Thursday, August 21, 2014
UF making roster decisions as camp ends
By Jeff Barlis
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Preseason camp is a time of constant evaluation, with players' fortunes rising and falling in each day of competition.
That part is over for the Florida Gators, who now shift into preparations for Week 1 opponent Idaho.
UF held its 16th and final preseason practice on Wednesday, and in recent days the Gators' depth chart has begun to take shape.
"We'll sort through the depth chart of guys we can count on moving forward, and guys that need to get more reps, and guys whose reps will dwindle," coach Will Muschamp said. "I mean, that's just part of it.
"Your tape is your résumé. The guys that are producing and playing well and doing it the way we want to do it, those are the guys that'll play."
Muschamp listed his biggest concerns, and they haven't changed much throughout the last two weeks.
Florida needs to develop depth behind its starters on both lines. The offensive line is the bigger concern. Roderick Johnson and Trip Thurman have emerged as reliable backups, but that still only gives UF seven linemen it can count on.
"We need to have eight or nine," Muschamp said. "That's a critical issue."
As of now, Florida is turning to juco transfer Drew Sarvary to be the backup center and Antonio Riles to play guard on the second unit. Riles was a defensive lineman until he changed positions late in the spring.
The issue on Florida's defensive line is mainly a matter of experience, as young players such as Joey Ivie, Jay-nard Bostwick and Caleb Brantley will be pressed into duty. Ivie is the only player of the three who has ever taken a snap for the Gators.
Still, Muschamp is bullish on their potential.
"Jay-nard Bostwick is a guy that’s improved tremendously," he said. "We really worked on his lower-body flexibility. He’s really made some big strides. I think Caleb Brantley has made some strides. Joey Ivie has made some strides."
Another large concern is at backup quarterback. The Gators are planning to turn starter Jeff Driskel loose in the running game, and with his history of injuries, the need for a backup is greater than ever.
The candidates are Skyler Mornhinweg, a third-year sophomore who started the final three games of last season; true freshman Will Grier, who enrolled in January and participated in spring practice; and true freshman Treon Harris, who arrived in the summer.
Mornhinweg is more of a pocket passer, while Grier and Harris are more athletic and can run the ball.
Muschamp has said Florida will play its backup QB in the first game. He also said he wouldn't want to rotate quarterbacks.
"I'd rather name a guy and go with it," he said. "I think it's hard, especially with an inexperienced player. They need to get as many reps as possible."
While UF coaches haven't seen any of their backup QBs separate themselves, there is a sense of urgency as the team is days away from its first game week.
"It’s obviously getting close to decision-making time," offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said on Tuesday, "but I also think it’s a fluid thing that can change at any time just because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
"So obviously we've got to start on who’s going to spend the time getting the two reps as much as possible."
A handful of other jobs remain up for grabs, such as placekicker and punter. Nowhere is the competition more wide open than in the secondary, where Florida is very young and inexperienced.
"Still no separation in the secondary other than Vernon [Hargreaves III] and Keanu [Neal]," Muschamp said of his top cornerback and top safety, respectively. "Got some guys who have done some decent things, we just have to be more consistent."
With just over a week before kickoff, the clock is ticking on UF's final decisions.