Practice continued Thursday on another hot and muggy day at the lacrosse facility on Florida’s campus. The Gators conducted almost exclusively passing drills and plays on Thursday, with three of the scholarship running backs still shelved with injuries at the moment. With that mind we can talk about the linemen and pass rush and pass protection and the linebackers with their pass rush and pass coverage.
We will start on offense and the recently and now often criticized D.J. Humphries. The Gators starting left tackle apparently had a bad day on Wednesday, I also thought Jeff Driskel had his worst day of the fall that day as well, and heck maybe that isn’t coincidence. Who knows?
Anyway, I made it a point to focus in on Humphries on Thursday to see what all the hub bub was about. I came away convinced that Wednesday’s reaction was probably overblown a bit and that there are some that just don’t know the difference between a win and a loss in pass protection drills when it comes to an offensive tackle and edge blocking.
After trying and I think succeeding to watch every single snap that Humphries took against a defender on Thursday, I came away with him winning every battle on the day. The bigger guys he was able to suffocate and contain and the smaller linebackers that rushed, he was able to push around the pocket and away from the position where the quarterback would be. Precisely what you would want and expect from your starting left tackle.
There was one play that Humphries did allow his base (feet) to a bit wider than his shoulders and a little off balance. Lucky for him, the defender decided to go right at him and he was too big to lose the battle that way. An experienced guy like Dante Fowler gets Humphries reaching and stretched like that and then cuts wide inside where he can’t get to him.
Fowler has been a constant pain for Humphries over the first two weeks and by no means has the junior former 5-star been great this fall, but I do think the reaction in the last couple of days has been overblown.
Trip Thurman was still out and so Trenton Brown was the starting right guard. I think the real issue Brown is going to have is the tempo of the offense. I think he is as good as Thurman right now, but keeping up at his size will be tough, something he has to work on and fight through. He’s not as good when he is worn out. I noticed him dragging quite a bit in the heat Thursday.
Max Garcia continues to be the best blocker up front. He usually dominates his man in the middle and as been very good with snapping the ball this fall. That continued on Thursday.
Tyler Moore had an uneventful practice for the most part and that is a good thing when it comes to offensive line. The same could be said with Chaz Green and I didn’t get much from him as my focus was basically on the other side and Humphries. I will say that Green and Moore need to work better on their stunt and blitz pick up, they were beaten twice with that in blitz drills.
The second line consisted of mostly Andrew Mike at right tackle, Cam Dillard newly playing right tackle, Drew Sarvary replacing Dillard at center, Travaris Dorsey in at left guard and David Sharpe at left tackle.
Sharpe continues to excel, but he found a few issues with really fast and smaller pass rushers on the edge on Wednesday. One thing I noticed with him in high school was his lack of bend at times and how he can’t get to the smaller guys. That appears to be the issue here because he moves his feet very well but getting his arms on the little guys is tough. He’s athletic and really working hard, I think he will get there on this. He has had an exceptional fall so far and will see playing time barring injury.
I want to see Dorsey do some things,, but we haven’t seen a whole lot of him. I didn’t get much out of his play today.
For his first day at center, Sarvary snapped the ball well. He is a little bit bigger body and as a junior a little older in there as well. They don’t need to sit the junior college transfer if he can play, so getting him a look at center could be a good thing. This is a work in progress either way.
Dillard playing at guard on second team is a good thing for Dillard, but doesn’t say much about others honestly. The inside guys got beat pretty badly today as has been the case for most of camp on the offensive line. Some of the sacks form guys like Willis and McCalister are actually on twists and stunts with those guys coming inside and sometimes are just mental errors.
Mike got more time at right tackle than I have seen in a while. It has usually been Roderick Johnson. Mike, from Arizona, should be a good one, but he didn’t fare well today against the pass rushers listed above.
While Fowler was out, Alex McCalister got a ton of work with the first team and made some plays. He certainly didn’t have the success against Hump as he did the younger guys, and the first defense got pitted against the second offense a bit today. McCalister still isn’t an every down guy, but he made more plays today than I have seen getting to the quarterback. Bryan Cox was also active and it may have been his best day. Offense should win most of the battles up front, but I saw Cox get in on three pass rushes with a sack or hurry in limited reps.
Gerald Willis continues to be nasty. The staff is starting to say that he will definitely get on the field. He is ultra-quick and to be honest I kind of wonder if he could play the pass rushing end role of the BUCK position because of that quickness off the ball. Remember he has a Louisiana state record now with 31.5 sacks as a senior in high school.
I thought Jay-nard Bostwick had his strongest day today. Not a ton of highlights but he did make some plays, which was good to see.
Joey Ivie is starting to play with a nasty streak. He and Dillard hooked up in a little skirmish and Ivie is one of those guys that just doesn’t stop on a play and gets under the skin of offensive players. Leon Orr played and was active, there was very little rushing the ball today, so the DT’s weren’t in on a lot actually, but he looked to be moving around fine.
We saw more of the linebackers rushing the quarterback today and linebacker blitzes. In a 10 play blitz series two got through the protection with miscues on the offensive line and the heat was brought on by Jeremi Powell and Jarrad Davis.
Neiron Ball and Powell seem to be the main guys rushing off the edge right now in passing down situations and both were swallowed or pushed wide by Green and Hump, but both were successful when going against Sharpe and Mike.
In pass coverage, Antonio Morrison was flying around and broke up a couple of passes including a deep ball at the goal line intended for Ahmad Fulwood. Michael Taylor looks so different this year. He has trimmed down and is running around better than ever before.
Good to see: The play of Humphries on Thursday. I know he has issues with Fowler, but I think Fowler is a different beast than he was even a year ago. I was more worried from what other people thought than what I have noticed so far this fall. After Thursday I feel better… Morrison looks like he is playing with real confidence and flying around on the football field. He had a big taste of humble pie at times a year ag, I like to see some swagger back… Vernon Hargreaves had his best practice this fall, he was extremely aggressive today… Ahmad Fulwood may be taking over as the leader of the receivers. He is constantly making the biggest plays on the field since feeling better about a week ago. The other receivers followed suit with several big plays today… Treon Harris has had three really good practices in a row, there is little doubt his comfort level is growing exponentially at this time… Driskel bounced back from a bad day yesterday, had a good day… Jalen Tabor may have had one of his best days today as well… Positive signs for McCalister and Cox to step up today… I think there were three or four long touchdown strikes in the middle of the deep field on Thursday, I complained about not using the middle field the other day and there it was…
Need to see more: Still want more from Cummings and Orr up front on defense, as a matter of fact only Ivie and Bostwick seemed to make too much noise at the DT position on Thursday… Need some backups to step forward at offensive guard, not seeing it right now… The safeties have played good so far this fall, but they were toasted a few times on Thursday on deep passes in the middle of the field.
Surprise play: Mack Brown has scored two touchdowns in team drills on Go routes in the middle of the field in different practices. When we think of Brown, we think of ball control football and short hard-nosed runs. Well he has gotten behind the safeties in the middle of the field twice this week. Both times he caught the ball and went untouched into the end zone. Tuesday it was a pass from Skyler Mornhinweg, today it was from Jeff Driskel, same result. It was likely a well blocked blitz and the back was uncovered in a man defense. It doesn’t matter it was a well0designed and executed play both times.