Florida Gators: Dan Quinn

Gator Breakdown: Jeremy Brown 

June, 4, 2013
During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.

No. 8 Jeremy Brown

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp didn’t need to consult motivational speaker Tony Robbins last summer to figure out the message he wanted to convey to his players.

The Gators had just come off a 7-6 season and only avoided the program’s first losing season in more than 30 years by beating Ohio State in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl. Muschamp had a locker room full of irritated players, so his message was pretty simple: Play angry.

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesJeff Driskel enters the summer as Florida's clear-cut starting QB, but has some work to do.
But now, as the Gators begin the summer semester and the incoming freshmen get ready to report in early July, Muschamp’s message has changed. The one he used last year no longer applies.

Now he’s preaching about not settling.

"Last year, going into the year, you have a little chip on your shoulder about how the season before went," Muschamp said. "Whatever motivational tactic that we used obviously was good for us at times. We’re now a team that’s faced a little bit of success here and there. My constant reminder throughout the offseason is, 'Are you better?'

"You either get better or worse every day, whether it’s in the classroom, whether it’s in the meeting room as far as football is concerned, [whether] it’s in the weight room or it’s on the practice field. You can improve yourself every day to be a positive member of the football team."

UF went 11-2 in 2012 and stayed in the hunt for the national championship until the final weeks of the regular season, but it certainly wasn’t easy. The Gators didn’t name a starting quarterback until Week 2, finished the season ranked 114th nationally in passing, and had to come from behind in eight victories.

That showed just how well the players embraced the preseason message.

"When you come from behind eight times, it means you've got character on your football team and you've got guys believing what they're doing," Muschamp said. "I mean, those are two things that are hard to find, especially in today's age. When you get behind, most everybody wants to point the finger at somebody else and blame somebody for something."

Things are much different his summer. This is the second season for offensive coordinator Brent Pease, there’s a new defensive coordinator (D.J. Durkin was promoted when Dan Quinn left), and the Gators have to replace nine players who were drafted into the NFL -- including their leading rusher, receiver and tackler.

Florida is a contender for the Eastern Division title and therefore the SEC title, which is almost an automatic entry into the BCS National Championship. Just playing angry won’t cut it, Muschamp said.

He has made sure the players understand that maintaining the status quo will actually result in a step backward. He told them that during his annual post-spring individual meetings and it will be reinforced by the conditioning staff throughout the summer.

"A lot of kids nowadays, especially in our society, they take that as a negative," Muschamp said. "They only want to talk about the positive things. Well, the good things take care of themselves. You’ve got to go after and attack the negative things and the things you’ve got to improve to help our football team be better. I think our kids, more than anything, have bought into the process of winning football games and what that does for each individual and each player."

He’ll know if the message was received when the Gators return to the practice field in early August.
As part of our spring practice preview, each day this week GatorNation will address the five biggest questions facing the Gators. Today we’ll look at whether the offense can make a jump in the second year under Brent Pease similar to what the defense did last season in its second year under Dan Quinn. On Friday we’ll look at the tight ends.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s defense was much better in its second season under coordinator Dan Quinn than it was in its first.

The Gators are hoping the offense can make similar improvements in the second year under coordinator Brent Pease. Spring practice will be the first chance to find out.

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Spring question No. 3: Safeties 

March, 6, 2013
As part of our spring practice preview, each day this week GatorNation will address the five biggest questions facing the Gators. Today we’ll look at the uncertain situation at safety. On Thursday, we’ll examine whether the offense can make a jump in the second year under Brent Pease similar to what the defense did last season in its second year under Dan Quinn.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One of the better competitions during Florida’s spring practices will be to find a pair of safeties.

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Gators DL coach hire now official

January, 20, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has officially announced the hiring of Brad Lawing to coach the Gators’ defensive line and serve as the assistant head coach. The move was reported by various outlets on Sunday evening and freshman LB Matt Rolin tweeted that Lawing was joining the staff as well.

"We are excited to have Brad Lawing join our coaching staff," UF coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. "His track record speaks for itself. His nearly three decades of experience coaching defensive linemen, his familiarity with the SEC, and our shared philosophical beliefs make him a perfect fit for our program."

Lawing will work with current defensive line coach Bryant Young. Lawing has spent 17 years at South Carolina in two different stints, from 1989-98 and 2006-2012, and is regarded as a good recruiter.

