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Tuesday August 14, 2012Embedded with the Gators: An Inside Look at Florida Football

Complete Photo Gallery from Tuesday's Practice


GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The music cranked in the north end zone of the far field on the UF lacrosse stadium, as the Gators kicked in Period 10 of their second practice Wednesday.

Remarkably, the pre-determined practice schedule is running right on time, with the 10th period a hurry-up situational session where the offense starts on its 38, with 1:15 to play, trailing 16-14 and just one timeout.

Up to this point, the night practice has been fairly routine, with individual drills, some one-on-one work, then some 7-on-7 and third-down situational plays in the red zone.

But the players get fired up when it comes to two-minute pressure.

The first defense held on the first series, halting the offense on downs.

The second-team offense fared better in the same circumstances. Freshman running back Matt Jones had a couple key gains, including one on fourth-and-1, that led to a 37-yard field goal -- from Caleb Sturgis.

Minutes later, the night's final horn blew and Coach Will Muschamp huddled with his team before breaking for the night. It's back to the stadium for showers and snacks, then off to the team hotel for a 10:30 curfew.

Long day, another one tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, check back on GatorZone for a story focusing on a training camp day with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

UPDATED: 7:40 P.M.

The Gators just took the field for their second practice of the day at Don Dizney Stadium.

Prior to departing The Swamp for the short bus ride across campus, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn held a meeting with the defensive ends.

Quinn went over film from this morning's practice first and then talked about what he wanted the players to work on tonight.

"Play fast,'' he yelled as the players got up to leave the room.

Quinn spent much of his session with the defensive ends talking about pass-rush schemes. The Gators want to put more pressure on the quarterback this season and Quinn told players such as Lerentee McCray, Dominique Easley and Earl Okine that after tonight's practice, they should be a little better of a pass rusher than before.

"Grab grass and throw a fit on your guy,'' said Quinn, urging the players to put up a good rush at practice. "You got a nap. Life is good. Let's play this thing fast."


GAINESVILLE, Fla. The quarterbacks meeting Tuesday started with offensive coordinator Brent Pease calling on sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel. 

"Let's go," Pease said. "What's your brain-teaser?"

Driskel proceeded to ask his QB mates to solve a riddle.

Two children are born to the same mother on the same day of the same year at the same time but they're not twins. How is this possible? 

Pease likes to get his meeting started with a little something extra from one of his players. The previous one kicked off with a motivation thought, for example. 

"Just something different," Pease explained later.

As for the answer to Driskel's teaser? 

See below. 

As for the rest of the hour-long QB pow-wow, Pease spent the first half reviewing tape of Tuesday morning's practice, specifically the pressure two-minute drill when the offense had to drive 62 yards in 1:34 with only one timeout. 

The Gators coordinator, in his first UF season since jumping from the same post at Boise State, broke down the QBs' various reads and decisions on the plays, given the defensive alignments, evaluated their decision-making, advised of better options.

Teaching time. 

The second half of the meeting had Pease calling out a player, as he would in a game, and one of the quarterbacks diagram the formation and the play's execution on the grease board. Mistake are met with an in-unison clap of the hands from the others, prompting the guy with the pen to commence his corrections.

All of them, pretty much, knew what they were doing. 

None of them, however, knew the answer to Driskel's riddle. That was left to @GatorZoneChris in the back of the room. 

They're not twins because they're two-thirds of triplets.


GAINESVILLE, Fla. Afternoon special teams meetings just concluded.

Coach D.J. Durkin had a large and captive audience for about 45 minutes, nearly all of which were spent reviewing tape of Tuesday morning practice.

This time of the preseason, coaches put huge emphasis on fundamentals and technique. Do it right now, make it a habit, carry those habits into the season.

That's why a breakdown or two in the morning during punt block drills got Durkin particularly excited. His, um, colorful on-field reaction was as clear as the message.





The players relived the sequence during their meetings, with Durkin replaying the tape over and over to ram home his point.

"We block punts here," he said. "We don't touch the punter."


Since breaking from their first practice of the day and returning to The Swamp, coaches have spent most of that time in meetings.

 Head coach Will Muschamp joined a defensive meeting with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and assistants Travaris Robinson and Bryant Young. They spent more than half an hour breaking down the defense's performance from the morning practice.

