Muschamp, Gators looking to put 2013 behind them

Ben Cook

March 24, 2014 at 11:50 am.

The return of Jeff Driskel will be big for the Gators. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Florida opened spring football last week and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Will Muschamp and his team.

The Gators were anxious to get back on the practice field so they could put the disaster that was the 2013 season behind them.

“I don’t know that you can put the season behind you,” Muschamp told “You need to have a good memory for that and not let it happen again. We’ve talked about those sorts of things, but our guys are hungry, our guys are working hard.

“At the end of the day you ‘shut up and have a good memory.’ That’s kind of been our motto around here. You get knocked down like we were last year, you just shut up and go to work.”

And that’s exactly what the Gators are trying to do this spring after going 4-8 a year ago.

“Really at this time of the year, there are a couple of things you’re looking for: a belief and confidence in what we’re doing; I see that with our team. Ownership of the team; I feel good about that. Generally, what you put in is what you get out. I think our guys are putting in a lot right now and I’m pleased with where we are,” Muschamp said.

The problem with Florida was offense, or lack of it. The Gators ranked dead last in the SEC in scoring offense (18.8 points per game). Hopefully a healthy Jeff Driskel at quarterback will go a long way toward solving that problem.

“Jeff’s been exposed to a lot since he’s been here, schematically, so he’ll be able to adjust well,” Muschamp said. “I think he’s more comfortable in the gun. A lot of the reason why we went to this [quick-tempo offense] was because of Jeff.”

The Gators also have top quarterback recruit Will Grier, the 2013 prep National Player of the Year, already on campus and going through spring drills.

Running back Matt Jones is hoping to be healthy this fall although he is not going through spring drills as he recovers from a knee injury that he suffered last season.

So the offense Florida will put on the field this fall is not actually going to be on display this spring, but the defense will once again be a focus.

The defensive line lost Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell, who decided to forego his eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. But juniors Dante Fowler Jr. and Jonathan Bullard could be ready to step in and be leaders along with seniors Darious Cummings and Leon Orr, although Orr is missing spring due to a fractured wrist.

The linebacking position was a problem last season and injuries are keeping Matt Rolin, Jeremi Powell and Alex Anzalone out of spring football. The guys who are healthy include Michael Taylor, Neiron Ball and Antonio Morrison.

“Those guys work hard. Those guys have a good work ethic,” Muschamp said. “Those guys realize we need to be more productive at the position than we were a year ago.”

The Gators lost cornerbacks Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy, Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs. But Florida has recruited the secondary well in the past and returns talented cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was a freshman All-American last season, to the mix.

Another area that has to improve is the kicking game.

“We’ve got to get that fixed,” Muschamp said.

Florida’s coach doesn’t have any concerns about the punting game as long as Johnny Townsend and Kyle Christy are on campus.

“Johnny and Kyle both have NFL legs,” Muschamp said. “Those guys will punt on Sunday. We just need to let those guys battle it out, and that will be good for our football team.”

Things are looking better at Florida, but the Gators have to keep working hard this spring for improved results this fall.

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