Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday before the Florida Gators began their third spring practice of the offseason. He touched on a number of issues concerning the team including its youth, injury issues and options at running back.
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli (groin) – day-to-day
» Redshirt senior defensive end Earl Okine (back) – day-to-day
» Junior WR Solomon Patton (groin) – “week-to-week”
» Sophomore cornerback Louchiez Purifoy (shoulder) – should practice
» Sophomore CB Marcus Roberson (neck) – out for spring
After injuring his neck in a game against South Carolina, Roberson was forced to miss the remainder of the season and was seen sporting a neck brace as recently as a few weeks ago. Asked why Roberson was participating in some shadow-type drills even though he was listed as being a non-contact player, Muschamp got a little snippy.
“He is moving around fine. Again, it’s just a contact issue. We’re not going to have him do any contact,” he said. “That’s what the orange jersey means. I had to explain that last fall – what non-contact means. Do we have to go through that again? Non-contact means ‘no contact.’”
He then got into specifics on Roberson’s injury and why he has been out so long.
“It was a displacement in the neck area. It was a very serious issue. It was all very healable as far as the medical process is concerned. It just takes time,” Muschamp explained. “He was in a neck brace for 6-8 weeks – a stationary brace. Then he was in a less-confining brace for another six weeks. It was a pretty – it was a scary injury.
“He came in on Sunday [after the injury] and told me, and it was scary. It really was. Any time you deal with the head and the neck, football’s over as far as I am concerned. Our medical people do a great job. They put him through every test you can imagine – took all the pictures and did all the stuff you do. They cleared him for non-contact.
“Marcus is a competitor and any time you take that away from someone, it is very frustrating. Marcus was down – bad. I was worried about him just as a human being. He was really depressed about the situation, something he loves and cares about so much maybe being taken away from him. He’s a guy you’re glad to see back out there. Football is important to him. He likes playing the games, as you see out there. It’s very hard for him to be non-contact. He’s a competitive guy and he likes to play the game.”
PLENTY OF RUNNING BACKS COMPETING
Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey graduating automatically made the Gators bigger at the running back position. However, their departure also left a void as far as depth is concerned. Senior Mike Gillislee
and redshirt sophomore Mack Brown
have stepped up into the first- and second-string roles, respectively, and Muschamp spoke positively about both on Monday.
“Mike GIllislee is a guy we’re excited about,” he said. “Mack Brown is playing his best ball since he’s been at Florida, according to Brian White who I spoke to this morning.”
He also discussed two players that the team has recently moved into a backfield role – redshirt senior Omarius Hines (tight end) and sophomore Chris Johnson (linebacker/safety).
“He’s an explosive athlete. He’s done some nice things,” Muschamp said of Hines. “It’s hard to judge in helmets obviously. He’s done some nice things carrying the ball. He’s a guy that has got some instincts with the ball in his hands and I’m interested to see him progress. He’s got good hands. We felt that way going in. more than anything, it was adding a bigger body to the backfield. A guy that has played and who we need to find a role for, find some different ways to get him the football.”
He noted that Johnson moved to offense, in part, because he did not necessarily have a full-time role on defense. “Chris really is a tweener as far as the secondary is concerned,” he said. “He gets swallowed up a little bit as a linebacker. I feel like he’s a very physical safety, he’s got a physical nature. He’s a box safety type of guy. He does a nice job in the open part of the field. He’s was a guy that was a good back in high school and a guy that’s got some explosive power. Let’s give him that opportunity to take a shot. We’ve been pretty pleased so far in, again, three days.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On redshirt sophomore wide receiver Quinton Dunbar: “Quinton has always worked extremely hard and he had a great offseason this past offseason. Quinton was a redshirt freshman and I would say there aren’t many redshirt freshman that you rely on to be your go-to guy as far as the receiver position or any positions is concerned. Now he’s a year older. I challenged him in front of the entire team. I said, ‘You’re not a freshman anymore. It’s time to take the next step as a football player.’ More than anything it didn’t have anything to do with physical ability, it had to do with mental aptitude, consistency in his performance every day, week-in and week-out in our league.”
» On if he often calls guys out in front of the team: “The other day, when we first started, I called several guys out and told them they need to step up at different position groups. I addressed the entire team about where we are right now. As much as anything, we let everybody understand what our expectation level is so we’re all on the same page. I think it’s important to do that in front of the whole group – offense or defense or in front of the entire team.”
» On how the quarterbacks are progressing: “All three guys are working hard at it. They’re up there watching film and constantly trying to improve themselves and get better. Again, physical ability all three possess the qualities to be good quarterbacks. I want to see them continue to progress this spring.”
» On if he is keeping up with the basketball team: “I’m a big Billy Donovan fan. We were shooting the lights out early yesterday, I know that. We were hot. I love basketball. I love watching and I’m a big fan of Billy Donovan.”
» On redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed: “He’s a guy that’s an explosive match-up issue as far as a defense is concerned. I thought he improved his blocking tremendously for a guy that hasn’t done it a whole lot. […] He’s a guy that continues to make strides as far as that is concerned.”