"Everybody was excited," Will Muschamp said Saturday night after the first day of practice. "We had some very good retention with the older players, and some decent retention with the younger players. I'm pleased with the first day, but it's the first day. There was a lot of teaching and moving around. We won't be clanging as much until we get into pads on the third day."
The older players started practice before sunrise Saturday morning to avoid the heat, and the younger players started practice just before the sun began to set. The initial look at the freshman class yielded positive reviews, despite there still being obvious holes on the lines of scrimmage.
"Other than (the lack of impact on either lines), A.C Leonard is a guy we're excited about," Muschamp said. "JaJuan Story looks like a guy who can eventually help us, but how quickly that can happen, I don't know. I love guys who play quarterback in high school (like Story) because they have to make a lot of decisions, but he hasn't played wide out a bunch.
"Hunter Joyer did some nice things for us. Both quarterbacks looked very good. Trip Thurman has done some nice things for us in the offseason. I'm pleased with his flexibility and power. Graham Stewart flashed doing some things instinctively and making some plays in space. He's got some command and leadership to him. Both corners (Roberson and Purifoy) we think can be good players. They're both athletic and looked good tonight."
Asked what Brissett brings to the team, Muschamp spoke highly of the freshman. It's not just his physical skills that the Florida coaches like.
"Jacoby is very bright," Muschamp said. "We're very pleased with where he is. He has a certain command about him. He's very well respected by his teammates. He's an outstanding athlete, but he can really throw the football."
NO INJURY PROBLEMS: Muschamp said that there weren't any players who were held out of practice. Running back Mack Brown practiced with the younger players to get more reps, since Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps practiced with the older players. Brown went through all the drills, which is the best possible outcome this early in camp.
"It's just hard for running backs when we're in just helmets," Muschamp said. "We do a tracking tempo, where we're not trying to thud the running back. We try to take great angles on defense, finish and let the runner run."
Offensive tackle Matt Patchan also went through all the drills.
"He moved around good, got his hands out there and got his hands on people," Muschamp said. "He was fine with all that, but it's hard to determine until they put pads on."
Not injury related, but Muschamp was impressed with what running back Jeff Demps did on Saturday. Despite missing spring football for track, Demps didn't show any rust and "looked great… really good."
BUILDING A TEAM: After the chemistry issues that doomed the 2010 team, Muschamp has changed multiple parts of the team since getting the job at Florida. After the first few days of spring practice, Muschamp noticed that the team met and broke down as an offense and defense before leaving practice. That didn't last long.
Muschamp changed things to make them end practice together as a group.
The new staff also changed things in the locker room.
"We took the locker room and didn't do it by position or class," Muschamp said. "We separated it and put young, old, offense and defense—guys that would never interact with each other unless they had to. We put their lockers toward each other."
They also added a players' lounge into the locker room, giving the players somewhere to hang out during the day and be around each other. Terry Jackson, whose title is life skills and spiritual development director, will also have a lounge area upstairs in the offices where the players will also be able to hang out.
"When the NCAA did away with athletic dormitories, it hurt because generally the class you know are the guys you come in with," Muschamp said. "You don't get to know the other guys well, especially if they're on the other side of the ball.
"We've tried to create some leadership groups this summer that were made up of teams. It was a competition we created for them. It was guys you would never think would have to interact with each other or have to call and make sure they were at work."
SEARCHING FOR WIDE RECEIVERS: Muschamp said one of the focuses of the team will be building some depth at wide receiver. For now, there are three players who are starting to emerge.
"Frankie Hammond has been our most consistent receiver," Muschamp said. "Quinton Dunbar and Deonte Thompson have been our most vertical threats and big play guys down the field. Frankie, consistently, has been our best receiver as far as catching the ball, finishing plays, blocking and all-around receiver play. Deonte and Quinton have been the ones who have made the big plays for our offense. Those would be our top three guys as of now."
NIXON'S WEIGHT IMPORTANT: Xavier Nixon is now over 290 pounds, which is exactly what the coaches wanted to see from him before the start of the season.
"He's an important player for us to have a good year offensively," Muschamp said. "We needed him to have some girth to him in this league. You've got to be able to anchor and set edges. Athletically, he's got all the tools to be successful. Him adding that girth and being able to sustain is going to be critical for us."