SEC: Kelvin Taylor

Florida season review

December, 16, 2014
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Florida's 2014 season didn't exactly live up to the preseason hype. The arrival of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper brought excitement, but the offense never really got off the ground, and head coach Will Muschamp was fired before the end of the Gators' disappointing 6-5 regular season.

The Gators owned one of the SEC's best defenses, but ranked near the bottom of the league in passing (180.7 yards per game) and total offense (370.2). The Gators averaged just 269.8 yards in their five losses. This should have been a much different year for the Gators, but the offense never really took off, and Florida suffered some ugly losses along the way. There was the blowout at Alabama, a last-second lost to an LSU team that rallied in the Swamp, getting thrashed by Missouri on Homecoming, and an ugly overtime loss at home to South Carolina. The Gators lost three games at home, and will be handing over the keys to the Swamp to former Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain soon.

Best win: That would have to be the Gators’ thunderous 38-20 drubbing of Georgia. Two weeks after that embarrassing loss to Mizzou, the Gators bounced back with new starting quarterback Treon Harris and an ferocious running game to blow out then-No. 11 Georgia. Thanks to some masterful running by the duo of Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones, the Gators piled up 418 rushing yards, averaging 7.0 yards per carry. Harris, in his first start of the season, threw the ball just six times for 27 yards, with a long of 13 yards. The loss eventually knocked the Bulldogs out of the SEC title game.

Worst loss: While the overtime loss to South Carolina eventually cost Muschamp his job, that 42-13 home loss to Mizzou was just awful. It was a night game a week after that heartbreaking loss to LSU, and you would have thought the Gators would have come out with some inspiration. Instead, the special teams completely imploded alongside the offense. Florida allowed two kick returns for touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns, while holding Mizzou to just 119 yards of offense, including 20 passing yards. Florida mustered 283 yards and six turnovers in a shameful Homecoming loss.

Player of year: Florida’s defense was pretty solid all season, and while cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was fantastic yet again, defensive end/linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. was an absolute terror for the Gators. He was one of the league’s best pass-rushers and seemed to be involved on almost every play that was near the line of scrimmage. Fowler, who has declared for the NFL draft and will likely be a first-round pick, led Florida with 12 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries and was second with 5.5 sacks. He was also third on the team with 57 tackles, had 26 solo stops and forced two fumbles.

Breakout player: A year after being a major disappointment as a freshman, Demarcus Robinson was easily the Gators best wide receiver in 2014. Robinson’s 774 yards and seven touchdowns were the most by a Florida receiver since 2009. At one point, Robinson, who finished the regular season with 47 catches and four 100-yard games, was near the top of the SEC in receiving, and really was Florida’s only true go-to receiver all year. He’s still raw and had some inconsistency issues, but Robinson is a great athlete and should only grow as a player if he can stay focused off the field, something that hampered his first season.

Play of year: With the Gators on fourth-and-7 and down 27-20 in overtime to Kentucky at home, the Gators pulled off a miracle of a touchdown pass. There was pre-snap confusion, a play clock that clearly hit double zeros and a fantastic backpedaling catch by Robinson over a Kentucky defender. However, the play never should have happened because quarterback Jeff Driskel didn’t get the snap off before the play clock ran out. However, the refs never saw it and Driskel was able to deliver a beautiful pass to Robinson to the left side of the end zone. The score kept the Gators alive in a thriller they eventually won.

video 2015 outlook: Right now, it’s one of the great unknowns in the SEC. McElwain’s tenure will officially begin after the bowl game, which will be coached by defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. We don’t even know what assistants will stay or go from the previous staff, so Florida truly is an enigma. A lot of talent returns on defense, and there are certainly pieces to work with on offense for such an offensive-minded coach, but it's yet another year of offensive change for the Gators. Is Harris the guy at quarterback, or will redshirt freshman Will Grier get a good crack at it? All we know is that Florida has to have a pulse on offense to compete.
Florida's trip to Birmingham, Alabama, for the aptly named Birmingham Bowl is more than just a trip for one final game, it's about making a good first impression with the new man in charge.

The embattled Gators' end to the 2014 season probably can't come soon enough for fans -- or the players, for that matter -- but it will serve as more than just a way to officially usher out the Will Muschamp era. This is the first major tryout for players in front of new head coach Jim McElwain. More than just pride is on the line for a team looking to get back on track with new leadership taking over at the conclusion of the game.

[+] EnlargeTreon Harris
AP Images/John RaouxNew Florida coach Jim McElwain will surely have his eye on the passing ability of Treon Harris this month.
McElwain won't roam the sidelines on Jan. 3, but he will be in attendance to watch what some of his future players have when the ball is live, especially on the offensive side. That's where most of the pressure is, and that's where most of the improvement has to come from once McElwain starts directing this team during spring practice.

For a team that could return just five starters on offense, Florida's game against East Carolina is an important one for players looking to revamp their careers under a more offensive direction.

Of course, it starts with freshman quarterback Treon Harris, who assumed the starting role in November after veteran Jeff Driskel failed to improve or win games. The young and very green quarterback has shown flashes of special ability here and there, but against better competition, Harris hasn't exactly been a world beater. Maybe that was because of perplexing conservative play calling in key moments, but, honestly, Harris the passer isn't as dangerous as Harris the runner. And if Harris is going to keep the starting job under McElwain's watch, he'll have to get that right arm going in a hurry.

That starts in Birmingham. Harris, who went 3-2 as a starter and threw for 896 yards and seven touchdowns, doesn't have to become an overnight passing sensation against the Pirates, but this is a chance for him to show his new coach some development from a little less than a month of work. The Harris who couldn't hit anyone late against Florida State won't win a starting job in a Jim McElwain offense. But Harris can prove that he's better than that and get a leg up on spring practice before getting a total reboot from the quarterback whisperer.

Then, you look at Florida's young receiving corps and running backs. All of them will be battling for jobs next spring with some veterans departing. Demarcus Robinson is easily the Gators' most talented receiver, but he needs to be more consistent and that will come with some help. This would be a great opportunity for Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson to show something in a meaningful game. The same goes for seniors-to-be Latroy Pittman, who proved to be a safety net at times on third down this fall, and Valdez Showers, who never really found a role in Kurt Roper's offense.

