Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday to discuss the first four days of practice and provide some first impressions on what he has seen from the team this fall.
Muschamp related that he was not concerned about the knee injury suffered by sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III during practice Thursday night, noting that it occurred during a knee-to-knee incident prior to the scuffle that ensued between the defensive backs and wide receivers. It was, however, aggravated during the ensuing fight. Hargreaves was quickly diagnosed with a bone bruise, Muschamp said, and will miss practice Friday while receiving treatment. He remains day-to-day.
“I was told immediately it was a bone bruise. The knee was stable and there [were] absolutely zero issues,” he said. “Obviously, in any situation when you deal with a joint, whether it’s an ankle, a shoulder, a knee, an elbow, you’re going to always get an MRI. But our trainer told me last night it was a bone bruise and he’ll be day-to-day.”
He also addressed the fight with the team after practice and noted that he has no problem kicking players out of practice if something similar occurs in the future because that is exactly what would happen in a game.
“You had a young player, a freshman, who got a little excited. In those situations, you’ve got a bunch of guys trying to separate the situation. That’s not something we tolerate,” Muschamp explained. “We have a lot of competition at a lot of positions, so there’s a side of it that’s a good thing. You want your guys to be aggressive. You want your guys to play with toughness, but you also want your guys to play smart and disciplined. There’s a side of it that you understand is part of the game. I’ve been in 20 or so training camps and I don’t think there’s been one that’s had at least a little skirmish. [The media] calls it a melee. I call it a skirmish. Kind of the way it goes.”
Despite Hargreaves’s injury, Muschamp does not believe there is a prevailing concern with the Gators about injuries during training camp, at least not more so than any other team in any other year.
“I can speak to what I’ve addressed the staff and our players with – that football is a rough game. In order to prepare yourself for the season, you need to have a good training camp,” he said. “Football is a developmental game. You gotta get turns and reps and guys that miss a bunch of camp and miss that fundamental development for the season, they don’t play well during the year and I addressed that with our team. ‘If you want to play, you’ve got to practice.’ Football’s a tough game and injuries happen, that’s part of it. We had our share last year; we just gotta move forward.”
Statuses were also updated for freshmen defensive tackle Thomas Holley (sports hernia) and tight end C’yontai Lewis, who has suffered a thigh contusion. Holley is still recovering from offseason surgery and has not yet been a full participant in practice due to built up scar tissue.
NO. 1 WITH A BULLET
As much as some fans may have doubts in redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, Muschamp is convinced that he is not only the man for the job but the best signal caller Florida has on its roster right now. Driskel has impressed thus far in the fall and proven to be a great distance ahead of those fighting for position behind him.
“He’s completing over 70 percent in the first four practices,” Muschamp said. “I just think he does a good job making decisions from the [shot]gun. Very pleased with his progress. He’d probably be over 75 percent [if his receivers did not have] a couple of drops last night. He’s had a couple of drops through camp. Timing has been very good. He’s thrown the ball well. He’s making very good decisions in the run and pass game.”
Driskel may have a firm grasp on the starting job, but the Gators do not yet have players slotted as second- or third-string quarterbacks. Muschamp said redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg is currently even with freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris with all three set to get a fair opportunity to position themselves on the depth chart over the next couple of weeks.
“Those guys have shown some really good things as far as arm talent and poise,” said Muschamp of the freshmen. “The No. 1 thing that strikes me with both young men is they have a very positive way about themselves with the players. I think I call it the ‘It’ factor. They both have that as far as how the players respond to them. You can see a reason why they were where they were in high school and the accomplishments they have are very easy to see. They’re very talented guys, but I look at more the intangible part of that position, and they both have that.”
Muschamp expects the depth chart to shake out at quarterback around the 15th or 16th practice, a day or two after one of Florida’s scheduled scrimmages.
PLAYER EVALUATIONS: OFFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS
» On where redshirt freshman wide receiver Alvin Bailey fits into the team’s plans rights now: “Alvin is playing in the slot with Valdez Showers and Latroy Pittman. He had a big 1st-and-10 catch on the over route [Thursday] night. And he’s certainly a guy we’re counting on [for offense] and on special teams, as well.”
» On junior running back Matt Jones and how he’s performing at the B position on offense: “I think Matt Jones looks really good…has got tremendous hands. He’s run the ball extremely well. He’s carrying 233 pounds extremely well.”
» On redshirt senior WR Andre Debose, who like Driskel will miss practice on Saturday due to graduation: “Andre has looked really good, plays extremely fast on the field. He had one dig [Thursday] night he’d like to have back on a third-down conversion on a well-thrown ball by Jeff. We’re going to continue to monitor him through camp and make sure he’s not doing too much. You don’t want those guys to get too taxed in what they’re doing coming off an ACL.”
» On freshman tight end DeAndre Goolsby making an impact: “He made a nice catch on the drive there to start practice. Really good ball skills. He’s up to about 235 [pounds], gained some girth and strength in his body. More confident, he’s further ahead of the other freshmen because he went through spring. That’s understandable. He’s going to be a guy that contributes for us. As we continue to move through camp, we’ll see how much.”
