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.”

QUOTABLE – TALKING THE OLD BALL COACH

"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.

THIS & THAT

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.”

Usatoday.com
(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. 

MURPHY UPDATE

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.

  

REMAINING INJURY REPORT

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.”

Usatoday.com
(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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November 10, 2013

Florida: A loathsome offensive (team) you can't stop watching

GAINESVILLE -- Cover your eyes...or don't. 

The GatorNation's mindset right now: somewhere between Stockholm syndrome and a revolution. 

  

Some fun facts...

* Georgia Tech has more passing touchdowns than UF.

* Michigan has -69 yards rushing the past two weeks, but the Wolverines still average just one-fourth of a yard per carry less than the Gators. On a related note, Brent Pease and Al Borges both protect the quarterback with the exact same (in)efficiency.

* Wake Forest has as many offensive touchdowns as Florida.

* The Gators are barely better at kicking field goals than Purdue or Virginia Tech, while barely worse than USC, FAU or Kansas. 

* Florida has two four-game losing streaks since 1990 -- both under Muschamp

* Florida’s red zone offense is less than one percent better than the self-proclaimed schematic genius’ (Mr. Charlie Weis).  

* The combined record of UF’s four wins: 15-23.

* Florida has allowed as many rushing touchdowns as Boston College and Louisiana-Lafayette.

* UF has more penalties during its four-game losing streak than seven teams in the country have all season.

* Florida’s meat-grinder attack has allowed 40 more tackles for loss than Stanford’s smashmouth offense. Also, UF has more negative yardage than Kansas. 

Yup, Amanda Bynes has a better 2013 resume. Oh, and UF still has two top-12 teams remaining on the schedule. Seriously, it’s almost impressive how bad Florida has been this season.

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Ready to eat

GAINESVILLE -- Florida travels to South Carolina this weekend to face an eagar and revenge-minded No. 11 Gamecocks bunch. 

The two teams will square off at 7 p.m. on ESPN2, the Southeastern Conference announced Sunday.

In 2012, Florida destroyed Steve Spurrier's team 44-11 despite gaining just 183 total yards.

Gators, a burning carcass of [enter any bodily fluid or function really], appear prime for a return beatdown. 

Plus, South Carolina's sophomore tailback Mike Davis -- the SEC's leading rusher (1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns) -- seems quite motivated to face Florida's leaky rushing defense (or something like that). 

Davis was once committed to UF before a well-documented recruiting saga ultimately led him to South Carolina.

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November 09, 2013

VIDEO: A snippet of Muschamp's press conference after loss to Vandy

GAINESVILLE -- A somber and dejected Will Muschamp addresses the media after Florida's embarrassing 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt on homecoming. 

 

Random Fact: With today's defeat, Muschamp is now 22-13 (in three seasons) as a head coach at Florida. Vanderbilt's James Franklin is 20-15 over the same time period. 

Gator Grades: Abject Failure

GAINESVILLE -- Before I re-watch the tape of Florida’s first home loss to Vanderbilt (34-17) since Harry S. Truman was president (1945), here are some rapid reaction grades.

OFFENSE F

What’s Murphy’s Law again? UF quarterback Tyler Murphy was essentially Vanderbilt’s MVP on Saturday afternoon, turning the ball over four times leading to 21 points on three short fields. Yes: Murphy threw for a career-high 305 yards, but most were in garbage time. Florida’s running game tallied just ONE carry over eight yards (Mack Brown’s 10-yard rush), while its injury-riddled offensive line allowed five sacks, nine tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries to the nation’s No. 59 defense.

Even a measly 3-0 deficit is a giant chasm to this unit.

In the end, Florida South-Carolina’d Vanderbilt -- emphatically losing a game it allows less than 200 yards on defense…

DEFENSE D

… That said, UF’s defense really wasn’t as nearly dominant as the stats (187 total yards, 4-of-13 third down conversions) indicate. Vanderbilt’s offense was more conservative than a Grover Norquist speech. Redshirt freshman quarterback Patton Robinette -- a backup - attempted just 12 passes (completing six) but made several key plays with his legs to extend drives. VU converted two key fourth downs and another couple game-altering third down conversions. 

Florida’s red zone defense -- albeit positioned in tough spots -- was woeful. The unit again lacked a sense of urgency, sleep-walking through most of the game. When UF’s loathsome offense found a sliver of momentum midway through the third quarter, its (seemingly) disinterested defense promptly handed the juice right back.

SPECIAL TEAMS D

A muffed punt (recovered by UF, but still), another missed field goal (DRINK), three holding penalties and an offsides flag on an onside kick, yup, UF was bad across the board Saturday. Solomon Patton again had some nice returns (nearly breaking a squib kick for a touchdown), but otherwise it was a shaky performance by a regularly inconsistent group. 

Thoughts? Comments?

Pull…

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Saturday Selections: Florida-Vanderbilt thread

GAINESVILLE -- Welcome home. 

It's homecoming weekend in Gainesville (just a gorgeous afternoon), as Florida hosts Vanderbilt in The Swamp -- its first home game in over a month. 

Photo

Last Saturday, CBS analyst Gary Danielson said (about the UF-UGA game): "It means so much because it means so little."

