Practice Observations: Passing Game (8/8)

Demarcus Robinson is showing he should be the top target on offense.

Friday’s football practice for the Florida Gators was chippy like Thursday’s was and the pads being on helped that a bit. Still, there was no tackling going on, more of just the linemen being able to go at it a little bit. It still made for some good hits and some fun interaction between the offense and defense.

I was in charge of watching the passing game portion of practice for offense and defense and here is what I drew from the two hours of practice time.

Quarterbacks

I didn’t write about Jeff Driskel from Thursday, and I guess he had a slower day on Friday than he did the day before, but I have to admit to being impressed at his play so far in two practices. The speed that they run things at practice is hectic to say the least. They usually line up a split squad on each 35 with the offense facing the end zones and it is almost as if they are competing to see who can get the most snaps off between the two groups.

With that in mind Driskel has shown great command of the situation and does not seemed phased whatsoever about the speed at which things are going on. Along those lines, I noticed a couple of times where his decisions are cut short. You don’t see him going beyond the second read before he tucks the ball and runs or he lays the ball out in the flat to the running back. Bingo, this is exactly in Driskel’s wheel house with his ability to do real damage with his feet.

When Driskel does throw, I mentioned it yesterday, he has really eased up on the long ball and put some arc on the ball. He is laying the ball out there for his receivers to go get and these guys are actually going to get it. We all know he also has a bullet of an arm. He had a couple of overthrows on Friday, but he can throw a hole in the receiver’s chest whenever he feels like it.

Will Grier seemed to be the next guy in line on Friday. He was a little more hit and miss than Driskel, but he also got more work with the 2nd and 3rd teamers in the rest of the unit. Grier did make a really nice throw on a long ball down the right sideline while on the run Friday night. He also has the legs to do some damage.

Treon Harris struggled on Thursday and while he had a couple of underthrows on Friday, he looked sharp with most of his throws. He is really comfortable throwing on the run. He’s certainly athletic and in my opinion he doesn’t lack confidence. He didn’t get as many snaps as Grier, but my guess is they will alternate in the first couple of weeks of practice.

Receivers and Tight Ends

Demarcus Robinson has a flare for the extraordinary, more so than anyone else at receiver. Interestingly enough he wasn’t one of the guys in the starting unit. We will have to watch that as things progress. Regardless, there is little doubt he is a top target and should be this season. If he learns the offense as well as any of them, he should have a monster season as a guy that can make the big catch and can do things after the catch.

Quinton Dunbar seems to be the same guy he has been. In the last two years, Dunbar has made some of the hardest catches on the team, but he is also a guy that seems to get little after the catch. He does play on the sideline a lot and as a defender you are told to use the sideline as a defender and push the receiver to it. I would really like to see him get some action more in the middle of the field and see what he can do with it. He is a pretty big target and made a couple of nice catches with defenders on him on Friday.


Dunbar

I am not seeing enough from Ahmad Fulwood. He needs to be a guy running the seam route deep and using his long strides to get past defenders. Instead I see him being a short target and having to stop to catch the ball and continue on. He has also dropped a couple. We need to see more form him.

Latroy Pittman had a very nice catch on a 20 yard corner pattern on the sideline with Marcus Maye in tough coverage. Pittman was in the starting unit at the slot along with Dunbar and Fulwood. He’s another guy that always comes down with the catch. He provides a big body that will force a safety or linebacker to cover and he would be a mismatch there.

Valdez Showers was the first backup in the slot. He is faster and has a little more flare, but probably a little less consistent catching the ball. He made a tough grab on a mid-range Dig, but he also dropped a couple headed in his direction.

Alvin Bailey has made plays both nights that I have seen. Another slot receiver, he is very close to making a move and getting on the field.

Andre Debose was on the outside and I saw a couple of times where he really used his hands text book form in catching the ball. He didn’t finish practice, but they have talked about watching him and his recovering knee.

It is very strange watching seven to eight scholarship players work out at tight end, but that is what we get right now. Derek Lewis is a busy man.

