On Wednesday March 23, I was afforded the opportunity to attend a Florida Gator football Spring practice and a dinner where the new UF coaching staff would be in attendance. As you probably know if you’re reading this, Florida Football Spring practice has been closed to the public this year, so the chance to attend one is both rare, and exciting.
That is… until you attend a Spring practice.
Now I attended the Gator baseball team’s first official practice of the year this year and aside from maybe golf practice, Baseball has a huge lead over any other sport for the most unwatchable, boring, dreadful practice to watch. Seriously, it’s the most gawd awful thing to see in person… stations of guys having a catch, bunting, stretching, and hitting off a tee. I’d just as soon watch water boil. Let me be the first to tell you… Spring football practice isn’t THAT much different.
I hesitate a bit to even write this post because Coach Muschamp has closed practice for a reason. BourbonMeyer.com didn’t tweet or send pictures from the practice because we felt it would be a bit of a betrayal of the team’s trust in letting me in in the first place. So, my apologies now if you wanted to read this and find out if we were going to line up 5 wide, or in lots of trips formations or where Trey Burton was lining up on any given play. I won’t be talking about any of that. I’ll just say that this was my first Spring practice that I’ve ever attended and I was just happy to take in the gorgeous day and be a guest of the team. Sorry, no reports about Brantley or Driskel or how they’re doing. Brantley is taking the reps as a starter and that’s about all I’ll say about it.
What I will share about what I saw at practice are some of the following observations:
– This team will hit you. From 140 yards away I could hear some of the hits that took place during full speed drills. The defense is fast and will lay a hat on opponents.
– Deonte Thompson appears that he couldn’t be happier with the way things are going. Not sure what the details are, but DT appears to be in good spirits.
– Despite some early reports from BourbonMeyer.com via Twitter, Charlie Weis not only wears a shirt while coaching, but a long sleeve jacket too… wow!
– Start saving your money to purchase a Matt Elam jersey.
– While it wasn’t a major event, there appears to be a little rivalry/beef between two players who played the same position last year that won’t be playing that position this year.
– I understand why guys get angry at kickers when they miss kicks. They are fun to watch practice… except that they’re not fun to watch “practice”.
After the practice I made my way over to the dinner hosted by the coaching staff. Coach Muschamp introduced the whole staff to our group. The highlights of the coach intros were:
– Coach Weis is tan. Like, really tan. Florida has been treating him well thus far. Coach Muschamp did most of the talking, but had Charlie have his own part where he spoke to the group. Charlie highlighted the fact that the staff is not “salesmen”, but that they were offering an opportunity at UF, beyond just football and athletics.
– Aubrey Hill is a fan favorite. If you didn’t know, Aubrey is a UF alumnus from the College of Health and Human Performance and was voted team captain by his teammates during his playing days. Aubrey is the wide receivers coach this year. If you’re an x’s and o’s junkie, you’ll know that wide receiver route running was a MAJOR issue last season that Aubrey will be looking to get corrected.
– Derek Lewis is the Tight Ends coach. If you’re not familiar with Derek Lewis, you should be, and Coach Lewis should never pay for another meal in Gainesville as long as he lives. Derek Lewis caught a 7-route for a TD against Nebraska to help catapult Florida to a National title bid following the 1996 season. Thanks Derek!
– Bryant Young is our new Defensive line coach. I had the chance to eat dinner with him at our table and he’s one big dude, and one really smart dude. We are extremely lucky to have a Hall of Fame caliber NFL player as one of our position coaches. I look for huge things from all of that DT talent that we get at Florida than has been hit or miss the past few years (No disrespect to Coach McCarney!).
Following the coach intros, Coach Muschamp dismissed the Asst. Coaches to go watch film and finish off their post-practice routine and he fielded questions from the group. Much of what he answered you’ve heard before at his press conferences or statements, but here are a few that stood out:
What are your areas of concern with this team as it’s currently constructed?
Coach: We’ve got some concerns on both sides of the ball right now. We’ve got good players, but we need depth. We’re a bit thin at some positions, specifically tight end and linebacker. I’m very excited about Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins at linebacker, but other than that at that position, I don’t know. We’re also thin at tight end right now, after moving Gerald Christian to linebacker; we’ll have to see what we’ve got there.
Quote on recruiting NFL oriented players:
“When a recruit asks me about depth chart once, I understand that. When they ask me a second time, that’s fine, but once a guy asks me a third time about depth chart and where he stands, I begin to wonder what kind of competitor the guy is. We want to recruit the top talent, but there are some guys we won’t pursue because they’re not right for us”
“You have to be careful when hiring coaches and having TOO many NFL guys. All our guys have experience at the college level, but if you get NFL guys in bunches, they’re not used to chasing a 17 year old from Pahokee, Florida. I am. I’ve done that before. NFL guys aren’t used to getting down there and finding out that meeting a kid at 9, sometimes means 11. We are and we have experience with recruiting youngsters”
What are the core values you’d like your players to convey?
Coach Muschamp has been making reference to doing things the “right way” and the “Florida way”. By that he means his players living with the values of Trust, Respect, and Communication. Being worthy of trust and respect and being trustful and respectful themselves is very important to the coaching staff.
Coach Meyer and his staff brought some new traditions when he arrived, do you plan on keeping them or creating any new ones?
I like the idea of having the players in shirt and tie and having “an entrance” into the stadium. We plan on keeping the Gator Walk as well as singing the fight song and alma mater after the game. I don’t really know the words right now (attention has been focused elsewhere), but we plan on winning a lot of games, so I’m going to learn it soon enough.
After seeing your coaching style in past years, can we expect the same type of energy and animation from you as a Head Coach? Will there be any more head-butts in your future?
This question was prefaced with, “I’ve seen how you coach and I apologize for the things I said about you through the TV when you were at Auburn…” Coach Muschamp said, “the worst thing you can do is try to be something you’re not, or deny being who you are. That’s kind of who I am as a coach, regardless of position and I understand that I’m the steward of the program here; but I need to maintain who I am. I won’t know until we kick it off here, so we’ll see how it goes”.
Protect your head Coach Boom. We’re glad to have you and thanks for the hospitality.