Spring is in the air and the Gators took the field in near perfect football weather to open spring practice. The first session was open to the media and fans, giving all in attendance a brief view of the Gators and new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
NCAA regulation prohibits the players from being in pads for the first two practices but the changes that Roper is implementing into the offense were evident early on. Florida’s offense operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun today and that’s a change that Gator fans will need to get used to.
“We’re going to be a gun team,” Will Muschamp said after practice. “I mean, there’s going to be a little under center for some things. You’ve got to kneel down at the end after a good win. I don’t want to be in the shotgun doing that.”
It was Jeff Driskel’s first day back playing football since breaking his leg against Tennessee and the quarterback who earned a 5-star rating operating a spread offense from the shotgun in high school looked comfortable in the new system.
Judgments will be withheld — it was after all just the first practice and the team wasn’t even in pads yet — but Roper was very hands on with all the quarterbacks and appeared to be a more vocal coach than the man he’s replacing as offensive coordinator.
Practice began with hurry up situations — something Florida has started practice with the past two seasons as well. Driskel executed the offense well, throwing clean, crisp passes to open receivers.
The uptempo offense did take its toll though. Both the offense and the defense started to feel the effects of moving so quickly and players began to wear down slightly towards the end of practice. Some of this can be attributed to how fast the offense is moving and some to the team not being in football shape just yet. Offseason conditioning will make the players stronger but you need to be on the field, doing drills and going through real practice to really get into football shape.
“So you can see some fatigue at the end of practice when we had that move the ball period when we moved the ball down the field. The execution on both sides really fell off. The communication really fell off,” Muschamp said. “The focus. There was more busted assignments. That’s what happens when you get tired. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. And certainly I saw a lot of fatigue out there late in the day which is expected.”
The biggest thing that the team did today — and that they will continue to do this spring — is installing the offense. With Muschamp heading into his fourth season, the defense is pretty set in their schemes and what they will run. It is the offense that is undergoing their third makeover in four season and the group that will need to be focused on this spring.
Roper did a lot of teaching today, working not just with the quarterbacks but the offense as a whole. He obviously impressed Muschamp enough to get the job, but the new offensive coordinator continued to impress his new head coach today.
“Well, you know, I spend most of my day on defense, which I always do. But, you know, [Roper is] just a really good teacher,” Muschamp said. “…and more than anything just a positive guy. His positive energy is very contagious in the building. I think, [I] just enjoy working with him. He’s a very good, fundamental football coach.”