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Gator Report

Antonya English

It's early, but Billy Donovan likes what he's seeing so far

If football season is starting to get you down, take heart: basketball season is just around the corner.

The Gators kicked off practice this past Friday and coach Billy Donovan said it's early, but he likes what he's seen so far.

Florida has to replace four starters from last year's Final Four team.

Hear some of what Donovan had to say today about the first few practices:

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Will Muschamp is going nowhere - right now

For those Florida fans that were hoping Will Muschamp would be fired by now - or at least sometime this week - you're not going to get your wish.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley on Monday reiterated what he said all summer and heading into this season. Muschamp will be evaluated on the basis of his body of work. And since the season isn't over, neither is the evaluation process.

At least not yet.

Foley said in a statement Monday afternoon that he will continue to monitor and evaluate the program throughout this season.

"At the beginning of the season we said we would evaluate the season as it plays out," Foley said. "We will continue to do so."

For now, Foley said his focus is on the Gators as they prepare to play Georgia in Jacksonville on Nov. 1.

"Our sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia," Foley said.

The Gators have lost 10 of their last 13 games and four of their last five SEC home games. Florida held Missouri, which was coming off a shutout home loss to Georgia - to 119 yards, but still lost 42-13. …

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The stat that's killing Will Muschamp

According to ESPN's Stats and Info department, Will Muschamp is the only Division I coach to lose a game in the last 10 years when his defense has given up fewer than 120 yards to the opponent.

AP photo

According to ESPN's Stats and Info department, Will Muschamp is the only Division I coach to lose a game in the last 10 years when his defense has given up fewer than 120 yards to the opponent.

Following the Gators' 42-13 loss to a struggling Missouri team Saturday night, talk about Florida coach Will Muschamp's job status has been non-stop among fans on talk radio and social media.

And the grocery store, church, you name it.

So many things went wrong in the Missouri game to help bolster the argument that perhaps Muschamp isn't the man for the job.

But one stat in particular seems to have fans on social media just losing it.

According to ESPN's Stats and Info department, Muschamp is the only Division I coach to lose a game in the last 10 years when his defense has given up fewer than 120 yards to the opponent.

The Gators have done it twice - Florida State in 2011 and Missouri 2014. All other Division I coaches are 94-0 in the same situation in the past decade.

Florida gave up 119 yards to the Tigers on Saturday. Missouri managed to counter the lack of offense by scoring touchdowns on a kickoff return, a punt return, a fumble return and an interception return.  The Gator defense gave up just 13 points on three scoring drives - two of which went fewer than 20 yards.

"Defensively, we played well enough to win," Muschamp said after the game.

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Mississippi State's Dan Mullen wants fans to respect the coaches they have, including Will Muschamp

Dan Mullen knows you're out there, Gator fans.

He knows some of you are jumping on the "Hire Dan Mullen" bandwagon.

He also remembers many of you wanted him fired during his tenure as Florida's offensive coordinator from 2005 - 2008.

Mullen, now the head coach at No. 1 ranked Mississippi State, spoke on a Mississippi radio show Head to Head and was asked about Florida fans wanting him to return to Gainesville as the head coach.

Here is some of what Mullen had to say:

“I coached at Florida, and I remember they wanted to fire Dan Mullen” he said. “I know there was a website here at Mississippi State to fire Dan Mullen last year. Now, there’s probably one to keep me here. Here’s my take on it: One, both my kids are born here. I love Mississippi State. I’ve loved being here. I love the community. I love the state. I have a great administration. They’ve given us what we need to build a successful program. I think we’ve built that program. We love being here. That’s No. 1." …

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Despite his struggles, Gators wary of Missouri's Maty Mauk

It's fair to say Missouri QB Maty Mauk has not had the kind of season he'd hoped for - so far.

Mauk had a breakout game against the Gators last season, but enters Saturday night's game vs. Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium fresh off a 34-0 loss to Georgia.

In that game, Mauk was 9-of-21 for 97 yards and had four interceptions and one fumble.

“It’s frustrating but there’s adversity and I know coach (Gary) Pinkel says the same stuff, its how you fight back," Mauk said. "Our guys are ready to go. Yeah people are upset but it’s going to be a different week for us and we’re going to come out fighting."

Which is exactly what the Gators expect. Florida is preparing more for the Mauk they saw last season than the one of late. Mauk threw for 295 yards against the Gators in 2013 - in his first start. …

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Billy Donovan defends Will Muschamp: "We're all in this together"

Will Muschamp celebrates a victory over Tennessee with his players.

