Week one of fall camp is almost in the books for the Florida Gators as they barrel towards their September 4 kickoff against the Florida Atlantic Owls.
Head coach Dan Mullen was in front of the microphone on Thursday as he provided a status report following the first week of camp.
“I think the training camp is going pretty well,” Mullen said. “We’re still in the installation phase of things right now. We’re going to continue to install through the weekend and the plan is to have our first scrimmage on Sunday.”
Mullen discussed the progress presumptive starting quarterback Emory Jones is making during camp so far.
“He obviously has a really good grasp of the offense,” Mullen said. “Been around a couple of years. I think it's really getting into more of how to function, how to use the offense, constantly on accuracy, balance, making all his different types of throws that he needs to make and then his comfort level of how to make plays and when to make plays.”
Mullen also addressed the loss of cornerback Jaydon Hill, who went down with a left ACL tear during camp. Hill has now torn both of his ACLs in his football career after he tore his right one in his senior year of high school.
Hill, a junior, was in line to be the starting corner opposite Kaiir Elam when the season kicks off next month. Mullen said it is obviously a huge disappointment for Hill, but he is confident he can come through stronger on the other side.
“You’re looking at a young guy that’s been through this once and came out on the positive end on the other side,” Mullen said. “I think he understands how to come through it, what he needs to do and how he can get through it and how it’ll improve.”
Mullen listed three names as possible replacements for Hill, two of whom are underclassmen.
“We have [Jadarrius] Perkins, transferred in, going to have an opportunity,” Mullen said. “Obviously, Avery Helm who I think is going to be extremely talented. Might just have to accelerate his career to get him on the field. [Ethan] Pouncey coming off the surgery is really kind of getting back to the player we thought he could be.”
Another hole on the roster in camp is at center. The Gators are trying to fill the void left by Brett Heggie, who held the job for the last three seasons. Mullen said a standout in camp has been redshirt-sophomore Kingsley Eguakun.
“Kingsley's really been a guy that's embraced it,” Mullen said “We rotate, in spring we rotate a lot of guys through because you've gotta have depth at that position. The other positions you've gotta block but there's an extra skill involved with the snap at that position so you want to create depth. He's a guy that really kind of jumped and embraced that role.”
Mullen said Eguakun is a guy that has left no doubts he wants to be the starter.
“Really, to me, his approach since last spring is, ‘I'm here to be the starting center,’” Mullen said. “I mean he's really approached it with that kind of attitude and mindset and it shows. With the mental aspect that goes with it, the leadership, he's embraced everything that comes with being the center and wanting to go be the starter.”
Mullen raved about Eguakun off the field as well, calling him “extremely intelligent.” Eguakun was named to the leadership council as a freshman and his coach said he is a great model of the type of player they want at Florida.
“He has a very high care factor,” Mullen said, “really loves being a Florida Gator, and represents the program well. When you look at some of, especially those things outside of that, it's guys that want to embrace those types of roles and he's someone who has wanted to do that.''
Junior Ethan White saw snaps at center last season and figures to be a contender in the competition as well.
Other news and notes:
--The Gators have updated some protocols due to the increased spread of the Delta variant. Mullen said the Gators are past the vaccination threshold where masks would be required, but their knowledge on the subject has suggested they should revert back to mask-wearing in tight spaces. However, the team is not mandating masks, only recommending them. The team is approaching a high-percentage vaccination rate but Mullen said the team is not at 100 percent yet.
“We're at a grade that you could bring home to your parents,” Mullen said, “you wouldn't have to hide that report card.”
--Mullen noted redshirt freshmen Fenley Graham and Demarkus Bowman are likely to be returning kicks this year. Elam and sophomore wide receiver Xzavier Henderson were named as possible punt returners. Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Ja’Markis Weston is a name Mullen mentioned he would like to see on returns.