to be fixed.”

“Go back to a year ago: we’re 11-1 and beat four teams in the Top 10 and he was SEC Coach of the Year. I don’t think that was a fluke. I think coaching had a lot to do with that. We’ll stay the course here. We’ll get it right. We’re not going to let Gator fans down. We want the same thing they want.”

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With pressure mounting, Pease blocks out the noise

GAINESVILLE -- Brent Pease is not oblivious to the criticism. Florida’s embattled offensive coordinator hears fans’ frustrations. But ultimately, UF’s second-year coordinator is ignoring the noise by practicing what he preaches.

"It's the same thing we tell the kids, you've got to be mentally tough. You've got to shut it out sometimes,” he said. “And I understand what people are saying and frustrated with. Do they understand all of the circumstances? Not all of the time. But you've got to work through it. In my situation I don't think you can lose confidence in who you are and what you believe in and how you have got to do your job.”

Florida’s woeful offense is destined for a third consecutive finish in the bottom-20 in all of college football. The Gators rank No. 111 nationally and last in the SEC in total offense. UF is also last in league in touchdowns and yards per play (4.82) -- the only team in the conference averaging less than 5.33 per touch.   

Pease(Courtesy bullgator.com)

With the injuries, ineptitude and a swelling cacophony of vitriol aimed in his direction, Pease admitted he’s pondered his job security.

“I mean, it’s human nature to probably think about that,” he said. “But I still got an obligation to this team, and the head coach, and the players I coach and the administration that I work for.”

Quarterback Tyler Murphy said Pease’s demeanor and daily drive hasn’t changed at all though during the team’s recent tough stretch.

“He's still working hard, still coaching hard. Still treats everyone the same. I haven't noticed a change in him. He's upset with how we're performing and that we're losing but he's still working hard day in and day out,” Murphy said.

Murphy also voiced support for Pease, saying the coach absolutely puts the players in the best position to succeed but they’re simply not making enough plays.

“Coach Pease calls plays and puts us in good situations. We just haven’t been successful as players doing that. We have to hold ourselves accountable and find ways to get the job done,” he said.

Although Pease has definitely struggled with player development during his time in Gainesville, injuries have derailed his coaching abilities this season.

Five offensive players -- starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, starting tailback Matt Jones, starting offensive tackles Tyler Moore and Chaz Green and wideout Andre Debose -- have been lost for the year to season-ending injuries, while another handful of key contributors -- right guard Jon Halapio, left tackle D.J. Humphries and hybrid tailback Valdez Showers -- have missed action too.

“It’s tough, and I mean, what are you going to do?,” Pease said. “You got to play the cards you’re dealt.”

But while Florida has flopped mostly 2’s and 7’s, players continue to endorse their beleaguered coach.

“It's a team thing. It's not just Brent. It's not just coach Pease that's affecting the team,” fifth-year senior center Jonotthan Harrison said.  “No, it's a team thing from the players, from the leadership of the players, from coaching. Whatever it is, it's just a whole team thing and we just need to pull tighter as a team. There's no one person that we can really blame for any of our problems. We just need to pull tighter as a team and gel as a team as a whole.”

Harrison added: “It is unfair to blame coach Pease for everything.” 

ICYMI: Reeling Gators may be forced to start their third-string quarterback this weekend. And coach Will Muschamp fumes over Florida's persistent penalty problem

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November 12, 2013

Harrison alleges racial epithets

GAINESVILLE -- Offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison, a fifth-year senior who has started 36 straight games, spoke to reporters for the first time since his ejection in the third quarter against Arkansas on Oct. 5 -- Florida’s last win.

Harrison -- who was tossed for touching an official -- charged his ejection to an incensed reaction following continuous racial slurs hurled at him by an unnamed Razorbacks player.

Harrison alleges, “What happened was, one play I got face-masked, then the next play I got called every version of the N-word known to man. And I went up to the ref and I'm like, 'Ref, please, you have to control this player. He's been calling me every racial slur.'

Harrison said after the third-down play, the Arkansas player again crossed the line and Harrison pleaded with the official before making a boneheaded mistake.

