8/1: Muschamp breaks down Gators entering 2013

By Adam Silverstein
August 1, 2013

Florida Gators’ 2013 Media Day: Story: Injured Matt Jones, Jon Halapio, others join Jeff Driskel on sidelines | Story: Appendectomy a bump in the road for confident Driskel | Story: It’s now or never for Florida WR Andre Debose | Story: RB Brown, QB Murphy ready to step up for Gators

The Florida Gators will take the field for the first time since April on Friday morning at 6 a.m. for the official start of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

Head coach Will Muschamp, heading into his third year at the helm of the program, held a press conference during Florida’s annual media day on Thursday to discuss the make-up of the Gators heading into the fall. Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel spoke after Muschamp and addressed some similar topics.

OPENING STATEMENTS

» Overall: “I love this time of year, training camp. You see your football team develop through the offseason program, through spring practice, then on their own in the summer, preparing themselves for the season. You get to see the older guys and see the improvements they needed to make, whether it’s in the weight room or schematically, watching film, and preparing themselves for position battles and a lot of situations. You get to see the young guys you recruited and how they looked when they get on the field with the other guys and see how they mix it up. This is a huge time of the year as far as the development of your football team as you move forward and certainly an exciting time for us.”

» On the offense: “Do we need to be more balanced and efficient in throwing the football? That’s been well documented, but I think we’re better up front. We’ve been better at wideout, and I think we’re better at the quarterback position. But we need to do that August 31st, and we need to prepare that way to that point. We still have some questions at tight end, and what’s behind Jeff at the quarterback position, and continue to have playmakers at the running back position and outside. Those are some things we need to continue to work through.”

» On the defense: “Concerned about depth at the linebacker position more than anything. The experience, I think we’ve recruited well, but those guys need to gain some experience through training camp, and obviously we’re not as good at the safety position in spring. Very concerned heading into fall camp with those question marks up the middle of your defense. I do think we’re good enough up front to be fine. I think we’ve got a good combination of guys that can play, play well, and play the way we need to play to get to Atlanta.”

» On special teams: “Placekicker is an issue. Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips both have the ability to do the job, but they’ve never done it in the situations they’re going to be put into. So we may change that a little philosophically of what we think when we cross the 50.”


ANOTHER FORMER FLORIDA PLAYER JOINS THE PROGRAM

In addition to former quarterback Chris Leak and former defensive end Duke Lemmens joining the team as graduate assistants (offense and defense, respectively), former linebacker Mike Peterson will have a role with the Gators this season as he returns to Gainesville, FL, to finish his undergraduate degree.

“In the short time I’ve been around him, he’s a first class guy, really smart. You talk to all the NFL guys that coached him, and he’s kind of a coach on the field guy, and I think it will be really beneficial for some of our young players and all of our players really. But a guy that had a great 14-year career and certainly glad to have him back finishing up his degree,” Muschamp said.

HE (STILL) GONE

Sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison remains indefinitely suspended from the program (and for the first two games of the regular season) after facing two brushes with the law this summer. Muschamp indicated that Morrison has also been disciplined internally and will be allowed to return to practice eventually, just not right away.

“There was a lot of punishment that’s gone on this summer with him. It’s not all about game time either,” he said. “At the end of the day, our guys understand if they make mistakes, there are going to be consequences and part of that is game time.

If that [internal punishment being enough] was the case, we wouldn’t have any issues anymore, you know? It’s kind of like running wind sprints. We ought to just empty the jails and make everybody run wind sprints if that cured everything.

“The bottom line is you as a coach or a parent have to find out what is important and what are the consequences that can alter and change behavior, along with educating the young men. I know one thing, it’s killing him not being in camp right now because he enjoys being a part of the football team and enjoys the game. That is part of trying to alter his behavior.”

DANGER AT SAFETY

One of the four positions Muschamp singled out as being concerned with was safety (the others – tight end, linebacker, kicker), where Florida loses both of its 2012 starters – Matt Elam and Josh Evans – heading into this season. At the tail end of spring practice, redshirt junior Cody Riggs and senior Jaylen Watkins (both converted cornerbacks) appeared to be the favorite to start, but Muschamp noted Thursday that it is only Riggs that has been moved to the position full-time.

“Cody will strictly play safety, but Jaylen is a guy that can play some different positions and be very productive at multiple spots, so he gives you some flexibility,” he said.

Though a bevy of others – such as junior Jabari Gorman, redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers, redshirt freshman Marcus Maye and freshman Marcell Harris – will be pushing for the starting jobs and playing time, Muschamp conveyed that he is quite pleased with what Riggs and Watkins were able to show him over the spring.

