Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media following the team’s first open practice of fall camp ahead of the 2013 season.
INJURIES CONTINUE TO MOUNT
Sophomore running back Matt Jones “continues to improve” from a serious viral infection that put him in the hospital, according to Muschamp, who could not pinpoint when the presumed starter will be able to return to the team. “He’s exercising, getting back into it but not ready to get out in the heat in full gear yet,” Muschamp added. “I’ll certainly update when I know. I’m anticipating that news, hopefully sooner than later.” Jones has yet to practice this fall.
Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) was hoping to be cleared for practice last Friday and was only supposed to miss 7-10 days as of Monday but instead got dealt another week on the sidelines by team physicians. Apparently, he will not be cleared this Friday either and Muschamp now hopes he is ready to go in time for the first game of the season on Aug. 31. “I think [he] has an appointment next Friday,” he said. “I hope to get him cleared for game week. That’s kind of the prognosis we’ve gotten so far, and I want that to happen.”
Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (knee) is not expected to be cleared until game week either, according to Muschamp.
Senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins (sprained foot) remains day-to-day following an initial prognosis that he would be out one week and could be back on Monday.
Junior fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring), expected to miss 7-10 days on Monday, will miss “another 5-7 days.”
There are also three new injuries to report, which has been standard operating procedure for Florida throughout the fall. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Alex McCalister and freshman offensive lineman Octavius Jackson are each day-to-day with shoulder injuries, redshirt freshman OL Quinteze Williams is day-to-day with an illness, and freshman DB Vernon Hargreaves III will miss at least 5-7 days with a shoulder injury of his own. “He’ll be fine,” Muschamp said of Hargreaves.
IT’S “D-DAY” FOR THE GATORS
Muschamp is ready to whittle down the Gators’ roster and figure out who is going to be seeing the field for Florida this season, and he plans on starting that process following the team’s Friday scrimmage.
“I told the team the last two days, this is going to be moving day for a lot of guys. We’ve got to start narrowing reps,” he said. “We can’t continue to rep everybody. So as far as the guys preparing as we move forward in the season, this will be a D-Day, so to speak, for a lot of guys.”
Comparisons to the Normandy landings aside, Muschamp said he is prepared to move more of the coaching staff off the field so they can watch and evaluate the players. Film from the scrimmage will be combed through after practice and the Gators will “go into Saturday and start narrowing the reps.”
“The older players know: we can’t continue to give some guys reps at positions where we’re wasting our time. We’ve got to move forward with the guys we need to go into the season with and really concentrate and develop the young players on the football team. That’s critical,” Muschamp said.
Florida has already game planned for its first four opponents over the first five weeks of the season – Toledo, Miami, Tennessee and Kentucky – and Muschamp plans to begin, on Monday and Tuesday, covering topics that are important to those four games.
“We don’t start school yet, so we’ve got them all day. We’ll have walk-throughs, we’ll have practice and different things we need to do and accomplish and make whatever final decisions we’ve gotta make as a staff as we move forward,” he explained.
While most of the veterans have a good idea about their spots on the team, how many freshmen will contribute in 2013 remains to be seen at this point. Muschamp thinks Friday’s scrimmage and the next few days of practice will go a long way towards determining which youngsters are ready to play right away and which others need more development.
“Let’s take our growing pains if we have to but let’s get those guys ready,” he said. “Who’s going to be ready for that opener? We’ve got to narrow it down. We can’t continue to rep everybody we’re repping. We don’t have the amount of time.”
Urgency has been a theme throughout Muschamp’s tenure at UF, and the next four days will be the first taste of it for the youngest players on the roster.
» On freshman wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and if his standout practice on Thursday was reminiscent of his camp: “He’s been pretty consistently making some vertical plays for us down the field. He’s got really good ball skills. He’s got natural instincts in running routes and doing those sort of things. So it’s been a very positive thing for our offense.”
» On senior WR Solomon Patton: “Solomon has had a good camp, he really has. He’s been a guy that since we’ve been here until this fall camp and spring, he’s been more of a bubble, speed sweep kind of multiple guys as far as getting the ball in his hands and letting him do some things, kick return. But really he’s refined himself as a route runner. He has taken a lot of pride in that through the summer. Obviously he had a big post [Thursday] night from Jeff, so that was impressive against Marcus Roberson, who is a pretty good player. He’s been doing that through camp. He’s been consistently doing that. He caught a nice out route in 7-on-7 to start the drill [Thursday] night, really sharp coming out of the cut. We had good coverage and he made a really nice play on the ball. We need him to have a very productive year for us at the receiver position.”
» On junior Clay Burton and whether he has separated himself as the No. 1 tight end: “A lot of that goes into the packages of what we’re doing that day. But Clay can play both the Y, the on-the-line tight end, and the F, the move tight end. He’s packaged for more situations, so therefore he will get more snaps. But there’s no question he’s done a nice job. Also been pleased with Tevin Westbrook and some of the nice things he’s done. Both of those guys right now would be one and two.”
» On redshirt sophomore transfer offensive lineman Tyler Moore and his versatility: “He’s very intelligent. He gets it. We’ve been able to plug him in across the board. He could play center if he had to. We haven’t done that yet, but he is a guy that, again, you can’t ever not emphasize enough the intelligence – football intelligence. And a guy that can go in and play different spots, different angles, different assignments and different techniques from playing inside as opposed to playing outside. But he can do a lot of things for us. He’s going to be a huge member of our football team as far as being able to contribute and a guy that’s a good football player, as well. He plays the game the way we want to play here at Florida.”
» On sophomore DB Brian Poole: “Brian Poole right now, if we were to start the season, would be the starter at the nickel back position. He’s done a nice job playing corner as well. I think he’s continued to improve through camp. Every day he’s gotten a little better improving technique and fundamentals.”
» On redshirt freshman defensive end Brian Cox, Jr.: “Brian Cox is someone battling with Jon Bullard at the end position [and I’m] very pleased with his progress. A guy that plays well at the point of attack. He’s a great effort player, a guy that gives you tremendous effort on the field and that’s something that you’ve got to count on those guys to play hard, and he’s certainly one of those guys.”
» On freshman DL Joey Ivie: “He’s done a nice job. His improvement from spring to right now is night and day. We moved him inside purposely in the spring [because] he needed to learn how to play blocks, strike blocks in a situation where he’s got to play fast and physical. We moved him to end, which is still inside, but it slows the game down a little bit. Very pleased with his ability to strike and play blocks. Very pleased with where he is.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Chicago Bears linebacker Jon Bostic’s massive hit on Thursday: “That was a heck of a hit.”
» On the kicking competition and whether there is a leader: “We haven’t made a decision. Brad [Phillips] had a little bit of groin [injury] there early in camp so we obviously want to give everybody a fair shake at that. Brad’s kicked in live situations before in-game. He has that experience. I’ve been pleased with Austin [Hardin]‘s progress through camp. And Brad, when healthy, has kicked the ball well. We haven’t made a decision.”
» On if he has thought about limiting junior quarterback Jeff Driskel’s runs: “Yeah, we’ve talked about that in situations. Jeff needs to be smart on off-rhythm plays as far as the scrambles are concerned, getting down and getting out of bounds and those things. He needs to understand when he needs to get a first down and when he doesn’t, which I think he understands that. We’ve talked about some of the design run game and limiting those hits.”