As for running backs, the future definitely begins with Kelvin Taylor and Brandon Powell, who could compliment each other well in McElwain's offense.

Defensively, McElwain will likely just be interested in seeing what he has to work off of in 2015. Being an offensive guy, he probably won't spend extensive time on the other side, but when you're a new, offensive-minded coach playing to your strengths, it's good to know what chances you can and can't take because of the guys lining up on the other side. And with Florida possibly returning seven defensive starters, McElwain will have a little buffer to start with.

This game isn't the end all when it comes to impressing McElwain. Everything will change once he implements his plan, but the bowl game will provide McElwain with some good intel on the team he'll have once he's officially handed the keys to the program, and it's much better to start on the new boss' good side.

State of the team: Florida

December, 5, 2014
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Florida hasn't exactly been the titan of college football that we were used to seeing in the not-so-distant past, and the better part of the past four years hasn't been great for the Gators. The firing of Will Muschamp, who went 10-13 in his last two seasons, brings new order to Gainesville. That order starts with former Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, who will be working with a lot more than Muschamp first started with:

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Rob Foldy/Getty ImagesQuarterback Jeff Driskel's future is uncertain as Florida brings in a new coaching staff.
Offense: The Gators have lacked any sort of substantial production at the quarterback spot, but could return as many as three quarterbacks with collegiate experience in Treon Harris, Skyler Mornhinweg and Jeff Driskel. Driskel is an interesting piece to the puzzle, because with an extra year of eligibility, he could transfer or pursue a Major League Baseball career. There is also redshirt freshman Will Grier, who arrived at Florida as the No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school, according to ESPN's RecruitingNation. With Matt Jones declaring for the NFL draft and Mack Brown graduating, Florida returns junior-to-be Kelvin Taylor and sophomores-to-be Brandon Powell and Adam Lane. Taylor improved drastically from his freshman season, rushing for 565 yards and six touchdowns. Powell made an impact at both running back and as a receiver, and Lane should see an increased role at running back. Receiver needs a lot of development. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (team-high 47 catches for 774 yards and seven touchdowns) is Florida's best offensive weapon, but he has to be more consistent, and he needs help. Youngsters Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson have potential, but neither made much of an impact this season. Florida will lose senior Quinton Dunbar, the Gators second-most productive receiver, and will have to see vast improvement from freshmen C.J. Worton, Ryan Sousa and Alvin Bailey. The offensive line takes a big hit, losing seniors Trenton Brown, Max Garcia and Chaz Green, and junior Tyler Moore, who declared for the NFL draft. Junior D.J. Humphries is also contemplating an early move to the NFL. Guys like Roderick Johnson, David Sharpe and Trip Thurman return with adequate experience from this season, but Florida's depth is lacking.

Defense: Florida's secondary returns the most talent for McElwain's staff to work with. The Gators only lose senior safety Jabari Gorman, but return a solid contingent of cover cornerbacks in Vernon Hargreaves III, Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson. Sophomore Keanu Neal returns as the Gators' top safety, and freshman Duke Dawson can play safety and cornerback. Marcus Maye and Brian Poole, who improved greatly this season, return to the nickel spot. Expect to see more from redshirt freshmen Marcell Harris, a special teams beast, and Nick Washington. Also, true freshman J.C. Jackson returns from a season-ending shoulder injury. The Gators lose seniors Neiron Ball and Michael Taylor, but could return senior-to-be Antonio Morrison, who is coming off his best season with the Gators and is considering a jump to the NFL. Florida returns good depth, starting with sophomores Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone. Redshirt freshman Matt Rolin could also have a bigger impact on the defense next fall. The defensive line will lose the defense's best player in end Dante Fowler Jr., along with starting nose tackle Darious Cummings, but could return junior tackle Jonathan Bullard, who is also flirting with the NFL. Ends Alex McCalister and Bryan Cox Jr. have the potential for bright futures, as do young tackles Caleb Brantley and Joey Ivie.

Special teams: The Gators went back and forth with their kickers, but lose senior Francisco Velez, who hit 12 of 14 field goals this fall. That means sophomore Austin Hardin (7 of 10), who finished the season as the starter, will have all eyes on him. Incredibly efficient punter Kyle Christy will be gone, but Johnny Townsend returns after starting ahead of Christy in 2013. Finding a return man to replace Andre Debose won't be easy. He had four kickoff returns for touchdowns and one punt return for a touchdown in his career.

Fan base: Gator Nation isn't happy. There was a toxic atmosphere within the fan base for the past couple of seasons because the product on the field just wasn't adequate. Is this fan base excited about McElwain's hire? That is to be determined, but fans have to be happy about the prospect of having some sort of real offensive pulse going forward. Obviously, fans want wins, and the Gators didn't deliver enough of those during Muschamp's tenure. These fans also want a competent offense, and that was clear when there wasn't a ton of buzz around the program during an 11-win 2012 season that featured a run-heavy, defensive Florida team.

Administrative support: Athletic director Jeremy Foley is one of the most loyal athletic directors out there. He stuck with Muschamp after an embarrassing 4-8 season for crying out loud. But he also knew exactly the direction his program needed to go in 2014, and it never went the right way. Foley isn't afraid to stand up for his coaches publicly, and he's always willing to work with his coaches to find ways to improve everything around them. He's one of the smartest athletic directors around, and Florida's athletic program isn't short for cash. The program has been incredibly successful under Foley's watch, and he will make sure his new coach is taken care of and put on the right path for success.

Recruiting: Florida's current recruiting class only holds nine players. Four are offensive linemen, who have to stay committed to the Gators going forward because of how thin that line will be in 2015. Two of those linemen -- Mike Horton and George Brown Jr. -- have visited other schools. The Gators also only have a couple of offensive skill players committed. Dual-threat quarterback Sheriron Jones is committed and will have to see if he works within McElwain's offense. McElwain has to snag some solid offensive talent to help the Gators in 2015, because Florida has somehow failed to sign elite offensive talent for years now. With Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris taking the SMU job, the Gators could get in on Clemson athlete commits Deon Cain and Ray Ray-Ray McCloud III, who have interest in Florida. Miami running back commit Dexter Williams has flirted with Florida before, and his family likes what Florida has to offer, so keep an eye on him. Uncommitted five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey is still high on the Gators, and Florida is still looking at receiver Antonio Callaway, who was a teammate of Treon Harris' at Booker T. Washington High. Defensive ends CeCe Jefferson and Byron Cowart are also high priorities for McElwain.
Since late October, Tuesday has been reserved for speculation and anticipation over the release of the College Football Playoff rankings. But not this week.

