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Colleges

Muschamp pleased with progress after UF spring game


Published:   |   Updated: April 6, 2013 at 08:13 PM
GAINESVILLE -

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel looked like a player in his first year of extensive college action for much of last season. And he seems to realize where his game was lacking most.

Asked what he needs to be better at, Driskel responded on Saturday at the final workout of the spring, "Make more vertical plays."

Florida ranked among the worst teams in the nation at throwing the football in 2012 - ironic, considering this is the program that produced a trio of Heisman-winning quarterbacks. Gator coaches seem to cringe when asked over and over about the offense but the numbers don't lie.

UF was No. 114 in passing offense (146.31) a year ago, No. 103 in total offense (334.38), No. 77 in scoring offense (26.46) and No. 106 in sacks allowed (3.0).

That's awful by anyone's standards. And while Driskel had some decent moments, it became painfully obviously that the Gators can't compete for an SEC East title unless some things get much better.

"Last year it was more of hand the ball off on third down, get the conversion," Driskel agreed. "It's hard to put drives together when you've got to hit big plays to score touchdowns and we've got to do that more."

Driskel also seems to be either deaf to the crowd or has a short memory.

"I definitely don't remember any boos," he said, although Gators fans let their feelings be known several times about the weak offense during games at Florida Field.

"Obviously I wouldn't like to hear myself or the offense getting booed but at the end of the day you can't worry about that. I don't see why we would get booed. We won all of our games at home last year."

He insists the offense "got better" in the spring in many of the areas that were obvious problems - like the lack of throwing downfield, no big playmakers in the passing game and serious trouble keeping Driskel off his back in clutch situations with rushers storming the line.

"We have good team speed at the receiver position. Our line is blocking a lot better," he said.

Florida had more of a regular practice on Saturday that its annual spring game, with four different segments of scrimmaging mixed in. The Gators had just one offensive touchdown all day.

Lack of healthy offensive linemen is an issue.

A bright spot for the fall could be at the running back spot. Matt Jones (Armwood High) is the new No. 1, for now. Kelvin Taylor, who will spend the next few years hearing comparisons to his father, ex-UF great Fred Taylor, showed some promise in his first live action at Florida Field.

"I don't think we're going to drop off at all. We have great depth at the running back position so we're going to be set for running backs for a while," Driskel said.

Driskel thinks he will be better in 2013 and more settled, since the starting job is his. Last year, he battled with Jacoby Brissett for the No. 1 spot in the spring and summer.

"It just settles you down. You're not worried about making a mistake," he said of being the clear cut No. 1. "You can go out and play. When you are watching film when you go in meetings with your coach you can ask questions and ask them to explain it and not be scared that they think you don't understand it.

"There's a lot of things that help out a lot, it's just more of a comfort level than anything."

Driskel's already been told, with Brissett transferring to North Carolina State, that he has to be more careful in the fall. The backup situation is an issue.

"Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg haven't had much time at all in-game but they did a good job," Driskel said. "They've been competing and they've been doing everything they can to get better during the spring and that's really shown. I'm proud of those guys but I do need this year to try to limit the shots I'm taking and Coach (Will) Muschamp and Coach (Brent) Pease have definitely put that into my head."

AUBURN ISSUE: There was a bit of talk about the Auburn controversy on Saturday, with a former player claiming Muschamp gave him $500 while he was the Tigers' defensive coordinator. Muschamp simply said Saturday there was nothing to "dignify any other response" after previously denying claims.

The issue was pretty much sidestepped.

"That's his deal," Driskel said. "Obviously we're not involved in that so I'm going to let him handle that. I'm sticking with that."

CONFIDENCE VOTE: Muschamp said he's "very pleased" with Driskel's progress.

"We just have to continue to improve around him. I think we have made some good steps," Muschamp said. "We have to continue to do so. We have to get more consistent at the receiver position. Obviously Demarcus Robinson is a guy that is going to help us. He had a bad ankle today. Quinton (Dunbar) was non-contact because of a shoulder situation. We just have to continue to produce there. Latroy (Pittman) went down there late (Friday).

"He laid out for a ball in the back of the end zone and came down funny and they held him for precautionary reasons today. He has had a good spring, productive spring. Raphael (Andrades) made a nice play on a boot today. Louchiez (Purifoy) is a guy that is going to continue to be a part of what we are doing offensively and of course we have some young guys coming in.

"(At) tight end we need to improve. I am very pleased with Tevin (Westbrook) and Kent Taylor is a guy that has to develop himself more in the blocking realm of it but does a nice job in the receiving part. We have to continue to develop there. Colin Thompson, it is great to get him back on the field and he is going to continue to progress and really only missing a year of football because of his foot. Clay (Burton) has done a really nice job."

UP FRONT: Having so many linemen out gave a pair or transfers time to shine this spring.

"Max Garcia and Tyler Moore are two outstanding pickups for us. Those guys will compete to be starters," Muschamp said. "We feel like right now on our offensive line going into camp we have eight guys that can play major college football at a high level and that we can win with. That's good depth to be walking into fall camp with and all those guys will be on target to be back when we start camp Aug. 1.

"Offensively, again I'm pleased with running the football. Had some dropped balls (Saturday). That was disappointing but I'm pleased with the progress we made, especially on third down and especially on staying away from negative plays throughout the spring."

DEFENSE GOOD: Muschamp said he feels "comfortable" with Leon Orr, Darious Cummings and Damien Jacobs at defensive tackle with Dominique Easley also likely staying inside this fall.

"Those guys can play good football for us. We just need to be more consistent," Muschamp said.

There's plenty of talent at other positions as well.

"We have to become more productive, we have to be better communicators in getting us in the right line and the right looks," Muschamp said. "Obviously we do have a little bit of a luxury in Jaylen (Watkins) being able to play safety if we needed him to but we would like for him to be able to play some nickel and corner and obviously some sub-safety like we did last season. He was very effective for us. (In the secondary) Brian Poole continues to come on, Jabari (Gorman), Valdez (Showers), all those guys. Marcus Maye has done some nice things for us."

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