Rainey Praised; Muschamp Pleased with Spring

It wasn't going to be easy to get everyone on the same page this spring, but Florida head football coach Will Muschamp believes it is all heading in the right direction. Improvement along the offensive line and stellar play from running back Chris Rainey were two areas Muschamp talked positively about his team after Tuesday's practice. There are a few standing out on defense as well.

Progress is really what Will Muschamp wants to see. He believes he is getting that out of his guys as they make their way through the middle of the spring practice sessions.

"We feel comfortable with where we are," Muschamp told the media Tuesday. "It's all relative. I have been pleased so far with the retention on both sides of the ball and special teams. Again, today is a day where we have to continue to push through. You are in day eight and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You have to continue to step forward and strive to improve yourself and practice with a purpose. We had some guys do that today and some guys that didn't. It was very evident early in the day and I thought we picked it up and had a good day."

Senior Chris Rainey is as electric as they get on the Florida football roster, we have all seen that. He also loves the game and works hard at it in practice and that is evidenced by the words coming out of his head coach's mouth.

"I would say at running back Chris Rainey has really had a good spring," Muschamp said. "He is a guy that makes a lot of plays. Getting the ball deeper in the backfield helps him. He has great vision and cut-back ability and bounce-ability. You have to be gap sound on him in the running game."

Making Rainey's life easier is the play of the offensive line that has moved forward tremendously in recent days.

"I think as a whole the offensive line has progressed well," he said. "They have had a lot thrown at him from a standpoint of learning a new offense terminology and as well as reading the defense as far as odd and even fronts."

At receiver, the older guys seem to be doing their jobs the best. Senior Deonte Thompson and juniors Frankie Hammonds and Omarius Hinds seemed to get the attention of the head coach the most. Freshman Quinton Dunbar has made a late run at things as well.

"Consistently Frankie Hammond and Omarius Hinds have done a nice job (and) Deonte Thompson," Muschamp said. "Quinton is a guy that kind of blossomed the other day and did some nice things vertically down the field for us. He gives you a bigger receiver that can stretch the field vertically. We just need to get a little more consistency with those guys and that is what we are looking for."

At tight end, sophomore Jordan Reed may be separating himself.

"Jordan Reed did some nice things last Friday as far as catching the ball vertically and down field," Muschamp said. "Quinton Dunbar made some plays Saturday in the scrimmage part."

Muschamp has been really pleased with a few members along the defensive line.

"Defensively I think Dominique Easley has had a very good spring," he said. "I am very pleased with his progress. Sharrif Floyd has done some good things. Lerentee McCray has done some nice things for us."

In the back seven the names are familiar and what most expected to step up even with a coaching change.

"Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins have been very productive as far as the linebacker play is concerned," Muschamp said. "Matt Elam has done a nice job from the safety position and has played some nickel as well. Jeremy Brown has done a nice job at corner."

The head coach says he likes what he is seeing out of his two kicking specialists this spring.

"Caleb Sturgis kicked the ball well Saturday, I am very pleased with his progress," Muschamp said. Kyle Christy has done some nice things in the punting game."

Muschamp has been quite clear that senior quarterback John Brantley is the leader at the position right now. He still has a long way to go, but Muschamp is excited about the way Brantley has handled himself.

"John in the sense of learning a new offense is a freshman again," Muschamp said. "I have been very pleased in how he has handled the football team and made plays vertically in all the practices, but also Saturday in a scrimmage tempo. I have been very pleased with what he has been able to do.

"I think John has had a good spring and playing well right now. He has done a nice job of running the offense."

Two freshmen are fighting it out with Brantley at quarterback and Muschamp sees things from both that let him know there are options at the position and that the fight for the spot is not over. True freshman Jeff Driskel was the one everyone expected to do big things from the start, but redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy has done some positive things in his own right.

"I think both of them have made some plays," Muschamp said of the two freshmen. "Jeff is a guy that should be getting ready for the prom and we all need to keep that in mind. As far as the ability, the athleticism, arm talent, mental capacity to learn and do the right thing… they are all there. He is in his eighth college practice and he's in an offense where there is a lot on the quarterback. There is a lot going through his mind right now on top of the fact that the defense is showing a lot of looks.

