Notebook: UF's new offense taking shape

Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper watches the quarterbacks during a recent practice on campus.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 4:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 4:03 p.m.

For a team transitioning to an uptempo offense, it's not an ideal situation when rain forces the first major scrimmage of the spring to be carried over to a second day. But despite the interruption, Florida coach Will Muschamp seems happy with the progress of the new offense.

“I am very pleased offensively with where we are as far as the installation is concerned,” Muschamp said Tuesday. “A lot of the things I feel like gives the defense problems we've got in.

“But the tempo on both sides, ball security on offense, we had the ball on the ground I think three times between Saturday and Monday and that's three too many times, especially in one red-zone situation.

“Those are situations we need to really coach up our team and do a better job with. But pleased with where we are from the standpoint of going on nine practices and moving forward."

Saturday's scrimmage was cut short by rain and lightning, so Muschamp extended it to Monday's practice.

“We just didn't get as many live snaps (Saturday),” Muschamp said. “We're obviously installing an offense, but you're also very young at safety. You're inexperienced at one of the cornerback slots. We have some young defensive linemen. They need to get out on their own and play.

“Same thing with some young offensive linemen. But we're installing the whole offense. We need as many opportunities for those guys to play on their own. I wanted to get some more snaps, so I changed the practice schedule for Monday.”

For the most part, the offense ran smoothly over both practice days, especially for one that the players are still in the early stages of learning and playing in.

“When you have an experienced quarterback and you've got some experienced offensive linemen, you've got some guys that have played the receiver position, (you've got a chance),” Muschamp said. “There's some experience. Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook, Hunter Joyer. Experience at the running back position. There's a lot of guys that are back. It's a different offense, there's some different terminology, but I think experience helps you with that transition."

Gators on the run

Muschamp said the production at tailback has been promising, with four players sharing the rock — Kelvin Taylor, Mack Brown, Mark Herndon and redshirt freshman Adam Lane.

“I've been pretty pleased with the running back position,” Muschamp said. “I thought Adam Lane did some nice things yesterday. He's a guy that's very difficult to tackle because he's got a low center of gravity. That's why we liked him all along during the process. Kelvin has run the ball well, Mack had a nice run yesterday. Very pleased with where we are with the position overall."

Two injured tailbacks will enter the competition this summer — former starter Matt Jones (knee) and true freshman Brandon Powell (foot).

Muschamp was asked if the Gators might have a tailback by committee next season.

"Whoever the best players are and we'll move forward with that,” he said. “I have very good confidence with the guys we've got. And of course Matt is sitting out and Brandon Powell. Brandon Powell is a guy that in our offseason program, he's got a different gear, quick change of direction and can do a lot of things. Disappointed he's not able to practice, but he's a guy that gives us a little juice."

Spring game a go

Muschamp said Tuesday the Gators will play more of a traditional spring game April 12 after holding just a practice in The Swamp a year ago due to a lack of healthy offensive linemen.

“It will be offense vs. defense,” he said. “I've told you the story when I was at LSU. We had Marcus Spears matched up on a guy like me playing (offensive) tackle. And then Jimbo (Fisher) and Nick (Saban) have to answer the entire offseason why our passing game wasn't very good.

“I want good on good. I want to see the best players going against the best players and being able to as a staff match up guys that we know we need to find out things about.”

Neal set to return

Potential starting safety Keanu Neal could return to practice Wednesday after pulling a hamstring in the offseason and then again on the first day of practice.

“Keanu Neal, I'm hoping to get some seven-on-seven (Wednesday),” Muschamp said. “He was about 90 percent yesterday. They ran him on Sunday, he felt pretty good. Pretty good right now isn't good enough after two (hamstring injuries). I felt like he wanted to go. We held him to just make sure this thing's completely healed before we get him back and strain on that right now.

“He needs to be a part of the spring game. He needs to get in front of the crowd and play. He needs to be in practices 10, 11, 12 and 13. I didn't want to lose him another day.”

Muschamp said sophomore wide receiver Chris Thompson (head) has been cleared to return to practice. Offensive lineman Rod Johnson (knee) may have to wait another day or two. Wide receiver Andre Debose (knee) remains in non-contact.

Also, incoming freshman defensive back J.C. Jackson recently injured his shoulder and might require surgery.

“Not sure right now. They're looking into that,” Muschamp said. “He had a little bit of an accident playing tackle football or something. We're looking into that."

Washington making impact

While Neal has been out, redshirt freshman Nick Washington has worked exclusively at safety after also playing some corner in the first practice. He's made quite an impression so far.

“He made a nice tackle on the goal line yesterday. Had an interception in one-minute. Had an interception Saturday,” Muschamp said. “I think that he continues to show up in the right spots and that's a positive thing when you haven't been exposed to the position as much."

QB battle for No. 2

More than halfway through spring practice, the Gators appear no closer to naming a No. 2 quarterback behind starter Jeff Driskel. Sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg and true freshman Will Grier remain even.

“Skyler and Will are swapping reps there with the second group,” Muschamp said. “We're going to continue to evaluate and see what they need to do. They need to pick it up, both of them.”

Dillard No. 2 center

Redshirt freshman Cameron Dillard has established himself as the No. 2 center behind senior Max Garcia.

"Right now he's backup center. He needs to be able to anchor a bit better in there as far as holding some things off, especially in pass rush,” Muschamp said. “They're getting too much push in the pocket up the middle. But he and Max, and then Trip Thurman is going to start taking some snaps in there as well.

“You've got to be able to have three centers ready to play.”

Muschamp said the injured Johnson also could get a look at center.

“When he was healthy and playing, he was doing some really nice things,” he said. “We were very impressed with his athleticism and his girth and size.”

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