GAINESVILLE — It wasn't the ideal way to end spring drills. But turning Saturday's annual Orange and Blue Game into a regular practice because of injuries to several offensive linemen was "the best we could do under the circumstances," Florida coach Will Muschamp said.
Despite the far-from-traditional conclusion, Muschamp said he was pleased with the overall progress this spring. He said the Gators' progress until August's fall drills is up to the players.
"I told the players you will define your role on our football team as we move forward," he said. "We will have our exit interviews this week, sitting down with our guys and saying this is what you need to improve; be a coachable player, be a guy that understands coaching and what we are trying to tell you.
"Obviously, the things you do will take care of themselves. It's the things you need to work on — whether it's in the film room or on your own or in the weight room or out on the field — our guys have to take control of that."
Last year at this time, Jeff Driskel was battling for the starting quarterback job. Being the undisputed starter makes a world of difference, he said, and the junior is ready to take a leadership role this summer.
"It just settles you down," Driskel said. "You're not worried about making a mistake. You can go out and play.
"When you are watching film, when you go into meetings with your coach, you can ask questions and ask them to explain it and not be scared that they think you don't understand it. There's a lot of things that help out a lot. It's just more of a comfort level than anything."
Former Armwood High standout Matt Jones made such progress in establishing himself as the starting running back, he sat out a good portion of Saturday's practice to allow Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown more opportunities.
Jones played in 12 games as a freshman last season, finishing third on the team in rushing yards (275) and touchdowns (three).
"I'm very comfortable now," he said. "I feel like I know everything. I think I understand the concepts of the game and everything.
"And I feel very comfortable (more so) than last year."
Offensive line okay?
Although the offensive line has been hit hard by injuries in the spring, Muschamp said he expects the unit to be strong in the fall.
"You're talking about a mixture of eight guys who at the major college level have played very well and have played championship football," he said. "We feel very comfortable about where we are in August as opposed to April 6.
Former Countryside High star Tyler Moore, who transferred from Nebraska, said the time off from sitting out a season has been beneficial.
"Having that fall off didn't hurt too much," he said. "It just kind of helped my body recover a little bit."
Quarterback Chris Wilkes, who spent five seasons playing baseball in the Padres' system, told the Orlando Sentinel he will walk-on in the fall. Wilkes, from Orlando Dr. Phillips who turns 24 on Sept. 26, signed with Mississippi in 2008 but chose the Padres after they drafted him in the 22nd round.
Muschamp said he would have no more comment on last week's report that he paid an Auburn player $400 while defensive coordinator there in 2007.
"There's nothing to dignify any other response other than exactly what you've read," said Muschamp, who vehemently denied the allegation last week. "Exactly what you read."