Muschamp happy with progress as spring ends

The Gators left the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday knowing they wouldn't take it again in uniform until the fall. The end of the spring always feels like a celebration for the players and coaches, and that's what the atmosphere looked like at the end Saturday. Florida head coach Will Muschamp carried that after the practice, excited about the improvement his team showed this spring.

The format was less than ideal. Injuries on the offensive line had the Gators down to just six healthy bodies, and that wouldn't allow a full scrimmage like every other team goes through at the end of the spring. The broadcast was full of interviews with Florida assistant coaches that also played inside the stadium, but the additions to the spring game didn't make it any more exciting for those in attendance.

It wasn't the ideal set up, which Muschamp admitted, but he felt it was the best the Gators could do with the limited numbers.

"Best we could do, given the circumstances," Will Muschamp said. "Obviously we've had some injuries on the offensive line. Would I have liked to line up and have a live game with 120 snaps? Sure, that would've been good. I thought it was a very productive day."

After the practice ended, players and coaches were signing autographs for fans around the stadium. Coaches spent time with their family to celebrate the end of spring football. Once the team was back together in the locker room and the doors shut behind them, it was a simple message from Muschamp.

He reminded them that the end of spring football doesn't mean it's time to relax. It means the start of fall camp is just around the corner.

"We have 117 days until we report," Muschamp said. "I told our players that you will define your room on our football team as we move forward."

The coaching staff will start its exit interviews with the players this week. They'll talk about strengths, weaknesses and where the players stand on the depth chart at their position.

"The things you do well take care of themselves," Muschamp said of the players. "It's the things you need to work on -- in the film room or on your own -- that our guys have to take control of."

OFFENSIVE LINE COMPETITION: The offensive line started out with limited numbers this spring, and the number dropped as practices continued. The list is a long one.

Chaz Green (ankle) and Ian Silberman (shoulder) were both expected to miss the entire spring before it began. Jon Halapio (knee) participated in individuals drills as practice continued. Trip Thurman tore the labrum in his shoulder during the final two weeks of practice but is expected to be fine for fall camp. Jessamen Dunker remains suspended because of his arrest in January.

That left six healthy offensive linemen. Even among those, Max Garcia struggled with a back injury at times during the spring.

It creates a unique fall camp because the healthy ones benefitted from the reps this spring. Garcia stepped in as the firs team left guard and played " very well" this spring. Tyler Moore can play all five positions but worked as the starting right tackle. Kyle Koehne is competing at both guard spots.

Muschamp also noted that junior college transfer Trenton Brown is "a little older and more mature," and Brown will have some chances to get on the field this fall.

When the line is healthy, there's plenty of depth.

"You're talking about eight guys at the major college level that have played well and championship football," Muschamp said.

The coaches exit the spring with a good idea of where players will be.

"We have a pretty good idea of where we're heading with things," Muschamp said. "The competition is my best motivator. That's the best thing we've got. Those guys know, especially against our (defensive) front, they better come every day and bring their A-game."

KICKING IN QUESTION: Replacing the consistency that Caleb Sturgis offered at kicker won't be easy. The Gators gave plenty of reps to Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips, but neither emerged as the clear leader. Muschamp did say late in spring that Phillips was kicking better between the two, but that isn't set in stone for the fall.

Both had moments during Saturday's open practice. They'd miss chip shots and then hit a longer kick, but that's the inconsistency that was expected with inexperience.

"Brad and Austin have the ability to kick at a high level for us," Muschamp said. "They just need to do it more consistently."


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