UF faces 'critical' offseason


UF coach Will Muschamp shouts instructions during the first half of the Orange and Blue Debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 1:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 1:55 p.m.

Will Muschamp talked after Saturday’s spring game about how vital the next few months are going to be for the Florida football team. Well, he’ll be glad to know his players have a firm grip on that reality.

In fact, the players already have a summer game plan in place and ready to go for when they are on their own while their coaches are out recruiting or on family vacations.

“One thing we did before we entered spring (practice) is we got a helmet-and-shorts practice in and went through a regular summer day, with no coaches there, about how it should be when we’re running it on our own,” sophomore wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood said. “This is how we run it. We’re going to go on that (plan) when we get to the summer.”

With the players allowed only limited contact with the coaches between now and the start of preseason camp in August, it’s going to be up to them to put in the work and organize and run players-only practices.

Jeff Dillman and the strength and conditioning staff will be in charge of lifting and conditioning, but the players will have to take care of the Xs and Os themselves.

“It’s on us,” senior offensive tackle Chaz Green said. “The coaches aren’t going to be here. We’ve got to be really locked in with workouts, getting extra work in, conditioning, getting drills in, working with the quarterback and the D-line.”

The next three-plus months are important for all players, all aspects of the team, but especially for the offensive players, who have been in coordinator Kurt Roper’s new spread, uptempo offense for only 15 spring practices, including the spring game.

The process of learning the offense and finding a comfort level in it has only just begun.

“Our kids have been very receptive and they have confidence in what we’re doing and I think it’s a good fit, I really do, moving forward,” Muschamp said Saturday. “We’ve still got a ways to go, 112 days until we report.”

Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel said many of those afternoons will be spent on the practice field, with him and the other quarterbacks throwing passes to the receivers and backs working against the defense.

“The summer is for timing on the offensive side,” Driskel said. “We’re going to have to throw a lot and get our timing down. You can’t go back into fall camp without being in rhythm. So we’re going to have to do that, but we’re used to that. We’ve done that the past few summers. It’s nothing new to us, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Driskel and some of the other veteran players will organize a practice schedule and do what they can to make sure the rest of the players show up and put in the necessary work.

“Our older players understand the importance of this time of year,” Muschamp said. “Understanding in all three phases taking the next step schematically, being in shape, being ready to go and understanding what it’s going to take to be successful and win in this league.”

Muschamp seemed to be feeling positive about his team coming out of the spring, but said the Gators still need to find depth on both lines of scrimmage, find a consistent performer at the one cornerback position and at the nickel position in the secondary, and get more production out of the “B” position (combination running back/tight end).

“I think in the secondary the talent is there, we’re just a little inexperienced,” Muschamp said. “I think we’re as deep as we’ve been at wide receiver with guys that can make some plays on the ball.

“Very pleased with Adam Lane (and the other tailbacks) today. Kelvin (Taylor) made a really nice run. Mack (Brown) made a couple nice runs. You get Matt Jones back in the fall. Hunter Joyer can play in that role as well.

“We’ve got enough talent base to have a good football team, but these next 112 days will be critical for us."

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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