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Hargreaves and Orr

Gators coach Will Muschamp reitered defenive lineman Leon Orr (No. 8) will miss Saturday's game.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators coach Will Muschamp made his regular appearance on the SEC Coaches Media Teleconference this morning.

Here are some quick-hit items from the call:

--Muschamp said freshman running back Brandon Powell will miss Saturday’s game at Tennessee with a hamstring injury that has limited him. Muschamp also reiterated defensive tackle Leon Orr (knee) won’t play Saturday.

--Senior linebacker Michael Taylor practiced Tuesday and remains questionable for Saturday due to a knee injury. “We’ll see how he progresses throughout the rest of the week.”

--Junior left tackle D.J. Humphries (ankle) “looked great” at practice on Tuesday and will play. Humphries has missed the last two games after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the season opener.

--Muschamp said a combination of bad throws and drops has prevented quarterback Jeff Driskel from thriving in the shotgun the way the Gators expected in their new offense. “We’ve had over 10 drops at the receiver position. We’ve had a couple of drops at the tight end position. Our protection has been good,” Muschamp said. “We’ve had our opportunities and it’s not all on Jeff. We’ve got to do a better job as an entire offense executing. Certainly Jeff is part of that. I think as we continue to work through the season we’ll continue to see good numbers.”

--“I would say really at the skill positions offensively,’’ Muschamp when asked where he sees the most improvement in this Tennessee team. “There is no question the third-down defense has been outstanding. Execution of what they do has been the key for them defensively.”

--Muschamp was asked about the Florida-Tennessee rivalry in the 1990s when the winner often won the SEC East. “It was good for college football and good for both universities.”

--Muschamp said the secondary is to blame for most of Florida’s defensive struggles. “We haven’t played very well. We’ve given up too many big plays. We’ve played well enough up front. We need to get more pressure with four guys rushing. Our linebackers have fit the runs well and done some nice things in coverage and pressures. But we have not played well enough in the secondary. We’re looking for different combinations of guys and we’re going to continue to do that. Guys are going to go out and communicate and do things the right way.”

--Coming off loss to Alabama, Muschamp was asked about team’s confident level heading to Tennessee. “I think we’re confident. We’ve had good prep in the open week and I think we’ve had good preparation through this week, and through your preparation builds confidence in what you do. What I’ve tried to do is look at from fall camp to this point – of the positive things we’ve done [amidst] obviously a lot of the negativity that surrounds us here. I think our guys have seen that and understand the type of football team we can have when we put it together and that’s what we are looking forward to.”

--Muschamp on college football being on pace for record number of 500-yard passing games, 700-yard total offense games this season: “As much as anything, total yardage now because of the number of snaps that you are taking defensively is not as important a stat as maybe some people think. I think it’s more about yards per play. That’s a little more reflective on how you are playing defense.”

Dante Fowler

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is set to meet with the media here shortly.

Check out GatorZone.com for an update later.

For now, here are some daily links for your perusal leading up to Saturday’s SEC East showdown at Neyland Stadium between the Gators and Vols:

--Florida must start finding some answers writes Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com.

--Gators coach Will Muschamp still backing Jeff Driskel at quarterback writes Gary Smits of The Florida Times-Union.

--Muschamp: no plan to play two quarterbacks writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.

--Florida’s secondary still a work in progress writes Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.

--Driskel ignoring the criticism writes Cody Jones of Scout.com.

--Tennessee coach Butch Jones asks Vols fans to Checker Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

Friday September 26, 2014 Gators seek a pass rush, Foley's take, Bonner honored, plus more links

Updated: 11:37am, September 26

Will Muschamp

Gators coach Will Muschamp seeks improvement heading into Tennessee game. (Photo: Tim Casey).

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators have a bye week, and according to head coach Will Muschamp, they need it.

Florida travels to Neyland Stadium next Saturday for an SEC East showdown against Tennessee. The Vols have lost nine consecutive games to the Gators and appear to be improving under second-year head coach Butch Jones.

Improvement was the focus this week for the Gators, who will have the weekend off after a Friday weight-training session. Florida is searching for improvement offensively and defensively after its 42-21 loss at No. 3-ranked Alabama.

With that backdrop in place, here are some fresh links from around the Internet covering the Gators football team and other sports:

--Florida's four-man pass rush not getting it done writes Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.com.

--Muschamp is not pleased at way defense is playing writes Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com.

--How can Florida save its season? Florida Today beat writer David Jones offers his take.

--Gators AD Jeremy Foley isn't ready to push the panic button writes Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel.

--Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley takes a look at greatest Gators to never play in NFL.

--Muschamp backs quarterback Jeff Driskel, expresses frustration over missed big plays writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.

--Gators' veterans work to keep team's attitude upbeat writes Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.

--Former Gators coach Urban Meyer was featured on HBO this week, and Palm Beach Post columnist Dave George writes only time will tell if Meyer is a changed man.

--Former UF standout and longtime NBA player Matt Bonner honored to be inducted into UF's HOF writes Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.

--The UF volleyball team opens SEC play with a clean slate writes Eden Otero of the Independent Florida Alligator.

