3/14: Spring practice notes on RBs, QBs, kicking

By Adam Silverstein
March 14, 2012

Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media early Wednesday evening after the Florida Gators completed their first official day of spring practice. He touched on a number of issues concerning the team including its young quarterbacks, changing running game and the NCAA’s new kickoff rule.

OFF TO A RUNNING START

Even though Florida had some success running the ball early in the season against some lesser opponents, it became obvious as Southeastern Conference play began that the Gators’ outside rushing attack was not going to work against some of the top defenses in the country. Fans called for now-senior running back Mike Gillislee to get more touches and were dismayed when he did not, finishing the year with just 56 carries for 328 yards (5.9 per touch) with a pair of touchdowns.

Muschamp explained in detail on Wednesday why Gillislee did not have more of a role throughout the season.

“He was injured last year for about a month. I thought we said that; maybe we didn’t, we can go back and look at the recorders,” he said. “Mike was a guy, and I think I said this before, with Chris [Rainey] and Jeff [Demps] there was a different running style, if that makes sense. It was more of a stretch outside running game. We still had some inside runs that we worked on just so we could not be so predictable.

“We tried to get Mike involved in some games. What was hard for us at times – especially being in the first year of everything changing – was being able to have an inside running package and then also an outside running package that fit what we were doing with the other guys. I felt like if we were further along with what we were doing, we certainly would have been able to do that, but we were not at the time. Again, Mike was injured for a while. He was out for a considerable amount of time. It’s tough to continue to build on that. Early in the year we probably shoulda woulda coulda got him involved more, I agree.”

As far as Gillislee and redshirt sophomore Mack Brown are concerned, Muschamp is confident in their ability but is still taking a wait-and-see approach before evaluating them. “They need turns and reps. They need turns and reps and protection,” he said. “It’s not just about carrying the ball, blocking – doing a lot of things right. That’s where those guys have got to take the next step. It’s not just about running the ball downhill.”

QUARTERBACKS TRYING TO SEPARATE THEMSELVES
[EXPAND Click to expand and read the remainder of this post.]The battle for the starting quarterback job between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel is going to last a lot longer than one day, but Muschamp nonetheless discussed the situation in general terms.

“I think both of those guys have the intangibles you want at the position, I really do. I see the things in the early stages you want to have at that position but only time will tell on those other things,” he said.

Muschamp is aware that both players were put in a tough position being asked to play against top-level competition as freshmen who had barely practiced as starters. However, he believes that there should be plenty of “help” around them as the rest of the offense now has a year of experience in the pro-style system.

“Playing as a freshman at that position is different. It’s different than every other position,” he said. “Putting them under those circumstances in a new offense and having guys around you not even sure what’s going on at times a little bit. We had a young offensive football team. […] That position is kind of the new position. Everybody else has kind of been in the arena of the SEC, so that certainly helps.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On his mindset as it comes to spring practice: “When you have spring ball, regardless of what you say, you walk off the field and there’s a winner and a loser. You have to have your guys and put them in competitive situations also put them in situations where they can be successful.”

» On any players in particular who had a good offseason: “I wouldn’t want to single anybody out right now until we start practicing a little bit more. There are some guys that certainly are in shape, certainly look good in the offseason program, but you get too far ahead of yourself as far as offseason program and you forget really what’s important and that’s lining up and playing the game.”

» On taking care of redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis: “He’s obviously a guy we don’t want to over kick. We did a better job of managing that this season. We still had a little hiccup. We need to do a better job of managing it again.”

» Muschamp added that Sturgis must improve his field goal kicking from the right hash mark and that every single player on the team can get better in one way or another.

» He noted that, after reviewing the team’s kickoffs in 2011 with special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin, the two believe about 50 percent of the kicks would have been into the end zone and likely resulted in touchbacks. Muschamp is not sure if the team will change their approach to kickoffs now that the NCAA has moved them up five yards and is having touchbacks start at the 25. He does think that Florida’s talent, speed and athleticism may make it beneficial for them to try and make teams return it so they can gain less yardage.

» On the NCAA changing the kickoff rules: “The take-offs don’t matter. The rule committee…I don’t know. The collisions happen 40 yards down the field, so if you take off from five yards or 10 that does not even matter. Does that make sense? I mean, come on.”

» On where leaders will come from this year: “We’re going to draw a lot from our junior class, from a playmaking standpoint first of all and for our leadership.”[/EXPAND]

6 Comments

  1. Drew says:

    So here’s a question for ya Adam. I get aside from two practices it’s closed, but is it going to be as anti-media as it was last year? Are we going to be able to get good practice updates that aren’t gathered from word of mouth or from players twitter feeds?

  2. g8ter27 says:

    “Mike was a guy, and I think I said this before, with Chris [Rainey] and Jeff [Demps] there was a different running style, if that makes sense.” Nope, not really.

    You see Mike was averaging 5.9 yards per touch whereas our other backs would have negative yards going into halftime on several occasions. I just felt like I didn’t want to hurt their feelings so we gave them a chance to get into positive yards in the second half, didn’t work but at east we tired….if that makes sense.

    • Drew says:

      So here’s what I think he may have been trying to say. I think what he’s saying is Gilly may have not been consistent enough during the week to dedicate a lot of time installing packages and different blocking schemes specifically for his north south type running style. Plus he said he was injured for about a month, so factoring that in with the lack of o line production and Champ couldn’t really deviate from Meyers offensive scheme. Hence more smurfs, less gilly.

      • That plus – with Rainey and Demps and their playmaking ability – installing such a heavy package would not be worth the time/benefit as he wouldn’t be on the field for enough plays. As he said, if he could go back to the start of the year and do it again, he’d have done it differently.

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