GAINESVILLE — Spring football is always full of eternal optimism, but Florida coach Will Muschamp is confident he isn’t spewing hot air.
Muschamp, oozing positivity Tuesday, recapped UF’s latest scrimmage and declared Florida fans will be delighted with what they see during Saturday’s Orange & Blue Debut (1:30 p.m., PPV).
“I think when they see our football team and offensively where we are, I think they’ll see a formidable unit on defense playing well,” Muschamp said. “They’re going to see a good-looking team. We’re going to have a good team next year. We just need to continue to progress. … Our guys have a lot of confidence in what we're doing [offensively]. A lot of belief in what we're doing. I think we lost that late in the year and that's changed automatically without having to do anything.”
Other than multiple staff changes.
But according to Muschamp, Florida’s new offensive staff has excited a hungry group — especially quarterback Jeff Driskel — eager to wash away the ills of a year ago.
The instillation of Kurt Roper’s up-tempo, spread offense has gone smoother than Muschamp anticipated, with the offense’s potential (purportedly) showcasing well in the closed scrimmages.
"Overall, pretty pleased with the Saturday [scrimmage],” Muschamp said.
“The effort, guys got after it and competed. I think offensively we're further ahead than where I thought we would be at this point as far as from an execution standpoint. There's still some things that we've got to get better and clean up, but I'm pleased with where we are.”
During the Muschamp’s scrimmage summation, he noted standout efforts from Driskel, junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., sophomore safety Keanu Neal, the first-team offensive line and others.
In less than one week, Gators fans will have their own chance to gauge the offense's improvements in a game-like atmosphere, but in the meantime here's a bevy of notes from the closed scrimmage.
********** GOOD **********
* The offense produced 10 explosive plays — five running, five passing.
* Tailbacks averaged more than five yards per rushing attempt.
* Florida’s inexperienced receiving corps continues to improve, highlighted by Ahmad Fulwood’s 52-yard touchdown catch. Demarcus Robinson also collected a touchdown reception during the scrimmage.
* Other positives included third-down efficiency and the quarterback run game.
* UF’s specialists — disastrous last season — had a productive day, as Austin Hardin (7-of-9) and Frankie Velez (7-of-8) were “much more accurate kicking the football.” Muschamp also noted punter Kyle Christy’s spring revelation.
“He's really punted well. I think he's had a good spring. I really do, I think he's punted well. His confidence is up and he's done some nice things."
********** BAD **********
* The offense had four procedure penalties.
“Four too many,” Muschamp said. “We have to continue to get that out of our game.”
* Driskel threw one interception — “a nice play” by early enrollee Jalen Tabor. But according to Muschamp, the ball “should’ve been caught or knocked down by the receiver."
* Other noted issues: two fumbles (none lost), three drops, offensive line fatigue.
********** UGLY **********
* Muschamp said the defense had 22 missed tackles — the majority coming in the secondary — and 18 “eye control” errors in the defensive backfield.
“We don’t have a starting nickel right now,” he said, in a rare moment of frustration Tuesday. Brian [Poole] and Duke [Dawson] have been in there. We may look at Marcus Maye in there. We need to get better at that position. It’s a position that’s been very productive for us over the years, but we need to get better at that position.”
* Continued shotgun snap issues.
“Disappointed [with the poor snaps]. … If we continue to have those, we need to look in another direction.”
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton