Florida Gators football competed its first official day of 2013 spring practice on Tuesday, and head coach Will Muschamp met with the media after its conclusion to discuss some of the highlights from the day’s activities.
GETTING BACK INTO THE GROOVE
“First day in shorts. That’s not how you play football,” Muschamp said after coming in from the practice fields. As Florida looks to replace a number of starters and develop its roster, the coach was pleased with what he saw from the team on Wednesday, especially on the offensive side of the ball now that it is entering year two under offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
“Good to see offensively from a standpoint of guys teaching fundamentals and technique as opposed to scheme,” he said. “Anytime you’re new… Brent and them coming in last year and changing some things and teaching scheme as opposed to honing in on the fundamentals and technique of the positions and what we need to do. That makes us even better than obviously a year ago at this time, which we need to be. That’s refreshing.”
He was also pleased with the Gators’ attitude and top-notch work ethic, which continued from the offseason program. Muschamp added that he is proud of where Florida is at this time but does have a few specific areas of concern.
“Definitely we got to have some question marks inside answered, linebacker depth answered and safety. That’s where we’ve got some serious question marks defensively,” he said.
All-in-all though, the day was a net positive for the Gators. “You only get 15 [spring practices] and you either get better or worse, and I thought we improved,” he said.
ANSWERING THE DEFENSIVE QUESTION MARKS
Florida lost a lot up the middle in the offseason. Gone are both of the Gators’ starting defensive tackles, both of the starting inside linebackers and both of the starting safeties. Though Muschamp is comfortable with his defensive backs and believes that flexibility in the secondary will allow safety play to not be an area of concern, he is less enthused with the defensive front seven.
At tackle, the only player Muschamp has supreme confidence in is senior defensive end Dominique Easley, who has proven that he can play inside and may be moved there on occasion (or permanently) depending how the position battles shake out.
“We’ve got to be strong up the middle and that’s something that’s a question mark. I know Dominique Easley can go over there and play inside. Those other guys need a thousand reps and rep and rep and rep,” he said. “We got to continue to build depth with the guys we got at linebacker and I’m glad we’ve got them. They’re good players. They’re talented guys. They just got to get some experience.”
In Easley, Muschamp has a player that has earned his trust. In fact, only one thing Easley does during games gets on the coach’s bad side. “He frustrates me when he jumps offsides but other than that he doesn’t frustrate me very much at all,” he said. “He’s a very talented, hard-playing guy. When the bullets start flying, I’m glad he’s in our foxhole.”
Easley’s productivity not only helps Florida’s pass rush but also stands as a beacon that Muschamp hopes other players attempt to aspire to. In that way, he has become a leader on a defense that is sorely in need of one considering how many upperclassmen departed at the end of last season.
“The first way you become a leader is being productive. You have respect from your teammates because they know you’ve been there, you’ve done it. You don’t get it with your mouth. You get it because of how you play the game and the production you put out there,” Muschamp said. “He commands leadership immediately because of the way he plays and the production that he brings. On top of all that, he’s a guy that works hard. He works hard in the weight room. He loves the game, playing the game. I think a lot of our younger players especially – and his peers – see that and they understand that. That’s why he is a good leader for us.”
As far as linebacker goes, Muschamp said he remains confident in sophomore Antonio Morrison and redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor on the inside but very much wants freshmen Daniel McMillian and Alex Anzalone to develop quickly considering the Gators lack depth at Mike and Will linebacker.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On how redshirt junior Buck LB Ronald Powell is participating in spring practice: “In all of our walkthrough and teaching sessions, he’s a part of what we’re doing. When he’s not, he’s rehabbing and working on his knee and continuing to gain strength in the weight room. He looks great and is working extremely hard. We were all frustrated for him and what he’s been through but again he understands it, he’s matured through it, and he’s been outstanding.”
» On junior Loucheiz Purifoy’s first full practice at wide receiver: “Good. He made some plays at wideout. He’s still in the learning process. I had a long talk with him and he got a little frustrated. I said, ‘Remember your first day at corner? It just doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why we’re doing this, so you can learn the concepts of the offense and you can step in.’ It’s very difficult for a guy that’s had tremendous success at a position and is trying to learn another position. But that’s what spring ball is for. It’s for developing players and developing your football team and doing what is best for your team. It’s not about winning the drill on March 13th. It’s about preparing your team for the season and that’s why we’re doing this. And again, this is something that is going to help our football team, in my opinion.”
» On how the new players performed: “Good. Demarcus Robinson made some nice plays today. I thought he did some good things. Kelvin Taylor got in there and did some nice things. Tyler Moore looked like he fit in up front very well. Obviously we’re in shorts, with an offensive lineman that is a little different. Max Garcia was of course with us this fall but still is new. Joey Ivie ran around in there. I saw Alex and Daniel get a lot of reps because our depth at linebacker is not as good.”
» On the depth of the offensive line: “On the offensive line we’re a little short but again, it is what it is. We’re able to do a lot of work still. That’s part of spring ball. You do have some injuries. You do have some guys that have surgery postseason. So we got to be able to manage that and still get the physicality that we need to be successful.”
» On how retention was for the team from last season’s teachings: “Very good retention on both sides, which is expected.”
» On developing fullbacks: “You got to be a willing guy, which Rhaheim [Ledbetter] and Gideon [Ajagbe] are both very willing because boht guys enjoy contact. Both guys are good athletes. There’s no question that part of the job description at fullback is being willing to do it.”