--The Gators women's swim team hosts Arkansas on Saturday in search of youth to replace departed seniors writes Aaron Friedland of the Alligator.

--Florida's soccer team is finally back home writes Jim Harvin of The Gainesville Sun.

Wednesday September 17, 2014 Fowler needs help up front, Saban on Gators, more Florida-Alabama links

Updated: 5:28pm, September 17

The Gators are busy preparing for their trip to face No. 3 Alabama on Saturday. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators have two more practices before they head to Tuscaloosa on Friday afternoon for Saturday's big showdown with No. 3-ranked Alabama on Saturday.

This one has that big-game feel to it, which always makes the week more fun. There's plenty being said and written about this one.

Here is a look at some of the latest headlines:

--Gators say their 3OT win over Kentucky was a good prep for Alabama game writes Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.

--Junior running back Matt Jones carried load in second half vs. Kentucky writes Morgan Moriarty of the Independent Florida Alligator.

--UF pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. can't do it alone writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.

--Alabama determined to end turnover shortage on Saturday writes Andrew Gribble of AL.com.

--Alabama coach Nick Saban's thoughts on UF's offense, Will Muschamp, several more topics via Andrew Gribble of Al.com.

--Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky writes that it's not too early to consider Alabama receiver Amari Cooper for the Heisman Trophy.

--ESPN.com blogger David Ching offers a first look at this week's SEC games, highlighted by Florida-Alabama.

--Gators QB Jeff Driskel a dual-threat vs. Bama and other notes from Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.

--Florida freshman DT Gerald Willis and Alabama DB Landon Collins are brothers writes Chase Goodbread of NFL.com.

--Converting third downs might be key for Gators in game at Alabama writes Richard Johnson of The Florida Times-Union.

Vernon Hargreaves III

Vernon Hargreaves is excited about matchup with Tide receiver Amari Cooper. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – They have totally opposite missions on Saturday.

Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will try to prevent catches. Alabama receiver Amari Cooper will try to haul in as many passes as he can.

The Hargreaves-Cooper battle is perhaps the most intriguing subplot to Saturday’s Florida-Alabama showdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The winner of their matchup figures to have better odds of being on the winning team.

“He’s excited, I’m excited, we both know the magnitude of the game, and it’s going to be a great matchup,’’ Hargreaves said.

A freshman All-American last season, Hargreaves' sophomore season is off to a good start in the first two games. He broke up a career-high four passes in Florida’s triple-overtime win against Kentucky.

Hargreaves is the glue of a Gators secondary that was hot and cold against Kentucky. The Gators picked off three passes but allowed 173 yards on six explosive plays that drew the ire of head coach Will Muschamp.

To beat Alabama the Gators must tighten up their communication issues in the secondary. And at least contain Cooper to some degree, which no one has been able to do thus far.

Amari Cooper

Cooper (photo, left) leads the country with 33 receptions and ranks third with 464 yards receiving in three games. To put Cooper’s production in perspective, he has accounted for more than 50 percent of Alabama’s receiving yards under first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

Cooper’s explosive start has some hyping him as the early Heisman favorite despite the fact a receiver hasn’t won the award since Desmond Howard in 1991.

Cooper’s on pace to shatter Julio Jones’ school-record for receptions (78) and yards (1,133) in a season, set in 2010.

"They do a nice job in the run game of getting the ball to him in a lot of what I call quick situation, of seeing a bad box, getting it out to him on the perimeter, creating some one-on-ones,’’ Muschamp said. “[They] move him around a little bit and we've got to make sure we identify him and know where he is. He's been targeted a bunch in their first three games, so there's no question he's a playmaker.”

Cooper is dangerous after the catch, picking up at least 13 yards-after-catch six times according to TideSports.com.

“Everybody knows what’s coming,” Hargreaves said. “Obviously I’m going to be covering him but you know I’m excited for it.”

While Hargreaves and Cooper will be matched up often, Cooper also lines up in the slot, presenting a challenge for Florida’s linebackers and safeties in coverage.

Cooper told reporters Monday he respects Hargreaves and the two follow each other on Twitter and have messaged one another in the past.

“He’s fast, quick,’’ Cooper said. “He plays smart.”

If Gators defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. wasn’t playing Saturday, he would probably turn on the TV and watch Hargreaves and Cooper.

The matchup has that type of potential.

“I knew Amari Cooper in the Under Armour Game and I saw him in practice and he’s a great receiver,’’ Fowler said Tuesday. “And being able to see Vernon, see how good he is, that’s going to be a good matchup. I can’t wait to see that.”

Thursday September 11, 2014 "Bill" from Gainesville -- or maybe it was "Will" -- calls into Gator Hotline

Updated: 11:17pm, September 11

Will Muschamp

Gators coach Will Muschamp took on another name when he called into the Gator Hotline Thursday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators coach Will Muschamp is known for a good one-liner from time to time.

He showed off his sense of humor in a different way on Thursday night.

Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley filled in for Muschamp on the Gator Hotline radio call-in show.

About midway into the show, host Mick Hubert took a call from "Bill" from Gainesville.

First, I've got a confession to make: I was driving home from work and had the show on my radio when Bill called in. I didn't pick up the fact Bill sounded an awful lot like the Gators head coach.

