Gator Chomps: Two-Quarterback System, Will Muschamp’s Hot Seat, Brandon Powell Shows Out, Taylor’s Brouhaha

True freshman quarterback Treon Harris will see playing time vs MIssouri along with Jeff Driskel.

True freshman quarterback Treon Harris will see playing time vs MIssouri along with Jeff Driskel.

The Florida Gators suffered a tough loss to LSU in the Swamp on Saturday night on a last second 50 yard field goal. In a game where the Gators had every opportunity to win, once again they found a way to lose with quarterback Jeff Driskel throwing a horrible interception as the Gators were driving in an attempt to break a 27 all tie with under a minute to play.

With the loss, embattled head coach Will Muschamp’s coaching seat only got hotter, especially with disgruntled fans who are tired of seeing the team make the same old mistakes.

Similarly, the cries from those same fans for starting quarterback Jeff Driskel to be benched in favor of true freshman Treon Harris only got louder in the aftermath of Saturday night.

On the Muschamp front, fans have taken to Twitter and sports message boards to not only vent their frustration but also to discuss possible replacements. While the usual names get bandied about, the fan favorite at this point comes from an unlikely place: Mississippi State.

That’s right, Bulldogs head coach and former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen is the guy that would likely top a fan poll of a replacement coach were Muschamp to be fired. While it may not seem too out there considering he did win two national titles as OC under Urban Meyer at Florida, his career record at MSU coming into this season was only 36-28 and he was considered to be on the hot seat himself.

One fan has even gone so far as to start a website called wewantdan.com dedicated to giving all the reasons why Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley should hire Dan Mullen.

For those longing to see Dan Mullen or anybody else coaching the Gators next season, it’s time to come back down to earth. For one, Mullen likely will parlay the Bulldogs’ great season and rise to a number one national ranking into a lucrative contract extension. The days of the Gators stealing coaches from schools like MSU are over. Over bloated fan expectations and short leashes certainly do not help. Besides, Gator fans weren’t exactly heaping high praise on Mullen when he was here the first time.

Secondly, and more importantly, to paraphrase an old saying, the news of coach Muschamp’s demise are greatly exaggerated. In other words, Will isn’t going anywhere, this season or next. That is short of a total collapse.

According to Zach Abolverdi, the Gators recruiting beat writer for the Gainesville Sun, Foley confided in a Gator commit that there are no plans to can Muschamp.

As far as those calling for true freshman Treon Harris to take over as starting quarterback in place of Jeff Driskel, the news is more mixed. During Muschamp’s Monday media session, he announced that the Gators will work with a two-quarterback system moving forward.

For this week’s home game versus SEC East division foe Missouri, Jeff Driskel will once again start, to many fans dismay, but Treon will definitely play.

“They both will play this week, and we’ll work through the week, and we’ll see how things go and we’ll see how it goes from there,” Muschamp said, “Right now, Jeff [Driskel] will probably start, but they’re both going to play.”

It remains to be seen, however, exactly how this platoon system will actually work. Will they alternate series? Will Treon have specific number of series. What if Jeff gets off to a good start, will Treon actually get some time or will they stick with Driskel? If he struggles once again, how quickly will the staff make the change? Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper admitted on Tuesday that they haven’t yet decided how to implement the dual qb system.

“We haven’t decided on how it’s exactly going to go yet.”

Even Driskel himself is unsure of exactly how it will work.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to shake out but if it’s best for the team then I’m for it,” Driskel said on Monday.

For his part, this is uncharted waters for Jeff but he’s confident it will work.

“No, I never have [played in a two quarterback system],” Driskel said. “But it’s worked for a lot of people so there’s nothing to say that it won’t work for us.”

The purpose of going to a two quarterback scheme at this point is simple. The staff wants to find a spark to jump start a struggling offense that has shown some signs of life at times but has been erratic and inconsistent.

“I think the goal is to score points, to win games,” Roper said. “So it’s simply decisions being made to find a way to put points on the board.”

What does Jeff think about the plan to split playing time with Harris?

“Treon and I are both going to work hard this week,” Driskel said. “We’re both going to work for each other. We’re both going to hope that the other person does well when they’re in. Obviously that’s something that we think that can help the team so if it’s going to help the team I’m all for it.”

“Believe it or not I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about the team. I want the team to play well, and if it’s [two quarterback system] going to help the team play well, I’m all for it.”

Despite his erratic play this season and very vocal opposition from the fan base, Jeff remains confident in his ability to lead the team.

“Just because I haven’t made all the plays I would have liked to this year doesn’t mean I’m not confident,” he said. “I’m still confident in my ability, confident in what I can do and what I can do for this team. I don’t think my confidence has ever been shaken.”

Although Treon Harris is only a true freshman, Muschamp has expressed confidence in his abilities.

“[Treon’s] a guy that has shown the ability to make some plays,” he said. “You take the ball in the right spots, accurate with his passes, has a certain confidence about him.”

