November 23, 2013

Gator Grades: Cover your eyes

GAINESVILLE -- Florida paid $550,000 just to get embarrassed by Georgia Southern. The Eagles shocked the Gators 26-20 on a picturesque -- unless you were wearing orange and blue -- Saturday afternoon in The Swamp. Here’s some rapid reaction grades on UF’s harrowing (and historic) defeat.

OFFENSE F

Florida jumped to a 10-point lead and then sneezed. The Gators gained just 279 total yards against a GSU-team that had allowed 30+ points to Appalachian State and Wofford. Coordinator Brent Pease had little faith in redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Mornihinweg – and with good reason. The redshirt freshman nearly tossed three interceptions on his first five passes and demonstrated his accuracy issues, questionable arm-strength and footwork concerns.

UF’s rushing attack didn’t fair much better either though. Aside from a dominant first drive (which again stalled in the red zone), Florida couldn’t run against a front that averaged just 260-pounds. Will Muschamp's postgame "talent" rant was embarrassing, but if the triple-option is such a great equalizer perhaps Florida should consider running it to wake up its anemic beggared offense. 

DEFENSE D+

The Gators didn’t allow a single completion. The good news ends there. GSU gained 429 yards on the ground -- the fourth-most yards allowed UF history. Those other teams? 1996 Nebraska, 1979 Alabama (one of Bear Bryant's national championship teams) and a Georgia squad led by Hershel Walker. The Eagles may run the triple-option, but you’d be hard-pressed (or insane) to find someone who’d confuse them with the aforementioned teams. Florida -- struggling with assignments, discipline and gap control throughout its lengthy losing streak -- couldn’t stop GSU’s dive, veer, pitch, reverse, anything. The triple-option is plenty tricky to prepare for, but Florida looked like it'd never seen it before -- even in practice.

SPECIAL TEAMS C- 

Another missed field goal (blocked), poor punt coverage, a shanked punt. Really, aside from Solomon Patton’s 54-yard kickoff returns Florida’s third unit again disappointed.   

***** VIDEO *****

Muschamp talks Florida's soul-crushing loss to GSU.

  

Thoughts? Comments? 

Pull… 

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Saturday Selection: Florida-Georgia Southern thread

GAINESVILLE -- Good afternoon, Gator faithful. It’s a beautiful day here in The Swamp, but I’m not sure how many Florida fans will be here to see the Gator tangle with Georgia Southern.

IMG_0107(student section under five minutes until kickoff)

The Gators (4-6) hope to snap their five-game losing skid, while the Eagles (6-4) want to end their season on a high-note, beating an SEC team for the first time in school history.

Don’t blink or the game might be over before you know it. I expect lots and lots (and lots and lots) of running today. 

Tyler Murphy again "warmed up" but it was a workout consisting of just footwork drills and dropbacks. He did zero throwing, so expect Skyler Mornhinweg to make his second-career start.  

My pregame teaser… 

GAINESVILLE -- Losers of five straight, Florida isn’t overlooking any team, even a Football Championship Subdivision foe 0-9 all-time versus Southeastern Conference schools.

The Gators (4-6) square off against Georgia Southern (6-4) today at 2 p.m. (pay-per-view) in The Swamp, a matchup featuring two injury-depleted rosters and a whole lot of running. 

The Eagles stroll into Gainesville with their prolific triple-option attack, while Florida appears poised to start its third-string quarterback, Skyler Mornhinweg, for a second-straight week.

There will be no looking ahead to archrival No. 2 Florida State.

“If you don’t come out prepared and ready to play you can lose to anybody. We lost to Vanderbilt. We hadn’t lost to Vanderbilt in 20-something years,” junior linebacker Michael Taylor said.  “Any team is capable of losing on any day. I know this team put up 352 yards on [Georgia] last year, so this is no team to push aside. This is a team to be prepared for.”

Georgia Southern’s dynamic and efficient rushing offense (353.3 yards per game) presents a unique challenge for an already teetering UF rush defense.

