Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday following the Florida Gators‘ seventh fall practice. He spoke about a number of hot topics including some major injuries, the quarterback competition and how certain players are progressing.
KNEE INJURIES DOOM ALAJAJIAN, JOHNSON
Muschamp announced Friday that true senior defensive lineman Nick Alajajian suffered a fractured right knee after getting “rolled up on in a drill” and will be out for the season. He is not sure what his future holds and whether or not he will take a redshirt year, which he has not used yet. “It’s disappointing for him in his senior season. Hurt for him right now; we all need to pull together and support him,” he said.
Moments later Muschamp dropped another bombshell by announcing that redshirt junior DL Kedric Johnson will also miss a significant amount of time after dislocating his left knee in practice. Johnson’s recovery timetable has not yet been set though the loss of both he and Alajajian means that some freshmen should get even more playing time as reserves this season.
IT’S CALLED A “COMPETITION” FOR A REASON
Asked whether either of his sophomore quarterbacks – Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel – has separated himself through seven practices, Muschamp quipped that the competition between the two talented signal callers is “pretty even” right now.
“We have purposely let them manage and gotten our offensive staff off the field because they need to manage our team,” he explained. “I think both guys have done a really nice job of that. I think both guys have had their moments when they’ve really shined and both had moments where we probably could have been better in some areas.”
Muschamp said that he would like to have Brissett and Driskel compete in at least three full scrimmages before the coaching staff begins to make a decision on the future of the position. “When the decision is right and the time is right, we’ll know,” he added.
SCRIMMAGE SET FOR SATURDAY
The next time the Gators line up in pads they will be going head-to-head in a game-like scenario at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. Muschamp is trying to mimic game day so much that he is even going to put some of his coaches upstairs to work out a system for in-game play calling.
“The first groups, we need to go let them play,” he said. “Those guys need to get out there. We’ve got a collection of guys that need to go out and play on their own and not have a coach let them know where to line up, what to do, where to shift, where to motion, where your eyes need to be. We need to get off the field and let them play.
“That’s what I’m looking for Saturday – a good, crisp, physical scrimmage, good operation offensively. Our coaches will be in the box that’ll be in the box on game day, and I think it’s important for us to be able to get in that function of getting the play down.”
Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say on Friday…after the break!
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp said that the team’s most competitive position battle is at quarterback but that the cornerbacks, wide receivers and offensive linemen are also going toe-to-toe with each other fighting for starting jobs.
» On whether sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson or redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball are showing signs of hesitation on the field while coming back from injury: “Yeah, [Roberson has] been great. You would never know anything. He’s been a guy that is always a concern. You get out there and concern of how he will handle it. Neiron Ball, same thing, you never would have known that there is any issue.”
» On senior safety Josh Evans: “I think Josh has improved tremendously, and it has nothing to do with athleticism, it has to do with communication and being on the same page and anticipation. The safety position, a lot of it is anticipation for the communication. […] That’s where I think josh has taken the next step, and he certainly has done that. And he’s been very good in camp, and he was very good throughout spring as far as taking the next step.”
» On why freshman Brian Poole, who was originally slated to be a cornerback, has been playing safety in practice: “Brian, early in camp to me, showed very good coverage skills and some good instincts in zone. He’s a bright young man. He’s a physical player; he will tackle. We felt like in the recruiting process he was a corner-slash-nickel. He’s a guy that can go in the slot and play, which he certainly can. But when you have a young player, I think the best thing for them is to get them in one spot and let them have an opportunity. Athletically, we felt like he’s ready to play, so I made a decision to move him to safety because the four corners we felt very good about. Obviously getting Jeremy Brown back in the beginning of the season hopefully, that adds you a fifth corner that you feel good about. At this point I felt like that would put him on the field the quickest, and he certainly has done a nice job where he is.”
» On freshman running back Matt Jones: “Matt Jones is a guy that has really shown some flashes. I’m interested to get off the field and see what he knows. I see [he] runs behind his pads He’s a one-cut runner. He gets north and south and doesn’t take a lot of direct hits. He’s got really good hands and is good in protection.”
» On if the team is cross-training at different positions as much as it was last year: “Not as much, no. We’re getting guys in spots and letting them play and that has been really nice.”
» On players transferring: “The University of Florida, being a Gator is not for everybody.”
» On sophomore De’Ante Saunders, who has not been spoken much about recently: “Pop has been playing both safety inside positions and corner just because he’s got a lot of feel for all positions.”