Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss how the team is progressing in fall training camp. The Gators have completed seven days of practice to this point.
Though most of the injuries Florida players have suffered early this fall are minor, the list is beginning to lengthen with the Gators now nine practices into training camp.
Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his knee on Thursday, has not yet returned to practice and spent Monday running in an anti-gravity treadmill. He is expected to return to the field on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose and junior running back Matt Jones, both of whom are returning after suffering season-ending knee injuries in 2013, had swelling in the joint and did not practice Monday. Debose should return on Wednesday, while Jones might be back as early as Tuesday.
Sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor missed practice with a strained hamstring and will be held out until the end of the week, either Thursday or Friday barring an unforeseen setback. Junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (ankle) did not practice Monday but will be back Tuesday.
Four players including redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trip Thurman, redshirt freshman defensive ends Bryan Cox, Jr. and Alex McCalister, and freshman defensive back Duke Dawson all suffered shoulder injuries over the weekend but “should be fine” in the next few days.
Additionally, freshman DL Taven Bryan, who had been impressing Muschamp early in training camp, has strep throat and is day-to-day. “I hate that Taven has strep throat, because I thought he was making some progress. This will set him back,” he said.
Already out of action, freshman DL Thomas Holley continues to recover from a sports hernia that occurred in high school. Due to the build up of scar tissue, he will need minor surgery and remain out of action indefinitely until given clearance by doctors.
“They’re going to go in and shave that down, but I don’t know what the time frame is for that. I want to say the surgery is Tuesday,” Muschamp explained. “It’s not a major procedure, it’s more like having a scope done. He had some scar tissue that was built up that was very of discomforting when he ran, so he will be out for some time, but I do not know how much.”
BACKUP QUARTERBACKS: “A WORK IN PROGRESS”
Muschamp has not named a backup for redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel and will not for another 7-10 days, especially considering no one from the pack has stepped up to win the job at this time.
“We still are a work in progress behind Jeff. Need to continue to have those guys [compete],” he said. “Those guys were live [Sunday], they went against live rush. We got to do a better job getting rid of the football and taking care of the football. Ball security at that position was not very good.”
Muschamp later added: “Behind Jeff at quarterback, we need to make some strides, which we haven’t. Not that the guys aren’t working, not that we don’t think we can be productive, we just need more production.”
Redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg brings a bit of experience as a three-game starter in 2013, but he was not successful in his starts and has limited athleticism. Freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris, both four-star prospects, have the arm strength and athletic talent but are still inexperienced despite Grier being enrolled for spring practice.
Here is sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson corralling six punts:
TACKLE SHAKING OUT
With a pair of unquestioned starters at offensive tackle in junior D.J. Humphires (left) and redshirt senior Chaz Green (right), UF is now looking for depth at the position.
It looks like Muschamp has found some, primarily in redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson, who was named Florida’s third offensive tackle on Monday, the primary reserve behind the Gators’ starters.
Senior Trenton Brown, who is competing for a starting job at guard, would be Florida’s fourth tackle if the season started today, while freshman David Sharpe, who “athletically is there, mentally needs to come on,” is fifth on the depth chart.
STILL TWEAKING THE KICKING GAME
Florida’s place kicking woes cost it wins in 2013, and Muschamp is determined not to let that happen again. The Gators have been putting their kickers in pressure situations at the end of practices and scrimmages with the results being positive…when the ball is able to get off the ground.
According to Muschamp, redshirt sophomore Austin Hardin went 6-for-7 on field goals during Sunday’s scrimmage, while redshirt senior Frankie Velez was 3-for-3 and redshirt sophomore transfer Brooks Abbott (Virginia Tech) went 4-for-5.
Where Florida is struggling in the kicking game is with its snaps and operation time, a bit of a surprise considering the Gators have two veteran long snappers in redshirt senior Drew Ferris and redshirt junior Kyle Crofoot.
“I think competition has helped [the kickers], number one. I have been disappointed with our operation from snap to hold. That’s where you got Drew Ferris and Kyle Crofoot have held enough,” he said. “I told both of those guys after the scrimmage, ‘For you guys to have played and played very well for us, we got some guys that need confidence in what you guys are doing. When you guys are doing a better job, no different than being a quarterback and not having the confidence in a receiver of what he’s trying to do.’ So, we’ve got to get better there as well.”
PLAYER EVALUATIONS: OFFENSE
» Redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee: “Very good ball skills, good vertical speed, guy that can be a playmaker in the passing game for us. He will do enough, in the run game, to make people account for him.”
» Redshirt freshman WR Alvin Bailey, who is playing in the slot: “Alvin’s done a nice job. He’s been more consistent catching the ball. That’s been a little bit of an issue, but he’s done a nice job. It was a tough transition for him last year because he played mostly quarterback at Armwood [High School]. But he continues to improve.”
