August 4, 2014

Media Day: What we learned

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Fourth-year Florida head coach Will Muschamp and his players met with reporters Sunday during the Gators' annual media day and discussed a myriad of topics. Here is some of What we learned after spending two hours with the team.

Florida is using 2013 as motivation, but it's not going to dwell on it: The Gators can't ignore the existence of last year's 4-8 record. It was disappointing. It was disastrous. But that doesn't mean they need to focus on the past. Muschamp shared that sentiment Sunday when he said it's something his team "buried to start the summer" but still needs to deal with. It's an approach that could benefit Florida's psyche and give it a measured level of edge heading into fall camp.

Afternoon practices being eliminated: During his presser Sunday, Muschamp said that the Gators will practice more in the morning than in the past in fall camp to combat injuries. Florida previously incorporated a midday practice off a two-a-day, but now the team will practice every morning and reconvene at night on two-a-days. "My biggest concern is being able to have guys hydrated here in this heat," Muschamp said. "I think going in the morning and eliminating the midday practice will help us." Some of the Gators' worst injuries last season occurred in fall camp, making this is a necessary step by Muschamp to help lower the probability of that happening again.

Muschamp really likes his wide receivers: During his press conference, Muschamp expressed that he felt the Gators have significantly improved at receiver. He even took the effort to praise nine different players for different reasons as he answered a reporter's question about the receiving corps. He touched on Latroy Pittman's improvement, Demarcus Robinson's maturation, Quinton Dunbar's experience and how the Gators' missed Andre Debose's play-making ability last year. Then, he lauded Ahmad Fulwood for becoming a much faster and stronger receiver in just a year. Even redshirt freshman Alvin Bailey, who is battling for time in a deep chart of receivers, garnered praise from Muschamp for doing "some nice things" since the spring. For a group that lacked last season, Muschamp seemed excited about the potential of his wideouts.

Special teams looks brighter, but the job for starting kicker is still open: Florida's special teams were disappointing last year, but in the spring Muschamp felt his specialists made strides. While he asserted Sunday that the kicking job is up for grabs, the feeling he gave off is that Austin Hardin, who converted 4 of 12 field goals last season, has a good shot of maintaining the starting gig after rebounding in the spring. Francisco Velez, who made five appearances and made 6 of his 8 attempts in 2013, new transfer Brooks Abbott and UF's other kickers will have a shot at the starting role.

Young defensive linemen will see plenty of snaps in 2014: Muschamp made that clear during media day and said redshirt freshmen Caleb Brantley, Jay-nard Bostwick and sophomore Joey Ivie, among some others, could see anywhere in the range of 15-20 snaps per game off the bench. Muschamp likes the talent he has to provide depth on the defensive line, despite the fact that not much experience is there. But as his new motto goes, he'll take talent over experience any day.



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