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Gators coach Will Muschamp is pleased at the progress the offense has made this spring.

Friday April 4, 2014Muschamp Pleased by Progress on Offense, Injury Update, More Gators Notes

Gators coach Will Muschamp is pleased at the progress the offense has made this spring.

By Michelle Provenzano
GatorZone.com Writing Intern

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators are 10 practices into spring camp and Florida coach Will Muschamp likes the direction of the offense.

During his press conference on Friday, Muschamp had some good things to say about the team's offensive improvement.

He noted the wide receivers probably had their best practice of spring on Wednesday.

Some notables: Latroy Pittman made a big catch, sophomores Chris Thompson and Demarcus Robinson made nice plays on deep balls, and redshirt junior Valdez Showers made a play during an overtime situation.

Even quarterback Jeff Driskel got a pat on the back from Muschamp for throwing the pigskin exceptionally well.

“I think that a lot of those guys have stepped up and really come on, Muschamp said. “I think they feel much more comfortable.”

The mood was exceptionally good during Friday morning’s practice according to Muschamp. Former Florida players Matt Elam, Jelani Jenkins and Josh Evans came out and worked alongside their former teammates.

“It was great to see at 5:50 this morning — you wonder why they’re good players — Matt Elam, Jelani Jenkins and Josh Evans out there running with the football team,” Muschamp said “It tells them why they’re good players.”

It’s that dedication that seems to be the common thread in Muschamp’s teachings. You work hard, you play hard — you get rewarded.

A recent spark in practice that Muschamp made an example of was junior running back Matt Jones.

Jones is out this spring recovering from a knee injury but Muschamp said Jones is a candidate to line up at the A and B position in the team’s best personnel groupings when he returns. The B position in first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's system is similar to the H-back position in past UF offenses.

“Matt’s got great hands, and he’s a guy that can do some of those things,” Muschamp said. “Primarily, we’ll be an inside zone team and he runs the inside zone extremely well. Matt is extremely bright, so he will be able to play both positions.”

A CALL FOR DEPTH

Going with the theme that hard work pays off, redshirt freshman Antonio Riles was made an example of as a versatile player that can help bring depth in multiple spots.

Riles, a 6-foot-4 defensive lineman from Lawrenceville, Ga., has impressed Muschamp enough during spring practice to maybe earn time on the playing field come fall — but in a position he’s not quite used to.

Muschamp said he is looking to use Riles as a guard to create depth on the offensive line.

“He’s a big body that’s a good athlete, I think at the guard position would fit very well,” Muschamp said Friday. “I told Antonio he’s a good football player, he’s a great kid and he doesn’t need to be standing by me come fall.

“We need to get him on the field and get him in an opportunity. That’s something we’re going to experiment.”

MUSCHAMP ON DRISKEL

There’s always that worry about a running quarterback.

Is he going to get hit? Is he going to get hurt from taking that hit?

Well, in Jeff Driskel’s case it happened all too quickly.

As the starting quarterback in last season’s first three games, Driskel’s world came crashing down as the junior threw a pass that found the hands of a Tennessee player for an interception that was returned for a Volunteers touchdown.

But more disturbing was when Driskel couldn't get up after taking a hit to his lower body. He fractured a leg that left him on the sidelines the rest of the season.

But Driskel has paid his time on his crutches and on the bench, and now is working back to the player he was before the injury.

And according to Muschamp, Driskel is showing his strength for the top spot.

But there is always concern. It happened once, it could easily happen again.

But Muschamp reminisced about his Auburn coaching days, in particular a game where the Tigers faced the Gators, to bring clarity to subject.

“I’ll never forget — I believe it was ’07 — I was a defensive coordinator at Auburn, and Florida went to Oxford,” Muschamp said. “Not design runs, but whether it was drop back, scramble, they got into a kill-the-clock situation at the end.

“Florida was up, and Tim [Tebow] carried the ball about 30 something times in that ballgame. There’s no question he took some shots in that game. One of the first third downs was about third-and-7. They scrambled and [former Auburn safety] Zac Etheridge came out of the top over on our sideline, and we were able to make that stop. Which I don’t know, if it’s a truly healthy Tim Tebow, we don’t make that stop.

"That’s the dilemma you get in as a coach. How many times are you letting this guy carry the ball because of how many hits he’s going to be taking?”

INJURY REPORT

Punter Johnny Townsend had surgery on his wrist, Muschamp announced Friday.

“He’s going to be fine, it was wear and tear through the years there,” Muschamp said. “I felt like we wanted to go ahead and put a pin in it.”

Townsend averaged 42 yards per punt in the 2013 season, and took over the punting job after booting the ball eight times for 365 yards against Missouri.

He is expected to return in eight to 10 weeks.

Muschamp noted that fullback Gideon Ajagbe does not need surgery on his shoulder.

“If we had two more weeks of spring, he’d probably be back,” Muschamp said, “but with one more week, we’re probably going to hold him.”

Ajagbe saw action in all 12 games in 2013 and started twice. He ended the season with 28 receiving yards and one touchdown.

Defensive back Keanu Neal is back, but limited, after tweaking his hamstring during the first spring practice.

Muschamp hopes that offensive lineman Roderick Johnson will be cleared to play on Monday.

QUOTES OF NOTE

--“I think we have too much separation between our first group and second group — and that’s on both lines of scrimmage, both offense and defense,” Muschamp said.

--"I’m extremely concerned about some snapping issues that continue to occur. I think that the first couple practices and some newness in there I can kind of get that, but after a while we’ve got to move past that,” Muschamp said. “Right now we’re repping Max [Garcia], Trip Thurman, and Cam Dillard at center. Trip is also playing at the guard position. Pleased with D.J. Humphries now, he’s playing at left tackle. Pleased with Chaz Green and how he’s playing at right tackle. Trenton Brown is doing an outstanding job, and in order to get our best five on the field he may be a guy that we move. Tyler Moore has done some nice things. Just real pleased for the most part.”

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