Michigan reluctantly takes center stage hours before the committee releases its sixth set of rankings.

Next week, the four-team playoff will be set. If things fall right Friday and Saturday in each of the Power 5 leagues, next Tuesday could be epic.

TCU or Baylor? Will Ohio State remain a factor? The debate alone over the order of the top four, which determine the semifinal matchups, will make it a day like no other in college football history.

Sadly, though, we’ve seen plenty of days like this Tuesday.

SEC viewer's guide: Week 11

November, 7, 2014
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Is Alabama ripe for an upset in Death Valley? Can Texas A&M and Georgia regroup? Will Florida keep it going after last week's surprising win over Georgia? We'll learn the answers to those questions this weekend around the SEC.

Here's an advance look at Saturday's slate. All times Eastern.

Noon

[+] EnlargeJarrad Davis, Neiron Ball
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThe Gators will look to build off their win over rival Georgia.
Presbyterian at No. 11 Ole Miss, SEC Network: The Rebels are smarting after losing two in a row and plummeting from their No. 3 ranking of just a couple of weeks ago. They'll have to regroup without star receiver Laquon Treadwell, who suffered a season-ending leg injury late in last week's loss to Auburn. This is a good time to do that, with key games against Arkansas and Mississippi State still to play. Presbyterian is a fine FCS program, but the Blue Hose lost by a combined 97-3 margin to FBS programs Northern Illinois and N.C. State earlier this season.

No. 20 Georgia at Kentucky, ESPN: Georgia had a clear path to the SEC East title before its face-plant last week against Florida. Not only did the Bulldogs lose to a program that was flatlining, but they were beaten handily. Kentucky has lost three straight and seems to be in the middle of a late-season fade after getting off to a 5-1 start, but Georgia frequently struggles in Lexington. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if this game remains close in the second half.

3:30 p.m.

Texas A&M at No. 3 Auburn, CBS: In the last month, some of the shine has come off of Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin's diamond. The Aggies started October ranked sixth in the Associated Press Top 25 before a three-game losing streak dropped them all the way out of the poll. Thanks to their recent offensive struggles and underwhelming defense, they're a three-touchdown underdog as they travel to Auburn. Sumlin could prove a lot about his leadership skills by pulling the upset -- or even keeping this one competitive. They have the offensive firepower to give Auburn's defense problems, but freshman quarterback Kyle Allen still has a long way to go.

4 p.m.

Tennessee-Martin at No. 1 Mississippi State, SEC Network: This is another well-timed FCS game. The Bulldogs limped past Arkansas 17-10 last weekend when Will Redmond picked off a pass at the goal line in the closing seconds. This will be a good opportunity to rest up in advance of a closing stretch that features road games at Alabama (where Mississippi State almost never wins) and Ole Miss (home-field advantage is typically a big deal in the Egg Bowl). The Bulldogs need to be as close to 100 percent as possible to retain that No. 1 ranking.

7:30 p.m.

Florida at Vanderbilt, SEC Network: Florida and Vandy both cruised to wins last week. The Gators' win came against then-No. 11 Georgia and the Commodores' victory was over Old Dominion, which is in its first true season as an FBS program. Florida ran straight over Mark Richt's Bulldogs, providing a rare happy moment for embattled coach Will Muschamp. Surely the Gators will try to turn this trip into the second installment of the Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor Show. Vandy has played better since redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary took over at quarterback -- he tossed five touchdowns last week against ODU -- but the Commodores are still underdogs to notch their first SEC victory.

8 p.m.

No. 5 Alabama at No. 16 LSU, CBS: The conference's marquee game comes Saturday night at Tiger Stadium, where meetings between Nick Saban's Crimson Tide and Les Miles' Tigers have all become instant classics. Alabama has won two of those three meetings in Baton Rouge -- and three straight in the series -- so it enters as the favorite. However, LSU's young roster has finally seemed to settle into place as the Tigers ride a three-game winning streak. If they can move the ball effectively on the ground against Alabama's SEC-best run defense, this could be another memorable installment in the series.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- How shocking was Georgia's defensive performance in Saturday's 38-20 loss to Florida?

The Bulldogs were so inept in giving up 418 yards rushing that defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt felt compelled to speak to the media after a game for the first time all season.

“I hadn’t been doing the media deal,” he told reporters outside Georgia’s locker room inside EverBank Field. “But you play like that and you need to come out here and look everybody in the eye and tell it like it is.”

He did.

[+] EnlargeMatt Jones
AP Photo/John RaouxFlorida's Matt Jones rushed for 192 yards against Georgia, and he wasn't even his team's leading rusher.
Pruitt didn't hold back in criticizing his defense after it gave up the most rushing yards in Georgia history since yielding 430 to Auburn in 1978.

Time after time on Saturday, Florida gave the ball to tailbacks Kelvin Taylor (197 yards and two TDs) and Matt Jones (192 yards, two TDs). Time after time, Georgia failed to get off blocks, take precise routes to the ball or tackle properly.

“They lined up and gave us a good ole butt-whipping," Pruitt said. "They run the power and the zone, things you see every day in practice.

"For four days, we probably had the best four days of practice that we’ve had all year. It’s a good learning lesson for us, because four days of practice doesn’t mean you’re going to play good on Saturday. You’ve got to bring the juice, and we didn’t bring it today. Florida did."

Head coach Mark Richt offered the same blunt assessment, saying, "They physically whipped us. That’s probably the best description that I can give you."

The obvious question for Pruitt, since he volunteered to take questions, was "How?"

The Bulldogs came into Saturday's game giving up an average of 105.1 yards a game -- good enough to rank second in the SEC.

Florida, on the other hand, came into the game ranked 96th in the nation and 11th in the SEC in total offense, averaging 368.0 yards. The Gators had the league's eighth-best rushing offense, averaging 169.5 yards a game.