I do remember Foley's response about falling asleep during Muschamp's appearances on the show and chuckling.

Anyway, thanks to this thing called the Internet, someone captured the exchange and posted on the Web.

Here is "Bill"...or maybe "Will" from Gainesville: 

Wednesday September 10, 2014 Former Gator Trey Burton parlayed versatility into roster spot with Eagles

Updated: 6:25pm, September 10

Trey Burton

Former Gator Trey Burton during last year's game against Georgia. (Photo: Jay Metz)

He is listed on the depth chart as the fourth tight end, but ask former Gator Trey Burton his role, and his answer sounds familiar.

Burton said he lines up some at tight end during practice, some at receiver, and some at running back. Basically, wherever the Philadelphia Eagles need him. He also plays special teams and made his NFL debut there Sunday in the Eagles’ 34-17 win over Jacksonville.

“Every team is looking for a guy who can play on all special teams and be a backup on offense and eventually they will groom him into being the guy in the future,’’ Burton said Tuesday. “I’m extremely excited for the opportunity. I was just trying to make the best out of it. My dream was definitely to make the 53-man roster, but my dream was also to play, and I was able to do that this week. It’s just been kind of like a fairy tale.”

An undrafted free agent, Burton defied the odds when he made Philadelphia’s 53-man roster. He was the only undrafted rookie signed by the Eagles in May who made the roster.

However, Eagles coach Chip Kelly and general manger Howie Roseman, a former UF student, had their eyes on Burton on draft day. 

"Late in the draft, we ended up taking a couple of defensive guys,’’ Kelly told reporters last week. “After we drafted Beau [Allen] in the seventh round, you look at the barrel and say, 'Who do you want?’ He was a guy that was a priority guy for us.”

No surprise, Burton’s versatility -- he played quarterback, fullback, tailback, tight end and receiver at Florida the past four seasons -- played a role.

Kelly’s fast-paced offense uses skill players in creative ways and when you can play as many positions as Burton, you have a player who provides a lot of options.

Burton said the biggest adjustment to the NFL has been Kelly’s offense, one he utilized at Oregon before taking over the Eagles last season.

“It’s extremely different,’’ Burton said. “Nothing like I’ve ever seen or heard of before. You hear about it being fast-placed -- it’s extremely fast. The technique and the hand signals, there is so much you have to learn. It’s definitley been one of the hardest offenses I’ve had to learn.

“I struggled with it a little bit, especially not coming from a no-huddle background. Coming from that to here, it’s a whole new world for me. It’s been fun.”

Burton’s adjustment to the City of Brotherly Love has been smoother. He spent his off day Tuesday looking for a place to live and a car.

He got a taste of Philly fans’ love-hate relationships with their professional sports teams Sunday.

“I really love it up here. I like the city and just the whole environment,” Burton said. “They were booing us after the second drive on Sunday.”

Burton is teammates with former Gators Jaylen Watkins and Riley Cooper, which has helped in the transition.

So have the three tight ends ahead of him on the roster: veterans Brent Celek and James Casey, and second-year pro Zach Ertz out of Stanford.

They have welcomed him with open arms.

“I’ve been blessed with an unbelievable tight end group that has really helped me out,’’ Burton said. “They’re just a bunch of good guys. They are really good on the field, but off the field they are even better. They have been awesome to me.”

Burton maintains daily contact with his younger brother, Clay, a senior tight end for the Gators, and several of his former teammates.

He is ready for another new experience this week: Monday Night Football. The Eagles play at Indianapolis on national television.

“It’s prime time,’’ he said. “I’m excited to see what this is about compared to a Florida-Georgia or Florida-Alabama game.”

Wednesday September 10, 2014 Gators lose freshman DB J.C. Jackson for season

Updated: 2:33pm, September 10

J.C. Jackson

Freshman CB J.C. Jackson will undergo shoulder surgery next week. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- True freshman cornerback J.C. Jackson will miss the rest of the season.

Florida coach Will Muschamp announced Wednesday that Jackson will undergo shoulder surgery next week to repair a labrum injury that limited him in contact drills during fall camp.

Jackson played in the season opener but did not record a tackle.

"A labrum issue he had in high school that was repaired and continued to slip out,” Muschamp said. "He possibly could continue to push through the season, but we felt with his young age, go ahead and try and get it fixed and move on."

A 5-foot-10, 196-pound product of Immokalee High, Jackson arrived as part of a deep and talented freshman class of defensive backs. Jackson, Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Duke Dawson all played in Florida's 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan.

The Gators were impressed by Jackson's physical presence at corner and expected him to contribute.

“A guy who certainly was going to help on special teams and at corner,'' Muschamp said. "He's going to be an outstanding player. Disappointed for him, but we've got to move forward."

While Jackson's loss is disappointing for the Gators, they have good depth in the secondary and expect to have safety Marcus Maye (hamstring) back against Kentucky on Saturday.

Tuesday September 9, 2014 Herndon was uncertain if his big moment would happen Saturday

Updated: 7:07pm, September 9

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At UF’s media day last month Gators junior running back Mark Herndon sat at a table alongside fellow tailbacks Matt Jones, Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown.