The Eagles’ traditional dive-oriented triple option is alien to most Gator players.

“It’s a total technique change,” defensive tackle Leon Orr said. “It’s all about focus, when it comes down to it. It’s something our defense gotta hone in on and be able to focus on your role. …It’ll be something of a challenge for us, but at the end of the day we ain’t got no choice but to get it done.”

Twelve different players have scored at least one rushing touchdown for the Eagles this season, and their offense also averages nearly 19 yards a competition. …”

***** UPDATE *****

Couple pregame announcements: Mornhinweg will start, while UF also announced defensive end Jon Bullard is OUT with an undisclosed injury and freshman wideout Demarcus Robinson is suspended for the remainder of the season (2 games) for violating undisclosed team rules. Remember (in the preseason) when I said Robinson could be more George Farmer than Stefon Diggs? What a disappointing freshman campaign for such a talented prospect. 

PICKS

Scoreboard: 39-23-2 ATS, 5-5 selecting Florida games 

This week’s six-pack

Missouri (-2) at Ole Miss

Clemson (-42) vs. Citadel

Idaho (+57) at FSU

LSU (-3.5) vs. Texas A&M

Oklahoma State (+9) vs. Baylor

And finally, Georgia Southern (+28) at Florida. The Gators SHOULD snap their long losing streak, but I have little faith this team can actually cover 28 points against a triple-option attack (i.e. very, very quick game) with a third-string quarterback. Motivation will be another interesting storyline to watch too -- despite the normal weekly game-by-game platitudes expressed during the week.

Enjoy the weekend, everybody.

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November 21, 2013

HOOPS: Balancing Act -- UF cruises past MTSU

GAINESVILLE -- No. 14 Florida dismantled Middle Tennessee State -- an 11th seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament -- 79-59 thanks to a 15-4 run early in the second half Thursday night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Six players scored in double figures -- Dorian Finney-Smith (14), Will Yeguete (10), Michael Frazier (13), DeVon Walker (10), Casey Prather (11), Patric Young (16) -- as a shorthanded Florida team discovered some offensive cohesiveness following a horrid first half playing without freshman point guard Kasey Hill (high-ankle sprain).

Although the balancing act took awhile, it was an impressive win after an ugly start.

“I thought our offense was really good without a point guard in the second half,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

Prather, plagued by first half foul trouble, scored all 11 of his points after halftime, while Young finished the night with six rebounds, three assists and 16 points -- six via the foul line.

“I thought Patric did a great job tonight,” Donovan said. “I thought he set the tone defensively. He made a diving play in the first half, which was phenomenal. He was active. He rebounded, made his free throws. I was proud of him tonight.”

UF -- propelled by a dominating defensive effort -- jumpstarted its second half offense with transition buckets, four 3-point plays and several wide-open treys.

The Gators also held MSU’s top two scorers -- Shawn Jones and Kerry Hammonds, both who average 16 points per game -- to a combined nine points.

“We were really committed to that end of the floor,” Donovan said. “We were engaged. We were disruptive.”

But the first half barely resembled basketball.

Two quality teams combined for 26 fouls, 32 free throws and just 17 baskets in a brutal opening 20 minutes -- one that Donovan called “painful to watch.”

It was another game marred by fouls (43), but Florida at least made them count, shooting 83 percent (25-30) from the free throw line.

“It’s going to take some time for everyone -- officials, coaches, players -- to adjust,” Donovan said of so many whistles. “It maybe a painful year from the spectators standpoint for awhile, but hopefully we move into a positive direction once [the new rules] becomes second nature.”

VIDEOS: Young talks Florida's simplified offense without a true point guard and the team's second-half explosion, while Finney-Smith dishes on his role as a point-forward, the slow start and his loud momma. 

 

 

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Lack of turnovers plaguing Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s defense still ranks No. 7 nationally (288.6 yards per game), but the unit’s lofty rankings have camouflaged its struggles during the team’s five-game losing streak -- especially in a statistical category it dominated a season ago.