“In practice, that’s something that really jumps out at you. It’s his playmaking ability to be able to make those things happen.”

Roper was very succinct in his appraisal of what Harris offers.

“The best way I can say it is he finds a way to make plays. He seems to be a playmaker.”

“He is a guy that can run the football and is good in space and you saw that in the Tennessee game,” Roper added.

And it was very apparent during the Tennessee game where Harris came on in relief of an ineffective Driskel to lead the team to a come from behind victory that he provided an emotional spark to the stagnant offense. Perhaps the bigger question is what effect a two quarterback system might have on the team and it’s psyche. Will it cause dissension among the players similar to what happened two years ago when Jacoby Brissett was battling with Driskel for the starting spot? Jeff doesn’t think so.

“We’re confident in Treon but I think the guys are confident in me as well,” Driskel said. “So it’s not going to be something that’s going to divide the team or anything like that. We have mature guys that can handle it.”

With Harris missing all of last week due to a suspension while he was being investigated for a sexual battery accusation before the accuser withdrew the complaint, will that set him back any as far as being ready to play this week against Missouri?

“It’s tough,” Driskel said. “But in college football there’s so much game plan[ning] that’s specific for one team, so I think that he’ll be fine with a full week of preparation for Missouri.”

Roper made it clear he understands the challenge of preparing Harris for game action despite missing a week of practice.

“We’ve got to make up some ground obviously but I think we’ve got time to do that,” Roper said. “We got him back really yesterday. He did some good things, did some bad things. It wasn’t his best day of practice that he’s had. He’s a guy I enjoy coaching because he goes out there to get better every day. Works hard and great effort.”

“The challenge is what is he capable of being successful with and try to put him in those situations as much as we can.”

Muschamp believes Harris will be ready to play and thinks his teammates have confidence in him as well.

“He’s got a certain persona about himself. That’s why in his last two years at Booker T. he was 30-0. That tells you something about him. He’s a winner. He certainly has a persona about him.”

True Freshman Brandon Powell continues to impress the Gators coaching staff.

True Freshman Brandon Powell continues to impress the Gators coaching staff.

Another true freshman that Muschamp has a lot of confidence in is running back Brandon Powell. He got a lot of touches last Saturday against LSU in both the running game and passing game and is expected to see more against Missouri.

“Brandon Powell obviously is a playmaker,” Muschamp said. “He plays extremely well in space,” He’s very reliable in protection. He catches the ball extremely well. He’s a very smart football player.”

With nine total touches (3 rushes, 6 receptions) for 72 total yards, Powell was featured in the LSU game more than any other player not named Jeff Driskel. It was by design and the results were undeniable.

“I thought Brandon made a lot of plays as the game went on,” Roper said.

He was even head scratchingly utilized on an inside zone run down on the goal line despite his smallish stature (listed as 5-9 177) leaving much bigger backs Kelvin Taylor,  Mack Brown, and Hunter Joyer on the bench.

“We ran inside zone,” Roper explained when asked about why they ran Powell on the goal line rather than putting some bigger backs into the lineup. “Brandon Powell is a little lighter physical guy, tough guy. We felt really good with the ball in his hand. He had been playing a lot of football. He had been in on that series and made some plays so that was the decision that we made at that point to put it in his hands. So we felt pretty confident we knew what we were going to get schematically and it was what we felt was our best thought was at that point.”

Jeff Driskel is very impressed with Powell’s ability despite being a true freshman and Gators fans can certainly expect to see more and more of him as the staff looks for ways to continue getting him the ball in space.

“He’s a really smart football player,” according to Jeff Driskel. “Understands what we’re doing. He has great hands out of the backfield. He’s always going to be in the right position. He’s a good player, obviously he needs to develop more, but he’s somebody that we’re confident in when he’s back there.”

While Powell was featured in the offense against LSU, another player, sophomore Kelvin Taylor, spent much of the game sitting on the bench despite starting the game at running back, much to the dismay of many Gator fans. He finished the game with 2 carries and zero yards.

Taylor himself appeared to be a little upset about his lack of playing time. Shortly after the game a firestorm was started on Twitter after Taylor retweeted a couple of fan tweets about lack of playing time and possibly transferring as a result. Those have since been removed but can be seen on a screenshot Tweeted by Zach Abolverdi.

Roper explained on Tuesday why Taylor saw limited action.

“We had a protection issue early in the game, in those situations it affects thought process through the game.”

The protection issue referred to was a third down play on the Gators opening drive when Taylor was slow reacting to an edge blitzer to his right and he ended up running into Driskel as he was throwing the ball to an open receiver in the blitzer’s vacated zone. The ball fell incomplete and stopped a promising drive.

“Kelvin’s got to do a better job of recognizing the SAM’s coming and get over there faster and manage that,” Roper commented. “We felt like we had a good chance to convert a third down right there.”