» Freshman WR C.J. Worton: “We had a meeting Sunday night as a staff after the scrimmage, and he was a guy that we talked about as the offensive staff, myself, as a guy we need to get more snaps. He really can run on the top end, got really good ball skills. Typical of any younger player at this time, I told the staff, this is when you start finding out the guys that are mature enough to handle it because they’ve got more on them mentally than they’ve ever had before. How are they handling all the stuff? … C.J., to this point, needs to spend more time in his playbook but certainly on the field has been very productive.”
PLAYER EVALUATIONS: DEFENSE
» Redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor: “Mike, number one, has slimmed his body down, lost some weight and kept his strength. Mike is a very intelligent, smart player, understands what we do and how we do it and the things we need to do, adjustment wise. We put a lot of linebackers and we can because of guys like him and Antonio [Morrison] and Jarrad Davis. Those guys can handle the volume, but I’ve been pleased with Mike. I plan on him starting. I think he’s a good player, and he’s a physical, tough presence. He’s a guy that has been in the war before and understands what it’s going to take week in, week out in our league. We’ll play very well with mike at linebacker.”
» Sophomore safety Keanu Neal: “Keanu Neal, right now, is our best safety. Past that, we’ll see.”
» Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Joey Ivie: “Joey Ivie has really done some nice things; we’ve moved him to tackle. He’s up right at 285-290 [pounds], but he’s a guy that’s really playing square, playing blocks well. Very pleased with his progress through camp. … He’s just playing blocks extremely well. We just got to continue to build depth inside. He’s holding the point extremely well. He’s getting off blocks well. He’s a guy that has progressed very well, steady progression through every day at practice. …. He’s been much more consistent in his play and how he’s playing. That’s been a really good, pleasant – not surprised – but we’re really pleased with where he is.”
» Freshman DL Gerald Willis: “Gerald just needs to be more consistent. There’s no question the instincts for playing blocks, he’s a heavy-handed guy. But there’s a lot swimming right now, a lot. What we’ve tried to do is continue the installation for our team but reduce the play list on both sides of the ball for our younger players to make sure you get to a fine line of where they’re thinking about too much, their fundamentals, technique and effort go out the door. And that’s what you can’t lose. So we’re trying to reduce the play look for some of those guys yet keep the installation going.”
» Muschamp is also pleased with the progression of redshirt freshman DTs Jay-nard Bostwick and Caleb Brantley, both of whom have improved themselves in fall camp to this point.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Florida’s Sunday scrimmage, which included 80-85 snaps: “I thought it was pretty good, earlier than we ever have done [a scrimmage] before. I felt like we needed to get out and let the guys play a little bit. New offense, let those guys makes adjustments on the field, continue to work on being a good situational team. But I thought we got a lot of good things done in the scrimmage. First and second units about 40 snaps each in the scrimmage.”
» On the Gators being careful about riding scooters and one injury that occurred this offseason: “I talked to them a lot about it. It’s hard sometimes. A young man cannot afford a car, but he can afford a scooter, and he needs transportation. There’s been many a night I’ve thought about banning them, but I don’t know that’s the right thing to do. … Let’s be smart, be responsible. No texting and scootering at the same time, we do have that rule. We’ve talked to our guys. Keanu Neal got fortunate. He had a tire slip this summer on a deal. His girlfriend [Kytra Hunter] is a gymnast, she’s a much better athlete than him. Nothing happened to her. He messed his finger up. She’s a lot better athlete. I should have recruited her. We emphasize it with our players. We tell them about it. They got to understand being careful, but they can’t live in a glass bubble.”
» On getting on young defensive backs, including freshman Jalen Tabor, in practice: “It’s not just Jalen, it’s all young players. Most of them have a hard time, down in and down out, series in and series out, day after day of playing a certain way. Whether it’s with pad level, your eye control, your leverage, all of those little things that are taken for granted when you’re that much better, which he was in high school, he didn’t have to worry about those things. Now you’re in a situation where you’re playing guys as good as you. It comes back to fundamentals and technique. Those are things that young players, and [Jalen's] very coachable because he’s a guy that’s able to listen, learn and move to the next snap. If he can’t handle me yelling, he not going to handle 90,000 people, I assure tell you that. He’s a guy that, we need some separation at corner. These guys everything happens for a reason in live. These guys, because of Vernon being out a couple days, has been awesome for them to be able to get all of the reps and put them in all those situations.”
» On the progress of Florida’s young secondary: “Secondary, we made some poor decision [Monday morning] on the ball, guys knowing when to hook and swat, secure the receiver and knock the ball off them, and we need to go for the interception. Judgment on the back end has not been very good. That comes sometimes with young players. We got some talented guys at the position to make plays; they have to make better decisions on how to make the play.”