With the Florida Gators fully entrenched in fall practice, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Tuesday and provided updates on how the team is progressing going into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3.
LEONARD OUT UP TO TWO MONTHS
Though the word had been going around for a few days, Muschamp confirmed that freshman tight end A.C. Leonard, who enrolled early and impressed during the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut, will miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus he suffered on Saturday. That time frame would likely keep him off the field for 3-5 games and may result in a medical redshirt for him this year if the team decides he is not healthy enough to return until even later in the season.
“It’s a noncontact injury — [he] planted on it wrong,” Muschamp said. “Nobody was near him or around him. We’re very disappointed. It’s going to be a 6-8 week process. We’ll make a decision on his playing this year at that time. He’s up to speed on everything we’re doing. He’ll be involved in the meetings and will start the rehab immediately. It’s a scope procedure. We feel like we can get him back if he heals quickly like a lot of guys do nowadays. We’ll make a determination on his playing status at that time.”
Leonard, who had surgery Wednesday morning, was listed as the team’s No. 2 tight end on the spring depth chart behind redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed. Sophomore Gerald Christian, who worked mostly at linebacker in the spring but was moved back in April, was ahead of Leonard anyway when fall camp began.
In order to increase depth at the position, Muschamp also announced that freshman defensive end Clay Burton would be switching over to offense (for at least this year) and redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (who played some tight end in 2010) will see time at the position in certain situations. Burton spent time at tight end in high school and has experience playing the position.
Burton switched his number from 86 to 88 as a result of his position change seeing as redshirt junior TE Josh Postell is already wearing No. 86 on offense.
DEMPS AND RAINEY LEADING BACKS
It should come as no surprise that the team’s oldest running backs, senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey are leading the way for the unit in fall practice. Nevertheless, Muschamp made it a point to compliment how well they are doing through the first five practices.
“Both Jeff and Chris have been very impressive,” he said. “We do a nice job on the perimeter blocking with our wideouts. We create some one-on-ones with people who aren’t used to tackling as much as far as corners and secondary people. When those guys get the ball on the edge, they’re fun to watch.”
Muschamp wants his tailbacks to “score touchdowns” and “protect well,” noting that the team will have a lot of different one-back and two-back formations this year. With that being said, as of now, it looks like Demps and Rainey will be the ones primarily playing the position as the other two running backs are a bit behind.
“Right now Chris and Jeff certainly have distanced themselves from the pack,” he said. “Mike [Gillislee] and Mack [Brown] got some making up to do as far as Mack missed most of spring, Mike missed all of spring. Mentally, as far as getting back into it, and also physically. It’s been a long time since they’ve had contact. I think they’re progressing well, but certainly Jeff and Chris have distanced themselves.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard: “It has been good to get him back in the fold. He’s a load inside; got to get him to consistently give good effort all the time.”
» On redshirt freshman right tackle Chaz Green: “Chaz Green is a guy who has really stepped forward. [He] gets a lot of movement up front and does a nice job at the tackle position.”
» On redshirt sophomore WR Andre Debose: “Andre Debose made a very nice play in the back of the end zone today. We had a red zone period. [He] really went up and got the ball, a well-thrown ball.”
» On how he is managing the depth chart: “We change the depth chart everyday based on your last performance. We’re trying to promote consistency in your performance – it’s got to be an everyday thing in this league.”
» On the depth of the offensive line: “We just don’t have the numbers. I think we have 13 scholarship offensive linemen; you need 18. You’re missing a whole unit.”
» On redshirt junior Caleb Sturgis’s progression from a back injury: “He didn’t do any kickoffs in the spring. He kicked field goals and PATs. We haven’t really done a full kickoff unit. He has been kicking some kickoffs but not at the tempo we’re going to have him. He is strong; he had no issues in the summer as far as his workouts. We changed his routine a little bit [he’s not doing squats anymore] as far as the things he did, but he’s been kicking the ball extremely well thus far in camp.”
» On linebackers junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins: “The two inside backers defensively are outstanding. They’re very intelligent, very smart, great communicators.”
» Other players Muschamp singled out as being pleased with include redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley; wide receivers redshirt senior Deonte Thompson, redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr. and redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar; safeties sophomore Matt Elam, junior Josh Evans, redshirt freshman Joshua Shaw and sophomore Jaylen Watkins; and defensive ends redshirt junior Lerentee McCray and redshirt sophomore Kendric Johnson.
» On the freshman wall: “Freshmen hit a wall sometimes. We’ll get to that 12th, 14th, 16th practice. To consistently do it over and over again, for some guys, is hard. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened That generally is something you’re looking for – when they hit that wall. We have to just push them through that and hopefully they continue to get better.”
» On if the team has had any heat issues: “No, we have not. [Knocks on desk] We had a couple coaches who might have had a heat issue.” Muschamp added that there are tents on the practice field to keep players on the shade when they’re not active.
» On if two-a-days are necessary for college football: “That’s a personal preference. I feel like you do to push them through some things.”
» Muschamp said bringing in older players as walk-ons (considering the team is under the scholarship limit) is certainly a possibility, but those players would have to be hard workers and effective in their role.
This post will be updated in the near future.