"I met with DJ and Kurt this morning and the entire staff," Muschamp told the Florida media on Friday. "I said, ‘I am not out here to trick anyone. We need to go out here and execute, and install the offense. We need to vanilla things up on defense and get our guys to play blocks and run to the football. When you get that and play great technique, that is what we are honing in on defensively. I don't want to get into exotic pressures on third down. We are looking for good execution, effort, and fundamentals."
Florida has nine mid-year enrollees and several red-shirt freshmen in spring practice, that either played on the scout team a year ago, or were injured and can't play. He wants to make sure those guys don't get swallowed up by the scrimmage, being out in the stadium and with referees calling all the shots.
"I told the coaches this morning, ‘I understand some situations, especially with mid-year kids, if you feel like you need to interject on the field and help them out, (do it)," he said. "What happens is there is so much going on. It is the first time in the stadium and all of a sudden it all just kind of sets in. I don't want the young players to get frustrated. We'll use a game day operation, get off the field and let them play."
One thing he says he gets out of scrimmage situations is that the individuals on the team finally realize just how much they may or may not know.
"A lot of times for the players it is great because they are pretty honest with themselves as far as self-evaluation and seeing how afar they are form learning how to do it on their own," Muschamp said.
There is an extreme amount of importance placed on the installation of a new offense this year. The practices have been fast paced and Muschamp believes he has some players stepping up all over on that side of the ball.
I am real pleased with the installation offensively and where we are," he said. "D.J Humphries, Max Garcia, and Chaz Green are really playing well (on the offensive line). I like the direction we are heading there, starting with those three."
One true freshman has gotten a lot of work at left tackle. He committed to Florida in January and enrolled a few days later, but Kavaris Harkless has been impressive according to the head Gator.
"I am pleased with where he is," Muschamp said of Harkless. "He's a really good athlete and is a guy we can do some different things as far as what we can do at that position. I think he's done a really good job, but it's a little early to tell how much he will contribute."
The play of the quarterback was such a huge issue a year ago. Quarterback Jeff Driskel went down at the start of the third game, but wasn't doing that well. The new offense is something he has to learn quickly, but should be a better offense more suited to his abilities. Muschamp says Driskel is performing at a high level right now.
"Jeff Driskel completed over 70% of his passes yesterday," he said of Thirsday's practice. "It was situations where where we were creating more long down and distance situations, throwing situations and am pleased with that."
Muschamp said senior receiver Andre Debose practiced Thursday and will go the rest of the way in a non-contact jersey. He believes the 6th year player has the right frame of mind right now, of which he didn't have in his early years on campus.
"I think he can be really special with the ball in his hands.," Muschamp said. "His work ethic up until his injury was really good. I was extremely happy with where it was. With Andre it has always been about the battle of consistently doing it well. I like where he is now from a maturity standpoint, from a work ethic stand point, with all of those things, I am extremely pleased at this point.
Different for RB's
Things are maybe most different on offense for the running backs. It all has to do with pre-snap positioning on the field. With the new shotgun look of the offense, the backs are aligned left or right or even behind the quarterback in the pistol formation, which would put them even farther behind the line of scrimmage than they have been. Again, Muschamp believes they are taking to the new ideas on offense.
"From a running back stand point there are some different footwork and angles as far as where we were when the quarterback was under center," he said. "From a pistol standpoint it gives the defense problems as far as how you set your front. A lot of pressures are designed to the back or away from the back. A lot of running backs don't like it because they are standing behind someone and it isn't easy to see. We have done a little bit of that. We are moving the back a little bit more.
"But, running the ball is running the ball in trying to create more downhill running game," Muschamp said. "We were doing more as far as the outside stretch and the gap scheme plays. For the offensive line it is the same. You are running the counter or power. I have been pleased with some of the cuts and Kelvin (Taylor), Mack (Brown), and some of those guys have done a nice job."
Special Teams Progressing
Senior punter Kyle Christy sputtered to start the year in 2013. It was enough where true freshman Johnny Townsend had to burn a red-shirt and play. Christy seems to have found his sophomore legs, where he was an All-SEC punter and Muschamp likes the competition between the two.
"Punting wise, Kyle Christy and Johnny Townsend are really hitting the ball extremely well ," he said. "There is good competition there."
Field goal kicking was the worst in the SEC and very subpar. Red-shirt freshman Austin Hardin made just three of 12 kicks on the year and they feel like they are on top of the problem and slowly getting Hardin back to the form that won him the scholarship at Florida in the first place.
"Austin Hardin has hit it consistently the same way and well at times," Muschamp said. "We need to get more production, but we have made some strides with his swing. I equate it with a golf swing… it has to be the same swing all the time. Last year we didn't do a good enough job of getting him consistently hitting the ball all the time. I think he has the ability."
The pace of practice has allowed for a lot more snaps in practice including on special teams. Muschamp didn't name any individual standouts in the return and coverage units, but he likes what he sees.
"We have great competition on special teams in terms of our coverage and return units," he said. "Guys are really competing."
Listening to Muschamp and actually watching practice, it appears thi side of the ball could be built around junior BUCK Dante Fowler. The pass rushing specialist is a guy that is a huge difference maker up front.
"Dante Fowler continues to play extremely well, hard, tough… he's practicing with a purpose every day," Muschamp said of his prize defender. "He goes out there every day and really competes."
"I have been very pleased with Bryan Cox's production which has allowed us to do some different things with Jonathan Bullard to get our best players on the field," he said. "Jonathan can play end or tackle and that creates depth on the football team. He is a really good NICKEL rusher inside. He can match up against some of the guards we will face athletically. He is over 270 but can really move and push the pocket."
Muschamp awaits the return of senior Neiron Ball from an injury and that should come soon. In the meantime he has some leaders stepping up at linebacker in senior Michael Taylor, junior Antonio Morrison, and sophomore Jarrad Davis.
"Morrison, Taylor, and Davis continue to move well at linebacker," he said. "All three of those guys have been very productive for us.
There are a lot of new faces in the secondary, but the one constant positive has been sophomore Vernon Hargreaves. He is the one defensive back that Muschamp called out when he talked about the defense.
"Vernon Hargreaves is having a terrific spring," he said.
Meanwhile, the staff decided to add some depth to the safety position by moving red-shirt freshman receiver Marqui Hawkins to safety. The Gators are very low in numbers at this time in the secondary, so the added depth could help.
"Marqui Hawkins is a young man we moved to safety," Muschamp said. "Keanu has been out and others banged up, we thought we needed to create some depth there. We will see how that goes through the scrimmage tomorrow and make some decisions on some guys we may try to move around.
"He played safety in high school. I thought he was a physical player in high school. It is hard for us because we are so far along defensively to make that move mid-stream. It is tough on him so we have been out there helping him. We need to see how he instinctually plays the game. He wasn't making a lot of movement at receiver, so we felt like it was the best move for him and us."
The Gators are a little nicked up, but seem to be in okay shape and generally getting better.
"Rod Johnson probably back on Monday," Muschamp said of the red-shirt freshman offensive lineman. "Chris Thompson took a shot the other day and probably will be cleared Monday. Andre Debose has been cleared for non-contact. He practiced yesterday and a little Wednesday. He was in team drills Thursday and in an orange jersey so non-contact. It is good having him back."
A couple of players will miss the entire spring and have to be re-evaluated further. Sophomore tight end Colin Thompson has an issue with both of his feet. Freshman guard Nolan Kelleher has a back problem and will be looked at.
"Nolan will not go through the spring," Muschamp said. "He will see another specialist in the coming weeks. Colin was asked to be off of any physical play."