» On the kicking game, which was supposed to be much improved, struggling during Thursday’s open practice: “[They’ve been] better than they were [Thursday] night. I think a little bit of the issue with the second group is Kyle Crofoot’s our best holder, and he’s also our backup snapper. There were some issues with snaps last night with the second group, also with the guy holding for the second group. So, I don’t think Brooks [Abbott] got a great opportunity last night to be productive. Austin [Hardin]’s kicked the ball well. Drew Ferris has been very consistent; last night he was not with his snaps. We were all over the place. We got to get better there. But I’ve been pleasantly pleased with the kicking to his point, and it’s still an open competition though, nobody’s taken the job, that’s for sure.”
PLAYER EVALUATIONS: DEFENSE
» On freshman defensive end Gerald Willis: “He has really good block instincts, playing blocks. He has really quick first step. He’s a heavy-handed guy, really strong with his hands. He plays with good effort. He’s about 255-258 [pounds], and he has a very big upside and will help us this year. He’s a guy that’s shown some flashes in the pass rush. I’m very pleased with where he is, just have to continue to handle the instillation.”
» On linebackers redshirt senior Michael Taylor and junior Antonio Morrison: “Mike Taylor, I think is coming off a meniscus, has been fine. He looks well. He slimmed down, looks quicker. Morrison has done some nice things moving around in there.”
» On sophomore safety Keanu Neal and his chances of starting: “He’s a very physical player, great toughness. Football is very important to him; playing at Florida is very important to him. He’s a guy that had been more of a box safety in high school. It takes a little time to understand playing in the deep part of the field, whether you’re playing a quarter, a half or in the middle of the field. He’s got good man coverage skills. He’s extremely intelligent. It’s hard sometimes to come in as a freshman at the safety position. We put a lot on the safeties to be able to communicate and do things you need to do. It takes time. He really applied himself to what he needs to do to learn and communicate. I’ve been pleased to this point. He needs to be a huge contributor for our football team.”
» On how redshirt sophomore defensive back Marcus Maye is being positioned: “Marcus Maye, right now, has really distanced himself out at the nickel. He’s playing well. We’re over 70 percent nickel and dime, so nickel is a starting position for us.”
» on freshman DB Duke Dawson, who has played nickel and safety in practice: “Duke’s a guy that can do a lot of things. He’s got very good coverage ability, he’s really smart, he’s got physicality enough to play the position to come in the box and play in the run game. But he’s got really good speed. Outside he’s got very good range, and he showed that early in camp. That’s why I wanted to take a look at him at safety for a little bit.”
» On senior S Jabari Gorman: “Smart, knows what to do, knows how we want to get things done on the backend, understands the communication. That’s a huge part of it. But I think is a guy, really looking forward for him to have a good year.”
» On junior CB Brian Poole and whether he will stay on the outside this season: “He’s had a really good camp. He’s played extremely well and that was something we felt like Brian could be very productive at nickel for us, which he was last year at times. But we needed to see what he could do at corner because really last year with who we had and Vernon coming along, he strictly played nickel, so he didn’t have a bunch of turns and reps outside. So, going into camp, that was the plan to see how far he can go at nickel, who can we have, another nickel, to take those reps and prepare themselves for the season.”
OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART
Based on comments made by Muschamp on Friday, Florida’s offensive line depth chart projects as follows with plenty of room for movement before the 2014 season kicks off. Muschamp commented that the starting tackle spots are locked down at this time, and redshirt senior Max Garcia transitioning to center seems to be a done deal.
Though he would not name starters at guard, he did list redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson as the third tackle and senior Trenton Brown, who is in line for a starting guard position, as the fourth.
LT: D.J. Humphries, Roderick Johnson, Trenton Brown, David Sharpe
LG: Trip Thurman, Tyler Moore, Antonio Riles
C: Max Garcia, Trip Thurman, Cameron Dillard
RG: Trenton Brown, Tyler Moore, Antonio Riles
RT: Chaz Green, Roderick Johnson, Trenton Brown, David Sharpe
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp said that the Southeastern Conference’s head of officiating, Steve Shaw, visited Florida on Friday to discuss the changes to the targeting penalty, pace of play and other issues.
» Saturday will be the first day the Gators run two practices. Florida will also “try and get some scrimmage snaps in on Sunday” depending how the team has progressed to that point. “Very pleased at this point with our effort and the guys’ attention to detail and what we’re trying to do,” Muschamp said. “Looking forward to getting out there again [Friday night].”
» On how the wide receivers have looked under the direction of rookie position coach Chris Leak: “Been very pleased with the wideouts. I think from a competitive edge standpoint, I think we’ve got a little more older group than maybe we had a year or two ago but those guys have done a nice job of competing. Been very pleased with their progress. I always tell the guys, ‘Your tape’s your resume,’ and right now those guys, their tape at the receiver position’s been good.”
» On what about the Gators excites him so early in fall camp: “To be in the training room, in the locker room, in the weight room, on the practice field, the guy’s competing, the guys getting after each other in a very good way, in my opinion. This is a team that likes to be around each other and that’s been something that’s easy to notice – the way they out and go about their business. We’ve got guys that are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Guys are holding each other accountable for what needs to be done. I’ve been very pleased with the attitude and approach of the team.”