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August 3, 2014
Notebook: Backup battle is on
PARTING THOUGHTS: MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
With the beginning of fall camp just one day away and Florida looking to put 2013 behind them, fourth-year Gators coach Will Muschamp will have plenty of decisions to make regarding his roster.
On Sunday, during the team's media day, he reiterated that the backup quarterback spot is one of the many position battles without a winner just yet.
"We'll decide that as we get through training camp," Muschamp said. "You've just got to get another guy ready and that's what we plan on doing. Who that will be, I don't know, and what sort of package we will have for him, I have no idea at this time."
The three leading candidates in the race for the backup job behind starter Jeff Driskel are redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg and freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris.
Out of the trio, Mornhinweg is the only one who has taken a collegiate snap, starting the final three games of last year - losses to South Carolina, Georgia Southern and FSU. While Mornhinweg does not have the arm strength of Grier or the athleticism of Harris, he thinks his experience is his biggest selling point.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Mornhinweg said of the competition. "They're two very good quarterbacks.
"I've just got to be on top of my game. I've got to make the right decisions with the ball. Ball security is a real point they've stressed coming into this season, so just take care of the ball, make my reads and make some plays, definitely."
The Gators will certainly need some insurance this season behind Driskel and have plenty of depth at quarterback. Muschamp knows how much that means, especially after injuries ravaged the unit in 2013.
"If we stay healthy at the quarterback position," he said, "we're going to win a bunch of games."
According to Muschamp, whoever wins the backup job will see action in the season opener.
Injury update: Freshman cornerback J.C. Jackson (shoulder) will participate in fall camp but only in non-contact drills for the first 7-10 days. Jackson suffered the injury while in high school and underwent surgery in April.
"He's far ahead of where we thought he would be," Muschamp said of Jackson.
After missing the 2013 season with a torn ACL he suffered in last year's fall camp, redshirt freshman linebacker Matt Rolin will be cleared to participate, although in limited fashion. The same goes for redshirt senior receiver Andre Debose, who also suffered a torn ACL prior to the season.
"Always in those situations," Muschamp said, "you want to make sure those guys are fully ready to go."
Muschamp added that junior running back Matt Jones, who suffered a season-ending meniscus tear in October after first battling a virus at the beginning of last year's campaign "looks really good." Jones weighs 233 pounds - about 10 more pounds than he did last season, which is all in muscle.
"He's healthy, he's in shape, he's excited," Muschamp said. "He's itching to get started."
Added Jones: "I got bigger, faster, stronger. I actually feel like two steps ahead, coming back from the injury and stuff, so I feel good."
The No. 1 thing: Throughout the off-season, Muschamp has emphasized one stat above all else to his squad: turnover margin.
"In my three years at Florida, we've been 19-3 when we've won or tied the turnover margin. We've been 3-13 when we've lost the turnover margin," Muschamp said. "That's a team stat. It's not just about offense taking care of the ball. Defensively, getting the ball off people. We haven't been explosive enough offensively to overcome turnovers, and I think we will be this year.
"We've got to take care of the ball. That's the No. 1 thing."
During Florida's 4-8 campaign in 2013, it was minus-2 in turnover margins and a combined minus-7 in losses. The Gators won the turnover battle in only two of their seven losses. They won or tied it in all of their victories.