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Notebook: Depth chart coming together (maybe)

GAINESVILLE -- The depth chart is starting to take shape.

Coach Will Muschamp reveled that some of Florida’s key positional battles are ‘over,’ while also announcing a crowded, but strange, field at running back.

Muschamp officially endorsed redshirt freshman Marcus Maye and junior Cody Riggs as the definitive starters at safety -- while juniors Michael Taylor and Neiron Ball, two career role players -- earned starting spots at middle and weak-side linebacker, respectively.

Three freshmen -- Alex Anzalone (MIKE), Jarrad Davis (WILL) and Daniel McMillian (SAM) -- were named backup linebackers.

The depth chart at running back remained muddled.

Mack Brown is still the primary backup to Matt Jones, who remains doubtful for Week 1 while recovering from his serious viral infection.

But after Brown, things get interesting. Muschamp said walk-on running back Mark Herndon and recently converted safety Valdez Showers were next in line, not freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane.

“They’re both talented runners, but it not all about carrying the ball,” Muschamp said. “We like to make sure the quarterback is protected.”

Muschamp cited ball security as a major concern with both freshmen. 

***EDITOR'S NOTE***

Muschamp is either playing possum with the freshmen running backs’ expectations (mainly Taylor), or Florida could be in serious trouble if Jones is sidelined for a significant period of time because there’s seemingly little reason a recently-converted safety and a walk-on should be ahead of a Taylor, who was on campus during the spring. He’s legitimately had ball security, pass protection and pass-catching issues during camp, but I think this is a motivational ploy more than a shocking revelation. The dude’s the all-time leading rusher in Florida high school history. I think he’s underperformed in camp, and he’s not anywhere close to being ready to be an every-down back, but according to the recent depth chart, he’ll struggle to get snaps. And I don’t believe that for a second.

MUSCHAMP NAMES FIVE BEST

Florida’s search for reliable playmakers is ongoing, but coach Will Muschamp has identified the team’s best five receivers: Quinton Dunbar, Trey Burton, Solomon Patton and two freshmen, Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood.

“Those five right there have been productive and consistent in what they do and how they perform,” Muschamp said.

Sophomore Latroy Pittman has disappointed during camp, while the other three freshmen -- Alvin Bailey, Marqui Hawkins and Chris Thompson -- are “swimming mentality.”

Hawkins has battled an ankle injury during camp and seems destined for a redshirt. Bailey may redshirt too, while Thompson, who isn’t ready to play receiver, will contribute on special teams. 

SURPRISING STANDOUT

Freshman defensive end Joey Ivie continues to impress in camp, unexpectedly vying for immediate playing time.

The early enrollee was forced to play tackle during the spring, something Muschamp said made Ivie adjust to the physicality of SEC football. “His improvement from spring to right now is night and day,” Muschamp said.
“We moved him inside purposely in the spring. He needed to learn how to play blocks, strike in a situation he’s got to play fast and physical. … Very pleased where is he is now.” 

INJURY UPDATES

Cornerback Jaylen Watkins (foot) returned to practice Sunday, while sophomore wideout Raphael Andrades (turf toe) is out for at least 10 days.

Left guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral), fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring), cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (shoulder) and tackle Damien Jacobs (patella) are all expected to return to practice next week.

Also, Muschamp said Jones is scheduled to have blood work done Monday, and the sophomore is close to his original weight after losing 10 pounds from the illness.

QUOTABLE

“He does make me laugh a lot. Sometimes by his athleticism and running around.”

--- Muschamp on starting middle linebacker Michael Taylor

THIS & THAT

Muschamp was not particularly pleased with Friday’s scrimmage, noting the offense out preformed the defense but the practice’s tempo wasn’t what he wanted. “I was not totally pleased with the sense of urgency we played as a group, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “We have some steps to take forward, as far as that’s concerned.” … Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, teased as a two-way threat, finally took some offensive snaps in third open practice. … Muschamp offered no updates on Antonio Morrison’s two-game suspension. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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