You quickly realize how fast-paced camp is by hanging around the coaching offices. The film from the morning practice was already available for the coaches to dissect and use as a teaching tool for the evening practice when they returned from practice.

During a two-minute drill on which the offense drove down the field and scored, Muschamp saw plenty to work on in the evening session.

"We need to get better,'' he told Quinn, referring to the defense's performance on the drive. "This is to win the game. We need to watch this as a team."

 Shortly after the defensive meeting ended, the entire coaching staff and support staff held a meeting to plan the schedule for the evening session.

While the coaches worked at the office, the players took the team buses back to the hotel for some down time.

UPDATED: 1:15 P.M.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Part of a coach's day often means dealing with the media -- even when there's no media obligations on the schedule.

In between practices Tuesday, Coach Will Muschamp was informed of internet reports saying quarterback Jeff Driskel, the sophomore from Orlando, had suffered an injury to his left, non-throwing shoulder.

Several of the reports speculated the injury was serious.

The UF communications office received calls inquiring about the reports and released a statement in the afternoon saying Muschamp would address any injuries at his next media availability.

"Jeff was at practice today and will be taking reps at practice Wednesday," the statement said.

Driskel is in a preseason competition with sophomore Jacoby Brissett to win the No. 1 quarterback job.

UPDATED: 11:40 A.M.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. Defensive end Ronald Powell was having a phenomenal offseason until he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament to his knee in the Orange & Blue Game last spring.

Though he has not be cleared to return to practice and his return to game action is still undetermined the junior from Moreno Valley, Calif., does conditioning work while the Gators practice. After the team adjourned Tuesday morning workout, Powell did some individual drills with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

That's Quinn, with pads on his hands, letting the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Powell work on his pass-rushing technique by pounding away on those hand pads.

UPDATED: 10:35 A.M.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The end of practice means it's time to refuel, which means it's off to the Gator Room for team brunch.

But refueling has been going on all morning.

Sarah Snyder is UF's director of sports nutrition. In addition to her duties relative to the training table, Snyder is a fixture at practices and monitors players closely for muscle cramping and signs of low energy.

Each player, in fact, is weighed before practice and after practice to determine the amount of fluids they exhaust, which determines how much they need to take in during practice.

"We have a general guideline," Snyder said. "For every pound you lose, 20 ounces of Gatorade and water. We're constantly doing that weight monitoring."

Some players, especially offensive linemen, can lose 10 or more pounds each practice. Snyder will pay particularly close attention to players whose pre-practice weight might be lighter than normal.

For the rare two-a-day day workload -- like today -- Snyder needs to make sure the players' bodies are replenished and ready for that second practice. The Gators have meetings after lunch, then get three hours of rest before reporting back to the stadium for a 6:45-9:20 p.m. practice.

That's where electrolyte supplementation, Gatorade Prime and chews, extra salt at meals, smoothies, snacks ... they all come into play over the course of a day.

"Anywhere we can get them some extra calories," Snyder said.

UPDATED 10:15 A.M.

When the Gators huddled and broke from their first practice of the day, Gators coach Will Muschamp yelled for someone who has been around the team longer than anyone else.

"Hey C.P, where are you?" Muschamp asked.

C.P. is Chris Patrick, assistant athletic director of sports health.

Patrick is in the midst of his 57th college football camp, and every Gators camp since 1970.

"That's older than I've been alive,'' Muschamp told the players as they gathered around Patrick.

Patrick started his career at the University of Tennessee before moving to Gainesville for a similar position when Doug Dickey took over the program. Dickey left and Patrick stayed.

He considered opportunities that came along to move up to the NFL, but each time, Patrick decided UF was where he wanted to be.

"I felt like I was more of a college guy than a pro guy,'' Patrick said Tuesday morning. "This was the place for me."

Once Patrick led the huddle break, the players jogged off toward two buses headed to The Swamp and a team meal. Patrick followed behind. He knows the way well.

UPDATED: 9:30 A.M.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- We're into Period 11, when coaches determine a game-day pressure situation and put the players in it. 

The scenario: Offense down 21-17 with 1:34 to go in the game and the ball on its own 38. Only one timeout.