"I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with Coach Muschamp and the entire Gator coaching staff," Lawing said. "Coach Muschamp and I share the same philosophical beliefs defensively. I’ve enjoyed the many years I’ve had in South Carolina and I’m grateful for the opportunities coach [Steve] Spurrier provided to me."

Lawing is filling the spot made vacant when defensive coordinator Dan Quinn left to become the defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks. Muschamp promoted linebackers coach/special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin to defensive coordinator.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The one constant in Florida’s 2012 season -- until the Allstate Sugar Bowl, anyway -- was the Gators’ defense.

The unit was one of the nation’s best, ranking in the top five nationally in rushing, pass efficiency, and scoring, and it kept the Gators in games while the offense struggled.

Heading into the 2013 season, however, the defense has become as big an uncertainty as the offense in the wake of the departure of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the inexperience of replacement D.J. Durkin, and the loss of seven starters.

There were already significant questions about the unit because of the loss of those starters, which include All-American S Matt Elam, potential first-round NFL draft pick DT Sharrif Floyd, and a pair of players who played the best football of their careers during 2012 (NT Omar Hunter and S Josh Evans). Also gone is MLB Jon Bostic, who started 32 games in his career, including every game in 2011 and 2012.

But Quinn’s departure on Thursday to become the defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks muddies things even more. Quinn’s defenses ranked among the top 10 nationally in his two seasons at Florida. The Gators were fifth nationally in scoring (15.4 ppg), second in pass efficiency defense, and fourth in rush defense (94.9 ypg), and gave up only seven passing touchdowns, which was second only to Boise State (four), in 2012. In 2011, the Gators ranked eighth nationally in total defense, seventh nationally in passing defense, and second nationally in third-down defense.

His replacement, Durkin, has been UF’s linebackers coach and special teams coordinator since 2010. He has never been a coordinator before. Quinn had only been one for one year (Hofstra in 2000), but he had spent the previous 10 seasons in the NFL before joining Muschamp’s inaugural staff. However, Durkin has done a good job coordinating UF’s special teams (the Gators rank 11th or better in three statistical categories) and after watching him for two seasons, Muschamp quickly promoted him to succeed Quinn.

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Promoting Durkin smart move 

January, 17, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Will Muschamp’s search for a new defensive coordinator didn’t last very long.

Just two hours after Dan Quinn was named the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, Muschamp promoted D.J. Durkin to replace Quinn.

D.J. Durkin
Kim Klement/US PresswireThe Gators' new defensive coordinator/linebackers coach D.J. Durkin was originally hired by Urban Meyer.
Durkin has been UF’s linebackers coach and special-teams coordinator for the past three seasons. He joined UF’s staff in 2010 under former coach Urban Meyer and was one of three assistant coaches Muschamp retained for his inaugural staff.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida lost defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. Quinn helped orchestrate one of the best defensive line units in the SEC last season and was a big reason Florida has landed commitments from nine defensive players that are ranked in the ESPN 300.

Here is how some of those recruits reacted the new of Quinn's departure:

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Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday through Jan. 31, GatorNation will break down each position. We’ll look at 2013, of course, but also try to peek beyond next season. Today is wide receiver. We will profile running backs Tuesday.


Two-deep: This is without question the Gators’ weakest position. The group has been below average for three seasons. Redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar, who has 50 career catches, and redshirt senior Andre Debose, a career underachiever with 29 career catches, are the two most experienced players and would likely be the starters if the season started today. Debose is supremely talented but has been hampered by work ethic, attitude and consistency issues throughout his career. Senior Solomon Patton (eight career catches) and sophomore Latroy Pittman (two catches in 2012) would be the backups.

Next up: Sophomore Raphael Andrades, who caught two passes last season, and freshman early enrollee Demarcus Robinson will have every chance to move up the depth chart in the spring. Next to Debose, Robinson is the most talented receiver on the roster.

(Read full post)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida QB Jeff Driskel had better make some significant improvements during the offseason, because the Gators’ offense will be in a world of trouble if he doesn’t.

Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel
Jake Roth/US PresswireWith primary backup Jacoby Brissett (12) transferring, Jeff Driskel will have to improve and stay healthy for the Gators.
Or if he gets hurt.

Jacoby Brissett’s decision to transfer leaves Florida with zero experience behind Driskel. Tyler Murphy, who will be a redshirt junior next season, has appeared in three games in his career in a mop-up role and has never thrown a pass. Skyler Mornhinweg will be a redshirt freshman in 2013.

