Junior WR Dallas Baker said that, "when you come out and hit, it makes it a little bit easier to practice. It brings up the tempo a whole lot more, so, you get done a whole lot quicker."
As the intense sun beamed down on Florida Field, it seemed that the players, as well as the coaches, were excited about getting in some ‘real-type' hitting.
"It's the first live tackling. So, we got a lot of football in," said UF Head Coach Ron Zook. "It's better than it was a year ago the first day (of tackling). We've just got to build on that, improve on that, and, we've got to go from there."
On one particular play, RB Ciatric Fason grabbed the hand-off only to get stuffed by LB Channing Crowder for a loss of yardage.
On another play, WR Andre Caldwell got the wind knocked out of him. A group of defenders crunched him. He was down, but got up in about a minute.
Yet on another play, FS Zephrin Augustine unleashed a viscous hit on WR Chad Jackson. Augustine made some noise on that hit, which echoed inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
For spring practice, Coach Zook told his players to play smart, take care of one's teammate, play hard, and play tough. He said that if a player has someone in a vulnerable position, he doesn't want him to try to take him out, take any cheap shots, or anything like that.
"This was not a game-plan-type thing. It was just trying to run the plays that you have in, run some passes, and that kind of stuff. We're trying to get a tempo, trying to run plays, and see who can play," said Coach Zook.
Overall, it was a pretty good practice to watch from my shaded seat located in the south end zone.
"We have got to do a lot of this (practicing). The question is scrimmaging a lot without beating them up," said Coach Zook. "I've been excited the whole time we've been here. They work hard and do everything we ask them to do. We'd like for them to be a little bit more upbeat here. But, when you practice first, like we pushed them pretty hard before we came over here, that makes a little difference too."
The Gators will not practice on Sunday. They'll start-up again at 4:30pm on Monday at the Sander's facility.
**QB Coach Ed Zaunbrecher on the QB play: "Chris Leak has got the experience, he's doing fine. Justin Midgett looks like a freshman sometimes. And, sometimes he throws the ball very well. Matt Kynes has done some things well as a ‘walk-on'. So, it's been up-and-down, which is normal for the spring." As an observer, I though both Leak and Midgett seemed a bit off target on Saturday, compared to the three previous practices.
**Junior WR Dallas Baker on the offense: "It's is kind of the same (compared to last year). It's not a big difference. They changed it some ways to make it look easier, but basically it's the same. We'll have it down (by the end of spring). It's the same plays. They just switched a couple of formations, or whatever. So, it shouldn't be a big problem."
**WR O.J. Small can play, said Coach Zook. But, also said he doesn't want to take a chance with his finger still healing.
**C Mike Degory took his helmet and pads off for awhile. He did some mild running from sideline-to-sideline, then put his gear back on and continued to practice. OG Mo Mitchell limped off the field a bit at the end of practice. Coach Zook said that both Degory and Mitchell are OK.
**WR Dallas Baker said that he's focusing on being better at blocking, catching with his hands, and raising his confidence. "That's probably one of my biggest problems is my confidence. I have to work on that," said Baker.
**Assistant Head & Inside Receivers Coach Dwayne Dixon has been wearing long sleeves and long pants during practices. Saturday morning, the heat pounded against the bleachers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. However, it didn't bother Dixon. "It's in the mind of the beholder. I don't worry about it. The players have on pads, and all that stuff. So, they're hot. They don't complain to me." (Laughter)
**At the end of Saturday's practice, just like the end of Friday's practice, CB Deshawn Carter picked-off Leak. This time, he scampered about 45 yards to the end zone.
**Former Gator and current Cincinnati Bengal QB Shane Matthews brought his 4-year-old son Luke to watch practice. Matthews said he liked what he saw out of the Florida QB's, and the team as a whole. Fightingators.com will have more on Matthews on Sunday. He also spoke of Steve Spurrier's future.
**Former Gator Baseball Pitcher Josh Fogg is in the midst of spring training with the Pittsburgh Pirates down in Bradenton. Fightingators.com will feature Fogg in a story next week. We'll also find out what Pirates Skipper Lloyd McClelland and All-Star Catcher Jason Kendall have to say about Foggs progression in the Major Leagues.