“I talk with my hands as you guys probably have seen this whole time and I touched the ref in his chest. I didn't poke him, but I was talking like this. I didn't even know I got ejected,” he said.”

“I was sitting on the sideline talking to the coach and I heard my number, and then they just walked me off the field. There was no malicious intent. I wasn't trying to be an a-hole or anything like that. I was honestly was just trying to tell the ref to get this player because I was getting attacked. I felt like I was getting harassed, and it was beyond football. Calling me the N-word and everything is not football anymore. It is just going out of your way."

VIDEO: Harrison also dished on offensive coordinator Brent Pease's job security, his "erasing" of the Vanderbilt loss, the injuries and the "woe is me mentality" and playing South Carolina not Jadeveon Clowney.


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November 11, 2013

Notebook: Kickers, Spurrier & more

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s field goal kicking carousel won’t stop spinning.

Coach Will Muschamp again shuffled kickers in Saturday’s loss to Vanderbilt, but the “hot hand” approach yielded similar results with another missed kick.

Muschamp -- frustrated by the lack of consistency -- said the competition remains open this week and the staff will reevaluate who practiced best before the team travels to South Carolina.   

Redshirt freshman Austin Hardin (4-of-10) and walk-ons Brad Phillips (2-of-2) and Frankie Velez (4-of-5) have all taken shots as the starter, as Florida ranks No. 104 nationally in field goal percentage (58.8 percent) and are tied for the fourth-most misses (10-of-17) in the country.

Muschamp said the team has scratched the long- and short-kicker philosophy, saying, “Right now we just need to have the one guy that’s hitting the ball the best and most consistent.”


"Well, he's got a statute in front of the stadium. I've got great respect for him because he's won, and he's done it the right way. And everywhere he's been, he's been successful. And he's an outstanding football coach, but he does things the right way. He handles things the right way. And I just have a lot of respect for him as a player, coming up and playing against him, and now as a coach that's coached against him multiple times. Just a guy that I've got tremendous respect for."

-- Muschamp on why it was important for him to reach out to South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier when he was first hired by Florida in 2011.


Andre Debose -- sidelined for the season with a torn ACL -- will return for a sixth season in 2014, according to Muschamp. Debose must petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibly, but the wide receiver/kick returner should qualify due to multiple season-ending injuries over his career. The fifth-year senior has eight career touchdowns -- four as a returner and four as a wideout. … Since the Missouri game, running backs coach Brian White has moved from the coach’s box to the sidelines. “Just with the youth at running back, we felt like he needed to be on the field to make sure we’re getting the communication with those guys,” Muschamp said.

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Morrison sidelined for the season, Murphy banged up

GAINESVILLE -- Antonio Morrison -- Florida’s starting middle linebacker and team-leading tackler with 56 stops -- will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, coach Will Muschamp announced Monday.

“He tore his meniscus. It’s a radial tear, the same thing [tailback] Matt Jones did,” Muschamp said. “Just very disappointed for him.”

(Courtesy usatoday.com)

UF’s sophomore linebacker was suspended to start the season, missing the opener against Toledo before starting Florida’s next eight games.  Morrison entered the year with lofty expectations, but the linebacker struggled for much of the season, plagued by missed tackles and blown coverages.

According to the school, Morrison actually tore his meniscus early in the loss to Vanderbilt but never left the game due to injury, recording a team-high 10 tackles.

Freshman linebacker Jarrad Davis, a special teams ace, will enter the starting lineup at the weak-side linebacker position, while redshirt junior Michael Taylor will shift to his natural position and play middle linebacker.

Morrison is UF’s seventh-starter -- and 10th player overall -- to sustain a season-ending injury. 


Quarterback Tyler Murphy (AC shoulder sprain) will miss Monday and Tuesday’s practice, but the team is hopeful the redshirt junior can still start Saturday at South Carolina. Murphy, who tossed for a career-high 305 yards but also three interceptions in the homecoming loss to Vanderbilt, admitted if the game were today he would be unable to play.

