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March 19, 2012Tweet Follow @InsideTheGators
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MORE FLORIDA FOOTBALL: Saturday Practice In-Depth Defensive Observations | Saturday Practice In-Depth Offensive Observations | Saturday Practice Instance Analysis | Friday Practice Instant Analysis | Inside the Gators In-Depth Practice Observations - Offense | Inside the Gators In-Depth Practice Observations - Defense | Alley - Live from Practice | Thursday Notes: Quarterback competition | Fixing team chemistry | Five spring questions to ponder | Muschamp is ready for round two | Yahoo! Sports: Florida spring preview | Coordinator Notebook: Pease' offers offensive philosophy | Pro Day Notebook: Howard has high hopes | Brantley looking for a shot | Rainey improves on forty time | New offensive coordinator Pease fitting in fine | Pre-spring depth chart released | Three projected starters sitting out the spring
Before the Gators football team conducted their fourth practice of spring camp, head coach Will Muschamp met with media early Monday afternoon. After just a single workout in full-pads, Florida's coach tempered his premature impressions, but he did answer injury queries, the Gators' early focus on fundamentals and the teams overall attitude.
"After three days it's really hard, especially after just one day in pads," he said. "Guys are working really hard. We have good effort and really good retention on the defensive side of the ball understanding our scheme and what we're doing. But again, [who's really standing out] is hard to say right now."
Muschamp added that the team's energy and attitude has been the most prevailing aspect of the initial practices, even vaguely complementing Urban Meyer and Co.
"The guys really working hard. They always work hard. One thing since I've been here, and credit to who was here before, is they work hard."
Although Muschamp had little to say about the quarterback competition, he did shed light on the running back situation and was complementary of the two leading candidates to start.
Senior Mike Gillislee and redshirt sophomore Mack Brown both received praise as "two guys that have really stood out."
"Gillislee is a guy we're excited about," Muschamp said, before adding, "and Mack Brown has been playing his best ball since he's been at Florida according to [positional coach] Brian White when we talked this morning."
After losing Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to graduation, many have questioned Florida's ability to replicate the tandem's offensive production. However, Muschamp seemed both excited and anxious to have an all-around, more versatile feel to the group.
"I do think we've got some guys with different skill sets to see where they match with what we're doing offensively," he said.
While mentioning fullback Hunter Joyer and do-it-all Trey Burton and the dynamics they bring to Florida's attack, UF's coach explained why Omarius Hines and Chris Johnson were cross training at the position.
"[Omarius] an explosive athlete. ... He's got good hands. I think more than anything it was adding a bigger body in the backfield. We need to find a role for him and use some different ways to get him the football."
Muschamp said Hines has great instincts with the ball in his hands, and the coaching staff envisions using him in a similar role to Burton -- minus the Wild-Gator quarterback snaps.
In Friday and Saturday's open practices, Hines flashed his versatility with two long touchdown receptions out of the backfield while looking smooth running the ball in limited carries. Johnson appeared strong toting the rock this past weekend too, and Muschamp said his transition was due to a concern over his size defensively but also his physical running style.
"He's sort of a tweener as far as the secondary is concerned," Muschamp said. "But he was a guy that was a good back in high school, and a guy that's got some explosive power. Let's give him that opportunity to take a shot. We've been pretty pleased so far."
Injury update: The Gators have several guys nicked up after back-to-back practices this past weekend. Redshirt junior wideout Stephen Alli has a slight groin strain while senior defensive end Earl Okine has a back issue. Both are listed as day-to-day, according to Muschamp.
Junior receiver Solomon Patton has a more serious groin strain he suffered in a non-contact drill Friday and is listed as week-to-week. Patton was seen leaving Friday's open practice on crutches, and Muschamp said he's definitely out of the team's first scrimmage on Saturday.
Sophomore corner Louchiez Purifoy, currently listed as the starting left corner, left last Saturday's practice early with a shoulder sprain, but Muschamp said he's fine and, "we expect him to practice today."
Muschamp didn't appreciate a question about cornerback Marcus Roberson's current injury status, however. When asked about Roberson's "non-contact" limitations, Florida's coach scoffed at the notion that "shadow-boxing", "one-on-one's" and even mini shoving matches and tussles were contact.
"We're not going to have him to do any contact. That's what the orange jersey means. I had to explain that last fall, didn't we? Non-contact? We gonna have to go through that again? Non-contact means no contact."
Further pressed, Muschamp said, "We're not going to tackle and those things. That's what non-contact means."
Roberson is still recovering from a neck injury he suffered last season against South Carolina. The sophomore started 10 games in 2011 and Muschamp -- who at the time said it wasn't career threatening -- stated how depressed Roberson was because it was worse than initially feared.
"It was a very, very serious issue. It was all very healable as far as the medical process is concerned. But it just takes time. He was in a neck brace for six to eight weeks -- a stationary brace. Then he was in a less-confining brace for another six weeks. It was pretty -- it was a scary injury. ... Marcus was down -- bad. I was worried about him just as a human being. He was really, really depressed about the situation: something he loves and cares about so much maybe being taken away from him. Football is important to him. He likes playing the games, as you see out there, it's very hard for him to be non-contact. He's a competitive guy and he likes to play the game."
Gator bites: Corner Jaylen Watkins and tight end Jordan Reed were two players who Muschamp acknowledged have looked good in the first several practices. "I think Jaylen's done some nice things. We've really challenged him on his physical traits in the off-season, getting stronger and winning on the line of scrimmage more, tackling." As for Reed, Muschamp said he continues to make positive strikes in his all-around game. "He's a matchup issue. I thought he improved his blocking tremendously for a guy that hasn't done it a whole lot." ... Even Muschamp watched the Florida's rout over Norfolk State. on Sunday. He said, "I love our basketball team. I'm a big Billy Donovan fan. We were shooting the lights out early yesterday. We were hot. I love basketball. I love watching it."