The issue was actually discussed in this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback Post on Swamp Music.

While Taylor has been a favorite since committing to the Gators two years ago and may very well be the Gators best pure running back, he continues to have issues with protection that make it difficult for the staff to have confidence in him.

“He is really good with the ball in his hand,” Roper said. “There’s no doubt about that. He’s a guy that when you hand it to him he does a good job but you’ve got to be able to manage the rest of the package.”

“It’s not just about carrying the ball,” Muschamp reiterated. “There’s protection and there’s a lot of things that are involved with being a running back and those are things to me.”

And oddly it’s the other “things” that have given the true freshman Powell a leg up over sophomore Taylor in terms of playing time of late.

“[We are] utilizing the running back as a pass catcher in a lot of situations, and Brandon’s a guy that’s got really good hands and he’s a guy that we trust a little bit more in the passing game, which he showed you he’s very good at that end in space.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Monday Morning Quarterback: Florida Gators Struggles Not Limited to Jeff Driskel, It Takes A Village

Quarterback Jeff Driskel runs for a td against LSU in the Swamp. (Credit to Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports)

Quarterback Jeff Driskel runs for a td against LSU in the Swamp. (Credit to Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports)

The Florida Gators finally returned home to the Swamp this past Saturday night after two consecutive tough road games but after fighting through mistakes and some difficult officiating, the Gators fell to LSU 30-27 on a last second 50 yard field goal. While the Gators showed some resiliency and played well at times, they suffered through many of the same old tired mistakes that have plagued them this season and last.

While a large contingent of fans took to Twitter and message boards to vent their disgust with quarterback Jeff Driskel and head coach Will Muschamp, the Monday Morning Quarterback is of the opinion that the Gators’ problems are much deeper and that winning football much like the old expression about child rearing “takes a village”.

In other words, it’s a team game and there are 11 guys on every play who must perform their role diligently, intelligently, and physically in order for their unit to be successful. The problem for the Gators is that all too often there are one or two guys, Driskel included but not limited to him, that are not performing their job correctly at inopportune times particularly third down and it’s those breakdowns that are killing the Gators.

Don’t misunderstand me, the Monday Morning Quarterback has gone on record in the past in support of Will Muschamp as head coach but not Jeff Driskel as starting quarterback and that has not changed. Nothing short of a complete collapse could change my mind on Will Muschamp and nothing short of a miraculous turnaround in play and victories could change my mind about Jeff Driskel

It’s quite apparent to everyone who’ve watched the Gators including one NFL executive who was quoted as saying that Jeff Driskel doesn’t have the necessary “feel” for the position, that Driskel is not the answer for the Gators at quarterback. Having said that, however, the Monday Morning Quarterback believes the Gators have much bigger and deeper issues than simply the poor play of Jeff Driskel. Heck, Jeff accounted for 83% (254 of 306 yards) of the Gators offense against LSU so certainly it’s not all on him.

I realize he also accounted for 3 turnovers and misfired once again on several wide open deep balls but if that were the only mistakes made by the Gators, I’d let it rest. However, that was not the case on Saturday night and hasn’t been the case all season. The fact of the matter is there have been mistakes all over the field, not simply on offense, that have doomed the Gators.

Take the Gators first possession, for instance. After completing a 7 yard swing pass to Brandon Powell to set up a third and one, Driskel ran four yards on a quarterback keeper inside for a first down. On the next play, Driskel hit an open Quinton Dunbar on the numbers with an easily catchable pass, one that should have picked up good yardage and possibly a second first down. Instead, Dunbar, as has been the case all season for Gator receivers, simply dropped the football.

On second down, Driskel kept the ball once again and picked up six yards setting up another third and short. On third down, Driskel had a nice open pass to his right where a blitzing corner vacated and should have had an easy first down. Instead, running back Kelvin Taylor tried to cut across the quarterback from right to left to pick up the free blitzer and tripped up Driskel in his passing motion and the ball fell to the turf incomplete.

Fourth down and punt.

For Dunbar, there was no excuse to drop the pass. He’s a fifth year senior and should be catching those passes in his sleep. That’s not Driskel’s fault, it’s Dunbar’s.

On the third down play, while it looked at first glance to be an error on Driskel’s part for not switching the running back to his left before the snap, it’s apparent that the blitzer was supposed to run free as Driskel was baiting him to vacate his zone for an easy first down pickup. The fact that Taylor, who started the game at running back, played only sparingly the rest of the way tells the Monday Morning Quarterback that he, not Driskel, made a mistake on the play.

It’s mistakes just like those two that have doomed the Gators time and again this season and a multitude of them Saturday night gave the game away.

On the first Driskel turnover, a fumble that set up the Tigers’ first touchdown, fans were fuming over yet another Driskel turnover, but it’s apparent the fumble itself was a lucky helmet to football hit that was set up by a missed block by offensive lineman Trenton Brown. When the ball was snapped he had trouble locating who he was supposed to block which gave linebacker Kwon Alexander time to get to Driskel and get his helmet on the football.

