Practice observations: Passing game

Florida’s first open practice featured an impressive debut for Kurt Roper’s new offense, but the scene changed when Vernon Hargreaves III went down with an injury.

The injury occurred during a fight between the Florida secondary and wide receivers. The groups were facing off during a drill on the furthest field away from the seating area at the practice field, making it difficult to see which players were involved or how the fight started.

However, after a group of 20-30 players came together during the fight, Vernon Hargreaves III limped out of the fight and fell to the ground about five yards away from it. Trainers ran over to him and helped him off the ground, but the All-American cornerback was unable to put any weight on his left leg as he was carried to the medical tent.

The group of trainers stayed around Hargreaves in the tent, one eventually taping ice around his left knee. Hargreaves was able to stand up and put weight on it while limping to the passenger seat of a cart that then drove him off the practice field.

The Gators announced late Thursday night that Hargreaves underwent an MRI and was diagnosed with a bone bruise. He is day-to-day. Florida coach Will Muschamp will address the media at noon on Friday.

With the cloud of the injury hanging over practice, the Gators continued to work in front of a large crowd.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel had an impressive night, easily the best of the quarterbacks. He showed good touch on throws down the field. His best throw came on one he put some air under to fall perfectly into the arms of Demarcus Robinson for a 40-yard touchdown.

He even ran a few designed quarterback runs, lining up in the backfield with a running back. He followed the running back, usually Matt Jones, as a lead blocker and usually picked up 5-10 yards.

Will Grier has a big arm and showed it off on Thursday, sometimes to a fault. He needs to take some velocity off on some touch throws, but that can come with time.

Grier took more reps than Treon Harris on Thursday, but Harris used his athleticism to move the pocket at times. He underthrew a few passes down the field.

Skyler Mornhinweg simply isn’t as talented as Grier or Harris. He doesn’t have the arm strength and it was noticeable when he was the one throwing the ball.

Demarcus Robinson was Florida’s best receiver on Thursday. His connection with Driskel was obvious, and even with a few drops, it’s easy to see how talented Robinson is. He is a natural pass catcher and catches the ball away from his body. He has moves to get free at the line of scrimmage and showed them on Thursday.

Seniors Andre Debose and Quinton Dunbar had ups and downs. Both dropped too many passes on Thursday, but Dunbar made an impact on passes near the line of scrimmage. Debose didn’t participate fully, but Muschamp hinted at this earlier in the week, saying they would take it easy with him.

I really like what Valdez Showers brings to this offense at the receiver spot. He made a few nice grabs and will be a weapon after the catch.

Freshman C.J. Worton has generated some buzz in camp and made some nice catches. He has good hands and made some plays in traffic.

The tight end position was actually fun to watch because of four newcomers.

Jake McGee is the obvious standout here, and every pass that hit his hands stuck. He’ll be a nice safety blanket for Driskel this year. He even made a 40-yard touchdown catch when Driskel put a ball perfectly over the linebacker and right in front of the safety, allowing McGee to catch it and fall into the end zone.

Tevin Westbrook looked more athletic than last year, but his reps seem likely to decrease with the McGee addition.

The interesting part came with the three freshmen -- DeAndre Goolsby, C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens.

Goolsby made a great play on a ball in the air early in practice. He ran a wheel route and was covered by a smaller cornerback. Driskel put a fade perfectly on his back shoulder, and Goolsby caught the ball and made the play. He had a strong spring and looks to have carried it into the fall.

Lewis has the look for a good player at the position. Listed at 6-4, 224 pounds, he runs fluid and made some nice catches. Stephens struggled and had a few drops, but most of the throws were from walk-on quarterbacks that aren’t as accurate as the others.

After Hargreaves went down, it was freshman cornerback J.C. Jackson that stepped into his place with the first team. Jackson wore an orange non-contact jersey as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery, but I was surprised to see how thick he is. He is a great athlete, and even though he was non-contact, you can still easily see how gifted he is. He also worked with the kick and punter returners.

The first team reps were split between multiple defensive backs, and there wasn’t a set starting group. However, Duke Dawson, Jabari Gorman and Marcus Maye were consistently with the ones. Dawson even saw some time at safety throughout practice. He picked off a Mornhinweg pass over the middle of the field after the receiver batted it and fell into his hands.

Jalen Tabor saw most of his reps with the second team. Deiondre Porter and Quincy Wilson also got some reps with the first team. Porter had a deflection go through his hands on what should’ve been an interception.

Keanu Neal had the hit of the entire practice. In the first 15 minutes, Matt Jones caught a pass in the flats and turned it up field. He cut to the inside after avoiding a cornerback and went right at Neal, who lowered his head and put Jones on his butt, drawing groans from the crowd.

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