Gators' first practice shows glimpse of up-tempo style
Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 9:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.
A small portion of Gator Nation gained its first glimpse of Florida's new offense Wednesday, and the several hundred or so fans who showed up for the Gators' first spring practice probably saw about what they were expecting to see.
A fast pace, lots of tempo and energy, along with some mistakes and uncertainty mixed in.
“Typical first day,” UF coach Will Muschamp said.
New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is in the early stages of installing his shotgun, up-tempo offense, and it was obvious in the first practice that the players still have a long way to go in terms of grasping it. But they do seem to have already picked up the concept.
The offensive players were moving around the practice field at a fast pace, quickly getting lined up and running off plays with no huddles and little or no wasted time between snaps.
It wasn't always graceful or effective, but it's a start.
“The guys on the offensive side of the ball, what we've been able to give them, did a good job of taking it to the field for the most part,” Muschamp said. “The guys are excited about what we are doing, and I'm excited about that.
“They realize they're not close to where we want to be, but certainly understand the urgency you've got to play with, the execution you want to play with.
“It comes down to execution. That's going to be paramount, and for the guys to understand the advantages of playing fast and getting snaps and that sort of thing.”
Muschamp said the Gators — on both sides of the ball — understand the positives of playing fast on offense.
“They understand the advantage of aligning quickly and getting themselves in the right spots, and the disadvantage it can create for a defense,” Muschamp said. “Our players talk between offense and defense. The defensive kids talk about how difficult it can be and how stressful when (the offense) does align fast and quickly.
“I think we'll continue to improve and get better.”
While Wednesday was the debut of the new offense, the practice also marked the return of starting quarterback Jeff Driskel. He made his first appearance in an official team practice since breaking his lower leg in the Tennessee game last September.
Driskel showed no lingering signs of the injury and seemed comfortable in Roper's offense, although like just about everyone else, he did struggle with consistency at times.
“His athleticism and toughness lend themselves to our offense, which plays to his strengths,” Muschamp said. “We've put him in situations where he feels much more comfortable at the position and (the way we're) taking advantage of his strengths.”
The competition for the starting role at quarterback is wide open this spring, but Driskel took most of his reps with the No. 1 offense, while sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg and true freshman Will Grier seemed to share most of their reps with the second-team offense.
Muschamp said all three quarterbacks did some good things.
“Skyler is more comfortable after playing last season, but he's learning a whole new offense, too,” Muschamp said. “(Grier) is a gun quarterback. I think for the first day, he did very well. We'll watch the film and kind of evaluate the decisions he made and where he took the ball.”
Overall, Muschamp said it was a typical first day and that the offense has a long way to go, but time to get there.
“We're just trying to coach concepts on the offense right now,” he said.
NOTES: Muschamp said Driskel and defensive back Nick Washington, who missed his true freshman season last year with a shoulder injury, both were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA earlier this week. That means Driskel is a redshirt junior, while Washington is a redshirt freshman with four years of eligibility remaining. Muschamp also announced freshman offensive lineman Octavius Jackson has received a medical exemption from the NCAA. Jackson's career has been ended by a chronic shoulder injury, but he now can remain on scholarship without counting against UF's scholarship limit of 85. … Muschamp said the coaches handed out offseason awards to offensive tackle Chaz Green, linebacker Neiron Ball and running back Mark Herndon. … Southern Cal wide receiver Nelson Agholor attended Wednesday's practice. He's on spring break and came up from his hometown to see his friends practice -- wide receiver Alvin Bailey, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and defensive end Jordan Sherit, all of whom are also from Tampa. “I'm here to support my Tampa boys,” he said.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.