And, of course, the poor execution was not limited to the offense. On the ensuing LSU possession, Gator middle linebacker Antonio Morrison allowed himself to be blocked out on consecutive possessions which resulted in an LSU touchdown to tie the game.

The Tigers did not throw any unusual formations at the Gators on that posssession. Both plays were simple textbook I-formation power inside runs that defensively were designed for the inside linebacker to step up and make the play. The lineman held their blocks as expected but Morrison due to either poor angle or poor recognition simply allowed the fullback to take him out of the play springing Leonard Fournette for two big runs and a touchdown.

On the TD play, Morrison’s poor execution left the smallish safety Marcus Maye to be steamrolled as he himself made a poor attempt at a high tackle something you simply cannot do to a 230 pound running back.

Defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr., as great as he’s been heralded, repeatedly failed to secure the edge during the game allowing both quarterback Anthony Jennings and the Tigers’ running backs to pick up big gains and convert huge third downs simply due to poor execution.

On the Tigers’ second td drive, the Gators had the Tigers in a third and three situation which without a passing game to speak of should have been an easy three and out for the Gators. Instead, Dante Fowler tried to jump inside failing to secure the edge allowing running back Terrence McGee to easily take the zone read handoff outside for a huge pickup which jump started the drive for the Tigers.

Of course, there was also the third and 25 given up on the Tigers’ last possession, a missed defensive assignment by Brian Poole as well as the third and 17 given up on the Tigers last td drive on a holding call on Brian Poole the third and fourth times this season the defense has given up a third and 15+ which is inexcusable for any defense. Throw in the dropped wide open td pass by tight end Tevon Westbrook which if caught may have basically sealed a victory for the Gators and it’s obvious that the issues with this team are much deeper than Driskel’s struggles.

These are simple mistakes in execution by players who know better. They are not young guys making freshman mistakes. They are experienced players who are not executing the way they are taught. They’re trying to “make a play” out of position rather than staying home and doing their job.

Football is a series of one on one matchups but it’s not enough for ten guys to do their job correctly. All eleven must play together and execute correctly. One guy playing out of position, missing a block, getting blocked, or trying to do too much is enough to doom an entire squad. And therein lies the totality of the problem for the Gators.

It’s not simply Jeff Driskel overthrowing a wide open receiver, although that is a huge problem for the offense to this point, or turning the ball over. It’s one guy here and one guy there dropping a pass, missing a block, and making mental mistakes that shut down the offense on third down stopping promising drives.

It’s one guy missing the defensive call (Brian Poole) that allows the opposition to convert on third and 25.

It’s one guy negating great coverage by grabbing a jersey resulting in a pass interference on third and long (Poole and Bryan Cox, Jr.)

It’s one guy not securing the edge or getting blocked that prevents the Gators from holding their opponent to a three and out and jump starts scoring drives.

Former Gator wide receiver Chris Doering was very actively vocal on Twitter during the game Saturday night and he sums up the bigger issue with this team in a series of Tweets.

Simply put: veterans are not doing their job up and down the lineup including but not limited to Jeff Driskel. While a change at quarterback may jump start the downfield passing game for the Gators, the Monday Morning Quarterback believes that receivers will have to quit dropping passes and quit making flailing attempts at catching passes which has led to interceptions and the offense must do a better job at recognizing and executing blocking assignments otherwise it will be in vain.

Contrary to what many Gator fans believe and have expressed repeatedly on Twitter and sports message boards, the Gators are far from a change at quarterback from competing for an SEC championship. While the Monday Morning Quarterback believes this team is talented enough to compete, they have a long ways to go in simple execution in order to be considered a top flight team.

Period.

End of story.

I am the Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out.

 

Gator Chomps: Florida Circles the Wagons, Driskel Gets Reprieve, Defense Shows Improvement

A new weekly series highlighting news, notes, and tidbits on Florida Gator football.

With Treon Harris suspended, quarterback Jeff Driskel holds the starting spot by default. (USATSI)

With Treon Harris suspended, quarterback Jeff Driskel holds the starting spot by default. (USATSI)

In the wake of the Treon Harris suspension, one person stands to benefit: quarterback Jeff Driskel. While it’s unlikely that he would have been benched prior to the suspension, he was likely looking at splitting time with true freshman Harris. Many fans felt he was headed towards losing his spot altogether.

Now he has a reprieve.

“Well, Jeff [Driskel] will start the game,” head coach Will Muschamp said on Wednesday. “Jeff was going to [start], no question. We had not made a decision off the last game about who would start the game. Jeff was going to play in the game, I do know that.”

The biggest question now for Gator Nation is how will he respond to the new lease on life?