A former walk-on who was placed on scholarship last season, Herndon took far fewer questions than his teammates from the large group of assembled media making its way around the room.

After rushing for more than 1,600 yards as a senior at Ocala (Fla.) Forest High, Herndon had opportunities to go play elsewhere on scholarship. However, he chose to remain close to home and walk on with the Gators.

Most of his time during practice is spent on the scout team. On game day he plays on special teams. Herndon is your classic “team guy” whom first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said during fall camp would be starting at other schools.

Herndon has no such illusions at Florida.

“I’m ready for whatever,’’ he said at media day. “I’m ready if I do play, if I don’t play. It’s not going to take away from anything if I do play or if I don’t play.”

In the Gators’ 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Herndon dressed out for the game with the same attitude.

Mark Herndon

Running back Mark Herndon during his 78-yard touchdown reception Saturday. (Photo: Tim Casey)

“I wasn’t coming into the game really expecting to play,’’ Herndon said Tuesday afternoon. “But when we were up 50-something, I was like, ‘alright, I might get in.’ ’’

Playing on the kickoff coverage team in the second half, Herndon had to be helped off the field. He re-injured an ankle that hobbled him most of spring practice.

“It hurt pretty bad,’’ he said.

As a religious man actively involved in his church and a regular volunteer in the community, Herndon did what he often does in difficult moments. He prayed.

“Lord, just give me like two plays. Two plays,’’ was Herndon’s request on the sideline as trainers treated his injured ankle. “I started warming up on the sideline, jumping up and down. I got in.”

On the Gators’ second drive of the fourth quarter, Herndon took a handoff and gained nine yards. After the Gators were flagged for a 5-yard penalty on the next play, Herndon did something he hasn’t done since his senior season of high school: he scored a touchdown, catching a Treon Harris pass across the middle and then racing the rest of the way for a 78-yard score.

“We had a smash [route] call in the boundary which we felt like based on how they had been playing to that point, was just going to be a hitch ball thrown into the boundary,’’ Florida head coach Will Muschamp said. “And they rolled up into Cover 2 and [Treon] took right to his middle-read throw to Mark Herndon. Mark made a fantastic play.”

Once Herndon reached the end zone, several teammates congratulated him as he held tightly onto the football. He didn’t keep the ball although it looked as if wanted to. He remembered what running backs coach Brian White tells the players when they score: “Hand the ball to the official.”

Full of adrenaline, Herndon forgot about his injured ankle.

“I didn’t feel it again until the next morning,’’ he said.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The most significant development in the win that started the streak was that it clinched a trip to the Aloha Bowl for the Gators.

When the Gators woke up on Nov. 14, 1987, they were 5-4 and coming off back-to-back losses to Auburn and Georgia. They were going nowhere fast.

However, a sloppy 27-14 victory over the Wildcats prompted the following message on the video board at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium: “Aloha Gators” … “Adios Wildcats.”

Twenty-seven years later, when it comes to victory in this annual series, nothing has changed.

The Gators host Kentucky on Saturday in search of their 28th consecutive victory over the Wildcats.

Gators coach Will Muschamp said Monday that those previous 27 wins have nothing to do with Saturday’s game, and he’s right, but as far as streaks go, this one is always worth revisiting for Florida fans.

Florida’s win streak over Kentucky is currently the sixth longest in NCAA history in an annual rivalry between major opponents. If Florida can make it 28 in a row, it will tie Texas’ 28-game win streak over Rice (1966-93) for the fifth-longest such streak.

Here is a game-by-game look at the Gators-Wildcats since 1987:

YearOpponentW/LUFUKMarginUF coachUK coach
1987 Kentucky W 27 14 13 Hall Claiborne
1988 Kentucky W 24 19 5 Hall Claiborne
1989 Kentucky W 38 28 10 Darnell Claiborne
1990 Kentucky W 47 15 32 Spurrier Curry
1991 Kentucky W 35 26 9 Spurrier Curry
1992 Kentucky W 35 19 16 Spurrier Curry
1993 Kentucky W 24 20 4 Spurrier Curry
1994 Kentucky W 73 7 66 Spurrier Curry
1995 Kentucky W 42 7 35 Spurrier Curry
1996 Kentucky W 65 0 65 Spurrier Curry
1997 Kentucky W 55 28 27 Spurrier Mumme
1998 Kentucky W 51 35 16 Spurrier Mumme
1999 Kentucky W 38 10 28 Spurrier Mumme
2000 Kentucky W 59 31 28 Spurrier Mumme
2001 Kentucky W 44 10 34 Spurrier Morriss
2002 Kentucky W 41 34 7 Zook Morriss
2003 Kentucky W 24 21 3 Zook Brooks
2004 Kentucky W 20 3 17 Zook Brooks
2005 Kentucky W 49 28 21 Meyer Brooks
2006 Kentucky W 26 7 19 Meyer Brooks
2007 Kentucky W 45 37 8 Meyer Brooks
2008 Kentucky W 63 5 58 Meyer Brooks
2009 Kentucky W 41 7 34 Meyer Brooks
2010 Kentucky W 48 14 34 Meyer Phillips
2011 Kentucky W 48 10 38 Muschamp Phillips
2012 Kentucky W 38 0 38 Muschamp Phillips
2013 Kentucky W 24 7 17 Muschamp Stoops

Demarcus Robinson

Sophomore Demarcus Robinson remains a pivotal part of Florida's plans on offense. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- He had been on campus for about a month when posed with a modest question.

