Gators complete preseason scrimmages without major injuries
Published: Friday, August 15, 2014 at 12:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 15, 2014 at 12:23 p.m.
In their final major scrimmage of the preseason Friday, the Florida Gators had a “solid day,” according to coach Will Muschamp.
Open practice schedule
Saturday: 11 a.m. at Florida Field
That’s the good news.
Here’s the even better news: The Gators have made it through their preseason scrimmages without sustaining any major injuries that could impact the season.
“We’re pretty healthy. Knock on wood,” Muschamp said.
If the Gators can get through camp healthy (they have one more week to go before game week), it would be huge for a team that was decimated by injuries last season, some of the most serious coming in the preseason.
Muschamp said the only injury to come out of Friday’s scrimmage was a high ankle sprain sustained by true freshman offensive tackle David Sharpe.
“David Sharpe has a high ankle, it happened this morning. But he’s fine,” Muschamp said. “We’ll see him tomorrow morning. Those high ankles can be two days, they can be a week. We need to get him back. He’s a really good football player. He’s very athletic, 6-6, 330 pounds, moves his feet extremely well … a guy that’s going to help us this year.”
The other injury news is positive. Muschamp said tailback Matt Jones (knee) and offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder) will return to practice today after missing most of the past week. Defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. (AC shoulder sprain) is scheduled to return Monday.
The Gators will hold their final open practice today in The Swamp. The start time has been moved back from 9 to 11 a.m., and the practice (and hitting) will be scaled way back, Muschamp said.
“We will not be on the field very long,” Muschamp said. “We’ll go through some corrections from today and we’ll have some skel periods. But we’ll only be in helmets tomorrow. We’ve had 15 straight very physical practices. Very pleased with our effort. Our tune in, our focus, of what we’re trying to do ... I’ve been extremely pleased with that.”
Muschamp seems even more than pleased with the progress of the offense under new coordinator Kurt Roper, whose spread, uptempo attack has consistently made plays in practice against what is expected to be a strong UF defense.
The offense produced numerous “explosive plays” in Friday’s scrimmage, Muschamp said.
“We’re more talented (on offense) than we were a year ago at this time. That’s the No. 1 thing,” he said. “Regardless of what we’re doing schematically, which I really like what we’re doing, we’re better. We’re better at receiver, we’re better at running back, Jeff (Driskel) is a year better, we’re better on the offensive line, we’re better at tight end. We’re better at every position.
“That’s what gets you excited as much as anything. And we’ve got great competition. Those guys know they have to come out every day and compete. There’s nobody that’s got a job, you’ve got to go compete.”
Some of the most intense competition has been at wide receiver, an area where the Gators lacked playmaking ability last season. It has been a much different looking group in camp from a year ago, with numerous guys making plays, including Quinton Dunbar, Ahmad Fulwood, Andre Debose, Demarcus Robinson, Latroy Pittman, true freshman C.J. Worton and others.
“I think we’ve made huge improvements at the receiver position,” Muschamp said. “Ahmad Fulwood is playing well. Quinton Dunbar has been really consistent throughout camp. Andre has done some nice things, caught a couple nice balls in traffic. Demarcus Robinson made some good plays today. Chris Thompson had a touchdown catch today.
“All those guys ... a year older. You look at Chris and Demarcus and Ahmad, honestly, (they) should have been redshirted last year. If you're recruiting right at the position and your roster is where it should be, those guys should have been redshirted. They should have been able to grow a year, get stronger, work on their speed, work on their route running, learning the position.
“They were thrown in the fire. I'm glad they were thrown in the fire now, but big-picture speaking, those were guys that needed a year to mature and grow."
With the season opener only two weeks away, Muschamp said his biggest concerns are depth on both lines of scrimmage and inexperience in the secondary.
“I feel really comfortable probably with seven guys right now,” he said. “We need to have eight or nine. That's a critical issue.
“Joey Ivie and some of the younger defensive linemen have made some moves. Jay-nard (Bostwick) has been better. Those guys have made some strides.
“I like our athleticism on the back end. Our communication from the safety position has not been very good and that needs to improve.”
At this relatively late stage, only two players in the secondary have established themselves as starters — Vernon Hargreaves III at cornerback and Keanu Neal at safety.
“We’ve got to continue to coach those guys up (in the secondary) and play well,” Muschamp said.
Overall, though, Muschamp seems optimistic with the start of the season now only two weeks away.
“I’ve been very pleased,” he said.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.