Howard Out For Now; Brantley Leading QB's

Defensive tackle is a pencil thin position for the Florida Gators and missing practice time isn't a good thing. Senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard was supposed to miss some spring ball, but might miss all of it after undergoing minor surgery. John Brantley is keeping the lead in the quarterback derby right now and Florida head coach Will Muschamp talks more Gator spring news.

The news isn't altogether bad on the injury front so far this spring for the Florida Gators. Everything seems rather minor, but senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard is going to be out a little longer than expected after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in his ankle.

"The guys that were out are still out," Will Muschamp told the media Tuesday evening. "There are a couple of guys banged up right now, but nothing very serious. We went ahead and did a scope on Jaye Howard Monday to clean up some things in his ankle that have been an issue in the last couple of months. His timetable (for recovery) is uncertain right now.

"Earl Okine had a medical procedure, we held him (out) today and he probably could have gone today, but he is fine."

The quarterback battle is going to be a good one this spring. Senior John Brantley is the returning starter, but the change in systems and coaching staffs means all jobs are open and he will battle freshmen Tyler Murphy and Jeff Driskel.

Muschamp said Tuesday it has been tough on the quarterbacks, but Brantley seems to be ahead of the pack at this juncture.

"John has done some nice things," Muschamp said. "We are kind of relearning things as far as playing under center more. He threw some nice balls today. He has been the most consistent and I think we have been kind of spotty behind him. We have a lot of guys swimming right now.

There is also a lot of new stuff from the defensive side that has made the transition for the quarterbacks a little tough. Brantley's time on the field a year ago has probably helped him with that.

"We‘ve thrown an awful lot at them, they are seeing a lot of looks right now on top of just knowing what they need to do as far as identifying the MIKE and what they need to do. "John is a mature player and is ahead of the other guys simply because of experience and he is very talented. We just need to continue to progress at that position."

One guy that won't be at quarterback but is expected to get some time with the ball this fall is sophomore athlete and do-everything Trey Burton. According to Muschamp, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will try and utilize Burton's many talents and he is catching on quick.

"It's all new for everybody," Muschamp said of Burton learning what he is supposed to do. "Everyone is a freshman a little bit on both sides of the ball. He is adjusting well in what he is doing as far as blocking and slipping him out of the backfield. Charlie is using him in a lot of different ways. He fits well in what we do and is a smart and productive football player."

Another weapon at the quarterback's disposal this year should be sophomore receiver Andre Debose. Debose had a good day on Tuesday and with consistency should be a big time player for the Gators.

"Andre made a couple of nice plays today," Muschamp said. "He is very athletic. Again, we're all just freshmen again as far as learning what we're doing and learning how to do it. I've been pleased with his athleticism in the offseason."

"(He has to work at) being a consistent worker all the time, he has to understand it is a day to day thing. It isn't just one day here and one day the next. Consistency in his performance is what I am stressing. Athletically he is what we want at the wide receiver position. It is time to be productive on the field."

The offensive line has been a worry this offseason. The numbers are light, there are injuries up front, and the Gators are trying to replace four starters. Muschamp is seeing the progression of the group under offensive line coach Frank Verducci.

"Frank Verducci is an outstanding teacher," Muschamp said. "He does a really good job of coaching the players. We have some guys that can be very productive.

"I have seen some productive things, I thought we had some creases in the run game and Chris got loose a couple of times. Mack made a couple of nice runs. We are getting a hat on a hat in the run game and I think that goes back to the offensive line."

There is a concern from Muschamp that both sides of the ball may not be as physical as he wants right now because they are in the learning mode. It is something they are going to consider a lot when meetings start up Tuesday night.

"We are throwing a lot at them on their side of the ball coupled with what we're doing defensively," he said of the offensive line. "As a staff we need to sit down and make sure we're not doing so much right now that it's slowing us down in terms of physicality we need to play with on both sides of the ball.

One defensive player that got a look at offense again today is SAM linebacker Gerald Christian. Christian played a lot of tight end and fullback last year and was told he would see some time on offense in some of the bigger personnel sets. Tuesday was the first day for that.

"He's done fine," Muschamp said of Christian and his adjustment to defense. "We worked some bigger personnel sets today offensively and he (practiced) at tight end as well, we said we were going to do that from the beginning. He's a tough, physical football player. He likes the game and likes contact. We just need to have more guys that can be productive at that position."

Muschamp said he is mostly pleased with the physical condition of his team. His tone was very excited when talking about how his team prepared themselves for the rigors of spring practice. Strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti is never one to let the player take a pass when it comes to working out.

"Every player has a prescribed weight through me, the position coach, and Mickey," he said. "We have a very fit football team right now, very few guys that have weight issues as far as being overweight. You can probably count them on one hand. We had a good five week off-season program. Those guys did an outstanding job of running and they are in good condition at this point."

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