Gators shift focus to getting healthy on bye
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Gators can expect to watch plenty of film and to be tested at practice the next two weeks leading up to their Oct. 6 clash with No. 3-ranked LSU.
At 4-0 and ranked 11th in the latest AP Top 25, Florida has shown significant improvement over last season and sits atop the SEC East with October looming.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose No. 6-ranked Gamecocks travel to The Swamp on Oct. 20, said on last week’s SEC media teleconference that Florida is a serious threat in the division based on early returns.
“That does put them in a pretty good position, because they have won two big games on the road at Texas A&M and, of course, Tennessee,’’ Spurrier said. “They’re in good shape.”
Still, as you might imagine, Gators coach Will Muschamp prefers a cautious approach. The Gators were 4-0 in his first season and before they won their fifth game, they lost four in a row. So while the Gators have improved and are in good position to challenge for the East title, Muschamp’s to-do list isn’t getting any shorter.
He plans work off it continuously on the practice field starting Tuesday when the players return to work after a day off.
“We’ve got three huge days to improve,’’ Muschamp said Monday. “ Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday [offer] opportunities for our team to get better. We met [Sunday] as a team, and I told our guys, starting with me all the way down, we all have room for improvement.
“Let’s accentuate on the negatives of our football team right now and understand what they are, and let’s get better. In my time here, that is the one thing guys will do. They will work, and they have been very understanding of the things that we need to do to improve.”
Some items on Muschamp’s to-do list:
-- Improve defensively against the perimeter run game.
-- Continue to work on scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
-- Get better offensively in short-yardage situations.
-- Continue to improve converting on third downs.
-- Reduce the number of missed tackles and undisciplined penalties.
-- Find ways to get more out of the kick-return game.
One play you can be sure the Gators will watch is a sack quarterback Jeff Driskel took right before halftime in Saturday’s 38-0 win over Kentucky. After linebacker Michael Taylor's interception gave the Gators the ball at Kentucky’s 29 with 16 seconds left, Driskel was sacked on first down and without any timeouts left.
While the team hustled to get back to the line of scrimmage so Driskel could ground the ball, stop the clock and set up a Caleb Sturgis field-goal attempt, receiver Quinton Dunbar got caught too far down field and failed to make it back in time. The clock ran out.
“We definitely left points out on the field,’’ Driskel said.
While the play had no impact on the final outcome, it’s an example Muschamp will use to stress the lack of attention to details in a critical situation. The play cost Florida potentially three points.
Perhaps equally important, the bye week gives the Gators time to get healthy. If the game was this Saturday, Muschamp said some players might not be ready.
However, he is optimistic the extra time should be enough for the Gators to get healthy for what they will face Oct. 6.
“Typical LSU, physical [and] tough,’’ Muschamp said. “Recruited extremely well, they do a good job of developing their players; they have a physical style of play, which you appreciate as a coach.”
Starting tight end Jordan Reed (head) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder) left Saturday’s game and did not return. Defensive end Dominique Easley (knee), F-Back Trey Burton, right tackle Chaz Green (ankle), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (thumb) and safety Cody Riggs (foot) did not play.
While Jenkins and Riggs remain uncertain for LSU, the others are expected to be healthy.
“How much they will do this week, we'll determine that as the week goes, but I think all of those guys should be fine,’’ Muschamp said. “Jelani Jenkins I'll know more later in the week. I don't have the information right now, so I think he sees the doctor Wednesday.”