Vertical game improving as UF wraps spring
Published: Friday, April 5, 2013 at 8:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 12:55 a.m.
Having to replace a 1,000-yard rusher, the team's leading receiver and six defensive starters, the Florida Gators had plenty of priorities heading into their third spring under coach Will Muschamp.
Orange & Blue Debut
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV: Sun Sports
Radio: AM-850/900 (radio coverage begins at 11 a.m.)
But perhaps Priority One was improving quarterback play and the downfield passing game. That was evident when Muschamp announced the day before practice started that cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, one of the team's most dynamic athletes, was going to play wide receiver exclusively for the first seven practices.
Now that spring is coming to a close Saturday with a practice in The Swamp that is open to the public, Muschamp said he's confident the Gators have taken care of their No. 1 priority.
“I think we're much more efficient,” he said. “We've made some vertical plays down the field against some cornerbacks that can cover. So, that's been pleasing to see.
“Jeff (Driskel) has been very accurate with the football. I've been pleased with the progress. I'm very pleased with where we are in the throwing game.”
Muschamp said Driskel, with a year of experience as the starter, is making quicker and better decisions, and that some of the wide receivers have started making plays for him.
“I think it's been kind of across the board (with the receivers),” Muschamp said. “One consistent guy has been Quinton Dunbar, who has continued to make plays. Through (last) season I thought he improved tremendously. He continues to make strides.
“Latroy (Pittman) has done some nice things. Loucheiz, when he is on that side of the ball, has done some nice things. Andre Debose has hit some plays.
“They are improving at the position. I've been pleased with the progress.”
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said there will be noticeable changes in the offense.
“You're probably going to notice more in two ways,” Pease said. “I think productivity from the wideouts, getting the ball. And it's going to probably be generated from Jeff just being really in rhythm and understanding defenses and where to go with the ball.
“And keeping the ball moving much more, moving the chains so we're not off-balance here and there. We're much more consistent in what we do on a drive-for-drive basis.”
Overall, Muschamp said it's been a positive spring despite the fact the Gators have so many offensive linemen on the injured list that UF can't hold its traditional spring game Saturday.
The Gators will hold a typical Saturday spring practice that will include some scrimmage situations.
“I've been very pleased with the spring,” Muschamp said.
The heir apparent to Mike Gillislee at tailback is sophomore Matt Jones, who has emerged as the clear starter this spring. At tight end, the Gators are still searching for a playmaker to replace Jordan Reed, last season's go-to guy in the passing game.
UF also is still looking to fill some holes on defense and at place-kicker, where the Gators must replace Caleb Sturgis, one of the most productive kickers in school history.
“We've got to continue to search for some answers in the secondary at safety, and more depth at linebacker,” Muschamp said. “(Middle linebacker) Antonio Morrison continues to play well. I feel like we're playing decent at the corner position.
“So, very pleased with the progress.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
Today's schedule of events
9 a.m. — Gator Locker Room Yard Sale (outside Gate 9)
10 a.m. — Verizon Fan Fest in North End Zone Lawn
10:30 a.m. — Gator Walk (Team enters the stadium from University Avenue)
11:30 a.m. — Gates Open to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
11:30 a.m. — Warm-ups begin on the field
12:30 p.m. — Alumni Flag Football Game
1 p.m. — Orange & Blue Debut: Will air live on FOX's Sun Sports.
Format: The format will be similar to the previous 14 practices the Gators have conducted this spring, with some special additions to enhance the experience for fans.
Before, during and after the practice Saturday, UF coach Will Muschamp will address the crowd to give them an inside look and an explanation of some of the drills and scrimmage situations the team will be running. The team will still have several 11-on-11 scrimmage periods, but there will also be periods of special teams and individual work mixed in that will closely resemble a normal practice.
Tickets: Although the event will be free, fans will still need a ticket for entry into the luxury areas.
Normal game day stadium policies and prohibited items will still be enforced for the safety of all fans in attendance.
Entry: Fans can enter the stadium through Gates 1-4, 7, 12, 15 and 18 beginning at 11:30 a.m. and can sit in the West stands, East stands, Lower South stands and Lower North stands. Luxury seating areas will be open only for those with tickets for the luxury areas.
Parking: The O'Connell Center parking garage will be open on a first-come, first-serve basis. The main O'Connell Center flat lot is for reserved parking only. The UAA will be running shuttles from the large commuter lot on Gale Lemerand Drive beginning at 9 a.m.