In his mind, what was the ideal scenario for him heading into his first season at UF?

Receiver Demarcus Robinson, considered a potential jewel of Florida's 2013 recruiting class, answered the way you might expect from a young player still trying to find his way around.

Demarcus Robinson

"Just to get good with the plays and try to get on the field early and show the people what I can do," he said.

More than a year and half later Robinson's answer still connects easily to the state of his career.

As the Gators prepare to face Eastern Michigan on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Robinson's career totals read like this: seven games, five catches, five DNPs, three suspensions.

Robinson's most meaningful contribution to the Gators is a 10-yard catch on third-and-9 in Florida's win at Kentucky last season. The reception kept the Gators' 93-yard scoring drive alive and provided a brief glimpse why the 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver from Peach County (Ga.) High was such a hot commodity coming out of high school.

Due to maturity issues and violation of team rules Robinson was suspended for Florida's SEC opener against Tennessee and the final two games of last season. He opened his sophomore season suspended for a university sanction that has been resolved.

On Monday Gators coach Will Muschamp said Robinson and defensive linemen Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick are eligible to play Saturday -- Cummings and Bostwick were suspended for violation of team rules a week ago.

Robinson is the player Florida fans are clamoring to see.

Is this the year Robinson proves he is as good as they said he was in high school?

Through all the turbulence of his brief time at UF, his teammates and coaches continue to support Robinson and urge him to get his act together.

"I do honestly think that Demarcus is a good guy," quarterback Jeff Driskel said this week. "Sometimes he’s made poor decisions in the past, but I think he’s matured a lot. He did everything he could to help the team out this past week, knowing that he wasn’t going to play. And that takes a mature guy to do that and not hang your head.

"I think he’s going to help us out a lot this year. He’s a guy we’re going to have to count on."

Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves says Robinson is the most difficult receiver to cover in practice. Teammates tell stories about his acrobatic dunks on the basketball court. And Muschamp, despite his frustration with Robinson over the past 18 months, remains one of his most stout supporters.

"I love Demarcus, he's a great kid," Muschamp said. "Now, just because you make a couple of poor decisions doesn't make you a bad person. He certainly has learned from these situations and will move forward. I've told the players all the time, help me help you. And if they are willing to work with me we're willing to work with them."

First-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is pulling for Robinson. Roper knows that when Robinson is on the field and his head into the game, he provides the Gators' revamped up-tempo offense with an alluring weapon.

In Roper's short time with the Gators he has seen a player ready to contribute more than five catches for 23 yards like last season.

"He's a guy that's really working hard to improve himself, if that makes sense,'' Roper said. "And that's not always easy to go through some challenges that he's been through. To say this, I think he's working to try and be a better person all the time. And he empties the bucket when we go to the practice field, so I appreciate the way he works. Obviously, as a coaching staff, we're here to help him grow."

Based on what Muschamp, Roper and Driskel said this week, Robinson's support system is as strong as ever.

The rest appears up to him.

"He's had a 3.0 [grade-point average] the last two semesters at the University of Florida. He's worked extremely hard academically,'' Muschamp said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's a wonderful man to be around. He's got a smile on his face all the time.

"As far as football is concerned it's never been an issue. Demarcus works extremely hard on the field. Football is very important to him. Sometimes guys mature at different times and he's gone through that process."

Robinson is second on the depth chart behind Quinton Dunbar at the X-receiver spot. With a chance to get back on the field Saturday, maybe Robinson will finally develop into the X-factor the Gators' offense has been waiting on.

Wednesday September 3, 2014 Muschamp responds to those who question his discipline of players

Updated: 3:24pm, September 3

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced Monday that receiver Demarcus Robinson, defensive lineman Darious Cummings and defensive lineman Jay-nard Bostwick are eligible to play Saturday against Eastern Michigan.

The trio was suspended for the Idaho game -- Cummings and Bostwick for violation of team rules and Robinson due to a university sanction that has been resolved.

Will Muschamp

While the Gators went through Saturday’s suspended game with the three players unavailable, their return to the active roster this week drew criticism from some despite Muschamp’s proven track regarding player discipline since taking over the Gators.

Muschamp responded on Wednesday morning’s SEC coaches media teleconference:

“It’s not just about suspending players for games. There’s a lot of things that go into discipline. It’s about altering and change behavior, which we’ve done here,” Muschamp said. “I think our discipline speaks for itself in how we’ve handled our football team.

“So it’s not just about missing [games]. If it’s about suspensions, then you would never have an issue, right? At the end of the day, there’s more than that. There are a lot of things that go into those situations, a lot more than people know. And it’s very frustrating for me as a coach, or any coach, to have someone being critical and you don’t even have all the information.

“At the end of the day, I make the decisions in this program and I handle the discipline in this program and it’s been handled very well.”

