Gators tinkering with offensive personnel

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The time for tinkering has begun.

Now that Florida nears the end of the second week of preseason practices, coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease have begun making adjustments to the offense.

Freshman running backs Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane have gotten more work in Matt Jones' absence, safety Valdez Showers has spent time on offense, and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy will work at receiver again this week.

The Purifoy move has been planned, but the others are partly because there's still no word on when Jones (viral infection) will be cleared to resume practicing.

"We met Saturday night after the scrimmage, as a staff, [and] we kind of talked about our roster," Muschamp said. "My question to our staff is, 'Who can you count on? Who can we win with? Who do you have confidence in?' It's not always necessarily Aug. 31 [for the season opener]. It's throughout the entire season and understanding that maybe some of the younger guys don't know what to do right now, but athletically, they are guys we need to be coaching and developing for the season."

Two of those guys are the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Taylor and the 5-7, 222-pound Lane. Redshirt junior Mack Brown is working as UF's No. 1 tailback, but Taylor and Lane are getting additional reps. It's especially beneficial for Lane, who would have been fourth on the depth chart had Jones been healthy. Instead, he's getting the work that likely would have fallen to Taylor as the No. 3 back.

"[Taylor] put it on the ground last night, and that's something we can’t have happen," Muschamp said. "But, again, very pleased with his progress. He's very quick in his lower body, gets it north and south, and he runs the way we want it to be run at Florida.

"Adam's done some nice things. He's a guy that’s really a tough guy to tackle. There's not a lot of soft spots on him."

The Gators are also taking a look at the 5-11, 190-pound Showers, who wasn't making much headway at safety. He was a running back and cornerback at Detroit Madison, where he rushed for 3,596 yards and 49 touchdowns in his final two seasons.

Muschamp said he envisions Showers filling the same role that Omarius Hines did the past two seasons.

"We experimented with it on the scrimmage, and I thought he did some nice things carrying the ball," Muschamp said. "Vertically he can do some good things in the run game, and we're going to look at that over the next three, four days and sort of see where that takes us."

That's additional insurance should Jones not be ready for the Aug. 31 season opener against Toledo. Muschamp said Jones has begun some cardio work but added there's still no timetable for Jones' return to practice. He didn't rule out the possibility of Jones missing more than one game.

"That may be a reality, but I don't know that," he said. "I talked to one of the doctors at [UF Health] Shands, and he said when you're dealing with the human body you never know. You don't know how he's going to respond and how quickly. He said the great thing is he's young, and he was in great shape. It knocked him down a little bit, but he's a guy who's going to respond very quickly."

Purifoy's move to offense was planned before preseason practices began. He was to spend the first 12 practices on defense so the staff could get a look at the young receivers and see if the veterans had improved. Muschamp said they have, particularly redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar, senior Trey Burton and senior Solomon Patton.

In addition, he said he's pleased with the development of freshmen Demarcus Robinson, who enrolled early and participated in spring practice, and Ahmad Fulwood, who at 6-4 gives the Gators a big downfield target.

The 6-1, 185-pound Purifoy spent half of spring practice at receiver. The move was done to take advantage of his athleticism and ball skills, but he's limited in what he can do, because he's still learning the offense and route adjustments. He saw spot duty at receiver late last season but pretty much just ran fly routes.

If Muschamp's praise for the receivers is warranted, then Purifoy might not spend much time on offense this fall.