3/23: Muschamp, Gators talk spring practice

By Adam Silverstein
March 23, 2012

A handful of Florida Gators football players met with the media on Thursday to discuss how their offseasons have been going, and head coach Will Muschamp did the same on Friday in order to go over how some of the players have been progressing heading into a team scrimmage on Saturday morning.

“[Saturday’s] scrimmage obviously should create some separation,” he said. “It’s the first time the defensive coaches will not be on the field at all. Offensively we’re still working through some things so obviously they’ll be involved a little bit as far as getting guys aligned in some situations to make sure the huddle procedures are right, the quarterbacks and managing our huddle and managing our football team.”


» Redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli (groin) – day-to-day, out for scrimmage
» Junior WR Solomon Patton (groin) – “week-to-week,” out for scrimmage
» Redshirt freshman WR Ja’Juan Story (ankle) – day-to-day, out for scrimmage
» Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Leon Orr (shoulder) – day-to-day, doubtful for scrimmage

With three pass catchers set to miss the scrimmage on Saturday, Muschamp joked (or at least he seemed to be) that WR coach Aubrey Hill was going to line up on offense. “We’re a little short there,” he said. “With what we’re doing, it will create some opportunities for Trey Burton doing some different things. Omarius Hines is still playing tight end looks and [we will] flex him in some situations.”

Muschamp also said that freshman tight end Kent Taylor, who will not be on campus until the summer, could very well see a lot of action in his first year and that he has been putting on weight as the coaches have asked. “Certainly he’s a guy that obviously athletically does a nice job stretching the field. In our camps this summer he did a great job as far as that is concerned – stretching the field vertically,” he said.


Defensive tackles Orr and junior transfer Damien Jacobs: “The one word that scares you is ‘inconsistent.’ That’s what both of those guys are – very inconsistent in their play. Damien really shows some nice flashes at times. He’s still learning terminology and all of the different alignments and the different things we do. We don’t do a lot with our front; we want them to play and play fast and physical. He’s learning how to play hard all the time. He’s learning that you can’t be in a union and play here – you got to be a part of our union and that means play hard all the time. He has to learn that. But again, he shows flashes. You ask our offensive linemen about what I call a ‘heavy-handed guy.’ He’s heavy-handed inside. He’s a hard guy to move; he can anchor. Leon, again, does some really nice things at times. He’s very inconsistent more than anything with his pad level. He gets his pad level up and it’s hard to maintain against guys who got good pad level. […] You got to play with low pad level and that’s [his] biggest inconsistency.”

Freshmen offensive linemen D.J. Humphries and Jessamen Dunker: “[Humphries is] a high school senior, and he’s doing a really good job. He’s working, he’s athletic, he’s got great feet, he’s got great feel. He’s very mature and he understands what it takes to be successful as a football player. I’m very pleased with that. Jessamen Dunker is very talented. He can move his feet. He’s 318 pounds and he can anchor and move and get movement. Both of those guys are swimming right now just mentally.”

Juniors Buck linebacker Ronald Powell and DT Sharrif Floyd: “Ronald Powell has been a guy that has rushed the passer better than he has in the past. He’s been more consistent. Sharrif Floyd is having a good spring. Those would be the two that would jump out at me up front.” Muschamp added that injuries have really prevented the team from seeing how solid the pass rush has the potential of being in the season.

Redshirt junior WR Andre Debose: “Andre’s adjusted well for the most part. He’s worked hard, and I think he’s having really productive spring. I thought he did some really good things – at times – offensively last year for us. Obviously as a returner he was outstanding. He’s just got to continue to progress. I challenge him every day. It’s about mental intensity in everything he does and the consistency in his performance.”


Senior safety Josh Evans is looking to make an impact his senior year and that transformation all started with a simple jersey number change. He will be wearing No. 9 instead of No. 24 in 2012. “I just wanted to change it up and do something different for my last year,” he said. “I’ve been rocking the 24 for a long time, so now I changed it up my last year – fresh start coming into a new season this 2012 season. I want to finish off the right way, finish off better than I did last year and be better than I was last year.”

Junior Jaylen Watkins explained that he has been concentrating on cornerback this spring, which is helping him because it is allowing him to narrow his focus and improve at one position. He admitted that this offseason is more fun and that the prizes coaches give out (such as ball hawk t-shirts for interceptions) motivate him. Watkins also explained how Florida can improve their interception problems from a year ago. “Executing the coverages,” he said. “A lot of times we could have been in spots to make interceptions but we busted a coverage and weren’t there.” He also said that having Muschamp concentrating on helping the defensive backs is a plus. “It obviously helps a lot because we know exactly what he wants. We hear it first-hand from him in meetings what he expects.”

Debose is still waiting for a breakout opportunity but continues to be patient in that pursuit. “I never put pressure on myself like that. I just play the game, try to make plays,” he said. “With this offense, I feel like the receivers will step it up and be more involved a lot more than last year. As a group we said to ourselves we want to make a big difference in the offense this year, so we’re going to do our best.” He insinuated that offensive coordinator Brent Pease is going to present the pass catchers with a lot of opportunities to make plays and said he is enjoying learning from him, too. “He’s a very laid-back guy. He knows our situation, being that it’s a different playbook he’s very lenient and very patient with us,” Debose said. “He’s very laid back. He’s not trying to ‘Go! Go! Go! Go!’ He’s really working with us a lot.” Debose also gave a little insight into the injury that has kept him from being a full participant this spring, noting that he had a problem with his “core area” that is “all taken care of right now.”

Redshirt senior Frankie Hammond, Jr. knows his time is running out with the Gators and, like Evans and Debose, hopes he can have a breakout season. He believes that Pease can help with that goal. “This is my last year and I want it to be a good one. I’m busting my tail, coming to work every day and we’ll just move from there,” he said. [I] just keep working and pay attention to the little things. Coach Pease is making sure he’s staying on everybody about that. Coach Pease fits it into tighter windows and things that you might not catch right away. You just have to run the play and see it and then you know what he’s talking about.” He also said that Pease having previously coached wide receivers allows him to understand what his unit is going through in practice. “He can see things through our eyes, so when we tell him things he understands what we saw,” Hammond said. “He can go back and make little corrections and minor things. Him having that kind of background helps him have a better understanding because he’s coached the position.”


» Muschamp on watching the basketball team: “Congratulations to Coach [Billy] Donovan and our basketball team. It is just a remarkable run especially since you lose [Will] Yeguete there, the guys overcome it and adjust. The guys are playing really well, obviously playing great defense. That’s the key. You can have some off nights offensively but no matter what sport it is [defense is important].We will all be watching at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, I can tell you that. Congratulations to them.”

» Muschamp on how the quarterbacks are progressing: “I think both guys have done some very positive things. Again, they need to continue to get a grasp offensively of what we’re doing. I think we’ve seen some very encouraging things, some very good things with what we’re trying to do. I’m very pleased with that progress as well.”

» Muschamp on lost opportunities for turnovers: “We dropped 15 interceptions last year. I’m not talking about tipped balls. I’m talking about two hands on it. That’s more drops than we had turnovers.”[/EXPAND]

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