Now, Joey Ivie looks like he could be one of the first defensive tackles off the bench. The added weight gave him more strength, but he said last week that he still has his speed. The strength lets him be more forceful in the middle. Offensive linemen, especially on the interior, can’t throw him around. He’s holding the point of attack and getting push that the Gators need in the middle of the defensive line.
Behind Darious Cummings and Leon Orr, there aren’t many obvious answers at defensive tackle. Jonathan Bullard has learned the position and can play in there, but the coaches need more depth. Ivie is proving he’s capable of providing it.
"He's playing blocks extremely well,” Will Muschamp said. “We've just got to continue to build depth inside, and he's holding the point extremely well. He's getting off blocks well. He's a guy that has progressed very well. Steady progression through every day at practice and coming out.”
Ivie played well last fall and earned reps on the field during his freshman season. His spring was inconsistent and didn’t provide any answers. With the added weight, the switch has flipped in the fall.
“He's been much more consistent in his play and how he's playing,” Muschamp said. “That's been a really good pleasant -- not surprise -- but we're really pleased with where he is. I'm very pleased with his progress in camp.”
WORTON EARNING TIME: The Florida coaches sat down after Sunday’s scrimmage to make sure they were managing snaps correctly. One player that needed to be adjusted was receiver C.J. Worton. The true freshman continued to make plays, and they wanted to see what he could do with more snaps.
“Typical of any young player at this time, this is when you start finding out the guys who are mature enough to handle it, because they're really sore, they've got more on them mentally than they've ever had before,” Muschamp said. “How are they handling all of the stuff? We're out of school, so we don't have to worry about that any more, but the meeting room, the walk-throughs, all of the things that they've got to be able to focus on and handle.
“C.J., to this point, needs to spend more time in his playbook, but certainly on the field has been very productive."
It was on display at practice on Monday. Worton is a great route runner and can get open with his routes alone. Add to that great hands and enough speed to make plays, and the Gators could have a new weapon in the offense this fall.
"He really can run on the top end, he's got good ball skills,” Muschamp said.
SECONDARY YOUTH: With Vernon Hargreaves III out, the younger cornerbacks have been given chances to show what they can do. It comes with high and low moments. On Monday, it was mostly low moments for freshman Jalen Tabor. He tried to jump a short pass for an interception but missed the ball and gave up a big play, leading to a rant from Muschamp.
The Florida coach was quick to point out that Tabor isn’t the only young cornerback going through a learning curve. They need to settle in and start taking advantage of their opportunities.
“It’s all young players, they have a hard time, most of them have a hard time,” Muschamp said. “Down-in, down-out, series-in, series-out – day after day of playing a certain way. Whether it’s your pad level, your eye control, your leverage. All of those little things that are taken for granted when you’re that much better, which (they were) in high school – (they) didn’t have to worry about those things. Well now you’re in a situation where you’re going to be playing guys as good as you. Then it comes back to fundamentals and technique.”
That’s what has to improve in the next few weeks. Muschamp was hard on Tabor Monday morning at practice, but it’s all an attempt to get him ready to play as a freshman.
“He’s very coachable because he’s a guy he’s able to listen, learn and move to the next snap,” Muschamp said. “And if he can’t handle me yelling, he’s not going to handle 90,000 people, I can assure you that.”
The safety position doesn’t have as many questions, at least not at the top.
“Keanu Neal right now’s our best safety, and past that, we’ll see,” Muschamp said.