Leonard Out 6-8 Weeks

Tight end wasn't a deep position heading into fall camp, but it got even thinner over the weekend. Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced that freshman tight end AC Leonard tore the meniscus in his left knee on Saturday and will miss 6-8 weeks. The coaches haven't decided whether or not he will redshirt and won't make the decision until his recovery is finished.

"We'll make a decision on his playing this year at that time," Will Muschamp said after Wednesday morning's practice. "He's up to speed on everything we're doing. He'll be involved in the meetings. He'll start rehab immediately, and we feel like we can get him back, if he heals quickly, pretty quickly."

A.C. Leonard had surgery to fix it on Wednesday morning. It was a non-contact injury, coming with no one around Leonard as he planted the wrong way when it happened. With Leonard estimated to miss 6-8 weeks, the Gators had to make moves to get bodies at the tight end position.

Freshman Clay Burton has been moved from defensive end to tight end. Omarius Hines will also spend some time at tight end, but his main position continues to be wide receiver.

"(Burton) did that in high school some," Muschamp said. "He's an athletic guy that can do some different things and get some movement. Hines is still playing wide out, but we'll use him in situations (at tight end), more than anything just to provide some depth."

EARLY PERFORMERS: Full pads just went on Wednesday morning, but there are a few guys that are already standing out. The offensive line may be without experience, but Muschamp likes what a redshirt freshman is doing.

"Chaz Green is a guy who has really stepped forward," Muschamp said. "He has a lot of movement up front and does a nice job at the tackle position."

The top three wide receivers continue to be Quinton Dunbar, Frankie Hammond and Deonte Thompson, but there was a surprise player that looked good on Wednesday.

"(Andre) Debose made a very nice play in the back of the end zone in a red zone period," Muschamp said.

On defense, Muschamp said Lerentee McCray and Jaye Howard have been impressive on the line. Kedric Johnson is also "coming along with a couple nice things" after missing spring practice.

Muschamp also said he was very happy with the play of linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins.

SEARCHING FOR A BACKUP: The Gators are still looking for a backup quarterback, but the chase is starting to heat up. With John Brantley entrenched as the starter, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy continue to take their shot.

Driskel's play from the spring to fall has encouraged Muschamp. After completing a pass Tuesday at practice, Muschamp was impressed and asked Driskel if the game had slowed down since the end of the spring.

"There ain't no question, coach," Muschamp recalls Driskel saying.

His continued progress has Muschamp optimistic, too.

"Jeff Driskel has been very solid," the head coach said. "There's a lot of carryover from the spring. He's a lot more comfortable."

Tyler Murphy also led the team on "an impressive drive" during Wednesday's practice.

Jacoby Brissett hasn't struggled, but it's hard to expect big things out of him during his first practices with the team. He was the only of the four quarterbacks not to be on campus for the spring, so he has some ground to cover. The coaches are fully confident in his ability to do that.

"Jacoby has been outstanding," Muschamp said. "The guy has a big time arm and great leadership ability. He's going to be a good football player for the Gators. With him not coming for spring and just getting in for summer, he's a little behind from being exposed to everything. He will catch up because he's extremely intelligent."

POWELL MATURING: Muschamp wasn't around the 2010 team, but he understands what Ronald Powell went through. Coming to college as the top-ranked player in America, the expectations were through the roof.

"We've created an interesting phenomenon with the recruiting business with all of these stars and expectations," Muschamp said. "Some guys handle it better than others. Ronald is very bright and intelligent, but when you come in with all this attention and accolades, it's hard not to listen—and you listen to some of it.

"I always tell the guys to remove the external stuff. It's never as good as it seems or as bad as it seems. It's somewhere in between. Unfortuantely though, some guys listen to that stuff, and they start to think they're a little better than they really are."

Coming in and being expected to play as a freshman is tough on anyone, but at a position like defensive end that requires physicality, it's more than most first-year players are able to handle.

"Transitioning from high school to college is hard, especially on the line of scrimmage," Muschamp said. "The game is faster and it's a lot bigger and complex. It's a great learning experience."

The difference is noticeable for Powell's teammates, and Muschamp sees a player capable of leading the defense. At Tuesday's practice, Muschamp was working with freshman fullback Hunter Joyer on a punt drill. While they were going through things, Powell walked over and told Muschamp he could handle explaining the drill, allowing Muschamp to work with other players.

It may seem small, but Powell has continued the growth to being a leader.

"He understands that process," Muschamp said. "He gets it and wants to help guys now."

WENGER'S ADDITION: The addition of Dan Wenger to the team continues to serve as an extension of the coaching staff. After playing in Charlie Weis' offense at Notre Dame, he will use his sixth year of eligibility to play for the Gators. Even if he doesn't play much, he is working with the younger players to make the transition easier.

"He was a coach on the field," Muschamp said. "He has been in the system for three or four years, and he's very smart. Football is very important to Dan, and he's a valuable part in what we're trying to do with helping some of the young guys. They're all young though because it's the first year for everybody."

Wenger was the headman when the team did offseason drills that the coaches weren't allowed to be at by NCAA rules. It also gives Wenger a head start on his next career, as he would like to be a strength coach when his playing days are over.

The offensive line will use him as another body this fall. Muschamp said the team is only at 13 scholarship offensive linemen, but he would like to be at 18.

"You're missing a whole unit," he said.

CORNERBACK ROTATION UNCLEAR: The Gators continue to rotate players in at cornerback with the first team, but every rotation that Muschamp mentioned on Wednesday included Jeremy Brown. Cody Riggs, Moses Jenkins, Pop Saunders and Marcus Roberson are also getting reps with the first team.

Muschamp said that freshmen Louchiez Purifoy and Roberson are both seeing playing time because they "did a good job of studying this summer."

"I'm pleased with our athleticism, but the experience it what concerns you. I'll take athleticism over that."

Roberson has drawn rave reviews from plenty of his teammates, and now the head coach is getting in on the act.

"Marcus comes from a great high school program and has been very well coached," Roberson said. "Football is very important to him. He spends an awful lot of time studying the game and spending extra time in the meeting room. He's always early to the meeting room."

The only worry comes in him maintaining the success. Muschamp said most freshmen he has worked with hit a wall between the 12th and 16th practices, so he wants Roberson to push through that period of time.

The physicality of Roberson's game has caught everyone's eye.

"He's got length, top end speed and great ball skills," Muschamp said. "All the critical factors you're looking for in a defensive back, he's got. I've been very pleased."

STURGIS CLOSE TO FULL HEALTH: Not many schools have to tell the kicker to ease back on his workout regiment, but Florida strength coach Mickey Marotti did that this offseason. He won't be doing anything that puts much of a strain on the back that caused him to miss most of last season.

The coaches are still easing him back into action, but he should be fully healthy to start the season.

"He didn't do any kickoffs in spring," Muschamp said. "We haven't really done a full kickoff unit. He has done some kickoffs, but not at the tempo that we're going to have it."

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