Friday Orange Bowl Press Conference Transcripts

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Mark Wheeler
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All transcripts courtesy of ASAP.

Kyle Trask

Q. When you look at this offensive line and the progress they've made, do you see it slowly build, getting better?
KYLE TRASK: Yeah, I think the O-line is one of the closest-knit group of guys on the team. They've really come along. They're one of the hardest workers on the team, as well. Their progression has really showed throughout the season.

Q. Does it kind of get you excited about next year?
KYLE TRASK: Yeah, I mean, that's a great question. I never really thought about that. But the way this progression has gone with these young guys coming up, I mean, there's a lot of potential for next year for sure.

Q. To be here, I know you've been asked this, but when you think about where this thing started for you, what's it like? How has your life changed?
KYLE TRASK: I mean, yeah, definitely a lot changed, but this is why you come to play college football at a school like Florida is to have all the responsibilities that come with starting and whatever. But yeah, it definitely changed a lot. Like I said, a lot more responsibilities, but I think I kind of -- I've adapted to -- I mean, it's given me a lot more experience and a lot more confidence on the field and things like that.

Q. That being said, you've had 40 games in three years. (Inaudible)?
KYLE TRASK: Yeah, you know, I've always wanted to be a Gator, and I had no intentions of leaving. Obviously you're not playing, so there's going to be a little bit of frustration. But I just talked it over with my family and my friends. I've always wanted to be a Gator. Going into the season there was no reason for me to leave. I was still going to compete each and every day.

Q. Are you tired of telling the story?
KYLE TRASK: I try to stay pretty humble about it. I try to stay focused on our goal and not get caught up in all of that because if you get caught up in all of that, your performance probably won't be the same. I'm trying to just go one week at a time with it.

Q. Why do you think it wouldn't be the same? Putting pressure on yourself?
KYLE TRASK: You know, that's just my personality. I'm not going to get caught up in all the -- all the attention and things like that, the outside noise and hype. I'm kind of just trying to stay focused, and I think that's how I -- whenever I play my best is when I'm focused on just going week to week.

Q. Who had offered you before Florida or before you ended up with Florida?
KYLE TRASK: Well, I got my first offer from Houston Baptist University, and then I got a couple more after that. I got McNeese State and then Lamar University. Florida was the next one, and then I committed the next day after that.

Q. You committed the next day?
KYLE TRASK: Yeah, when Florida offered me, yeah, coach Mac and Coach Ness.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KYLE TRASK: Yeah, Coach Ness has shot me a couple texts. I'm very appreciative of him and the opportunity he's given me to come to a school like Florida because if it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't be here. But yeah, he's shot me a couple texts and just let me know that he's proud of me and things like that throughout the season.

Q. When you saw last summer Joe Burrow and all these guys and you didn't know the success they were going to have, all the great success, did you ever -- did it ever cross your mind to say, this is for me? I know there are stories of guys who didn't have success, but did you ever think you'd be at this point?
KYLE TRASK: No, I mean, yeah, I know the transfer portal has been a big thing the past couple years, but I get asked that question quite a bit, but I've always wanted to be a Gator, and I still felt like I wanted to compete and just once I get my shot I was going to take advantage of it.

Q. Your situation aside, to see now the college football players transferring, what do you think that could do for the sport, especially at quarterback?
KYLE TRASK: I think it could be good for the sport if people use it the right way. I think it can allow schools to have more top-name or talented players and kind of invite more fans in.

Q. (Indiscernible) he was kind of on the fringe a little bit himself for a good while. What was your relationship like? He was talking one day and I couldn't find the quotes, but my recollection is you guys kind of formed a bond over the years.
KYLE TRASK: Yeah, we've been great friends ever since we -- or ever since I've gotten here in 2016. Yeah, he used to be on scout team whenever I was on scout team, and I guess that's kind of when it started, that bond you're talking about. That O-line group, he's kind of the center of that group, and they kind of take after him. He's very hard-working and very passionate about what he does.

