Practice observations: Passing game (8/11)

The Florida offense struggled throughout Monday’s practice, but when it did hit big plays, they came through the air. The Gators took advantage of the young cornerbacks’ aggression to get yardage after the catch.

It was an inconsistent day for quarterback Jeff Driskel. It’s always easy to see his knowledge and command of the offense. He’s the one looking to the sideline for information, reading the signs and getting the team lined up before the snap.

In the 11-on-11 portions of practice, he hit some nice throws and missed some big plays. Driskel hit Ahmad Fulwood for a 40-yard completion down the sideline to Ahmad Fulwood, but a few plays later, he had Quinton Dunbar running wide open down the sideline toward the end zone. Driskel overthrew it and left six points on the field. He did hit Dunbar earlier in practice on a post route for a 35-yard touchdown during the seven-on-seven drills.

Will Grier was the best of the backups on Monday, but it wasn’t a strong day for him. There’s no obvious leader in the race to be Driskel’s backup yet. Grier’s motion might not be the prettiest, but the ball comes out of his hand fast. He just needs to work through some normal freshmen mistakes and anxiousness in the pocket. He felt the wrath of Kurt Roper in the 11-on-11 portion for taking way too long before deciding to throw the ball away or run with it.

Ahmad Fulwood was the best receiver on the field Monday by a considerable margin. He showed great body control on the 40-yarder from Driskel down the right sideline. In the seven-on-seven portion of practice, Grier threw a touchdown to Fulwood from about 35 yards out on a corner route. Fulwood was running towards the pylon when he jumped, turned his body in the air and came down with the ball. It was a big day for the sophomore.

C.J. Worton was close behind. He’s a smooth route runner and has natural hands. The freshman has been standing out early, and in a meeting on Sunday afternoon, the Florida coaches determined that they needed to give him more of a chance. He took advantage of that on Monday. The freshman receiver could see time on the field in his first year.

Demarcus Robinson made some clutch plays, pulling in a third-down catch over the middle to set up the first team offense with a field goal to tie the game in a simulated situation. Robinson and running back Brandon Powell worked on punt returns in a unique drill. They would catch a punt, then have to keep the ball in their possession while catching another punt. The drill continued until a ball was dropped.

Robinson, somehow, managed to possess six balls at one time. It was an impressive feat to watch, but it shows how talented he is.

Alvin Bailey also had a nice practice, especially catching passes near the line of scrimmage. Everyone knows he’s fast, but he made a move on Quincy Wilson to finish what would have been a long touchdown in a live situation.

Jake McGee is the best tight end on the team. That’s not much of a surprise, but he made it clear on Monday. Everything thrown near him is a catch. Will Muschamp said Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook are the other two that will play, and even though Westbrook made a few catches on Monday, it’s hard to see much improvement from them in the passing game after last year.

The injury to Vernon Hargreaves III has provided more reps for the young cornerbacks. Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor took some time with the first team on Monday, but both made the same mistake. The two freshmen each tried to jump a short throw and pull down the interception, but neither got to the ball. The pass was then caught and went for a long touchdown.

It’s those plays that worry the Florida coaches. Young cornerbacks have to be smart, and they weren’t on Monday. Tabor struggled throughout the day and was a target of Muschamp’s rant multiple times.

The safeties played better than the corners.

Muschamp said it after practice, and he’s exactly right -- Keanu Neal is the team’s best safety. He was everywhere. He has the same quality Major Wright did in that both of them, even in practice periods that aren’t built around tackling, find ways to play physical and deliver big hits.

Jabari Gorman was very active in pass coverage and always in position. At this point in his career, you know what Gorman is. He’ll be in the right place, won’t miss tackles and is active. Even if he isn’t the most impressive safety on the field physically, he’s an important part of this defense.

Nick Washington made a nice play to get in position on a deep ball from Driskel, but the interception went through his hands.

The only safety to struggle was Marcus Maye. He jumped offsides on one play, allowing the offense to take a free shot. However, Maye jogged back onside and didn’t give full effort through the rest of the play. That caught the attention of defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, and he sent Maye running laps for the remaining 25 minutes of practice.


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