With the Florida Gators under two weeks away from the beginning of the season and set to compete in their third and final scrimmage of training camp on Tuesday, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to provide updates on the team.
SOME, BUT NOT ALL ROSTER DECISIONS MADE ON SUNDAY
Muschamp said on Saturday that the entire coaching staff would sit down Sunday and iron out the roster in order to determine who should get the most reps heading into the third and final scrimmage. Though he said that the Gators will not be releasing a depth chart until Aug. 27, Muschamp explained what was accomplished Sunday as far as organizing the roster is concerned.
“We looked at the roster and went through everybody. We did not necessarily set depth charts; I know everybody will be asking for that. We will release that Monday of game week,” he said. “More than anything we narrowed down who is getting reps and then talked in terms of special teams. Who are the guys that we need to be stepping up on special teams for us? Especially some of the younger players, where are they figuring in as far as snaps are concerned.”
Florida has now mostly figured out out which “guys we can count on” and “guys that we need to continue to rep,” an important step before a the final scrimmage on Tuesday that will look in many ways like a game day.
“We’re going to have another situational scrimmage. We’ll treat it like game day,” Muschamp explained. “We’ll have a pre-game at 11:30 [a.m.], and we’re going to kick it off at 3:30 [p.m.]. We’re going to go in for halftime; we’re going to come out. We’ll have to be able to adjust coming out of the locker room and put them in some situations.
“We’ll have some move-the-field. I want to have another [situation of] coming out off the goal line. We weren’t very good in the first scrimmage on that. Some more third-down work, some more red zone work and then some just getting on the field and functioning as an offense, get the coaches in the booth. It will now be our third time [doing that]. That, as much as anything, is what [Sunday] was about.”
SO…WHO IS STARTING?
Though position-by-position starters were not discussed by Muschamp on Monday, he did provide a handful of notes on who has nailed down jobs prior to the third scrimmage.
Sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will continue splitting reps down the middle during practice on Monday and the scrimmage on Tuesday. Muschamp said both will be non-contact (the plan was apparently always to return to that) for he duration of practice heading into the game on Sept 1.
Muschamp noted over the weekend that he expects to name a starter on Aug. 27 (along with the release of the entire team’s depth chart) but also said that Driskel’s bruised shoulder will be reevaluated next Monday. That can be looked at one of two ways: Either the health of his shoulder is a deciding factor as to whether or not he gets the start (in which case one would expect that evaluation to occur before the press conference) or it is a non-factor (in which case the time is of no matter).
Either way, Muschamp is pleased with the way both have improved.
“Both guys, I would say, are just commanding the huddle, knowledge of the system, understanding what Brent [Pease] wants,” he said. “What I have seen with both guys is a maturity level now of anticipating some of the situations that come up and what we’re going to go to. When you start getting that then you start maturing as a player and you’ll play better because you have better anticipation of what’s going to happen.”
Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say on Monday…after the break!
RUNNING BACK / FULLBACK
Senior Mike Gillislee continued impressing the coaches last week and now has a stranglehold on the starting job as well as the majority of the carries each game.
“The bulk of them are with Gillie,” Muschamp said. “That was discussed [Sunday] and that was pretty evident as we worked through camp. Gillie is going to get the bulk of the reps and then obviously Matt [Jones] and Mack [Brown] are next in the pecking order and then Omarius [Hines] is going to get his touches as well.”
With so many backs set to get carries, the coaches have moved sophomore Chris Johnson over to fullback where he will get snaps behind sophomore Hunter Joyer.
“Chris, number one, is probably our most valuable special teams player,” Muschamp said. “He’s a really explosive guy on special teams and does a lot for us there. We’re also going to play him some at the fullback position, talked to him about that [Sunday] night.”
Sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson has nailed down the punt returner job while redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose, as expected, is the primary kick returner. Gillislee will serve as the off-returner on kickoff duty, Muschamp said.
All four players vying for the two starting spots – Roberson, sophomore Loucheiz Purifoy, junior Cody Riggs and junior Jaylen Watkins – are still competing and nothing has been decided yet. Muschamp said previously that no matter who wins the two jobs, all four will probably be on the field for 75 percent of the snaps in some combination.