“Number one, knowledge of our system – they both have that and they understand the adjustments and things. We put a lot on our safeties as far as making adjustments and winning our defense and things they’ve got to do,” he said. “They’re both very good communicators, and they both cover extremely well. As far as the physicality standpoint, I think that both of them have displayed that they can do that. They need to do it on a more consistent basis, but I think that they’ll be a good example of the younger players developing at the positions.”

DUVAL FRESHMEN MAY MAKE QUICK IMPACT

The Gators’ 2013 recruiting class got a ton of early momentum when three of the best players out of Jacksonville, FL – four-star linebacker Daniel McMillian, four-star defensive back Nick Washington and four-star wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood – committed to Florida and did their darnedest to ensure that Florida secured plenty of other talent. McMillian committed first but Washington was the leader of the brigade and one of the main reasons Fulwood committed to play at UF.

Asked by a local reporter what he thought about the three players, Muschamp expressed his confidence that each could make an impact in their first season on campus and gave some high praise to McMillian for his work ethic.

“You have three very mature, smart guys, and that is the thing that strikes you,” he said. “Daniel, who went through spring with us, catches on to football extremely well. I’ve told the story before. I think we started [spring] practice on a Wednesday and also practiced Friday and Saturday. I had to come up to the office Sunday morning for something, and Daniel is in the room by himself watching film. He’s got the whole scripts from the previous three practices. So when you see things like that with a young player, that’s impressive. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s a great teammate. He’s a guy that’s really a lot of fun to coach.

“The recruiting process of Nick and Ahmad, two guys that committed to Florida early, shut down the recruiting process. Again, very mature, great home environment, great families. All of the things you want to have and the type young men you want in your program. Ahmad’s going to have a great opportunity to play receiver for us this year. He’s going to have every opportunity in the world. We really liked his vertical speed, a guy that really had good ball skills down the field, could finish plays down the field. Showed tremendous toughness playing free safety at Bishop Kenny. He’s going to stay at wideout.

“Nick Washington is a guy that can do a lot for us. We’re going to put a lot on his plate early as far as corner, safety and playing inside in a nickel situation. He’s got coverage ability. He’s really smart. He’s a very good communicator. He is a physical player, and we’re going to see how much he’s ready to handle early o, because he’s a guy that can be like Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs. He can play multiple positions because he’s extremely intelligent, and he has the physicality to play inside as well as outside.

THOUGHTS ON PLAYERS AND POSITIONS

» On why junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy will not start camp working with the wide receivers like he did in the spring: “[We] got to find out what five young guys can do, and if Loucheiz is playing offense, that’s not going to happen. So he needs to strictly play defense, and we need to find out what those five young guys are going to do. It’s not about how good you are on practice five of camp. How good are you on August 31st? That’s what you’ve got to gear toward. You have to gear to build your roster for the season. Him playing offense right now, we can’t find out what those guys are going to do. He also needs to work on his technique defensively. So it’s a two fold thing and also you need to find out how deep are you on defense at the corner. We feel like we’ve got some guys that can play, but we’ll see as we move through camp.”

» On freshman CB Vernon Hargreaves III and him seeing immediate playing time: “Another mature, smart guy, selected Florida early in the process, completely shut his recruiting down, knew where he wanted to be in the next three or four years of his life. But a coach’s son, which doesn’t always carry over, but he’s been around the game a lot. The more you’re around him, he’s mature, he understands the game, very cerebral in his approach. But a guy that we feel like can slide inside and play nickel. He’s got the physicality to play inside. He’s got good run instincts. He’s a good blitzer. He’s got good ball skills down the field, and he’s got outstanding man coverage ability. He’ll have every opportunity in the world to play early.”

» Driskel on sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries protecting his blindside: “He’s gotten a ton bigger. He’s put on a lot of weight. You don’t usually see freshmen coming in, especially in the SEC, and playing right away. You usually redshirt and wait a year. It’s great that he’s got experience. He’s been there before. I’m excited for him. He’s a good player and he’s gonna have to play well for us.”

» On the position of linebacker and who might step up this season:Darrin Kitchens and Mike Taylor played really well for us. Neiron Ball we’re going to move inside to let him play some stack linebacker. He’s been mostly a Sam, and a BUCK, and an edge guy for us. But athletically, he runs so well, we’ll keep him in the rush packages and our rabbits package on third down, but let him play stack backer as far as on the early down situations. Again, I think we’ve recruited well. Jarrad Davis has been very impressive; he took over the summer, the young man from Camden. And then Alex Anzalone, great to get him cleared the first day. Matt Rolin, get him rolling in there, and D Mack is a guy we’re excited about.”

» On wide receivers stepping up: “I got a lot of compliments from Quinton Dunbar. Last year, Solomon [Patton] was more of a speed sweep reverse guy. We continue to develop him in the passing game. I do have confidence that Andre [Debose]’s going to be a productive player for us this year. We’ve got two other young guys developing on our team. The guy we forget about is Trey Burton. He’s going to be in the slot for us and does a lot for us there as well. I think we’ve recruited well at the position. We’ve got guys to help us out.”