Q. You had kind of a similar journey in some ways.
KYLE TRASK: Yeah. Once I think Coach Hevesy really helped him develop a lot when he first got here, and he's really taken off and been a great player these past couple seasons.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KYLE TRASK: Yeah, I was surprised. I've never even thought about it or anything like that. That was the first time I've ever even thought about it when she asked me, so that's why I kind of was surprised.
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LAMICAL PERINE: It's just crazy knowing these guys are actually leaders for this team, people that look up to those guys, just knowing how much they've been through, they can tell their story. People should be able to get motivation like that, as well.

Q. What's the culture like to make a game like this? You know, the College Football Playoff overshadows a lot of stuff, but the Orange Bowl is a huge game, to make sure the team shows up, what's the mentality that's created?
LAMICAL PERINE: Make sure everybody just comes out and -- it's still a game to play. We don't need all this distraction. Of course that comes with being in a New Year's Six bowl, being in Miami and everything like that, focusing on winning the game.

Q. You guys talked about going from 10 to 11 wins. What will that mean going forward, recruiting, evolving?
LAMICAL PERINE: Just knowing how much the program has been through the last two, three years, and just with coaching changes, adversity, being 4-7, to now we've got a lot of guys that understand the program coming in, just knowing what Coach Mullen expects, having two 10-win seasons back to back, that's a big statement. More to come.

Q. (Indiscernible) how important is all that stuff happening now going to be for the program going forward? I know you didn't get to experience all of that, but do you think recruits put even more -- even in the short time you've been playing college football, recruits put more and more emphasis on things like that?
LAMICAL PERINE: Honestly, when I was coming out, it wasn't even a transfer portal at the moment. Just knowing how these guys are now, I mean, more like they like social media, and social media is a big thing for people. I feel like that brings a lot more attention.

Q. Who are some of the young receivers that you think will emerge next year?
LAMICAL PERINE: Dionte Marks, Ja'Markis Weston, those two guys are going to be great receivers for us in the future. And Trent Whittemore. He's a great guy.

Q. What do those guys do well?
LAMICAL PERINE: Trent can catch the ball, possession catch. He's more like, who would I say, like a Julian Edelman type guy. And Dionte Marks is super fast, can do whatever, man. Just going to be a great kick returner for us, punt returner. Ja'Markis Weston is probably the fastest guy on the team, at 230 can run a 4.4, 4.3, great athlete.

Q. I saw Whittemore, he had made a couple big plays.
LAMICAL PERINE: He's going to be good, man.

Q. What kind of work is that going to take in the off-season for all those guys to get on the same page? Because Kyle benefitted quite a bit having those seniors --
LAMICAL PERINE: Knowing that we're losing like four or five seniors, right, it's just surreal, man. Those guys came in together, and they had to fight through adversity. They had to learn to play with each other, get chemistry with each other. So it was just the same thing with those guys. They've got to do the same thing.

Q. There's a lot of outside opinion that's kind of mixed on guys missing a bowl game, getting ready for the draft if they declare early. What's the teammates' perspective on that?
LAMICAL PERINE: Honestly, man, I feel like that's up to the person who's playing. You never know what somebody is going through. At the same time, people are going to be going through injury, trying not to risk injury for a bowl game. If they know that they have a legitimate chance at the NFL, I mean, it's not that big a deal, honestly. If you miss it, you miss it, basically.

Q. It says a lot about this team, though, that everyone bought in?
LAMICAL PERINE: Yeah, mostly everybody did. CJ unfortunately -- I wish he would have played, but he has a goal. Everybody has a dream and aspiration of going to the NFL, so I totally understand that.
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Q. Any thoughts on your last game?
VAN JEFFERSON: A little bit, man. Last time I get to play with a lot of guys, man, and I'm going to miss them a lot. We had a little senior tackle the last week at practice, that was the last time practicing and the game. It's going to be emotional, because I'm not going to see these guys for a long time. We're going on to the next chapter of our lives. We'll see each other again.

Q. So many good receivers on this team who are seniors. Who do you think might step up next year?
VAN JEFFERSON: Man, I think Jacob Copeland, Trevon Grimes, Dionte Marks, Ja'Markis, Trent, a couple guys are going to step up next year and have a big impact on offense.

