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.”


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.  


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


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 -- 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.



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October 30, 2013

Keepin' it 100 with Mr. Taylor

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

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



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Q&A: D.J. Durkin

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

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

The major takeaways from Durkin’s press conference…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hits keep coming: Humphries out against Dawgs

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

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

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

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

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

Not anymore.

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

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Notebook: New right tackle?

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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October 29, 2013

Full(y) circle(d)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The results have shown up on the field.

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

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Riggs talks targeting ejection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 28, 2013

Notebook: Slim hopes alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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Taylor gets the nod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 27, 2013

The faintest of hopes

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


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

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

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October 26, 2013

Saturday Selections: Bye Week Blues

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


Onto the Saturday Selections... 


3-3 last week.

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

This week's six-pack:

Oklahoma (-7) vs. Texas Tech

Vandy (+18) at Texas A&M

N.C. State (+30) at Florida State

Baylor (-35) at Kansas

Missouri (-2.5) vs. South Carolina

Louisville (-19.5) at South Florida 

Enjoy the games, all. 

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October 24, 2013

The Midseason Edition: Rank'em

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

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

(Solomon Patton | courtesy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Loucheiz Purifoy | courtesy

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

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

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

Thoughts? Comments? Your own list(s)… 

Have at it.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Searching for solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more click the link...

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 23, 2013

ICYMI: Changes afoot

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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October 22, 2013


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

Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 11.51.38 PM

For those curious of the names...


Chris Dunkley (WR) - transferred to South Florida 

Chaz Green (OT)

Solomon Patton (WR)

Mack Brown (RB)

Ian Silberman (OT)

Gerald Christian (TE) - transferred to Louisville 


Jeff Driskel (QB)

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

Ja'Juan Story (WR) - transferred to TCU

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

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


LaTroy Pittman (WR)

Jessamen Dunker (OT) - transferred to Tennessee State 

Colin Thompson (TE)

Kent Taylor (TE)

D.J. Humphries (OT)

And for good measure, the 2013 kids...

Alvin Bailey (WR)

Kelvin Taylor (RB)

Ahmad Fulwood (WR)

Demarcus Robinson (WR)

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October 21, 2013

Free Fallin'

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


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

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

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

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

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

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 11.41.31 PM

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Total offense: 105th

Total defense: 8th


Total offense: 104th

Total defense: 5th


Total offense: 106th

Total defense: 4th

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

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


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

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

As always, the floor is yours.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 20, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

"You have to build and develop your team for a long season. There are going to be injuries. So to me, I've always sat down and asked the question to our staff, who can we count on? It's not about who is starting. I don't worry about that. Who can we count on? This many guys at this position, this many guys at this position. Tell me who six, seven, eight and nine are. That's what I want to know.

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

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


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October 19, 2013

Saturday Selections: Florida-Missouri thread

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

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

A tease...

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

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

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


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

Truly.  …

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


4-2 last week.

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

This week's six-pack:

Oklahoma State (7.5) vs. TCU

Ohio State (-16) vs. Iowa

Alabama (-28) vs. Arkansas

LSU (-7) at Ole Miss

Clemson (+3.5) vs. FSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the game, everybody.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 18, 2013

Young calls out Kentucky

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

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

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

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

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

(Patric Young |

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


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

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

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


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

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October 17, 2013

Tall boys

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

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

(L’Damian Washington | courtesy

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

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

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

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

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

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All together

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

ICYMI: Lunchtime buffet of hot links

Several reads from the last two days...

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

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



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

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

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 16, 2013

Muschamp previews Mizzou

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

Take a look...


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"I've played ball for 16 years and never seen nothing like this before"

GAINESVILLE -- Redshirt junior Mack Brown always hoped to become Florida's featured tailback, but after idling on the bench for much of three seasons he never envisioned his opportunity would come at the hands of a fallen teammate. 

But after Matt Jones' season-ending knee injury against LSU, Brown, a former 4-star prospect from Georgia, is slated as UF's starter against Missouri this Saturday in Columbia (12 p.m. ET, ESPN). 

Brown actually leads No. 22 Florida in rushing yards (340), carries (91) and touchdowns (3), but he's averaging just 3.74 yards per carry. 

Although Brown will receive the early load, Florida is likely to move forward with a by-committee-approach, rotating Brown, freshman Kelvin Taylor and hybrid scat-back Valdez Showers. 

Brown dished on his opportunity, the Gators' crowded training table, UF's "hard season," pass protection woes and more.


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HOOPS: Gators pegged as No. 2 team in SEC

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida’s men’s basketball team enters the 2013-14 season as banged up as its football counterparts, but despite the plethora of injuries, the Gators were still picked to finish second in the Southeastern Conference, in a preseason media vote.

Billy Donovan’s team -- fresh off three consecutive Elite Eight appearances -- must replace its top three scorers from last season too, yet Florida received five first place votes -- to Kentucky’s 21 votes -- and a pair of UF players were tabbed as preseason all-conference performers.

Seniors Patric Young (center) and Scottie Wilbekin (guard) were both named to the All-SEC second team. Last year, Young and Wilbekin, who is suspended to start the 2013 season, earned honorable mention all-conference honors.

Preseason Poll

1. Kentucky

2. Florida

3. Tennessee

4. LSU

5. Missouri

6. Alabama

7. Ole Miss

8. Arkansas

9. Texas A&M

10. Vanderbilt

11. Georgia

12. South Carolina

13. Mississippi State

14. Auburn 

First Team All-SEC

(G) Trevor Releford – Alabama, SR

(F) Julius Randle – Kentucky, FR

(F) Johnny O’Bryant III – LSU, JR

(G) Marshall Henderson – Ole Miss, SR

(G) Jordan McRae – Tennessee, SR

Second Team All-SEC

(G) Scottie Wilbekin – Florida, SR

(C) Patric Young – Florida, SR

(F) Willie Cauley-Stein – Kentucky, SO

(G) Andrew Harrison – Kentucky, FR

(C) Dakari Johnson – Kentucky, FR

(G) Jabari Brown – Missouri, JR

(F) Jeronne Maymon – Tennessee, SR

(F) Jarnell Stokes – Tennessee, JR

SEC Player of the Year

Julius Randle – Kentucky


The league announced Nashville, TN will host the men’s basketball tournament nine times between 2015 and 2025. The tournament will be played at Bridgestone Arena.