AP photo

Will Muschamp celebrates a victory over Tennessee with his players.

Since he arrived in Gainesville 1996, Florida coach Billy Donovan has won two national titles and took the Gators to four of their five Final Four appearances.

During that same span the Florida football team has also won three national titles, but has had four different coaches during that span.

But when Donovan was asked on Wednesday what it was like to have more success in recent years than the football program, he took the opportunity to talk about teamwork among the Gators coaching family. And to staunchly defend Florida head football coach Will Muschamp. …

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Gators F Chris Walker suspended three games

Sophomore F Chris Walker has been suspended for the first three games of the season, Florida coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday.

Walker will miss the exhibition game against Barry on Nov. 6, the Nov. 14 game vs. William & Mary and the Nov. 17 game vs. Miami.

"Chris Walker is going to be suspended the first three games for violation of team rules," Donovan said. "He's not going to play."

Walker missed 21 games last season due to NCAA eligibility issues.

"It'll be tough, but I can get through it," Walker said.

The Gators will also be without junior G/F DeVon Walker who will miss the entire season with a torn ACL and freshman G Brandone Francis who is out due to academic issues.

"Brandone Francis right now is admitted into school," Donovan said. "The NCAA has given him the opportunity to be here, but he's got to prove himself academically. He is not available to play this year; he will not be allowed to play. There's things he has to do academically while he's here to get himself eligible to play. If he progresses in his first semester like we hope he will, he'll be allowed to come back to practice for the second semester." …

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Gators WR Latroy Pittman returns to practice could play vs. Missouri

Junior WR Latroy Pittmanis expected to return to the practice field this afternoon, four days after he was injured in Saturday's game against LSU.

"Latroy Pittman will practice today (but) he may be limited a little bit," Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

Pittman was released from the hospital early Sunday morning following a series of tests for precautionary measures. He was injured following a collision with an LSU defender in the waning seconds of Saturday night’s 30-27 loss to the Tigers. Pittman was motionless on the ground for several minutes, and was eventually removed from the field on a stretcher.

Muschamp said Monday he was waiting for doctors to clear Pittman before he returned to practice.

Also, DT Leon Orr is scheduled to practice today. Orr has missed the past two games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

"I feel like depending on how he looks today we should get him back (for the Missouri game)," Muschamp said.

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Gators' 2015 football schedule set

Florida will open the 2015 SEC season with a game at Kentucky on Sept. 19, according to the Gators' schedule released Tuesday night.

Because 2015 is a 13-week season, schools will have just one bye week instead of two. Unlike the past several seasons, there will be no SEC games in the first week of the season. All SEC schools will play non-conference opponents in the opening week.

Florida will play seven consecutive weeks before its bye week on Oct. 24 - which precedes the Gators' annnual game vs. Georgia. The Gators' interdivisional foe next season is Ole Miss.

Here is Florida's full 2015 football schedule:

Sept. 5: New Mexico State

Sept. 12: East Carolina

Sept. 19: at Kentucky

Sept. 26: Tennessee

Oct. 3: Mississippi

Oct. 10: at Missouri

Oct. 17: at LSU

Oct. 31: Georgia (Jacksonville)

Nov. 7: Vanderbilt

Nov. 14: at South Carolina

Nov. 21: Florida Atlantic

Nov. 28: Florida State

 

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Gators RB Matt Jones ready to return for Missouri game

Florida RB Matt Jones returned to the practice field on Monday after missing the second half of the game against LSU with an ankle injury.

Jones, an Armwood alum who has also battled knee injuries this season, said he feels healthy enough to be able to carry the ball 22 times in Saturday night's game against Missouri - if necessary.

Watch Jones talk more about his health here:

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Gator TE Tevin Westbrook on the dropped TD: "I didn't focus hard enough on the ball"

Florida TE Tevin Wesbrook has seen the play "over and over and over"

It was Westbrook who dropped what looked like a sure touchdown in the end zone of the Gators' game against LSU Saturday night. Florida had to settle for a field goal and the Gators eventually lost on a 50-yard field goal as time expired.

Westbrook met with the media on Tuesday, saying he wanted to address the issue and get it out of the way so he could focus on Missouri - the Gators' upcoming opponent.