"It’s a choice," Pruitt said three times for emphasis. "It’s a choice each individual has to make. ... People try to impose their will on the other team. Today they imposed their will on us."

There were few answers.

"We didn’t play well up front. We didn’t rotate well in the secondary," cornerback Damian Swann said. "And that’s what happens when you play a team that can run the ball very well."

Richt wore the disappointment plainly on his face. He and his coaches, the fans and the media -- everyone -- knew Florida's game plan would rely on the run game. True freshman quarterback Treon Harris was making his first start, and the wind was gusting up to 40 mph.

Harris finished with just three completions on six attempts for 27 yards.

“They didn’t have to really take many chances," Richt said. "They were able to keep the ball on the ground. ...

"We never put them in a position where they had to throw the ball, quite frankly, so I don’t blame them for only throwing it six times."

Even with a limited playbook, Florida found a way to flourish. Entering the game, the Gators had 64 plays of 10 yards or more on the season, second-fewest in the FBS. On Saturday, they had 16.

There was plenty of blame to go around on Saturday, and Pruitt promised to go back to basics in practice.

“We’re still dealing with 18- to 21-year-olds," he said. "You’ve got to keep the hammer down at all times. You can’t ever get comfortable.

"The big thing that we’ve got to do is first probably just give Florida credit. They whipped our tail today. They outcoached us. They outplayed us, all right?

"Ain’t nothing we can do but go back and look at it and fix it. And we’ve got to do it together."

SEC helmet stickers: Week 10

November, 2, 2014
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Saturday's SEC games were loaded with players who deserved helmet stickers, including Arkansas' Hunter Henry (seven catches for 110 yards) and Ole Miss' Bo Wallace (341 passing yards, 2 TDs, 61 rushing yards, TD) in losing causes.

We should also mention the impacts that Mississippi State defensive back Will Redmond (intercepted a pass at the goal line in the closing seconds to preserve a 17-10 win over Arkansas), Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett (notched 3.5 sacks to bring his season total to 11, a new record for SEC freshmen) and Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary (matched a school record with five touchdown passes) made on their teams' respective wins, but we can only make five sticker picks.

Here are our choices from another memorable Saturday in college football's toughest conference:

QB Nick Marshall, Auburn: We easily could have gone with running back Cameron Artis-Payne (27 carries, 143 yards, TD) or receiver Sammie Coates (five catches, 122 yards, TD), but we'll take Marshall. The senior coolly led the Tigers back from a 10-point deficit in the second half by repeatedly converting on third down (the Tigers were 5-for-7 in the second half) against No. 4 Ole Miss. Marshall led the No. 3 Tigers to a huge SEC win by completing 15 of 22 passes for 254 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and rushing for 50 yards and two scores.

QB Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee: Making his first start of the season, the sophomore helped Tennessee rally from a two-touchdown deficit in the last five minutes of regulation and then beat South Carolina 45-42 in overtime. Dobbs set a new single-game school record for rushing yards by a quarterback (166 yards, including touchdowns of 7, 36 and 3 yards) and passed for 301 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He hit Jason Croom with a 9-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

WR Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina: Normally we wouldn't hand a helmet sticker to a guy on a losing team, but Cooper can't play defense, too. He caught 11 passes for a school-record 233 yards and touchdowns of 12 and 85 yards. He ran for an 11-yard score. He tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Wilds. And he even recovered a late onside kick. South Carolina surrendered 645 yards to Tennessee, which obviously put a damper on the evening for the Gamecocks, but Cooper was simply phenomenal.

Florida's running game: We're not just giving stickers to running backs Kelvin Taylor (25 carries for 197 yards and touchdowns of 2 and 65 yards) and Matt Jones (25 carries for 192 yards and touchdowns of 44 and 1 yards) in Saturday's 38-20 rout of No. 11 Georgia. Florida's offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, helping their tailback tandem roll up most of the Gators' 60 rushing attempts for 418 yards. Only one opponent (Auburn with 430 yards in 1978) has ever run for more yards against a Georgia defense. Everyone involved with Florida's running game deserves recognition after Saturday's upset win.

DE Shane Ray, Missouri: The Tigers' offense was slightly improved in Saturday's 20-10 win against Kentucky, but the day belonged to Ray and the defense. Ray notched a pair of sacks -- including a fourth-down sack of Patrick Towles on Kentucky's final play -- to raise his season total to 12. In the process, he broke Missouri's single-season record of 11.5 sacks previously held by Aldon Smith and Michael Sam.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The hugs started late in the fourth quarter as Will Muschamp made his rounds on Florida's sideline.

The winning sideline.

In the Florida-Georgia game.

It was the first time Muschamp had tasted victory in eight tries in the series -- four losses as a safety for Georgia and three losses as coach of the Gators.

Saturday, as the clock ticked down on Florida's surprising 38-20 win against the No. 11 Bulldogs and the sunset turned the sky into a mix of burnt orange and darkening blue, Muschamp's thoughts turned to his father, Larry, who passed away in May.

"I’m just really happy," he said choking back obviously deep emotions. "Wish my father was here."

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
AP Photo/Stephen B. MortonWill Muschamp's Gators stopped a two-game losing streak with a big win over Georgia on Saturday.
 When the game ended, the celebration was in full effect.

Two straight losses leading into this game had turned up the heat on Florida (4-3, 3-3 in SEC) and had incinerated Muschamp's hot seat.

The players rejoiced as if they had won a bowl game. They danced and jumped into the stands to pose for photos with fans.

Muschamp videobombed running backs Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones at the end of their postgame TV interview before joining a throng of Gators singing the alma mater in a corner of the stadium.

It was a stark contrast to the end of Florida's last game, a dismal 42-13 homecoming-game drubbing at the hands of Missouri. After that game, the team was criticized for having only two players sing the alma mater with fans.

There was a spirited celebration in the locker room. No one held back the emotions that had been brewing and finally boiled over in Florida's first truly well-played game since the 2012 season.

"Aw man, we was in there turned up to the max!" said Taylor, the player of the game with 197 yards rushing and two touchdowns. "Coach, everybody was in there having a great time. We were just so excited, man."

Then Muschamp, his hair a bit disheveled, headed to a conference room to share his thoughts with the media.

