The Gators will hold their first scrimmages of the early practice sessions Saturday and head coach Will Muschamp said he is looking to see what players can do once they pull coaches off the practice field.
The quarterback battle between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel is an ongoing topic and Muschamp said neither quarterback has separated himself as the main guy after a week of practice, and he also has no timetable for naming a starter for the Sept. 1 (3:30 p.m., ESPN) opener against Bowling Green.
Saturday’s scrimmage will serve as an key evaluation period for coaches to see how the two players have progressed after 10 days of practice.
“Scoring points, moving our football team, taking care of the ball … those will be key points,” Muschamp said of the quarterback evaluation. “We have purposely let them manage and gotten our offensive staff off the field.
“They need to manage our team and I think both guys have done a really nice job of that and I think both guys have had their moments when they’ve really shined and both have had moments where we probably could be better in some areas. But I’m very pleased with their progress and how they’ve done some things offensively.”
That evaluation process will not be solely focused on the QBs, however, as position battles across the Gators’ lineup continue to please the coaching staff. The progress of players in the defensive backfield has been an area with which the coaching staff has been particularly pleased.
Muschamp said several defensive backs have shown the ability to compete at a high level and the Gators will need that kind of depth with their reliance on the nickel- and dime-package defensive sets.
“As much nickel and dime as we play, we’re going to get the best five or six DBs on the field,” Muschamp said. “It’s not necessarily about who’s winning at the left corner position. It’s who are our best five guys today, who are our best six guys today, who are our best seven guys today.
“Let’s get those guys ready to play and then we kind of narrow that number down as we move closer to the season. But at the end of the day, if you are a starter in our dime package, you’re a starter. If you’re a starter in our nickel package, you’re a starter. We played over 70 percent nickel last year, so five DBs start for us. We’ll play some teams this year where we’ll be in nickel the whole game.”
Safeties like Pop Saunders, Matt Elam, Jabari Gorman, Josh Evans, Valdez Showers and Rhaheim Ledbetter all drew praise from Muschamp on Friday. He also said freshman Brian Poole, has been seeing extended time at safety after being recruited as a corner, and Saunders too has been seeing double duty.
On the corners, Muschamp said he is happy with all four players he has vying for considerable playing time in Cody Riggs, Louchiez Purifoy, Jaylen Watkins, and Marcus Roberson, a starter for 10 games last year before being injured. Roberson is back and not missing a beat, said Muschamp.“Competition is our best motivator and those guys are all competing,” Muschamp said. “Based on the performance of the previous day, [that’s] who runs out there with the first group … during practice if you continue to play at a high level, you stay out there and if you don’t, somebody else comes and gets you. We've got great motivation and we haven’t said a word as coaches and it’s great.
“I want to get off the field and let them play and that’s what Saturday is for … to let those guys get out and execute and play and make plays and communicate and do things you gotta do to be successful, and that’s what I’m looking for Saturday,” Muschamp added.Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.