Notebook: Deep balls could be bigger part of offense
Published: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 5:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 5:41 p.m.
If practice is any indication of things to come, the Florida offense is going to be airing it out with a lot more deep passes this season.
The deep ball, almost extinct for the Gators last season, appears to be a staple in Kurt Roper’s spread, fast-tempo offense.
The Gators have completed deep passes in every practice during training camp, and taken numerous shots down the field.
“It's just putting the time in during the summer with the guys,” said starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, who completed a deep pass to Quinton Dunbar for a touchdown in Wednesday’s practice. “You can't get better at something if you just expect it to happen without working at it. With the defenses in our league, you're going to have to make big plays in order to score a lot of points, so that's something that I really try to emphasize in hitting big plays when they're there."
Driskel’s accuracy appears to have improved on the deep passes.
"Coach Roper has really emphasized putting more air under it. His thing is more air equals more forgiveness,” Driskel said. “It gives the receiver more time to adjust and receivers are just naturally better at locating the ball than DBs are, so just putting more air under it gives those guys more time to adjust to the ball."
Dunbar said the quarterbacks and wide receivers worked extensively on deep routes over the summer.
“You can tell that it’s paying off. The timing is down with the receivers and the quarterbacks,” Dunbar said. “You can see we’re going to take a lot of shots this year. It’s very key to this offense to open up everything else.”
McGee getting involved
As many anticipated when he transferred from Virginia to Florida, tight end Jake McGee is having an immediate impact in UF’s passing game, making numerous catches in camp.
“(He’s a) smart guy. He’s played a lot of football, so it’s not new to him,” Roper said. “All he has to do is be able to understand the language.
“You know, what he can do is run and catch. He can flat run and catch."
McGee has been one of Driskel’s go-to guys in practice. The two were roommates this summer.
"He's been great. He's made some big plays for us,” Driskel said. “He knows what he's doing, which is really big. You can tell he's been around football a lot. He has really good ball skills and he's going to be a big help for us."
Driskel said he and McGee will not be roommates this fall.
“That was just a summer thing,” Driskel said. “That was huge. I mean he's just a really nice guy. I was with him on his visit and just really immediately knew he was a good guy. I just wanted him to be able to meet some people and have some connections before we jumped into camp and practice. It was a good summer."
Ivie a force inside
Switching sophomore Joey Ivie from defensive end to defensive tackle appears to have been a good move by the coaching staff. Ivie is having a strong camp and is expected to be in the playing rotation this season.
“He’s been playing very well,” senior linebacker Michael Taylor said. “He’s been busting his butt. He’s been going hard every day. He’s been making a lot of plays.
“We had our first scrimmage (Sunday) and he was player of the game. That just speaks volumes of how far he’s come since he got here. He’s been playing really well. So, look for No. 91 to make a lot of plays in the fall.”
In anticipation of making the move, Ivie added almost 15 pounds of muscle over the summer and now weighs 288 pounds.
“It’s just more power,” Ivie said. “I haven’t really slowed down much. I’ve kept my speed. That weight has helped me power-wise.”
Fulwood on the freshmen
Wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood said the two true freshman quarterbacks — Will Grier and Treon Harris — are doing some impressive things on the practice field.
“They’re smooth. They look comfortable doing their thing out there, especially Treon since he’s gotten here,” Fulwood said. “The past couple of weeks he looks very comfortable for not knowing the offense as much as Will does, who kind of had a jump start on him.
“As the days go on you can see that he’s getting more comfortable. If he doesn’t have the ball out in three seconds, he’s trying to run and look for other options and get it out. He’s picking it up really quick. They both are. They’re doing good out there.”
Fulwood said he’s also been impressed by the true freshman cornerbacks — Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, J.C. Jackson, Duke Dawson and Deiondre Porter.
“They’re hungry. You can tell that they want to be out on the field and competing with each other, with us and against us,” Fulwood said. “Sometimes you get a little bicker about who is going to take the next rep against us. You can tell that they’re going to be very good. Right now they’re just learning the defense. I’m sure that it’s complicated.”
Dunbar, Harris tight
Harris, the true freshman quarterback, has a big brother figure on the team in senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar. The two grew up in the same neighborhood in Miami and went to the same high school (Booker T. Washington).
“We’ve got a very close relationship,” Dunbar said. “He was always under me growing up so he was always like the younger guy around the older guys who wanted to tag along. We’re very close.
“I’m showing him the ropes, on and off the field. Especially during camp, you know, getting mentally drained. I continue to pick him up when he has bad practices. It’s a long camp, just continue to go out there and work hard.”
Dunbar said Harris is starting to come on in camp.
“He feels like he’s finally learned the offense now so he’s able to play a little faster,” Dunbar said.