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Coach Will Muschamp: Florida's sack leader will play in 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | 7:23 p.m. CDT; updated 8:29 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Florida coach Will Muschamp speaks to the media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media day Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.

HOOVER, Ala. — Florida coach Will Muschamp said defensive end Ronald Powell will play this season and tight end A.C. Leonard will play elsewhere.

That's part of what the Gators know. Who will play quarterback remains an open question going into preseason camp. There is apparently a dead heat for the job between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel. It could be both, maybe at once.

"Both guys are very talented," Muschamp said Wednesday at Southeastern Conference media days. "Both guys are certainly qualified for the position. If you saw the spring game, you saw what I saw for 14 practices: Two guys that are very even in that competition. They're even going into fall camp and they'll get equal reps. I'd like to name a starter before the season, but I'm not going to put a timetable on that. If we need to play both of them, that's what we're going to do. We'll do what we need to do to win football games.

"There's a possibility you could see both in the game at the same time."

Perhaps the best news for Gator fans Wednesday is that Muschamp believes Powell will make it back this season. The starting end and team sack leader tore a knee ligament in the spring game, leaving his status a big question mark.

Muschamp said Powell has been cleared for all weight-room work, including squats, and straight-ahead running.

"He'll play for us this year," the coach said. "When that will be, I don't know yet.  There's nobody that's worked harder or handled the situation better or more mature than Ronald has. He's grown up through the summer."

Leonard, meanwhile, is leaving the program in what Muschamp described as a mutual decision. He was arrested on domestic violence charges in February. Muschamp said he met with Leonard on Tuesday and they "decided it would be better off for him to transfer."

"It was shocking, but it wasn't as shocking knowing where he's come from and what he's been dealing with since he's been at Florida," Gators defensive end Lerentee McCray said.

Muschamp said backup cornerback Jeremy Brown was undergoing surgery Wednesday morning to repair a fractured wrist but should be back for the opener with Bowling Green. Brown has already missed three seasons with injuries.

As for the quarterbacks, McCray said it was a win-win situation. Brissett and Driskel combined for just two touchdowns and were intercepted six times last season, filling in when starter John Brantley was injured.

"That's going to be a tough decision for coach Muschamp and the offensive staff because both of them look really good right now," McCray said. "We feel like we can win with either one of them. "

Whoever's at quarterback, Muschamp is emphasizing two big areas for improvement. The Gators ranked 113th nationally in turnover margin, which he says makes it "a minor miracle" that his first team managed to win seven games. He called that debut season "very frustrating, disappointing."

Then there was the fourth quarter problems in SEC games. League opponents outscored Florida 72-22 in the final quarter, and Muschamp called his team soft after the regular-season finale with Florida State.

"That's one of our main things going into this year," linebacker Jon Bostic said. "We've got to to finish in the fourth quarter. If we don't finish in the fourth, the year will turn out the same as last year."


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