Practice: March 26; The Passing Game

As Florida continues on its trek to improve over 15 spring practices, we continue to watch as permitted and tell you what we think. On offense the Gators are trying to establish a passing game that can far exceed the past few years' ineptness. On defense they want to keep on keeping on having to replace every starter in the secondary. Here is what we saw on Wednesday.


During a long practice guys are going to have some good and some bad plays. More of one or the other will determine whether that is a good practice or not, at least to our naked eyes. One thing you have to take out of what they are doing on the practice field is the speed at which they conduct practice and the amount of snaps they are getting in. The end result is a lot more repetitions and more film to study and get better.

Along these lines one thing I really like is the constant work that we see offensive coordinator Kurt Roper does with the quarterbacks. So much of the practice time is spent just going over certain throws and training their bodies to memorize the movements and actions of different passes, which in turn create automatic motions and more precise movements when they are called upon to perform those certain throws.

One in particular was just a flare pass with the quarterback dropping back. One of the other quarterbacks would stand at the line of scrimmage about 10 yards from the snap.

One of the issues the Gators have had over the last few years is the ability to hit the sideways pass, or the crossing pass in front of them and hit the receiver in motion. It really appears that this one thing is being worked on so much and we are seeing things happen when the offense meets the defense. We have seen several crossing patterns go for big yards this spring from several different receivers, simply because the receiver has a little bit of room, but more importantly the quarterback is hitting the receivers in stride.

On Wednesday we saw Quinton Dunbar, Ahmad Fulwood, Chris Thompson, Valdez Showers, and even tight ends Clay Burton and DeAndre Goolsby make big plays from nice routes, but balls that were really easy to catch on the run.

I think things like this are what is going to do the most for Jeff Driskel. He has to work on the touch passes so much, it is paying off. Now, it seems that the bad plays are more on dropped passes like the first beautiful one to Tevin Westbrook on a fade down the right sideline and Westbrook dropped the ball thrown right in his hands. He later hit Demarcus Robinson on a deep fade down the right sideline.

It appeared to me that Will Grier got several chances as the second quarterback on Wednesday. There were also some drills where Mornhinweg was the second guy, but Grier is getting a lot more action these days. He probably throws the best deep ball on the squad.

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Quinton Dunbar has had a really good spring and he continually gets lined up against Vernon Hargreaves. That is only making him better. Dunbar drew the praise from Roper on one simple slant route because of how Dunbar sold a different route before finishing the slant. He made Hargreaves miss badly and was wide open when the pass hit him in the hands.

Raph Andrades also had a good day. He caught a couple on the back of the end zone and also drew the praise form the coaching staff. On one play Jalen Tabor was covering well, but he made some space and went up to get the ball in the corner for a TD.

Valdez Showers was also getting a lot of nice praise from the offensive staff. He has become a common receiver for the quarterbacks.

Alvin Bailey made some good play, but he seemed to struggle more than in previous practices. He caught one pass and immediately dropped it upon being hit, drawing the ire of Joker Phillips.

Clay Burton seemed to have his best day as well. Burton has a great ability to draw contact inside 5-yards from the line of scrimmage and then create space from that contact. He did that twice for touchdowns on Saturday and completely frustrated Jabari Gorman with it.

Hunter Joyer is also another receiver that seems to be getting a lot of attention this spring. They love to throw the 16 yard DIG to Joyer right in the middle of a split secondary.

One unique formation was a four receiver set with trips on one side. They actually stacked the slot receivers in this formation and they ran a drag from the opposite side. It certainly was something for the defense to have to think about.

Play of the Day: I don't do this on every practice breakdown, but the play of the day was from fullback Gideon Ajagbe. Lined up as a split out tight end, but just barely away from the offensive line, Ajagbe ran a wheel route on the left side of the formation and was wide open. He made a diving catch of a deep ball from Will Grier and landed in the end zone.

Offensive Player of the Day: I will go with Driskel. He seems to be making good decisions and he is really gaining some touch on the deeper balls. There were a lot of times he couldn't throw the ball because everyone was covered, but he didn't try and push things into coverage like he has done in the past.


During one of the middle portions of practice on Wednesday, Muschamp lit up his back 7 guys. They were confused or running slow on a play and he wasn't happy. "You've been doing this for three years now!!" he screamed at his starters. That was kind of a wakeup call.

After a couple of nice plays on the offense, the defense forced five "tuck and runs" in a row from the three main quarterbacks.

The starting secondary consisted of Hargreaves and Tabor at corner, Maye and Gorman at safety, and Poole at NICKEL.

Nick Washington practiced at safety and was in a non-contact jersey. He must not be hurt bad, because he went through most everything. As Cody mentioned, Marqui Hawkins was moved to safety and he practiced back there as well.

As good as Hargreaves is, he is definitely finding it harder as the receivers are getting better. He still does big things in every practice and this was no exception.

A guy improving fast is Duke Dawson. The true freshman has been placed at NICKEL and he plays the game at a very high level. Twice today he drew the praise from the staff for his play. He doesn't back down and plays very physically.

I thought Jalen Tabor struggled on Saturday, but he seemed to step it up a little better on Wednesday. He seems more effective against smaller receivers right now. He did get an earful from Durkin on one play when he wasn't playing his zone.

While Gorman had a tough day against two of the tight ends, he was all over the field during TEAM and 7on7 drills. He broke up a couple of passes and sniffed out a screen to Pittman that went for no yards.

Player of the Day I am going to go with Dawson. His physical style really goes well with this defense and if he can show the ability to play the smaller and quicker receivers in the slot as well as the bigger and physical ones, he will really get some time on the field.

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