Donovan said his son -- walk-on guard Billy Jr. -- has a torn labrum he suffered in August but will play with the injury this season, postponing surgery. … Junior center Damontre Harris -- a transfer from South Carolina -- is out with a hamstring injury, while sophomore guard Michael Frazier has missed practice battling a virus.

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October 15, 2013

Total Freedom

GAINESVILLE -- Will Muschamp is Florida’s head coach, but Brent Pease remains adamant the team’s conservative, meat-grinder offense isn’t handcuffed by Muschamp’s defensive minded philosophy.

“How much does he exert control on me?” UF’s offensive coordinator said rhetorically. “Like any coach, and like all our coaches, we all have ideas we share. He's very open about what we do. He allows us to do our job, do what we want to do to be successful, and like he says, 'Do what we gotta do to win a football game.'”

Florida’s offense ranks 13th in the SEC (367.8 yards per game) and No. 88 nationally in yards per play (5.29). In Saturday’s 17-6 loss to LSU, UF failed to score a touchdown for the first time since the defeat to Georgia in 2012 (12 games) and didn’t reach the red zone until the fourth quarter.

After Pease experienced success as Boise State’s coordinator in 2011, some have questioned if his playcalling has been limited with the Gators. He dismissed that notion.

“I think [Muschamp] has got his philosophy on what the makeup of our team is,” Pease said. “Everybody is good with that, including myself."

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Sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason, but...

The bumpy road to Atlanta (technically) runs through Gainesville. 

Florida's silver lining courtesy of redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor... 

"You know when you can control your own destiny you don't have to hope and pray for somebody else to lose. Knowing that if you win every game that you can reach all your goals that's always a good thing."


"You know we were in this position last year. We were in this position the year before that. We've blown it two years in a row, so like we've all been saying, we're not going to blow it this year. We're going to take advantage of the opportunities that we have this year and not blow them like we did in the past."

Discuss away...

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Florida-LSU Rewind: Serenity now. Insanity later.

GAINESVILLE -- By the time the sun found its home in the western sky, the Gator tail was fried and burned.

It was hardly Saturday night in Death Valley -- early kickoff, poor alumni attendance, a blistering sun -- but with LSU’s theme song blaring on a loop and its favorite provocative chant also on repeat, Florida still left Tiger Stadium battered and bruised in a score (17-6) barely indicative of the actual game.

The Gators were outclassed -- especially on offense.  Much has been written about Florida’s struggles on both lines of scrimmage, so I’ll try not to rehash those too much, but this piece easily could’ve been titled: When Murderball shoots blanks -- or runs out of hammers.

Ultimately, Florida is a flawed football team, yet so is Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri (without quarterback James Franklin). The East remains wide open, but the Atlanta carrot might be a false door for Florida fans. Changes won’t (and can’t) happen overnight and the schedule doesn’t help either. 

To the bullet points…

* No offense Les, but Miles’ Tigers were quite hammer-ish on Saturday.

* Penalties killed LSU’s opening drive, but Florida once again struggled with tempo out of the gate. The Gators looked confused (see: a 12-yard completion to wideout Jarvis Landry) on multiple plays, substituting at the last second several times.

* LSU averaged 5.8 yards per play. The most of any opposing offense since… Furman (2011). Really.

* Marcus Roberson was toasted on his very first play returning from a knee injury that cost him three games. Fortunately for the junior though, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger airmailed his intended target. The Tigers senior QB was not particularly sharp throughout the game.

* As for UF’s signal caller, Tyler Murphy was erratically inaccurate and oblivious of the blitz for much of the afternoon. Of course, his receivers (especially the freshmen) did him little favors. Ditto for the offensive line. I counted two dropped pick-sixes (Lamin Barrow, on Demarcus Robinson’s wrong route; T. White, on a throw under siege) and another three (including a pair of batted balls at the LOS) potential interceptions also dropped.

* Best combination throw + protection of the day: Murphy’s 15-yard completion (on fourth down) to freshman Ahamd Fulwood on a deep square-in late in the fourth quarter.

* The official stat sheet credited the Tigers with 10 sacks + hurries. I counted 14. Yowzers. This too from a LSU defensive front that hit Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray ZERO times.


* Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease loves him some sprint rollouts and five-wide empty sets. I didn’t chart every rollout, but Florida ran seven empty set snaps -- despite an inability to pass block or identify the patented John Chavis special (the mystical 5+-man rush is commonly called a zone blitz). The results of the five-wide plays: A Trey Burton 14-yard reception, a batted down screen pass, a sack on a safety blitz, a 19-yard completion to Solomon Patton (a hurry credited with a nice escape by Murphy), an incomplete pass, a Fulwood 4-yard completion (zone blitz), 4-yard completion to Patton (another zone blitz). 

* I tweeted this Monday, but Florida tailback Matt Jones appeared to actually tear his meniscus on a non-contact jump-cut -- not when an LSU player allegedly rolled up on his knee. Rewatch his final run. Jones sees the hole, cuts and starts to go down before Barrow ever touches him. The sophomore tailback remained in the game for the next play, but Jones limped through the play action fake and barely jogged his route.

* Florida has a supremely talented and deep secondary, but the aggressive man-to-man defense comes at a cost against at quarterback who can throw a back-shoulder fade (throw). Mettenberger and LSU ran multiple iso plays resulting in a 17-yard gain to tailback Terrence Magee (vs. UF linebacker Antonio Morrison), Landry’s outstanding 29-yard catch against Vernon Hargreaves III and a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Roberson. Remember, Georgia and FSU love this throw too.  

