GAINESVILLE -- A year removed from holding a glorified practice in The Swamp, the Gators will play a traditional spring game April 12.
Florida’s customary Orange & Blue Debut was scrapped last spring due to minimal depth along the offensive line, but on Monday coach Will Muschamp announced the normal format is back on.
“We'll do like the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense, and then they score for one team,” Muschamp explained. “And then the No. 2 offense vs. the No. 2 defense scores for the other team. And then incorporate some kicking game things within the game. Absolutely. Try to get as much game day as you can. Wanted to have that last year. I just didn't feel like it was fair with the offensive line situation that we had."
The Gators’ first- and-second-team units will alternate possessions, as Florida will not conduct a faux-draft for the game.
Muschamp referenced (a comical) story of a poor experience with a spring draft at LSU.
“We had Marcus Spears matched up on a guy like me playing tackle. And then Jimbo [Fisher] and Nick [Saban] have to answer the entire offseason why our passing game wasn't very good,” he said.
“Well, you know, “Will” couldn't block Marcus very good. Marcus had like 14 sacks. So the draft pick stuff is great, but I don't know that you want that matchup. I want good on good. I want to see the best players going against the best players and being able to as a staff match up guys that we know we need to find out things about.”
Muschamp said sophomore safety Keanu Neal is “close to 90 percent” after sustaining a pair of offseason hamstring injuries.
Neal, who is competing for a starting job in the secondary, is expected to return to practice Wednesday.
“He wanted to go [Monday],” Muschamp said. “We held him to just make sure this thing’s completely healed before we get you back and strain on that right now. He needs to be a part of the spring game. He needs to get in front of the crowd and play. He needs to be in practices 10, 11, 12 and 13. I didn’t want to lose him another day.”
Meanwhile, sophomore wide receiver Chris Thompson (undisclosed) was fully-cleared for practice after working non-contact Monday, while redshirt freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson remains out with a concussion.
“He still has not been cleared,” Muschamp said. “We’re hoping Wednesday, I don’t know. That’s a doctor’s call.”
THIS & THAT
Muschamp was asked about the status of incoming freshman defensive back J.C. Jackson (Immokalee) -- who reportedly injured his shoulder and might require surgery. “Not sure right now,” Muschamp said. “He had a little accident playing tackle football or something. We’re looking into that.” … Muschamp heaped praise on Florida’s overall offensive progress, but said the unit’s tempo must “pick up.” … Florida’s backup quarterback job remains in flux, as Muschamp refused to applaud true freshman Will Grier or redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg. “Both of them need to pick it up.” … Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Cameron Dillard was named UF’s backup center.
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