Friday January 17, 2014Gators Notebook: Tuning Up Offense, Injury Report, Grier Chatter, More Tidbits
Gators coach Will Muschamp envisions a more diverse offense under first-year coordinator Kurt Roper.
Gators coach Will Muschamp envisions a more diverse offense under first-year coordinator Kurt Roper.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In Will Muschamp’s three seasons at Florida, the defense has set the benchmark.
The Gators have consistently ranked among the best defensive units in the country and finished ranked second in the SEC in 2013.
The offense is another story, which is why Muschamp hired Kurt Roper as the team’s new offensive coordinator last month.
With Roper on board following six years at Duke, Muschamp is determined to turn around the program’s fortunes and put last season’s 4-8 record in the rearview mirror.
“After the season was over, [we] obviously needed to make some improvements on the offensive side of the ball,’’ Muschamp told reporters earlier this week. “As I looked at it, we needed more tempo, we needed to create more snaps, we needed to create more space plays, continue to stay balanced, be diverse in our background moving forward.
“I felt like being in the gun would help some of our personnel, and that’s where we’re headed.”
All that sounds fine to Roper, whose diverse offense at Duke helped the Blue Devils win 10 games last season and put a pair of former Duke quarterbacks – Sean Renfree and Thaddeus Lewis – into the NFL.
For more on Roper’s background, here is a Q&A on the day the hire was announced.
Roper’s use of tempo at Duke played a major role in the Blue Devils’ turnaround over the past six seasons. He said one of the most overlooked facets of calling an offense is how quickly you get lined up and snap the ball.
The longer it takes, the more time the defense has to get comfortable.
“If you can play the game with some tempo and speed and you can play it in space, you can create as many one-on-one tackle opportunities as you can,’’ Roper said. “If you can create a bunch of one-on-one tackle opportunities, then you have a chance to have positive yards and positive yards keep you on the field.”
The Gators led the SEC in time of possession last season (33 minutes, 49 seconds) but holding onto the ball didn’t always lead to points.
In Roper’s world, points are the most important asset for the guy in the booth calling the plays.
“Our whole philosophy on offense is points per game,’’ he said. “It’s not yards, it’s not going up and down the field, it’s how many points we can get.
“Hopefully we’re a PPG team.”
If the defense continues to play at a high standard, a PPG team is one that could turn around Florida’s fortunes in a hurry.
DRISKEL PROGRESSES, JONES OUT
In what was an injury-plagued year for the Gators, quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Matt Jones were the two biggest losses on offense.
Driskel (broken leg) was lost for the season in the third game of the season and Jones (knee injury) went out in the sixth game. Driskel is now walking around without crutches and Muschamp said he is on pace to be ready for the start of spring practice, which is scheduled to start about a week later than normal.
Driskel is eager to return to the field and build off the 11-2 season the Gators had in 2012 in his first year as the starter.
“I was very confident going into last year,’’ Driskel told The Gainesville Sun this week. “I think I would have had a good year. I’m going to keep doing what I was doing — watching film, working on footwork, getting together with the receivers. Don’t back off. Don’t hang my head because of the injury. Continue on the path I was on.”
Meanwhile, the news on Jones is not as optimistic.
Muschamp said Jones suffered a radial meniscus tear in his knee and needs an additional surgery to repair the damage. Jones will not participate in spring practice.
“It is a little more lengthy," Muschamp said. “This was torn all the way through. It's a little more serious than a regular meniscus ... We feel like, optimistically, he'll be ready to go for summer workouts.”
As for other players recovering from season-ending injuries, Muschamp said linebackers Matt Rolin (knee), Jeremi Powell (knee) and Alex Anzalone (shoulder) continue to rehab and won’t be available during spring practice. Muschamp didn’t address starting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison’s late season-ending knee injury, but based on general rehab timelines, don’t expect Morrison to be participate close to full speed in the spring, if at all.
Receiver Andre Debose (knee) will participate in non-contact drills and offensive lineman Octavius Jackson (shoulder) is questionable.
Starting offensive lineman Tyler Moore, whose season came to an end due to a broken elbow during a scooter accident, is expected to be ready to go in the spring according to Muschamp.
The Gators showed up for their scheduled team meeting on Thursday expecting strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman to provide details of the afternoon's team run.