* Speaking of Morrison -- Florida’s middle linebacker -- Oy. The talented sophomore did not have a good game Saturday. Morrison’s best two snaps were a pair of vicious stuffs at the goal line, otherwise he was seen chasing the play, getting run over or being targeted on passing downs.


He busted his assignment on Jermey Hill’s 30-yard reception, allowed a TE to run free down the seam for a would-be touchdown (another throw Mettenberger missed) and got straight run over by Hill twice.

* Others who struggled Saturday: Ronald Powell, Darrin Kitchens, Neiron Ball (who played more than I thought in real time), Damien Jacobs, Cody Riggs, Dante Fowler Jr. Offensively, Clay Burton, Tyler Moore, Jon Halapio, D.J. Humphries and Mack Brown. Halapio again proved: Great as run-blocking pulling guard. Awful as a one-armed pass protector (see: Anthony Johnson sack).

* Linebacker Michael Taylor and safety Jabari Gorman continue to surprise and play consistently well. Taylor is easily Florida’s best and most productive linebacker, while Gorman has emerged as Florida’s top tackler in the secondary. Also, another solid performance from VH3. He saved a touchdown on a long Hill run (more later), had a nice pass breakup in the end zone and nearly wrestled away an interception from a future NFL wideout.

* Hill’s 26-yard scamper on LSU’s fourth-quarter field goal drive was as well a blocked run play I’ve seen all season. Florida was absolutely destroyed across the line scrimmage, with linebackers/safety Kitchens, Riggs and Morrison all pushed 10+ yards down the field too. An all-out-effort tackle by VG3 saved a touchdown.

* LSU’s right guard definitely moved early on fullback J.C. Copeland’s one-yard goal line plunge. Copeland did run to the left side though, so there’s that.


* Florida’s frosh receivers (Fulwood and Robinson) clearly have some size and skills, but Fulwood busted a pair of run-blocks and Robinson ran the wrong route multiple times. The on-the-job learning process remains ongoing.

* LSU converted five third downs in the first half -- not including Copeland’s one-yard rush on 3rd-and-goal. The backbreaking 22-yard completion on 3rd-and-17 was a poor execution of zone bracket coverage between Taylor and nickel back Brian Poole.

* After the game, Pease (and the much-maligned offensive line coach Tim Davis) was heavily criticized for shoddy playcalling. The run/pass ratio was to be expected in a hostile environment, but the lack of shots (especially against a secondary that looked so befuddled in the loss to UGA) was bizarre. The jumbo package was the ultimate meat-grinder formation: positive yards but zero explosive plays. Pease’s option pitch call on 4th-and-1 from the 48-yard line was a great call. LSU had nine guys in the box/between the hash-marks, and the pitch to the wide side resulted in an easy, but critical, conversion.

* The Little Giants-esque fumblerooski call on 2nd-and-goal though? Even the self-proclaimed ‘Tactical Genius’ thought that was awful.

* Finally, The Kelvin Taylor experiment era. The freshman displayed solid vision, natural cutback ability, some Knowshon-esque hip sinking and a total inability to pass protect.


At this point, Taylor is strictly a runner -- possibly a good one -- but the true loss of Jones will be felt on obvious passing downs. Mack Brown isn’t much better at blocking either (see: LSU’s finally sack -- a bust by Brown and Humphries), but it’s clear Taylor has little idea of the assignments or protections. I’m not sure Taylor had much of a chance on the broken 3rd-and-goal play anyways, but he still crashed into Patton without ever touching anyone in purple and white.

Thoughts? Comments?


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October 14, 2013


GAINESVILLE -- In 2012, Kyle Christy was an All-American and Ray Guy Award finalist. Now he’s No. 22 Florida’s second-string punter.

Following weeks of poor production, the junior has been officially benched in favor of freshman Johnny Townsend.

“We need to make a change there,” coach Will Muschamp said, who attributed Christy’s issues to mental fatigue.

“It's very frustrating, as much for him as it is for as it is anyone,” Muschamp said. “It's not from a lack of work or a lack of trying to get things right. There's no question about that. It's just a matter of him working through this and us continuing to try and search for answers. If you continue to do the same things, you're going to get the same results."


It’s been a mystifying fall from grace for Christy, who averaged nearly 46 yards per kick with 27 punts inside opponents’ 20-yard line as the nation’s No. 5 punter last season. 

This year, the junior is 13th in the SEC in net punting at just 39.6 yards per kick. In Saturday’s loss to LSU, Christy failed to pin LSU deep twice inside its 20-yard line -- the final straw for Muschamp.

Townsend was a late edition to Florida’s 2013 recruiting class, flipping his commitment from Ohio State on National Signing Day.


“We've looked at his swing and different things and we've tried to continue to, we've looked at all those things. We've tried to make some corrections as far as his drop is concerned, as far as the placement is concerned, as far as the swing is concerned. And you know, it comes to a point where we've got to see some production, and right now we're just not getting it. I think Kyle's going to be fine. We just need to work through this time.”


Muschamp is uncertain about redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell’s (ankle) status for the Missouri game. Powell was hurt late in the loss to LSU and Muschamp said he “hopes to get him back for Wednesday’s practice.”

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Gators offense disappoints defense once again

Before Matt Jones' injury was announced Monday morning, I took Florida's offense to task for letting down a championship-caliber defense. Again.

Jones' injury makes matters even more difficult for an already anemic unit, but losing widouts Trey Burton, Solomon Patton or Quinton Dunbar would've be a more signifcant loss considering the uncertainty of the freshman receivers. But alas, losing a starting tailback (especially for pass protection) is another burden the Gators must overcome. 

ICYMI: A tease... 

BATON ROUGE, La -- Deep in the noisy bowls of Tiger Stadium, Gators linebacker Michael Taylor was in no mood to point fingers following No. 22 Florida’s 17-6 loss to No. 6 LSU.

“We didn't hold them enough,” the junior said.

“That's the bottom line.”

Is it though?

