The Florida Gators are one week deep into fall camp and seven days closer to the regular season taking place. Ladies and gentlemen, football is back.
The first week of camp usually gets off to a slow start, as players are just getting back into the daily grind and rhythm of the upcoming season. However, there are a few interesting updates and one scary report that just came out of Gainesville.
Florida is 22 days away from the regular season kicking off, but who’s counting?
The biggest news of Florida’s fall camp so far was the injury to star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. You can just hear a collective gasp throughout the Gator community.
According to Iliana Limon Romero of the Orlando Sentinel, Hargreaves injured his knee after a scuffle broke out between defensive backs and wide receivers.
Trainers put ice on Hargreaves’ knee and carted him off the field. Florida fans can breathe a little easier knowing that their top defensive player’s injury isn’t as serious as initially thought.
Update from @CoachWMuschamp: “An MRI revealed that Vernon Hargreaves suffered a bone bruise and he is listed as day to day.”— GatorZone Football (@GatorZoneFB) August 8, 2014
Florida experienced countless injuries last season, and the last thing it needed was for its top player to miss a significant amount of time. A serious injury would have doomed the season before it even began. Granted, a bone bruise is painful and will keep him out of practice for a while, but it certainly beats a torn ACL or anything broken.
As for the scuffle, it just goes to show that players are competing at the highest level and excited for the season to begin. As a coach, you like players to get a little testy during practice. However, this close call is going to remind everybody that they need to use their heads a little more before lashing out.
Only a week into practice and there’s a lot of love going on for quarterback Jeff Driskel.
Florida open practice over. A few observations: Jeff Driskel had a good night, looked really comfortable.— Cody Jones (@CJonesScout) August 8, 2014
Driskel seems to have adjusted nicely to the shotgun formation, a style of offense that will benefit him more under offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. He struggled a little bit with the transition in the spring game, often getting happy feet and simply looking uncomfortable when the pressure got to him.
Muschamp likes what he sees from the Gators' starting quarterback.
Muschamp: I thought Jeff (Driskel) looked really good.— Robbie Andreu (@RobbieAndreu) August 5, 2014
Muschamp: Driskel is more comfortable in the shotgun. That's the bottom line. Going to new offense was best for us.— Robbie Andreu (@RobbieAndreu) August 3, 2014
Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports considered Driskel one of his top performers of Florida’s most recent practice:
Driskel was sharp throughout the evening, though there were still a handful of passes he could have put better touch on. In early two-minute work, he connected with freshman tight end DeAndre Goolsby for a 20-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone over a defender. Later in pass skeleton work, he floated a perfect corner route to the left sideline between two defenders to Valdez Showers. He also connected with tight end Jake McGee on a 35-yard touchdown pass between two defenders on a slightly underthrown ball. In 11-on-11 work, he hit receiver Demarcus Robinson on a 35-yard touchdown pass on a fly down the right sideline.
Driskel threw more touchdowns in that paragraph than he did all of last season. If he can continue to mature in this offense and find the end zone on a consistent basis, there’s no question the Gators will be a team to pay attention to this season.
Running Back Depth
While so much attention has been given to Driskel and the quarterback position, it seems like a lot of folks are ignoring Florida’s situation at running back.
It’s good and deep. One Florida player considers the backfield to be elite status, per Thomas Goldkamp.
"I would look at top to bottom and just like, I couldn't be a coach and have to decide this person is gonna start and this person is going to start," offensive tackle D.J. Humphries said.
Kelvin Taylor added about 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason and is a lot faster than he was as a freshman. Taylor is now pretty confident he would beat his father, Fred Taylor, in a race, according to Robbie Andreu of Gainesville.com:
“Somebody tweeted something like, 'Did Kelvin Taylor steal some of his dad's speed this summer?'” Taylor said. “I feel like I've gotten a whole lot faster, working with the speed program we had this summer and just training hard, working really hard.”
Florida has also experienced the return of Matt Jones, who looks sharp in camp after missing spring ball with an injury.
The running backs are in great shape, especially Matt Jones. Powell appears very quick— Robbie Andreu (@RobbieAndreu) August 7, 2014
Matt Jones looks like he’s moving real well.— Richard Johnson (@RagjUF) August 8, 2014
On paper, Florida has one of the better backfields in the country, and if it lives up to its potential, it would be good enough to help improve this offense drastically from a year ago.
All positive vibes so far from the Florida Gators.
Check out Nick Washington interviewing some of his teammates. Spoiler alert: You'll learn something about Michael Taylor you never knew before.
Until next week.