Muschamp all but said matter-of-factly that redshirt senior Lerentee McCray (Buck linebacker), junior Sharrif Floyd and redshirt senior Omar Hunter (defensive tackles) and junior Dominique Easley (defensive end) would make up the starting defensive line, as expected.
He did, however, note that junior Damien Jacobs and redshirt sophomore Leon Orr are guys “we can count on and can win with” on the interior and that redshirt senior Earl Okine and freshman Jonathan Bullard will also play at defensive end.
With McCray, senior Jon Bostic (Mike) and redshirt junior Jelani Jenkins (Will) all set at linebacker, the only truly open job is at Sam, where redshirt sophomore Neiron Ball and junior Darrin Kitchens are fighting for the job.
Ball, who missed some time recently, also joins freshman Dante Fowler as reserves at Buck, which may mean that Kitchens could theoretically “start” at Sam with Ball playing extensively in place of both him and McCray.
Freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) – having surgery Wednesday to insert a screw as his initial surgery did not heal properly; out at least eight weeks.
Redshirt junior TE Jordan Reed (knee) – participated in walkthrough on Monday but will be non-contact for at least one more day
Redshirt junior OT Matt Patchan (shoulder) – should return Monday or Tuesday after straining his shoulder
Senior DL Nick Alajajian (knee) – slated for a mid-October return
Junior Buck LB Ronald Powell (ACL) – will be reevaluated Oct. 1 with no set return date scheduled
Redshirt sophomore LB Neiron Ball (ankle) – was out 3-4 days with an ankle injury but has returned
Junior DT Sharrif Floyd (shoulder) – was in a non-contact jersey on Monday though his shoulder stinger is not serious and he will be fine for the season
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On initially moving Johnson to running back: “Really we liked his film as a running back out of high school down there. When we at where he was fitting – he was kind of a tweener between linebacker and safety – didn’t really know where that was headed. Obviously looking at our running back situation, not being sure and having some injuries, felt like he could be a guy that could be really valuable on that side. And he’s proved to be that; we like him as a running back.”
» On why Gillislee looks so much better this year, aside from being healthy: “The running game we’re running now is more suited for him. That’s not a slight on what schematically we were doing last year; it was who we had.”
» On the other running backs behind Gillislee: “Very encouraged with the other guys. There’s not a tremendous drop-off, in my opinion, other than experience. Those guys haven’t played a lot and Matt hasn’t played any. That would be the deciding the factor, the confidence we have in the experience Mike has as opposed to the other guys.”
» On pumping in crowd noise during practice: “We’re trying to practice every situation that can happen and occur, but we need as much as anything just to get out and function as an offense and defense on the field with crowd noise. Two of our first three are on the road; it’s going to be loud. We’ve done crowd noise and music at about every practice from about practice nine on where we’ve had to communicate with a loud crowd.”
» On junior do-everything Trey Burton: “Trey can do a lot of things. He’s hard for a defensive coordinator…how do you count him? Is he a back, is he a receiver, is he a full back, is he a tight end? And he’s going to line up in all the places. So it’s very difficult for a defense to look at it. Same thing for Omarius Hines. What is he? That’s where you have some issues from a defensive standpoint. How do you count this guy?”
» On how well the team is doing being a team this offseason: “I like the buy-in of this football team. [...] I can’t really look back and just say we had one flat day, one really bad, bad day. There was a bunch last year. Whether you say it’s leadership, it’s camaraderie, it’s the locker room. Whatever it is, I feel like this locker room has a lot more control of this football team than maybe last year we did at this time.”
» On former running back Jeff Demps returning to football: “I’m happy. I think that’s great. Jeff’s a great guy and a guy that can certainly be a very valuable third-down back and a returner. He’s a guy that when he touches the ball, he can take it the distance. The patriots called and I know that the Jets have a great relationship with Dan Quinn. They called Dan. Those are the two that I know were calling us pretty regularly.”