Florida’s defense -- ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense entering Saturday’s showdown -- limited a potent Tigers offense to a season-low 327 yards and 17 points. LSU gunslinger Zach Mettenberger completed just nine passes for 152 yards with zero touchdowns and one inexplicable fumble.

The Gators’ defensive line struggled to get off blocks and slow down LSU tailback Jeremy Hill (121 yards), but the unit surrendered just 17 points in a hostile environment.   

It wasn’t enough though. Again.

Despite holding a conference opponent under 20 points for the 13th consecutive game, Florida lost for the fourth time in the Will Muschamp era when its suffocating defense yielded 17 points or less.

In all four losses -- including Saturday against LSU -- the Gators have scored zero touchdowns and totaled just 33 points.

“We didn’t create enough explosives down the field and a lot of that was we couldn’t get rid of the football,” Muschamp said. “We were under duress as far as pressure is concerned. There’s no question it’s a huge concern as we move forward.”

The Gators waltzed into Death Valley with their efficiently dull offense, but their methodical attack was no match against a young, fast and aggressive LSU defense.

Florida -- especially its offensive line -- wilted facing LSU’s relentless pressure, conceding four sacks, eight tackles for loss and six registered quarterback hurries... 

As for some stats and tidbits that weren't included in the story...

* Before Saturday's game, LSU's defense allowed 5.40 yards per play  -- including consecutive games of 7+ yards per play. Florida averaged just 3.53 y/p in the loss. 

* The Tigers' young secondary had surrendered 29 passing plays of at least 15+ yards. The Gators attempted just A SINGLE pass of more than 15 yards in the air all game. 

* Florida didn't reach the redzone until the fourth quarter. 

* The Gators ran the ball on 17-of-24 first down snaps. They averaged 4.5 yards a rush on first down, but just 2.5 yards a pass on seven first down throws. 

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The Walking Wounded: Jones out for the year

This is getting ridiculous. Cue Queen...


GAINESVILLE -- No. 22 Florida continues to be decimated by injuries. UF’s latest causality is starting tailback Matt Jones -- who tore the meniscus in his left knee in the loss to LSU and is out for the season after undergoing surgery Monday morning.

“We thought it was a sprain in the knee, it turns out it was a torn meniscus,” coach Will Muschamp said. “I hate it for Matt. He's a great young man, to go through what he's been through this fall, missing all of, most of, fall camp. Working his way back in shape and starting to feel good about himself, as far as how he felt physically, mentally and then to have this setback is just disheartening for all of us.”


The preseason all-conference tailback rushed for 339 yards and two touchdowns in five starts after missing UF’s season-opener battling a serious viral infection.  

Jones tallied four carries on Florida’s opening drive against LSU -- the final run his last of the year after getting rolled up on close to Florida’s sideline.

The sophomore is unlikely to be cleared for a medical redshirt, but Muschamp was unsure of the specifics.

Redshirt junior Mack Brown (340 yards, 3 touchdowns) and highly-regarded freshman Kelvin Taylor (98 yards on 16 carries) will spilt carries moving forward.

In all, it’s another setback for the Gators, as Jones is the fifth starter -- and seventh player overall -- lost to a season-ending injury: Jones, quarterback Jeff Driskel (fibula), defensive tackle Dominique Easley (knee), right tackle Chaz Green (shoulder) and kick returner/wideout Andre Debose (knee).

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Poll Position: A terrible tumble

GAINESVILLE -- For the first time all season, Florida is no longer considered one of the 20 best teams in the country. 

The Gators (4-2, 3-1 SEC) slid five spots in both the Associated Press top 25 and USA Today coaches poll, falling to No. 22 nationally after their 17-6 loss to LSU on Saturday in Tiger Stadium.   

The road doesn't get any easier this weekend, as Florida travels to Columbia for a pivotal SEC Eastern Division showdown with No. 14 (and undefeated) Missouri (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Gators finish the season with four of their final six games against teams currently ranked inside the top 15. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 13, 2013

ICYMI: A slow death

Links from last night...

* Murphy, bewhildered Gators overwhemled by LSU's constant attack


* The Tigers dominated both lines of scrimmage, sending the Gators home limping from another Bayou beatdown with notes on freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor, Florida's newest kicker, Kyle Christy's continued mysterious downward spiral and more. 

* Gator Grades

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Miles hammers reporter

Les Miles hates Home Depot. Or maybe Lowes. Just don't ask him about hammer and nails -- especially following an LSU victory no less. 

Once again, Miles said Miles things and went on a hilarious postgame rant following LSU's 17-6 win over Florida on Saturday afternoon in Death Valley. 

Please enjoy responsibly. 


(YouTube | ESPN)

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October 12, 2013

They Said It – Florida-LSU

BATON ROUGE, La -- Postgame soundbites following Florida's 17-6 loss to LSU. 

First, Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy on LSU's pressure, the offense "shooting themselves in the foot" and a little more.


Right guard Jon Halapio

On the playcalling…

“I mean, Tyler didn’t have enough time. You know, he can’t pass the ball if we can’t protect, and that’s all on our shoulders.”

On the team’s 4-2 record and moving forward…

“Yeah, the East is still wide open. But right now we got to focus on us. We got to fix what we got – we got issues ourselves, so we got to fix our issues, or all those goals don’t mean anything.

Coach Will Muschamp 

On quarterback Tyler Murphy’s performance…

“I think we’ve gotta protect better. We had too many free runners at the quarterback. They did a nice job of pressuring us. We had too many times that he had too many guys in his face. We’ve gotta get him more time. I want to watch the film, but my initial thought is there was too much pressure.”

On kicker Frankie Velez…

“Frankie’s been a guy that-- We just open competition. We play the best players, regardless of who they are, if they’re a walk-on or whoever it is. He kicked the best this past week in practice. We traveled him for the first time for an away game and he did a fantastic job.”

