Football is finally back in Gainesville as the Gators opened preseason camp on a muggy Friday morning. The first six periods were opened to the media, giving the congregated reporters a glimpse into the commencement of Florida’s month-long preparation for the Aug. 24 opener against Miami in Orlando. Here are some observations from the beginning of Friday’s session.
- Gators coach Dan Mullen said Thursday he didn’t expect any no-shows, but when camp opened at 8:20 a.m., sophomore defensive back John Huggins was nowhere to be seen. A University Athletic Association spokesperson confirmed Huggins will miss practice through the weekend while dealing with a “family issue”. Although no definitive timetable for Huggins’ return has been given, he’s expected to return to preseason camp after the weekend.
- Aside from Huggins’ absence, all of Florida’s current roster was accounted for — including offensive lineman Noah Banks. Mullen spoke of Banks’ imminent return in Thursday’s media session, and the former junior college transfer was working with Florida’s second-team offensive line throughout the first six periods of practice.
- Also making an impression among the offensive line was freshman Ethan White, and it was once again for his noticeably slimmer physique. The Clearwater native arrived on campus weighing just north of 400 pounds, but White seemed to have trimmed much of that weight off after seven months in Nick Savage’s strength and conditioning program.
- White wasn’t the only Gator whose appearance seemed to benefit from Savage’s regimen. Dameon Pierce may have the strongest calf muscles on the team, while fellow running back Isaac Ricks clearly doesn’t miss an opportunity to work out his trapezius muscles. Oh, and freshman linebacker Jesiah Pierre seemed much larger than the 217 pounds he’s listed at in Florida’s media guide.
- Jeremiah Moon was slated for a large role in Spring camp before fracturing his foot in January. Now, Moon is fully healthy and working to carve out playing time at rush end/outside linebacker for the Gators. Even with the addition of transfer Jon Greenard, Moon should have plenty of opportunities as long as he stays healthy.
- Senior running back Lamical Perine remains one of the most underrated pass-catching running backs in college football. And, like most Gators, he seems more polished from a physical standpoint.
- Many expected junior defensive lineman Tedarrell “TJ” Slaton to become a mainstay in the starting rotation last season, but the Fort Lauderdale native quickly fell down the pecking order after opening the season as the starter. And if Friday’s practice was any indication, things haven’t gotten much better for Slaton. He was seen working with the third-string defense in Friday’s session — although it’s worth noting Mullen said the Gators will look to shuffle the rotations often when it comes to the line of scrimmage.
- And last but certainly not least, junior defensive back Marco Wilson was a full participant in the early non-contact portions of practice. Sans a knee brace, Wilson helped newcomers Kaiir Elam and Chester Kimbrough through drills led by defensive backs coach Torrian Gray.