GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s no surprise that Florida’s Andre Debose is not a fan of the rule changes the NCAA made on kickoffs.
Debose is one of the nation’s top kick returners, but his impact on the game will be minimized by kickoffs moving up to the 35-yard line from the 30-yard line. Those extra five yards likely mean more touchbacks, which means Debose won’t have as many opportunities to make a play.
"I do not like the new kickoff rule," Debose said Thursday during UF’s annual media day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. "I had thoughts in my head about (a reduced role), but I feel like I still will get a couple opportunities. Maybe not as many as previous years."
Debose averaged 26.1 yards on 19 kickoff returns last season and took one back for a touchdown against Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound redshirt junior already has a school-record three career kickoff returns for touchdowns.
UF coach Will Muschamp is also not a fan of the new rule -- which also states that touchbacks on kickoffs will come out to the 25-yard line -- and said he and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin have already begun adjusting their plans for kickoff returns.
"We need to get on the field and rep through it and see how it works," Muschamp said. "He (Debose) is a guy that's certainly been a game-changer for us and needs to continue to be, so we need to continue to find ways for that to happen.
"D.J. and I have talked about that, and we are going to look in camp early to figure out how we can get the ball in his hands and gain some returns."
No news was good news this summer for the football program. The Gators didn’t have a single player arrested or get into trouble since defensive tackle Leon Orr was cited on May 14 for knowingly driving with a suspended license.
Muschamp said it’s an indicator of the maturity level of his team.
"I feel very comfortable with where we are as a program, our discipline of our football team, (and) the buy‑in of our football team," he said. "Again, at the end of the day, you're judged after these young men graduate and move on. If you've helped them and they are better men because of being a part of the program, that's the way I judge it. It's an ongoing, continual process to me."
Gators No. 23
Florida came in at No. 23 in the USA Today coaches’ preseason poll that was released Thursday afternoon.
The Gators were ahead of only Notre Dame and Auburn in the top 25. The SEC had seven teams in the poll, including five in the top 10 (No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Alabama, No. 6 Georgia, No. 9 South Carolina and No. 10 Arkansas).
Not that any of that matters to Muschamp. He just shook his head when preseason rankings were mentioned.
"(The rankings matter) at the end of the season," he said. "End of the bowl season."
Several players will miss the first part of preseason practice because of injuries, with the most notable being freshman tight end Colin Thompson.
The 6-4, 252-pound Thompson had surgery in the spring to repair a broken bone in his foot and will be limited in the first week to 10 days of practice, Muschamp said. He’s one of two freshmen tight ends who have a chance to play a significant role this season. The Gators lost tight end A.C. Leonard to transfer and have only one other tight end on the roster (Jordan Reed) who has caught a pass in a game. Kent Taylor also will get playing time.
In addition, defensive tackle Nick Alajajian (back) will be limited for the first 10 days of practice. Safety Marcus Maye (meniscus) and receiver Stephen Alli (stress fracture in his leg) should be cleared by the middle of August, Muschamp said.
Cornerback Jeremy Brown, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, is still recovering from offseason wrist surgery and won’t be cleared until Sept. 1, Muschamp said.
Freshman defensive end Jonathan Bullard is on the roster and is eligible to practice on Friday, Muschamp said. … The Gators will have a practice open to the public on Saturday, Aug. 18 from 9-11 a.m. ET. The annual Fan Day at the O’Connell Center will be at 3 p.m. … Several players are noticeably bigger after a full offseason under strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins said he’s up to 238 pounds, linebacker Jon Bostic said he’s up to 245 pounds, and offensive tackle Matt Patchan said he weighs more than 300 pounds.