On his post-game message to the team…

“Still everything’s sitting on the table as far as Atlanta is concerned. We need to take care of the SEC East. It’s wide open. It’s all in our hands. We just need to watch the tape and improve from this Saturday.”

Linebacker Michael Taylor

On the loss…

“Like after we lost to Miami, we said all of our goals was in front of us. This is an SEC team, a rivalry team, a team that we damn sure wanted to beat. But they’re not in the East, luckily. We’ve got all our East opponents ahead of us. I know we’re capable to beat all of them, so that’s what we’ll have to do.”

On Jeremy Hills’ 121 yards rushing… 

“We got beat in the front seven. They beat us at the line of scrimmage, at the point of attack, and that’s how you run the ball. Getting leverage on the other team, beating them at the point of attack, that’s what they did on a lot of plays.”

Quarterback Tyler Murphy

On so many short throws…

“They were kind of forcing us to go there because they were pressuring and then when they didn’t pressure, they tried to keep everything in front of them. We tried to nickel and dime them.”

On the defense’s performance…

“The defense did a great job. To only give up 17 points to an explosive offense like that and there were a few calls here and there where they might have even held them to less points. As an offense, we just need to get better and find ways to get the ball in the end zone.”

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger

On LSU’s offense…

We were so dominant up front running the ball. … Our offensive line is pretty outstanding.”

On the win…

“There was a lot of talking leading up to this game. We just wanted to remind Florida who we were, and I think the offensive line really played great. If we can keep playing like this week in and week out and execute a little better in the passing game, we’re going to be very tough to beat.”

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Gator Grades: Beatdown in the Bayou

BATON ROUGE, La -- Before I re-watch the tape (later in the week) of No. 17 Florida’s 17-6 defeat to No. 10 LSU, here are some rapid reaction grades.


Woof. That was ugly. Brent Pease, UF’s offensive coordinator, didn’t have a great day, but the unit’s demise was mainly due to porous offensive line play. Quarterback Tyler Murphy was inaccurate and sluggish in his decision-making, but really, the redshirt junior never had a chance. The Tigers’ ferocious front-seven beat Florida at its own game in a reverse déjà vu performance from UF’s 14-6 win in The Swamp last season. 

Anthony Johnson and the rest of LSU’s relentless front harassed UF’s leaky offensive line to the tune of four sacks and eight tackles for loss. UF had 60 yards on its opening drive, but totaled just 34 yards the rest of the first half and struggled to run with ball with any real effectiveness (111 yards on 40 carries) all afternoon. Murphy is not the miracle man, as the Gators proved they still have plenty of issues on murderball offense.


Florida’s defense didn’t play that poorly -- all things considered. The nation’s No. 2 ranked unit held LSU’s excellent attack under 400 yards, while Zach Mettenberger was a pedestrian 9-of-17 for 152 yards and zero touchdowns. But key penalties (roughing the passer, pass interference, offsides) and inconsistent rush defense plagued the Gators all afternoon.

LSU had just four first downs after halftime, but it was another little-to-late adjustments by Muschamp’s defense. Jeremy Hill gashed UF for 121 yards on 19 carries -- the first 100+ yard rushing performance since Todd Gurley of Georgia in 2012.


Why hey there, Frankie Valdez. Florida just may have found its newest kicker in the most unlikely of people. The redshirt junior walk-on was a perfect 2-for-2 and displayed none of the jitters of his predessors (Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips). Coverage: both punt and kick were solid, and the fake-punt pass was well designed and executed. All-American punter Kyle Christy continues to be an enigma bad though. Seriously, what is wrong with the former Ray Guy Award runner-up?

Thoughts? Comments?

Have at it.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Saturday Selections: Florida-LSU thread

Greetings from Bayou Country. 

How's ya momma and dem?


The Gators and Tigers square off in a pivitoal SEC showdown later this afternoon (3:30 p.m, ET; CBS)

ICYMI: The No. 17 Gators motivated for revenge after getting destroyed here two years ago.

A tease...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s last visit to Death Valley became the ultimate Judgment Day on the team’s 2011 season.

Two years ago, the Gators — fresh off a 38-10 beatdown by Alabama in The Swamp — limped into Baton Rouge, La., without their starting quarterback and were humiliated 41-11 by top-ranked LSU.

It was Florida’s worst loss in 16 seasons.

“It was definitely a low point in most of our careers here,” senior safety Jaylen Watkins said. “It was definitely a bad taste in our mouth.”

But the No. 17 Gators (4-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) believe Saturday’s trip to Tiger Stadium at 3:30 p.m. will be different this time around.

“It’s a very tough place to play. We have a bad taste in there from the loss and just how rowdy their fans are,” Watkins continued. “But that’s the game of football. We get a chance to go back and try to redeem ourselves, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Many Florida players — and coach Will Muschamp — are using the 30-point loss as motivation — despite actually upsetting LSU 14-6 at home just last season.


3-3 last week. Pedestrian, again. I'm sorry. 

Scoreboard: 20-14-1 ATS, 1-4 selecting Florida games

This week's six-pack:

Okalahoma (-13.5) vs. Texas

Baylor (-17) at Kansas State

Michigan (-3) at Penn State

Alabama (-22) at Kentucky

Ole Miss (+9.5) vs. Texas A&M

I'll have more tidbits closer to kickoff, but for now, enjoy the early games. 
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 11, 2013

Notebook: Depth at tailback presents challenge for Gators

GAINESVILLE -- LSU is just ninth in the Southeastern Conference in rushing (197.33 y/g), but Jeremy Hill -- the Tigers’ physical load at tailback -- trails only South Carolina’s Mike Davis in total yards in the conference.

LSU’s four-headed monster in the backfield includes Hill, Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue and Terrence Magee -- with Hill as the lead workhorse.

(Jeremy Hill | Courtesy

The 6-foot-2, 238-pound sophomore tailback is averaging 7.52 yards per carry and nearly 120 yards per game.
Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin called it a “real challenge” to stop any of the Tigers’ backs.

