The Florida Gator football team will begin spring practice Wednesday after holding Pro Day Tuesday in the Swamp. After ending the season with a loss in the Sugar Bowl to a Louisville team led by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Gators hope to improve and contend for a national championship like they did for much of last season. One of the things head coach Will Muschamp saw last season was flashes of greatness, and in order to take the next step, he believes they need to play better in crucial situations.
The Gators were boosted last season by the emergence of now junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, and Muschamp compliments Driskel’s focus this season, saying he’s “attacked” the offseason.
While Muschamp retains much of his coaching staff, a key cog in last year’s Gators football machine, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has moved on to the NFL for a job with the Seattle Seahawks. Muschamp said that although Quinn is gone, the defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator DJ Durkin will remain pretty much the same.
Departures are not just limited to the coaching staff though. Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett has transferred, leaving the door open for one of the quarterbacks behind Driskel to move into the backup spot. Muschamp said that the battle for the backup is between Skyler Mornhinweg and Tyler Murphy, and he expects one of them to make the jump and grab the spot by the horns.
The Gators will also get their official first look at life after Mike Gillislee as the workhorse running back suited up for the last time for orange and blue last season. Needless to say, the Gators will need to fill Gillislee’s shoes, and Muschamp is encouraged by the progress both Mack Brown and Matt Jones have made this off season. Coming in to help fill the void is much hyped freshman Kelvin Taylor, son of former Gator great Fred Taylor. Muschamp said that he’s confident the trio is capable of handling the workload and making the switch an easy one.
Muschamp also said that several players will be switching positions. Loucheiz Purifoy will concentrate on wide receiver for the first part of spring and two players will move to fullback in safety Rhaheim Ledbetter and linebacker Gideon Ajagbe. Max Garcia will move from offensive tackle to guard, Cody Riggs moves from corner to safety, Bryan Cox from BUCK to defensive end, Michael Taylor from middle to outside linebacker and Antonio Morrison from outside to middle linebacker. Quinteze Williams also moves to offensive tackle from defensive tackle.
Offensive linemen Ian Silberman and Chaz Green, BUCK Ronald Powell and linebacker Matt Rolin will not participate in spring at all because of injury. Muschamp said that several other players will see limited spring duty as they return/recover from injury.
These storylines and more will be answered Wednesday as the whistles and pads return for the start of spring practice. The Florida spring football game, the Orange and Blue Debut, will be Saturday, April 6.