Thursday December 5, 2013Gators Notebook: Muschamp to Start Reshaping Program, Quarterback Competition, More Tidbits
Skyler Mornhinweg was one of three UF quarterbacks to start multiple games in 2013, a first in 34 years.
Skyler Mornhinweg was one of three UF quarterbacks to start multiple games in 2013, a first in 34 years.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The job ahead for Florida head coach Will Muschamp is far removed from the public's view, unlike his office on Saturday afternoons.
From the end of Saturday's loss to Florida State until the start of spring practice in March, Muschamp's primary focus is reshaping a Gators team that just completed a 4-8 season.
The record still seems a misprint at first glance for generations of Florida fans.
So does the list of season-ending injuries suffered by the Gators and the seven consecutive losses down the stretch.
Still, all are fact, logged into history in what will go down as one of the most difficult seasons in Florida football history.
In the few days since the 30-point loss to the Seminoles, Muschamp has already taken aim on what the Gators will look like in the 2014 season opener against Idaho.
He announced Sunday that offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis will not return. On Monday junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy announced he is entering the NFL Draft.
There could be other early departures depending on feedback they get from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.
And of course, Muschamp has started the task of filling the two vacancies on his coaching staff, though an announcement does not appear imminent as Muschamp and his staff ramp up recruiting efforts.
The most important date on the calendar right now is Feb. 5, National Signing Day.
Muschamp made clear his intentions after Saturday's loss.
"You roll your sleeves up and you go to work. That’s bottom line,'' he said. "That’s all you can do. You can be a great leader, great motivator for your team and your organization. That’s what you do."
Muschamp said he plans to explore schematic changes to the offense after the Gators finished last in the SEC in scoring offense (18.8 points per game) and total offense (316.7 yards per game).
Florida finished second in total defense (314.2 ypg) despite losing senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley, the unit's emotional leader, to a knee injury after the third game. Still, big plays dropped off for the defense with only 10 interceptions compared to 20 in 2012.
"We have a lot of people coming back,'' redshirt junior safety Cody Riggs said. "If anything, it makes it easier to focus on next year. It’s not like you are on a high coming off a great season. A lot of things didn’t go our way."
While there are no quick fixes, Muschamp will start by looking in the mirror. He said he is confident in the talent returning and the key is putting the players in better situations.
"I think obviously the first person you look at is yourself," he said. "That’s what you’ve got to be able to do and see where we are. I think as a coach, you’ve got to do what your players can do. That’s something I’m looking at."
TAKING THEIR TURN
The Gators finished with their first losing record since 1979. The program's only other non-winning season the past 34 years was in 1987 when Florida finished 6-6 after losing to Florida State and UCLA in the Aloha Bowl to end the season.
How impressive was the streak? Consider that no other SEC program during that span suffered less than four losing seasons:
School Losing seasons Last time
Florida 1 2013 (4-8)
Georgia 4 2010 (6-7)
Alabama 5 2006 (6-7)
Texas A&M 6 2009 (6-7)
Auburn 7 2012 (3-9)
Tennessee 8 2013 (5-7)
Arkansas 10 2013 (3-9)
LSU 10 1999 (3-8)
South Carolina 13 2003 (5-7)
Ole Miss 17 2011 (2-10)
Mississippi State 19 2009 (5-7)
Missouri 20 2012 (5-7)
Kentucky 23 2013 (2-10)
Vanderbilt 30 2011 (6-7)
The Gators honored 15 seniors on Saturday during Senior Day, including seven in the staring lineup against FSU: offensive linemen Jon Halapio and Jon Harrison, receivers Trey Burton and Solomon Patton, defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, linebacker Darrin Kitchens and defensive back Jaylen Watkins.
Cody Adams, Jeremy Brown, David Campbell, Tim Clark, Kyle Koehne, Brad Phillips, Christian Provancha and Easley were also honored.
"I told them in the locker room that I appreciate their contributions to the University of Florida,'' Muschamp said. "We’re a much better football team right now than we were our first season, regardless of what the record is.
"Those guys have persevered through some tough times and certainly this season being the iceberg of it all. But they continued to hang in there and represent us in a first-class manner."
A behind-the-scenes look at the Gators during their loss to Florida State to close the regular season ...
Prior to this season, the last time the Gators started three quarterbacks in the same season was 1997. When you finish 10-2 and beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl like the Gators did that season, history terms it the mad genius of former UF coach Steve Spurrier.
But when you have to do it out of necessity, such as 1979 and 2013, historians call it something else.
Florida quarterbacks Jeff Driskel (three starts), Tyler Murphy (six starts) and Skyler Mornhinweg (three starts) each started multiple games, the first time that has happened at UF since the infamous 0-10-1 season in 1979.
That season, quarterbacks Johnell Brown, Tim Groves, Larry Ochab and Tyrone Young all took turns in Charley Pell's first season.
