Notes: Update on Gators’ indoor facility

Florida heads into the second week of fall practice with eyes on the indoor practice facility that should be completed in the next two weeks.

There’s no firm date on when the Gators will have access to the facility, but it should happen when the team is still in fall camp. Construction crews are working three shifts to get it done as soon as possible.

The facility will help Florida dodge bad weather and not miss practice days because of lightning. It also helps the Gators in recruiting with major programs across the country showcasing an indoor practice facility.

But there’s also a bigger importance. The coaching staff can work with the team in the facility to keep the drain from the sun off the players, hoping to keep them fresh longer into the season. Florida coach Jim McElwain said the plan during fall camp is to practice two days outside before going into the facility for the third day of practice.

"The whole idea is the use of it to take that beating of the sun off during two-a-days every third practice,” McElwain said. “That doesn’t mean you go slower. You take the beating off the body from that (heat) standpoint, which then makes you fresher as the season works at the end.”

During a game week with perfect weather, the Gators would use the indoor facility on Monday before getting outside on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday and Friday both consist of work only in the indoor facility before a game on Saturday. In the summer, the team would exclusively use the indoor facility for its offseason program.

OFFENSIVE LINE PIECES: Through the first week of practice, there’s still not much known about the offensive line. David Sharpe will likely start at one of the tackle spots and Trip Thurman will be at one of the interior spots. Outside of those two, there are a lot of questions.

The main thing that has caused the questions is some young players that have stepped up in recent days. McElwain said Tyler Jordan and Martez Ivey have both been emerging and could play significant roles this fall.

The wildcard is Mason Halter. He worked as the first-team left tackle to start practice but has been learning how to play both guard spots as well.

“He’s the guy that’s proven he can play a couple spots,” McElwain said. “He’s a guy that we feel can fit in as we’re doing that.”

If Ivey proves he can begin the year as one of the starting offensive tackles, McElwain said Halter could slide inside to guard “or vice-versa.” While all eyes in the freshman class have been on Ivey and Jordan, Fred Johnson has started to turn heads in recent days. At 6-6, 305 pounds, he has the build of an upperclassman.

The freshmen will all make mistakes but McElwain is optimistic about what the group has shown so far.

“I’m not ready to anoint any one of them and obviously they’ve had their share of mistakes on the big stage, in their minds, today,” McElwain said. “I really feel good about some of the pieces that we have to work with. We’ve got to get it in the right spot. I think creating some depth by being able to move some guys that could be a starter but backup at another spot. You try to get your best five on the field no matter what happens.”

SPECIAL TEAMS STARTERS: During a 109-play scrimmage on offense, the Gators also mixed in 26 special teams reps. Austin Hardin missed a field goal, but he impressed McElwain with his strong leg and bounced back to have a solid overtime session of practice.

McElwain said in the spring that Hardin needed to improve on being able to get his kickoffs out of the end zone, and he has done that this fall.

“I could see a lot more pop on his leg and his hang time I think has been pretty good,” McElwain said.

Johnny Townsend is “doing a really good job” with punting. The snappers needed to speed up their operation time from earlier in the week, but it showed progress and looked improved during Friday’s scrimmage.

McElwain only named one player at each return spot on Friday. Brandon Powell handled the kickoff returns while Vernon Hargreaves III handled the punt returns.

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