During Tuesday’s press conference, Will Muschamp singled out a number of players who he has been pleased with so far this spring.
In this two part series, GatorCountry will talk about each of the player’s that Muschamp singled out, starting with the defensive side of the ball.
Last year, Florida had one of the top defensive lines in the country and this year looks to be equally strong. The Gators will need a defensive tackle to step up to replace Shariff Floyd.
Two guys that Muschamp singled out at the position were senior Damien Jacobs and junior Darious Cummings, who just enrolled at Florida from East Mississippi.
Last season, Jacobs played in 12 games but only had 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks while playing in a backup role but Muschamp believes Jacobs is playing better this spring so far.
“I’ve been very pleased with Jacobs,” Muschamp said. “I think he’s playing his best football so far. He’s playing very square on blocks. He’s doing a nice job of anchoring and playing the double teams and keeping his gap. I think he’s playing his best football since he’s been here.”
Jacobs enrolled at Florida last year after attending East Mississippi community college, the same school that Cummings played at.
With both of those players being from the same school and both playing the same position, Muschamp is able to compare the two players and believes Cummings is ahead of Jacobs at the same points in their careers.
“I think Darious Cummings probably is a little further ahead of where Dam (Damien) was this time last year, “ Muschamp said. “He’s not where he needs to be, so let’s not get that confused but he’s certainly probably ahead of where Damien was this time last spring. So that’s a promising thing.”
Muschamp also touched on sophomore Dante Fowler Jr. who had a good freshman campaign last year.
“I think Dante Fowler is playing well,” Muschamp said. “I think he’s rushing the passer well and he’s understanding when we are in our 3-4 stuff standing up and moving around.”
Florida has most of its cornerbacks returning from last year’s team and redshirt senior Jeremy Brown returning from injury.
Brown will be a sixth year senior this year and following last season, Muschamp sat down with Brown to make sure his head was in the right place.
“He’s been through a lot. He’s had a little bit of a groin he’s still kind of nursing it through right now during spring,” Muschamp said. “He’s still taking reps and all but Jeremy has played and been successful here. He’s a guy I think certainly has persevered through some tough times and he’s certainly looking forward to his opportunity to go out and play. The big thing is Jeremy and I sat down at the end of this past season and just had a heart-to-heart about where we are with things. It’s no different than James Wilson and I did after my first season at Florida. Do you want to be here? Do you want to play? Do you understand the commitment level it’s going to take to get that done? Both guys whole heartedly wanted to be here. It’s important to both those guys to play at Florida. James had a great senior year for us, and I expect the same from Jeremy.”
With Brown, his status was up in the air but Muschamp knew coming in this year that he would be able to count on junior Marcus Roberson.
Roberson is a two year starter for the Gators and this offseason he worked on getting stronger in order to be more physical this year.
“I think he is up to 193-194 pound now,” Muschamp said. “He’s changed his upper body, gotten stronger. He’s better on the line of scrimmage in press. He’s more disruptive on receivers in routes. I think he’s made some strides.”
With Matt Elam and Josh Evans both leaving for the NFL, the Gators are looking to replace both with underclassmen.
One guy that is looking to step in is Jabari Gorman but Muschamp says that while he is making plays, he still has to work on his communication at the position.
“He’s getting reps and I think he has done a solid job,” Muschamp said. “We have got to do a better job of communicating and a better job in space. We missed a couple tackles in space on Saturday that cost us touchdowns. That was one thing with Elam and Josh Evans, those guys got some guys on the ground in those situations. Jabari is a very coachable young man. I’ve been very pleased with his progress to this point.”
Another guy battling for a starting job is redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye, who wasn’t able to play last year due to a knee injury.
But while Maye is young, he has made some plays during spring practice but still has some things to work on according to Muschamp.
“Maye is a guy who has been very productive,” Muschamp said. “He had an interception Saturday and has done some really good things. But with that, we’ve got to continue to get some reps, continue to get turns, [he makes] too many mistakes as far as where his eye control needs to be. But again, you go back to production. The guy’s producing and making plays, let’s narrow some things down for him and put him in a situation to play fast.”