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It's a de-facto-must win game for the Gators -- mainly to impress all these AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Shreveport) reps in the house. 

Players have voiced their support for coach Will Muschamp, but the team desperately needs to end its three-game skid. 

Not digging themselves an early hole would be a good start...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida (4-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) hosts Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4 SEC) Saturday afternoon (noon, FSN) on homecoming with two significant streaks at stake, and yet a 22-game series winning streak and bowl eligibility -- the nation’s second-longest active mark -- is not what concerns the Gators most this weekend.

Florida just wants to start fast, as asteroid-sized holes have plagued the Gators during their current three-game losing streak.

"It's certainly impacted the games as far as how we have relied on our defense in some obvious situations,” coach Will Muschamp said. “You don't put your finger on one thing and say it's this.”

Florida has been outscored 62-29 in the first quarter this season, including 41-12 in its four losses. Miami jumped out to a 14-6 lead; UF spotted LSU an 11-point advantage and UGA a 20-point head start.

The dangerous Molotov cocktail of a suddenly porous first half defense coupled with a consistently listless offense has burned UF repeatedly in recent weeks. 

“We've just got to go back and put our guys in better situations to play. And that's on us as coaches,” Muschamp said. “We've got to put our guys in better situations to feel more comfortable and react as opposed to think in some situations. That's the best way I can summarize it because in every game it's been a little something different. …We just need to coach better."

The Saturday Selections... 

PICKS 

6-0 LAST WEEK, PLAYAS!!!

Scoreboard: 35-20-2 ATS, 4-4 selecting Florida games

This week's six-pack:

Auburn (-7) at Tennessee 

Missouri (-13.5) at Kentucky 

Texas A&M (-18.5) vs. Mississippi State 

LSU (+12) at Alabama  

Wisconsin (-7) vs BYU

... Vandy (+10.5) vs. Florida. The Gators should -- and I believe will -- win this game, as Vandy is really banged up too. But I've watched Gators up close every weekend too, do y'all think they should ever be favored by more than a touchdown? 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 08, 2013

HOOPS: "Light years away" -- UF wins season-opener despite sloppy play

GAINESVILLE -- No. 10 Florida dispatched North Florida 77-69 on Saturday afternoon in the O’Connell Center to kickoff its 2013-14 campaign.

The Gators -- down three suspended upperclassmen (Dorian-Finney Smith, Scottie Wilbekin, Damontre Harris) and playing with several hobbled players (Eli Carter, Will Yeguete, Michael Frazier II) -- hardly resembled a top 10 team, but nonetheless, the shorthanded bunch started the year with an ugly win.

STORYLINE

Foul Fest, engage. During the offseason, the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee instituted several rule changes -- no more hand-checks and a reevaluation of the block-charge call -- in an effort to maximize scoring and cut down the meat-grinder-like contests. Good try again, NCAA. The new rules had an instant but hardly positive impact. The two teams combined for 36 fouls, as Florida’s first win of 2013 was marred by whistles, poor defense and a total lack of flow.

Florida shot 19 free throws in the first half -- making 17 straight to open the game, second all-time in school history -- on 13 UNF fouls. The Gators didn’t escape foul trouble either, as freshman point guard Kasey Hill (7 minutes) and senior center Patric Young (8 minutes) mostly sat the bench in the first half. With no true second point guard available (Wilbekin suspension), UF’s offense struggled for much of the first half without Hill’s playmaking presence. The Gators blew a 19-point lead, as UNF actually ended the period on a 13-2 run to cut the deficit to six (37-31). The Gators settled down after halftime, toying with the Ospreys’ leaky zone (UF shot 51 percent), but an inability to get consistent stops, rebounds or defend basic inbounds plays resulted in “a disappointing” and too-close-for-comfort victory.  

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Senior Casey Prather had a career-night, scoring 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The senior forward chipped in eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal too. Prather doubled his previous career-high (14 points) from the Virginia game in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. While UF’s other post players struggled (Young and Yegutete combined for four points, seven rebounds and five fouls), Prather relentlessly and aggressively attacked the rim. He scored 17 points in the first half on six made field goals (6-of-9), while the rest of UF’s team combined to shoot 4-for-18. 

STAT OF INTEREST

Hill, in his collegiate debut, flashed his finishing prowess in the second half, scoring 13 points (15 for the game) on several athletic layups and contested jumpers. The O’Dome -- quiet most of the afternoon -- was rocking on the freshman’s spin-cycle finish midway through the second half.

STAT OF INTEREST PART DEUX

UF didn’t make a field goal outside the paint until Hill’s 15-foot jump shot with 17:01 remaining in the second half. Eli Carter’s 3-pointer (11:32 in the second half) was UF’s first trey of the season. For the game, the Gators shot a measly 20 percent (2-of-10) from behind the arc.

STAT OF INTEREST PART III

Florida tallied 13 offensive rebounds resulting in 12 second-chance points, but Florida was actually outrebounded for the game: 37-35.

QUOTABLE

“We didn’t play as good as we should’ve played. Tomorrow’s practice will be hard.”

-- Prather

QUOTABLE PART DEUX

“We are light years away from being even a remotely good defensive team right now. And light years away from being a ranked team.”