“Jeff’s a tough young man,” Muschamp said. “He’s resilient. I met with him Sunday and I talked to him after the game and talked to him Monday. He understands the situation. He needs to play better. He takes full responsibility to be the quarterback at the University of Florida. The way he has handled this has been outstanding.”

While receiving the brunt of fan criticism, Driskel still appears to have the confidence of the coaching staff. They feel like they just need to get his confidence up to perform at the level they feel he’s capable.

“I think we’ve taken a lot of the positive things we’ve done within his career here at the University of Florida, which there’s been a lot,” Muschamp said of Driskel. “Played in some big games. Played in a big game against LSU here two years ago and won and made some plays in that game that helped us. Those are all things that we’ve tried to accentuate at this time, and that’s what we’re doing.”

So now rather than opening up a competition for the starting job, the battle will be for the back up slot.

“As we continue to practice today and tomorrow, right now Skyler [Mornhinweg] and Will [Grier] are swapping the reps with the second group,” according to Muschamp. “We’ll make the decision game time.”

With Treon Harris suspended, Will Grier's redshirt will be burned and he will be the Gators back up qb moving forward.

With Treon Harris suspended, Will Grier’s redshirt will be burned and he will be the Gators back up qb moving forward.

Grier, for his part, appeared headed for a redshirt season but now that appears to be off the table.

“We hadn’t really made a decision [concerning a redshirt for Grier] considering the length we still had to go in the season,” Muschamp said. “So, you know, we had not had that discussion as far as a redshirt at that time. Given the situation of having two guys that had played to that point in the season, that’s probably where we were headed. Certainly given the situation right now, obviously not.”

Mornhinweg was pressed into action at the end of last season after losing both Driskel and backup Tyler Murphy and it wasn’t very pretty. Considering that and the fact that Skyler’s skill set isn’t exactly suited for this offense, expect Grier to be the backup and expect to see him get some game reps in spots as well moving forward.

While most of fan criticism this season has focused on Jeff Driskel’s apparent struggles, Muschamp has been quick to note the poor play from his receivers as well.

“Yeah, fifteen drops at the position…” Muschamp quickly pointed out when asked about the receiver’s struggles thus far.

“It’s amazing what confidence can do for you as an athlete. I look at the situation with the receivers, we’re trying to get some things going in the throwing game. We drop a slant on the first drive. It’s like the air comes out of you a little bit. We’ve got to overcome those situations. We’ve got to finish on some plays. We’ve got to be able to place the ball on 3rd and 6 to an out route, to a tight end on the money. There’s a lot of things involved in it, but I think from a standpoint of us making some plays, creating some confidence for our guys right now, it’s critical.”

Other than in the Kentucky game where Demarcus Robinson had 15 catches for over 200 yards, Gator receivers have been fairly pedestrian. They’ve been plagued by inopportune drops, poor route running, and mental mistakes which have killed drives and magnified Driskel’s struggles. This unit must play better if the Gators hope to have any shot of winning the SEC east.

“We took about 15 plays from the [Tennessee] game and illustrated that to our players, and not to defend Jeff, but to defend the quarterback position,” Muschamp said about the receiving corps. “People around him need to execute better and take ownership in what they need to do better. You’ve got 15 drops at the receiver position in four games. That’s a bunch. You want to talk about confidence and timing, and getting things going. Those are things we’ve addressed within the ownership in the position. Take ownership in your play and how you play and how you perform instead of pointing a finger at somebody else, which is the easiest thing to do and what we do in our society in most situations.”

The offense does get a shot in the arm this week with the return of two true freshmen, slot receiver C.J. Worton, an active playmaker with great hands, and running back/B position/slot receiver Brandon Powell who’s quickness and athleticism make him a match up problem for linebackers, nickel backs, and safeties.

“C.J. [Worton] will be more involved in the slot this week,” according to Muschamp. “He’ll play in the slot. Absolutely. He’s a good football player and it’s good to get him back. He will play Saturday.”

Muschamp added, “Brandon Powell, getting him back and using him in some different roles will be very good for us. We wanted to expand his role in the off week, and we were unable to when he pulled his hamstring. But he looks great.”

Matt Jones has played very well for the Gators this season and is firmly entrenched as the starting running back. (media.naplesnews.com)

Matt Jones has played very well for the Gators this season and is firmly entrenched as the starting running back. (media.naplesnews.com)

One player who hasn’t struggled this season is junior running back Matt Jones who had another 100 yard game against Tennessee and has continued to separate himself from Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown. He’s played very strong in his return from a season ending knee injury last year. He appears to get stronger as the game goes on and that helps get the play action and zone read going as well.

“I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone in that ballgame Matt Jones gets heavy as the game goes and he ran extremely well,” Muschamp said.

However, Jones has been dealing with some knee swelling this week and is listed as a game time decision. Muschamp feels good about depth at the position with Taylor, Brown, redshirt freshman Adam Lane, and Powell.

