Monday's Practice Observations

Some battles are heating up at Spring football practice on the campus at the University of Florida. The DLs and CBs look very good as well as many players at other positions.

Florida completed a fast-paced, two hour-plus workout today in full pads on the practice fields. Coming off a less than crisp scrimmage on Saturday the team showed a lot of pep in the cool weather. It was not a big contact day, but a work day in which for the first time in five practices, the offense seems to be coming together on the same page. The offense continues to look for some cohesion even though the shuffling on the offensive line continues as Mo Mitchell sat out today as a precautionary measure. The backup quarterback race showcased Gavin Dickey for the first time as he worked with the second team for most of the day.

Defensively the defensive line continues to find strength in numbers while the secondary has two units of five for it's nickel package. Ron Zook was very involved in the on field coaching today working with the defensive backs and handling the punt protection and coverage with the Special Teams. Zook, who cut his teeth as a secondary coach, worked on bump a run coverage with the corners in one session and cover two zone with the safeties in another session. One noticeable thing about the punt team is the number of starters with the first unit. Andre Caldwell and Chad Jackson are working at gunners and Channing Crowder is the personal protector.

Practice Notes:
The first team period saw the offense work on down and distance situations with the defense. This was not live but fairly upbeat with both sides getting after it pretty good. With Mo Mitchell out at right guard Anthony Guerrero got a chance with the ones while Randy Hand worked at right tackle. UF worked a lot on it's two back "I" formation mixing in a lot of option and bootleg passes. The defense did a nice job getting to the right man in the option defense. Skyler Thornton had a nice run inside on handoff up the gut of the defense. In the next skelly drill the quarterbacks and receivers worked against the linebackers and secondary. I thought Chris Leak was very sharp going four for his first six and delivering a deep out route to Dallas Baker. He did throw one deep ball down the sideline to Jemalle Cornelius for an incompletion. Gavin Dickey was a little rusty and has not thrown the ball much. But the one thing he did well was make good decisions and he made them quickly. He looks very comfortable in the pocket but his timing and delivery is a bit off but not enough that a week of practice would not fix.

The secondary continues to impress me, especially the coverage skills of the corners. Both Dee Webb and Reynaldo Hill have run stride for stride with the receivers. In the next open field passing game skeleton Leak hit his first five passes including finding his tight ends underneath the coverage. Dickey struggled a bit and the secondary forced a coverage sack. In the next team period Justin Midgett did get some work and looked better. He looks like a kid who has played the least amongst the three guys in the rotation and once again this spring will be valuable to his development. The Gators did get some nice runs with Leak under center including a big gain up the middle with DeShawn Wynn.

Guys who caught my eye:
Offense:
Chad Jackson – WR
Jackson had a really good day. He made some nice catches underneath the coverage and on the run. He must learn to play at his speed and that will come as he gains confidence in where he is supposed to go and the coverages.

Dallas Baker – WR
Baker has added the deep out and comeback to routes he can run with great precision. He is using his hands a lot.

David Kenner - TE
Kenner made several nice catches with his hands. He is starting to push Markell Thompson in what is becoming a nice competition.

Gavin Dickey – QB
Dickey showed good poise and decision making today. He struggled on his accuracy and long throws but made some nice throws on the out cuts during individual drills.

Lance Butler - OL Butler maybe the most versatile lineman UF has right now. He has played right guard, left guard and worked at left tackle today as well. He has gotten it done in the weight room and is now showing the flexibility to play anywhere across the front.

Defense
Tranell Morant – DE Morant lined up as first team defensive end. He is really making a push for the starting job, showing size and speed. He battled veteran Randy Hand several times.

Julian Riley – DT
Riley has played end but worked inside today a tackle and may be in the rotation that is growing with size and depth. He really caused problems during team drills.

Joe Cohen – DE
Cohen showed a good motor and speed off the edge. He looks more and more comfortable at the end position.

Terrence Holmes – DB Holmes obviously is the number five defensive back right now and looks to be a player.

Taurean Charles – Sam LB
Charles looks very comfortable in Charlie Strong's 3-3-5 nickel package as the fourth lineman coming off the edge. He pressured real well with speed.

Final Thoughts
In 2005 this will be the best defensive line in the country. Right now it is young, talented and has plenty of room to improve. The front four will be the strength of this team if everyone stays healthy. By the way, it will be a good defensive front in 2004. Tree Morant, Ray McDonald, Marcus Thomas and Steven Harris look a lot like the 1996 line at UF. The guys right behind them Jarvis Moss, Jeremy Mincey, Julian Riley, Clint McMillan and Joe Cohen look to be the future. They still have Kenny Parker, Michael Hill and Brandon Daniel, who I really like as well.R on Dowdy has moved to offensive line and got a lot of work at left guard with the second team. Mike Locksley is handling signaling the plays to the quarterbacks. Larry Fedora will work as offensive coordinator from the box this fall.


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