Notebook: Opening practices

Multiple people reached out to Florida coach Will Muschamp and said they wanted to have more access to the team in the future. After a 4-8 season that included trouble filling the seats of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Muschamp decided to change things this spring and open 12 practices to the fans and media. All scrimmages will remain closed until the Orange & Blue Debut on April 12.

Florida will open spring practice on March 19, one of the practice dates that will be open to the public.

"It's kind of like offense. You do the same things, you're going to get the same results," Muschamp said. "We've got great fans and I'm very appreciate of their support. I've had people reach out to me and say, ‘hey, we'd like to be able to have more access to the team.'"

In the first year under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, Muschamp could've elected to close down all the practices with Florida installing a new look on the offensive side of the ball. Muschamp wanted to open the practices but had to run it by his first-year coordinator before making any decisions.

Roper was confident that the team could get the reps it needed under his new attack and still not give away much of a competitive advantage to opposing teams. Once he was comfortable with it, the decision was made.

"We're really kind of set in what we do defensively," Muschamp said. "We are what we are. We are going to make subtle changes based on our personnel. We are what we are on special teams. I think it's best for our program at this time to (open more practices)."

It hasn't changed Muschamp's mind about an advantage for opposing teams when practices are more open. With the way stories and observations circulate around the Internet, information can get into the wrong hands. It's something Muschamp has seen happen multiple times before.

Spring games being televised also contributes to the information that makes its way around college football about new-look offenses or defenses before heading into the fall.

"There's a lot of things that get out there," Muschamp said. "It's not the same as it was 15 years ago. Everybody wants to say ‘this is what we used to do,' but it has changed a lot. I do believe there is some competitive advantage from that standpoint. There are things you do pick up, regardless of what coaches in our league say, from people on the Internet and different things we're able to have access to. You do see things."

The other concern is how information is released. When Muschamp was at Texas, a player got hurt and the information was put out through social media websites. The player's family wasn't informed by the time they read the reports, sending the family into an emotional situation. The injury turned out to be nothing serious, but it was a headache for the Texas coaching staff to deal with.

"It's just uncomfortable for us sometimes when something like that gets out that's not right, it's inaccurate, and then you've got to do a lot of apologizing when you don't really need to," Muschamp said.

SPECIAL TEAMS NEEDS TO REBOUND: Florida's special teams were a key reason the Gators lost just one game in the 2012 regular season and earned a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Kicker Caleb Sturgis had a monster season while punter Kyle Christy broke out and was a Ray Guy Award finalist.

Last season, it was the exact opposite. The Gators shuffled through kickers without finding one that could get the job done. Christy slumped to start the season and was eventually replaced by freshman Johnny Townsend.

"Our kicking situation was atrocious last year. We've got to get that fixed," Muschamp said.

The issues were mostly mental. The coaches have watched film and tried to come up with a mechanical problem that slowed the punters and kickers, but there weren't any obvious ones. The goal is now to build the confidence of the specialists and trust that they will rebound this fall.

"We've studied the film from a technique standpoint and then we've tried to psychologically give them a boost to be able to battle through adversity, to handle adversity better, to get the swing back and those sort of things whether it's punting or kicking," Muschamp said. "Because the ability is there, at punter and at kicker, in my opinion.

"We have talented guys that can do the job and do it at a high level. So I think it's two things: I think it's studying technique, making sure those guys are working the right way. The last thing would be psychologically getting them to build their confidence back."

Muschamp said he believes both punters have NFL legs and will punt on Sundays when their college careers end.

"We just need to let those guys battle it out and that will be good for our football team," the Florida coach added.

ROBINSON FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS: After two separate suspensions last season for violation for team rules, sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson heads into the spring with a new offensive coordinator and a chance at redemption.

The offseason has been without any speed bumps, and Muschamp hopes that carries into spring football.

"He's working hard; he's doing everything we've asked," Muschamp said. "I'm real pleased with where he is, we just got to continue to move forward. It's a huge spring for everybody at the wide receiver position."


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