‘Typical first day'

The first day of fall practice is always hectic, especially the way Florida set it up on Friday. The Gators usually split up the early practices into two sessions -- one for the true freshmen and the other for the more experienced players. The numbers on the roster didn't allow it this year, and the entire Florida roster hit the field at Donald R. Dizney Stadium, home of the Florida lacrosse team.

"You have different teaching progression with young players as opposed to old players, that's why you like to have two different practices to divide the roster up," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said after practice. "We had to do what's best for our football team and that was to get out there together tonight.

It's hard for the coaching staff to evaluate after one practice, especially without any pads on, but Muschamp liked the energy and effort he saw on the practice field. That's all he's looking for on the first day, especially from the young players.

Muschamp said he's only looking at effort and conditioning with the true freshmen. The coaches understand that they won't have the playbook perfectly memorized during the first practice, and it might take them a while to get to that point. However, in the early stages, they just have to show the ability to learn quickly and give effort that's expected.

"I saw some positive signs," Muschamp said. "The new guys, it's really not about Practice 1. It's really about Practice 12. If they're still swimming mentally (after practice 12), they're going to have a hard time. If they're struggling with the tempo of practice, they're going to have a hard time.

"You just have to be patient right now. What you need to be able to see is, do they have learning ability, the capability to be able to learn and understand what you're trying to do conceptually, and do they have the athleticism to help you? Those are the decisions you have to make early. Don't worry about a busted assignment. That's going to happen. Can they play at a fast, high tempo? We saw some of that tonight a little bit."

CONCERNED ABOUT JONES: Running back Matt Jones wasn't at practice on Friday as he continues to rest because of a viral infection. The coaching staff won't have an idea of his timetable to return until next week, and even when he is cleared, the coaches don't know what they'll get out of him.

Florida players mentioned at media day on Thursday that Jones looked like he had already lost some weight. He'll also be battling with his energy level once he gets back on the practice field, and it's something that Muschamp is "certainly" concerned about at this point of the fall.

The Gators need Jones healthy soon

"We're in a little bit of uncharted waters here about him coming back and when that's going to happen and how good of health he's going to be in," Muschamp said. "I don't know any of that right now. It's very uncertain. It's very frustrating, for him first of all, and for us a little bit. We'll handle the situation.

"Matt's going to be fine. I do know that. Whenever he's able to join this football team and work and do the things we want him to do, number one, he's healthy. That's the most important thing."

EASING ROLE FOR ROBINSON: While freshman Demarcus Robinson was on campus for spring practice, he's still being viewed as a normal freshman without huge expectations being voiced from the coaches at this point. They're trying to do whatever possible to allow Robinson to get on the field and let his talent do the rest.

Muschamp expects to put Robinson at one wide receiver position in the offense and keep him there for the season, making it easier for him to learn and make an impact.

Robinson made headlines early in spring

"How will he be able to retain things practice one through practice 12 to practice 16, week-to-week operation in our league," Muschamp said. "So far we've been very pleased, but again that's something with a young player and you haven't ever been through a fall before with him it's hard to ever project those things. I've been in situations where it's worked tremendously for you, and I've been in some situations where it didn't work as well. But I'm very pleased with where we are right now. I certainly am."

MURPHY HANDLING ROLE: Without Jeff Driskel (appendectomy) on the practice field Friday, Tyler Murphy took reps with the first team offense and turned some heads. His command of the offense and veteran presence is an important part of his skillset.

"I thought he did some nice things," Muschamp said. "In some of the team periods, a lot of the things are divided up with both fields working back and forth. I thought he made some good decisions and checks in the run game. I thought he did a nice job."

Murphy can run the Florida offense in Driskel's absence

With Driskel out for potentially up to two weeks, Muschamp continues to claim that it won't change anything the Gators do on the practice field. They'll still implement the offense and install as much as they would with the starting quarterback healthy.

Driskel was in uniform on Friday but didn't wear a helmet or participate in drills. He was simply an observer that watched closely.

"We're going to run our offense and install our system on offense, defense and special teams," Muschamp said about the early practices without Driskel. "Really after the first two scrimmages is when you start making decisions on where you need to go schematically. Right now, we need to install our systems. We're installing everything right now."

DEBOSE FIGHTING FOR A ROLE: Andre Debose is competing for a starting job at wide receiver this fall while also involved in the battles for the kick and punt returner jobs. Muschamp mentioned Marcus Roberson as the likely punt returner, but Debose's specialty has been in kickoff returns over his career.

If Debose can win one of the starting jobs at receiver, it would help the offense with more explosiveness.

"There's no question he's in the mix for it," Muschamp said. "I think again I saw him in one on one make some nice plays. In skeleton make some nice plays. We need him to play well."

KICKERS BATTLING: The fight for the starting kicker job isn't expected to be decided anytime soon between Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips. Both will get their shot in situations that are as high pressure as can be created in a practice setting.

Muschamp's ideal scenario is one kicker emerging early in camp, winning the job and holding it through the year. If that doesn't happen, he's not going to be afraid to make changes during the year.

"We need production at the position, and I don't view that position different than any other position from a standpoint of if you're not getting the production, you need to take a look somewhere else. I would love to have one guy step forward and take control of the job."


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