“I’ve got confidence in Kelvin [Taylor}. I’ve got confidence in Mack Brown,” Muschamp said.

“And they’re both competitive guys and they both want to play, but there’s one ball.”

“Adam Lane has been over repping with our guys the last couple of days just in case, a guy that I have tremendous confidence in as well. Talk about a hard guy to tackle, a low center of gravity, a strong, tough back who catches the ball well out of the backfield. And then you add Brandon Powell to the mix, a guy who’s going to get some snaps Saturday in some different roles. So we’re excited about that position.”

Another unit that has played well, perhaps somewhat surprisingly considering depth and injury issues, is the offensive line. A unit that has been much maligned the last few seasons it has quietly become a strength as the season has progressed.

While they haven’t been mistake free, particularly in blitz pick up at times, they have been fairly solid especially in the run game. Max Garcia has really stepped up and played well moving over to center this season and redshirt freshman Rod Johnson has impressed stepping into the lineup at right guard. Starting left guard D.J. Humphries struggled a little in his return from injury against Tennessee but that appears to be more rust than anything which should cause alarm for fans.

“I’ve been pleased with his [Humphries’] practice so far this week,” Muschamp said. “Chaz [Green] played well at right tackle. Rod [Johnson] gave up one thing on an inside stunt that was a critical play for us there in the game, but continues to improve and get better. He’s going to continue to take steps forward and be a very valuable member of our offensive line. David Sharpe continues to improve, so we feel pretty comfortable where we are as we move forward this season, especially when you get in this run in the season where there are going to be some injuries and things that happen. Right now Trip [Thurman] has done some nice things, Tyler [Moore]. Trenton [Brown] played his best game Saturday and Max [Garcia] is playing extremely well for us at center.”

Outside of Jones, the Gators are as healthy offensively as they’ve been all season. Perhaps a return home to the Swamp against a young, reeling LSU team will be cathartic for these Gators and help to jump start the offense.

Defensively, the Gators improved dramatically against Tennessee from how they played against Kentucky and Alabama. The defense, without starting defensive tackle Leon Orr and linebacker Michael Taylor, held the Tennessee rushing game in check (28 total yards rushing including sacks), kept constant pressure on quarterback Justin Worley sacking him 5 times, forcing two awful interceptions, and a game changing fumble, and held the Vols to only 3 field goals total allowing the struggling Gators offense to make a late game charge to victory.

“Defensively, it was a total team effort,” Muschamp said of the win over Tennessee. “We had eight red zone snaps, had negative 11 yards, three incompletions, an interception and a sack, so I think our guys played extremely well. We made it a one-dimensional game, we were able to get pressure on the quarterback with four guys rushing, three guys at times. We picked our spots to pressure and I thought D.J. [Durkin] did a good job and our defensive staff.”

Junior starting Buck end Dante Fowler was his usual disruptive self, but it was a youth movement that really stood out on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore Bryan Cox, Jr. got his first start at defensive end in place of Jonathan Bullard, who slid inside to replace injured Leon Orr, and had a monster game with three sacks and five solo tackles. He stayed in the Tennessee backfield all day and helped the Gators finally generate a consistent pass rush with their three and four down lineman.

“Bryan Cox had a great day,” Muschamp said of his performance against Tennessee. “Bryan went through a very tough time with his grandfather last week and managing that situation.”

True freshman corner Jalen Tabor had a monster game in his first start opposite Vernon Hargreaves III.

True freshman corner Jalen Tabor had a monster game in his first start opposite Vernon Hargreaves III.

Not to be outdone, true freshman Jalen Tabor got his first start at corner opposite All American Vernon Hargreaves III and had a monster game as well with five tackles (4 solo), 1 tackle for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and a pass break up. The staff has been looking for someone to step up at corner since losing three of their top four after last season. Looks like Tabor may have won the job. For now that is.

“Jalen Tabor, for a freshman, had an outstanding, for any player, had an outstanding game,” Muschamp said of his performance against the Vols.

Adding, “I hope he’s that productive [against LSU]. That would be nice, but not many times are you going to come off the edge on a blitz and nobody blocks you. He played the deep ball well. We outnumbered them in the box and they took a shot at the end zone in the red zone. I thought he made a really nice play against a very good player and a very good throw. He had a couple opportunities to defend balls. The first third down I thought was a very good play, outstanding coverage. I think he’s a guy who just continues to improve. That’s the natural progression of a young player. I want to see improvement week to week, really day to day. And that’s where I think I see him headed.”

Another true freshman who’s playing well has been Duke Dawson who has been splitting time at safety, nickel, and dime so far this season.

“One of the hardest things for a young player to understand is the importance of practice,” Muschamp responded when asked specifically about Dawson and Tabor. “They’ve been better than anyone they’ve ever played against, so they didn’t have to work hard in practice and they can show up for the game and flip it on and everything works and goes well for them. That’s not the way it works at this level.”

