Covering both Florida Gators basketball and spring football this week naturally forced some news, notes and quotes to fall through the cracks. Saturday’s spring football practice update covers everything that was not touched on previously this week on OGGOA. Be sure to check out the posts linked below in case you missed anything.
TAKING THE NEXT STEP ON OFFENSE
Though most fans chose to blame junior quarterback Jeff Driskel for all of Florida’s passing game struggles in 2012, offensive coordinator Brent Pease looked at the entire situation another way. If Driskel has no one to throw the ball to, how can he be blamed for being protective of it and not forcing it into windows that were simply not there?
“Looking back and seeing what they faced on a week-to-week basis from defenses, knowing the picture that he had to see at times for throwing, it’s a struggle when there’s nobody there for you. Guys got to get open,” he said.
To that end, Pease expects the Gators offense to continue its evolution in 2013 and noted two specific reasons why he thinks Florida will be able to move the ball better.
“You’re probably going to notice it in two ways: Productivity from the wideouts getting the ball and then Jeff just being really in rhythm and understanding defenses and where to go with the ball and keeping the ball moving much more, moving the chains as we say,” he said. “We’re not so off-balance here and there. We’ll have much more consistency in what we do on a drive-to-drive basis.”
“We’re definitely a lot farther than we were last year,” Driskel concurred. “This year we only have a couple new guys on offense. Last year everybody was a new guy to the system. You don’t have to teach as much. You can get into more fundamentals and getting better rather than learning the system.”
“It’s a matter of knowing the defense and knowing what they’re giving you.”
Driskel is no longer in a quarterback competition and knows that he has locked up the job – “I guess that does take a little bit off my shoulders” – so now he is concentrating on making fewer mistakes and improving his mental conditioning.
“We had a lot of issues in protection whether it be the line or whether it be the backs or myself,” he explained. “We put a lot of time into that and that’s something we’re emphasizing in the spring. We’re going to get a lot better at that, clean up some of the sack issues.”
Pease, while certainly worried about the number of sacks Driskel took a year ago, is more concerned with his offense cleaning up the procedural penalties that put the Gators into unnecessary holes throughout the season.
“One of the things that we have really tried to correct ourselves on – we looked it on offense and saw 45 penalties, 19 of them were false starts. Let’s eliminate those. Let’s eliminate 20 penalties that we can really control and then we’ve cut our penalties in half,” he said.
And though Florida’s offense was relatively careful with the ball in 2012, Pease believes that the Gators perfecting their craft can help reduce the offensive turnovers even more.
“We were very good about turnovers but still, looking back on it, how many of those were interceptions that we really could control? How many of those were ball security things? We’re going to get hit sometimes; you’re going to have some interceptions. But how many of them are controllable? We can probably get ourselves down to 9-10 and be smart,” he said.
PURIFOY PROGRESSING AT WIDE RECEIVER
Despite head coach Will Muschamp making it a point to note that the player would remain primarily a defensive player in 2013, seemingly every Florida player has been asked how junior Loucheiz Purifoy looks at wide receiver. Below are their answers:
» Driskel: “He’s only been on offense for four practices, but he’s definitely a guy we want to get the ball to and he’s made some good plays for us so far.”
» Redshirt junior WR Quinton Dunbar: “Purifoy is an exciting player. He don’t know the offense that good, but if you get the ball in his hands, he’s very exciting. We’re helping him out a lot. Whatever is going to help this team win I’m down for and my teammates are down for.”
» Senior cornerback Jaylen Watkins: “He’s able to make plays on the scramble pass, I’ve noticed. When Jeff or Tyler [Murphy] scramble around, Chez, he knows how to get open. […] He’s a pain in the butt because he knows our technique. So he knows how to beat us with our rules. He knows out to break our rules.”
» Purifoy said he expects to play defense, offense and both gunner and returner on special teams: “I guess I’ll be getting in shape this summer. It’s a mindset. You just got to go put in that work. […] It’s a lot, but I can handle it.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Senior defensive end Dominique Easley on why he returned for his final year: “My mom wanted me to stay in school. She made me. I gotta do what she says.”
» Pease on senior Trey Burton potentially playing tight end: “Trey is not going to play tight end. He’s too small. Trey would get eaten up at tight end. You got to have some size and strength to you. He’s a receiver-type, tailback-type guy.”
» Pease on if redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose has improved his consistency: “I’ve seen it up and down again, but he’s really been working hard and his attitude is right. He’s catching the ball better. He’s got to continue to be very reactionary and adjusting with what he sees. You can’t be a robot out there. It’s not always going to be the perfect world. You draw it up on the board with an ink pen when people aren’t moving, but when people start moving confusion cannot occur.”
» Pease on how redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore is coming along: “I think it’s probably real tough because you probably get real bored [during a year off]. Looking at where he is in his development, he’s done a great job. He’s been one of our most consistent guys up front. I noticed him and I’m not always focused on [the offensive line] every single play. I’ve noticed him quite a bit and he’s done a really good job.”
» Pease on how the tight ends are performing: “Gotta get better. Gotta get better. Not good enough right now. It’s been nice to have Colin Thompson back. He’s getting some reps. I think Kent [Taylor] is starting to do some good things now that he’s getting a majority of reps and really being into it because he wasn’t with us last spring. I think they’re smart kids. I think it’s just repetition. In this league with the ends you go against – and they’re getting good work because they’re going against Dominique Easley and how our defense uses our guys and [Jonathan] Bullard and Dante [Fowler, Jr. ] – you got to be a man in that position. It’s a struggle every day.”
» Pease on if the tight ends, specifically Taylor, can have a big role in the offense: “He’s in a good match-up situation inside on backers, understanding how he’s going to stretch the defense at times. If I’m those guys, I understand that and I see what happened with Jordan [Reed] and I want to be that guy. They got to step up and earn that role.”
» Sophomore Mike linebacker Antonio Morrison on his hit on E.J. Manuel last season in the Florida State game: “Everybody was excited, but I always do stuff like that. They see me practice that way. Any time I get in the game, I go hard. It wasn’t really surprising for me, but a lot of teammates, they were excited for me.”
» Junior tight end Clay Burton on fixing his catching issues: “I think I’ve handled that problem. I caught 2,000 balls during the month of February.”
» Watkins on Morrison: “He’s doing good. He’s one of the guys that came on quick last year. Now he’s just trying to be a leader.”
» Watkins on who is doing well at safety in spring practice: “Jabari Gorman is stepping up better than most people would expect him to as far as communication, tackling, making plays on the ball.”