Practice observations (8/16)

Florida practiced for just over an hour on Saturday in the final practice open to the fans and media before the season opener on August 30.

The Gators practiced without pads, wearing only jersey tops and shorts with helmets. Because of that, it’s hard to take much from the running game or line of scrimmage play, but we’ll take a shot.

The focus was on the passing game.

Jeff Driskel continued his solid camp and continues to be head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster.

The backup battle has no clear leader. Will Grier had the best day out of the two backups on Saturday, but he still battled some inconsistencies. His issues come from having a very strong arm. He can overshoot throws and even airmail receivers close to the line of scrimmage.

Despite that, when he hits a throw down the field, it’s really impressive. Grier hits fellow freshman C.J. Worton for a 60-yard touchdown, and the ball was beautifully thrown for about 50 yards in the air.

After standing out during the week, it wasn’t as good of a day for Treon Harris. He throws a really pretty ball and had success on multiple corner routes, earning big gains with it twice. It should’ve been three but a throw was dropped by freshman Ryan Sousa.

Skyler Mornhinweg made the best throw I’ve seen him make all camp on a deep ball to Demarcus Robinson. He put just enough air under it to drop it perfectly over the freshman’s shoulder. However, this still looks like a Grier-Harris race for the backup job.

Worton continued his strong camp on Saturday and has all the makings of a freshman that will play this fall. This is usually the part of camp where some freshmen start to fall back to the pack. They’re overloaded with information and battling sore legs, but Worton continues to make plays.

He used his speed to fly by safety Jabari Gorman on the 60-yard touchdown from Grier. Earlier in practice, Grier threw a 10-yard touchdown to Worton during seven-on-seven drills. The throw was a little high and had more velocity than necessary, but Worton secured it with ease. He also gets open most of the time in one-on-ones because of his route running. He really is the complete package for a true freshman.

Ahmad Fulwood continues to look like Florida’s best deep threat. His length causes problems down the field, but that’s not even how he’s getting open. It isn’t like he’s jumping over people to catch passes down the field. He’s simply running by people and getting open.

Driskel threw a perfect fade during one-on-ones in the red zone, and Fulwood caught it in stride, dragging a foot in the end zone during the process.

Alvin Bailey is a favorite target for Harris and has put together a solid camp. Will Muschamp was asked about Bailey earlier in the week and talked about him needing last year to get comfortable at receiver after playing quarterback at Armwood High School. It doesn’t look like he’ll have as big of a year as some of the other Florida receivers, but his play in camp justifies him being in the 6-7 receivers offensive coordinator Kurt Roper likes to use. We’ll see if that happens.

The running backs didn’t get much work between the tackles on Saturday, but they were still active.

Florida even used a diamond formation on Saturday, putting Driskel in the pistol with Kelvin Taylor behind him while Matt Jones and Brandon Powell were on opposite sides of Driskel. After the snap, Jones and Powell each ran flare routes out of the backfield while Taylor stayed in to pass protect. There are a lot of things Florida can do in this formation, and it also helps Roper get more players on the field from a deep running back position.

Jones returned to practice after sitting out most of the last week with swelling on his knee.

Powell is a nightmare for linebackers to cover in pass coverage. The Gators need to find a way to get him on the field, and drawing up plays that get him one-on-one with linebackers looks like the way to go. He was running away from Florida’s linebackers in one-on-one drills and gives the Gators a new playmaker out of the backfield.

The best defensive back comes as no surprise. Vernon Hargreaves III is simply dynamic in coverage. It didn’t matter which receiver he was covering, whether it was a starter or a backup, he was draped all over them and made it difficult for anything to be caught. He’s a special player.

No players were in an orange non-contact jersey as they have been earlier in the week, meaning freshman J.C. Jackson was in a normal white jersey. That might not mean anything since Saturday’s practice featured such little contact, but he had another good day.

A few notes on the line of scrimmage.

Florida did some 11-on-11 work, even if the linemen weren’t as physical as normal since there were no pads.

In that portion of practice, right guard Trenton Brown jumped out of his stance before the snap and drew a false start penalty. Offensive line coach Mike Summers yanked him out of the drill, and instead of standing with the other subs behind the play, he made Brown go sit on the bench for the rest of the practice period. Safe to say Summers won’t accept those kind of penalties.

Alex McCalister had another good day of practice. His speed of the edge is a difference maker and teammates continue to rave about what an athlete he is.

Trip Thurman returned to practice on Saturday after missing the last week.

Florida punter Kyle Christy is booming the ball this fall. He was kicking to returners during one practice period, and the ball looks back to where it was in 2012 when he was a Ray Guy Award finalist. As always for Christy, it’s going to depend on what he does when the lights come on when he gets on the field if he does win the punting job over Johnny Townsend.

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