8/10: Muschamp evaluates team, says Leonard out 6-8 weeks, Burton moving to tight end

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

» Muschamp thanked lacrosse head coach Amanda O’Leary for the temporary use of their practice field for a change of scenery. He expects to practice 12-14 times there before returning to the football practice fields and The Swamp for a few scrimmages.

» 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.

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (89-80)

With the 2010-11 athletic season now in the books and the 2011-12 season about to begin, the focus has shifted from some of the school’s smaller sports to, of course, Florida Gators football. In this new series, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, until the season begins.

89 – Stephen Alli (Toronto, ON)
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver
6’5” 220 lbs.

Quick Bio: A social & behavioral sciences major, Alli is a SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll member who did not see the field in 2009 but played in all 13 games last season. He is also the only Canadian on the team.

Career Stats/2010 Season: Played in all 13 games, registering three receptions for 17 yards. He spent most of his time on the kickoff return and punt block teams.

2011 Outlook: Singled out as a leader by head coach Will Muschamp during spring practice, Alli was listed as the second X-receiver on the depth chart behind redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr.. He is one of nine scholarship receivers on the roster entering the 2011 season.

86 – Clay Burton (Venice, FL)
Freshman defensive end/linebacker
6’4” 234 lbs.

Quick Bio: The younger brother of Florida standout sophomore Trey Burton, Clay is an early enrollee who was a three-star defensive end coming out of high school.

2011 Outlook: Previously penciled in as a third-string defensive end behind senior William Green and redshirt freshman Chris Martin, Burton will likely move up into the back-up role unless the Gators move another defensive lineman into the position.

86 – Josh Postell (Atlanta, GA)
Redshirt junior tight end
6’4” 218 lbs.

Quick Bio: Originally enrolled to compete with the track & field team while studying health education and behavior, Postell walked on to the Florida football team in the fall of 2009. He participated on the scout team that year before finally seeing game action in 2010.

Career Stats (two games): Two receptions for 16 yards

2010 Season: Postell caught a pair of balls against Vanderbilt and stepped on the field against Appalachian State but did not play the rest of the year.

2011 Outlook: Listed on offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s early depth chart as a back-up at the F-12 position (when the team features one halfback and two tight ends), Postell saw his other competition for the job (redshirt freshman Michael McFarland) transfer in early July. If he does see the field, his work will mostly be limited to blocking duties, though he could haul in a ball or two.

85 – Frankie Hammond, Jr. (Hollywood, FL)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’1” 176 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star wideout, Hammond is a dual-sport athlete who is also a jumper with the track team. He majors in social & behavioral sciences and earned his way back on scholarship this year after being arrested for driving under the influence in June 2010.

Career Stats (26 games): 26 receptions for 333 yards, three touchdowns; five punt returns for 16 yards; one kick return for 23 yards

2010 Season: Catching just four balls during his redshirt freshman year in 2009, Hammond missed the first two games of 2010 due to suspension but played in the 11 remaining contests. He posted career highs in receptions (five) and yards (69) against Mississippi State and was Florida’s leading receiver that game.

2011 Outlook: Hammond steps into a starting role this season and will likely see time as X-receiver during most offensive possessions. Possessing impressive speed and soft hands, he will be catching passes from redshirt senior John Brantley for the second-straight season and should provide a bit of familiarity for the quarterback.

84 – Quinton Dunbar (Miami, FL)
Sophomore wide receiver
6’1” 170 lbs.

Quick Bio: Teammates with redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail at Booker T. Washington in Miami, Dunbar was also a four-star recruit who, like his teammate, majors in social and behavioral sciences.

2010 Season: Saw action against Miami and LSU.

2011 Outlook: Poised to be one of the Gators’ breakout players this season, Dunbar received high praise from Muschamp and Weis during the spring. He dropped a gift of a pass in the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut but really opened the eyes of his coaches and teammates during practice. “You can’t take away from what Quinton Dunbar has done vertically down the field through the entire body of work of spring,” Muschamp said after the scrimmage. “Dunbar has made more big plays than anybody else.”

83 – Solomon Patton (Mobile, AL)
Sophomore wide receiver
5’9” 175 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star prospect coming out of high school, Patton badly wanted to play for UF and chose Florida over his hometown team of Alabama during the recruiting process. A social & behavioral sciences major, Patton was one of a handful of freshman to see meaningful time on the field one year ago.

Career Stats/2010 Season: Patton reeled in four balls for 27 yards and returned seven kickoffs for 196 yards last season. He appeared in 10 games and was a special teams standout who not only brought the ball back on occasion but also blocked one punt and returned another block punt for a touchdown. His 48-yard kickoff return and blocked punt in the Outback Bowl were two of the most memorable plays of the season.

2011 Outlook: Though the Gators have plenty of speedsters, Weis plans to utilize Patton at F-11 during one halfback and one tight end sets. He looked good running the reverse during the Orange & Blue Debut and is excited about the direction of the team. “The coaching staff that we have this year, I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “I just feel like our swag is back. This coaching staff is so laid back, but at the same time they’re coaching us hard. They’re letting us play how we’ve been recruited to play. I’m really excited.”

82 – Omarius Hines (Corsicana, TX)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’2” 211 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star wide receiver, Hines majors in social & behavioral sciences like many of his teammates and has been moved around a lot during his collegiate career. He used his redshirt in 2008 after dressing but not playing in four games.

Career Stats (17 games): 34 receptions for 453 yards, two touchdowns; 12 carries for 152 yards, two touchdowns

2010 Season: After seeing the field in small bursts one year earlier, Hines started seven contests in 2010 and played in every game. He ended the year with 20 receptions for 281 yards but was moved around a lot due based on others’ injuries and suspensions. He went into the year slotted to play tight end but saw time at receiver and running back. Hines caught a career-high four balls against Georgia and led the team in rushing against Mississippi State (six carries for 58 yards and a TD). He also converted a 36-yard fake punt run against Tennessee.

2011 Outlook: A do-everything player who has soft enough hands to play wideout, Hines will fall back into that role as he is slated to be the team’s starting Z-receiver this season. Muschamp called him the most versatile and consistent pass catcher on the team, noting that he can play in the backfield in the F position and also line up at X-receiver.

81 – A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL)
Freshman tight end
6’4” 245 lbs.

Quick Bio: Considered a top-five player at his position nationally coming out of high school, Leonard was a four-star prospect who was part of both the Rivals100 and ESPNU 150. He enrolled early for 2011 and was a bit homesick but eventually got over it and quickly impressed his teammates and coaches on the field.

2011 Outlook: Listed as the back-up to redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed, Leonard made some nice catches during the Orange & Blue Debut. Muschamp spent some one-on-one time with him in the spring and has a good handle on what he can do for the team in the future. “As he ended the offseason program, he really started to mature and grow up,” the coach said. “I’m very proud of where he is right now. He’s doing a nice job academically. He’s a guy that can really help us in the fall as he continues to mature. Another guy that this time of the year is very important for.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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