-- Donovan  

 

NEXT UP

The Gators (1-0) travel to Madison to play No. 20 Wisconsin on Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. (ESPN2). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Better than anticipated

GAINESVILLE -- Trenton Brown -- UF's first-year transfer offensive tackle from Georgia Military College -- exceeded expectations in his first-career start in the loss to Georgia last weekend. 

While Brown, a mammoth offensive lineman at 6-foot-8, 364 pounds, made a couple mistakes (holding call, illegal procedure), the redshirt-junior played well overall against the SEC's second-best pass rushing team. 

"I thought Trenton did some nice things. He's a big man. He's a large body. It's hard to get on the edges on him," coach Will Muschamp said.

"First start, going in that environment, I thought he played well."

VIDEO: Brown dished on his play, the frustrations of waiting his turn, emotions of playing against a team he was once committed to and more. 

 

TB Fun Facts: He wears size 17 shoes, gained over 100 pounds at GMC eating a large chicken finger plate from Zaxby's twice-a-day, may not be done growing ("X-rays on my knees before the season, and they said my growth plates are still open."), played basketball like Charles Barkley in high school and once upon a time could windmill dunk.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Breakfast Buffett: Hot Links

ICYMI: A number of pieces over the last several days. 

Eat up, folks. 

* Got Boom's back: Despite all the general turbulence surrounding the Florida football program, Gators players are standing by their head coach. 

* Brent Pease acknowledges what many have known for two years: UF's Wild-Gator package is a disaster.

* Let's see: weight room, slippery fields, roads. UF players aren't safe anywhere in Gainesville. 

* In three seasons at Vanderbilt, James Franklin has just three fewer wins than Muschamp at UF.  

November 06, 2013

Gators talk Dolphins controversy

GAINESVILLE -- As the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito bullying story has mushroomed into a national conversion, several UF players dished on the Miami Dolphins harassment story, locker room hazing and more…

On first impressions of the story…

"Yeah, I've seen it. … For Richie Incognito, there's no excuse to do what he's doing. There's hazing and stuff, but some of the things he said, there's no excuse."

-- Tyler Moore, offensive tackle

“Yeah, I’ve seen that, I seen what he said too.”

-- Michael Taylor, linebacker

“Yeah I have. Don’t really pay it much mind.”

-- Trenton Brown, offensive tackle

On balancing locker room fodder versus going too far…

"I'll say good-natured hazing, if you can even say good-natured hazing, but just little things like what they used to do. You tape them to goal post, just little fun stuff. Smack them with some baby powder or something like that. But once you start using some terms that should not be said by certain people, you've gone way too far. … We'll make fun of guys if they do certain things, did something stupid or said something a little fun or something like that. But we don't go that far, not even close to that far.”

-- Moore 

“You gotta know who you can push and who you can mess with like that. I’m a guy people can say pretty much almost anything to as long as it’s not really disrespectful. I’m all for the jokes, all for playing you’ve just gotta know the personality of a player and you’ve just gotta know what you can do what you can say to a person and treat everybody with respect. Everybody’s got a different level of comfort-ability about what you can say about them and how to approach them, you’ve just gotta know your teammates. That’s my main thing with me, just respecting your teammates and knowing what you can do and what you can say to who.”

-- Taylor

“I mean, we play, but I think everybody knows there’s a fine line. … [What that is,] I don’t know, but I guess you know when you cross it.”

-- Brown

On handling problems “internally…”

“Yeah, I mean usually if you’ve got a problem like that it’s usually handled or solved in the locker room through verbally or physically. However you gotta handle it’s handled it and it’s nipped in the bud quick. I’m surprised to see it’s gotten this far, I thought it would be handled by now, I didn’t know anything about it until it came out big. … I mean usually we can talk most of our problems out. We’re old enough where we don’t have to fight all the time. Sometimes there are issues, you handle ‘em, that’s how it is with a team that’s how it is with a family. Every team has issues, you handle ‘em and you move on ‘cause you have to see these people every day you can’t be beefin’ with ‘em every day.”

-- Taylor

Decimated: Injury bug strikes again

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s M.A.S.H. unit is running out of space.

Left tackle Tyler Moore is the latest UF player sidelined for the season after the sophomore Nebraska-transfer fractured his right elbow in a scooter accident Tuesday night.

“It’s unfortunate, but somebody else needs to step up and play productive football,” coach Will Muschamp said. “In all these situations, I feel for the player.”

Moore -- UF’s ninth player and sixth starter to suffer a season-ending injury in 2013 -- had surgery to repair a gruesome compound fracture Wednesday morning.

“Tyler was riding home on a scooter, and he came around a curve there and the back tire came out from underneath him,” Muschamp said.

Moore, who started six games this season, struggled mightily in a dismal performance against Missouri and the right tackle was actually benched early last week. But after starting left tackle D.J. Humphries sprained his left MCL in practice, Moore reentered the starting lineup and rebounded with his best performance of the season against Georgia.

Media.247sports.com
(Tyler Moore | Courtsey media.247sports.com)

“I felt pretty good, especially playing a new position I haven’t played in I don’t know how long,” Moore said Tuesday before practice. “I havent played that in a long time. In a new position and only having a few days to get ready, I felt good.”