The other quarterback on the roster is expected to be Max Staver, a 6-foot-6, 238-pound four-star recruit from Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy who has pledged to sign with Florida next month.

That means the Gators have virtually no options if Driskel doesn’t get better after his first season as a starter. The 6-4, 237-pound junior-to-be was solid in 2012, completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,646 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. But he struggled with holding on to the ball too long, staring down his receivers and making progressions.

Those are things with which nearly every young quarterback struggles, so it shouldn’t be alarming that Driskel did. Plus, he didn’t get a ton of help. The offensive line was inconsistent in pass protection, and the receivers -- other than TE Jordan Reed (team-high 45 catches), who announced he’s leaving early for the NFL -- are below-average.

(Read full post)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Which Florida players made the biggest contributions on the field in 2012?

GatorNation told you after every game. Now that the season’s over, here are the final rankings of the players who are responsible for the Gators’ 11-2 record:

1. RB Mike Gillislee: The Gators needed him to stay healthy and be a feature back capable of handling 20-plus carries per game. He delivered. Though he got banged up -- he hurt his groin against Texas A&M on a TD run but stayed in the game -- he played in every game and ran for 1,152 yards and 10 TDs. He averaged 18.7 carries and 4.7 yards per game.

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Dante Fowler Jr.Gerry Melendez/Getty Images
Editor’s note: Each day between now and Florida’s Allstate Sugar Bowl date with Louisville, GatorNation will review the season for a key Gators player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at buck linebacker Dante Fowler.

Buck Dante Fowler
27 tackles, 2.5 sacks

Role in 2012: Fowler benefitted from injuries to other players and got a lot of reps with the first team during fall camp. He quickly showed he deserved to play and figured heavily into the rotation.

The good: Fowler has very good speed and quickness for someone his size (6-foot-3, 277 pounds) and he also is a high-motor, relentless player. He’s not bad against the run, either, but his strength is rushing the passer. His 7.0 tackles for loss ranked third on the team behind DT Sharrif Floyd (11.0) and S Matt Elam (10.0). Fowler is one of several young players whom defensive coordinator Dan Quinn singled out as improving during bowl practices. He could be the next Loucheiz Purifoy -- a player who showed marked improvement in bowl practices and followed that up by becoming one of the Gators’ better playmakers the following season.

The bad: Showing up significantly heavier than he was on signing day raised some flags about Fowler's offseason work ethic. It’s unlikely that he’ll have the same problem this offseason because he’ll be on campus and working with strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman. He does need to drop some weight and get in better shape. Like all young players, Fowler is a bit raw fundamentally and relies more on his athleticism and strength. He needs to refine his technique and spend some extra time with defensive line coach Bryant Young.

Crystal ball: Ronald Powell will return from a torn ACL next season and regain his starting job, but Fowler will be on the field a lot. If Powell doesn’t play at the level he did before his injury, then don’t be surprised to see Fowler in the starting lineup. He’s big enough that the Gators could move him to defensive end, too. Either way, UF should be much better rushing the passer in 2013, and Fowler will be a key part of that.

Tagging the Gators: NT Omar Hunter

December, 20, 2012
Editor’s note: Each day between now and Florida’s Allstate Sugar Bowl date with Louisville, GatorNation will review the season for a key Gators player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at NT Omar Hunter.

NT Omar Hunter
Redshirt senior
39 tackles, 4 pass breakups

[+] EnlargeOmar Hunter
Kim Klement/US PresswireOmar Hunter has had a significant impact on Florida's resurgence this season.
Role in 2012: Hunter started every game this season in the middle of UF’s defensive line and anchored a rush defense that gave up just 97 yards per game.

The good: Hunter flourished under defensive line coach Bryant Young and played his best football this season. He attributed that in part to being in the best shape of his career but it was also because he stayed healthy, which is something he didn’t do in his first several seasons. The 6-foot, 313-pound Hunter plugged the middle and occupied double-teams, and he also used his hands well to get off blocks and set a career-high in tackles. He showed a knack for knocking down passes, too.

The bad: The staff would have liked to have seen a bit more of a pass-rush presence out of Hunter. Not necessarily recording sacks, but pushing the middle of the pocket back into the quarterback’s face. But he was in the game as a run-plugger and he did his job well and allowed the linebackers to make plays. He’s not especially quick and although he has made strides in the weight room, he can still get stronger.