I know I said this in the spring, but I am seeing significant improvement from Tevin Westbrook. The senior from South Florida came to Florida as a defensive lineman with really a basketball background and was asked to put weight on for the line. When he switched to tight end, it was as an in-line blocker so the weight was still needed. He spent the spring losing a lot of that weight and he is now moving really well. He was another that made a very nice diving catch on Friday and a guy that can run for his size. He is likely the tallest tight end on the roster and with the basketball background, likely one of the better leapers in the group. I have seen him running loose in the seam a few times in the last couple of days.


Westbrook

Clay Burton was the first guy on the field, but we didn’t see a lot from him. He is a pretty good pass protector, but doesn’t seem to be a weapon in the passing game.

Cyontai Lewis was on the sideline pulling the sled as he heals from a leg bruise.

Jake McGee wasn’t a target often, but caught everything thrown his way. He is smooth in the tight end drills.

Watching DeAndre Goolsby early, he looked a bit gimpy but kept on practicing. He later had to leave, but I don’t imagine it is anything really serious.

The one that struggled the most on the day was freshman Moral Stephens. Stephens dropped a couple of balls and he struggled with some of the drills, not lining up right and not finishing them right either. He looked like he was extremely tired even early in practice.

Thoughts on Passing Game: The biggest thing is that Driskel seems to be in command of the offense. If that is the case, the offense will take care of itself. At receiver, Robinson has to get involved. That was an issue last year and it need not be repeated. Does that mean he has to start? No, but he has to be the biggest target. I imagine the answer at tight end is Jake McGee, but a cursory look Friday night and I believe they can find other weapons in the group they have.

Secondary

No picks from the group but as would be expected, they are physical, despite some youth and inexperience.

With Vernon Hargreaves out with a healing bruise, there was a train of guys playing in his spot. Brian Poole got the first snap and Deiondre Porter was in a snap or two later. I didn’t see as much of J.C. Jackson in there, but he is still in an orange jersey.

Quincy Wilson was wearing shorts and not in full pads. He was a part of the on-field altercation on Thursday and presumably why he was dressed like this. That didn’t keep him from playing physical and well on Friday. We gave a preseason behind the scenes report on Wilson and were told he was very impressive in the offseason. The true freshman that arrived in June has shown a great deal of ability in the two open practices and I saw at least two pass break ups from him on Friday. He has that south Florida swagger we always hear about and he seems to have come to Gainesville with a chip on his shoulder.


Wilson

Brian Poole played both outside and inside. Poole’s game is aggressiveness and he loves playing close to the line of scrimmage. To me he is a little bit smaller Matt Elam. He was big at the line of scrimmage in the run game and short passing game on Friday.

Jalen Tabor certainly has the ability but he had a tough practice. He has got to play in the face of receivers. He is very susceptible to the inside crossing patterns and does get beat deep as well. He needs to get his hands on guys at the snap of the ball.

Marcus Maye was playing NICKEL again. He has lost some weight and is playing quicker. He is a physical player at the position and had a couple of passes caught on him, but was right there on defense, even with the orange non-contact injury.

Keanu Neal showed up big and was one of the starters at safety along with Jabari Gorman. Neal and Matt Jones met up for a nasty collision, both remained on their feet, but Jones made sure that Neal knew it was a big boy he was trying to hit. Neal seemed to be in the right place on Friday when he was out there. He should be a tremendous run stopping safety.

Nick Washington had a couple of pass breakups while playing safety. He wasn’t getting a lot of play, but seemed to make the most of it.

Thoughts on the Secondary: It appears that they will be moving people around a lot. Duke Dawson was playing safety most of the day. We saw Poole both at corner and NICKEL. They are in the process of fitting some guys in the right place.

Keanu Neal was the best player of the day in the secondary, but other guys made plays. Quincy Wilson looks to be the real deal in my opinion and I thought J C Jackson was a beast on Thursday. It is apparent they think highly of Deiondre Porter, he gets a lot of early time with the first team as well. Marcell Harris had some bright spots as well. It will be a busy August figuring the secondary puzzle out.


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