Muschamp said starting left guard Max Garcia -- UF’s most consistent linemen all season -- would shift to tackle, while veteran reserve Kyle Koehne (a senior) would play left guard.  

Florida hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday at noon. 

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PROCEED WITH CAUTION

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While Robinson fades, Fulwood factors into mix

GAINESVILLE -- As Florida’s anemic offense desperately seeks any explosive playmaking ability, one of the more interesting developments this season has been the Houdini-act played by freshman wideout Demarcus Robinson. 

A legitimate star during spring and summer training camp, the hotshot recruit has all but disappeared during the regular season.

It’s simple, according to offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

“Demarcus has to be more consistent with what he does,” Pease said.

Robinson has just three catches for 11 yards this season, leaving many confused as to how the freshman could dominate practice -- beating highly-regarded cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Robinson -- yet see minimal live action.

Pease, who said Robinson was "ready to pop” just a month ago, admitted he’s surprised at the freshman's slow start.  

"I mean, I am a little bit because I think he's got up and downs in practice,” he said. “But you can't get them all on the field at once, so it's got to be the two, three or four most consistent guys depending on what you're using. And right now, he's a good kid and he's got a lot of ability, but you've got to continue to compete."

Robinson has actually been leapfrogged on the depth chart by fellow freshman Ahmad Fulwood -- a former four-star prospect from Bishop Kenny.

Fullwood orlandosentinel.com
(Ahmad Fulwood | courtsey orlandosentinel.com)

Fulwood -- who has moved into the X receiver position -- caught two passes for 22 yards in the loss to Georgia and played a career-high “28-30 snaps.”

“He's going to be a good football player,” coach Will Muschamp said. “He's got to continue to play fast and block well on the perimeter. Did a nice job for us. He's going to be a really good player. … He’s continuing to get more snaps as we move forward.”

Asked about Fulwood’s emergence, Pease said, “Ahmad has just been more consistent. He has been in the flow. By him being more consistent, he’s put in that spot in the X position more when he go to four wides.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 05, 2013

Notebook: Ghastly red zone numbers, coin toss musings

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s offense has scored just 14 touchdowns on 31 red zone attempts -- good for No. 118 in the country (45.16 percent) and 20 percentage points lower than the national average (65 percent).

For a team struggling to generate explosive plays, red zone efficiency is key, and yet the Gators are one of the worst offenses in the country inside opponents’ 20-yard line.

“I think we’ve been good about getting in there. Our percentages show that,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “But we’re not getting there enough. We do need more touchdowns. We get in situations where we settle.”

Brent-Pease-Florida-Gatorsgamedayr.com
(courtesy gamedayr.com)

Or come away with nothing.

Thanks to weekly kicking woes and inconsistent playcalling, the Gators rank last in the SEC -- scoring on just 70.97 percent of trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line.

Florida tallied points on 3-of-4 red zone opportunities in the loss to Georgia last Saturday.

Pease acknowledged the offense’s fear of getting stuck behind the sticks influences his playcalling close to the end zone.

“Sometimes you want the big play. You want to immediately score the touchdown instead of OK, we’ve got to get four yards on this play and keep grinding on them, set up a pass off it,” he said. “Probably trying to hit a big play, but if we don’t get it executed we’re in a bad second down or third down situation.”

FLIP DECISION

Florida has won the coin toss four times this season, deferring possession until the second half every time -- including its current three-game losing streak.

Despite a defense constantly surrendering early leads, coach Will Muschamp detailed his coin flip thought process.

"It's game-to-game first of all. It's not something we always try to do,” said Muschamp on deferring. “Sometimes we don't win the toss and they defer or they take the ball. But it's, the other situation Saturday and the last ballgame [Missouri] I believe there's a wind factor. We wanted the win in the fourth quarter. And sometimes the wind comes through the stadium from the north side back through the south end zone, and we wanted to make sure we had the wind in the fourth quarter Saturday. It's a game-to-game thing.

QUOTABLE

“No because in the heat of the game a lot of stuff can happen. It’s all a matter of keeping our composure. A lot of the times we will get 15-yard penalties and like I said before, if it’s for a personal foul, like [Jon] Bostic’s hit last year in the Sugar Bowl, I mean that’s a perfect [hit], but that’s a penalty. You can’t take that away from him because I wouldn’t have held up either. I mean, like, or a facemask or something like that, it’s just, in the heat of the moment and you’re going to make a tackle, no telling where you can grab. But if it’s something like shoving after the play or, you know, something extracurricular, that’s stuff that we don’t need. That’s stuff that’s detrimental to the team, you know, but we just gotta play through it and keep our composure.”

-- Junior linebacker Michael Taylor on perception Florida is an undisciplined team

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Muschamp shoulders blame for Florida's penalty problem

GAINESVILLE -- Two days removed from lobbing a conspiracy-filled grenade at Southeastern Conference officiating, Florida coach Will Muschamp reneged on his vague criticism of league referees and shouldered much of the blame for his team’s steady undisciplined play.  

“It’s something we coach it every day, obviously we’re not doing a very good job,” he said. “It’s something we emphasize, something we talk about. We talked about this is an emotional game. There’s gonna be some things that we gotta learn to walk away from in those situations, and it’s something I’m going to address with the team again today.”