“It’s very difficult just because after these last few losses and not playing well on Saturday, I need all the practice I can get,” he said. “It’s just frustrating being banged up a little bit and having to sit out and try to get healthy. I’m just gonna live in the training room and get healthy and try to get back out there as soon as possible.”

Murphy added that his shoulder sprain hasn’t completely affected his gameday performances. 

“Going into the practices and stuff like that, I've been fighting a little bit of pain, but nothing too crazy. But when I get to the game, adrenaline takes over, and I'm usually good to go."

VIDEO: Murphy talks Saturday's performance, the mental state of the team and dealing with so many season-ending injuries.



Starting cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) is questionable for Saturday’s game and will miss the first two days of practice this week. Left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL sprain) is doubtful, but wideout Solomon Patton’s knee “is fine” and the senior should start this weekend. 

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Muschamp's mea culpa

ICYMI: Florida coach Will Muschamp on the homecoming boo-birds, potential staff changes and expections

GAINESVILLE -- They exited in droves. The boo-birds howled all afternoon.

In just a month’s time, the Gator Nation has experienced its own five stages of grief:

Denial. Bewilderment. Fury. Apathy. And finally, bloodthirsty. 

Florida -- in the midst of an embarrassing four-game losing steak -- suffered a catastrophic homecoming loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon and a dejected coach Will Muschamp seemed resigned to knowing his seat is hotter than a Red Savina habanero.     

“I’m a competitor. I don’t like losing. I certainly don’t like the product we are putting on the field, and that’s my responsibility,” Muschamp said regarding fan unrest and the general hopeless surrounding Florida’s football team. “I take full credit for that. When it’s good, it’s good. When it’s not good, it’s not good, and it hasn’t been good. And that’s on me. We’ll make the decisions to move forward that we need to do to help this football team in the latter part of the season as we move forward. That’s my plan. I’m not asking for anybody to be happy. I’m not asking anybody to give a pass. This is the real deal. This is the University of Florida. My expectation, I’ll guarantee is as high or higher than anyone sitting in those stands. There’s nobody more let down or hurt or competitive edge dented a little bit by this. So it’s one me. We’ll get it turned. I can assure you that.”

(Courtesy usatoday.com)

Although Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has reportedly voiced his support for Muschamp privately, he’s yet to do so publically, and a humiliating loss to Vanderbilt has only further swelled speculation of the entire staff’s job security.

UF’s 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt -- a team that was injury-riddled like Florida and also playing without its starting quarterback -- was worse than any defeat during the grisly Ron Zook era.

The Gators have now had two four-game losing streaks in the last three seasons -- their only such skids since 1990.

“I’m a lot harder on myself than y’all are or anyone else is going to be or anyone else in this Gator Nation,” Muschamp said. “You know, again, I’m very critical of myself and what I need to do to be better and I don’t need to hear any fan from the outside telling me what we need to do with this football team. I can assure you that.”

But they never stopped trying Saturday, until they simply decided to leave.

Muschamp admitted to hearing lots of loud boos and actually apologized for confronting an enraged Florida fan following the loss to archival Georgia two weeks ago.

“That doesn’t bother me,” Muschamp said of the booing. “You know, I made a mistake last week, I made a real mistake over a very passionate, passionate Florida fan was telling me his opinion of me. You know what, that’s fine, that’s fine. They pay their ticket, they can boo all they want. That’s good. Now it doesn’t help our program, but that’s fine.”

While Muschamp remains likely to retain his job, several staff members might not be so lucky.

Three weeks ago -- with the “arrows flying” -- Muschamp empathically voiced a vote of confidence for offensive coordinator Brent Pease and the rest of his staff. He highlighted their 11 wins a season ago and dismissed the notion to make changes. But with the arrows now flaming and rapidly burning a blazed wagon, his tune changed.

“We’ll find a way. We’ve got to keep going at it. What we’re doing so far is not working. Keep doing the same stuff, you’re going to get the same results,” he said.

“You evaluate everything at the end of the season. That’s what I certainly will do. I’ve done that my first two years, and I’ll do that again this year. I’m not worried about it.”

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