Before fall camp began, we brought you a list of the top positions battles heading into camp. With more than half of fall camp done and just 17 days left until the 2013 season kicks off, Gator Country takes a look back at those predictions and updates them based on how camp has progressed through now.
Pre-camp prediction: Tyler Murphy
Mid-camp prediction: Tyler Murphy
There’s no change here. Jeff Driskel’s appendectomy gave Murphy a chance to run with the one’s and with a little more than half of camp in the books, he is holding down the No. 2 role behind Driskel. Skyler Mornhinweg is competing for reps with Max Staver and there is no real indication of which one will end up third on the depth chart.
Quotable: “It’s huge. Any time you get a situation where you get all the turns and reps and at-bats, it helps you as a player. There’s no question it helps him being with the first group and first offensive line and less mistakes and less issues and all of those things. There’s no question.” – Will Muschamp on Murphy getting an opportunity to play with the first team offense.
Backup Running Back
Pre-camp prediction: Mack Brown or Kelvin Taylor
Mid-camp prediction: Mack Brown or Kelvin Taylor
With Matt Jones still working his way back from a viral infection that sidelined him and perplexed doctors, reps have been plentiful for the stable of backs behind Jones on the depth chart. With Jones’ future still uncertain, the competition for the backup running back job is taking on a new sense of urgency.
Will Muschamp told the media that Mack Brown is still the No. 2 guy “at the moment” but that the staff has seen good things from both Kelvin Taylor and Brown in camp. I think that Brown and Taylor are ahead of Adam Lane and Mark Herndon and will remain that way throughout camp.
Taylor and Brown are both talented runners, but there is more to playing running back than just carrying the football. Muschamp said that the running backs are fundamentally sound when they are asked to block but they need to improve on assignment pickup and blitz recognition. This has been a reoccurring theme throughout Mack Brown’s career, so I am inclined to think that Taylor – who is just a freshman – will catch on quicker and I’d give him a slight edge over Brown at the moment.
Quotable: “When they know who to block, they’ve blocked well. That’s been a little bit of the issue at times. As far as the protections, it’s something we work on every day against our linebackers. We do a one-on-one period as far as picking up pressures. As far as their fundamentals picking it up, very good. Assignment of picking it up needs to improve.” – Will Muschamp on the running backs blocking ability in camp.”
No. 2 Wide Receiver
Pre-camp prediction: Demarcus Robinson
Mid-camp prediction: Demarcus Robinson
The coaching staff and players alike have raved about Robinson’s ability since he stepped foot on campus in January. Robinson is an extremely talented and athletic wide receiver and the type of game changer that Florida hasn’t had on the outside in years.
Ahmad Fulwood is a name that has come up a lot recently. Fulwood came on slow but once the pads came on, he started turning heads and causing people to notice. At a wiry 6’5”, Fulwood is handling press coverage better than the staff expected him to and he is starting to distance himself from the rest of the pack.
Marquis Hawkins impressed early but has been slowed down with an injury. Sources have told Gator Country that Alvin Bailey is really swimming right now and Chris Thompson will take some time to develop. Latroy Pittman and Raphael Andrades have been little mentioned names throughout camp and are getting passed up by some of the younger players.
Loucheiz Purifoy will begin working on offense this week but may not be needed as much on offense if the younger receivers continue to come on.
Will Muschamp said that he has been very impressed with five receivers and these are the players that will be counted on to change the passing game at Florida in 2013.
Quotable: “Right now, the two young guys at the receiver position are Ahmad Fulwood and Demarcus Robinson, are two guys there is no question that are going to help our football team and improve our football team. I’ve been very pleased with Quinton Dunbar and Trey Burton. Those four guys and Solomon Patton. Those five right there have been productive and consistent in what they do and how they perform. Along with that you have Loucheiz and some of the other guys continuing to come on, and I think we’ll have a good group.” – Muschamp on the receivers who have been standing out this camp.
Pre-camp prediction: Clay Burton
Mid-camp Prediction: Colin Thompson
Clay Burton was penciled in as the starting tight end heading into spring camp and he left that camp with the same distinction. However, reports out of camp are that Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor have been distancing themselves at the position.
Thompson is the closest thing to a “combo” tight end – something Muschamp said the staff was looking for this fall – and Taylor is the most advanced pass catcher. Their games compliment each other very well and this could be the top two on the depth chart when camp breaks.
Clay Burton still continues to work on his pass catching and route running and by no means is having a bad camp. Burton is still a much more advanced blocker than receiver, but he will surely see the field in 2013 because of his experience.