The Gators were penalized seven times for 70 yards in their 23-20 loss to archrival Georgia last Saturday and following the game Muschamp hinted at some ulterior agenda, citing how Florida has finished first or second in the conference in penalties 20 out of the last 24 years.

UF currently leads the conference in penalty yardage per game for the third consecutive season, averaging 62.1 y/g in 2013.   

Senior safety Jaylen Wakins admitted too many players lost their composure at key moments against the Bulldogs.

“The emotions were high, we were coming back,” Watkins explained. “I think a few guys kinda let their emotions get too high and it really defeated the goal of winning the game, but that comes with, like I said, the atmosphere. We have to be more disciplined in that point, especially when we're making a good comeback and everything. Every moment is critical. It's a combination of not being disciplined and the high emotions of the game."

Florida was flagged for seven personal fouls in the loss. 

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November 04, 2013

Notebook: Staff member resigns

GAINESVILLE -- In the midst of a tumultuous year, Florida coach Will Muschamp is dealing with midseason staff turnover as well. 

Jon Haskins, UF’s director of player personnel since January 2012, resigned 10 days ago, according to Muschamp.

“We have an opening right now,” Muschamp said. “But I’m busy coaching the team. I don’t have a while lot of time [to worry about filling it immediately.]”

Florida has no timetable hiring a replacement for Haskins, whose primary responsibilities included coordinating official visits and other administrative recruiting duties. 

Muschamp said the vacancy would have no impact on UF’s prospective recruiting efforts the rest of the season.

“We’ll be fine. He was in an administrative role. You can’t evaluate tape and those sorts of things,” Muschamp said.

GAME TIME DELAYED

CBS elected to use its six-day window for several Nov. 16 games, including Florida at South Carolina. The network will wait until after this weekend to decide between Georgia-Auburn or the Gators and Gamecocks for the premier 3:30 p.m. slot. The Gators could also play at either 7 p.m. (ESPN2) or 7:45 p.m. (ESPN).

QUOTABLE

“This one's more difficult for me because I'm a senior and 2011 I was a sophomore," safety Jaylen Watkins said. "And to come off an 11-2 season last season, we went to a Sugar Bowl and we were winning, and then you come back this year and you're not winning as much as you were. It's definitely tougher for me, and as a team in general, because everyone comes here to win."

-- Safety Jaylen Watkins on this season compared to 2011 when the Gators were 6-6 in the regular season.

INJURY UPDATE

While battered and bruised for much of the season, Florida exited the Georgia game totally healthy, Muschamp said.

Only left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL sprain) -- who did not play against the Bulldogs after spraining his knee in practice last week -- will miss Saturday’s game against the Commodores.

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Muschamp talks recent disappointments, previews Vanderbilt

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp talked about the Gators "getting over the hump" in close (and big) games -- placing their failures squarely on his shoulders. 

UF's third-year coach then previewed Vanderbilt (noon, SEC Network) -- suddenly a massive game for a UF team desperate to reach bowl eligibility. 

 

At least they’re consistent

GAINESVILLE -- Friendly reminder: Offensive coordinator Brent Pease received a $100,000 raise, a one-year extension (to 2015) and a future longevity bonus ($100,000 if he is still at Florida in January 2016) last offseason.

Florida finished No. 104 nationally (334.0 y/g) a year ago. The Gators currently rank 111th in the country in total offense. 

2013 Gators offensive rankings in the Southeastern Conference…

* Scoring – No. 13 (21.0 p/g) 

* Total – No. 14 (334.6 y/g)

* Rushing – No. 13 (159.4 y/g)

* Passing – No. 13 (175.2 y/g)

* Yards per play – No. 14 (4.89 y/p)

* Sacks allowed – No. 13 (21 total)

* Long scrimmage plays (10+ yards) – No. 14 (91 total)

* Time of possession – No. 1 (35.39 m/g)

* Red zone conversions – No. 14 (70.97 scoring percentage)

* Third down conversions – No. 8 (42.62 percent conversion rate)

To recap: The Gators rank last or next to last in 8-of-10 offensive categories. They lead the conference in time of possession and rank in the middle of the pack converting third downs.

Florida is the only team in the league averaging less than five yards per play (next closest: Tennessee at 5.34 y/p). Texas A&M has more than than twice as many long scrimmage plays as UF (191 vs. 91). 

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ICYMI: Playing for pride

For a second November in three seasons, Florida is resigned to silver linings and moral vicories and no longer talking about Atlanta. 

Bleacherreport.com
(courtesy bleacherreport.com)

A brief tease...

"GAINESVILLE -- After weeks of questionable bluster and bravado, the Gators have officially resigned to reality.

Following Saturday’s 23-20 loss to Georgia, Florida finally stopped talking about its long-shot Southeastern Conference Championship aspirations.

There will be no trip to Atlanta. No snapping a two-game losing to a division archrival and -- with a date looming with No. 2 Florida State -- likely no winning any state bragging rights.  

The 2013 season is lost for the once-mighty Gators, and a proud program is now in the desperate position of having to beat Vanderbilt on homecoming to probably reach bowl eligibility.

