With the Florida Gators two weeks away from the beginning of the season and having just completed their second scrimmage of training camp on Friday, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to discuss injuries and standout performers.
Freshman left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL) – occurred on Friday, will be out 2-3 weeks maximum, should return soon and be able to contribute
Freshman defensive back Marcus Maye (meniscus) – returned to practice this week; however, it is swollen and sore so timetable is uncertain
Redshirt senior Buck/Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (hamstring) – missed practice Saturday but should return Monday
Redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed (knee) – injured his knee Monday, was supposed to miss 3-4 days but should return Monday
Redshirt sophomore LB Michael Taylor (shoulder) – should return Monday
Junior defensive end Dominique Easley (ACL) – reps have been limited for precautionary reasons but everything is fine and he is practicing
Junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder) – “dinged” his shoulder Friday and wore a non-contact jersey on Saturday
PLAYMAKERS BEGINNING TO STAND OUT
A team desperately in need of playmakers is starting to see some take the reins of the offense, Muschamp said on Saturday. And considering his mantra that the Southeastern Conference is a line of scrimmage league, he is probably happy that the running backs are really stepping up.
“[Senior Mike Gillislee], to me, has still distanced himself from an all-around back standpoint – protections, carrying the ball, doing the little things, carrying the fakes out,” Muschamp said. “His experience helps, obviously. He’s very driven. He is a guy that can have top-end speed and finish some runs for us.”
He is equally impressed with redshirt senior Omarius Hines, who is listed as a tight end but is also taking reps in the backfield and out wide. Hines had a 61-yard touchdown run in scrimmage on Friday. “There’s no question that he’s an explosive guy and we need to give him some opportunities with the ball in his hands because he can do some things with it,” Muschamp said.
As far as the wide receivers are concerned, three in particular are standing out, each for different but important reasons.
“I think we’re better [at that position],” he said. “Again, Frankie [Hammond, Jr.] is very consistent. Quinton [Dunbar] has continued to be more mature than he was a year ago. He understands what it takes down-in and down-out, the consistency in this league that it is going to take to be successful. Andre [Debose] has continued to be explosive and do some things for us.”
Also making a name for himself is freshman TE Kent Taylor, who is currently too “thin” to play the position and block effectively but has proven that he can make a difference for the team in the passing game.
“Kent catches the ball extremely well. He’s very athletic. I mean, very athletic. That’s another guy that you have to decide what he can do at this point,” Muschamp said. “Obviously he’s a guy that needs to gain some girth and some strength as far as the blocking is concerned. Let’s don’t ask him to do something he can’t do. I know one thing – he can go get the football down the field. He can catch the ball. He can do some of those things. So let’s identify what he can do and what he can handle in those situations.”
Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say Saturday…after the break!
YOUNG DEFENDERS STEPPING UP, VETERANS LEADING THE WAY
Two of the most explosive freshmen on the team are on the defensive side of the ball, and both Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. and defensive end Jonathan Bullard can have a major impact for the Orange & Blue in 2012. Muschamp said he is excited for both young men but is always cautious when getting his hopes up for freshman that have not been in the thick of things yet as far as what it takes to be a student-athlete.
“[Fowler’s] going to play. He’ll play,” he said. “You always are worried when you’re dealing with a freshman, you don’t know when school starts and you’re game planning and there’s 9,000 things going on how well they are going to be able to focus. I’m not just talking about Dante; I’m talking about every one of them. How well they’re going to lock in to the game plan, Tuesday practice, and then they got to practice again Wednesday and they got to do it consistently well.
“That’s where I think that some of our leadership has been really good. They’ve really honed in on some of these guys. Bullard has taken some steps for us, played very well in the scrimmage yesterday. But Dante has done some really nice things, has got to get in shape probably going to get his weight down just a little bit. He’s got great initial quickness on the edge and is a very powerful player, a very strong guy.”
That leadership is coming from a handful of players including McCray, junior safety Matt Elam and even injured Buck LB Ronald Powell, who continues to do everything that Muschamp and the coaching staff asks of him.
“I think Ronald has taken to his role right now for us. Rehabbing number one, first and foremost, but number two really helping these guys,” he said. “I always feel like in our scheme and our system, everybody says it’s too complicated. Well the numbers speak for themselves – it’s not – number one. And number two, when the players start becoming the coaches and they start talking about techniques and they put it in their terms…sometimes they can put it in better terms than we can at times.”
Muschamp continued lauding Powell with praise.
“Ronald Powell’s worth ethic has been off the charts. I mean, the guy has not taken a break all summer. He’s been in the training room. He’s done everything that’s been asked. Some people do heal quicker than others,” he explained. “I’ve said it all summer, the guy’s attitude and his approach to a tough deal has been amazing. He’s been a lot more mature than the rest of us about handling it, where he is with it and what he needs to do to improve himself.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp said Friday’s scrimmage consisted of more than 120 snaps, which is a huge bump from the average of 80 last season. “That’s why obviously we looked a little sluggish out there [Saturday],” he said. “That tells you the difference between numbers, guys being healthy. It is very pleasing.” The Gators have been playing a lot of situational football during scrimmages to get the team ready for the season.
» The team will have an off day on Sunday, which is the first following 18-straight practices. Florida will then have double practice on Monday, a scrimmage on Tuesday and another off day on Wednesday for the start of classes. The coaches will begin preparations for Bowling Green on Thursday.
» On if the players enjoy open practice with fans watching: “Most of our guys cannot standing it. [smiling and shrugging]”
» Muschamp said that the Gators will use 6-9 defensive backs each game and will use plenty of nickel and dime packages so many of the starting-caliber players who are not listed as “starters” will still be on the field for the vast majority of the snaps.
» On if the team has improved and is more “tough” than it was last year: “I think we are. I think you can point at different positions, but I’d start up front offensively. We’re a tougher group up front.”
» On the quarterbacks (or other players) participating in another sport in addition to football: “I had some conversations with Jacoby [Brissett] and Billy [Donovan] was totally open to it at the time if I am kind of remembering back here. I think a lot of that in the recruiting process sounds good. And then I think realistically when you get here and you look at number one playing the position of quarterback at Florida, there’s an awful lot that goes into that. Realistically it’s hard to do. Now we have guys that do it. We’ve had obviously Jeff Demps with track and Frankie Hammond with track. We’ve got some guys that possibly could play baseball or want to play baseball. I would be 100 percent open to that because, at the end of the day, it’s about helping the Gators. If those guys can go and manage academics first of all, and manage their football second of all, and manage their other sport and be productive for the other coach, then I’m all for it. And for the situations we’ve had here, it’s been great.”