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The Gators plan to return to a more traditional spring game format for this year's Orange & Blue Debut.

Wednesday April 2, 2014Gators Notebook: Muschamp Talks Spring Game Format, Robinson on Rise, More Tidbits

The Gators plan to return to a more traditional spring game format for this year's Orange & Blue Debut.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators are past the midway point of spring camp and are starting to turn their attention to preparing for the Orange & Blue Debut on April 12.

The annual spring game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was basically a glorified practice last year because Florida had only six healthy offensive linemen. Instead of a traditional spring game, the Gators participated in various drills focused on fundamentals.

Are you ready for some football in 10 days?

Spring game 2013

Gators coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday the plan is to return to a traditional format for this year's spring game.

"I want good on good,'' Muschamp said. "I want to see the best players going against the best players and being able to as a staff match up guys that we know we need to find out things about."

That means the No. 1 offensive working against the No. 1 defense and vice versa.

Muschamp wants to get an accurate gauge of where players than after spring.

"When I was at LSU we had Marcus Spears matched up on a guy like me playing tackle,'' Muschamp said. "Then Jimbo [Fisher] and Nick [Saban] have to answer the entire offseason why our passing game wasn't very good. Marcus had like 14 sacks."

While first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and his up-tempo system will be a major focus for fans, the young defensive line is an area Muschamp will watch closely.

Dante Fowler Jr., Jonathan Bullard, Bryan Cox Jr., Joey Ivie, Taven Bryan, Antonio Riles, Alex McCalister, Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick are among a deep and talented group that lacks significant experience other than Fowler and Bullard.

With projected starter Leon Orr (wrist) out for spring, Bullard has moved inside to tackle and performed well according to Muschamp. The move has allowed Cox to pick up significant reps at defensive end.

"Our defensive line needs to take a lot of snaps,'' Muschamp said. "They need as many snaps against as good players as they can go against. That's important so you don't get a little bit of a misinterpretation of where you are, or more than anything, where that player thinks he is."

CHANGING DIRECTIONS

Sophomore Kelvin Taylor continues to get much of the work with the first-team offense with Matt Jones (knee) out this spring.

Taylor, fifth-year senior Mack Brown, redshirt freshman Adam Lane and former walk-on Mark Herndon have looked good this spring according to Muschamp. Taylor has improved his protection skills, a weakness last season, and Lane is a productive low-to-the-ground runner who could challenge for carries.

The running backs are adapting to Roper's offense, which requires backs to approach handoffs differently than in former offensive coordinator Brent Pease's system.

"In this offense, it's a little different for these guys in how they are getting the ball. We still run the counter, we still run the power, we still run the inside zone, we still run the stretch, but they're angles to the line of scrimmage are a little different,'' Muschamp said. " I think they have all adjusted very well."

ROBINSON REVIVAL

The most hyped of Florida's true freshmen on offense entering last season was Taylor and receiver Demarcus Robinson.

Taylor had a solid freshman season; Robinson did not.

Demarcus Robinson

Robinson nearly missed as many games to suspension (three) as he had receptions (five for 23 yards).

Robinson has had a strong spring camp and scored a touchdown at Monday's open practice. The talent and opportunity are there for Robinson to shine.

Muschamp is starting to see the maturity catch up.

"He has done some fantastic things in the passing game,” Muschamp said. "He’s an explosive receiver. He’s a tough matchup one-on-one because of his size, his athleticism. He’s got really good ball skills down the field.

"We mature at different times. I think we’ve seen some strides there. I’ve been pleased to this point. There’s no question from a matchup standpoint, he’s a guy that can do some things."

If Robinson can parlay a strong spring into fall, his presence could do wonders for quarterback Jeff Driskel as the Gators try to reboot their offense under Roper.

Muschamp used the UF men's basketball team's growth -- seniors Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Will Yeguete and Patric Young specifically -- as an example of how a young player can mature and be productive after a shaky start.

Robinson's teammates appear to be helping.

"All our guys have done a good job,” Muschamp said. "When you have a mature football team, they understand some guys need more help than others, helping those guys on and off the field.

"A great example I tell our football team is our basketball team. You look at those guys and how they handle each other, the growth process of (Casey) Prather, (Scottie) Wilbekin and Patric Young and those guys through the years. They’re now seniors. What they’ve been through, now they’re reaping the benefits of what they’ve done."

INJURY REPORT

Redshirt freshman defensive back Keanu Neal remains hobbled by a sore hamstring. Muschamp remains hopeful Neal can return to practice Wednesday in seven-on-seven drills.

He doesn’t want to rush Neal, projected to contend for a starting safety job in the fall.

“I felt like he wanted to go [Monday],’’ Muschamp said. “We held him to just make sure this thing’s completely healed before we get you back and strain on that right now. He needs to be a part of the spring game. He needs to get in front of the crowd and play. He needs to be in practices 10, 11, 12 and 13. I didn’t want to lose him another day.”

Meanwhile, offensive lineman Rod Johnson (head) remains sidelined and receiver Chris Thompson (head) has been cleared to return.

VIDEO: Gators DT Darious Cummings, DE Bryan Cox Jr. and OL Trip Thurman discuss spring practice and more ...


QUOTE OF NOTE

"I call tell you it's fast. I can tell you that much. I've got to get in shape. It's faster than it was last year." -- Defensive tackle Darious Cummings on pace of Roper's offense

EXTRA POINTS

Offensive lineman Trip Thurman is going to start taking more reps at center to provide depth behind Max Garcia and Cameron Dillard. Muschamp said you need three players with that ability. The Gators lost starting center Jonotthan Harrison to graduation ... Defensive lineman Jordan Sherit, slowed by an elbow injury, returned to contact drills Monday for first time in around a week.

 

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