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August 26, 2014

Notebook: Depth chart released, Harris earns nod



The winner of the backup quarterback battle has been decided - at least for now.

During his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, Florida coach Will Muschamp announced that freshman signal caller Treon Harris has surpassed fellow freshman Will Grier and redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg to assume the backup duties for Jeff Driskel in Florida's season opener against Idaho on Saturday.

Regardless, the backup quarterback race is a week-to-week battle, according to Muschamp.

"There's really no separation from the backup standpoint," Muschamp said. "We met through the weekend and talked moving forward and felt like Treon has some things he can provide for us offensively, but that's nothing that's made for the long term. No one's been redshirted. No decisions have been made with Will Grier, Skyler Mornhinweg or anyone else.

"Going into the first game we plan on playing Treon and could change in game two, could change in game three. It's a long season and both of those guys understand that situation."

Harris gained the edge because of his success in short-yardage situations and command of the offense as a dual-threat in fall camp. Muschamp would like to play him against the Vandals - at the earliest in the second quarter if the situation permits it.

"Again, he presents some things that may take some hits off Jeff," explained Muschamp. "It's a long season and that's something that certainly Treon's done before, but he's also a very accomplished passer and we've got a lot of confidence in him as far as continuing to do a lot of similar things we're going to do with Jeff, as well as Will can do, and Skyler as well."

Driskel has helped the young quarterbacks tune out the distractions that come with the stigma of a positional battle.

"I think there is a lot of talent behind me at quarterback," Driskel added. "I think Treon gives us a little bit more as far as short yardage packages or coming in wildcat kind of deals. They're going to keep coming. They'll continue to keep battling. I told all of the guys this isn't a permanent thing. Like you said, it's week to week. Just staying calm and keep getting better."

Depth chart released: Minutes after Muschamp's press conference, Florida released its official depth chart. There were certainly some surprises on there.

Clay Burton is listed above Virginia transfer Jake McGee at tight end, while the only eye-opener on the offensive line was Trip Thurman earning the starting nod at left guard over Tyler Moore.

Florida's stable of running backs is listed as "Kelvin Taylor or Matt Jones or Mack Brown." Although Brandon Powell is not present on the depth chart, Muschamp mentioned him as a player who can help the Gators' offense this year.

"Brandon Powell is a different back than all those guys because of what he can present in the passing game," he said. "He's very good in protection. He gives us certainly a different change up for what the other guys do very well. The other guys are good players. He's just a different talent, skill set, as opposed to what those other guys bring us."

Quinton Dunbar, Latroy Pittman and Ahmad Fulwood earned the starting receiver spots.

At cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and Brian Poole are listed as the starters on the outside, while Marcus Maye is the leader at nickel back with Poole backing him up. Florida's backup spots list Jalen Tabor behind Hargreaves and "J.C. Jackson or Quincy Wilson."

"Those guys will play on special teams during the game," Muschamp said of those three freshmen corners. "Depending on how they progress in practice during the week will determine how much corner they play."

Keanu Neal and Jabari Gorman are UF's starting safeties, while Duke Dawson is a definite second teamer. The other available spot is listed as "Nick Washington or Marcell Harris."

No decision has been made yet on punter or kicker, with both positions listed as "Austin Hardin or Francisco Velez" and "Kyle Christy or Johnny Townsend," respectively.

"We'd like to be able to get it done before game time, but I've got confidence in both guys, and both guys understand that," Muschamp said of his kickers. "Frankie has been very accurate from 30 in, Austin past that has a little stronger leg. Frankie was 1-1 in team competition during camp from 50-plus. I think both guys are very capable."

Drew Ferris is the starting long snapper, while Driskel will assume first-team holding duties.

Muschamp called Grier, Khairi Clark, Taven Bryan, DeAndre Goolsby "guys on the bubble," although no decisions concerning redshirts have been made yet.

Injury update: Muschamp said Tuesday that the redshirt sophomore nickel back Marcus Maye is questionable for Florida's season opener with a strained hamstring. Maye has missed the past week of practice with the injury and will not practice Tuesday, but Muschamp hopes he will return Wednesday.

Freshman left tackle David Sharpe (high-ankle sprain) will play Saturday. "He came back off his ankle last night," Muschamp said. "He's still a little gimpy but moved around pretty well."

Focused on Idaho: Muschamp said he plans to play nine true freshmen and eight to nine redshirt freshman against Paul Petrino's Vandals. He called Idaho, which went 1-11 last season, a four-down quarters team that does well at mixing up pressure on the defensive side of the ball.

"There will be some new wrinkles in any first game you're going to face," Muschamp said. "Offensively, very similar to what [Bobby Petrino's] done before. They're going to be very balanced in what they do in the run and the pass game with Paul. They do a nice job of free releasing the backs in a lot of situations and getting five out. You have to make sure you're covered down on every one. They create a lot of explosive plays because of that. If you don't cover down in what we call scat protection they'll get five people out on you quickly. You just have to make sure your matched up where you need to be.

"We're young in the secondary so we have to make sure those guys have their eyes where they're supposed to be and cover down on the guys as far as the receivers are. They have some explosive players. They have nine players from the state of Florida. So we need to go play well."



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