Off to a great start

Here are some thoughts, notes and observations at the first two days of Florida spring football practice.

Thursday, the Florida football team took the day off for spring practice. So, I figured I'd flick on the tube and check out the Gator basketball team, who is competing in t he first round of the NCAA Tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina.

My Thursday isn't going so well at the starting point of this story.

12:57 pm: it's almost halftime and the Gators are down to the Manhattan Jasperts 24-25.

One the radio, Mick Huber said that Gator star hoopster Matt Walsh is playing at about 50% due to a hurt ankle.

Not good. Not good at all.

But hey, it's time for football speak, not hoops. Right?

OK. So, let's see. After two days of spring practice, Florida Head Coach Ron Zook said he was pleased by how the players knew what to…

Hold on! Walsh with a diving steal --- passes over to Scott Applebee --- and, the sweet lay-up for two. But, Manhattan leads 36-29 at the half. Hoops Head Coach Billy Donovan stressed, during a half-time interview, that the gators need to get "those offensive rebounds."

Sorry about that quick change of thought.

Back to the gridiron game.

Wednesday, Coach Zook had stated how his team knew what to do and where to go. He said he was very encouraged by the first two days of practice.

Overall, both the offense and defense looked sharp.

Sophomore QB Chris Leak nailed his receivers most of the time. And, the receiving corps, for the most part, ran their routes precisely, and knew where to be when the ball is thrown.

LB Coach Bill Miller's squad practiced on clogging-up the middle.

And, new Secondary Coach Dan Disch saw his guys going at full-speed.

"It will be an exciting spring, as they all are," said Coach Zook. "Our goal this year is to be the best we can be. If everyone plays to the best of their ability, then I think the results of the season will take care of themselves."

As a spectator at practice, I'd say the Gators looked like they'd been practicing for a month or so.

Some key players who I think stood out are:

RB Ciatrick Fason – ran some nice routes and caught some balls

QB Chris Leak – on target; good scope of the defense before throwing; threw bullets

QB Justin Midgett – when his turn came, he didn't hesitate to take control; hit most of his receivers as well

RBs DeShawn Wynn and Ciatrick Fason had most of the carries. Both seemed comfortable.

WRs Andre Caldwell and Dallas Baker, on several cacthes, showed their speed, leaping ability and a sense of where the ball is in the air. Both made acrobatic one-handed catches that wooed the spectators looking on. Chad Jackson seemed sharp as well.

C Mike Degory continued to be a key part of the offense line. Talk about intimidating, Degory's Grizzly Adams' beard makes him look like a 10-year pro.

OL Mo Mitchell. Really, there's nothing to say except thank God he's a gator. Listed at 367 pounds, the heaviest on the team, is very intense, always on the mark and a constant team leader.

LBs: Travis Harris' intensity makes him a leader on the defense. But, he said he wants to be the team's leader, not just for the defense. Earl Everett is another who'll take control. Channing Crowder seems to be having more fun than anyone. He looks to be in full form.

D-Line: both starters and back-ups did what they had to do. Not much movement in the first two days. But , nonetheless, they seemed physically fit, especially toward the end of the practice, when the sun was out and the heat was on.

(Hoops update: 55-46, Jaspers up on the Gators with 7:23 left in the second half. This is not good.)

SS Corey Bailey was very vocal in providing last second directions to the defense in front of him.

DBs Demetrice Webb and Reynaldo Hill stuck to their men like glue. Basically, all of the secondary seemed focused under new position coach Dan Disch, who will feature in story next week.

Kicker Matt Leach split the uprights on the majority of his kicks but he didn't practice kicking more than 40 yards. His competition kicked well too.

Punter Eric Wilbur, on particular belts, had some great hang time. He also nailed some towards the sidelines, which means he's practicing on his aim. His competition punted well too.

The team was off on Thursday, but they still worked out, lifting in the weight room.

On Friday, the Gators start at 4:30 at the practice field and at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Fightin Gators Top Stories