Q. What is your impression of those three freshmen that redshirted?
VAN JEFFERSON: I like them a lot. I think Trent does really well in practice. Dionte and Ja'Markis are two of the fast guys, they make plays, so I think they're going to be good next year and have a really big impact.

Q. Weston has a chip on his shoulder. Do you like that?
VAN JEFFERSON: Yeah, I do. Ja'Markis is big. He's strong. So I think he's going to come in and take that role, surprise a lot of people, so I'm excited to see what he does.

Q. Who's one of the receivers (indiscernible).
VAN JEFFERSON: I mean, we've already talked about Jacob and Trey, but of the freshmen, I think you'll be talking about -- I think you'll be talking about Trent, Ja'Markis and Dionte. I think those will be three guys like, whoa, where did they come from because they work so hard in practice, they put the time and effort in. I think it'll be there for them next season. Coach likes them, the whole team likes them, especially what they're doing on scout team going against Marco and C.J. and those guys. If they come back and say, those guys are fast, I think those are going to be three guys that really has a big impact next year.

Q. Did you get your last tackle --
VAN JEFFERSON: Yeah, we'll see. The last practice and games, man, the last time I'll ever see those guys for a long time, last time to get in a uniform. It's emotional, but we're going to the next chapters of our lives, so I'm prepared for it. Life goes on.

Q. How is your form?
VAN JEFFERSON: My form was not very good. I mean, I just tackled (indiscernible) pretty much.

Q. (Indiscernible) did you talk to your dad about that?
VAN JEFFERSON: No, I didn't have a discussion with my dad. I was going to play regardless. I know some guys do it for other reasons and that's them and I wish the best for them, but I came in with these guys, they accepted me, and so I can't just play (indiscernible) to get out there one last time, man, that's pretty much it.

Q. How would you describe the direction of the program as you're leaving here?
VAN JEFFERSON: I think it's going up. I think Coach Mullen came in and did a great job with the program. It's only going to get better, and I think the guys on the team that's going to be on the next year, the seniors are going to be up there, I think that they have a good understanding of what the Gator standard is, so I think the guys leading that team I think it's going to go up from here.

Q. What would a win in this game mean for the program?
VAN JEFFERSON: It would mean a lot, playing a good team in Virginia. Just got to execute the way that we do, but it would be a huge win for the Gators, man. It would be huge for the program. It would be huge for the seniors. You know, I can't wait to play on Monday, and it'll be a good game.

Q. What have you seen from them?
VAN JEFFERSON: They're a physical defense. They've got a lot of athletic guys. We've just got to be sound in what we do and execute. Just be technically sound. I think they pose a great challenge for us, and we like challenges, so we've just got to play.

Q. How have you been able to catch so many big passes this year? How do you get excited for a four-yard (indiscernible) basically?
VAN JEFFERSON: Personally for me, I like the short stuff. I like the slants, the digs and the out cuts and things like that. I mean, the reason I like it is because kind of like I'm quick twitch, so I like to work my moves and things like that. I think guys like Tre, Tre and Tyrie, they like the deep stuff, so it's a different game. But I think you've just got to get prepared for it every day. No matter what the game plan is, you've just got to execute it at a high level. So I think -- of course you like the long stuff, you know, but we've just got to go with the game plan that they give us.
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JOHN HEVESY: I think it's really what you wish for, every kid you have. Your own kids included is how he's worked, and Nick Buchanan is kind of the same way. Nick was three years on the scout team before we got here and he's been a starter the last few years. If you watch Kyle, he did everything he was asked to do and he knew when his opportunity came to take advantage of it. With a jump around here or there, he saw what University of Florida done for him, what his education did for him, what his opportunity was there, and he made the best of it.

