GAINESVILLE — Last year at this time Florida was well on its way to becoming a team with almost more injured starters than healthy ones. So after 15 straight practices this year, coach Will Muschamp said today's planned two-hour final open practice will begin at 11 a.m. and last approximately an hour. Players will wear helmets, no pads.
The Gators have had only minor injuries, most recently a high ankle sprain for OL David Sharpe on Friday morning. Bryan Cox (shoulder sprain) is the only other player expected to miss today's practice. RB Matt Jones and OL Trip Thurman will return today. The Gators will get their first day off since Aug. 4 on Sunday, and the coaching staff will begin serious consideration about roster spots.
"The guys that are producing and playing well and doing it the way we want to do it, those are the guys that'll play," Muschamp said.
fowler's fine: Junior DL Dante Fowler said he was fine after being designated no contact for a couple of practices with a sore shoulder. "It was nothing big," Fowler said. Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin have praised Fowler, a Lakewood High alum, for his growing leadership role. "I view myself as one of the team leaders, one of the guys that give great advice to the young guys or anybody," Fowler said. "I'm still learning how to become a leader, still maturing and things like that."
USF: High Harris hope
TAMPA — For USF sophomore LB Nigel Harris, the past year has been a whirlwind.
Last season the former Hillsborough High standout was forced into the spotlight as a true freshman in Week 3 against Florida Atlantic when he made his first career start in place of injured Reshard Cliett. He had a team-high 12 tackles, which earned him six more starts. He finished with 35 total tackles and one forced fumble in 12 games.
After adding 30 pounds of muscle in the offseason, he has emerged as a centerpiece in the Bulls' new 3-4 defensive scheme.
Linebackers coach Raymond Woodie complimented Harris' work ethic: "He has a huge upside. If he just keeps improving, he has a chance to be an all-conference player, in my opinion."
CHECK IT OUT: USF's Fan Fest is from noon-3 p.m. today at Corbett Soccer Stadium on campus. The free event features interactive games for kids and autograph and picture opportunities with players and coaches from all fall sports.
Jeff Odom, Times correspondent
UM: LB experiment
CORAL GABLES — Freshman David Njoku arrived at Miami as one of the highest-rated athletes in the 2014 signing class, and early expectations were that he'd play wide receiver, something he did at New Jersey's Cedar Grove High.
But Friday, Njoku had a new number and worked out with the linebackers, a group that was thinned this summer after the dismissals of Alex Figueroa and Jawand Blue. Coach Al Golden said the Hurricanes wanted to see if the versatile Njoku would be better suited to playing on defense but the move wasn't permanent.
"David is kind of a hybrid for us," Golden said. "We're just trying to look at some guys in different spots."
South Florida Sun Sentinel
FSU: Clearer focus
TALLAHASSEE — Some of Florida State's position races are coming into focus.
Coach Jimbo Fisher said senior Karlos Williams has cemented himself as the clear-cut No. 1 running back. He is the only back with game experience but faced competition from sophomore Mario Pender and freshman Dalvin Cook.
Sophomore LB E.J. Levenberry had surpassed junior Reggie Northrup, and punter Cason Beatty's job is safe for now, Fisher said. A stretch of inconsistency had led to speculation that Beatty could be overtaken, but walk-on Jonathan Hernandez hasn't been able to outperform him.