The epidemic of injuries last year came from all positions on the field. Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, broke his leg, starting running back Matt Jones hurt his knee. Starting receiver Andre Debose tore an ACL. The Gators were missing starting offensive linemen Chaz Green, Tyler Moore, and D.J. Humphries to various injuries. Starting defensive tackle Dominique Easley missed most of the season with an ACL tear. Starting linebacker Antonio Morrison missed with an injury. Alex Anzalone missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. Matt Rolin missed the season with a torn ACL. Special teams star Jeremi Powell missed half the season with a knee injury. The list kept going on and on.
"I spent a lot of time in the December evaluating our strength program," Muschamp told a crowd gathered in Tampa to hear about the program. "I called multiple Orthopedic (doctors) and looked at every situation from when the injury happened and asked ‘in (these situations) can these be prevented?' Dr. James Andrews told me, an ACL will come down to a couple of things… the first thing are with re-tears, the chances go up immensely. Well, we had four ACL tears and two of them were re-tears. Dr. Andrews said, ‘Will, those things happen, it is the wear and tear of the game.'"
"I evaluated what we were doing and if we were hitting too much at practice. I talked to Bob Stoops and asked how much they were hitting. What days were they having contact? We were doing a lot of what those guys were doing.
After careful study with professionals like Dr. Andrews, Muschamp came to the conclusion that the training staff was doing most everything right and practice routines were fine too. However, he has pushed his staff to change a little in the weight training area and put an emphasis on the hamstrings in order to help curtail possible ACL injuries.
"(Dr. Andrews) said we can look at maybe strengthening the hamstrings more, focusing on the hamstrings. It is a direct correlation to the knee. He said it looked like we were doing a lot of (the right) things in terms of working on the hamstrings.
"I came back with the (insight) that we need to do some different things in the weight room, we need to do some more things in strengthen hamstrings. Other things came back and made me feel good about the things we were doing."
Updating current injuries
Quarterback Jeff Driskel went down in game three with a broken leg against Tennessee. It meant the end of the year for the junior signal caller and it also meant he would spend a lot of the off-season still healing from the injury. Muschamp updated everyone on Driskel.
"His injury is fine," Muschamp said. "After the spring he had screws removed from his ankle/ He didn't do much as far as moving around before the spring started. He had a really good spring and I am looking for him to have a break out year.
The plan is for Driskel to probably run a little bit more than he has in the past. That means he will have to practice the running as well which means the staff has to figure out just how much is a good amount of hitting to happen in practice.
"We did it two years go and I lost him for about a week," Muschamp quipped about running Driskel live in practice in the 2012 preseason. "There is a fine line. Everyone has a different view of it. But in my three years as a head coach, when our quarterback stays healthy we have a chance and when he doesn't, we don't. We will make sure he is game ready and has taken some shots here and there, especially with the Gun-Run stuff we will do. He needs to be able to take care of the ball. You can't do that unless you have some contact. There will be some, but we aren't going to just open it up and let it be live."
On Monday sophomore Alex Anzalone and freshman Matt Rolin both tweeted that they were cleared for contact in the fall from the injuries mentioned above. Muschamp concurred and chimed in on other injury updates.
"I know Matt and Alex met with the Orthopedics today and will be ready to go," Muschamp said. "Matt Jones is months ahead of where we thought he would be at this time. Trenton Brown had a scope on his wrist (to shave off something), he will be cleared within a week. Jeff had a couple of screws removed Monday after spring. Trenton and Jeff were only things and Trenton was a minor procedure."
Muschamp is excited and surprised at the recovery of junior running back Mat Jones.
"We didn't think he would be cleared to run until mid-July," Muschamp said of Jones. "He will be cleared to run next week, starting May 12, when our guys come back for Summer A classes."
There seemed to be only two bits of bad news. Freshman offensive guard Nolan Kelleher enrolled early in hopes of practicing early and competing for a spot in the two-deep, but he has yet to practice with the team due to an old back injury.
"Nolan Kelleher is a guy we were really excited about, he hurt his back," Muschamp said. "He will probably have to have some surgery on that, which is unfortunate. It is an injury from high school."
Still a question mark, sophomore tight end Colin Thompson has had issues with both of his feet and Muschamp has said they are still trying to evaluate his status and whether or not he can continue on.
"We are still working through that process right now," he said of Thompson.