Crystal ball: Spending two seasons under Young and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who spent 10 years as an NFL coach before coming to Florida, has been a huge benefit for Hunter in terms of getting ready to play at the next level -- especially Young, who was recently nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hunter has a history of back issues, which is a concern and part of the reason why he projects as a late-round pick.

Tagging the Gators: S Josh Evans

December, 12, 2012
Josh EvansKevin Liles/US PresswireJosh Evans led the Gators in tackles and was one of the team's most improved players.
Editor’s note: Each day between now and Florida’s Allstate Sugar Bowl date with Louisville, GatorNation will review the season for a key Gators player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at S Josh Evans.

S Josh Evans
79 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 pass breakups

Role in 2012: Evans started every game in 2012 alongside Matt Elam and ended up leading the team in tackles. He was solid in run support and was better in coverage than he was last season.

The good: Evans was one of the Gators’ most improved players this season. He really blossomed in the second year of coordinator Dan Quinn’s defensive system, especially in terms of communication and understanding coverage responsibilities. Evans’ solid play allowed the Gators to move Elam around and take advantage of his play-making abilities. Had Evans not improved as much as he did, thanks partly to Will Muschamp working with the safeties, the Gators would have had to have been more conservative with Elam.

The bad: Evans’ tackling fundamentals need work. He’s one of those guys who ducks his head and goes low instead of keeping his head up and wrapping up. As a result, he sometimes misses tackles he should make. The best example is getting plowed over by Texas A&M RB Ben Malena. Evans also sometimes takes bad angles to the ball carrier and he doesn’t have the blazing speed needed to make up for that.

Crystal ball: Evans’ final game will come against a Louisville team that likes to throw the ball down the field with QB Teddy Bridgewater. The Cardinals average 298.6 yards per game passing so the UF secondary will be pretty busy. After the Allstate Sugar Bowl, however, is where Evans’ future gets murky. He isn’t going to be a high draft pick, but there is a good chance he will get drafted. That wasn’t something anyone would write after the 2011 season. But can he stick with an NFL team?
Florida redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter has seen it all with the Gators.

He was a part of a national championship squad during his freshman season back in 2008. He went to the Sugar Bowl in 2009. And he's a win away from seeing another 10-win season in Gainesville.

But he's also seen dark times, like 2010 and 2011, where the Gators won just 13 games combined and dropped into the category of mediocre. He also saw the coach who recruited him, Urban Meyer, retire, come back and retire again before taking a new job.

He was there for Will Muschamp's hiring and has now had three different defensive coordinators coaching him. He's been a real trooper for the Gators, and with 53 games under his belt, 103 tackles (10 for loss) and a blocked field goal to his name, Hunter and the rest of Florida's seniors will say goodbye to the Swamp Saturday against Jacksonville State.

The old man took some time from bingo to talk to ESPN.com about his career at Florida:

[+] EnlargeOmar Hunter
Kim Klement/US PresswireOmar Hunter has had a significant impact on Florida's resurgence this season.
You've been at Florida for probably 35 head coaches now, and with this being your last game in the Swamp, how does it feel to know this will be the last time you run onto Florida Field with your uniform on?

Omar Hunter: Honestly, it hasn't even hit me yet, but it's been a long time coming, man. It's been an honor to play for the Florida Gators and be a part of this program. I've enjoyed every moment of it and I'm looking forward to my senior day.

Now Chris Rainey did a back flip during his senior day moment. Any chance we'll see that out of you?

OH: I honestly don't know what I'm going to do, but I promise you I won't do a back flip. No back flips will be done by me, but I'll probably just run out and take the whole moment in. It's been a great few years that I've been here and I've enjoyed it. When senior day comes I'm sure I'll be very emotional and I'm just looking forward to it.

You've seen the highs and the lows during your time at Florida. What's it been like for you over these four-plus years?

OH: It's been incredible -- to come in and win a national championship my freshman year and then make it to the Sugar Bowl after that. Then, the program kind of fell off for a little bit, but coming back with Coach Muschamp, he's really brought it back from the bottom. I've been happy to be a part of this process and get Florida back on top, back to the BCS level that it should always stay at. It's been an honor to be on this team. Just knowing that I had an affect on some of these guys' careers here at Florida has been an honor. That's just as good as winning a championship, being able to say I affected somebody else's life or helped this person who has done so much more for me.

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McElwain discusses new Florida football
SEC Network's Greg McElory and Booger McFarland sit down to discuss the future of Florida football with head coach Jim McElwain.