Even though the Gators are only one week into their preseason camp, plenty of things about this young team have begun to emerge.
Here’s a camp update:
* Quarterback depth is a lot better than anyone thought it would be last winter. John Brantley is having a strong camp and is the clear starter. Redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy has shown he can manage and move the offense. True freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett have been impressive and are pushing Murphy for the backup role. Driskel has a much better understanding of the offense than he did coming out of the spring. Brissett is a little behind Driskel because he did not arrive until this summer, but by all accounts, he’s an excellent passer with a big-time arm — and a great fit in Charlie Weis’ offense.
* Everyone talks about how Weis prefers a big, physical tailback in his offense, but the little guys — Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps — have sprinted to the top of the depth chart in camp. Rainey and Demps have tremendous speed and Weis is getting them out on the edge, where they’ve made some long runs. If the Gators are a threat on the ground, it’s going to open all kinds of opportunities in the play-action passing game.
* Frankie Hammond Jr. has been the Gators’ best and most consistent receiver thus far. Will Muschamp said earlier in the week that he’s been the complete package in terms of catching, blocking, running routes and making plays. Deonte Thompson and Quinton Dunbar have been the best down-field threats. The coaches are still waiting for some of the other receivers to emerge, although Muschamp made it sound earlier in the week that Andre Debose has started to make a move.
* Depth on the offensive line, especially at tackle, remains a huge concern, although the coaches are feeling better about what the Gators have at the guard and center spots. The addition of Notre Dame transfer Dan Wenger, who can play all three inside positions, has been a tremendous plus.
* Even though A.C. Leonard is out after undergoing knee surgery, the Gators still plan to use a two tight end package this season. That nugget came from TE Gerald Christian on Thursday, who said the package gives the Gators a lot of options in both the running and passing game. Weis has shown in the past that he will feature his tight end (or ends), so we’ll see plenty of Jordan Reed and Christian this fall.
* Florida’s defensive front seven has a chance to be pretty dominant — if the Gators can stay healthy. Those five-star prospects who are now sophomores (Sharrif Floyd, Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley) have grown into major players. The same can be said of linebacker Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins — both of whom have come into their own and now are defensive leaders.
* Muschamp has expressed little or no concern about the inexperience in the secondary, saying he prefers athleticism to experience. This group is fast and athletic. Here’s one reason why Muschamp might be feeling so good about the secondary: true freshmen Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy have performed at a high level and have brought depth to the cornerback positions. Who knows, Roberson might even end up starting at the corner opposite junior Jeremy Brown.
* When the Gators added Boston College commitment Graham Stewart to the 2011 signing class, many speculated whether he was good enough to play linebacker in the SEC. Apparently he’s already answered that question. Muschamp and several of the defensive players have praised the early work of Stewart, saying he’s a physical and athletic guy who has a chance to play this season.
* Jaylen Watkins has emerged as one of the key players in the secondary. He can play corner and both safety positions and is expected to see extensive playing time. Redshirt freshman safety Josh Shaw also has had an excellent camp thus far.
* Jeremy Brown, safety Josh Evans and strong safety Matt Elam have emerged as the leaders in the secondary.