UF, Will Muschamp start spring football

With the Florida Gators football team scheduled to start spring football practice in just two days, new head coach Will Muschamp met with the media Monday and answered a slew of questions about what the team will look like in the coming days.

“We need to get better and continue to develop the identity of what we want to be as a football team on both sides of the ball and in special teams,” he said. “What can our players handle and who will be our playmakers? That’s the big thing to me going into this spring.”

Several players have moved to new positions already. While Muschamp provided a depth chart, he said it’s very fluid for now as the coaches identify which players fit where.

While Muschamp and his staff want to evaluate players, shifting some players around before seeing them on the field this spring was necessary simply to have enough depth at certain positions.

“We are thin on both lines of scrimmage at this point,” he said. “And we’d like to address that. I like the quality of players, but I lack the quantity of players.”

Offensive tackle Matt Patchan will be limited this spring as he recovers from a wrist injury that sidelined him for the entire 2010 season. Guards James Wilson and David Young will also be limited this spring.

Heading into spring football practice, that means a handful of younger players will get a chance to start on the offensive line.

While redshirt sophomore Jon Halapio and junior Xavier Nixon return at right guard and right tackle, respectively, three new starters will make up the left side of the line.

Junior Sam Robey is the starting center, redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison is the starting left guard, and redshirt freshman Chaz Green is the starter at left tackle. None have played much in their time at Florida.

But what will the Gators’ offense look like this spring?

Muschamp said that’s still a work in progress.

“Offensively, I know there will be a lot of questions,” he said. “We want to be balanced in what we do. I can’t sit here and tell you right now what we want to be, because we’re not sure.”

In terms of personnel, Frankie Hammond, Jr. and Omarius Hines are listed as the starting receivers. Deonte Thompson will start in the slot when the team runs a personnel group with three wide receivers.

As expected, Florida will play some two-tight end sets. For that reason, Muschamp said the Florida Gators need Jordan Reed at tight end.

“Jordan Reed will be a full-time tight end,” he said. “We feel like he’s a guy who can stretch the field vertically and can be a matchup issue for defenses with his athleticism. Excited about him.”

Trey Burton, another guy who played quarterback for the Gators last season, will move to a versatile role on offense at the “F” position and the “H” position. He’ll play primarily when Florida runs a two-back set with one tight end, presumably as the second back who can go out and catch passes if necessary.

Chris Rainey will enter spring as the starting running back and he will be backed up by Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown.

On defense, Muschamp said the team plans to run the 4-3 using some concepts from the 3-4.

“Defensively, we want to be multiple,” he said. “I think we’ll be more of an over team, a 4-3 team, a one-gap team at this point. We will co-mingle some 3-4. Dan’s got some great ideas of some things that I’ve done in the past, but we’ve got an outstanding defensive staff and I’m really excited about what all of those guys are bringing to the table.”

Along the defensive front, a trio of sophomore will start.

In the middle, Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley will serve as the starting tackles this spring with both Omar Hunter and Jaye Howard limited due to injuries.

Ronald Powell will play the “Buck” position, which is a hybrid defensive end position. He will be asked to drop in coverage and rush the passer at different times.

In addition, the Gators announced where Leon Orr will play this spring. He has been moved to defensive tackle to add depth at the position.

Another guy will change positions who the Gators are counting on to be a playmaker: Chris Martin. The talented 6-foot-5, 255-pound redshirt freshman will line up at defensive end behind William Green, the fourth starter on the defensive line.

Sophomore Gerald Christian has also moved to the defensive side of the ball and will be Florida’s starting linebacker on the strongside this spring. Jon Bostic will man the middle and Jelani Jenkins will start on the weakside.

At cornerback, senior Moses Jenkins and junior Jeremy Brown are the starters this spring. All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins will miss the entire spring recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Finally, at safety sophomore Matt Elam and junior Josh Evans will be the starters. Redshirt freshman Josh Shaw has been moved to safety and will back up Elam. Elam is also listed as the starter at nickelback.

But with all of the announced changes, more are surely on the way as Muschamp and the rest of the staff get settled and have a chance to see the players actually perform in spring football practice.

“(Spring) is not about taking a scheme and throwing it on our players and saying this is what we are,” he said. “It’s our job as coaches to evaluate what our players can do. That’s a huge part. That’s really what spring’s for.”

UNOFFICIAL DEPTH CHART – MARCH 14, 2011

OFFENSE
WR (X)85 Frankie Hammond, Jr.89 Stephen Alli OR 84 Quinton Dunbar
WR (Z)82 Omarius Hines4 Andre Debose
TE11 Jordan Reed81 A.C. Leonard
F-218 Trey Burton 
F-1288 Michael McFarland87 Josh Postell
F-116 Deonte Thompson83 Solomon Patton OR 7 Robert Clark
HB3 Chris Rainey23 Mike Gillislee OR 33 Mack Brown
QB12 John Brantley10 Tyler Murphy OR 16 Jeff Driskel
LT75 Chaz Green64 Kyle Koehne
LG72 Jonotthan Harrison63 Cole Gilliam
C50 Sam Robey58 Nick Alajajian
RG67 Jon Halapio60 William Steinmann
RT73 Xavier Nixon77 Ian Silberman
DEFENESE
Buck7 Ronald Powell34 Lerentee McCray OR 85 Lynden Trail
DT73 Sharrif Floyd91 Earl Okine
DT58 Dominique Easley68 Leon Orr
DE96 William Green23 Chris Martin OR 86 Clay Burton
Sam32 Gerald Christian25 Gideon Ajagbe
Mike52 Jonathan Bostic51 Michael Taylor
Will43 Jelani Jenkins13 Dee Finley OR 49 Darrin Kitchens
CB36 Moses Jenkins26 De’Ante Saunders
S22 Matt Elam9 Josh Shaw
S24 Josh Evans34 Tim Clark
CB8 Jeremy Brown31 Cody Riggs
Nickel22 Matt Elam31 Cody Riggs OR 26 De’Ante Saunders
SPECIALISTS
P44 Kyle Christy40 David Lerner
K19 Caleb Sturgis98 Brad Phillips
LS54 Christopher Guido46 Drew Ferris
PR3 Chris Rainey85 Frankie Hammond, Jr.
KR4 Andre Debose83 Solomon Patton

LIMITED PLAYERS
OL71 Matt Patchan
OL78 David Young
OL66 James Wilson
DT99 Omar Hunter
DT6 Jaye Howard
OLB93 Kedric Johnson
CB14 Jaylen Watkins
WILL MISS ALL OF SPRING
RB22 Mike Blakely
RB2 Jeff Demps
LB48 Neiron Ball
CB1 Janoris Jenkins