GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has only practiced for three days, and the Gators have yet to be in full pads, but coach Will Muschamp has been impressed with his veteran players.
They have picked up right where they left off from spring practice and that has the Gators ahead of schedule.
"I do want to compliment our players on the retention from the spring," Muschamp said Monday. "It was very evident in our first three days on both sides of the ball that our retention is high from spring, which credits our players and the job they did this summer. We are far ahead -- after three practices, mind you -- of where we thought we would be at this point on both sides of the ball."
But especially on offense, where the Gators have had to learn a new system under coordinator Brent Pease, who was hired in January from Boise State. The offense features much more motions and shifts than what Charlie Weis used, and while that’s designed to create confusion for the defense, it’s a bit confusing for the offensive players to pick up, too.
But there have been few problems in the first three days.
"We teach everything by concepts on both sides of the ball," Muschamp said. "So what you draw on the board may look good and may be what we described, but all the sudden the coverage rotates a different way and you have to adjust the route based on coverage. When you start to see those things happening and the coaches aren't having to coach it after every single play, that's when you know we're starting to get a pretty good grasp and understanding of what we're trying to do.
"That's what I see."
Florida will be in full pads for the first time on Tuesday and will scrimmage on Saturday, so that will be an even better test of how much the players have retained.
Three back with new attitudes
Linebacker Neiron Ball (bleeding blood vessels in his brain), linebacker/end Ronald Powell (knee) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck) are all back on the practice field with what Muschamp said was a stronger appreciation for the game of football.
"I think every injured player has a different appreciation of what they have and what God’s blessed them with and there’s no question that those young men went through a very difficult time," Muschamp said. "Obviously with Marcus, whether or not he was going to play football again, and Ronald of when he’s going to play football again. Neiron Ball, talk to Neiron. Here’s a young man that at one point had a pretty bleak outlook on things as far as ever playing football again."
Ball hasn’t played since 2010, Powell was injured in the spring, and Roberson missed the last three games of the 2011 season. Ball is competing for playing time, Powell is projected to return to the field this season despite suffering a torn ACL in the spring game in April, and Roberson was cleared for full contact.
Florida practiced as a full team for the first time Sunday night. The Gators had split-squad practices (one in the morning, one in the afternoon) on Friday and Saturday. UF divided the split-squad workouts generally by younger and older players, but there was some overlap because Muschamp wanted to put some veteran backups in with the younger players so they could get more reps instead of sitting behind the starters.
"We did some things for some different reasons to get some guys some different looks in the first two practices and a better teaching environment for the younger players in the afternoon," Muschamp said.
With the players finishing up the second summer semester, the Gators will practice just once a day the rest of the week.