“One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity.”
Florida Gator head football coach Will Muschamp
Most of the time when a coach speaks, particularly to the media we chalk it up “coach speak”. In other words, generic phrases used by coaches that sound wonderful but in reality have much less meaning. When coach Muschamp uttered that phrase in his Monday morning media session, it wasn’t purely coach speak. The truth of the matter is that injuries happen all the time in the game of football. As much as fans cringe when they hear the news of injuries particularly to experienced starters, there are players behind them on the depth chart that need to see it as their opportunity.
So it was in preseason camp when fifth year senior Andre Debose went down with a season ending injury. A blow to a wide receiver corps that was already lacking in experience and depth? Yes. However, to young guys like sophomores Raph Andrades and Latroy Pittman as well as true freshman Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Floyd, and Chris Thompson it’s an opportunity. There are only so many practice reps and game snaps to go around. When a man goes down it gives another player reps or playing time they may not have gotten otherwise. It’s always disappointing when an experienced player goes down, but it means it’s incumbent upon backups to step up their level of play and gives them the opportunity to shine. Of the above mentioned guys, it appears the three freshman have taken the most advantage of their opportunity and moved ahead of the sophomores on the depth chart released yesterday.
“Well I don’t know that they (Andrades and Pittman) were lost in the shuffle,” Muschamp said on Monday. “But they are guys who were told before camp that they need to be productive. You know we have some good players coming in, I don’t care about where you are from or what class you are, the most productive guys will play. Those guys have been a little bit more productive.”
One man’s misfortune… is another man’s opportunity.
Take Mack Brown and Mark Herndon, as another example. Clear cut starting running back Matt Jones missed all of preseason camp due to a viral infection that ravaged him and dropped fifteen pounds off his frame. With Jones out, it gave heralded true freshman Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane opportunity to showcase their skills much like Robinson and Floyd did at wide receiver. Only they weren’t as successful. Fourth year junior running back Mack Brown and former walk-on Mark Herndon stepped up in Jones absence and secured their place in the rotation as starter and backup in Jones’ absence. Will they stay there? That remains to be seen on how they perform in game action. For their part, Muschamp believes there will be no drop off from Jones to Brown. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease might not be so convinced.
“I think schemewise, what we do, it probably stays the same,” Pease said on Tuesday. “But I think how we go about it, it probably changes it because Matt was going to be tired after every game. Now, I don’t know. We’ll see. See who kind of has the hot hand. We’ve got guys who kind of get used at roles. They’ve got to embrace their role. If they want more of their role then do a good job.”
As for the two true freshman?
“I think they factor into the game plan. When you say game plan, once again they’ve got to understand their role. Will they be in there? They have the opportunity. Is the game plan built around them? Probably not right now, but we’ll see.”
Another injury created some opportunity as well. Senior captain and right offensive guard Jon Halapio also sat out the entire preseason camp with a torn pectoral muscle. His injury gave the staff the opportunity to cross train younger and newer players giving them much stronger depth than they’ve had in Muschamp’s two years. Transfer Tyler Moore, projected starter at right tackle, will be filling in at right guard in Halapio’s absence proving his versatility. Chaz Green, who had been having his best camp according to the staff was expected to start at right tackle while Moore is at right guard and was expected to provide solid depth at both tackle spots but now is out for the season after suffering an injury to his labrum that will require season ending surgery.
His loss creates even more opportunity on the offensive line for junior college transfer Trenton Brown who will move into the backup spot at right tackle behind Moore. It also helps younger guys like Trip Thurman, Ian Silberman, and Kyle Koehne who get more reps and are also being cross trained at various spots on the line. Of all the injuries, this one is the easiest for the Gators to recover from due to their improved depth this season.
“We still feel good where we’re at (on the offensive line),” Pease said. “I feel bad about Chaz because Chaz was having his best (camp) since I’ve been here. His best practice habits, his best practice time. We were kind of expecting good things from him. You take a hit in the depth because of the experience that he does have but other guys need to understand that it’s time to step up. The old saying goes “carry the flag”. Someone’s down, the next guy’s got to step up. I think kids have done that, I think they need to see their opportunity and go with it.”
“We feel we’ve got 8, 9 guys we can play with right now,” Pease added. “And that’s a lot better than where we were last year. We’re going to be fine.”
Halapio down, opportunity for other’s to step up. Chaz Green down, opportunity for other’s to step up.
One man’s misfortune, is another man’s opportunity.
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