Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday following the first weekend of fall practice for the Florida Gators. Muschamp spoke about a number of hot topics concerning the team including how much material the players retained from the spring after spending the summer working on strength and conditioning.
HIGH MARKS ON RETENTION AND CHEMISTRY
Though the team has only had three practices together, Muschamp said Monday that he has been pleasantly surprised with how well the team has retained the information given to them in spring by the coaching staff.
“I do want to compliment our players on the retention from spring. It was very evident on the first three days on both sides of the ball the retention we have for spring, which credits our players and the job they did this summer,” he said.
“We are far ahead of – after three practices, mind you – where we thought we would beat this point on both sides of the ball. Not just on defense but on offense, too. That’s a great credit to our players and the buy-in that they had throughout the summer. Again, there’s just three practices so let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but we are far ahead mentally then I thought we’d be at this point and certainly what Brent [Pease] thought as well.”
He also noted that the team is getting along much better than it was a year ago.
“A lot of that has to do with the staff’s been here a year. There’s a little bit more understanding of what to expect,” Muschamp said. “I think there’s a lot of things that are a little better. Let’s find out and talk to me after practice 18.”
LITTLE RUST FROM INJURED PLAYERS
Muschamp said he was impressed with how redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (head) and sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck) have been practicing early on this fall mostly because neither appears to have a mental block after serious health scares nearly cost them their careers last season.
“Any time you deal with the neck or the head, in my coaching career, you always worry about how a player will come back. But both of those guys, it doesn’t seem like it’s slowed them down. They’re both playing very fast and very physical, and I’m very pleased with both of those guys how they’ve come back,” he said.
He also spoke about the positive mentality and increased level of focus that Ball, Roberson and junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (who is not yet back in practice but working hard in rehabilitation) are showcasing.
“I think every injured player has a different appreciation of what they have and what God’s blessed them with. There’s no question that those two young men went through a very difficult time. With Marcus whether or not he was going to play football again, and Ronald of when he’s going to play football again,” Muschamp said.
“Neiron Ball – talk to Neiron. Here’s a young man that, at one point, was a pretty bleak outlook on things as far as ever playing football again. Any young man that has that taken away from him for a period of time or maybe forever, they certainly have a greater appreciation of maybe having the opportunity of what God’s blessed them with and playing a great game.”
Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say on Monday…after the break!
RUNNING WITH THE VETERANS
Two incoming players – freshman wide receiver LaTroy Pittman and junior college transfer defensive tackle Damien Jacobs – worked with the older players on the first two days of practice though Muschamp cautioned that it was mostly because of their positions and how they might factor in to their respective sides of the ball.
“LaTroy Pittman obviously was here this summer. A lot of it had to do with position because he’s working some different spots at wideout based on where some other guys are. We wanted to look at him in some different spots,” he said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On if he is ever concerned about juniors wanting to leave early and head to the NFL: “There’s no better staff in the country that is equipped to talk to you about going to the National Football League than our staff because of our experience in the National Football League. You look at Tim Davis, myself, Dan Quinn, Bryant Young as a player, and the connections we have with every general manager, a lot of the owners, there’s nobody that can give you better advice on what you should do. At the end of the day, to me, it’s all about the student-athlete. And if a young man wants to test the waters as far as that’s concerned and that’s what he wants to do, at the end of the day I’m going to support him 100 percent regardless of what my advice is because this is a family decision of a young man and what he wants to do.”
» Muschamp said the team practiced as a split squad on Friday and Saturday and for the first time as a full team on Sunday. The current plan while classes are in session is to have a meeting at 3 p.m. and then hold practice after that Monday-Friday. The team will also practice on Saturday.
» As he’s stated before, Muschamp noted that there is a difference between discipline penalties (jumping offsides, false starts, substitution issues) and “bang-bang plays” like pass interference. “There’s absolutely zero evidence to support that you can’t win a championship and be a penalized football team. It’s discipline penalties that are the issue,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s OK. I’m just saying sometimes in judgment situations…the officials have a hard job, too.”
» On freshman running back Matt Jones: “I think Matt’s going to help us this year. How much will depend on how the rest of training camp goes, so let’s not jump off a ledge here. He’s a mature young man. He’s very driven, he’s very intelligent, and he runs the ball hard based on what I saw last night. But it’s the consistency of the performance. You’ve got to show up and do it down-in and down-out. He’s a guy that certainly has the ability.”
» On freshman Buck linebacker Dante Fowler being heavier than he was as a senior in high school: “We don’t even really prescribe a weight for an incoming freshman because you don’t really ever know until you coach a guy. He’s a little higher than he was when we recruited him but after watching the pass rush last night he was pretty good.”
» On redshirt senior defensive lineman Earl Okine, who needs to improve his consistency: “He needs to play well. He’s got some competition and that’s the best motivator we have for a guy that needs to step up and play well.”
» On how the defense has been handling its communication: “The communication has been really good, which it needs to be. We need to use more hand signals than we’ve been using. We’ve been doing more verbal communication, which is fine out on the practice fields, but when you line up in front of 90,000 people you better be hand-signaling everything because you can’t hear, especially at our place.”
» On the running back situation in general: “As of this point right now, Mike Gillislee has kind of distanced himself, but we got a group of guys behind that that need to keep developing and coming on.”