Monday August 4, 2014 Most Important News on Day 1 for Gators: Everybody Practiced
Updated: 8:14am, August 5
Updated: 8:14am, August 5
Running back Matt Jones participates in a drill at Monday's early-morning practice.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators started the trek toward what they hope is a turnaround season on Monday by opening fall camp.
The veteran players practiced early Monday morning while most of the freshmen and less-experienced players worked out in the afternoon.
The most important news of the day: everybody practiced. Gators coach Will Muschamp previously announced that freshman offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher (back surgery) is the only player not available. Kelleher will redshirt.
"Drastically different" was Muschamp's answer when asked to compare the first day of camp to last year. A year ago the Gators started camp without starting quarterback Jeff Driskel due to an appendectomy, and running back Matt Jones and offensive lineman Jon Halapio due to injuries.
That was just the start of what turned into an avalanche of injuries for the Gators throughout the season.
"It was a rough fall,'' Muschamp said. "But I think we've improved ourselves at the receiver position, at the running back position. When they are all healthy, that's a good group sitting out there."
The Gators will hold another split-squad practice on Tuesday and Muschamp said the entire team would practice in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) on Wednesday night. The first day in full pads is Friday.
Muschamp was pleased overall at the energy the team showed on the first day of camp.
"Everybody is fired up Day 1. Let's see how they are Day 12,'' he said. "That's kind of the way I look at it. We've seen a very inspired group throughout the summer."
The Gators moved at a very brisk pace Monday, in part due to the up-tempo system first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper installed in the spring.
The no-huddle approach keeps receivers on the move during passing drills.
"I think we are in pretty good condition,'' Muschamp said. "Obviously a drastic difference between the young group and the older group as far as the tempo [and] the number of bodies. It was tougher on the older group too because we only have two units going."
The kicking game played an important role in Florida's 11-2 record in 2012. On the way to a 4-8 record in 2013, the kickers were inconsistent.
Placekicker Austin Hardin made only 4 of 12 field goals and punter Kyle Christy was replaced by Johnny Townsend following an excellent 2012.
The unit showed signs of improvement in the spring. Muschamp seeks more of the same.
"You build confidence through having very positive reps,'' Muschamp said. "They had a lot of positive reps through spring. Based on what they've told me, they felt they had a very good summer. In the short time watching them today, I thought we punted the ball extremely well, both Johnny and Kyle. Austin kicked it extremely well."
QUOTE OF NOTE
"I didn't sleep a whole lot last night, excited about getting back on the field and coaching. That's what you get hired to do and that's what I enjoy doing." -- Muschamp on returning to practice. He said he woke up at 3:35 a.m. Monday after going to bed around midnight Sunday.
Muschamp liked what he saw from quarterback Driskel on Day 1. "I thought Jeff looked really good," he said. Skyler Mornhinweg, Will Grier and Treon Harris are competing to back up Driskel. "Just a work in progress,'' Muschamp added of that competition ... Freshman defensive back Quincy Wilson had an interception in his first collegiate practice. Muschamp said Wilson is working at cornerback.