Eight days is all that separates the Florida Gators football team and their fans from the start of what both parties hope to be a redemption season.
Will Muschamp has put his football team through a grueling offseason but the head football coach is easing up this week. He gave the team a night off and hosted them at his house for dinner as well as giving the team the weekend off to prepare for the fall semester that begins on Monday morning.
The team will return to the field Monday night to continue prepping for Idaho and Muschamp met with the media to give us the final updates on the team before they begin their first game week of 2014.
Two walk-ons awarded scholarships
A former walk-on who earned a scholarship himself, Will Muschamp takes great pride and pleasure in being able to award walk-ons scholarships.
Kicker Frankie Velez and wide receiver Mike McNeely were both awarded scholarships following practice on Friday morning.
David Sharpe (high ankle sprain) should return to the field on Monday night.
Marcus Maye (hamstring) is expected back at practice on Tuesday or Wednesday.
We only had two soft-tissue issues in all of camp. That’s outstanding. That’s the best I’ve been around, as opposed to last year; I think we only had three as far as hamstrings, groins, those sorts of things and hernias. That tells you we’re training the right way.”
Muschamp and the training staff will continue to monitor Matt Rolin — who is returning from his second ACL injury. The staff has brought him along slowly.
Indecision at two positions
Muschamp hasn’t released a depth chart since the spring and Gator fans will have to wait a few more days with one not expected until next week.
There still has not been a final decision made about the backup quarterback job or who will start next to Keanu Neal at safety.
Yes. We’ve had discussions of where we are and we’ll have another one again today and we’ll staff on Sunday and we’ll give the staff of Saturday and get back Sunday and have lengthy discussions again moving forward on what’s best for our football program. All three of those guys have done a nice job and all three of those guys bring good things to the table and we just need to make the best decision for Florida.”
Muschamp plans to rotate a lot of players in and out of the secondary. He’s not concerned with which players start the games, only with players that finish them.
As far as the indecision about naming a backup quarterback, the coaching staff still plans to get the No. 2 quarterback involved against Idaho early.
We’d like to, by the second quarter, whoever ends up being the guy and go from there. I think that that, again, giving game situation, kind of like we did our first year.”
Strong up the middle
An old baseball adage that holds true is, you have to be strong up the middle. That means catcher, pitcher, middle infielders and a center fielder. The same can be said for defense on a football team.
Florida is replacing two starting safeties and two interior defensive linemen. There have been question marks throughout camp about how Florida would replace those starters and how much depth the Gators would develop.
Muschamp feels much better eight days before the season than he did just a few weeks ago.
I think that you need to be strong up the middle. We have two senior defensive tackles that I think will play well. I think we have four linebackers that are very strong. I think we have the ability at the safety position to be fine. I think Keanu has distanced himself at camp. We can play winning football with Jabari Gorman and Marcus Maye, Marcell Harris, Nick Washington and Duke Dawson.”
So you have the ingredients of what you want in my opinion. Now we got to go do it so talk is cheap. Kind of like the players, I told them, ‘Just shut up and go play’. Let’s go shut up and coach.”
Three freshmen linemen could play
Another reason Muschamp has been happy with the depth on the defensive line is the play he has seen from some of the newest kids on campus.Three freshmen are vying for playing time and, in Muschamp’s opinion, will factor in this season.
Gerald Willis, a true freshman, he’s going to play. How much, I don’t know right now. Assignment wise he needs to be on top of things in what we’re trying to do and the communication of that. You compile all those things for a true freshman, they all handle it differently. We will certainly be watching him very closely. We haven’t ruled out playing Khairi Clark playing at this time. Taven Bryan is a guy that going to figure into that. Where’s he going to figure in? We do have some question marks to iron out up front, but very settled at linebacker and two positions in the secondary.”