Just a year removed from an 11-1 regular season and BCS berth, coach Will Muschamp’s team is reeling and simply playing for pride now.

"We're going to fight until the last game of the season,” redshirt junior tailback Mack Brown said. “No quit."

The Gators (4-4, 3-3 SEC) -- on a three-game losing streak for the second time in three seasons -- must win twice in their remaining four games just to reach bowl eligibility.

Florida hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday (noon, ESPN2) before travelling to No. 12 South Carolina. The Gators finish the season in The Swamp with FCS Georgia Southern (Nov. 19) and the suddenly unstoppable Seminoles (Nov. 26). 

Quarterback Tyler Murphy said the season “stinks” and that he never imagined the year unraveling so quickly.

“We’ll do our best and try and knock everybody else off,” Murphy said dejectedly Saturday. ..."

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November 03, 2013

Muschamp lobs grenade at SEC officiating

JACKSONVILLE -- And so it has comes to this.

In a season marred by injuries, offensive ineptitude, placekicking woes and defensive inconsistencies, Florida coach Will Muschamp is now pointing fingers at Southeastern Conference officials. 

The Gators -- penalized seven times for 75 yards in the 23-20 loss to UGA -- rank last in conference in penalties for the third straight season, and Muschamp is not happy about it.   

Usatoday.com
(courtesy usatoday.com)

Despite the Gators consistently lacking discipline or composure at key moments, Muschamp lobbed some sort of pseudo-conspiracy at the league office following UF's third-straight loss to UGA. 

"Whatever the call, they call," he said. "In the last 24 years, the University of Florida, we've led the SEC in penalties 20 out of 24 [years], either first or second. That was long before I got here. So it's interesting. But it is what it is." 

Muschamp could be fined for his comments. 

The annual Cocktail Party was chippy and full of skirmishes -- as always -- with a combined 13 personal fouls -- seven committed by UF. 

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Gator Grades: Empty Cocktail

JACKSONVILLE -- Before I re-watch the tape (later in the week) of Florida’s 23-20 defeat to division Georgia, here are some rapid reaction grades.

OFFENSE C-

It took Florida 9+ quarters -- spanning three games and all losses -- for the Gators to score an offensive touchdown against Georgia. Aside from Tyler Murphy's 83-yard pass to Quinton Dunbar (which somehow the wideout did not score on), the Gators totaled just 43 the rest of the first half.

Freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor showed brief flashes, but the offensive line -- albeit steady in pass protection -- failed to open up any gaping holes for UF's tailback. Murphy was again inaccurate and sluggish in his decision-making, but he played pretty well after halftime (capitalizing on short fields) and made some key plays with his legs. 

While not totally "inept," UF's offense was hardly the "explosive, confident bunch" coach Will Muschamp teased earlier in the week.    

DEFENSE C+

For a defense (suddenly) accustomed to slow starts: Todd Gurley -- injured and all -- tallied 121 yards and two touchdowns on his first five touches of the game.

Ballgame. 

The sophomore tailback finished with 100 yards on the ground (his second game against the Gators eclipsing the century mark) on 17 carries. Once again, Florida's linebackers struggled. 

But Gurley eventually ran out steam (and was slowed by his high-ankle sprain), and it allowed Florida's defense to catch their breath. The third quarter was a dominating effort: five plays, a fumble recovery, a safety (blind-side sack) and two total yards allowed.

The 4th-down stop early in the fourth quarter was another huge play, and yet, when Florida needed its defense (allegedly a suffocating third down unit) to give the ball back to the offense, it couldn't. The Bulldogs' eight-minute drive, a repeat of their game-sealing drive over South Carolina, was demoralizing for defense built on toughness and swagger. 

SPECIAL TEAMS D+

Georgia -- who has the SEC's worst special teams -- outplayed Florida's unit Saturday afternoon. The Gators left six points on the field with a pair of missed field goals, while UGA's Marshall Morgan was a perfect 3-for-3. Frankie Valdez was 1-of-2, while Austin Hardin -- Florida's long kicker -- short-changed a 47-yard attempt by a good 3-5 yards short. Oey. 

Johnny Townsend pinned the Dawgs deep twice (including setting up the safety). Brian Poole was flagged for a blatent block in the back on one return and the Gators got away with another obvious holding call on Solomon Patton's long run back.

Thoughts? Comments?

Have at it.

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They Said It – Florida-Georgia

JACKSONVILLE -- The Gators -- in a game marred by skirmishes, momentum swings and generally ugly football -- lost a third-straight rivalry game to Georgia (23-20) on Saturday afternoon in EverBank Field.

Will Muschamp's team was predictably inconsistent. Again.

The Gators were flat from the start, as UF's "inept" offense showed minimal improvements from the bye week, while its once-prideful defense was gashed for two quick scores before it found its footing in the second half.

It was disappointed bunch afterwards -- especially considering the wild momentum shifts capped a demoralizing game-sealing drive by the Bulldogs.

Here's some postgame soundbites...

RB Mack Brown

On motivations for the rest of the season...

"We're going to fight until the last game of the season. No quit."

WR Solomon Patton 

On so many post-play scuffles between the two teams...

