Gators Fighting Depth Issues

HOOVER, Ala. – The biggest issues for the Gators this season might be something they can't control. Transfers and players leaving early for the NFL have decimated the roster, as the Gators currently sit at 72 players on scholarship. It will have an effect on the entire team, but it is most easily noticeable on both sides of the line.

Muschamp now has to figure out how hard to push the team in fall camp. He wants the team to be in game shape, especially when it comes to hitting. However, it's tough to weigh the positives and negatives of each situation.

"It's an interesting balancing act in our league," Muschamp said Wednesday at SEC Media Days. "You have to prepare for the toughness of our league, especially on both lines of scrimmage. You have to get in that physical toughness, that hitting condition in what I call it. You have to get your guys ready for the physicality of our league."

He doesn't want to push the team to hit too hard and often that it will cause injuries. There isn't enough room for key linemen to miss many practices, especially with the team still in the first year of learning a new scheme.

"We can't afford any injuries up front. I have to do a good job of balancing that throughout fall camp," Muschamp said. "That's something that's going to be practice-by-practice, although we're prepared through practice 22 at this point."

With the addition of Notre Dame center transfer Dan Wenger, the Gators will enter camp with 14 healthy scholarship offensive lineman. That could cause problems for the entire offense if multiple offensive linemen go down during camp or at any point during the season.

For that reason, Muschamp spoke with the Florida coaching staff on Tuesday about the direction of the offense. He wants them to take things slowly, and if the lack of depth slows things down, they will simplify the offense with players moving around on the line.

"Going into our first year, I thought through this throughout the summer, I want to err on simplicity," Muschamp said. "There are always growing pains when you take over a new situation."

Muschamp clarified those growing pains to be communication issues or dealing with how a player responds to adversity. There are simply some things the coaching staff can't know about players until they face a tough situation during the game. It comes down to being on the same page as the players, and Muschamp isn't sure he can completely feel that way in his first season with a team.

"I want to err on the side of simplicity of getting our guys playing hard, fast, physical, blue-collar, overachieving unit," Muschamp said. "I think we've got an accomplished enough staff to have good answers when the tough time comes."

If injuries hurt the depth on either side of the line of scrimmage, the solution might be to cross train players. The coaches worked on it in the spring, and while it won't be the main focus in the fall, it could be an option.

"Right now, we're going to have to cross train guys at both positions to prepare for injury to get the best 11 guys out there," Muschamp said. "If we have a guy at defensive end that gets hurt, we might be better moving a guy from another position. Those are things we're looking at."

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