Crowd noise is loud, courtesy of the huge speakers in the end zone that are blaring a buzzing sound that's pretty darn annoying, but won't be confused with the rabid crowd at Texas A&M's Kyle Field.

Anyway, the offense marched down the field, with one of the quarterbacks -- sorry folks, can't give that one up yet -- hitting Frankie Hammond on a 4-yard touchdown pass over cornerback Louchiez Purifoy as time expired.

When they flipped it around and went the other, the defense held after tight end Kent Taylor dipped to catch a pass at the 1 with less than 10 seconds to go. The offense rushed to the line to clock the ball, but on the final play Jabari Gorman batted a pass away from Latroy Pittman.

UPDATED: 9 a.m.

GAINESVILLE -- By the time the Gators arrived at Don Dizney Stadium around 7 a.m. for their morning practice, Dave Houts was waiting for them.

Houts had his video camera and everything in place, including an umbrella and some cold drinks for when that famous Florida sun began to say 'good morning.'

Houts is the Gators' director of video services. He has been shooting Florida practices since the days of Emmitt Smith. He does it usually about 30 feet above the field to give coaches a unique perspective of practice.

"This is called getting high on the job. The eye in the sky does not lie,' Houts said Tuesday. "These guys know it."

While the Gators practice at UF's lacrosse facility, Houts spends most of his time on a scissors lift overlooking the field where the offense works on individual drills. When the Gators move back to their regular practice field before the first game, he'll shoot from one of the permanent towers the school built prior to last season.

The job has changed drastically since Houts came to UF in the late 1980s. Back then the process was much slower than today, when coaches will be able to watch portions of this morning's practice as soon as they get back to the office.

As soon as Houts finished filming the first few periods Tuesday morning, a student manager grabbed a tiny SD card to start loading the film onto a server. They will repeat the process a few more times during practice so that when this morning's session is over the film will be ready for review.

"They will look at this before they come out for the afternoon practice,'' Houts said. "The process is a lot more streamlined, higher quality and faster [than when I started]. Technology does not stand still."

Neither did Houts' scissors lift one time. It was in the early 1990s when Steve Spurrier was Florida's football coach. Houts was in his usual spot shooting practice when he noticed someone coming his way out of the corner of his eye.

Suddenly the lift starting shaking. Houts yelled that he was filming practice and for the person to stop. Finally, he looked down only to see former Gators coach Ron Zook he had joined Spurrier's staff as an assistant and wanted to say hello to Houts climbing the lift.

"That's one of my favorite stories,'' Houts said.

UPDATED: 8:30 a.m.

Will Muschamp doesn't waste time getting his players focused and in tune with practice. 

The first 10 minutes are fast-tempo, two-minute drills. 

It's called "Gator Ball." 

Special teams follow. Lord help the soul who runs into the kicker and thus earns the wrath of fiery linebacker/special teams coach D.J. Durkin. 

After that, the team breaks into units (running backs, secondary, offensive line, etc.) for 40 minutes, which gives way to what the schedule calls "Team Pressure." That's work -- offense and defense -- against blitzes. 

Ten minutes in, managers crank up the crowd noise in the form of music. All kinds, courtesy of a players vote. Coaches have a say in it, too.  

FIRST UPDATE: 8:00 a.m.

Wake-up call at 5:30 a.m. On the bus 15 minutes later. Breakfast at the stadium at 6. Bus to the lacrosse facility at 7.

Jeff Dillman's smiling face (well, sort of) at 7:10.

"Rise and shine, leave your worries behind," the University of Florida strength and conditioning coordinator (and poet) shouts as the players climb off the bus. "If you're scared, don't cross the orange line."

With that, the Gators filed into Donald Dizney Stadium for the first of two practices Tuesday during their five-day training camp.

Welcome to "Embedded with the Gators," a day-long series of blogs, tweets and pics we hope provides readers something of an inside look at what goes on in this sweat-box football days of Florida football in August.

Right now, the Gators are going through their pre-practice walk-through, running select plays and such, then will break into stretching and flexing.

The coaches are yelling. They do that a lot.

Stay tuned for more.

Follow Scott Carter and Chris Harry throughout the day with updates from practice - @GatorZoneScott and @GatorZoneChris

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