With the Florida Gators spring practice for the 2011 season underway, head coach Will Muschamp met the media Tuesday afternoon to discuss how individual players are performing, the injury statuses of others, the team’s health and how players are responding to so much information being thrown at them. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his availability.
POTENTIAL TALENT IS UNDENIABLE
From injuries and ailments to what former head coach Urban Meyer called an inability to learn the entire playbook, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose has yet to live up to the five-star billing he came out of high school with. However, when Debose did see the field in 2010, he often made electric plays including two fantastic kickoff return touchdowns in clutch situations. Muschamp explained how Debose is progressing and what he needs to do to succeed in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s system.
“I’ve been pleased with his athleticism in the offseason,” he said. “Being a consistent worker all the time, he’s got to understand it’s a day-to-day thing. It’s not just one day here, one day the next. His consistency in his performance is what I’m stressing on, but athletically, he’s what we want at the wideout position.”
Asked if he saw Debose’s potential, Muschamp dismissed the notion. “Potential is a bad word. It means you haven’t done it,” he said. “He’s got to continue to progress to be the football player he needs to be. God’s blessed him with an awful lot of ability, but he’s got to use that ability. He’s worked hard in the offseason. He had a really good offseason program, and I’m proud of the progress he’s made up to this point. Now it’s time to be productive on the field. That’s what I’m looking for, consistent production on the field.”
OFFENSIVE LINE STEPPING UP
One of Muschamp and Weis’s immediate knocks on Florida’s returning roster was the lack of depth on both the offense and defensive lines. Though that is certainly the case, the unit performed quite well on Tuesday and showed signs of promise.
“We have some guys that can be very productive, but also we’re throwing a lot at them on their side of the ball coupled with what we’re doing defensively,” Muschamp said. “So you’ve got a lot of thinking going on right now. I’ve seen some productive things. We had some good creases in the run game today, as far as running the football. Chris [Rainey] got loose a couple times; Mack [Brown] made a couple nice runs. We’re getting a hat on a hat in the running game, and a lot of that goes to the offensive line.”
He also took a moment out to compliment the offensive line coach Weis brought with him to the Gators. “Frank Verducci is an outstanding teacher. He does a really good job coaching the players,” he said.
For redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Weis and his pro-style offense was a godsend. Now that everything is in place, all that is left is for him to go out and win that starting job outright by setting himself apart from everyone else. There is no doubt he has the upper hand as of press time.
“John’s done some nice things throwing the ball,” Muschamp said. “We’re kind of re-learning everything as far as playing under center more. [He] threw some nice balls today. He’s been the most consistent, and [the other QBs have] been kind of spotty from that point forward – behind him.
“John’s a mature player. He’s ahead of the other guys simply because of experience and he’s very talented. We just need to continue to progress at that position.”
INJURY UPDATES / POSITION CHANGES
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard (ankle): “We went ahead and did a scope on Jaye Howard Monday, to clean up some things in his ankle that have kind of been an issue for the last couple of months. His timetable is uncertain, it was just a scope.”
Redshirt junior DT Earl Okine (wrist): “He had a medical procedure, and he’s going to be fine. Could have probably gone today, but we held him for precautionary reasons.”
Sophomore F-position/fullback Trey Burton: “He’s doing a nice job. He’s adjusting well in what he’s doing as far as the blocking and the things. Slipping him out of the backfield, Charlie’s using him in a lot of different ways. He fits well in what we do. He’s a smart, productive football player.”
Sophomore linebacker/tight end Gerald Christian: “He’s done fine. We’ve worked some bigger personnel sets [Tuesday on] offense, and he repped at tight end as well, which we said we were going to do that from the beginning. He’s a tough, physical football player. He likes the game; he likes contact. We just need to have more guys that can be productive at that position.”
On the players’ weights: “Every player has got a prescribed weight. It’s [decided] through myself, the position coach and Mickey [Marotti]. Every player has a certain weight that they should meet. We have a very fit football team right now. We have very few guys that have weight issues as far as being overweight. You can probably count them on one hand, which is unusual. Most of the guys are in shape. We had a good five-week offseason program, and those guys did an outstanding job of running. They’re in good condition at this point.”
On the team’s aptitude: “It’s all new for everybody. Everybody’s a freshman a little bit, on both sides of the ball.”
On slowing down the installations: “As a staff, we need to sit down and make sure that we’re not doing so much right now that it’s slowing us down in how we’re playing and [with] the physicality we need to play with on both sides of the ball. […] We’ve got a lot of guys swimming right now. We’ve thrown an awful lot at them – on both sides of the ball. They’re seeing a lot of looks right now. Just an awful lot is going on in their mind right now. We’ve thrown a bunch at them. They won’t see as many looks throughout the season as they’ve probably seen the last four days.“