Tevin Westbrook would come in at No. 4 on the depth chart. He is still a big body and an underrated blocker who will play on running downs and will contribute in 2013.
Quotable: “Well, he continues to develop as far as that’s concerned. But he’s what we thought: he’s a tough, hard-nosed guy that’s going to be able to block at the point of attack and do some things in the passing game to help us. When you sit out of the game for a year it hurts. So you’ve got to get back in the playing shape, the collision part of it. But he’s done that. I’ve been pleased. Really, right now, he’s done some nice things for us. We’ve got to continue to develop his role.” – Will Muschamp on Colin Thompson.
Pre-camp prediction: Chaz green
Mid-camp prediction: Chaz Green
When we first saw Tyler Moore during the spring we said he looked more like a guard than a tackle. With Jon Halapio still dealing with a pectoral injury, Moore has slid inside and is excelling at right guard.
This has left Chaz Green – who is finally 100% healthy – to take the bulk of the reps in camp. Green has been playing hard and physical and appears to have returned to form and is poised for a great season.
Trenton Brown has been working out mainly at left tackle behind D.J. Humphries but he is also capable of playing right tackle and that is something that the staff will continue to experiment and tinker with throughout camp. Muschamp said that Brown would absolutely play for the Gators this year in some capacity.
Quotable: “Much higher, much deeper. I really feel like you’ve got seven-eight guys across the board that can play quality football.” – Will Muschamp on his confidence in the depth of the offensive line compared to the past two seasons.
Pre-camp prediction: Leon Orr
Mid-camp prediction: Leon Orr or Damien Jacobs
Leon Orr entered spring camp the starter at the position but Damien Jacobs left camp as the newly listed starter.
Jacobs has been slowed by a knee injury and will miss another week of practice before he can return. Will Muschamp said that the team has missed Jacobs productivity but that Jonathon Bullard has been playing very will filling in for him in nickel situations. With Florida playing a lot of dime and nickel packages, Bullard could see more time inside this season along with Jacobs and Orr.
Quotable: “I think Leon Orr’s done some nice things, he’s a guy that can really anchor inside and play well. We fit the run well from the linebacking position.” – Will Muschamp on Leon Orr
“Damien [Jacobs] not being there hurt us.” – Muschamp on the team missing Jacobs, who is sidelined with a knee injury.
Pre-camp prediction: Maye, Watkins
Mid-camp prediction: Maye, Riggs
While things are far from over at this position battle, we are starting to get a clear picture of what the position will look like this fall. Valdez Showers is playing offense (not a good sign for his chance at starting at safety) and Jaylen Watkins is playing all over the secondary, not just at safety like we thought he would heading into camp.
Marcus Maye continues to be a name that coaches and players say when asked who is standing out at safety. Maye has been a popular name on the lips of people close to the team all offseason and is in the lead to win one of the starting spots.
Behind him, Cody Riggs appears to have a handle on the other spot. Riggs is a veteran player and the best cover-man that the Gators have at safety. While you can’t compare Maye and Riggs to Josh Evans and Matt Elam, Maye plays a similar style to Elam, and Riggs can cover and tackle like Josh Evans.
It may not be Elam and Evans 2.0 but it may be version 1.5.
Keanu Neal, Jabari Gorman and Marcell Harris continue to battle for reps and Will Muschamp has been complimentary of both Neal and Harris this fall.
Quotable: “I think Marcus Maye is having a good camp. He’s really come on and done some nice things for us. Been very pleased with his progress. We’re playing him at safety and when we go to six DBs at the dime. But he’s a guy that’s been very productive and playing athletically and communication and doing a nice job.” – Will Muschamp on Marcus Maye.
Pre-camp Prediction: Austin Hardin
Mid-camp prediction: Austin Hardin
This could very well be the most important position battle on the team. Yes, that’s right, the battle over who will kick the ball is the most important one for the Gators.
Replacing Caleb Sturgis has kept Will Muschamp up at night – he jokes about it, but we’re not entirely sure he isn’t actually losing sleep over it.
Sources have told Gator Country that Austin Hardin is starting to pull away a little bit in this battle. Hardin is converting a high percentage of his attempts, made all of his game-winning field goals during the first scrimmage and Brad Phillips has been slowed somewhat by a groin injury.
We still think that Hardin is the best option for the Gators at placekicker in 2013 but he needs to continue showing that in camp.
Quotable: “Brad’s had a little bit of a pulled groin that’s slowed him down a little bit… Austin has been the most consistent at this point. It’s still open. Nothing has been settled.” – Will Muschamp on the kicking battle.