"A lot of guys were talking trash. But it's just part of the game. We can let it affect us."

LB Michael Taylor

On second-half comeback falling short...

"We knew that we could play a lot better than how we were playing in the first half. We just came out and played how we knew we could play. We started executing our calls. But it's a disappointment we just couldn't pull it out."

On keying in on UGA tailback Todd Gurley in the second half...

"We knew that they didn't have the weapons they had to start the year, so we knew that he was their main weapon."

QB Tyler Murphy

On UF's offensive line playing better...

"They stepped up today. They took it upon themselves to do better and they did a good job. They gave me a lot of time in the pocket."

On attitude moving forward...

"There's no team out there I'd rather be a part of than this one." 

Coach Muschamp 

On postgame message to his team...

"They're upset. Hurt. We'll rebound. We'll be fine. ... "You rally around the fact that you play at the University of Florida."

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November 02, 2013

Saturday Selections: Florida-Georgia thread

JACKSONVILLE -- THE.SADDEST.COCKTAIL.PARTY.EVER.

BYEsUdNIIAALjjW.jpg-large
(Courtesy @gatozonenews)

A tease to my "SURVIVOR" advance...

"GAINESVILLE -- The forecasted weather for Saturday’s Georgia-Florida matchup in Jacksonville is particularly apropos for two struggling, depleted and disappointed teams.    

The Gators (4-3, 3-2 SEC) and Bulldogs (4-3, 3-2) meet at EverBank Field at 3:30 p.m. (CBS) on a likely gloomy, windy and rainy afternoon.

Only a monsoon could make this usually-storied game -- dubbed this season as “The World’s Largest Infirmary” -- any uglier.

Both bitter rivals are mired in two-game losing streaks and have been ravaged by a combined 14 key season-ending injuries.

Although South Carolina’s overtime win over Missouri gave the two schools long shot hopes to still reach Atlanta, the SEC East carrot is more like a Tolkien fantasy at this point.

“The reason this game means so much is because it means so little,” CBS analyst Gary Danielson said. 

Georgia and Florida opened the season in the top 10, but now both are unranked and meet with major question marks moving forward.  

The Bulldogs, who lost at Vanderbilt for the first time in 22 years, have been slowed by a decimated offense and a young, inexperienced defense yet to play a complete game.

Meanwhile, Florida’s woeful offense continues to scramble to find any positive momentum, while its once-dominant defense suddenly cannot stop the run without star tackle Dominique Easley." 

The Saturday Selections... 

PICKS 

Scoreboard: 29-20-2 ATS, 3-4 selecting Florida games

This week's six-pack:

South Carolina (-12) vs. Mississippi State 

Auburn (-7.5) at Arkansas 

Florida State (-21.5) vs. Miami 

Michigan State (-4) vs. Michigan 

Wisconsin (-9) at Iowa

I'll update the blog later this afternoon with my Cocktail Party pick and lots of pregame news and notes. For now, enjoy the early games y'all. 

... Georgia (-2) vs. Florida. The Dawgs have Todd Gurley. The Gators don't. It should be a close, meat-grinder ballgame (although the weather is better than anticipated), but I'm going with the team with the game's best player. If he hurts his ankle again though...

***** UPDATE *****

* Junior linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell (ankle) was working out under the watchful eye of defensive coordiator D.J. Durkin in pregame. On Wednesday, Muschamp said he expected Powell, who missed the Missouri game, to play. 

* UF field goal kickers -- backup Austin Hardin, mostly -- struggled during pregame.  

* Sugar Bowl reps are in the house... I don't know why either. Also Chick-fil-A, Gator bowl guys here too. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 01, 2013

Rush defense faltering

GAINESVILLE -- For six weeks, Florida’s defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage, but following consecutive sobering performances against LSU and Missouri, a once proud unit is searching for answers.

The Gators -- minus dominant defensive tackle Dominique Easley -- can no longer stop the run. After surrendering just a single 100-yard rusher all last season (ironically this week’s foe: Georgia tailback Todd Gurley), Florida has allowed two different tailbacks (LSU’s Jeremy Hill and Missouri’s Henry Josey) to clip the century mark during its recent two-game losing streak.

In Missouri’s 36-17 win, the Tigers rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns -- the most yardage in 22 games against a Will Muschamp defense.

“Very safe to say (that won’t happen again). That’s not characteristic of us,” junior linebacker Michael Taylor said. “That’s not what we allow and that’s a one-time thing. I can guarantee you that won’t happen again.”

2G0BY.St.56
(media.miamiherald.com)

The Gators still rank first in the conference in total defense (273.1 y/g), rushing defense (100.71 y/g), passing defense (172.4 y/g) and third down defense (27 percent), but following multiple shaky performances -- especially stopping the run -- their confidence is admittedly wavering.  

“It’s shocking,” cornerback Marcus Roberson said. “But we can only move forward and focus on the next game and just try and keep the total yards [down].”

Said sophomore defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.: “I feel like our defense is still a great defense. But once you lose a game or two you kind of lose your confidence. And all we've got to do is just get our swagger back. I feel like once we get our swagger back, and get our confidence back up, we're going to be back to how we were at the beginning of the season.”

