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September 1, 2013
There's only so much one can see when watching the Gators play on television. That's why Inside the Gators is returning its "View from the Press Box" feature for 2013 - a look at things that might have gone unnoticed during the broadcast. Here's what we saw Saturday during Florida's season-opener against Toledo:
- It was apparent even before he tore through the Rockets' offensive line that senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley was ready to go. He was the first player off the bus for the Gator Walk and beelined to the locker room as loud, dramatic music played over the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium PA.
- Gainesville native and freshman wide receiver Chris Thompson was noticeably excited for his first game in The Swamp. He was all smiles during the Gator Walk and at one point jumped on redshirt freshman linebacker Jeremi Powell.
- Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was one of the first skill-position players out on the field, warming up with veterans like Jaylen Watkins, Michael Taylor and Jeremy Brown.
- Freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone was out early working on pass coverage situations. He was one of nine freshmen to play in Saturday's game.
- Sporting a Gators polo, basketball shorts, a Florida hat and a backpack, suspended linebacker Antonio Morrison was out on the field to watch the vast majority of pregame warmups.
- The leaders who took to the front of warmup lines were Jonotthan Harrison, Jeff Driskel, Trey Burton, Cody Riggs and Marcus Roberson during the first round of warmups. The second round was led by Easley, Max Garcia, Jonathan Bullard, D.J. Humphries and Ronald Powell.
- Florida warmed up four centers before the game: Harrison (the starter), Kyle Koehne (the current starting right guard), Trip Thurman (the backup left guard) and Cameron Dillard (a freshman).
- Easley is the obvious vocal leader of the team. During pregame warmups, the team twice huddled around a screaming Easley, who broke down every huddle throughout the day.
- Damien Jacobs, returning from a patella injury, sported a brace on his right knee and didn't seem full-speed during warmups. He played sparingly during Saturday's game behind Leon Orr, who started at nose tackle.
- Florida was led out of the tunnel by Dante Fowler Jr., Bullard, Jeremy Brown and former UF running back Errict Rhett, who served as honorary "Mr. Two Bits" before the game. Rhett was jumping around firing up all the current Gators before running out.
- Notable members of the kickoff unit included: Keanu Neal, Neiron Ball, Jarrad Davis and Mark Herndon. Neal made two nice tackles, and Herndon made his first tackle before getting his first carry Saturday.
- Garcia, Florida's left guard, is all smiles off the field but has an obvious mean streak on it. Several times, he was seen jawing with Toledo defensive linemen after plays or getting in an extra shove at the whistle. He held his own at left tackle when Humphries left the game in the fourth quarter with what Will Muschamp called a sprained MCL.
- Humphries was never taken back to the locker room but watched the last quarter of the game resting on the training table with his left leg propped up.
- Toward the end of the second quarter, Watkins made a hard tackle on Toledo wide receiver Bernard Reedy along the sidelines. After the play, Muschamp went nuts for two reasons: 1) Watkins hit Reedy really hard. 2) Once the play was over, Reedy pushed Watkins to the ground, which prompted the referees to make an unsportsmanlike conduct call against Toledo. Muschamp was so heated with Reedy's actions that some Florida personnel had to hold him back as he was yelling at the ref. It was an interesting moment as Reedy, who was high school teammates with Fowler, had done some trash talking throughout the week.
- All of Florida's suspended players were seen supporting their team on the sidelines Saturday. (Darious Cummings, Morrison, Latroy Pittman, Loucheiz Purifoy, and Quinteze Williams) Jon Halapio, who is out with a pectoral injury, was out there as well. Suspended players were not included in the Gator Walk and had to find their own way to the stadium.
- While they may have only connected on two plays during Saturday's win, Driskel and Quinton Dunbar spent a lot of time talking with each other along the sidelines. They sat next to each other and spoke on the sidelines after every offensive drive.
- Senior linebacker Darrin Kitchens spent some time at the trainer's table. Kitchens seemed to be having some issues in his left side/lower back and the trainers were massaging those areas and trying to stretch him out. Clearly it was nothing too serious though as he returned to the field about 10 minutes after getting some treatment.
- If you wanted to see just how close of a relationship Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson has with his players, all you had to do was watch what occurred immediately after Hargreaves' interception. Right after the freshman was tackled he put the ball down and sprinted as fast as he could to T-Rob, who was screaming as he jumped up and down. The two chest-bumped and hugged for a few moments before Hargreaves III went to the side line.
- Junior running back Mack Brown had a career day but struggled with cramping issues in the second half. That came after Brown collapsed to his knees following his second touchdown in the first half. Brown threw up on Florida's sideline, later saying the issue was that he had drank too many Gatorades too quick. He also admitted to still not being accustomed to Florida's humidity. Brown is from Georgia.
- Freshmen Marcell Harris, Marqui Hawkins and Adam Lane did not stay at the team hotel Friday night and traveled to the stadium separate from the team Saturday. That is generally the sign of a player the team expects to redshirt.
- Freshman Buck linebacker Jordan Sherit watched the game in street clothes. Sherit missed nearly all of fall camp after tearing his meniscus during his senior year of high school.
- It seemed like freshman running back Kelvin Taylor knew he wouldn't be getting carries until late in the game. For much of the afternoon, Taylor set separate from Florida's running backs on the bench without a helmet.
- Among those in attendance: recently-released former UF running back Omarius Hines, Washington Wizards guard Brad Beal and Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan. Beal and Donovan watched the game with current UF guard Michael Frazier II and recruit Kevon Looney.
- Also in attendance: 2013 NFL Draft picks Jelani Jenkins and Josh Evans.
- One corner of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was noticeably empty, due largely to a lack of Toledo fans who made the trip. Rockets fans in attendance were almost all parents and player families.
- Halapio was vocal in offensive linemen sideline meetings on the sidelines and in instruction with offensive line coach Tim Davis.
- Tight end coach Derek Lewis' ongoing motivational line to the offense? "Start the fire."
- Fowler's family wore shirts adorned with a picture of him making a sack that read "Dante's Inferno".
- Powell was one of the bigger motivational guys for the Gators on the sidelines.
- UF baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan was in attendance on the sidelines but left early in the game.