He started by saying, "Let me lift this thing off my back" while motioning to what one could only assume was the 400-pound gorilla that was his 0-7 record in the Florida-Georgia game before Saturday night. "One less thing for you to write about."

His demeanor was a mix of relief after the removal of a heavy burden and defiance against what had been a mountain of criticism.

"Hold on," he said to a reporter near the end of his opening statement. "I've been waiting a long time for this. You can put your hand down. I can tell ya, I'm going to sit and enjoy this for a second.

"I’m just extremely proud of our players. Really am. And I’m really happy for our fans. The Gator Nation gets to sit and enjoy that. It was great to see our side [of the stadium] still full at the end. For our fans to be able to enjoy and bask in that, I’m really happy for them as well, and I appreciate their support."

These are the same fans, mind you, who chanted, "Fire Muschamp," during Florida's last game, the same ones who send him their frustrations via email and openly discuss candidates to replace him.

Before Saturday's win, Florida had lost 10 of its past 13 games dating back to last year's 4-8 season Those struggles erased the luster of Muschamp's once-rising star.

  Winning, even if it was one game, was enough to put the embattled coach in the perfect mood to make light of his situation with reporters.

"I’m happy to win it," he said of the rivalry game that had so jinxed him for decades. "It feels a lot better than the other side.

"I don’t think they’re going induct me into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame or anything. I'm sure I’m on the ballot now."

The reality is that a whole lot of people felt Saturday's game might have been Muschamp's last had Florida lost.

The players weren't immune to hearing it, which is why Jones said, "We needed a win for him." And Taylor said the Gators "had to play their hearts out for Coach."

Muschamp's message after the Missouri game was for the players to take a long, hard look in the mirror. On Saturday, they said their efforts were a testimonial to the coach they so badly want to stay.

"Just to get people off his back -- as a player, that's what you want to do," senior center Max Garcia said, " because sometimes we feel like it's our fault that he's in the position that's he's in."

With a win over Georgia, Muschamp's position just got a whole lot better.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Can the SEC East get any more wacky?

Florida, a double-digit underdog, beat No. 11 Georgia 38-20 on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak in the border rivalry and has found new life in the division race.

Florida (4-3, 3-3 in the SEC) had nothing to lose and played like it. Georgia (6-2, 4-2) came in looking like one of the nation's best one-loss teams and was the favorite to represent the division in the SEC championship game in a few weeks.

Here's a quick look at how this one turned into a surprising rout:

How the game was won: Momentum turned early when Florida faked a field-goal attempt on its first drive of the second quarter, as holder Michael McNeely ran through a surprised UGA defense for a 21-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7. The Gators built an insurmountable 31-7 lead with a devastating one-two punch at running back that gutted what had been the SEC's second-best run defense.

Game ball goes to: Tailbacks Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones tore through a Georgia defense that routinely stacked the box with eight defenders. Taylor starred in a first half that was highlighted by his career-best 44-yard run. He notched his first career 100-yard game on the first play of the second half and set a new career best with a 65-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Taylor finished with a career-high 197 yards and two TDs. Jones took over with more than 100 yards in the second half, including a 44-yard touchdown run of his own. He finished with a career game as well, rushing for 192 yards and two TDs.

What it means: It looked like the Bulldogs had a commanding lead in the SEC East division race, but that is now gone. Missouri is on top with a two-game lead and a tiebreaker over the Gators, but the Tigers have to play three more league games. Florida's tiebreaker against Georgia could still be a factor.

Playoff implication: Georgia's chances of making the College Football Playoff were buried by the arch rival Gators, as the SEC East lost its only possible contender.

What's next: Georgia will look to regroup at Kentucky next Saturday, while Florida travels to Vanderbilt with a new lease on both its season and perhaps coach Will Muschamp's job.

How Tennessee can hang with Oklahoma 

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
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Trevor KnightKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsThe Vols would be wise to blitz QB Trevor Knight and force OU to rely heavily on the passing game.
Tennessee has held steady at most Vegas books as a three-touchdown underdog Saturday at Oklahoma. It would clearly be a significant, ahead-of-schedule upset if the Volunteers were to win in Norman, Oklahoma.

Even UT coach Butch Jones was aware this week of Bob Stoops’ 88-5 home record. (I tried to be comforting, reminding Jones that three of the five losses have come since 2011.)

But c'mon, we've learned enough about college football to know that the unexpected is to be expected. Week 3 looks on paper like a dud, so naturally it will provide indelible games and impactful results. That’s how it goes.

For Tennessee, here's the game plan that can, at minimum, keep the Vols hanging around in the second half on the road against the Oklahoma Sooners.

Knight under center



Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight is the central character, after talking with Big 12 and SEC coaches about the game.

If Tennessee has designs on winning, or at least staying in the game, it needs to do the following where Knight is concerned:

Hit him: “Knight doesn’t like [to be hit],” a Big 12 coach told me. “He didn’t finish some games last year.”

Let’s be clear: No one is advocating trying to injure a player, not at all, but it’s significant to note that coaches still aren’t sold on Knight’s durability.

We know Knight became a darling after the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama -- but he could not finish the previous game against Oklahoma State. Backup Blake Bell entered and bailed out the Sooners with a late TD drive, the only offensive TD of the game for OU.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The true measure of any recruiting class' worth isn't fully realized until a couple of years down the road. Regardless of the hype and golden stars racked up before signing day, getting the most out of a class takes time.

[+] EnlargeKelvin Taylor
AP Photo/Stephen MortonRunning back Kelvin Taylor and the rest of the Florida Gators' underclassmen are looking to rebound from a 4-8 season in 2013.
For Florida, that time might have to be now for its 2013 class following last season's 4-8 debacle. It's a class that ESPN's RecruitingNation ranked second nationally with its 30 signees and 16 ESPN 300 members and held the nation's best high school cornerback -- Vernon Hargreaves III -- and running back -- Kelvin Taylor. It grabbed a potential game-changing receiver in Demarcus Robinson and 12 players who ranked within the top 10 at their respective positions.

The Gators will certainly need a lot from their upperclassmen, but the 2013 class could hold the key to Florida's present -- not just its future -- especially after a handful of its members were thrown into the SEC fire last season.

