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Gators coach Will Muschamp got a kick out of watching Vernon Hargreaves III and other newcomers in opener.

Sunday September 1, 2013Gators Notebook: Confidence Returns for Easley, Hargreaves' Timely Pick, Plus More Tidbits

Gators coach Will Muschamp got a kick out of watching Vernon Hargreaves III and other newcomers in opener.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Dominique Easley has been back for a while. The senior defensive tackle recovered in time to play 11 games last season following a torn ACL suffered in the 2011 regular-season finale against Florida State.

Still, it wasn't vintage Easley.

"At no point,'' Easley said. "My confidence was really messing me up."

Easley's knee was healthy enough to strap down and line up in those nasty SEC trenches, but he needed every snap to regain his confidence.

Easley finished the season with 26 tackles, 8 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks. He expected more.

As a senior, he is demanding more.

"I want to leave my mark here,'' he said. "I want to be considered a Gator Great."

Easley was hard to miss in Saturday's 24-6 win over Toledo. He crashed into Toledo's backfield multiple times, including a fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter.

He finished with three tackles and three quarterback hurries.

As the most vocal leader of Florida's defense, Easley's goal is to set a high standard for the younger players to follow. The Gators featured nine new starters on defense against Toledo.

"When your number is called, you've got to step up,'' Easley said. "There never is a time when you are not ready. I'm just trying to let them know that."

Easley looked ready for his senior season on Saturday.

SHOWERS ADDS SPICE

Gators coach Will Muschamp has watched redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers closely during Showers' time in the program.

A former safety at Georgia who often spends a portion of practice coaching the safeties, Muschamp had Showers in that group until moving him to offense this fall in the absence of running back Matt Jones.

Showers showed why Saturday. He caught four passes and had two runs for 31 yards, including a 29-yard run.

Muschamp wasn't surprised.

"He’s different than what we have. He's a top-end speed guy,'' Muschamp said. "He's really special with the ball in his hands. He’s a guy who was going to be in the rotation of guys at the safety position, but just felt it was a good move for our football team to put him on offense."

TIMELY INTERCEPTION

Freshman defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III showed off his playmaking skills in the third quarter with his first career interception.

Florida led 17-6 when Hargreaves picked off a pass by Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens on third-and-9 from Toledo's 24. Hargreaves returned the interception 15 yards to Toledo's 23.

Five plays later, Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel connected with fullback Gideon Ajagbe for a 4-yard touchdown for Florida's final score.

Hargreaves arrived at UF over the summer as one of the nation's top recruits following a prolific career at Wharton High in Tampa. He had made a favorable impression prior to Saturday's interception.

"There was going to be no conversation about putting him in the game,'' Muschamp said. "Vernon is a really good player. I like the guys who go and compete in practice every day. When I turn on the film they're productive. They play against good players and they go against those guys and don't back down against anybody.

"The game comes easy to him, and he still works hard at it. He's up in our office all the time watching tape. It’s easy to play guys like him."

HARDIN DEBUTS

Redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin was unveiled as Florida's starting kicker Saturday. Hardin's assignment: to replace Caleb Sturgis, arguably the best kicker in school history.

Hardin's debut was 50/50. He made a 24-yard field goal on his first attempt and missed a 39-yarder on his second attempt. Hardin connected on his three PATs.

Hardin left the stadium in good spirits after his debut.

"I thought I hit the [39]-yarder really well with good distance and height,'' he said. "That's going to happen. I was was ready to move on and if they would have called a field goal again I would have been ready to go out and hit another one."

INJURY REPORT

Muschamp said starting left tackle D.J. Humphries sat out the fourth quarter with a sprained MCL, adding that he expects Humphries to be ready for Saturday's game at Miami.

QUOTE OF NOTE I

"I'm disappointed we missed a couple [plays] down the field. We had some shots and very disappointed we didn't hit those. But those are going to come. I've seen those all through camp. That's going to happen for us.'' -- Muschamp on making more big plays offensively

QUOTE OF NOTE II

"I don't listen to him. He probably never played football.'' -- Easley when asked if the Gators drew any motivation from ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit picking against them on national TV. Easley chuckled when told Herbstreit played quarterback at Ohio State, and Herbstreit later tweeted, "Florida…I'm sorry. Nice win. Looked impressive. Beat a good team."

QUOTE OF NOTE III

"It was amazing to see everybody jacked up. I'm just happy to have the opportunity to catch both of those balls. I was ready for it." -- Ajagbe on his two receptions in the third quarter, including a 4-yard touchdown catch

NOTES AND NUGGETS

Eight players made their first career starts Saturday: left guard Max Garcia, right tackle Tyler Moore, running back Mack Brown, receiver Solomon Patton, nose tackle Leon Orr, safety Marcus Maye, linebacker Brian Poole and Ajagbe at fullback ... The Gators improved to 65-6 all-time in season openers at home ... Toledo was 1-for-13 on third-down conversions ... Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel's 77.3 percent completion rate Saturday (17 of 22) was the highest for a Florida QB since Tim Tebow went 31 of 35 (88.6 percent) in his final game for Florida in 2010 Sugar Bowl ... Mack Brown became the fifth player to rush for 100 yards since Muschamp took over program, joining Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Mike Gillislee and Jeff Driskel ... Receiver Trey Burton tied his career high with five catches for a career-best 69 yards.

 

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