Gators looking for return man


FILE PHOTO - Florida's Andre Debose is driven out of bounds during the second half of the Orange and Blue Debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.

The Florida football team has made several strides this season on both sides of the ball and posses two of the nation's top specialists in redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis and sophomore punter Kyle Christy.

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FILE PHOTO - Florida's Andre Debose is driven out of bounds during the second half of the Orange and Blue Debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun

But one area has been atrocious for the Gators through five games — punt return.

“We need drastic improvement,” UF coach Will Muschamp said Monday. “We've worked on fielding the punts and not losing yardage in those precious situations. We cannot afford to continue to do that. That's something we've addressed and obviously haven't done a good job.”

Redshirt junior receiver Andre Debose and sophomore safety De'Ante Saunders have shared duties, but both have been ineffective and have made poor decisions when given the opportunity to return a punt. Muschamp said he needs more production from whichever guy is back there.

“He's gotta make a judgement as he sees the flight of the ball and how close the coverage is to him to whether or not he can return it, field it or fair catch the ball, which is easy for you and I to sit here on Monday afternoon and talk about. Little different when it's hung up there and you got some guys that can really run well down the field ready to hit you.

“It's one of the toughest deals (in football). I never did it.”

QBs contact Driskel

Florida starting QB Jeff Driskel has had two former Gator quarterbacks reach out to him about the job he's done in his sophomore year.

“I talked to Chris Leak and I talked to Danny Wuerffel,” Driskel said. “They've just said keep it going. There's a long way to go and the season's not over yet. Don't look back and focus on the games ahead.”

Wuerffel (1993-1996) and Leak (2003-2006) both won a national championship in their senior season at Florida. Driskel said he's aware of their achievements and appreciated the advice they gave him.

“They were both great players here and it was cool to speak to them,” Driskel said.

SEC honors Gillislee, Elam

Florida's dominating win over LSU helped the Gators garner two SEC player of the week honors.

Senior running back Mike Gillislee was named the Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the 14-6 upset over LSU.

Junior safety Matt Elam earned Co-Defensive Player of the Week after he forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter against LSU that changed the momentum of the game and helped Florida to the win. He also tallied a team-high seven solo tackles with one for a two-yard loss. The Gator defense held LSU to 33 consecutive snaps without a first down.

Gillislee and Elam were named offensive and defensive players of the game by Muschamp in his Monday news conference.

“He played an outstanding game and ran hard,” Muschamp said of Gillislee, who is the SEC's leading rusher and has had three 100+ yardage games this season. “He's a guy that's just having an outstanding senior season and a great example for our football team.

“I thought Matt played his best football game since I've been here. He always gives great effort, but it was just a very productive game for him. Obviously the strip on the long completion was just a phenomenal play.”

Sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was special teams player of the game because of his coverage on punts and kickoffs

“He's covering as well as I've been around,” Muschamp said. “Here's a guy that plays corner, starts at corner, plays in upwards of 50-60 snaps in a game. The way Kyle is playing right now, he's covering punts for about 50. (Purifoy) just does a great job of getting down the field and disrupting returns. He's on our kickoff coverage team. The importance of special teams — here's a guy that understands it and gets it.”

News & Notes

Muschamp said his defense has missed just seven tackles in the last three games. “We're tackling really well as a football team right now. It's something we work on every day.” … Redshirt junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring) is probable against Vanderbilt and redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral) and junior cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) remain out. … CBS Sports has decided to use a six-day option for its broadcast of Southeastern Conference football on Oct. 20 at 3:30 p.m. The network will decide from South Carolina at Florida, Alabama at Tennessee or LSU at Texas A&M following this week's games.

ESPN will televise the two games not selected by CBS Sports during slots at noon and prime time (between 7 – 7:45 p.m.)

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