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Offensive coordinator Brent Pease talks to the quarterbacks during the Orange & Blue Debut.

Saturday April 6, 2013Orange & Blue Debut Notebook: Robinson a factor; Driskel's focus in offseason, Taylor scores, more tidbits

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease talks to the quarterbacks during the Orange & Blue Debut.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. True freshman receiver Demarcus Robinson wasn't 100 percent during Saturday's Orange & Blue Debut because of a high-ankle sprain he suffered in spring practice.

Still, those in attendance got to see why Robinson is considered a potential difference-maker for a receiving corps that has lacked consistency the past couple of seasons.

On the second series of scrimmage snaps Saturday, Robinson leapt to haul in a deep pass from second-string quarterback Tyler Murphy. Robinson was able to make the catch over cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, who had good coverage on the play.

"Obviously Demarcus Robinson is a guy that is going to help us,'' Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "The tough thing with Demarcus is that he hurt his ankle, I want to say on the third or fourth time out in camp and then he missed eight practices. He's coming back through and trying to get back in. I think the guy, athletically, is what we want."

Robinson did enough this spring for Muschamp to consider him a reliable target when healthy for second-year starter Jeff Driskel. While Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose and Trey Burton started at receiver with the first-team offense Saturday, Driskel expects Robinson to contribute as a true freshman.

"He's a big body. He can go inside to make a slant catch and catch and fall down, or he can go vertical and jump and make a tough catch,'' Driskel said. "He can catch the ball when he is in different body positions and different body angles, and he is a guy who can blow by. He's a guy who has good ball skills. He is going to be a big-time player and he's definitely going to show up next year."

Defensive back Jaylen Watkins left Saturday's scrimmage impressed by Robinson's performance despite the ankle injury that slowed down the Peach County (Ga.) High product. Watkins said he noticed early in spring camp that the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Robinson could be a factor.

Unlike many young receivers, Watkins said Robinson was unfazed by the press technique coverage that often prevents inexperienced receivers from gaining separation at the line of scrimmage.

"He got an injury and instead of backing down, he took on the challenge to go into the training room and get better and pushed out there while he was hurting,'' Watkins said. "Today he was limping and still making great catches. When you see a guy like that, you know he has something great."

DEVELOPING DRISKEL

It was difficult to gauge Driskel's growth Saturday because much of the offense's focus was on situational drills and getting work for the young running backs behind projected starter Matt Jones.

Muschamp said Driskel's biggest improvement is his ability to recognize protections, different coverages and his deeper understanding of the routes of his receivers.

"He made a lot of steps there,'' Muschamp said.

With Murphy and third-string quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg behind him neither player has taken a snap in a regular-season game Driskel plans to tone down some of his willingness to take a hit to avoid an injury.

"I do need to this year try and limit the shots I'm taking,'' he said. "Coach Muschamp and Coach [Brent] Pease have definitely put that in my head."

Driskel's running ability remains a big part of his overall game, but he knows he needs to develop into a more dangerous downfield passer to create more opportunities for the offense.

Driskel ranked that as the No. 1 improvement he wants to make next season.

"Make more vertical plays,'' Driskel said. "Last year it was more hand the ball off, hand the ball off, third down get the conversion. It's hard to just to put drives together consistently. You've got to hit big plays in order to score touchdowns and we need to do that more."

SPRING REVIEW

The lack of healthy offensive linemen Saturday forced Muschamp to alter the format from a traditional spring game to an open practice with around 40 true scrimmage snaps.

Offensive linemen Tyler Moore, Max Garcia, D.J. Humphries, Jonotthan Harrison, Kyle Koehne, Quinteze Williams and Jon Halapio participated, but Chaz Green (ankle), Ian Silberman (shoulder), Trip Thurman (shoulder) and Jessamen Dunker (suspension) were unavailable.

Muschamp sounded pleased at the Gators' overall progress after 15 practices this spring. He reminded the players afterward that they report to fall camp in 117 days and how much they improve until then is up to them.

"I told the players you will define your role on our football team as we move forward,'' Muschamp said. "Whether it's in the film room, or on your own or in the weight room or out on the field, our guys have to take control of that."

Muschamp will conduct exit interviews with the players next week to provide individual evaluations heading into the offseason.

TAYLOR SCORES TD

Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor made his debut in The Swamp and scored on a 7-yard touchdown.

Taylor is the son of former Gators All-American Fred Taylor and one of the most high-profile recruits since Muschamp took over the program in 2011. Taylor is listed third on the depth chart behind Jones and redshirt junior Mack Brown.

Still, that doesn't mean he won't play much this fall.

"A very talented runner,'' Muschamp said. "Some positions are easier than others to contribute as a freshman, and that's a natural-instinct position get the guy the ball and let his natural instincts take over and run for daylight. And he can do that. It's the other things we've got to brush up on."

Fred Taylor was interviewed during Saturday's practice and said that his son has quicker feet than he did at this point in his career.

Watkins believes it.

"He has the best cut-back probably in the backfield,'' Watkins said. "He can stop on a dime. He made a lot of good moves today. He is tough. When he gets hit, he gets right back up. He is just trying to learn, that's what I like about him."

QUOTE OF NOTE I

"I definitely don't remember any boos. Obviously I wouldn't like to hear myself or the offense getting booed, but at the end of the day you can't worry about that. I don't see why we would get booed. We won all of our games at home last year." -- Driskel when asked about the importance of offensive improvement next season to avoid potential fan unrest such as Gators faced early last season

QUOTE OF NOTE II

"I've already responded to that. Really, there is nothing to dignify any other response other than exactly what you read. Exactly what you read." -- Muschamp when asked about allegations made by former Auburn player Mike McNeil

QUOTE OF NOTE III

"Let's let Kelvin be Kelvin and Fred's Fred.'' -- Muschamp on comparisons between Taylor and his father

NOTES & NUGGETS

Muschamp said if the season started Saturday, defensive lineman Dominique Easley, who played end last year, would play defensive tackle ... Dunbar wore a non-contact jersey Saturday due to a shoulder issue according to Muschamp ... Receiver Latroy Pittman was held out for precautionary reasons after landing awkwardly on his back Friday ... Walk-on running back Mark Herndon had an impressive afternoon, scoring a touchdown and looking good on several carries; Herndon is a player that has impressed coaches with his special-teams play ... More than two dozen former Gators participated in the UF Alumni Game, including Errict Rhett, Keiwan Ratliff, Brandon Siler, Lawrence Wright, Earl Everett and Chris Doering. Former players Deonte Thompson and Fred Taylor served as coaches.

 

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