The Gators are no longer forcing turnovers.

In 2012, Florida was a ball-hawking, playmaking defense that recorded 30 takeaways, and as a team finished with a plus-15 turnover margin -- good for No. 7 in the country.

This season, the offense has struggled to protect the football, while its defense -- supposedly the rock of the team -- has done little to counter the problem.

“We have missed some opportunities,” coach Will Muschamp said. “We've had some opportunities at interceptions that were dropped, and we've had some balls on the ground that we haven't gotten. We haven't had as many strip opportunities as we would like. That's one thing we have looked at as a staff. … We've got to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Florida has forced 15 turnovers this season, but 10 came in a three-game stretch against lowly conference competition with a combined league record of 1-17.

During its five-game losing streak, Florida has just four takeaways, while turning the ball over eight times.

“We’ve had opportunities to make them and haven’t really made them at times. Usually, when someone makes one of those plays, a tough play and gets one, then you kind off get a couple more. It spirals that way,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “We’ve had those chances in games, and just most recently haven’t made them. It’s something we emphasize, work on and talk about in meetings. We know how critical it is to our success. We’ve got to protect the ball and get the ball out on defense. Obviously, we’re not winning in that area right now, and it’s affecting the outcome of the games.”

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Notebook: Focusing on the task at hand, injury updates, NFL talk

GAINESVILLE -- Florida assistant coach D.J. Durkin said he has head coaching aspirations, but UF’s defensive coordinator refused to discuss any offseason hypotheticals and said he’s solely focused on Florida’s next opponent: Georgia Southern. 

Durkin -- in his fourth year with the Gators -- has been rumored as a possible candidate for several potential Mid-American Conference jobs, a league that includes his alma mater and the school he kick-started his coaching career (Bowling Green).  

Durkin(D.J. Durkin & Will Muschamp | media.miamiherald.com)

“I haven't been approached by anyone or anything,” he said. “Yeah one day I do want to be a head coach. It would have to be the right situation, the right place, a lot of factors go into it. It wouldn't just be any job.”

INJURY UPDATES

Quarterback Tyler Murphy participated in Tuesday’s practice and is now questionable for Saturday’s game.

According to coach Will Muschamp, redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg is still in line for another start, but Murphy’s injured shoulder is improving.

“It’s all about his discomfort level right now,” Muschamp said of Murphy’s AC sprain in the quarterback’s throwing shoulder. “It’s gotten better every day. If you look from Sunday to today, it’s much, much, much improved. We’ll just to continue to work through that. It’s all about his comfort level. Right now, the shoulder is stable.”

Muschamp also said left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL sprain) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) would not play this weekend.

NFL TALK?

Junior cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy are two players many expect to leave Florida for the NFL following the 2013 season.

According to defensive tackle Leon Orr, playing at the next level is readily discussed in the locker room amongst Florida players.

“When you in the locker room you hear the word ‘NFL’ because there’s a lot of guys who play college ball and see themselves at the next level. So it’s definitely conversation about certain players going to the NFL and certain player not going to the NFL,” Orr explained. “It’s just one of those things, you never know what anybody thinking. You can never hold much weight into conversation, just more listen to them.”

Orr, a redshirt junior who’s started seven games this season and recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, admitted he’s also contemplating his future.  

“I mean I definitely feel like I want to be a Gator next year. I want to do a lot of things for this school that I haven’t had the opportunity to do but I feel like this who NFL thing and this whole going to the next level thing is so new to me, and I don’t know much about it, that I want to be able to be well informed before I make any type of decision on that,” Orr said.

QUOTABLE

“I'm a drop-back quarterback. I think ESPN had me at deceptively athletic, so I'll throw in a spin move every now and then. But you know I drop back and try to throw it as hard as I can in an accurate spot. That's how I play."

-- Christian Provancha, Florida’s unlikeliest No. 2 quarterback against Georgia Southern with injuries to Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy. Provancha, nicknamed Provolone, is a walk-on senior from Cocoa Beach.

