GAINESVILLE, Fla. –Coaches relish preseason scrimmages because they provide an opportunity to evaluate players in game-day situations.
Florida coach Will Muschamp and his staff on Saturday get their first opportunity of fall camp to watch the Gators scrimmage. Undoubtedly Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease will keep a close eye on quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett.
While the quarterback battle between the pair of sophomores is the headliner of camp, there are several other position groups Muschamp wants to see tested.
The secondary, a spot deep in talent and players who have started in the past, is a focal point. So is the competition at offensive line and receiver according to Muschamp.
The scrimmage is not open to the media or public, but Florida’s practice at The Swamp on Aug. 18 is open to fans.
“The first groups, we need to go let them play,’’ Muschamp said Friday. “We’ve got a collection of guys who need to go out and play on their own, not have a coach let them know where to line up, what to do, where to shift, where to motion, where your eyes need to be. We need to get off the field and let them play.
“That’s what I’m looking for.”
Muschamp said the competition in the secondary is intense. The starting cornerbacks are undetermined, and considering the significant dime and nickel packages the Gators will use, Muschamp is looking for a top six in the secondary that is flexible.
Safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans are experienced in the middle of the field but need help on the outside from a group that includes corners Marcus Roberson, Cody Riggs, Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins.
The players understand why Saturday is important.
“It’s all fair now,’’ Purifoy said. “We are all competing. Jobs are open.”
That attitude has permeated throughout the first week of camp.
“Everybody is competing. Everybody is giving full effort. Everybody is doing what the coaches ask of them,’’ reserve linebacker Michael Taylor said. “It’s a healthy environment out there.”
Muschamp said “competition is the best motivator” he knows of as a coach. He wants to see that competition develop into execution on Saturday.
Nowhere will that be more important than at quarterback. With Driskel and Brissett more comfortable in Pease’s pro-style offense heavy in shifts and motions than in the spring, Muschamp is looking for specific results on from the duo.
“Scoring points, moving our football team, taking care of the ball,’’ Muschamp said. “Those would be key points. We have purposely let them manage and get our offensive staff of the field. Both guys have had their moments when they really shine. I am very pleased with their progress and how they have done some things offensively.”
Here are a few notes from Muschamp’s press conference on Friday:
NOT FITTING IN
Muschamp addressed the news Friday that redshirt sophomore receiver Ju’Juan Story plans to transfer from the program.
Story, projected as a reserve receiver, did not catch a pass in the spring game after sitting out last season.
“He just didn’t feel like he was fitting,’’ Muschamp said. “He had done an outstanding job as a student here, close to a 3.0. He just felt like he needed to transfer. Sometimes that happens.”
Muschamp said defensive lineman Nick Alajajian (fractured right knee) will miss the season, adding that he is uncertain if Alajajian will seek another year of eligibility … Defensive end Kedric Johnson (left knee dislocation) is out indefinitely after going down in practice earlier this week … Receiver Stephen Alli (stress fracture in leg) is still not ready and cornerback Jeremy Brown (wrist) remains hopeful of being cleared for football activity Sept. 1 … RB Chris Johnson (sprained neck) has returned to drills after sitting out earlier in the week.
TIGHT ENDS ADJUSTING
With A.C. Leonard no longer in the picture, questions about depth behind starting tight end Jordan Reed surfaced prior to camp.
Muschamp isn’t too concerned about that being an issue. He said Friday that Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook have showed promise behind Reed and that Trey Burton and Omarius Hines, listed on the roster as running backs, are also getting reps in different formations at tight end.
“Those guys will all figure into that role. We’ll be fine,’’ Muschamp said. “You always go into the season preparing for what you have on campus.”
QUOTE OF NOTE
“After Saturday, we’ll start to settle in a little bit, not necessarily of ranking depth chart, but total reps of guys at certain positions.’’ – Muschamp on work to solidify positions