A new era of Florida football begins quietly

Florida quarterback John Brantley (12) leaves the field after the first day of spring practices at Sanders Practice Fields on Wednesday.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 12:28 a.m.

A new era in Florida football was officially launched Wednesday with little or no fanfare — and zero audience.

With the fans and media locked out, it was a private, and apparently quiet, start for Will Muschamp and the Gators with the opening of spring practice on the UF practice field.

Muschamp met with the media for about nine minutes after practice and reported that it was pretty much a typical first day of spring drills in shorts.

“We’re out there in shorts, in pajamas running around,” Muschamp said. “You don’t play football in that. You play football in pads. Everybody was going to be enthusiastic. Today was easy.

“Let’s talk about practice 12. Let’s get to Aug. 21, practice 18, 19, 20. We’ll find out who is grinding then.”

The Gators will be grinding soon enough. But it’s too early for that now. The early part of the spring will be geared toward installing new offensive and defensive systems, teaching and player development.

“As much as anything with all the installation on both sides of the ball and obviously some changes in special teams, a lot of teaching, especially the first two days in helmets (and no pads),” Muschamp said. “That’s best for us right now for teaching tempo, to be able to go out and go through an awful lot of installation.”

In making the transition to new schemes, Muschamp said the staff will be careful not to give the players too much too soon. Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense is a significantly different concept than the spread the Gators were in under Urban Meyer for six years.

“I think we’ve been really careful with what we’re going to ask the players to do,” Muschamp said. “That’s something as a staff we’ve been very conscious of.

“We’re not spoon-feeding them, but making sure we’re putting them in the right situation where they can be successful on both sides of the ball — evolve a little bit to what we want to be. Play to our strengths, play to our playmakers on both sides of the ball.

“Make sure we’re not asking our football team to do too much and make sure we’re putting them in situations where they’re reacting instead of thinking. That’s going to be a little bit of a push there.”

At the same time, Muschamp said the coaches will challenge the players to see how quickly they can adjust and adapt.

“We do believe in throwing a lot at them and see who can learn, who can adjust,” Muschamp said. “How long does that take, who can make adjustments on the run. We don’t have a situation of getting ready for a game right now.

“We’re able to throw a lot at them and see who is able to retain and handle the information. We’ll expose them to as much as we can.”

Muschamp said he’s excited about finally getting started.

“It’s what you do,” he said. “What you get paid to do is go coach and prepare a team. Obviously, I love the offseason program. It’s one of my favorite times of the year to see your team develop, and see guys push through a tough time where there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

“But to get on grass and coach, that’s my favorite thing to do. I like spring because we’re able to really develop and teach. You don’t have the pressure of having to get ready for a game. It’s something I enjoy.”

The players apparently are excited about getting started, too. Muschamp said the long injury list UF released earlier in the week has shrunk to only a few names now that practice is under way.

“When we get into fall camp, the injury report will be two pages long,” Muschamp said. “The day before the first week (of a game), the injury report will have two names on it.

“From the offseason, we had two-page long injury reports. There were three names on it today. My point being when they get close to football and playing, they all get well. It’s never changed whether it’s Florida or anywhere else I’ve been.

“It’s amazing how that happens. The trainer rides in on his white horse and all of a sudden gets them all well. It’s phenomenal. I wish we could discover that medicine before practice started.”

Muschamp emphasized Wednesday that players will have to practice during the week to play in games on Saturday.

“Injuries are part of the game, but also part of our evaluation,” he said. “We want durable, dependable players. If you’re not going to practice, you’re not going to play. Practice is important to me. Preparation is critical to me.

“With surgical situations, I understand that. You also have to move on and prepare somebody else. That’s why we cross-train at a lot of different positions.

“I like guys that like to ball out there all the time. Preparation is a huge part of the game.”

NOTES: Muschamp said the three quarterbacks — John Brantley, Tyler Murphy and true freshman Jeff Driskel — will share reps during practice, and work with all the different offensive groups. … Wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr., who lost his scholarship after his DUI arrest last summer, is back on scholarship, Muschamp said. … Senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins will not participate in any contact this spring after undergoing reconstructive shoulder surgery after the season. “I think he just got out of the sling two weeks ago,” Muschamp said.

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