” In Duke’s case especially, he has practiced better. He has come out and has had consistently good practices to build confidence to put himself in that situation too, and I thought he played well. He did some nice things. There are some things we need to clean up, but for a first start on the road in that environment against a pretty good throwing football team, I was proud of him.”

Longtime Gator sports announcer Larry Vettel was impressed enough by the play of Dawson and Tabor to tweet the following:

Redshirt freshman safety Keanu Neal also continues to impress in his first season as a starter consistently making big hits and big plays including the game sealing interception against Tennessee as they were driving late with the Gators clinging to a 10-9 lead.

In his media session on Wednesday Muschamp singled out Neal as a Ball Hawk Award winner, calling him a guy

“who continues to play outstanding football. The interception at the end was a big time play,” Muschamp said.

One player who has struggled much so far this season has been junior safety/nickle back Marcus Maye. He’s had numerous issues and breakdowns covering the slot receivers. His poor play continued into the first half against Tennessee leading ESPN recruiting analyst Derek Tyson to tweet:

“Marcus Maye has no business covering slot receivers. Ever”.

The tweet has since been deleted.

Maye did recover, however, to have a much better second half against Tennessee even being credited by coach Muschamp on Wednesday.

“Well I think in four games [Marcus Maye] did play his best ballgame [against Tennessee],” Muschamp said. “We lost our eyes in a situation where we always tell our players in an injury situation, stay down. We had a substitution deal on the wheel route on their sideline and that wasn’t all Marcus’ fault. We had two situations where we should’ve slid the defender underneath and forced the ball high. And two of them were pretty good throws.”

“Now the interception to end the game, Keanu Neal is going to get the credit for it but [Marcus] is in underneath coverage in what we call a trail position, which elevates the ball and Keanu has an opportunity to intercept it and that’s what I call a caused interception. We need to continue to work on eye control. That’s the biggest issue we have right now. In man coverage, unfortunately, some players like to stare at the quarterback, and they’re going to stare at the quarterback and watch him complete passes. In man coverage, you have to cover the man and what I talk about is working in phase with the receiver in order to play the ball. I’ve seen tremendous improvement from him and we’re expecting tremendous improvement to continue.”

The defense indeed played well, perhaps their best performance of the season, against Tennessee. It remains to be seen if that was merely an aberration against a young Vol offense or if they’ve turned the corner after giving up numerous explosive plays in the passing game in successive weeks against Kentucky and Alabama. Offensively, they still have a ways to go with Jeff Driskel as the quarterback. Gator Nation is optimistically hoping that the new lease on life will prompt him to focus better and play with more of a sense of urgency.

Either way the team is circling the wagons around Jeff and is confident that the offense will play better at home against LSU this Saturday. For Jeff’s sake and for Coach Muschamp’s sake, they had certainly better.

 

Breaking: Treon Harris Suspended

True freshman quarterback Treon Harris has been suspended while he is being investigated fir an alleged sexual assault.

True freshman quarterback Treon Harris has been suspended while he is being investigated for an alleged sexual assault.

In an ironic twist of fate for Gator fans who have clamored for weeks for freshman quarterback Treon Harris to replace Jeff Driskel, word comes that he has been suspended from all team activities today by the university.

When it was announced this morning that head coach Will Muschamp’s Monday media availability had been postponed until later in the week without comment, speculation was rampant. The odd’s on favorite was it might be related to Muschamp’s job status which has been reported to be on the line all season.

However, word has finally trickled down that Harris is being investigated for an alleged sexual assault that took place yesterday.

According to an official statement from the university:

“University of Florida student athlete Treon Harris is accused of sexually assaulting a female student early Sunday morning in a residence hall on the UF campus.”

The Gainesville police department is currently recovering forensic evidence related to the case.

“The Gainesville Police Department’s Forensic Crime Unit has been asked by the University of Florida Police Department to assist in collecting possible item’s of forensic evidence on UF campus related to the recently-announced investigation of Treon Harris.”

As a result of the investigation. the school has announced Treon has been suspended from all activities related to the team until further notice.

University president Bernie Machen made it clear that the university takes this accusation very seriously.

“We have no tolerance for sexual assault on our campus,” UF President Bernie Machen said. “The university is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for every member of the UF community. We must strive to protect all of our students from sexual harassment and assault, and do everything in our power to promote a safe learning environment.”

For his part, Treon’s lawyer released a statement according to In All Kinds Of Weather’s twitter site:

 

 

 

Stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest. And follow us on Twitter @Swamp_Music2.

Read the press release here

 

 

 

The Monday Morning Quarterback: Muschamp May Have Saved His Job, Barely

I hate to say I told you so…

Who am I kidding, the Monday Morning Quarterback has been gloating ever since the final seconds ticked off the clock in Saturday’s less than stellar come from behind victory over Tennessee.

Will muschamp may have saved his job and the Gators season when he replaced an ineffective Jeff Driskel with freshman Treon Harris.