"I saw the ball coming, Driskel put it in a great spot," Westbrook said. "Just didn’t focus hard enough on the ball, had too much emotions in it and if I would’ve went back I’d just focus more on the ball and not too much on the emotions of the game. 

"I wasn’t nervous," he added. "It was just a roller coaster the whole game and so when it happened, I just wasn’t locked in on the ball. More just focused on scoring the touchdown, not really securing the ball before I had it."

Westbrook said he has avoided social media at the suggestion of his coaches, and that he's had the full support of his teammates. …

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Will Muschamp explains Gators' response during Latroy Pittman's injury

When junior WR Latroy Pittman was injured in a collision with 24 seconds left in Saturday's game, he was surrounded by medical personnel in front of stunned silent crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Getty Images

When junior WR Latroy Pittman was injured in a collision with 24 seconds left in Saturday's game, he was surrounded by medical personnel in front of stunned silent crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

When junior WR Latroy Pittman was injured in a collision with 24 seconds left in Saturday's game, he was surrounded by medical personnel in front of stunned silent crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

While Pittman was being attended to, some LSU players knelt in prayer, and others went over to the cart that carried Pittman off the field to offer well wishes.

Florida fans have criticized Will Muschamp and Pittman's teammates for what they saw as insensitivity. The Gators never knelt, and at one point huddled with defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin to go over plays.

On Monday Muschamp responded with what he said were the circumstances surrounding the injury and why the coaching staff and players reacted the way they did. …

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Gators expect to get CB Vernon Hargreaves back on Tuesday

Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves is expected to return to practice on Tuesday after suffering a head injury in Saturday night's loss to LSU.

Hargreaves was injured late in the second quarter and missed all of the second half.

Gators DT Leon Orr (Port Richey) is questionable for Saturday's game with a knee injury.

"We thought he’d be back by now but we’ll see how he works through this week," Florirda coach Will Muschamp said.

RB Matt Jones (Armwood) could be back in practice on Wednesday. He also missed the second half of Saturday's game with an ankle injury he suffered earlier in practice last week. Muschamp said Jones "felt it was a little loose in the game", which is why he was held out.

Aslo, OL D.J. Humphries injured his knee in the game, but is expected back at practice on Wednesday.

WR Latroy Pittman, who was injured in a collision with 24 seconds remaining in the LSU game and had to be taken off on a cart, was released from the hospital on Sunday, but isn't cleared to return to practice.

"Everything’s come out fine, he’s day-to-day." Muschamp said. "Everything is checked out to be normal."

Pittman's status for the Missouri game is still up in the air. …

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Gators to play both Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris vs. Missouri

Florida will use both Jeff Driskel, left, and Treon Harris, right, when the Gators host Missouri on Saturday night.

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/MCT; AP

Florida will use both Jeff Driskel, left, and Treon Harris, right, when the Gators host Missouri on Saturday night.

Florida will use both Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris when the Gators host Missouri on Saturday night.

With Driskel still struggling five games into the season, Florida coach Will Muschamp said Harris will have a more prominent role in the offense on Saturday.

"They both will play this week and we’ll work through the week, and we’ll see how things go, and we’ll see how it goes there," Muschamp said. "Right now Jeff will probably start but they’re both going to play."

Driskel was benched late in the third quarter of the Oct. 4 game at Tennessee, and Harris led the Gators on a fourth-quarter, come-from behind 10-9 victory.

Harris was expepcted to play vs. LSU last week, but he was suspended all of last week after he was accused of sexual assault by a UF student. The woman withdrew her complaint this past Friday and Harris was reinstated. He did not play against LSU.

Driskel is 90-of-164 for 878 yards with six touchdowns, but he has had seven interceptions and one fumble in the past two games. Harris is 4-of-6 for 165 yards and two touchdowns in two games.

Muschamp said the decision is based on doing what's best for the Gators to win. …

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After "taxing" week, Gators QB Treon Harris gets unique view of LSU game

Following the most difficult week of his brief college career, Florida freshman quarterback Treon Harris attended Saturday night's game vs. LSU and got to watch the game from a unique vantage point.

The Florida press box.

Harris was suspended indefinitely this past Monday after he was accused of sexual assault by a UF student. On Friday, the woman withdrew her complaint and Harris was reinstated, but Florida coach Will Muschamp said he didn't feel it was appropriate for Harris - who had not practiced or attended team meetings all week - to stand on the sidelines during the game. …

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