"We knew we wanted to come in and make an impact," said sophomore receiver Ahmad Fulwood, who caught 16 of his 17 passes in the final seven games of last season. "Not necessarily take someone's position or anything out of the ordinary, but we knew we had to come in and make an impact as a class and that's pretty much what we did."

For the most part, this class was mainly constructed of a group of contributors last season, with Hargreaves and Taylor being the headliners. Hargreaves was a third-team All-American member and ended up being one of the nation's best corners, leading the Gators with three interceptions and ranking third in the SEC with 14 passes defended. Taylor was a freshman All-SEC selection after rushing for 508 yards and four touchdowns.

Eleven members of the class lettered last season and collected 22 combined starts. With the majority of the class redshirting, even more is expected from this group, but players don't feel any added pressure. They don't mind the added responsibility.

"I feel like the guys who the coaches are looking at will definitely be able to step up," sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis said. "They know what to do and they know they're talented."

"These guys are ready to take on that role."

And it isn't just the talent and potential this class contains that has teammates and coaches trusting it. Once players saw injuries piling up, Taylor said the freshmen realized they were going to be counted on more so they started to buckle down with their preparation.

In a year in which this group could have resisted and pushed away from the core group, it grew closer and began to see older players looking up to them. Not even a year removed from high school, and this group was being relied on to help carry the team through some very dark weeks in 2013.

"You were a freshman, but they were depending on you to win games," Taylor said.

The wins didn't come, but resiliency did, redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor said. What impressed him the most was how this group continued to work through an exhausting seven-game losing streak.

"When you face adversity that you'll see in a 4-8 season, those guys kept fighting through all of it -- through the injuries, through the losses," Taylor said. "That's what shows that they have what it takes to take ownership of the team and lead us."

Moving forward, the contributions from this class will only grow. Keanu Neal, Marcell Harris and Nick Washington could be staples in Florida's secondary this year. Following a suspension-filled first year, Robinson has been one of the Gators' best offensive players during the offseason, and Fulwood has been even more consistent and could be a real vertical threat for the offense this fall.

Roderick Johnson is the next tackle in line after vets D.J. Humphries and Chaz Green, while linebacker Alex Anzalone has a chance to see time in Florida's linebacker rotation.

Davis was pegged as an early leader for the Gators last season and is right in the thick of a battle for a starting spot. Joey Ivie and Jay-nard Bostwick are in the early rotation along the defensive line, and Caleb Brantley has the chance to play his way in to as well.

This group has barely scratched the surface, but Taylor said guys are playing faster and thinking less. Last year this class was asked to learn, now, Taylor believes it will lead. Then, well, Taylor expects big things ... soon.

"Our whole mindset was that we were going to come here together and try to win a national title," he said.

"Now that we're so close, like brothers, it's going to be special in the future. We're looking forward to it."
On Sunday, esteemed ACC writer Andrea Adelson wrote a piece talking about how Florida isbehind instate rivals Florida State and Miami -- two teams the Gators lost to in 2013.

While I agree that Florida is behind these two at the moment, Andrea and I had a bit of an argument when it comes to the 2014 season. Even though Florida went an embarrassing 4-8 last year, I think that with an improved offense under new coordinator Kurt Roper and what yet again should be a fierce defense, the Gators will have a better record than Miami, which went 9-4 last fall.

Andrea disagrees, saying Florida's offensive questions and schedule will be too much, while the Canes have a more manageable schedule and a more proven offense.

We decided to take our argument to the public and debate both sides for you all to see:

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Getty ImagesJeff Driskel is back from his 2013 season-ending injury, and he's looking more comfortable in the new Florida offense.
Edward Aschoff: I have to admit, Andrea, your piece on Sunday about the three power schools in the state of Florida was spot on. I agree with everything you wrote, but then came Monday, when our conversation left us in disagreement. You think Miami, which went 9-4 and beat Florida last year, will finish this season with a better record than Florida. I have to disagree. Last year was a disaster of epic proportions in Gainesville, but the Gators lost 15 players to season-ending injuries, including starters such as Jeff Driskel, Matt Jones, Dominique Easley and Chaz Green. Florida won't have the same injury problems this fall, and expect a lot more from this offense with Roper (you know him pretty well) running the spread. I talked to Driskel and his receivers about the offense and they are way more comfortable with Roper's system, and they've been gassing a pretty good defense with the uptempo. The receivers are incredibly confident in the new system, and it's clear this is the offense Driskel was born to run. Florida does play Alabama and LSU from the Western Division, but LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri and Florida State are all games the Gators will play in the state of Florida. Call me crazy, but I think that if this offense figures things out and the defense plays to its potential, Florida has a chance to win nine games in the regular season. Miami? How about eight?

AA: Edward, take the Gator head off and breathe deeply. Nine wins against that schedule? I agree Florida will be better, but it is hard to find more than seven wins given the opponents and all the unknowns on offense. And that is not just coming from me. A few months ago, a Gator fan walked up to me at a speaking engagement here at the Orlando Touchdown Club and said, "I will be so happy if we go 7-5!" How expectations have shifted in state. While it is true I have some doubts about Miami, too, I have two words to counter your argument: Duke Johnson. Miami has him; Florida does not. Maaaaaybe if the Gators had a dynamic skill player, I'd believe you. But they don't. Miami was 7-0 before Johnson got hurt last year -- including a win over the Gators -- and 2-4 without him. Need I go on?

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsFlorida doesn't have a proven skill player on a par with Miami's Duke Johnson.
EA: Gator head? Real original. Remember two names: Kelvin Taylor and Demarcus Robinson. Both sophomores have a chance to be special for the Gators. Taylor is leaner, quicker, faster and stronger. The coaches have raved about his improvements since spring practice began, and he should have no problem being the lead back from the start this year. He isn't as explosive as his father -- All-American Florida back Fred Taylor -- but he's shiftier and will be a real weapon in Roper's offense. As for Robinson, he barely did anything last year, but has finally found his focus. He's a big-play threat in this offense, and the coaches trust in him a lot more right now. He has really come into his own during practice this fall. The folks in Gainesville see him as that playmaker at receiver they have desperately needed. Driskel shouldn't have a problem using them. Speaking of quarterbacks, you suiting up to throw the ball for the Canes?

