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Quarterback Jeff Driskel looked sharp and confident in Friday's scrimmage.

Friday August 15, 2014Gators' Offense Shows Explosiveness in Friday's Scrimmage; Fan Day on Saturday

Quarterback Jeff Driskel looked sharp and confident in Friday's scrimmage.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators used their 15th practice of fall camp Friday to scrimmage inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Earlier in the week Florida head coach Will Muschamp talked about how the defense is usually ahead of the offense early in camp.

If Friday’s performance is any indication, Florida’s offense has closed the gap.

“I thought we had a good operation in and out of the huddle,’’ Muschamp said. “We will have the ability to go fast. We will have the ability to get the look we want and make the defense declare and vanilla some things up.

“We’re more talented. That’s the No. 1 thing. We’re better at every position. That’s what gets you excited more than anything.”

Quarterback Jeff Driskel looked sharp throughout the closed scrimmage, using his strong arm to throw the ball vertically to an array of receivers.

While the offense slowed the tempo some Friday -- Muschamp said the more deliberate pace was primarily due to the fatigue factor that comes into play without a day off in camp thus far -- that didn’t stop Kurt Roper’s unit from hitting some big plays.

The biggest was a 97-yard touchdown pass from Driskel to sophomore receiver Ahmad Fulwood, who made a double-hitch move down the right sideline and ran under a high-arching pass thrown perfectly by Driskel.

The 6-foot-4 Fulwood has been one of Florida’s most impressive receivers the first two weeks of camp.

“He’s a big receiver, big catches,’’ teammate Latroy Pittman said. “I just feel like we have more depth. This probably the most depth we have had at receiver, including backs. We have backs that can take it for 80 or pound and grind it. I just feel like we have so many weapons that we can us at any time.”

Muschamp mentioned several receivers during his Friday media session, including Pittman’s performance in the slot.

While senior Quinton Dunbar and sixth-year senior Andre Debose are the most experienced in the group, sophomores Fulwood, Demarcus Robinson, Chris Thompson and Alvin Bailey have come on after minimal contributions a season ago.

“I think we have made huge improvements at the receiver position,’’ Muschamp said. “I’ve been very pleased at how we’ve progressed at that position. They were thrown into the fire. I’m glad they were thrown in the fire now. Big-picture speaking, those were guys that needed a year to learn and grow.”

Jake McGee

Tight end Jake McGee has impressed coaches with his playmaking ability. (Photo: Tim Casey) 

Thompson hauled in a touchdown catch Friday, as did running back Brandon Powell, whom Driskel hit with a nicely thrown pass on a wheel route in the front corner of the end zone. Valdez Showers also made a nice catch in traffic on a pass from Will Grier.

A few hours after Friday’s scrimmage ended, first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was a guest on Paul Finebaum’s radio show on the SEC Network.

While the Gators will spend much of the next week sorting out the depth chart, the offensive installation is complete.

“Our guys could go play a game right now,’’ Roper said. “We’ve got our base offense in. We’ve got a good sense of who we want to be offensively.”

Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. can sense the renewed confidence of Driskel and the entire offense after a turbulent season in 2013.

“I can see it. Those guys are playing very fast,’’ Fowler said. “I just like that they are comfortable. They can play their style of offense and tempo. I like our running backs, the rotation and how that’s going on. The offense is looking really good.

“We all know that’s the offense [Jeff] is comfortable in. Just being able to see him go out there and have fun, that’s what makes us comfortable.”

Muschamp said the two biggest concerns offensively remain depth along the line of scrimmage and who will back up Driskel. True freshmen Grier and Treon Harris are battling redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg to be the second-string quarterback.

Meanwhile, the offensive line remains a work in progress.

“I feel really comfortable with probably seven guys right now, but we need to have eight or nine,’’ Muschamp said.

Freshman David Sharpe is expected to miss at least a couple of days with a high-ankle sprain according to Muschamp. However, guard Trip Thurman, who missed time this week with a shoulder injury, is expected back at practice Saturday.

Muschamp said redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson took the majority of snaps at right tackle Friday to aid his development. Johnson has had a solid camp and projects as a regular member of the line rotation.

Of course, Driskel is the key piece of the offensive puzzle the Gators have had difficulty solving in Muschamp’s three seasons.

Roper considers Driskel ready for the challenge.

“I think his command of our offense is really showing itself in camp,’’ Roper said.

The Gators have a light workout open to the public Saturday starting at 11 a.m. at the Swamp. The team will later cross Gale Lemerand Drive for UF Fan Day at the O’Connell Center from 3 to 6 p.m.


 

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