Florida captains for Idaho game

Florida captains Max Garcia, Chaz Green, Michael Taylor and Jabari Gorman (l to r) on Saturday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – As soon as the Florida-Idaho game was suspended late Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, a common question was repeated over and over.

My timeline on Twitter has flickered constantly with the query:

On the surface, sure, it seems like a simple enough solution. Tell both teams to go home, sleep a few hours, and come back in the morning and we’ll do this all over again.

Folks, it’s not that simple. Not even close.

College football teams plan their travel to road games months in advance.

They book hotel rooms, charter flights, arrange meeting rooms, meal services and all sorts of logistics way before they ever take off from home. Every move is scripted.

Teams generally arrive at their destination on Friday afternoon or early evening. The semi-trucks that carry the team’s gear and equipment usually leave a day or two in advance depending on how far the trip.

Once they arrive, the players usually gather in a meeting room at the hotel for dinner and then off to meetings with their position groups.

After that, they go down for the night with a curfew in place. And they repeat the meal-and-meeting process the next morning until it’s time to leave for the stadium. If it's a night game, they get some extra rest until departing for the game.

When something interrupts the schedule such as a severe thunderstorm that decides to hang around the stadium for a few hours with more than 1,100 lightning strikes in a six-hour window, well, the best laid-out plans go kaput.

Take Saturday for example. Idaho checked out of its hotel prior to leaving for The Swamp. By the time officials made the call to suspend the game several hours later, the Vandals’ chartered plane was already on the tarmac at Gainesville Regional Airport for the scheduled 2,700-mile flight home to Moscow, Idaho.

Meanwhile, here are just some of the organizations that staff each UF home football game. These organizations budget resources in their annual planning to meet fiscal, manpower and other requirements on game days.

--The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office

--The University of Florida Police Department

--The Gainesville Police Department

--The Alachua County Fire and Rescue Department

--The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County

--Multiple federal law enforcement agencies

In figures provided by the UAA, it takes an average of nearly 3,000 people to stage a UF home game.

A look at those figures according to the service provided: concession workers (1,300), private security (400), law enforcement (285), game operations (300), credentialed media and media staffing (300), cleaning crew (200), medical personnel (100) and caterers (100).

While far removed from the bright lights of the field, they are the ones who work to make the game-day experience possible.

By the time I left the stadium around 1 a.m. Sunday morning, cleaning crews still had tons of garbage to remove, work that would not be completed until Sunday afternoon.

In addition, stadium workers such as concession stand attendants, ticket takers and others would need to be available on short notice Sunday, basically an impossible task to arrange in such a short turnaround.

As you can see by the general game-day services listed above, there was no way such a massive undertaking could have been arranged for a Sunday game.

In fact, by the time most of the fans at the game woke up Sunday morning, the Vandals had already arrived back home, exhausted from their cross-country trip and unusual visit to the Sunshine State.

So, while the question “Why can’t they play on Sunday?” seemed a reasonable thought immediately after the news broke, now you know why that was never a possibility.

Too many moving parts. Too many people involved. Not nearly enough time.

Saturday August 30, 2014 Muschamp announces three Gators suspended for opener

Updated: 4:03pm, August 30

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators open the season healthy tonight when they face Idaho, but head coach Will Muschamp announced Saturday afternoon they will be without three players due to suspension.

Will Muschamp

"Jay-nard Bostwick and Darious Cummings will not play due to a violation of team rules and Demarcus Robinson will miss the game due to a university sanction that is now resolved,'' Muschamp said. "I support the university sanction. We have rules here that we have to follow -- team, athletic department and university rules -- and when you don’t follow them there are consequences.

"I expect all three players to return next week."

Robinson is listed behind starter Quinton Dunbar on the depth chart at the X-receiver position. Cummings and Bostwick are the first- and second-team nose tackles on the depth chart Muschamp released Tuesday.

As for injuries, safety Marcus Maye (hamstring) is the only player questionable for Florida. He was listed day-to-day during practice this week.

The Florida-Idaho game is scheduled to kick off tonight at 7 on ESPNU.

Saturday August 30, 2014 Gators to welcome special guest Gavin Lambert at tonight's season opener

Updated: 9:54am, August 30

VIDEO: Gavin Lambert, a guest at Florida's season opener, at a recent Tampa Bay Rays game.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators are playing host to a special guest on Saturday night.

And no, we're not talking about Idaho.

His name is Gavin Lambert, an 8-year-old from New Port Richey. Lambert suffers from a rare neuromuscular disorder known as Friedreich's Ataxia (FA). The disease is found in about one in 50,000 people in the U.S.

Lambert's fight against the disease has inspired many people, including Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Maddon met Lambert earlier this year at a Tampa Bay-area charity event and invited him to a Rays game. The day was one that Lambert and his family will always remember.

Lambert and Longoria

"His experience with the Rays was incredible,'' Gavin's mom, Dawn Lambert, said via email. "We found out Coach Maddon cycles, so we had a jersey made for him, just like the one Gavin wears while riding his trike!"

Not only did Gavin get to spend time with Maddon, he met several Rays players, including third baseman Evan Longoria.