In a fitting end to the season, Mornhinweg apologized Saturday for being late to his media session due to receiving treatment for an injury in the FSU game.
Driskel's season ended against Tennessee due to a broken fibula and Murphy missed the last three games with an injured shoulder.
If nothing else, Muschamp can take solace in a more experienced battle in spring practice.
"It will be an open competition," Muschamp said. "Certainly getting Jeff and Tyler back will be a shot in the arm for us. I’m looking forward to that."
If one preseason storyline came back to haunt the Gators, it was that the loss of kicker Caleb Sturgis would be a difficult one to overcome.
Was it ever.
Hardin (photo), considered the frontrunner to replace Sturgis, struggled the most. He was 0-for-5 on kicks of 40 to 49 yards and never looked confident. The trio of Austin Hardin (4-for-12), Frankie Velez (6-for-8) and Phillips (2-for-2) missed 10 field goals. Meanwhile, Florida's opponents made 22 of 23 for a 30-point advantage in the kicking game.
"We certainly need to fix that,'' Muschamp said. "He’s going to work through it. No different than any other position. You’ve got to coach them through it and help them improve and get better."
BY THE NUMBERS
5 -- Players who started every game this season (offensive linemen Max Garcia and Harrison, receiver Quinton Dunbar, defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. and Riggs)
29 -- Players to miss at least half a game due to injury
15 -- Players to suffer season-ending injuries (LB Alex Anzalone, WR/KR Andre Debose, OL Chaz Green, OL D.J. Humphries, RB Matt Jones, OL Tyler Moore, LB Jeremi Powell, LB Michael Taylor, LB Matt Rolin, TE Colin Thompson, CB Nick Washington, LB Antonio Morrison, Driskel, Easley and Murphy)
11 -- Pass breakups for freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, tied for most in school history for a true freshman (Janoris Jenkins, 2008)
148 -- Receptions by Florida's wide receivers, 81 more than in 2012
28 -- Consecutive games with a reception for Dunbar, who broke the previous school record of 25 held by Carlos Alvarez from 1969-71
6 -- Touchdown receptions for Patton, tied for eighth in the SEC and the most for a UF player since Riley Cooper had nine in 2009
43 -- Career starts for Halapio, most of any player on the roster
5 -- Games in which freshman RB Kelvin Taylor led Gators in rushing. He finished with 508 yards on season, second behind redshirt junior Mack Brown (543 yards)
91-52 -- Combined record of UF's opponents (.636 win percentage)
19 -- Sacks by Gators, 11 fewer than 2012 and the fewest in Muschamp's three seasons
42.0 -- Average yards per punt for freshman Johnny Townsend, who replaced Kyle Christy (39.6) at midseason
THE QUOTE FILE
QUOTE OF NOTE I
"The toughest thing for me has been the psychological disposition of your football team. I never had any issue with the effort we played with. We could have played with more of an edge at times." -- Muschamp on difficulty of so many injuries
QUOTE OF NOTE II
"A lot of guys are humbled. They are going to get back to work. I have no doubt in them.'' -- Burton on outlook for next season
QUOTE OF NOTE III
"If you don’t have the injuries with Matt, maybe he doesn’t get as many snaps. So now he’s been a guy that has been in the FSU game, a part of those games now. It develops depth on your team. If there is a positive, that’s a positive that you have.'' -- Muschamp on K. Taylor's emergence
Just accepted my invite to the senior bowl! So thankful #blessed— Jaylen Watkins (@jwat14) December 2, 2013
@Jhalapio67 congrats bro!!!!!! I'm glad I ain't going by myself!— Jaylen Watkins (@jwat14) December 3, 2013
The Gators will hold their team banquet later this month and dish out official team awards. For the record, I don't have a say.
However, if I did, here would be my picks:
Offensive MVP: Patton (photo, right) -- The senior receiver proved an effective playmaker in his final season, leading the team with 44 catches for 556 yards. He had a pair of games with two touchdown catches, the first player since Chad Jackson in 2005 to have multiple games with two or more touchdown catches.
Defensive MVP: Easley -- He played only a quarter of a season, but you could make a strong argument the loss of Easley impacted Florida as much as the loss of any one player to any team in the country. He was playing at an All-American level when he got hurt.
Newcomer of Year: Hargreaves III -- He picked off three passes early in the season to signal his arrival. While teams picked on Hargreaves as the season progressed, he has the skills to be an elite cornerback by the time his UF career is complete.
Most Improved Player: Patton -- He had eight career catches in his first three seasons and spent the summer working on his route running. The work paid off and made the thought of the Gators without Patton a scary one.
Special Teams Player of Year: Patton -- He averaged 29.2 yards per kickoff return, which led the SEC among players with 20 or more kickoff returns. He offset the loss of Debose as a kick returner, including a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Missouri.