Notebook: ESPN visits Gators

ESPN got access to UF coach Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators on Monday. (Photo courtesy University Athletic Association)

Published: Monday, August 8, 2011 at 10:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 8, 2011 at 10:44 p.m.

ESPN performed a full-court press on the UF football program Monday morning with Jesse Palmer leading the way.

The former Gator QB and TV analyst kicked off his network's special access on the 9 a.m. SportsCenter with a taped segment showing him waking players up at 7:30 a.m. with an air horn in the hallways of the team hotel.

Calling the day's coverage "All-Access: Inside the Program", the Gators were sprinkled all over the network's radio, TV and online platforms.

"This is the first time we've done this at ESPN and had all access to a college football team inside their program over the course of a day to their fall camp," Palmer said. "It's been wild. It's been fast and furious."

Earlier in the day, speaking on the Mike and Mike morning radio show, head coach Will Muschamp said senior quarterback John Brantley "has been really on" during the first two days of practice. Muschamp also said the Gators' new offense would feature Brantley taking snaps under center close to 70 percent of the time, which is not a surprise in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis' pro-style offense.

Palmer showed off some of the sacred, normally inaccessible areas of the team's facilities, like a meal room equipped with a huge projection TV and a player lounge with a Gator-themed pool table.

From the meal room, Palmer spoke one-on-one with Weis, who talked about the difference in team speed at Florida as opposed to his previous college stop, Notre Dame.

"I have way more speed than I've ever had before," Weis said, "but then again you're going against those defenses in the SEC that have way more speed, too. So they go hand in hand."

Weis also compared coaching Brantley to coaching former NFL first-round draft pick Brady Quinn at Notre Dame, because Quinn also had to learn a new system. Weis said he believes Brantley can pick things up just as quickly.

In the afternoon, ESPN's College Football Live program showed a few minutes of practice in which viewers could see and hear Muschamp coach some of his players in a loud and passionate manner. He was seen roaming between two fields and dressed down sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens ("Get in the C-gap!") and redshirt freshman running back Mack Brown ("You secure the football! Hold onto the ball or you won't play!"), while praising senior defensive lineman Jaye Howard and giving hands-on instruction to true freshman defensive lineman Tevin Westbrook.

Palmer, holding up a weather-tracking device, noted a 122-degree heat index and said he had soaked through shirt.

A frequent visitor in recent years with ESPN, Palmer noted the differences between Muschamp's practice and those of former head coach Urban Meyer.

"Having watched practice under Urban Meyer, they were famous for being so intense," he said. "From what I saw today the intensity is still there. I think the tempo is much different. It's a lot slower pace, but I think you'd expect that because they're inserting a new offense and a new defense. The coaching staff really takes every opportunity to coach these players.

"The practice today looked a felt a lot more like an NFL practice, and that's also not so surprising to me because of Will Muschamp's and Charlie Weis' and Dan Quinn's background with the National Football League."

All of it on display for a national television audience throughout the day.

Improving pass-rush technique

Like Quinn, the defensive coordinator, Florida's new defensive line coach Bryant Young comes directly from the NFL. Florida's defensive ends say they are seeing a noticeable difference in the pass-rushing technique being taught.

"It's a big factor because there's a lot of stuff we never really focused on here before they got here," senior William Green said. "Now that they're here we can focus on little aspects that you never really thought of before. Your first step in pass rush, for example. Gaining ground on that first step is something I've really focused on in the offseason and continue to work on it in camp."

Like Green, sophomore Ronald Powell is expecting to provide more pressure this year and has worked hard on technique.

"Coach Quinn, he really emphasized on my hands this spring ball and grab and grasp on my first step coming out — hands, placement, eyes, eye-man keys, worrying about the man before I worry about the play," he said.

As a group the ends are aware of how important an edge rush will be to make the entire defense effective.

"It's all-out, all the time, relentless," said redshirt junior Lerentee McCray of the mindset that's being taught.

Debose healthy, confident

Though he came to UF as a heralded receiver, redshirt sophomore Andre Debose made more of an impact last season on special teams, where he averaged a Southeastern Conference-high 29.7 yards per kickoff return with two returned for touchdowns.

Debose says his success in the return game has given him confidence to carry over to the Gator offense.

"I feel like I can build on that a lot," he said Friday. "Being known on special teams, I can carry that over to offense and be an explosive guy on offense.

"I feel like this year I'll be given more opportunities to make plays. That's one of the things I feel like I didn't get last year."

It also helps to be free from injury. Debose missed his entire true freshman season in 2009 with a lingering hamstring issue and missed time last season with a sprained ankle.

"This is the healthiest I've been in any season coming into college, so I'm feeling great," Debose said. "I gained a little weight — five to seven pounds. I feel like it will protect your body more for the hits that you take."

Meyer documentary

Not to be outdone by ESPN, Sports Illustrated on Monday released a four-part documentary about the private life of Meyer on its website.

The emotionally wrenching series, produced in part by former Gator linebacker James Bates, features exclusive interviews, home video and photos of the Meyer family as it documents the former UF's coach's life, his health issues and his struggle with resigning, changing his mind and resigning again.

Staff writer Kevin Brockway contributed to this report.

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