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Gators focused on getting offense going

Florida Today
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 08:12 AM
NEW ORLEANS -

Twice, Florida sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel was asked to go win a football game for the Gators this season.

Both times, he couldn't do it.

It's not all Driskel's fault Florida committed six turnovers in a late October loss to Georgia. And there couldn't be much finger pointing after Wednesday's stunning 33-23 upset loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.

The reality, however, is Florida has plenty of work to do on offense heading into 2013 with the departure of 1,000-yard running back Mike Gillislee and few returning playmakers. Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong, the Gators' former defensive coordinator, didn't say much in pregame events, but he pretty well summed up Florida's issues afterward.

"We felt like if we could get a lead that we could maintain that lead, because they weren't a team to produce a lot of points,'' Strong said.

The offense has to make moves to get better.

The Gators have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, including offensive talent. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease will be in his second year in 2013, as will Driskel. Former Kentucky coach Joker Phillips takes over as the receivers' position coach, which should help.

But UF coach Will Muschamp admitted early in the season the Gators had little margin for error with such a limited offense. He has to change that in 2013 or, with a tougher road schedule, 11 wins won't be possible.

"We've had a great year,'' Muschamp said. "We're building something here. We're building a program. It was an unfortunate setback, and it's one game. So, we still won 11 games and we still did a lot of very positive things, in my opinion, this season. Obviously, this is a sour day and a sour note, and I apologize to our fans and the university.

"But we've had a great year, and we're moving this thing forward at a rapid pace. And I'm excited where we are."

Driskel, however, realizes the heat turns up on him next season. He came to Florida as a highly decorated recruit, won the starting job and had some great moments. But consistency is lacking.

"At the end of the day, we didn't come through and we didn't make enough plays," he said. "It's unfortunate, but come Jan. 7 we're going to be refocused and ready to go for next season.''

Senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter played in his final college game, but feels the program is on the way up.

"I know these young guys, guys like Jeff and some of the young guys we have, come strong next year and they'll be ready to play,'' Hunter said.

Elam, Floyd to enter draft

Defensive back Matt Elam and defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd both announced after Florida's 33-23 loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl that they are leaving after their junior years for the NFL.

"It's always been my dream to play in the NFL and I want to take care of my family," said Elam, an All-America safety who was expected to depart.

Asked about UF's future, he said there are "a lot" of other defensive backs who will keep the Gators strong on that side of the ball.

Floyd said he never made a final decision until after the game, saying he wanted to focus on the bowl.

"I was focused on my team and the games that we had left to play," Floyd said.

Floyd also got some All-America mention. Both could end up being taken in the first round. Tight end Jordan Reed, defensive lineman Dominique Easley and linebacker Jelani Jenkins are also among juniors weighing pro options.

Purifoy OK

Receiver-cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, who injured a thigh on a second-half kickoff, Tweeted late Wednesday night that he was fine. Purifoy, who did not return to the game, was the only player seriously injured, Muschamp said.

"He had a thigh bruise," Muschamp said. "He'll be fine."

Purifoy had a pass reception in the game, becoming the first UF defensive starter since Keiwan Ratliff in the 2003 Outback Bowl to catch a pass.

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