Muschamp Analyzes Weekend Scrimmage

The Florida coaches drew up Saturday's scrimmage trying to encourage toughness. They wanted to put Florida players in similar positions to ones where they struggled in the fall. In 2011, the offense couldn't run the ball with success, while the defense had trouble stoppng it. Florida head coach Will Muschamp is hoping to see progress in both areas this spring.

The offense took steps forward in its first scrimmage under first-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease. The scrimmage was mostly focused on the running game, and it looked improved from last season.

"We were able to run the ball pretty effectively throughout the scrimmage," Will Muschamp said. "Offensively, we did a nice job getting some movement up front. We did a nice job in a red zone period where our offense did a nice job of executing."

The offensive line has shown signs of improvement in the early parts of spring. The first team offensive line was Xavier Nixon (left tackle), James Wilson (left guard), Jonotthan Harrison (center), Jon Halapio (right guard) and Matt Patchan (right tackle).

Muschamp singled out Halapio and Nixon for their play on Saturday.

"Both guys are playing at a pretty good level," he said. "They're playing with good pad level and doing well in the run and the pass. They're being consistent."

The two early enrollee freshman, D.J. Humphries and Jessamen Dunker, are starting to open some eyes, too. While the most important part of the spring comes in the weight room and learning how to take care of their bodies, the two are also impressing on the practice field.

"Both doing an outstanding job up front," Muschamp said. "Both guys are way ahead athletically than most big guys are at this time. Both guys are very talented. How quickly they continue to pick up on what they're doing—time will tell. I'm very pleased with both of those young men."

The most valuable player on the offense was running back Mike Gillislee. He is developing into a go-to running back through the early part of spring practice.

"He made a couple nice cuts in the run game and did a nice job in protection," Muschamp said. "He continues to have a really good spring. Mack Brown has made some strides for us."

There wasn't much throwing during the scrimmage, but Frankie Hammond and early enrollee Latroy Pittman were the two that stood out.

"(Hammond) had a reverse for a touchdown and did some nice things blocking and catch the ball down the field," Muschamp said. "(Pittman) is a guy that's really coming on. He's still swimming a little bit mentally, which is to be expected, but he's physical, mixes it in well and makes plays down the field. He caught a touchdown pass and a nice third down conversion on a screen. We're very pleased with his progress to this point.

"I don't know about where (Pittman) was rated, but we really liked him in camp. He committed a long time ago too, so that lost its luster. If they commit too early, then they're not as good as the other guys."

The big question mark on offense all spring will be the quarterback position. The battle between Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy will continue through practice as Muschamp hasn't seen anyone separate themselves.

However, there are plenty of positives. With a new quarterbacks coach and a new offense being installed, Muschamp was happy with the early flashes shown by the quarterbacks.

"For a first stuff with a lot of scrimmage going on, really very pleased," Muschamp said. "There were no procedural issues. There was no delay of game in close to 100 snaps for the scrimmage. That's very pleasing as far as managing our team. They were accurate with the ball and both were about the same with their completion percentages around 60."

While Muschamp was happy with the offense, that wasn't the case with the play of the Florida defense.

"That's give and take," Muschamp said. "The defense didn't stop the run very well at times and didn't play as well up front as we should. We weren't as productive at linebacker as I'd like to be."

The one linebacker Muschamp was happy to see consistency from was Ronald Powell, who was the scrimmage's defensive MVP.

"He had a couple good third-down stops, a couple pressures and a sack," he said. "He continues to play well. His pad level is improved with his hand placement and playing blocks."

The Florida coach also pointed out that the two MVPs of the scrimmage, Powell and Gillislee, came into spring practice prepared to improve.

"They both had great offseasons," Muschamp said. "They didn't miss a day and they worked hard. They've done a great job in the weight room, and in the first seven days of spring they've had good springs. They're in shape and attentive to detail."

The other linebackers didn't stand out. Muschamp said that starters Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins were "solid," but he wanted to see more in a scrimmage that gave them a chance to showcase their skills.

"I wanted a physical scrimmage without a whole lot of moving around offensively," Muschamp said. "I wanted a run scrimmage. When you're in one of those, you'd like to have a little more production from your linebacker position."

Muschamp said that freshman Antonio Morrison is "physical, tough, instinctive" in the early parts of the spring and "did some good things" in the scrimmage. He also said Michael Taylor continues to progress.

The secondary was another part of the defense that didn't live up to Muschamp's expectations.

"We've got to improve our secondary play," he said. "We've got to do a better job of leveraging the ball and tackling. We were in position to make some plays, but we've got to make some more plays on the ball."

The Florida head coach also said he thinks freshman defensive back Willie Bailey has a bright future when he gets stronger.

"He's talented, can run, has length and size for the position," Muschamp said. "We just need to get stronger in the weight room. He's got cover skills and is a willing tackler that will take on blocks. I'm real pleased with him."

INJURY REPORT: Wide receiver Solomon Patton (groin) is "still out." Wide receviers JaJuan Story (ankle) and Stephen Alli (groin) should return near the middle of this week.

Earl Okine (back) will miss the entire spring. Leon Orr (back) was expected back at practice on Monday.

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