The Florida Gators will take the field for the first time since April on Monday morning at 6 a.m. for the official start of fall practice ahead of the 2014 season.
Head coach Will Muschamp, heading into his fourth year at the helm of the program, held a press conference during Florida’s annual media day on Sunday to discuss the make-up of the Gators heading into the fall.
GOOD START FOR THE PASSING GAME
Slinging the ball down the field will be key to the revitalization of Florida’s offense this season and very early returns are positive with Muschamp noting that redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel “looked really good” on day one.
Also impressing was redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose, who “looked really good [Monday] morning” and “looked fast on the field,” according to Muschamp.
“I think he handled the rehab very well. At first, he was very frustrated. As time moved forward, he was very focused on getting back and having a great sixth year,” he said.
“So as far as his level of focus, to be where he is right now [is great]. Really, it takes a full year, in my opinion, on an ACL for a skill athlete to come back totally from a confidence standpoint, from a soreness standpoint, to be able to battle through. … I’ve been nothing but pleased with his rehab coming back from where he was.”
Debose will have his repetitions monitored throughout camp but “will not be held out of any of the contact situations” due to his rehabilitated knee.
YOUNG DEFENSIVE BACKS BEGIN COMPETING
The Gators’ secondary was ravaged by graduations and defections in the offseason. Muschamp is looking to fill a number of holes at cornerback and safety, and Florida will likely end up relying on some of its youngest players to win those roles outright.
Muschamp broke down how some of those freshmen defensive backs looked during their first fall practice.
“Athletic. Those guys, good carry over [from spring practice],” he said.
“Jalen Tabor did some nice things. Duke [Dawson] did some nice things. Duke’s a guy we played at the nickel a little in the spring, can play a different position. He gives you a different skill set as far as a bigger guy that’s a good blitzer; he’s got good run instincts, could possibly get some looks at safety. Smart guy.
“Quincy Wilson [playing cornerback] had an interception tonight. DeAndre Porter continues…he played mostly offense in college, so it’s a transition for him but he’s a very good athlete, pleased with what we see so far. Some very positive things.”
SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACTING RECRUITING
Muschamp admitted Monday that he does consider what recruits put out to the public on social media when doing his evaluations on whether to extend scholarship offers. He also explained how a small slip-up could cost a prospect dearly both when transitioning from high school to college or even from college to the professional level.
“It’s so different than when we were growing up. But when they press send, it’s out there. There has been some situations that we’ve communicated with the perspective student-athlete and said, ‘Where exactly are we, what road are we headed down here?’ We may have talked to the high school coach, the principal and people within the school to find out more about exactly what messages are trying to be sent here. There’s no question there’s a lot of issues that can be made from the messages on a public social media.
“I’ve told our players this story all the time. I had a player one time that was going for a visit to a pro team coming out of college and jokingly made a tweet that was not viewed very humorously by the organization. The general manager called me and said, ‘What’s the deal with this guy?’ It ended up, he was a defensive tackle that got drafted in the second round as opposed to end of the first round, which the team that called me took a [different] defensive tackle. … It cost him about $3.5 million based on where he was picked.
“I tell our guys all the time that I don’t ban them from Twitter, but we try to monitor those things as best we can. … I try to explain to them that when you put something out there, you’re being followed by so many people, they assume you’re talking about Florida football immediately. That’s the first instinct, then what’s going on, and we’re in the information gathering business and trying to find what’s going on. There’s no question that’s part of the evaluation for us, and I’m sure it is for all other schools as well.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Florida split its Monday practices up by age group, running the veterans in the morning and youngsters in the evening. Muschamp explained that the main reason some freshmen got the opportunity to play earlier in the day was due to school conflicts and that “not a whole lot [should be] read into it.”
» After praising the specialists in the spring, Muschamp did not change his tone after seeing redshirt sophomore kicker Austin Hardin and punters senior Kyle Christy and sophomore Johnny Townsend on Monday. “I think that over a period of time you continue to build your confidence back, and I think both of those guys have done that and it started in the spring,’ he said.
» The Gators will don pads for the first time on Wednesday night during the third practice. After two days only wearing shells, Florida will be able to get fully geared up for practice.
» On Florida being healthy entering camp and the contrast from a year ago: “Drastically different.”
» On how excited he was to get the Gators back out on the field and waking up after less than four hours of sleep: “I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night. [I was] excited about getting back on the field and coaching. That’s what you get hired to do. That’s what I enjoy doing. All of the other stuff, not so much, but the coaching part of it I really enjoy. And I really enjoy you guys.”
» On the energy level of the team during the first practice: “Everybody’s fired up on day one. Let’s find out how they are on day 12. That’s the way I look at it. I told them the other night. They’re all excited on day one. Let’s make sure we have that same energy on day 12.”