Hit me with your best shot

The Gators had to shake off a little rust on the first day of practice (Friday) with pads. Today, they have another practice and scrimmage.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot! On Friday, the Gators put on the pads and started hitting a bit, which is something players have to get used to during the spring, since not wearing them for a few months.

"We didn't do much hitting today. We just got back to getting used to wearing pads," said Sophomore WR Chad Jackson. "I haven't gotten used to them yet. I'm looking forward to gettin' at it on Saturday. After that first hit, and, I get hit hard, then, I'll get used to it."

Sophomore LB Channing Crowder said he couldn't wait to get on the pad and start hitting on Friday.

"Our first day in pads, I thought, everybody did a good job. We didn't really go all out. We couldn't see who could really hit or not," said Crowder.

However, Friday's practice wasn't as hunky-dory as it may have seemed from looking on as a spectator on the sideline.

"They're all a little bit rusty now," said Gators Head Coach Ron Zook.

"You try to keep them off of the ground. You have to move your feet. I think that's one thing that we try to work on. When you're not tackling, guys have a tendency to stop their feet, and that's how they end up on the ground. That's when people trip over each other, fall on their legs, and stuff like that. We really have got to stress staying off the ground, and moving your feet."

Jackson said Coach Zook made it clear that Friday's practice wasn't up to par.

"We had a pretty bad practice today. We weren't getting after it like we were supposed to. But, like always, if we're not getting after it, Coach is gonna get on us. So, he told us to he's gonna push us tomorrow (Saturday)," said Jackson.

Crowder agreed. "Coach Zook said Friday's practice wasn't real good. You know, the first day in pads, everyone's a bit sluggish."

You couldn't tell their total lag by looking at the offense, at least on most of the plays.

Sophomore WR Andre Caldwell said that "it was pretty tough getting adjusted to wearing pads, with new coverages and stuff…having the pants on. But, it feels good to hit, but not to take it."

"The first two days, everybody looks good in shorts. So, you're kind of waiting to get into pads," said DL Coach Red Anderson. "Normally, when you get into pads, everyone's a little sluggish, because they have them on, and haven't had them on for a long time. In general, things aren't too bad. We've got a lot to learn, and a long ways to go."

Just like in the previous practices this week, Sophomore QB Chris Leak seemed in great form, hitting on at least two-thirds of his passes on Friday.

Leak practiced the shotgun, which seemed to give him a better eye for the defense before the snap, and a bit more time to make an audible, if necessary. One sweet play was when he nailed Sophomore WR Jamalle Cornelius for a 25-yard pick-up.

On a post pattern, Leak hit Junior WR Dallas Baker with a 40-yarder. The next play, Baker made a spectacular turn-around catch for 20-yards.

Sophomore WR Reggie Lewis also got into the action. He juked Junior LB Shane Cimock big-time, with a sweet move to make a catch.

Caldwell made a couple of fantastic grabs. And, he didn't hesitate to pick-up some yardage after the catch.

"I think we're playing a little bit more wide open when we come out with our offense and throw the ball downfield," said Caldwell. "We're probably a little more into our receivers than last year, which focused more on the tight ends."

The only low-point by Leak on Friday, was that he was picked-off by Sophomore CB Jermaine McCollum, who sped, untouched, right for the end zone.

On defense, LB Coach Bill Miller said that, "most of our guys, I think, like our style. We've got to make great improvement particularly in our run defense, and, our third down defense."

Miller also said he'll introduce something new to his squad. "We're going to maybe look at a couple of new things that we haven't done, that they'll quite frankly have to learn. They have to own up to that responsibility to."

Crowder said that, "he can't wait to start hitting on Saturday. It should be fun, out there with full pads, and going at it in the scrimmage. We'll see who can really play and who can't."

"There are two things we talk about that take no ability at all," said Miller, and that is "giving great effort, and knowing what you're supposed to do."

On Saturday, the Gators practice begins at 9:30am. They'll do so at the Sander's Facility for awhile. And, then, the team will go over to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the rest of the morning.

"It's just a situational thing. We'll do some third down stuff, do a few drives, but, it's quick whistle stuff," said Coach Zook.

The public is invited, and, is encouraged to be prepared for a hot and sunny morning at Florida Field.

Caldwell said he's "getting way more comfortable this year catching the ball, turning up-field, and making something happen with it."
Freshman QB Justin Midgett probably would have liked to do Friday over again. He had five consecutive incomplete passes. He also threw two interceptions on back-to-back plays. Junior CB Deshawn Carter and Junior FS Jarvis Herring both picked-off Midgett.
When Sophomore QB Matt Kynes' turn came to show his stuff, he connected on three consecutive passes, which were all right on the mark!
Stupid question of the week, not pertaining to football: Channing Crowder: "What, did they lose? Wow, Manhattan! I didn't know they had a basketball team. The Gator basketball team is good. But, I think they just weren't focused."

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