"Tyler has done some nice things as far as pocket movement things and managing our football team. There have been some bright spots for both of those guys and (there is) a bright future for both of those guys."

As far as when he wants to have a starter named for the fall. Muschamp wouldn't say whether that could come tomorrow or in September. He did say who it would be if the season started this week.

"I think you know when it happens," Muschamp said of figuring out who the initial starter will be. "We will continue to work through that, but right now John would be that guy, based on where we are."

The head coach also didn't rule out true freshman Jacoby Brissett getting into the mix when he shows up on campus this summer.

"Just like anybody else, if he is the best player at his position, he will start," Muschamp said.

"We are going to play the best players. We will play the players that give us the best opportunity to win football games. He will be given every opportunity in the world."

As to which side of the ball is doing better this spring, Muschamp isn't going to throw anyone under the bus just yet. He understands that these guys have a lot coming at them trying to learn new schemes.

"I would not say that one is ahead of the other," he said of the offense versus the defense. "We are cross training a bunch of guys at different positions and not getting ready for a game. It isn't about winning the drill. It is about making our football team better right now, each individual instance… is that player improving himself? We are trying to get our football team prepared for the fall and for fall camp and get ourselves better. You have to be able to move guys around to see if they can do it, because you don't know until you do it."

Muschamp has been labeled as a guy that really prefers bigger and more physical corners. Truth be told, if they play well and are that big then great. However, he is all about putting the best guys on the field and that is where sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs comes in. The 5-9, 175 pound corner is a tough one and Muschamp likes the way he plays the position.

"Cody is a good football player," Muschamp said. "He has tremendous heart and ability as far as playing hard and fast and as far as doing the things you have to do to be a good football player. Everyone gets caught up in size and height and I get labeled as a guy that loves height by the people that recruit against us."

"I had a guy named Jerraud Powers that started for me at Auburn, and he was about 5-8.5. He is starting for the Indianapolis Colts and started for me as a freshman and played nickel an corner. I had another guy named Jonathan Wilhite that was about 5-9.5 and is starting for the New England Patriots now. It isn't about how tall you are, but if you can make plays or not.

"Sure we would like to have 6-3 corners, but is that realistic and how many of those are out there? It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with play making ability. Cody has been very productive throughout the spring and I am very pleased with where he is."

With the lack of running backs there for spring it would be nice to have senior Jeff Demps participating. However, the NCAA national champion sprinter has been helping Florida win track and field titles and Will Muschamp says that he isn't worried about what Demps is missing this spring and wants him to continue to represent the University of Florida in the fashion he continues to do.

"He has been a part of all of our meetings and walk-throughs," Muschamp said of Demps. "He has been in our building and working on football. If a young man wants to play two sports here, as long as it he handles everything he is supposed to off the field, I am 100% for it if it will help the University of Florida."

Muschamp says that Demps is diligent in making all of the film study and other parts of the team stuff he can be at. He believes that Demps will be set to go in the fall.

"Mentally he has an idea of what we will ask him to do in the fall," Muschamp said. "This summer, when the outdoor season is over, our players will conduct 7-on-7 drills and team drills without the coaches. He will be involved with that. When we start camp in August he will be competing for the starting job.

"Here is a guy that won a national championship in the 60 meters, his team won a national championship, and he was able to bring another national championship to the University of Florida.

"I have a hard time telling him he can't run track. I think that would be pretty selfish. I think that is very positive for the University of Florida, positive for Jeff Demps, and great for us. I am very happy for his success and I hope he does it in the outdoor season as well."

Muschamp also isn't worried about Demps skipping 2011 to prepare for the Olympics. Demps has always maintained he is a football player that runs track, he loves football. At the same time, when he does quit football and the Olympics come calling and professional track comes calling, he will have a decision to make.

"He's playing his senior year, after that it is his decision," Muschamp said. "He wants to be on the football team and play in the fall and that's what he is going to do. I am excited about that and excited about having his athleticism and speed and play making ability on the field. After his senior year I will support him 100% regardless of whether it is track or football."

Fightin Gators Top Stories