He is looking forward to a similar experience today at The Swamp. Gavin and his family are scheduled to take a tour of the Gators' locker room and stand on the field during pregame warmups.

"We are so excited and are looking forward to an amazing event,'' Dawn Lambert said.

Gavin's struggle with FA prompted the family to document their journey with a website. You can learn more about the disease and Gavin's life with it by visiting kickinfa.com.

Meanwhile, if you bump into Gavin at tonight's game, give him a high-five. He has earned it.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators kick off one of the nation's most difficult schedules Saturday night by hosting Idaho. Eastern Michigan and Kentucky then make stops at The Swamp.

After that opening stretch, the Gators tread into deeper waters.

If they are going to compete for an SEC East title, they will have to play well -- and win some games -- against this formidable lineup: at Alabama, at Tennessee, LSU, Missouri, Georgia in Jacksonville, at Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Eastern Kentucky and at Florida State.

To sum up that stretch: Florida's first road game is at No. 2 Alabama. Their final regular-season game is at No. 1 Florida State. And in between there are no slouches, though the Gators should be heavily favored at home against Eastern Kentucky.

I reached out to Associated Press national college football writer Ralph Russo to see when the last time a team opened the season scheduled to face the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams in the AP Top 25 Preseason Poll on the road in the same season.

Russo called on the services of AP researcher Paul Montella, who pored over the rankings and schedules. Thanks to both for their help.

The Gators are only the second SEC team -- and first in 36 years -- to face the two top-ranked preseason teams on the road in the same season.

While those rankings could easily change during the season, it also won't be a surprise if FSU and Alabama remain atop the poll. They are that good.

Here is a look at those teams that opened the season with the preseason Nos. 1 and 2 waiting at home:

Teams scheduled to play Nos. 1-2 in the preseason poll on the road:

Top 20 Era

1961 -- Wisconsin (No. 1 Iowa; No. 2 Ohio State)
1962 -- Oregon (No. 1 Ohio State; No. 2 Texas)
1969 -- TCU (No. 1 Ohio State; No. 2 Arkansas)
1970 -- Texas A&M (No. 1 Ohio State; No. 2 Texas)
1973 -- Washington State (No. 1 Southern Cal; No. 2 Ohio State)
1978 -- Vanderbilt (No. 1 Alabama; No. 2 Arkansas)
1983 -- Colorado (No. 1 Nebraska; No. 2 Oklahoma)
1983 -- Iowa State (No. 1 Nebraska; No. 2 Oklahoma)
1983 -- Kansas (No. 1 Nebraska; No. 2 Oklahoma)
   

Top 25 Era (1989-present)

2006 -- Penn State (No. 1 Ohio State; No. 2 Notre Dame)
2006 -- Michigan (No. 1 Ohio State; No. 2 Notre Dame)
2010 -- Penn State (No. 1 Alabama; No. 2 Ohio State)

By the time I had a chance to flip on the South Carolina-Texas A&M game Thursday night, Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill was a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.

However, prior to the game, fans got a chuckle out of two former Florida Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.

Tim Tebow did his best impression of Steve Spurrier's recruiting pitch when Tebow was coming out of high school. Spurrier was just getting started at South Carolina but didn't spend too much time recruiting Tebow.

It's a funny clip and example of Tebow showing another side of his personality in his role as an analyst on the SEC Network's "SEC Nation" show.

Muschamp

Gators coach Will Muschamp announced UF's season-opening depth chart Tuesday. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators face Idaho on Saturday in the season opener with a depth chart that is crowded at key positions.

In Florida head coach Will Muschamp's world, that's a good thing. Muschamp released the first depth chart of the season Monday with few surprises.

The most notable announcement is that true freshman quarterback Treon Harris is listed as the second-team quarterback behind starter Jeff Driskel. Harris earned the job over fellow freshman Will Grier and redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg.

Senior Clay Burton is listed ahead of fifth-year senior Jake McGee at tight end. Still, expect McGee to be a primary target in the offense.

Here is a look at the complete depth chart:

  First Second Third
LT   D.J. Humphries David Sharpe  
LG   Trip Thurman Tyler Moore Antonio Riles
C   Max Garcia Drew Sarvary  
RG   Trenton Brown    
  or Tyler Moore    
RT   Chaz Green Rod Johnson  
QB   Jeff Driskel Treon Harris  
RB   Kelvin Taylor    
  or Matt Jones    
  or Mack Brown    
TE   Clay Burton Jake McGee  
B   Hunter Joyer Gideon Ajagbe  
WR-X   Quinton Dunbar Demarcus Robinson Alvin Bailey
WR-Y   Latroy Pittman Valdez Showers C.J. Worton
WR-Z   Ahmad Fulwood Andre Debose Chris Thompson
         