You know, kids have different reasons why they jump around. They do things. They hear one thing, but I think you meet Kyle, you talk to Kyle, it's how hard he's worked at what he's done. When the opportunity came, whether it was last year, he had an opportunity, he came in and took advantage of it, and then unfortunately got hurt that week in practice. So he didn't have the opportunity to get him, and then you see him come back this year, opportunity came, took advantage of it, and even more the character of him is how he prepared when he had to go into the Kentucky game this year is how he prepared every week for the last two years in practice as if he was a starter and then when his opportunity came, it wasn't a big drop-off like I don't know what's going on, I wasn't a starter, so I think you see everything about his character, his education, graduating, working on his masters and then preparing each week like he was the starter, so when the opportunity came he took advantage of it.

Q. What have you seen of this offensive line this year from day one to Orange Bowl practice?
JOHN HEVESY: I think first we've come together as a group. That's the biggest thing. I think there's still -- that's the best thing. The biggest thing is individually there's things we need to work on individually to get better at. You see as a group we're on the same page, but individually there's still things that as you go through the season, my first goal was just to get to that point. I think Nick did a great job of getting them going the right way, and now each individual has the things that you see week after week, you see, okay, we've got to work on this, we've got to work on this to get us functioning all as one. So to me, it's always the biggest thing is the deficiencies each one of them have that we've got to keep working on to get better as a group. I think the one thing is finishing the season, and we've done, there's obviously things we need to work on, but there's things that we've done for us to go into the off-season, being the only one that graduates, OK here, a lot of young guys playing with the twos that they have the why in what they're doing, so really going into January and February, who's the one guy and bringing 14 of them back to have the understanding of the game. Now it's just really --

Q. Does that get you excited?
JOHN HEVESY: It does, because it goes back to me. Obviously it's the game first but then you come back in January, they have the fundamentals. It's not where last year, it's okay, you lose in a sense six guys, seven guys walked out the door, so here's eight through 15 that you're going back to teach everything to. That was kind of last year doing that. So this year everyone has here's how we do things, here's what you expect. Really you take the four starters last year, T.J. McCoy, Villano who played, what was that, six, and then Harkless was the older guy, there's seven that walked out the door. So there's not just the four starters, there were seven bodies that you looked at between ones and twos. Stone was a two, Brett Heggie was kind of rotated in. After that, Jean was not even in the two deep the first five, six weeks of the season until kind of injuries happened. So now going into this January, I've got 14 guys that understand what's going on, understand what's expected of them fundamentally, technically, assignment wise they've learned a lot of football. Now really it's to bring it back in and start with a foundation and bring it back up.

Really Nick -- there's 14 with me right now, so I'm down to 13, and then there's two that just showed up and then Isaiah shows up in January, too.

Q. So 13 guys that really know what they're doing?
JOHN HEVESY: And that have listened to me for a year, and okay, here's what's expected. Now for me it's to go back and really break them down individually, which I have everything going to meet with them when the game is over and come back in January, here's your individual deal-- because I've seen them all now -- the guys last year could play. I tell the older guys, I've got three seniors coming up next year with Stone, Brett and Jean. I've got to tell them, if you want to move on from here, here's this 12-month contract. This time next year where do you want to be, so it goes through everything with your hands, your feet, what you have to do if you want to play beyond this year, here's what you need to work on and focus on, and now it puts the onus on them if they want to go beyond this. Now, for the younger guys we've got to go back to fundamentals. But a lot of those younger guys have an idea of this level of football, how they have to be, whether it's -- the younger guys got to be in the weight room, this January and February being in the weight room and just getting stronger. Last year they came in and it was like, what is going on, just trying to figure out -- running a scheme, how we do things in the weight room. Now they understand a whole year of -- there's four of them that came in last year and they've been through the off-season. So for them coming in they know what to expect, so now they can really improve instead of just -- I talk about surviving, survive that lift, now go get better than that lift.

