Gators Ready for Gator Bowl

The Florida Gators had their first practice in Jacksonville in preparation for the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl on Tuesday. The matchup between Florida and Ohio State promises to be a defensive struggle, but will no doubt have some twists on offense. Florida head coach Will Muschamp thinks his Gators are ready for the challenge as they continue to tweak the game plan for the game.

The first sign of good news for Florida's first year coach is that every one of his scholarship players is eligible to play in the game academically… an issue some Gator rivals have had for their bowl preparations. A couple of players missed Tuesday with other issues, but will be ready to go with their teammates for the game.

"Everybody is here and accounted for," Muschamp said. "We did a good job academically. I am proud of our players and had no issues. Jeff Demps had a personal issue and will be here in the morning. Deonte Thompson is sick and missed practice and back at the hotel."

A couple of players that were hampered are still slowed and it will take the week to figure out if they will play in the game. Offensive guard Dan Wenger and SAM linebacker Lerentee McCray are two starters that could miss.

Dan is still struggling, we got some reps in Gainesville but has been hobbled," Muschamp said of Wenger. "Lerentee with his shoulder, we have tried to get total range and motion back and it hasn't come back at this point. He is probably doubtful for the game. I would expect Dan to play."

With the slight injury news Muschamp is also happy about host hew team is getting ready to take on the Buckeyes.

"I am pleased with our preparation and with our progress," he said. "I thought the guys worked extremely hard. We don't really have scout teams with our numbers right now and are repping against each other anyways. The last four days we have been prepping for Ohio State."

Muschamp's defense finished in the top 10 nationally in total defense and played well overall in 2011. He pointed out some players on that side of the ball that really stood out. Linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic were emphasized greatly by the head coach.

"I think both linebackers have played well… consistently well throughout the season, Jon and Jelani," he said. "Both of those guys have done some nice things you want to build on. (DL) Sharrif Floyd has done some nice things both inside and out. (DT) Dominique Easley has done some nice things. Omar Hunter has done his best during bowl practice as far as playing inside and playing blocks. We have been very pleased with his progress. Lerentee McCray when he was healthy was very productive for us. Matt Elam has done some nice things. Marcus Roberson has done some nice things at corner and has a bright future there. I would say the two linebackers have been the most consistent performers week in and out and been very productive."

Muschamp also saw a lot of good things from senor defensive tackle Jaye Howard who he says helped himself a lot for April's NFL draft.

"I thought Jaye played well and played himself into a decent situation for April," Muschamp said. "He has played blocks well. You talk to a lot of people that played us and they have all complimented him about his pad level and the way he has played

The defense will have their hands full in that game with maybe the most athletic quarterback they will have faced all season. They have a couple of dynamic players with him as well.

"Braxton Miller is a fabulous athlete, when he touches the ball he can take it anywhere," he said. "He has improved his passing as the year went on. DeVier Posey is a guy you have to account for outside. ‘Boom' Herron is a terrific one cut runner and gets the ball north-south,. They do a nice job of getting the ball in their play makers' hands."

"Defensively they are really sound in what they do. They have recruited well and are deep on both lines of scrimmage. They are big, physical and a typical Big-10 football team."

Muschamp will also look for a twist or two from the OSU offense.

"There will be some different things we will see in the game," he said. "You just have to adjust in the game, rely on your package, and allow your players adjust things out. You have to know you are going to face a wrinkle or two that you haven't seen. They have had some time to do so and hopefully we will some different things for them to adjust to as well."

One of the motivating things for the Gators from this coaching staff has been telling them the Gators have not had a losing season since the 0-10-1 season of 1979. They risk breaking that streak with a loss to Ohio State. Muschamp threw that at them last week and it hit home with a few of them.

"Any little thing you can say to reach your players," he said. "The John Brantley's that have been around Florida football for their entire life it will mean more. You just use whatever you can." Still, he isn't and won't dwell on this game no matter what happened. "It is just one game," he said. "It has been a disappointing season from what our record is. It is what it is at the end of the day. We are playing a good football team and need to prepare well."


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