“They’re all talented, all those guys do a great job. When you watch the cut-ups from the tape, it’s not like the offense is changing much when [a different guy is] in there,” Durkin said. “They’re running their offense because all those guys can do it. They can all put a foot in the ground, they can break tackles, they can hit the big ones, and they’ve all had big plays. And they can all catch out of the backfield. The challenge is you’ve got a fresh guy in there running the ball and you’ve got to wrap him up and tackle.”


Durkin said freshman defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick would be the first player off the bench if the Gators run into depth issues at tackle this weekend.

Bostwick has yet to play this season and remains a likely redshirt candidate if he’s not needed over the next several weeks.

“Jay-nard is doing well. He’s continued to progress like a normal freshman would,” Durkin said. “He hasn’t had a lot of game time thus far, but he is ready if needed and if he has to go in there and do it. He’s practicing really well. He has made great improvements since day one until now, like most of our freshmen have. We’re going to keep prepping him and getting him ready every week and see what happens.”


Florida’s all-conference cornerback Marcus Roberson -- sidelined for three games -- is expected to return from a knee injury this weekend at LSU, but Durkin wouldn’t tip his hand if the junior defensive back would regain his starting job.

““We’ll see. We always determine that stuff at the end of the week,” Durkin said. “We keep our practices competitive at all spots, not just there. We play the guys or start the guys that practice the best and are playing the best.”

Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III has played terrific in Roberson’s absence and has rapidly developed into one of the nation’s top underclassmen.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

October 10, 2013

ICYMI: More shootout talk, agression vs. discipline & Pease on Leak

A pair of pieces some may have missed on the sister page...

* Florida's defense set to clash with LSU's potent offense

* UF's defense shows agression 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 09, 2013

HOOPS: Unknowns everywhere as Gators kickoff practice Friday

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida basketball team opens practice Friday, but one of the SEC’s premier programs will kickoff the 2013-14 season with a plethora of unknowns.

Billy Donovan’s bunch must replace its top three scorers – Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, Eric Murphy -- and the Gators will kickoff camp shorthanded.

Starting senior forward Will Yeguete (offseason knee surgery) and junior guard Eli Carter (fractured fibula) won’t practice while continuing to battle significant injuries lingering from last season.

“I don’t know when they’ll be back. All I know is Friday they will not be available,” Donovan said.

“Right now you have to go with the guys that are there and in practice right away. Those are the guys you have to rely on and get them ready.”   

Yeguete, who underwent knee surgery late last May, is confident he will be ready to play in the opener Nov. 8 against North Florida.

(Will Yeguete)

However, Carter -- the Rutgers transfer who broke his leg in a game against DePaul last February -- had no timetable on a possible return.  

“The only expectation I have right now is to play [sometime this season,]” Carter said.

In mid-September, the NCAA declared Carter eligible to play immediately for Florida after leaving the Scarlet Knights at the end of the 2012-13 season following the scandal involving former Rutgers coach Mike Rice.

“I feel bad for Carter,” Donovan said. “Any time you transfer in and you start your career at a different school on an injured note and not really able to go out there and prove yourself and play every day, I think that’s been difficult.”

Meanwhile, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was reinstated to practice with the team, but remains suspended to start the regular season.

On June 10, Wilbekin was banned from all team activities after violating undisclosed team rules.

“I am really, really proud of him and what he has done and the way he has handled and conducted himself. From the spring all the way until now, it has been a long, long road for him being disconnected from our team, not working out with our team and not really being around our team and slowly trying to work his way back,” Donovan said.

“He has done everything that I could ask of him as a player in terms of taking responsibility and growing. He still has some things in front of him before he is fully back on our team, but we will give him the opportunity to practice.”

Wilbekin was not available for comment at Florida’s Media Day, but multiple teammates voiced their support for the senior, with sophomore guard Michael Frazier saying he’s excited to see Wilbekin back on the court.

During the summer, rumors also swirled that Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris and Casey Prather would be suspended to start the season, but Donovan addressed the alleged report, saying, “Everybody but Will Yeguete and Eli Carter is ready to practice going forward and on our team.”


(Donovan's opening statement at UF Media Day)


Five-star forward and McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker continues to work to qualify academically for the spring semester.

The freshman signee from Holmes County High failed to enroll in August, but Donovan is confident the 6-foot-10, 225-pound athletic big-man will wear a Gators uniform at some point this season.

“He’s working really, really hard. I’m optimistic that he’ll be back here,” Donovan said.

Florida’s coach said Walker’s recruitment and the ensuing limbo reminded him of the Kwame Brown situation in 2001. After committing to UF, Brown never enrolled at Florida and was the No. 1 overall pick by the Washington Wizards in the NBA Draft.  

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Notebook: Easley in good spirits, LSU's 10-year reunion & injury updates

First: ICYMI: A piece on quarterback Tyler Murphy’s steady demeanor, with a couple notes on Florida’s kickoff time against Georgia Southern and a comment from offensive coordinator Brent Pease on the possibility of redshirting tailback Kelvin Taylor.


Two weeks ago, star defensive tackle Dominique Easley could barely stomach watching the Gators play Kentucky after suffering a season-ending knee injury (ACL) earlier in the week. 

But according to UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, Easley “has his spirits back,” and remains a vital part of the team moving forward.

“He's been around [the facility.] Dominique is a big part of our team even though he's not playing. His personality, his energy is something that is contagious to all those around him,” Durkin said. “He's got great respect from the coaches, from his teammates, and so he's a guy we want around as much as we can, and he's been around. He's a part of this team no matter what."

Durkin talked of a special relationship with Easley -- a player he recruited to Florida as a staff member under former coach Urban Meyer -- and downplayed the tricky situation of Easley rehabbing for the NFL Draft.

“Dominique and I have spent four years here together. He's a special guy to me. I feel for him, but you know what, he's as tough as they come,” Durkin said. “Sometimes you get dealt tough circumstances and that's where tough guys rise to the top, and he'll rise to the top. He'll play a lot of football.

