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Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is looking for production from Jon Bullard (No. 90) on the interior line.

Wednesday October 2, 2013Gators Notebook: Bullard Tackles New Role, UF Eating Up Clock, Plus More Tidbits

Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is looking for production from Jon Bullard (No. 90) on the interior line.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The loss of starting defensive tackle Dominique Easley to a season-ending knee injury last week was certain to cause some ripples for the Florida defense.

One of those ripples bumped defensive end Jonathan Bullard inside to play more on the interior line.

Bullard started the Kentucky game at defensive tackle and had three tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. The Gators will take that every game from the 6-foot-3, 265-pound sophomore from Shelby, N.C.

Jon Bullard

"It ain't the easiest thing to do, but it's what I've got to do,'' Bullard said. "I'm adjusting fast. We're really working on my pad level and my leverage on blocks."

Bullard received significant playing time last season and gave the Gators a young and dangerous tandem at defensive end along with fellow sophomore Dante Fowler. Bullard will still see some snaps on the outside but the Gators need him to help fill the large void left by Easley's injury.

"Jon is a very talented player. He was playing both inside and outside before,'' Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. "He's a guy that is tough to block. He is good at the point of contact. He's played a lot of football for us.

"I think it's good that he gets different matchups [inside]. Sometimes he's on the tackle, sometimes on a guard. That's something we can take advantage of."

Florida head coach Will Muschamp said Bullard played well at Kentucky. While not as bulky as the 285-pound Easley, Bullard is an inch taller and is quick off the snap.

"Jon’s a guy that we really trained in August camp to play inside just in case something happened,'' Muschamp said. "He’s a big-bodied guy. He’s got some fast-twitch for an inside player. He can give us a push inside. But he’s going to play both end and tackle for us."

Bullard said the biggest adjustment is facing more double teams.

"At end, you usually have an outside shoulder free,'' he said. "You usually don't go against two 300-pounders as much as you do on the inside. I've got to step in and do the best I can."

IN TOUCH WITH NATURE

Florida starting quarterback Tyler Murphy revealed Monday that prior to his first career start Saturday against the Wildcats, he and some other players went on a "nature walk" with offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

The topic gained the interest of the Florida press corps.

"It was kind of cool,'' Murphy said. "Cleared my head."

Pease entered his press conference Tuesday ready for questions about a pre-game ritual he has used at other stops in his coaching career.

He appeared to be amused by the back-and-forth banter.

"Is it new? No, it's not new. You just go out, see different parts [of the country], and you talk about things,'' Pease said. "That was our first nature walk together [at Florida]. We almost got hit by golf balls."

BACK TO FOOTBALL ... AND TIME OF POSSESSION

The Gators lead the nation in time of possession, controlling the ball an average of 38 minutes, 58 seconds per game.

Running the ball nearly 70 percent of the time and moving the chains consistently is Florida's not-so-secret recipe.

Muschamp said there is no direct correlation between time of possession and winning games, but there is no doubt the hold-onto-the-ball approach is working well for Florida, especially as they have transitioned Murphy into his new role in the wake of Jeff Driskel's season-ending leg injury.

"Good from the standpoint that their offense isn’t on the field,” Muschamp said.

Pease has stuck with what has worked in the first quarter of the season. Still, he understands the Gators are going to need to rely on Murphy's right arm more as the season progresses.

"To say that we’re always going to carry it, have that time of possession, is probably not our total plan,” Pease said. "You still stress that you want to have explosive plays and you hope you get those where you’re scoring in two or three [minutes], which limits your time of possession. That wasn’t the way it worked out [at Kentucky].

"So I think there’s some give and take in it."

MAN DOWN, MAN UP TO THE MAX

They lost freshman linebacker Matt Rolin to a season-ending knee injury. Receiver Andre Debose was next. Offensive lineman Chaz Green and defensive back Nick Washington were lost for the season to shoulder injuries.

Driskel and Easley then went down days apart.

Florida's medical staff has certainly earned its money early in the season. While Muschamp prefers no one else go down for the season, the rash of injuries hasn't kept him up at night like they would have his first couple of seasons.

"When you sign to come play here, you expect to compete for and win championships. We don’t make excuses about injuries and things. "We've recruited well. We’re a far cry from where we were two years ago -- I can assure you of that."

QUOTE OF NOTE I

"When [defenses] aren't worried about playing the run, you have some issues offensively. Especially with how we're built at this point, we need to have teams respect our rushing game." -- Muschamp on Gators' need to run effectively

QUOTE OF NOTE II

"It seems like now we're all trying to create the controversy of the running back deal. I'll say this: Matt did a very good job. I think when Mack [Brown] was in there he ran the ball well. He obviously did not get the number of touches. I don't know if it's a hot hand, because I think they're both capable.'' -- Pease on running backs Matt Jones and Mack Brown splitting carries

QUOTE OF NOTE III

"They're real physical. I think they're a little chippy. They're a little dirty. So we're going to have to be ready for it all this week." -- Gators defensive tackle Damien Jacobs on Arkansas' physical offensive line

QUOTE OF NOTE IV

"We have to know that he can run. And we have some guys that can run, too, but just know that when he’s in the game, be prepared for sweeps and stuff like that to get him on the outside edge, because he’s a great back for them." -- Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins on Arkansas freshman running back Alex Collins

QUOTE OF NOTE V

"I told our guys after the game, 'we're not there yet, but this climb up the mountain has been a lot of fun, and when we get to the top it's going to be really fun to know what you did.'" -- First-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema on his message following Saturday's loss to Texas A&M

NOTES AND NUGGETS

Jones' 176 yards rushing at Kentucky ranks eighth all-time in UF history in a road game ... Florida has 683 wins all-time, two behind Arkansas for No. 20 all-time in Division I-A ... The Gators have thrown a touchdown pass in six consecutive games, their longest streak under Muschamp ... Bielema's only win over an SEC team came against Arkansas in the 2007 Capital One Bowl when he was at Wisconsin; Bielema lost to Tennessee in the 2008 Outback Bowl and the Razorbacks lost their SEC opener last week to Texas A&M ... Former Miami head coach Randy Shannon is in his first season as Arkansas' linebackers coach ... Arkansas is the only team in the SEC that has a freshman with a 100-yard rushing game (Collins has four) and a 100-yard receiving game (Hunter Henry had 109 yards against Texas A&M).

 

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