Instead, Dillman told the players they were going to see the movie "Lone Survivor" as part of a team-building event. Check out the video below for the Gators' reaction:
GRIER GETS GOING
Perhaps the most notable of Florida’s nine early enrollees is freshman Will Grier. When you are a record-breaking prep quarterback, extra notoriety comes with the territory.
As the Gators opened offseason workouts on Monday in preparation for the start of spring practice in late March, Grier was a popular subject at Muschamp’s press conference.
Muschamp had not spoken publicly about the 6-foot-3, 181-pound Grier due to NCAA rules. ESPN.com ranked Grier, who played at Davidson (N.C.) Day School, the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class.
Grier’s athleticism and ability to grasp Florida’s offense are two things that have caught Muschamp’s attention thus far. Grier was named Mr. Football USA on Thursday an award former Gators quarterback Chris Leak won in 2002.
“Obviously you look at accuracy as a thrower, being able to throw the ball into tight spots,’’ Muschamp said. “He’s shown the ability to do that. We had him in camp multiple times. He showed tremendous leadership ability here while he was on campus, positively affecting guys around him.
“The athleticism and accuracy, we feel like, is there. That’s why a quarterback is a very difficult position to evaluate. You don’t really know sometimes the level of competition and there are other factors that figure in to how successful they’ll be on the college level or moving from the college level to the National Football League.”
Roper was familiar with Grier prior to taking over as Florida’s offensive coordinator. He saw him play in camps in North Carolina and is looking forward to helping Grier develop.
“You knew Will was real talented and was going to be heavily recruited,’’ Roper said. “I think he has a great mindset. I think he has a great quarterback demeanor, and then I tell you what, he was accurate. He can throw it. He has a fast arm. I look for a guy that when he turns it loose, his arm speed is really consistently fast. He’s a talented young man.”
Gators center Jonotthan Harrison has spent this week in the Los Angeles area preparing for Saturday’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET).
Harrison is a member of the National team, coached by former Eagles and Rams head coach Dick Vermeil. He is receiving tips from a couple of offensive line heavyweights in practice – legendary NFL offensive line coach Jim Hanifan and former Chiefs All-Pro Will Shields are the National team’s offensive line coaches.
Harrison and former South Carolina quarterback Conor Shaw are expected to share a lot of the snaps in Saturday’s game.
While it’s way too early to forecast Harrison’s draft status, here is an early evaluation from NFLDraftScout.com via CBSSports.com.
QUOTE OF NOTE
“Every position is open. When you go 4-8, it’s all open.” – Muschamp on his mentality heading into spring
Former Gators All-American receiver Percy Harvin remains uncertain for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. Harvin suffered a concussion in Seattle’s win over New Orleans in only his second game for the Seahawks since an offseason trade with the Vikings … Speaking of the Seahawks, UF grad Ryan Asdourian, the team’s mascot, is featured in Friday’s edition of The Seattle Times … Gators receiver Solomon Patton parlayed an MVP performance in last weekend’s Medal of Honor Bowl into an invitation to the Senior Bowl in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 25. Patton was Florida’s offensive MVP last season … According to the Boston Globe, former Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy will likely vie for the starting quarterback job at Boston College with freshman Darius Wade, an early enrollee. Murphy and former UF teammate Ian Silberman are enrolled at BC this spring with a final year of eligibility remaining. Silberman projects as a starter at tackle under former Gators offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, in his second season with the Eagles. Last season, Addazio brought in former UF offensive lineman Matt Patchan and Patchan earned a starting job ... Former Gators coach Steve Spurrier just completed his ninth season at South Carolina, only three fewer than his stint (1990-2001) as UF’s coach. With three consecutive 11-win seasons, Spurrier is now among the nation’s 10 highest-paid coaches after South Carolina trustees approved a pay raise to $4 million per year Thursday … Former Gators defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham, cut by New England and San Francisco this season before landing in New York, signed a one-year deal worth $730,000 according to the New York Post … Former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum told CBS Radio that trading for former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was one of the mistakes that cost him his job but that he “would never bet against Tim” getting another shot in the NFL … Gators RB Kelvin Taylor is one of 15 players on ESPN.com writer Ed Aschoff’s SEC player- to-watch list for next season … Teryl Austin is Detroit’s new defensive coordinator, his first time in that role since serving as Florida’s defensive coordinator in 2010 during Urban Meyer’s final season. ESPN.com takes a look at what Detroit might be getting based on Austin’s time at Florida.