“He's still a great career ahead of him. I think we all saw that in the snaps we were able to get out of him. He's a difference maker, a great football player and he'll have a great future."


LSU will honor its 2003 national championship team for its 10-year reunion at halftime Saturday, but coach Will Muschamp -- the Tigers’ defensive coordinator that season -- will not participate in the celebration.

“I’m worried about that 2013 LSU team not the 2003 one, that’s for sure,” Muschamp said. “But it will be good to see those guys, I guess, on the field a little bit. It was a special group. One of the players sent me a picture when I was at Texas of the team and wanted me to sign it and send it back to him. Just looking at the pictures, it was guys who understood their role in the organization. Guys that are all successful people. Granted, we had a bunch of guys go play on Sunday, but we had a bunch of successful people whether they are teachers or they are in the business world, they have all done an outstanding job, and it was a lot of fun.”

Muschamp pointed out the Tigers’ lone loss in 2003 was to Florida (19-7).

“Old Ben Troupe and Ciatrick Fason got after us pretty good that day and Chris Leak, who is on our staff as a graduate assistant now,” Muschamp reminisced. “It was a special year. Nothing but great memories. I’ve got great respect for the LSU program. I think any time in the coaching profession you spend a time at a place, you always have fond memories of it. Carol and I still have great friends in Baton Rouge.”


Muschamp said cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) had his best practice since he’s been back and “will be full-speed Saturday ready to go.” Also, freshman linebacker and special teams ace Jarrad Davis (cheek laceration) will play Saturday, but Alex Anzalone, a freshman reserve linebacker, will miss the game with a sprained ankle he suffered in the win over Arkansas. 

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High praise

GAINESVILLE -- The Old Ball Coach knows a thing or two about quarterbacks, and now South Carolina’s coach is among those impressed with Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy.

“He’s a dang good player,” Steve Spurrier said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference. “His throwing motion is beautiful. Throws a nice, catchable ball. He can move around in the pocket. You’d never think the young man hadn’t played but what two or three games?”

USC travels to Arkansas this weekend -- a team Murphy shredded for 240 yards and three touchdowns last Saturday.

“We’re watching Florida’s offense against Arkansas -- who we play this week,” Spurrier continued. “We’re watching Tyler, and he just throws the ball beautifully. Fundamentally, he’s very sound. … He’s a very good quarterback. …

“He must’ve looked good in practice down there, but he finally got his chance. Sometimes that’s the way it works out. You get your change and make the most of it.”

High praise. 

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October 08, 2013

Garcia talks OL & LSU

In recent weeks, Gators left guard Max Garcia has been singled out as Florida's most consistent offensive lineman by coach Will Muschamp. 

After sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer rules, the former Maryland guard had an up-and-down first two games before really settling in the win over Tennessee. 

The junior spoke about how the game has slowed down for him, the offensive line's performance against Arkansas, the team's recent offensive continuity and the looming trip to LSU.


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Purifoy's paydirt: Anatomy of a play

Each week, I’ll breakdown (in a simplified manner, hopefully) a pivotal play in Florida’s game. I decided against lots of arrows and pointers so as not to distract from the overall picture, but if you’d prefer that in the future, let me know.

Today's play is Loucheiz Purifoy’s pick-six early in the second quarter of Florida’s 30-10 victory over Arkansas. It was a long time coming for the playmaker with tons of tantalizing talent and gall to wear No. 15 for the Gators. Purifoy recorded his first-career interception -- the eighth consecutive game for the Gators with at least one pick. Overall, the dynamic junior -- riddled by inconsistencies and murmurs of criticisms in recent weeks -- delivered the most complete and dominating performance of his career: an interception-turned-touchdown, a sack-fumble, four tackles, three pass breakups and a quarterback hurry. The pick-six highlighted UF’s win over Arkansas, giving UF an early 10-7 lead it never relinquished. Here’s how it unfolded.    


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On a 3rd-and-6 close to midfield, Florida is aligned in its base nickel (4-2-5) defense with a one-high safety (Cody Riggs, No. 31) look. Jaylen Watkins (No. 14) is on an island at the top of the screen -- responsible for either Arkansas’ tailback or tight end. 


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Off the snap, Dante Fowler Jr. (No. 6, the right defensive end) performs a rush-stunt with Gators defensive tackle Jon Bullard (No. 90). Bullard engages two offensive linemen, while Razorbacks all-conference center Travis Swanson is focused on blocking UF’s other defensive tackle -- Leon Orr (No. 44) -- who is also performing a stunt-rush with left bookend Ronald Powell (No. 7).


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Florida’s designed rush immediately flushes the pocket (and quarterback Brandon Allen) right -- exactly towards UF’s bracket coverage inside. Fowler Jr. has a free release, as Arkansas’ offensive line is totally confused and tailback Jonathan Williams (No. 32) doesn’t block anyone and accidently runs into his own teammate.


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The pass rushes forces Allen to throw the ball too soon and into double bracket coverage (Purfioy and Antonio Morrison, No. 3). Arkansas wideout Keon Hatcher wasn’t ready for the pass and was just completing his break when the poor throw was already in the air. 


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Here’s another angle. Hatcher is just now looking for the ball, but it’s already floating towards the eager hands of Purifoy.


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42-yards to paydirt. Purifoy “took it to the crib” (Quote: courtesy of junior linebacker Michael Taylor), escorted by a convoy led by Orr and Fowler Jr. Purifoy likely didn’t need the block, but UF’s two defensive linemen shoved Allen into the ground for good measure to totally clear the path into the end zone. 

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“I’m just a big, goofy, teddy bear guy"

GAINESVILLE -- “I’m just nice to everybody. It’s crazy though, because on the football field, I probably say some things and people will be looking at me like, ‘What?’ And I’m like, ‘Sorry, bro. It’s football.’”

Dante Fowler Jr., ladies and gentlemen. Florida’s menacing pass rusher -- a team-leading 3.0 sacks and two forced fumbles -- is really just a big kid at heart with an infectious personality. 