» Driskel on the return of Solomon Patton: “He’s quick. He’s very quick out there. He’s a smaller guy, but he doesn’t really let that get to him. He’s strong. He’s worked really hard this offseason, and I’m really excited for him. I think he’s going to have a big senior year. He hit some big end-around stuff for us last year, but I expect him to be more prevalent in the pass game this year. He’s so quick and a lot of times he gets matched up on linebackers since he plays inside. He’s a guy that can really get open and create big plays once he gets the ball in his hands.”

» On why he is so down on what UF has at tight end: “The tight end position is not enough of what I would call ‘combo guys’ that can play on the line of scrimmage and dent the edge and stretch the field vertically. We don’t really have that mix of guys right now. I do think that Kent Taylor has improved his physicality and gotten stronger at the point. Clay Burton has continued to improve at the position. Clay is a combination guy that he can play on the line, play the fullback position for us and do some of the things we do. Colin Thompson is a guy that I’m excited to get on the field, since we had to redshirt last year because of the foot situation. Tevin Westbrook continues to come in. We just need those guys to come on. Tevin’s going into his third season. He played as a true freshman, we moved him in positions. Now he’s going to the second year as a tight end. He’ll take the next step. Trevon Young is a young player that’s going to have the opportunity to play at the position as well. I think we have the ability there, not necessarily the athleticism. You don’t find many Jordan Reeds just running around. That guy was a really special athlete and a mismatch issue for defenses. But I think we have enough combination of guys that can do some different things.”

» Driskel on the team not having much at tight end: “Jordan Reed was a big-time player for us. He’s a great athlete. You don’t really find a player like him too much. But we do have a couple of guys who have stepped up over the summer, and I’m excited to see them move forward. Colin Thompson finally seems to be healthy, so really excited to see where he’s at. But it’s a big competition there and someone’s really going to have to step up and emerge at the tight end position.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On not improving in the penalty department last season: “I’m more concerned with the selfish and stupid penalties we’ve had the last two seasons. It’s something we did not improve on. All the things we wanted to work on and improve as a football team last year we did except for that. Now, as I’ve told our football team, we’ve recruited well the last two years, and we’re in a situation position ally where you can come be selfish on the sideline, because we’re not going to tolerate the guys. We’ve got a deep enough roster, and we’re deep enough in most positions, we just go to the next guy.”

» On the strength and conditioning program helping the Gators on the field: “The physicality of our organization was evident last year in our improvements starting in the weight room with Jeff Dillman and his staff. But when you have eight come from behind wins and win in the fourth quarter like we did in most games last year, it says a lot about your organization.”

» On what needs to happen for Florida to win the SEC East title outright: “Win all the SEC East games.”

» On how Driskel’s appendectomy unfolded: “He said he had a stomach ache. I hoped he ate a bad cheeseburger, but it wasn’t.”

» On woodpeckers and why they do not get concussions: “We had Mickey Collins in who is a concussion expert. He was talking to us about when you deal with concussions and when you come back from concussions. He talked about a coach he once dealt with that made the comment, ‘This player you could take a shovel and hit him in the back of the head and nothing would ever happen, and this player could bump into a wall and he’s going to have a concussion.’ Mickey simply said the point is that’s right, everyone is different. Everyone handles it differently. A woodpecker is never going to have a concussion. I bet you didn’t know that. … They have an extra bone in their neck and they never can have a concussion. You learn something new every day; you just learned something new. My point being is everyone’s different. I know one thing.”

» Again, on woodpeckers and why they do not get concussions: “I was in a concussion meeting [Wednesday], and there was an expert on concussions, so I’m going to take his word for it. I have not researched it, so it could be wrong. But woodpeckers have an extra bone in the back of their neck, which is there for every time he hits a wall or a tree. Obviously, he can’t ever have a concussion. It’s all about…really, concussions happen because your head is like an egg, and the yolk is your brain. So when you have violent action, those synapses are messed up, and that’s how it causes a concussion. I believe it’s the potassium runs out of the synapses and the calcium runs in.”

» Driskel on player accountability over the summer: “In the summer, we don’t get any contact with our coaches. We’re only with our strength coaches and we’ve really got to monitor ourselves. It’s not mandatory to be out there, but it’s necessary. It’s not mandatory, but it is necessary and the guys know that. … The leadership of the team really emerged, and when guys didn’t show up, they would hear about it from the leadership of the team. We’re really excited about what we did during the summer, and we’re ready for it to show up this fall.”

2 Comments

  1. Joe says:

    Taylor was the #1 TE in the 2012 class and Thompson was #6. The time now for one of these two to step up, take over and own it.

  2. Courtney says:

    Look for jarad Davis, and k. Neal to steal playing time.

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