Whether it’s for preseason camp, the start of spring practice or simply a summer workout, football coaches will be the first to tell you that everyone looks good in shorts.
That’s probably the best way to describe the Florida Gators opening spring practice Tuesday.
Everyone looked good in their shorts and helmets. Everyone appeared in shape. And everyone seemed to be running around like they knew what they were doing, even the true freshman quarterback, Jalon Jones.
“He did OK,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “It looked like he didn’t forget how to snap the ball or call a snap. Sometimes you get guys come out day one and there’s so much going on in their head, they say, ‘Ready, set, go,’ from high school or whatever snap count they used in high school.
“He seemed to manage, to at least get the ball snapped.”
Mullen’s new quarterback did OK. And, overall, the head coach was smiling after what he described as a typical first practice in shorts and helmets.
“Good. It was good,” Mullen said. “You’re out here day one, you’re putting in base install stuff with no pads on. It’s a pretty simple day. Good attitude. I liked the energy.”
Mullen said the Gators are way ahead of where they were for the first day of spring last year under a new coaching staff. The veteran players clearly knew their way around the practice field Tuesday.
“Last year nobody had any idea what to expect coming out on day one,” he said. “The guys that have played or been around the program, it’s not like it’s all new (now). Everybody moves a little quicker. They know what to expect, what practice should be like. They also know the offense, they know the defense a little better.
“With some of the new guys and young guys that haven’t played a whole lot, there will be mistakes made on film. But we’ll go correct them.”
The tape of the first practice likely will reveal many coachable moments for Mullen and his staff, because this is a very young team in spots, particularly on the offensive line, where four starters must be replaced, plus there are nine true freshmen competing at various positions as early enrollees.
Mullen said he will keep a close eye on the true freshmen to see how they respond to the early practices and the installation of the offense and defense.
“The great thing for them is they got here early and there are going to be a lot of opportunities, guys are going to get a lot of reps out there on the field,” Mullen said. “Everybody’s competing to get some reps. They’re going to have that opportunity. We’ll see if they can take advantage of it.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for young guys. There’s a lot of opportunities on the offensive line. Somebody’s got to claim them. For those young guys, it’s a great opportunity.”
One true freshman, cornerback Chris Steele, got considerable reps Tuesday, some with the No. 1 defense, because starting cornerback Marco Wilson is still recovering from knee surgery and was held out, along with injured true freshman corner Jaydon Hill.
“You’ve got Marco and Jaydon not practicing right now. He’s got his opportunity,” Mullen said of Steele. He’ll get some experience, he’ll get some reps.
“A similar thing happened to Trey Dean last year and when his number was called (early in the fall), he was ready. I think it’s great experience for (Steele) to get extra reps this spring.”
NOTES: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jacob Copeland was absent from Tuesday’s practice, but Mullen said he will return. “I think he’s got a sore hamstring or something. He’s fine,” Mullen said. … It’s a different situation for senior offensive tackle Noah Banks, who continues to deal with a medical condition that arose during preparation for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. “His is a very unique deal. It’s not like, ‘Hey, got a strained hamstring, I’m going to miss two days.’ When you have the medical history he has, it’s a very different deal,” Mullen said. “So, there’s really no timeframe to judge any of it. We’ll see as he keeps progressing.” … Running back Malik Davis, who missed most of last season with a fractured foot, practiced Tuesday and is 100 percent, Mullen said. “He’s healthy, so that’s good,” Mullen said. “Hopefully, he stays healthy and gets through the spring and gets the opportunity (to play in the fall).”