Don't let Dominique Easley's infamous Chucky doll -- something Fowler Jr. lugs around in memory of his injured teammate -- fool you. 

“Look at me, I’m smiling right now,” Florida's sophomore defensive end said. “I like to play around and stuff like that. I just turned 19, so I just try to love life. I’m still a kid I’m not 21 yet. My mom still washes my clothes.”

Even while at school?

“When I go home. Now [at Florida] I have to. It sucks.”

Fowler Jr., a former five-star recruit, had a solid freshman campaign, but has exploded as a playmaking sophomore. Coach Will Muschamp praised the pass rusher's acceptance to coaching -- something the defensive end attributed to tough love from his dad, Dante Fowler Sr.

“Dante has a great personality. He’s a lot of fun to be around and coach. He’s a joy to coach,” Muschamp said. “He’s always got a smile on his face. You can coach Dante hard. Guys of his caliber sometimes are not approachable in that situation. He’s a guy that take coaching. He wants to be coached. He wants to be coached hard. When he makes a mistake he wants to know what he can do to get better. He’s just a very coachable player. That’s what makes him a really good player. God has blessed him with a lot of ability. But the flip side of that is the guys I’ve been around who are really, really good you can coach those guys. They’re willing to listen. They don’t think they have all the answers. They understand they have improvements to be made. He watches the film. He understands that good plays take care of themselves and negative plays are the ones he need to correct. He’ll correct them himself.”

In the clip, Fowler Jr. talks LSU’s shootouts, his Dad’s influence as a “coach,” “breaking his opponents” and more. 


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GAINESVILLE -- In three conference games, No. 10 LSU has scored 35, 41 and 59 points. The Tigers -- No. 23 nationally in total offense (488.8 y/g) -- also dropped 37 points in their season opener against TCU -- the nation’s No. 32 ranked defense.

The Tigers can score -- a lot. So are the No. 17 Gators -- as currently constituted -- prepared for a potential shootout?

“Honestly, I got real caught up in all that stuff when I was a coordinator,” coach Will Muschamp said. “When I’m a head coach, I wanna win. If it take 51-50, lets go. … As long as we win I don’t care.”

First-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has transformed LSU's attack, aided by the development and maturity of senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

A year after throwing just 12 touchdowns all season, LSU’s signal caller has 15 touchdowns to just two interceptions -- tops in the SEC. Mettenberger struggled mightily in the 14-6 loss to UF last season, completing just 11 passes for 158 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

"Where they've taken the next step has been in the throwing game," Muschamp said. Mettenberger is playing at a very high level. What strikes you is he's completing [68.2] percent of his passes, and he's so efficient and effective throwing the vertical balls down the field."

But in an era of offensive expositions -- especially for the SEC -- Florida continues to zig while everyone else zags.

The Gators have held 12 consecutive conference opponents to 20 points or less. Alabama has the next longest streak at one game: An astounding statistic.

Meanwhile, UF’s offense has topped 30 points just a single time all season, but quarterback Tyler Murphy thinks Florida is “capable” of winning a shootout, if necessary.

However, the redshirt junior aslo said, “With the defense we have, I think it's just important that we take care of the ball, try to stay on the field as much as possible. If we do that, if we keep their offense off the field, I think we can be successful.”

Gators safety Jaylen Watkins broke down the matchup, including LSU’s offensive strengths, Mettenberger’s maturity and the Tigers’ talented wide receiver duo (Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry) and their propensity for winning jump balls. 


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October 07, 2013

Notebook: Purifoy honored after gaudy performance

GAINESVILLE -- Gators cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy collected his first-career interception during Saturday’s win over Arkansas, earning himself a pair of respected honors Monday.

Following a splendid statistical performance -- a pick-six, sack-fumble, four tackles and three pass breakups -- Purifoy was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week.

“We weren’t playing very well defensively,” coach Will Muschamp said. “Then [Loucheiz] leveraged the receiver perfectly, and the ball was thrown behind the receiver. It was a really nice play on the ball, and obviously, scoring [afterwards.]”

Purifoy’s interception-turned-touchdown highlighted the Gators’ 30-10 win over the Razorbacks, giving the Gators an early 10-7 lead they never relinquished.


Florida’s Oct. 19 travel to No. 25 Missouri is set for 12:21 p.m. ET and will be televised on SEC TV.

The Tigers -- in just their second year in the SEC -- are one of only two remaining undefeated teams (Alabama) in the league.


Muschamp said injured quarterback Jeff Driskel (broken leg) has been present for all team meetings and was at Florida’s team hotel last weekend, but is unsure if Driskel will make the trip to LSU.

“I don’t know that he can [physically] travel,” Muschamp said. “He still has a pretty large sized boot on his ankle. As far as a cast is concerned, traveling is kind of hard. But I’ll talk to him about it.” 


Muschamp (again) stated cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) would play Saturday against LSU. Roberson has missed UF’s last three games. … Freshman linebacker Jarrad Davis -- winner of this week’s special teams hard hat award -- suffered a laceration to his cheek in the win over Arkansas but was stitched up and is fine to play this weekend. “He’s a guy that going to throw his face in the fan, I can assure you that.” … Muschamp said nose tackle Darious ‘Bear’ Cummings played his best game of the season versus the Razorbacks. … LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (former San Diego Chargers OC) squared off against Muschamp (defensive staff member of the Miami Dolphins) one time when both coaches were in the NFL in 2005. The Dolphins beat the Chargers 24-20 late in the year. 

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"I don't take any offense to it"

ICYMI: Yesterday, I wrote a piece on Tyler Murphy's rapid progression as Florida's starting quarterback and included several (rather defensive) comments from coach Will Muschamp labeling Murphy "a game manager." 

On Monday, UF's redshirt junior responded with his thoughts of "what a game manager is," as well as his admiration for Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, LSU's electric Death Valley, being a tough "self-evaluator" and Florida's offensive improvement in recent weeks. 


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