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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."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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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October 17, 2013

Tall boys

GAINESVILLE -- For the second time in as many weeks, No. 22 Florida’s deep and talented secondary will square off against a group of NFL-caliber receivers.

Last weekend, LSU wideouts Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. showcased well in limited chances versus UF’s cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Vernon Hargreaves III, but No. 14 Missouri’s trio of wideouts -- Dorial Green-Beckham, L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas -- present a different challenge this Saturday in Columbia: Size.

L+Damian+Washington+Missouri+v+Florida+1R4n8CkHTn4l
(L’Damian Washington | courtesy zimbo.com)

“I think the first thing you look at is their stature. They're long guys. They're big guys. They run well. You know it's kind of like they've got a prototype they recruit to,” UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “Their staff has done a great job. They've been there a while together, so you know, they recruit to what they do, their system. Those guys are all rangy guys. They can run. They're obviously a tough matchup for anyone."

Green-Beckham, the top-rated recruit in the country two years ago, is the biggest of the bunch at 6-foot-6, 220-pounds. The sophomore is second on the Tigers in yards (399), receptions (27) and touchdowns (4) and a deadly target in the red zone.

Washington -- a 6-foot-5 playmaking senior with lightening speed -- is tied with Landry for the most touchdowns (7) in the SEC, while Lucas (6'5") leads the Tigers in receptions (30).  

In all, it’s another tall task for Florida’s secondary -- even despite facing an inexperienced quarterback, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk.

“It’s nothing we haven’t gone against,” safety Cody Riggs said.  “I remember Kentucky my sophomore year, even this year, all the Kentucky receivers are pretty big. It’s nothing we’re not used to. We’ve gone against big receivers before.”

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All together

GAINESVILLE -- At least publically, No. 22 Florida’s top-ranked defense refuses to castigate an incessantly stumbling offense.   

The Gators lead the Southeastern Conference in total defense -- and are ranked No. 3 nationally -- while their offense ranks an anemic 13th in the conference and No. 94 in the country.

Although the in-house standards for the two units do not appear equal, coach Will Muschamp refused to broach any potential discord in the locker room. 

“Our defense doesn’t need to worry about what our offense does,” he said. “They need to play well and we didn’t play very well Saturday in Baton Rouge.”

In the Muschamp era, UF has dropped four games when allowing only 17 points (including last Saturday against LSU), but coordinator D.J. Durkin said the defense doesn’t feel like it has to play a perfect game to win.

“We didn’t play well enough to win in this past game. Defensively, we focus on and talk to our guys all the time about control the controllables,” he said. “We have plenty of things in our room that we need to control that we can control. That’s what our focus is. There were plenty of things in that game that we could have done better, as coaches, as players on the defensive side of the ball that would have given us a better chance to win. We didn’t do that. That’s what our focus is, like it is every week. We hold our guys to a high standard in our room. We feel we are a great defense and we need to play that way. And we need to play that way consistently.”

COMEBACKS?

Just last season, Florida was a resilient second-half team, dominating the majority of fourth quarters in route to an 11-2 year.

The Gators rallied in wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU, but in 2013, UF is 0-2 when trailing at the half.

“We’re not very good playing from behind,” senior safety Jaylen Watkins said.

Muschamp, frustrated by the lack of explosive plays, admitted Florida struggles when getting behind, especially with so many negative plays too.

“We get behind we have a hard time converting in those situations,” he said.

FRESHMEN PROVIDE SPARK

Wideout Ahmad Fulwood and tailback Kelvin Taylor were lone bright spots for Florida's offense in the loss to LSU last weekend.

Fulwood, a rangy 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver from Bishop Kenny, nabbed a pair of catches (two receptions for 19 yards) against the Tigers, including a 15-yard gain on 4th-and-9 late in the fourth quarter.

“He’s starting to get in there and get the feel of the game and play to the speed of the game,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “He works hard in practice. He’s starting to fit in and his opportunities are coming.”

Meanwhile, Taylor -- filling in for the injured Matt Jones -- flashed his potential (10 carries for 52 yards), reigniting all the preseason hype hoopla.

Florida force-fed Taylor on its most successful drive of the afternoon, as the freshman totaled 36 yards on six carries on UF’s second scoring possession. Taylor came to Florida as a polished runner, and he displayed that natural vision and cutback ability against LSU. 

“I think he showed us something,” Pease said. “The kid is a physical runner. He put it north and south. We missed a couple guys. Just his speed, how he hit the holes, he made them miss.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

ICYMI: Lunchtime buffet of hot links

Several reads from the last two days...

* Gators vow to fix offensive breakdowns. Drink every team you read (or hear) the word "communication."

BONUS VIDEOS!!! Murphy and Humphries talk the LSU debacle, Kelvin Taylor's "spark" and more...

 

 

* Florida moving forward with walk-on kicker Francisco Velez -- for now

* Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin expects Missouri's offense to remain the same despite the change at quarterback

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 16, 2013

Muschamp previews Mizzou

GAINESVILLE -- No. 22 Florida coach Will Muschamp offers an overarching glimpse at undefeated Missouri. The Gators (4-2, 3-1 SEC) tackle the Tigers (6-0, 2-0 SEC) this Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Columbia. 

Take a look...

 

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