AA: Miami does have a hole at quarterback, a hole I have pointed out repeatedly (and much to the chagrin of Miami fans). But I don't mean to sound like a broken record here. Talented skill players have this way of making their quarterback look good. Driskel has struggled, in part, because he has had no help. Miami will provide its starter with a plethora of help, from potential 1,000-yard receiver Stacy Coley, to deep threat Phillip Dorsett to tight end Clive Walford. Just to name three. Aside from Johnson, Miami is deep and talented at running back, too, and its offensive line has been solid. I am not going to win any arguments between the Miami D vs the Florida D. Gators have the edge there going away. But a talented (and high-scoring) offense can easily cover up for an average D. Miami has one of the tougher schedules in the ACC with difficult crossover games, just like the Gators. In the Canes' case, it's Florida State and Louisville. They've also got a tough nonconference game at Nebraska. When I look at the schedule, I think Miami has 10 winnable games. Doesn't mean they are going to win all of them, but it means they have a better shot at getting there than Florida.

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EA: I told you to watch out for Robinson and Taylor, but Florida has a few more options at both receiver and running back. I expect veterans Quinton Dunbar and even Andre Debose to make noise in this offense, but really keep an eye on sophomore Ahmad Fulwood. He can stretch the field and is a big boy over the middle. We know about Matt Jones and Mack Brown at running back, but freshman Brandon Powell could be really special. He missed spring but has been blowing up in fall practice. He can do a little bit of everything out of the backfield. Florida will be more competitive using a lot more space in Roper's offense. As for the schedule, it isn't easy. Florida plays six teams ranked in the AP top 25, including No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Alabama on the road. But I'll continue to stress that three of those games are at home and Georgia is in Jacksonville, Florida. An improved offense that can actually take some pressure off the defense can get three wins out of that slate.

AA: Maybe I should tint my glasses rose to match yours. Seriously, though, this debate serves as a reminder that these rivals need to play more often (that is a different debate for a different time). This needs to be settled on the field! The race to chase Florida State is tough to handicap. I don't think Miami is quite back to returning to its past glory, but I do think the Canes have the capability of building on their success from a year ago. Quarterback might look messy now, but coaches have been raving about the maturity and ability true freshman Brad Kaaya brings to the table. The defense looks better so far in preseason camp, and Denzel Perryman could have an All-American type season. If Miami is solid at quarterback and makes improvements on defense, this team will be better than Florida. Again.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Andre Debose took a look at the interview table that was set up with his name in front of an empty seat and leapt over it in one great bound.

For an audience of journalists gathered for media day, hours before the Gators opened preseason camp, there was no better way for the Florida wide receiver to show, not tell, everyone that he was completely healthy.

"I'm feeling great!" he said. "I'm feeling real good."

[+] EnlargeAndre Debose
AP Photo/John RaouxAndre Debose said he's pleased to be back in the spread offense again at Florida.
Almost one year ago to the day, Debose tore his ACL in one of Florida's first fall practices. He missed the entire season and was later granted a sixth year of eligibility.

Debose's injury was one of several that contributed to something of a doomed feeling heading into the 2013 season, according to players like running back Kelvin Taylor.

“Everybody kept falling, kept going down," Taylor said. "Just lots of frustration and we got some of our key players going down. When Debose went down it was like, 'Dang, man. One of our captains went down.'"

Always a tantalizing talent with a bright smile and personality, Debose has been an enigma throughout a career that started back in 2009 with Urban Meyer calling him "the next Percy Harvin."

Debose has rarely lived up to that sort of hype. He's seemingly had more injuries than big games, but did lead Florida in receiving yards in 2011 and owns the school record with four kickoff-return touchdowns (also tied for the SEC record).

"We missed his playmaking ability last year," coach Will Muschamp admitted.

This year, Debose's return is one of Muschamp's reasons for excitement in a pressure-packed, make-or-break season.

The coach has high hopes for Debose, whom he says is a better fit in Florida's reinvented offense. The Gators plan to use the 5-foot-11, 189-pound Debose out wide, in the slot and will even get the ball in his hands on speed sweeps.

Debose couldn't be happier. He's returning to the type of offense that once made him the No. 2 high school wide receiver prospect in the country.

"Great offense," he said. "I love the spread. This is what I was originally recruited for here at Florida.

"This is exactly what I did in high school."

Many of his high school peers have long since left college. Some of his fellow top prospects are playing in the NFL. Debose, though, is back with a second shot at a last impression.

Perspective has been easy to come by.

Time has matured Debose, once scorned by his coaches for questionable focus and work habits. His journey has transformed him from a puerile high school star to a 23-year-old man with one last kick at the can.

"I'm definitely not the same person I was five years ago when I was sitting in this same chair," he said. "I've had a lot of humbling experience with these injuries, so I've had a lot of time to sit back and just think and reflect on everything that's happened in my career."

With a clean slate, a new offense and a clean bill of health, Debose was clearly one of the Gators most excited to start a fresh season.

"Oh, I'm very optimistic," he said. "I haven't been this anxious to play in Lord knows how long."

There was one more thing that gave Debose a spring in his step on media day -- he was just a few days from graduating.

"It feels amazing," he said. "I started something and I finally finished it. ...

"I know that I've been through a lot, been through a lot of ups and downs, seen this team be successful and unsuccessful. It's definitely going to be a great experience just to walk off that stage and know that I'm done with the school part."

Next on Debose's college bucket list -- one last chance to pen the final chapter of his playing career.

SEC 1,000-yard rushers for 2014

August, 12, 2014
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On Monday, we checked out the SEC quarterbacks who could hit the 3,000-yard passing mark in 2014. After so many good quarterbacks left the league after the 2013 season, I went with four making it to 3,000.

Next up, we're looking at the folks who like running the ball. This is where the SEC could really strike gold this fall. There are a plethora of talented running backs returning in 2014 who could really wear down some of those stout defensive fronts around the league.