Q. The perception is that you guys have done a great job of pass blocking but not such a great job of run blocking. You see it every playoffs --
JOHN HEVESY: I think there's things that we need to get better at. Obviously we've done a good job of protecting. I think for us to win games -- and like Kyle comes in and Kyle can throw a ball, Kyle does a great job of protection. Kyle's not a runner. Everybody comes in, we're going to run the ball, but Kyle's not a runner. So we're going to always use what we have. Kyle can throw the ball and does a great job, has the right protections, and from things you got to work on, I think there's things need to work on, I think there are things that you don't start seeing until it's pinpointed out on there. For me even those four new guys, where's their deficiency? You don't always see it through spring practice, through fall camp, because there's so much installation going on. Now there's things we have to work on, whether it's being more physical, whether it's things we have to get better at. Obviously the run game we've got to be better all around to get us going.
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Q. What are your initial thoughts of South Florida, getting back down here and finishing your career?
JOSH HAMMOND: Oh, it's fun. I think a lot of guys have enjoyed the first couple days of being here. Excited to get back practicing. Had a couple days off, and I think we're just excited to get one last game together and go out there and execute and try to put on a show for all our fans.

Q. Personally does it feel like full circle?
JOSH HAMMOND: It does. Yesterday when I was practicing, my mom and a couple of my family members came to practice. It felt good to be back in South Florida for that one last time, getting back used to the heat, and just having fun out here, enjoying every moment, and I'm excited to be with my team in the Orange Bowl.

Q. (Indiscernible) does every senior go through it?
JOSH HAMMOND: Yeah, so the last practice we had in Gainesville, we called it a senior tackle. So every senior has to get up and speak and talk about what it meant for them to be a Florida Gator, and you get that one last tackle on the bag before you depart with that last practice in Gainesville.

Q. What was that like for you?
JOSH HAMMOND: It was cool. I think a lot of guys probably was just ready to go home because it was our first day before we go, so it kind of went a little faster than it probably should have. But everybody cherishes that moment. You know, it's exciting to finally move on and excited to take that next step and see what the future has for you. I think a lot of guys take advantage of it. I think a lot of people listened to what the seniors had to say. I think we mean a lot to the people on this team, and we're just excited to do the things we did for this team and come out here and play for each other.

Q. Still have one more game, but how would you sum up your career?
JOSH HAMMOND: I think it was really fun. I've enjoyed every moment here. I've been in a lot of ballgames. I've always done the things I can to try to help our team be successful. So I think I've worked really hard to put myself in this position. I think everybody on our team has worked really hard to put ourselves in this position. So we just want to come out and be able to continue to execute, play hard, and try to be successful come Monday.

Q. And then the last two years under Coach Mullen, how did you see the program evolve and what do you think is the trajectory of the program?
JOSH HAMMOND: Definitely. I think it's headed in the right direction. You can see the national prominence that the Florida Gators have at the moment, back to back New Year's Six bowls, 10-win season, getting top recruits in the recruiting game. It's definitely headed in the right direction. I think it'll be within the playoffs in the next couple years, and as long as they continue to work hard, I think they'll be fine.

Q. Coach says as far as a team being as good as it is, everyone has to be that way. Do you feel like this team maybe more so than any other teams you've been on has kind of embodied that?
JOSH HAMMOND: Definitely. You know, last year was kind of up and down because it's the first year. I think after seeing the success that we had last year with all the guys that bought in, you know, it only makes the young guys want to come in and buy in and do the same thing. Anybody else who's a part of this program wants to buy in just to be a part of something special. Everybody takes advantage of the opportunity. Everybody comes in, works hard, and we listen to what he says because we know he knows what he's doing, and we just try to listen to him, and we know he'll lead us where we want to go.
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Q. You leave these offensive linemen behind. Have you seen this progression with them that they've gotten better?
NICK BUCHANAN: Yeah. I mean, kudos to them. I feel as though from when we first got the group all together to now, it's just leaps and bounds different. They've learned how to like come together as a group. We've all learned how to play in that spotlight, in the big games, and just going from one game to another, being able to improve on your technique and fundamentals, and really just get it done, really come together as a group, and I'm truly proud of the offensive line that we've had this year.

Q. What have you seen from Virginia?
NICK BUCHANAN: Big, fast, physical, aggressive. Going to come and hit you in the mouth. They play extremely hard, so we've got to come out there ready because they're going to come out here ready.

Q. They seem to blitz a lot, I think sixth in the country in sacks. How much of an emphasis is trying to pick up different things they do to get pressure on the quarterback?
NICK BUCHANAN: I mean, you know, every week our game plan is kind of take it to the defense. So we put emphasis on whatever they do to make sure that we know what they're doing. They blitz, I think 90 percent of the time or something like that, so yeah, we've definitely been doing a lot of blitz pickup drills and stuff like that.

