Installing a new tempo

Florida coach Will Muschamp knew what to expect on the first day of practice. His team's new pace on the offensive side of the ball was going to create some fatigue issues on both sides of the ball. As practice continued on Wednesday, it got sloppier because players weren't used to the new tempo. It's a normal growing pain that comes along with a new offensive scheme.

The offense used its tempo to get off to a fast start in practice. Jeff Driskel made quick decisions and throws that hit his target, but as practice lingered on, the redshirt junior quarterback's throws were further from the mark and had more air under them.

It wasn't always pretty for the Florida offense in its first full day of practice, but that's about what the Florida coaching staff expected. They know what can happen when the offense gets used to the tempo it's running, and that's the goal at the end of spring.

"The defensive kids talk about how difficult it can be and how stressful it can be under some circumstances of when they do align fast and get aligned quickly," Will Muschamp said after practice. "We'll continue to improve and get better. Typical first day."

There's a balance to be learned, too. Muschamp admitted that his main focus, along with field goal kicking, was the installation of the offense this spring. But he wants to make sure it doesn't come at a price of development and fundamentals. While first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper teaches the offensive players the smaller details of his offense, Muschamp wants eyes on the fundamentals, too.

That's what makes spring so unique under a first-year coordinator that's bringing along a new scheme.

"I don't care if you're an up-tempo team or you're a huddle team, it comes down to execution and that's going to be paramount," Muschamp said. "The guys understand the advantage of playing fast and getting snaps and those sort of things."

Muschamp and Roper will meet every morning to address how much they're putting on the offensive players. The goal isn't to overwhelm them, but the coaches are also trying to give them a lot of information to see which offensive players can handle the load. It's another piece to the evaluation process that the coaches look at.

If a player can handle a lot of information and adjustments being made on the practice field, the coaches feel confident in his ability to adjust in the same manner when things change on Saturdays in the fall. If the player can't handle it, it's not a positive quality that will help him get on the field.

But it all starts with giving the players plenty of information and letting them handle it.

"You want to have the theory of throwing it all on the wall, see what sticks then throw it back on the wall the next day and see what sticks," Muschamp said. "Pick it up and throw it back on the wall the next day to see what sticks, see who can retain, see who can handle the mental journey through spring as you install but not get away from the technique and fundamentals of football."

Wednesday's practice didn't give away too many details about what the Gators will run, but it did come almost exclusively from the shotgun. That's the plan going forward. There will be some formations drawn up with the Florida quarterback under center, but most of the snaps will come to a quarterback in the shotgun.

It shouldn't be much of a transition for Driskel, especially since it allows him to get on the run move and use his legs. However, it also benefits freshman Will Grier, who ran a similar offense in high school that was heavily out of the shotgun.

"We're going to be a gun team. There's going to be a little under center for some things. You've got to kneel down at the end after a good win. I don't want to be in the shotgun doing that," Muschamp said with a grin.


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