Open practice observations: Skill positions

The Gators took to The Swamp on Saturday morning for their first practice after a scrimmage on Friday. As expected, things weren't as crisp as they were during Thursday's open practice. The Florida offense didn't have the same success it did on Thursday as the veteran secondary put the clamps on the passing game.

Jeff Driskel put on a show on Thursday. He was in rhythm and in charge of the offense. The leadership angle was still easy to see on the field Saturday, but his throws weren't as sharp. He overthrew open receivers on fly routes multiple times and throw interceptions in the end zone during the seven-on-seven red zone portion of practice.

The junior still had plenty of positive. He went through his reads on Saturday, checking through the rest of his receivers when the first option was covered. One example came on a third and short. Driskel looked in the flat to his left for Solomon Patton, only to see him covered.

Driskel wasn't as sharp on Saturday

He then looked for Clay Burton still at the first down marker in the middle of the field, but he was covered, too. That's when he saw Quinton Dunbar streaking down the middle of the field on a post route. He hit him in stride for a big gain. It's only the second open practice of the fall, but it's hard to remember a game when Driskel did that in the fall.

Behind Driskel, it wasn't pretty.

Tyler Murphy probably had the best day and looks capable of running the offense if Driskel gets hurt, but it would look drastically different. He doesn't have the arm strength but had good touch on short throws Saturday.

It was a mixed bag for Skyler Mornhinweg and Max Staver, mostly bad. Staver was inconsistent throughout, bouncing an easy passes in front of him before throwing a beautiful deep ball right on the money during the next play. Staver threw two deep balls that could've have been placed any better, but still showed struggled with more basic throws. Mornhinweg didn't have many positives.

Running back Matt Jones was on the field to watch about 20 minutes of practice in gym shorts and a t-shirt. He was joking around and having fun with teammates.

The running game wasn't featured much on Saturday, likely because the coaches billed Friday's scrimmage as a physical one. They worked on pass blocking and receiving out of the backfield with mixed results. As expected, the freshmen -- Adam Lane and Kelvin Taylor -- struggled pass blocking. Lane also struggled catching passes out of the backfield.

Valdez Showers was in a non-contact jersey on Thursday, but he was wearing blue on Saturday, signaling that he was all on the offensive side of the ball. The Omarius Hines role for him is clear. He caught passes out of the backfield, worked in the option game with the quarterback and will be a versatile weapon if he proves trustworthy over the next two weeks of practice.

It's also noteworthy that walk-on running back Mark Herndon continues to get reps with the first team.

The top two receivers were Quinton Dunbar and Demarcus Robinson. Dunbar ran a post route and caught a ball thrown perfectly by Driskel over the outstretched arms of a defensive back for a touchdown. Robinson continued to impress, pulling down a one-handed catch in red zone drills.

Robinson is an immediate impact receiver

It's a fairly steep drop after Dunbar and Robinson, but others are making a push. Raphael Andrades made a few nice catches downfield. Solomon Patton continues to run more diverse routes than last year and carried the ball once on Saturday on an end around. Latroy Pittman had some drops and has been a non-factor in the two open practices.

The tight ends didn't do much either. Kent Taylor made a nice grab for a touchdown on a perfect throw by Driskel, but that was the highlight for the position.

The Florida linebackers had an interesting day. Working in coverage drills while going one-on-one with running backs, Michael Taylor struggled. He went up against Kelvin Taylor, who faked left and cut right, leaving Taylor way behind him trying to figure out what happened. It's clear Taylor's strength isn't in coverage.

I really like the look of Neiron Ball in the middle of the defense. He has added weight to help him in the middle of the field and that speed can be a real weapon. He made multiple nice plays in one-on-one coverage with a running back in a drill that greatly benefits the offensive players. Alex Anzalone was used as a pass rusher off the edge on Saturday.

The Florida secondary dominated Saturday's practice. Marcus Roberson was up and down on Thursday, but he came out on Saturday and locked down every receiver he faced. Loucheiz Purifoy did the same. This is why the Florida offense is tough to judge right now with two lockdown cornerbacks. Purifoy and Roberson are the real deal.

Roberson will have a big year

Brian Poole is a guy we haven't heard much about this year, but he had an interception in the red zone seven-on-seven and still figures to be the starting nickel, according to Muschamp on Friday.

Marcus Maye continued his strong spring with an interception of Driskel in the end zone. He moves well for a guy his size and is always around the ball. He and Jabari Gorman were the first team safeties with Jaylen Watkins (foot) out on Saturday.

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