An important summer

Player-run practices have a new importance this offseason. After a four-win season last year and a spring spent learning a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, the Florida offense has to stay sharp this summer. If the team isn't prepared for the start of fall camp, it wastes practice days that are always important for a new scheme.

It won't take long for Will Muschamp to know how effective the summer was. He can tell the first day of fall practice how much time the players spent in their playbooks during the offseason and how much work they put in to keeping the offense sharp. When it doesn't happen, the passing game is ugly and sloppy in the first days of fall camp.

To avoid it, Muschamp spends his limited time with the players this summer making sure they understand how important the player-run practices are.

"We continue to stress it as much as we can, but really, it's reaching through the leaders to understand that this needs to be a player-run operation right now," Muschamp said. "That's where you continue to develop your leadership. I think we have outstanding leadership on this football team. I feel very comfortable with where we are."

The offensive leadership comes mostly from quarterback Jeff Driskel, center Max Garcia and tackle Chaz Green, according to the head coach. They have to be vocal this offseason and get the team together for the player-run practices as often as possible.

"Offensively, timing in the passing game and knowledge of the system," Muschamp said of what he wants to see. "More than anything, it's timing in the passing game. (We want) to see us crisp throwing the football and all the effort that's being made through the summer paying off in August. I think it's huge.

"Knowledge of each system- You can continue to grow and learn on both sides of the ball from a knowledge standpoint, as a young player especially. But offensively, for all of our players, they're all young because it's new."

Working on the passing game can also benefit the defense. Florida's secondary remains the youngest part of the defense and needs as many reps as it can get this offseason. The Florida coaches have raved about the talent in the second, but until it gets on the field during games in the fall, it's hard to tell what they have on the roster.

Even with a leader the caliber of Vernon Hargreaves in the secondary, they need to improve around him before the start of fall camp.

"Growth and maturity in the secondary," Muschamp said about the focus for the defense. "Those guys have got to come in ready to go. The ability is there. Those guys have to be ready to go."

The coaches remain confident in the starting defensive linemen, but they need depth behind that group. Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick have a chance to play at defensive tackle if they improve before the start of the season, and the Gators need to continue building depth at defensive end.

"From a conditioning standpoint, a mental toughness standpoint, our young defensive linemen have got to come on," Muschamp said. "I feel very comfortable with our front four and I like our ability behind that, but from an experience standpoint, it's not there."

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