Will muschamp may have saved his job and the Gators season when he replaced an ineffective Jeff Driskel with freshman Treon Harris.

The Gators’ tenth consecutive victory over division rival Tennessee was likely their most underwhelming in large part due to head coach Will Muschamp’s stubbornness in sticking with the underperforming Jeff Driskel at quarterback.

While the Monday Morning Quarterback has been on record as supporting Will Muschamp but calling for Jeff Driskel’s benching, coach Muschamp almost sealed his fate and his job by sticking with Driskel too long on Saturday despite once again his inability to lead the Gators offense successfully.

Through almost 3 full quarters, Driskel was a paltry 11-23 (48%) for a putrid 59 yards and no scores. Under his leadership, the Gators never even got a whiff of the redzone much less the end zone despite starting almost every drive in great field position.

While much has been made of the failures of the receivers, it was painfully obvious to anyone and everyone watching that Driskel was simply unable to lead this offense.

Period.

End of story.

That is, perhaps, except for Will Muschamp. For whatever reason, Muschamp stuck with Driskel almost to the point of losing the game. While Twitter was exploding and every single member of Gator Nation was screaming at the top of their lungs for Treon Harris, Muschamp continued to trot Driskel out time and again.

The defense played a whale of a game getting big pass rushes from Dante Fowler and Bryan Cox, Jr on the outside and strong run stuffing from Jonathan Bullard on the inside as well as great play in the defensive backfield from true freshmen Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor. It would have been a crying shame if the Gators went down in defeat after turning in such a masterful defensive performance. Sticking with Driskel so long almost spoiled the effort.

Treon Harris led Florida to a come from behind victory over Tennessee after relieving ineffective starter Jeff Driskel. (Photo credit to USAToday)

Treon Harris led Florida to a come from behind victory over Tennessee after relieving ineffective starter Jeff Driskel. (Photo credit to USAToday)

But, after Tabor made the play of the game, sacking Vols quarterback Justin Worley and stripping the football with 55 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter, Muschamp made the change sending in Harris. While he didn’t light it up passing the ball, he was 2-4 for 17 yards, it was apparent from the start the offense had a different vibe. They had an energy they had previously lacked as Harris quickly marched the Gator offense to a touchdown getting the Gators within two at 9-7.

Gator Nation awoke. Finally they had a chance. While the drive consisted almost entirely of rushes by Harris and Matt Jones, he did lay out a very nicely placed touch pass to Jones on a zone read play action pass which allowed him to catch it easily in stride and pick up a quick 12 yards and a first down. The pass was indicative of what Harris brings to the table and what Driskel lacks.

Treon also was very impressive running the zone read and quarterback draw as well.

Bottom line is that Driskel has had every opportunity to lead this team and has proven time and again he doesn’t have what it takes to lead this offense successfully. Treon Harris, while young and very raw, brings a certain kind of quiet confidence. Players respond to that. It should be apparent to everybody at this point that Driskel’s teammates have zero confidence in him.

With quarterbacks, while scouts drool over measurables like size, arm strength, speed, and accuracy, what is more important are intangibles like leadership. Some have it, some don’t. You can’t always put your finger on it but it’s very obvious during game action.

Treon appears to have that “IT” factor, Driskel, not so much. So, while trying not to bash the kid, Driskel is a great guy and solid teammate, it’s obvious to everyone including the Monday Morning Quarterback and hopefully now even Will Muschamp, that it’s time to make a change at the quarterback position. Not just for a series or two, but for good. Treon Harris is obviously the future for Florida at qb and at this point he needs to be given the keys and let’s see how well he drives this offense.

His skill set is perfect for what new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper likes to do offensively. He’s been a winner at every level winning two state championships in high school and a mythical national championship as well as a senior at Booker T. Washington in Miami. And he’s already shown he can move the offense. He’s proven that guys respond to his leadership. Fans, alumni, media, and former players alike all are calling for Harris to be named the starting quarterback.

Muschamp, however, has remained non-committal saying in the post game presser that they will evaluate their options moving forward. The Monday Morning Quarterback believes that Muschamp not only took a leap of faith that might have saved the Gators’ season when he put Harris in, but also may have saved his job. He must, however, make that change permanent.

The defense, while talented, is very young and will continue to be a work in progress throughout the season. If the Gators hope to have a shot at winning the SEC east they will certainly have to generate much better offense than they have the last three games. This means that if Will Muschamp hopes to continue coaching in Gainesville, his job is tied to the performance of his qb. With every three and out performance by Driskel and Co on Saturday, Muschamp’s seat got hotter and hotter.

Putting in Harris saved the game and gave Muschamp a temporary reprieve. What he decides on which player will start at qb moving forward will determine the fate of the Gators season and the fate of coach Muschamp’s job.

Let’s hope for his sake and for Gator Nation that he makes the right call.

I’m the Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out.