Will Muschamp focusing on players for opening game
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Gators got serious Friday during an intense scrimmage inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Florida coach Will Muschamp said it’s that time in camp when the coaching staff has to start dishing out reps to the players the Gators will rely on Aug. 31 in the season opener against Toledo.
“Who’s going to be ready for that opener? We’ve got to narrow it down,” Muschamp said. “We can’t continue to rep everybody we’re repping. We don’t have the amount of time. We’ve got to move forward with the guys we need to go into the season with and really concentrate and develop the young players on the football team.
In the coming days Muschamp and his staff will closely scrutinize the underclassmen vying for playing time and start making decisions on which ones can help the Gators this season and which ones are not ready.
While this year’s team lost some star power in NFL first-rounders Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam, plus 1,000-yard rusher Mike Gillislee, the addition of elite recruiting classes in each of the past two years provides the most depth of any of Muschamp’s three teams at Florida.
Running back, receiver, linebacker and safety are positions that feature the most competition for playing time among inexperienced players.
“Let’s take our growing pains if we have to, but let’s get those guys ready,” Muschamp said.
Note: To read an updated injury report, click here for a blog off Muschamp’s Friday press conference.
ESPN.com recruiting analysts Craig Haubert and Tom Luginbill think highly of a trio of Gators freshmen.
In forecasting ESPN.com’s 2013 Freshman All-American Team, Haubert and Luginbill list three Gators on the squad: receiver Demarcus Robinson, linebacker Daniel McMillian and defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III.
Robinson has stood out the most in fall camp.
“He’s been pretty consistently making some vertical plays for us down the field,” Muschamp said Friday. “He’s got really good ball skills. He’s got natural instincts in running routes and doing those sorts of things. So it’s been a very positive thing for our offense.”
Meanwhile, punter Kyle Christy was named to ESPN.com’s Preseason All-American Team. A junior, Christy was a Ray Guy Award finalist last season.
Former Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis won the starter’s job for the Miami Dolphins earlier this week, but Sturgis’ old job remains an open competition.
Senior Brad Phillips and redshirt freshman Austin Hardin are in the hunt to replace Sturgis.
“We haven’t made a decision. Brad had a little bit of groin [injury] there early in camp so we obviously want to give everybody a fair shake at that,” Muschamp said. “Brad’s kicked in live situations before in-game. He has that experience. I’ve been pleased with Austin‘s progress through camp. And Brad, when healthy, has kicked the ball well.”
At Friday’s scrimmage, Phillips missed an early attempt while Hardin made a pair of field goals prior to the team’s break for halftime.
Defensive lineman Joey Ivie was among the eight early enrollees who joined the program in January. Ivie played at Pasco High in Dade City (Fla.).
A defensive end in high school, Ivie (6-3, 270) played on the interior line during the spring but has played more on the end during fall camp.
Muschamp discussed Ivie’s progress Friday morning.
“He’s done a nice job. His improvement from spring to right now is night and day,” Muschamp said. “We moved him inside purposely in the spring [because] he needed to learn how to play blocks, strike blocks in a situation where he’s got to play fast and physical. We moved him to end, which is still inside, but it slows the game down a little bit.
“Very pleased with where he is.”
Ivie has taken his share of reps early in camp and is one of those young players the Gators will evaluate closely in coming days.
Quote of Note I
“Right now, if we were to start the season, [he] would be the starter at the nickel-back position.” – Muschamp on sophomore defensive back Brian Poole
Quote of Note II
“He could play center if he had to. We haven’t done that yet, but he is a guy that, again, you can’t ever not emphasize enough the intelligence – football intelligence.” – Muschamp on offensive lineman Tyler Moore, working at right guard
Quote of Note III
“I don’t know if you guys ever watch the show “Phineas and Ferb?” The brother Phineas never says anything, but when he does, it’s usually like detailed and hilarious. When Trent says something it’s always like, ‘OHHH.’ He’s always just chill and you usually just get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ out of him for the most part, but when he says something you’re like, ‘Wow.’ He just said that.’ ” – Gators offensive lineman D.J. Humphries talking about JUCO transfer Trenton Brown
Quote of Note IV
“That was a heckuva hit. Some coaches try to take credit for that stuff, I don’t.” – Muschamp on former Gators linebacker Jon Bostic’s often-replayed hit in Thursday night’s Bears-Chargers preseason game
Notes and Nuggets
The Gators hold their second open practice of fall camp Saturday morning from 9-11; click here for more details … Running back Matt Jones watched Friday’s scrimmage from the sideline. Jones has been sidelined since camp began due to a viral infection … Offensive coordinator Brent Pease, running backs coach Brian White and defensive line coach Brad Lawing coached from the press box during Friday’s scrimmage to simulate a game day.