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November 20, 2013

In all kinds of weather

GAINESVILLE -- Although Florida is mired in its worst losing streak in over two decades, not everyone in the Gator Nation is down on the team.

Left tackle Max Garcia said between eight to 10 Gator fans were waiting in the rain holding signs of support as Florida returned to Gainesville following its 19-14 loss to South Carolina.

Foxsportsflorida.com(Max Garcia | courtesy forxsportsflorida.com)

“I was like 'Wow, that's so uplifting.' You don't see that often. I've never seen that type of support before," Garcia said. "You get tweets like 'Oh, we're still behind you' and stuff, but when you see it actually in real life, you know, our fans are still out there waiting for us, they didn't know when we were coming back, you know, so they could have been out there for hours. Stuff like that, I really appreciate that, the team really appreciated that.”

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See your injury crisis and raise you a catastrophe

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

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November 19, 2013

"We had them"

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

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

  

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

 

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Prognosis negative

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

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

Usatoday.com(Courtesy usatoday.com)

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

Hill attended Tuesday's practice on crutches. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bleacherreport.com(Courtesy bleacherreport.com)

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

INJURY REPORT

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

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

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

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

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

KICKOFF ANNOUNCED

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

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

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

QUOTABLE

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

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

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November 18, 2013

HOOPS: Hill sidelined with severe ankle injury in Gators win

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

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

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

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

Hill will undergo X-rays Tuesday.

BZZY2fNIYAAalRw.jpg-large(Courtesy @GatorNicole)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

OTHER INJURY UPDATES

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

THIS & THAT

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

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Appreciative of administration’s support

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

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

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

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

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

-- Muschamp on Monday during his weekly press conference.

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Muschamp clarifies fans comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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Brunch Buffet: South Carolina Rewind

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

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

Enjoy. 

Sbnation

(courtesy sbnation.com) 

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

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

Positive. Prideful. 

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

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

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

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

The Gators displayed toughness, grit and effort.

Despite so many odds, they didn’t quit. 

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

Also...

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

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

* Gator Grades

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

November 17, 2013

Gator Grades: Almost

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

OFFENSE B 

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

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

DEFENSE C- 

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

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

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

SPECIAL TEAMS C- 

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

Thoughts? Comments? 

Pull… 

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

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

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

 

(Courtesy florida.247sports.com) 

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November 16, 2013

Saturday Selection: Florida-South Carolina thread

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

 

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

***** UPDATE *****

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

My pregame teaser…

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

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

This could get ugly -- fast.

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

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

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

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

PICKS

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

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

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 15, 2013

Notebook: Mike Davis, Spurrier endorses Muschamp & more

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPURRIER ENDORSES MUSCHAMP

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

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

Gatorzone.com

(Courtesy gatorzone.com)

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

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

THIS & THAT

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

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They Said It: No Quit

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

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

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

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

On not becoming that team…

DT Damien Jacobs

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

On not checking out mentally... 

LT Max Garcia

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

RG Jon Halapio 

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

QB Tyler Murphy

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

C Jon Harrison 

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

On the need for added leadership…

RG Jon Halapio

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

QB Tyler Murphy 

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

DT Damien Jacobs 

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

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

FB Hunter Joter

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

C Jon Harrison

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

On tuning out the criticism…

LT Max Garcia

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

C Jon Harrison

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

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November 14, 2013

Muddled thoughts on Muschamp's (still) murky future

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

BOOM.

BOOM.

BOOM.

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

Again, it was nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 13, 2013

1000% Committed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With pressure mounting, Pease blocks out the noise

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

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

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

Pease(Courtesy bullgator.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 12, 2013

Harrison alleges racial epithets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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November 11, 2013

Notebook: Kickers, Spurrier & more

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

Follow me on Twitter@JesseReSimonton

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.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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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Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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.

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(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.” 

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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.

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(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. 

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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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