Q. How have these freshmen taken advantage of the extra practices, guys like Ethan and maybe Josh Braun?
NICK BUCHANAN: Well, Josh and Richie are like humongous. Like those are some of the biggest -- I thought Ethan was big last year. Those are some pretty big guys. They're going to be people movers here real soon, especially the guys who are here at the bowl game. The extra practices, it's just more reps, another opportunity to get better at your craft, getting more technique, more fundamentals in, more reps, more reps, more reps. That's how you become a great player, so they're going to take advantage of that.

Q. Have you had an opportunity to kind of reflect on your five years?
NICK BUCHANAN: Not yet. You know, really just been focused on the Orange Bowl, trying to come down here and go out with one last win because it's not over yet.

Q. What about when you guys were recruited, it was kind of a down period in the program, and you were probably told during your recruitment, hey, come turn this around. Do you feel like you're leaving Florida better than when you got here?
NICK BUCHANAN: I mean, I think I got here --

Q. You came right after the 10-win --
NICK BUCHANAN: No, I came in -- well, '15 was my first season because I think '13 is when we won four games.

Q. And then Muschamp got fired --
NICK BUCHANAN: Yeah, I came in that first year, we went to the SEC Championship, and then the next year we went to the SEC Championship. So I was thinking, this is what we do, we go to the SEC Championship.

Q. So it was McElwain was your first coach?
NICK BUCHANAN: Yeah, so I came in here thinking the SEC Championship was what we do, and the next year it didn't really go our way, so it's really great that we had the opportunity as like seniors to show the young guys what it takes to win 10 games, to compete for championships, you know, because it's a lot of work because everybody felt like we worked so much harder this year than last year, and we improved one game. So the margin of victory once you get into nine, 10, 11, 12-win seasons is just so small. It just shows that you have to work that much harder in the off-season.

Q. Dan said in the off-season it's easier to go from four wins to 10 than it is from 10 to 11. Do you feel like that played out this year?
NICK BUCHANAN: That's definitely true, yeah.

Q. You did go to an SEC Championship the first two years. You haven't the past two years. Why does it feel more sustainable?
NICK BUCHANAN: It's just the amount -- it's just the work ethic that was passed down. I feel as though us as seniors have done a pretty good job, the seniors last year obviously did a great job of passing down what it takes to work to get to the SEC Championship or to get to a 10-win season. Coach Mullen, he also knows that that's what he brought back was the Gator standard. So as long as you do it to the Gator standard, then you're going to be in a favorable position at the end of the year. You know, versus when we first went, it was not a surprise, but like I didn't know what was going on basically. I wasn't playing. I was just like, ooh, we're here, we're in Atlanta, like especially your freshman year. The season goes by so fast your freshman year, but now we put such an emphasis on the young guys, teaching them what it takes to be successful.

Q. I thought you talked about this, I couldn't find it looking back through quotes, but how far you and Kyle came together. You guys used to be scout team guys.
NICK BUCHANAN: I mean, I remember Kyle coming in. I'm kind of like the old dude on the team now. Been here longer than most of these seniors. I think one of the first times I saw him, I was at one of the dorms coming in, it's like midnight, I see Kyle, I'm like, what you doing, bro. He's like, I just went on like a two-mile jog. I'm like, what? This kid is crazy. It's amazing to see that work ethic. All he does is come to work. It's amazing to see him come and leading us to victory week after week.

Q. Has it been fun to share it with him knowing where you guys were together?
NICK BUCHANAN: I mean, you know, it's what it is, it's how it happens. Especially for guys like him and I guess guys like me, as well. You come in, you work hard every day, you're not really worried about how much am I playing, this and that. I just want to improve the team, however I can do that in practice or whatever. You keep working, keep working, and then opportunities present themselves, and when opportunities come you've got to take them. I'm so proud of him because I feel like we've came so far at quarterback. It's a great relationship.
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