  First Second Third
DE   Jon Bullard Bryan Cox, Jr.  
DT   Leon Orr Joey Ivie  
NT   Darious Cummings Jay-nard Bostwick  
BUCK   Dante Fowler, Jr. Alex McCalister  
SAM   Neiron Ball Alex Anzalone  
MIKE   Michael Taylor Jarrad Davis  
WILL   Antonio Morrison Daniel McMillian  
DIME (LB)   Neiron Ball Jarrad Davis  
CB   Vernon Hargreaves III Jalen Tabor  
S   Keanu Neal Duke Dawson  
S   Jabari Gorman Nick Washington  
      Marcell Harris  
CB   Brian Poole J.C. Jackson  
      Quincy Wilson  
NICKEL   Marcus Maye Brian Poole  
DIME (DB)   Brian Poole Marcell Harris  
         
  First Second Third
K   Austin Hardin    
    Frankie Velez    
P   Kyle Christy    
    Johnny Townsend    
KOR   Andre Debose Quinton Dunbar Chris Thompson
PR   Andre Debose    
    Demarcus Robinson    
    Vernon Hargreaves III    
LS   Drew Ferris Kyle Crofoot  
H   Jeff Driskel Kyle Crofoot  

Monday August 25, 2014 Take a Minute to Meet ... Gators volleyball player Nikki O'Rourke

Updated: 2:17pm, August 25


VIDEO: Gators coach Mary Wise discusses her team's depth on Monday as Gators prepare for opener.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Nikki O’Rourke is more than a junior defensive specialist for the Gators volleyball team.

O’Rourke is a Florida girl through and through. If she wasn’t playing basketball or volleyball growing up in Clearwater, you usually could find O’Rourke at the beach.

Nikki O'Rourke

Sometimes in far away places.

O’Rourke is a veteran on a Gators team that features five freshmen on this year’s roster. Florida opens the season Friday afternoon at the O’Connell Center against Georgia Southern.

GatorZone.com recently caught up with O’Rourke for a quick Q&A:

Q: Have you had time to get used to some of the new players?

A: We do have a lot of people, 17 total on the team. It’s definitely some new faces on the court and some new personalities to get used to. It’s fun. There are a lot of new characters out there, but it’s a fun playing environment. We have a lot of information to get used to and playing at this high level is definitely harder than playing at lower levels such as high school and club ball.

Q: What do you expect your role to be?

A: Junior season, playing DS. All spots are open right now. It’s great competition in the gym having 17 people just going out and playing hard every day and really competing. It’s definitely a competitive gym. Everyone wants to play. I’m just going out every day and pushing to be the best I can.

Q: So, you like to surf?

A: We go to the east coast [of Florida] quite a bit, over to Cocoa Beach. We have a place over there and we take a lot of family vacations to islands to go surfing and that kind of stuff.

Q: Where are some of the places you have been to surf?

A: We’ve gone to Jamaica, we’ve gone to Eleuthera, which is the only Bohemian island with surf. Been to Costa Rica. We travel quite a bit. It’s awesome.

Q: Is your whole family into surfing?

A: Yeah, my dad and brother. My mom just supports us. She does the watching. As a family we have always been rather beachy people.

Q: They must be athletic like you?

A: My whole family played basketball. I was the only one to pick up volleyball. I played basketball until I was about 12 and then just focused on volleyball.

Former Gators receiver Solomon Patton talks to reporters in Tampa about his quest to make Bucs.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – There’s been surprise out of Tampa this week that Bucs rookie Solomon Patton, an undrafted free agent who was UF’s Offensive MVP last season, is contending to make Tampa Bay’s roster.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith placed Patton atop the team’s unofficial depth chart this week at kickoff and punt return.

Patton averaged 30.3 yards on three kickoff returns in last week’s game against Miami and returned a punt 21 yards. He is expected to fill the same role during Tampa Bay’s preseason game against Buffalo on Saturday.

A quick glance at the SEC Football Media Guide tells Patton’s ability as a return man. Patton finished his UF career second on the SEC’s all-time career list for kickoff returns (minimum of 30 returns). Patton averaged 27.7 yards per return, second only to former Arkansas standout Felix Jones (28.2).

Patton told reporters this week that he is pleased at how his first NFL training camp has progressed.

“At Florida, I caught punts in practice but I never did it in the game, nothing like that,’’ he said. “Since Day 1 that I got here, I’ve made sure every day that I was out early, and even after, catching punts just focusing on looking the ball all the way in. I think I did a good job of doing that Saturday.”

Solomon Patton

Patton has approached camp like he did as a freshman at Florida. He’s new, so every day there is something to learn. Patton worked hard in the offseason between his junior season at Florida and his senior season to improve his professional prospects.

The additional work paid off with a team-high 44 receptions, 556 yards and six touchdowns. He also returned a kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown at Missouri.

At 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, Patton has taken a fearless approach into training camp after being snubbed in the draft.

“Obviously I’m not the biggest guy out there,’’ he said. “I know that I have speed and I true to use that to my advantage. I definitely see myself as being a real fearless person.”

Patton felt most comfortable in his talks with the Bucs during the free-agent process and decided to sign with Tampa Bay. The Mobile, Ala., native is banking on his UF experience to help him succeed in his bid to make his first NFL roster.

“Going to Florida and playing in the SEC, I played against a lot of big-time players,’’ he said. “I felt like it was a great opportunity for me to come in and fight for that position at returner. Obviously, I would love to play wide receiver. I’m just trying to make plays the best I can and get that chance.”

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