Five things to watch in Florida's camp

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
1:00
PM ET
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Coming off an ignominious 4-8 season that lit a fire under his seat, Florida coach Will Muschamp has reassessed every aspect of his program. Even himself.

"Based on the record last year, I haven't [improved as a coach]," he said on Sunday in addressing the media just hours before the Gators were to open preseason camp. "That's the way you look at it. You are what your record is."

Muschamp has not dodged nor shrunk from talk of the hot seat and the accompanying speculation about his job security. Instead he has steadfastly insisted the Gators will rebound in 2014.

"I think all of the components are there," he said. "... We need to go do it now."

[+] EnlargeFlorida's Will Muschamp
Jeff Barlis/ESPN.comWill Muschamp addresses the media on Sunday before his Gators report for preseason camp.
The first tests take place in camp. Here are five things to watch as the Gators take the field on Monday.

1. The injury bug has been squashed: What difference does a year make? In 2013, Florida started camp without its starting quarterback and starting running back, among several others. QB Jeff Driskel had an emergency appendectomy, while RB Matt Jones came down with a serious viral infection. Those fluky ailments set an ominous tone for a season littered with key injuries.

On Sunday, Muschamp announced no new injuries. In fact, only one scholarship player is out -- true freshman offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher, who had back surgery in the spring and will redshirt.

Muschamp also said the Gators will dramatically cut down on mid-day practices and "go later at night and a little lighter than we had been doing before, so it won't be as taxing for the players."

2. Playmakers returning to offense: Jones, who missed most of the 2013 season with a torn meniscus, pronounced himself "110 percent" and ready to claim a significant role in the offense. He's added 10 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame, which has Muschamp envisioning a role as a late-game battering ram.

"He's a 230-pound back that about midway through the third and fourth quarter you get tired of hitting," the coach said. "He's got extremely good hands, he's very good at protection, very smart player."

Another potential boon for the Gators' hopes of an offensive revival comes with the return of sixth-year senior wide receiver Andre Debose, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered in preseason camp.

"I feel great," he said on Sunday after jumping over the interview table to get to his seat. "I'm feeling real good. ...

"Heading into this last year I just want to be productive. I want to help the team in any way I can. I'm just happy to be back, running around and being a part of the team."

Although Debose's production at UF has never quite matched his prodigious talent, the 6-foot, 190-pound speedster is one of the Gators' most experienced pass-catchers and is a proven weapon as a kickoff returner as well.

3. Depth charge on both lines: Starters on the offensive and defensive lines are well entrenched and well seasoned. Florida's first-team O-line has a combined 67 career starts. The D-line has 37. The problem, which Muschamp harped on throughout spring practice, is that there is a significant drop-off when the second units step in.

"Got to continue to build depth on both lines of scrimmage," he said. "I think the talent level is there."

Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Rod Johnson has always been held in high regard by his coaches, but he missed the entire spring with head and knee injuries. Muschamp also singled out redshirt freshman guard Antonio Riles and true freshmen David Sharpe and Andrew Mike.

On defense, Muschamp listed a host of young players who will get opportunities in camp. The most advanced of them are ends Bryan Cox Jr. and Alex McCalister

4. Backup quarterbacks will battle: Because Driskel missed most of last season with a broken bone in his leg, there is a greater emphasis on quarterbacks.

"We need to find a backup quarterback," Muschamp said. "That's someone that will play in the first ballgame at some point. That's going to be important for us to develop at that position."

There is great anticipation for the long-term QB battle brewing between true freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris, two of the nation's top prospects in the recruiting Class of 2014. But third-year sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg isn't about to concede the No. 2 job.

The son of New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg started the final three games of last season, gaining valuable experience on the road against South Carolina and in facing eventual national champion Florida State.

"I learned a lot last season," Skyler Mornhinweg said. "Being able to get in there and play at this level, in terms of developing, that's the best you can do right there. You can be in the film room, you can practice, but actually getting out there and playing is great experience."

Mornhinweg concedes that Grier and Harris are better at running the ball, which could give them an advantage in Florida's new spread offense. But Mornhinweg's starting experience gives him an air of authority.

"I expect to be the backup in my mind, yeah," he said. "I'm confident. I'm ready to have some fun with it."

5. Last season is history (sort of): Much has been made about Florida's 4-8 record in 2013. The fans, the media and especially opponents have issued reminders throughout the offseason. Eager to move forward and change the subject, the Gators say they've had enough of talking about last year.

But the painful memories do serve a purpose.

"We put that behind us, but we're not going to forget that," Jones said. "We've definitely got a chip on our shoulder that we've got something to prove, but we're not going to keep it over our head that we went 4-8. We just know that we've got to come back strong."

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