Last year, eight players (including a quarterback) rushed for at least 1,000 yards:
The league lost four of those players, but it shouldn't have a problem replacing them. As for how many players will hit the 1,000-yard mark in 2014, I'm going with nine. Here are the 14 who I think could reach 1,000 yards:

1. Todd Gurley, Georgia: Even with the nagging injuries he's dealt with in his past, Gurley enters the 2014 as arguably the nation's best running back. After sitting out a month last season, Gurley still rushed for 989 yards and 6 yards per carry. He has that rare combination of size, strength and explosion.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Yeldon
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesT.J. Yeldon will once again be a key cog in Alabama's offense this fall.
2. Yeldon: He's the only back in Alabama history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first two years on campus. There are a lot of offensive weapons for Alabama to work with this fall, but Yeldon's breakaway speed and grinding ability make him a back to be reckoned with.

3. Derrick Henry, Alabama: Yeldon might be the starter, but Henry will get plenty of carries this fall. Alabama is no stranger to having multiple 1,000-yard rushers, and with a new quarterback coming in, expect Nick Saban to give his backs the ball as much as possible. This freak, tank-like athlete should blow past last year's 382 yards.

4. Davis: He's one of the toughest, most explosive backs around. Somehow, Davis' legs never seem to stop moving when he gets going. He finished with 1,183 yards and had seven games in which he rushed for more 100 yards or more in 2013.

5. Tra Carson, Texas A&M: He only rushed for 329 yards last year, but now that he's the lead back for the Aggies, he'll be asked to do more than just be a short-yardage guy. Carson has home-run speed, a ton of strength and is tough to bring down in space.

6. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas: You might not have noticed the fact that he barely missed the 1,000-yard mark last year by 100 yards because of Arkansas' forgettable season, but Williams is the real deal. He's strong, fast and tough. Arkansas will use more than one back, but that won't stop Williams from reaching 1,000 yards.

7. Leonard Fournette, LSU: The freshman version of Michael Jordan, Fournette will have every opportunity to hit 1,000 yards. He wasn't the nation's No. 1 player in the 2014 recruiting class for nothing. Fournette has everything you'd want in a feature back, and he'll immediately make an impact for the Tigers.

8. Collins: He'll continue to battle Williams for carries this fall, but that won't be a problem. He dropped off a little after a fast start last season, but he still became the first freshman in SEC history to begin his career with three straight 100-yard rushing games and the first true freshman in the NCAA to record three straight 100-yard rushing games to start his career since Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson had nine in a row in 2004.

9. Marshall: Yes, he's working to throw more and become more confident in the passing game, but Marshall knows that his legs are his bread and butter. As long as Gus Malzahn is running the zone-read, Marshall will continue to pile up rushing yards.

10. Cameron Artis-Payne/Corey Grant, Auburn: The Tigers aren't afraid to use multiple backs. Both of these guys ran for more than 600 yards and had six touchdowns last fall behind Tre Mason. One of these guys could be the lead back, or they'll work together. Either way, Auburn will be deadly on the ground.

11. Kelvin Taylor, Florida: The sophomore is faster, leaner and more agile this year after rushing for 508 yards last fall. He's still a handful to bring down and the hope in Gainesville is that Kurt Roper's offense opens up the running game even more.

12. Russell Hansbrough, Missouri: He's an incredibly explosive back, who could be primed for a breakout season this fall. With his strength and speed, he should have no problem surpassing the 685 yards he had last year.

13. Josh Robinson, Mississippi State: A wrecking ball in a smaller package, Robinson is finally taking over as the Bulldogs' lead back. Behind LaDarius Perkins last fall, Robinson rushed for 459 yards and 5.9 yards per carry.

14. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: He led the Bulldogs with 829 rushing yards last season, but his coaches would like him to throw the ball a little bit more this fall. You just can't take the runner out of the player, so Prescott could still push for 1,000 yards.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The specter of last season's plague of injuries still looms over the Florida football program.

That much was obvious after the team's best player, sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, was hurt during Thursday night's practice, the team's first session that was open to the public.

The news spread like wildfire through the stands and on social media, reminding everyone of the Gators' protracted run of bad luck that started about a year ago. When the 2013 schedule was finished, and Florida's seven-game losing streak culminated in a 4-8 record, an astounding 15 players (10 of them starters) had suffered season-ending injuries.

Before Hargreaves' injury, which head coach Will Muschamp later announced was just a bone bruise, the Gators had been basking in the glow of good health.

Players and coaches were quick to recall how bad the injury situation was in camp a year ago when Florida was without starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, starting running back Matt Jones and starting guard Jon Halapio before its first practice.

Having just one player unavailable this year (true freshman offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher is out after back surgery) offers an extremely sharp contrast. Muschamp called it "drastically different," and players said they were grateful for each healthy day.

"It feels good after every practice that everybody made it through with no injuries," sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor said on Wednesday. "That's the great part.

"This year we've just got to practice smart, practice fast and take care of our players. We'll be OK. We'll be fine."

The mood took a sudden turn when Hargreaves was helped off the field on Thursday night, and the rest of the practice was far more subdued on the field and in the stands.

Players crowded around Hargreaves in the medical tent, showing concern and looking for a prognosis before the All-SEC performer was carted off the field.

"A lot of people were definitely surprised," sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis said on Friday. "I was surprised myself. I really didn't know what was going on.

"Coach Muschamp addressed the team at the end of practice and I was kind of shocked to hear that somebody actually got hurt. And then just to hear that it was Vernon kind of sent a shock through everybody because of just what kind of impact he has for our team. It threw a lot of us off."

Ironically, it was a scuffle in practice that knocked Hargreaves out of action. Ironic, because injuries were the biggest factor in Florida's 4-8 record last season, and the team that had been channeling so much of its anger and frustration from 2013 into some very intense practices.

"I feel like fights are definitely a part of it," Davis said. "As football players, we're all trying to be out there and be aggressive and show how dominant we are as a player.

"... But now that Coach Muschamp has addressed it, we've all got that in the back of our head. We've got to take care of our team, got to take care of each other, because we're all we got right now."

Tussles in practice are nothing new, but neither is the injury bug that bit Florida so hard last year. The sight of Hargreaves limping brought back all of the pain and fear.

The drama ended a couple of hours later when Muschamp announced the star cornerback was day-to-day. A shaken fan base heaved a sigh of relief, hoping Thursday night's episode was a sign that the Gators' luck might be changing.

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