Practice observations: Running game (8/11)

The Gators were down to two scholarship running backs on Monday because of injury. That forced most of the offense to be focused on the passing game. Florida also worked with some different units on the offensive line.

Matt Jones (knee), Kelvin Taylor (hamstring) and Adam Lane were injured and held out of practice on Monday. They worked in the pit with other injured players, but this forced others to get first team reps. All three players are expected to return to practice this week. Mack Brown worked mostly with the first team, and freshman Brandon Powell also saw time with the group.

Brown made a few nice catches, which is important if he wants to make an impact in this new offense. Powell showcased his speed, which is becoming a daily occurrence on the practice field. He can change the game with his speed, but he also showed some strength on Monday. He ran up the middle on back-to-back plays and pushed the pile forward both times.

Powell also worked with Demarcus Robinson on punt returns.

The Gators need Roderick Johnson to come on and provide depth on the offensive line, and Monday went a big way to making that happen. He even took some reps at left tackle and held his own against Dante Fowler, something not many linemen are having success with this fall.

Two of Trenton Brown, Tyler Moore and Trip Thurman will start at the guard positions. The one that doesn’t will be the first lineman off the bench, while Johnson serves as the seventh offensive lineman and the first tackle off the bench.

Max Garcia continues to put together a strong camp. Snaps aren’t a worry anymore, and he’s a bull. Florida’s 300+-pounder defensive tackles aren’t getting much push off the snap, and that has everything to do with Garcia. Moving him to center looks like a great move in the early part of the fall.

Watching speed rushers try to get the outside against David Sharpe has been fun. The freshman is so athletic and can slide his feet with ease.

Trenton Brown will be Florida’s fourth offensive tackle if that situation presents itself, but the emergence of Johnson has allowed Brown to focus on playing guard. It’s paying off for him. His strength makes him a unique challenge inside for defensive linemen, and they don’t get any push against him. Speed rushers can present problems, but once Brown gets his hands on defensive linemen, it’s usually over.

Will Muschamp was asked about Gerald Willis on Monday and talked about his need to continue building consistency. I’m going to chalk that up to the coach trying to keep expectations in line for the freshman, because on Monday, he looked like the best defensive lineman not named Dante Fowler.

Willis lives in the backfield. He has strength off the edge to hold up against big offensive linemen, but he has a set of moves that work for him. His swim move was the go-to move on Monday and helped him make plays.

Leon Orr played some at defensive end on Monday, but the Gators were without multiple defensive linemen. It’s likely the coaches trying different things with limited numbers. However, Orr had some success outside.

Joey Ivie had another strong day. The move inside to defensive tackle has helped him, and he’s playing well at the point of attack. The added weight and strength hasn’t slowed him down, either. He’ll play important snaps for Florida this year.

At linebacker, Michael Taylor has used his lost weight to his advantage this fall. The coaches are happy with his progression this offseason. He’s a player they trust a lot to get players in the right spot and be in position.

The linebackers didn’t make much of an impact on Monday because the practice wasn’t focused much on the running game, but Antonio Morrison looked active. He was the first defensive player on the field, high fiving teammates and trying to get them ready for practice.

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