Spring football observations; March 14

An earlier rain made things a little damp, but it didn’t seem hot enough to make the humidity an issue, at least not early on at practice. The boys donned their shoulder pads and shorts and Wednesday they should be in full pads. There were some takeaways from Mondays practice.

Remembering we only watch 15 minutes or so of what is going on and most are drills, we can still see some things shaping up, especially in terms of young guys maybe making an early move for playing time.

With that in mind we can talk about one of the possible early developments on the defensive line. On Monday, sophomore Keivonnis Davis lined up with the first unit at the RUSH end spot. For those not familiar, the RUSH end is the pass rushing specialist along the defensive line and a position that has to also be able to play with their hands up and drop back in coverage every once in a while.

While we weren’t watching Davis specifically through practice, this move could be a significant one in the big scope of things up front. We do need to mention that Jordan Sherit has been missing time due to injury. He would be the odds on favorite at the moment.

We can stay on the defensive line and talk about where others lined up. In the first unit, it was Davis at the RUSH, redshirt junior Caleb Brantley was lining up first team at defensive tackle, redshirt sophomore Khairi Clark was manning the NOSE, and the opposite end was held down by senior Bryan Cox.

The thing to notice at linebacker is all the action true freshman David Reese is getting. The Michigan native has the size at 240 pounds to be a real pounder in the middle and the staff is determined to get this intelligent linebacker to learn the calls and actions that the lead linebacker should make when on the field. He seems to be getting the fast track to not only playing time, but someone that they want to be a leader of the defense at an early age.

In the secondary, few things stood out. Quincy Wilson got beat on a deep fly pattern from Ahmad Fulwood, but Wilson is still nursing a hernia. Given the medical condition, I was actually a little surprised at how well he was running.

The aggressiveness of true freshman Chauncey Gardner is still something that is noticeable every day. He’s playing some at NICKEL and some at SAFETY.  Duke Dawson is out with a leg injury now, so he got more reps on Monday. Gardner does not lack confidence.

I really like the play of redshirt junior safety Nick Washington, he is a steady guy that will all of a sudden come up and make a big play. To me he seems to be in the right place way more often than not.

Jalen Tabor likes to jaw a bit. The junior All-American corner candidate got into it a bit with senior receiver Chris Thompson. Jalen won a few battles between the two and let Thompson know he has to get better if he is going to be lining up against him on the field.

On offense, I spent a great deal of time watching the quarterbacks. I will say that Franks is the one that has an exaggerated motion… more looping than it should be. He was picked on a corner pass on one play then turned in a beautiful deep post to Hammond in half-skel action. He then threw a pass that was almost picked and into double coverage which drew the ire of head coach Jim McElwain. 

It wasn't a great day for any of the QBs. Routes on air were sloppy with either errant passes or errant routes galore. They are still installing, so getting down the right depth and angles on routes is something they have to work on as they incorporate each route. 

I think there is a slight hitch in Appleby's motion as well, a kind of a stutter motion before getting the ball off. It’s very subtle and probably fixable if I am not seeing wrong things altogether. Still, he had a pretty good early on from what we saw.

Cyontai Lewis ran with first unit at TE. Receivers were Fulwood, Bailey, and Thompson. Fulwood looked solid not spectacular. He did catch the long ball over Wilson on the play mentioned above.

I thought best receiver was freshman Josh Hammond today. He made a tough catch with solid coverage from Burnett. I also liked Freddie Swain today. They like the deep passes... corner routes, posts, and deep sideline passes. These two have looked really solid at the opening of the last two practices.

Junior college transfer Dre Massey dropped a few balls on Monday. He actually spent a great deal of time as a running back and certainly brings a new wrinkle to the position as more of a scat back than any of the three big guys Florida has right now.

Robert Kingsley provided most of the following on the offensive line.

The starting offensive line from left to right were junior left tackle David Sharpe, junior left guard Antonio Riles, junior center Cam Dillard, sophomore right guard Tyler Jordan, and sophomore right tackle Fredrick Johnson.

Jordan worked out at right guard and appeared to stay unabated under the warm Florida sun. One thing you can tell about Jordan is that he loves to be out there playing football.

Sharpe moved well during the drills, but it was apparent the heat was taking a bit of a toll on him.

Behind the starters, three guys seem to be emerging as suitable replacements – redshirt-sophomore Andrew Mike, freshman Stone Forsythe, and redshirt-freshman Brandon Sandifer.

All three have great size – especially Forsythe (6’7”, 314 lbs.) – and are busy building chemistry together.

**  Vernon Hargreaves was on hand to watch practice

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