On the spring as a whole, Coach Zook said that, "we're trying to do so many things, which is good. We're doing a lot more, than you would do for any game. Once you settle into the things that you want to do, then, things will become a lot smoother. If you look at all that we're trying to do…I mean, we're trying to do things that we did in the middle of the season last year."
Coach Zook said he's very excited about where the ‘defense' is right now. "I think, up front, we have got a chance to be pretty good. They're getting some plays thrown on them right now…and, experience. We're way, way, way ahead of where we were a year ago at this time…which we should be." Sophomore LB Channing Crowder speaking about the defensive play on Saturday: "I think the defense got after them today. We came with a lot of emotion, and, played real strong and real good. Everything's looking good. I think we're coming around."
As far as Crowder's progression this spring, he said that, "I'm not ready yet (to start the regular season). I believe I know the system pretty good. I'm not in game-shape yet. I could go out there and play, but, I need to keep playing and keep practicing. It's a team thing…eleven people on the field. We're getting everything together. We have a lot of young talent. People need to prove themselves…and, that's why everybody says we're young. But, we have just as much talent, or, more talent, than last year. So, we should be pretty good."
Only Crowder and Ray McDonald are basically the only two starters on defense returning from last season. Crowder said that the rest of the guys have to impress the coaches, if they want to get a starting spot come fall. "That's what it's all about. There are no real solid spots. Everybody's up for grabs (to get a starting spot)."
Crowder, at times during this spring, has seemed a bit overly aggressive. "That's football. They don't get mad when you're overly aggressive in football. That's what I do. I play with a lot of emotion. The offense is all mental, getting into the system…that's no fun. That's why I don't like to play offense. But, defense, it's just emotion…running around going crazy. That's the best thing in the world. If you play with emotion, you're going to do good stuff. Even if you mess up…you're just flyin' around…and, you'll knock somebody out."
Coach Zook said that, Crowder's "maturity level (he) has shown is a little bit uncanny. But, that's the thing that he's always done. He loves to practice. He loves to play. He's a smart player. He's a leader. He's doing the things that you expect big players to do."
Crowder spoke of how some of his defensive teammates are emerging. "Steve Harris is going to be real good. Joe Cohen…he's coming in. He doesn't know the position (at DE), but, he's just so big, he runs people over…it's ridiculous what he does. Also, Tranell Morant, and Jarvis Moss. There are a lot of young guys who can play."
Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong said what they're trying to do during spring is to establish some depth. "Right now, if you look at us at defensive end, we have four players there…Joe Cohen, Steve Harris, Tranell Morant, and Jeremy Mincey. So, we kind of have established some depth there. At linebacker, with Crowder, with Earl Everett, and with Travis Harris, we found three good players there." He also said Todd McCullough, Taurean Charles, and Howard Lingard are doing well.
As far as the secondary goes, Strong said that, "right now, we're worried about losing four (starters from last year). But, Jarvis Herring and Corey Bailey played a lot for us last year. And, now to get Dee Webb, who's coming along, and, Reynaldo Hill…we feel like that we have got four good players there. Then, with Vernell Brown coming, we just feel like we have got to continue to get better, and, establish depth."
Offensive Coordinator & Wide Receivers Coach Larry Fedora said Junior WR Dallas Baker had gotten better as the 2003 season went on…and, he felt more comfortable with everything. Now, during spring, Coach Fedora said that, "we try to put as much pressure on him as possible, and, try to stay on him as hard as we can. Then, hopefully, when he gets in that atmosphere (with 90,000+ screaming Gator fans at Florida Field), he (and his teammates) will be more relaxed. I think Baker has matured, and, I think that everyday feels more comfortable. Every one of them has to be more consistent."
Coach Zook said that Baker is doing fine. (He has made some outstanding catches so far this spring). "But, he can't miss plays, miss blocks, or, miss what he's supposed to do. You can't look at one play. It's the whole thing. Sometimes it's hard for him to understand. You can't buy experience. He's making a lot fewer mistakes now than he did a year ago at this time. So, he's right on course."
Junior DL Jeremy Mincey on his progression so far this spring: "I know I can do a lot better, and, push myself to the best of my ability. I don't feel that I'm at the best of my ability. I'm still learning the system. Here, we take different steps…the reads are different…a lot of the plays are different…schemes are different…speed is different. So, we're trying to adjust, and, get used to everything that's going on."
Mincey said that he's working hard in the weight room, and, in turn, that'll help him on the field. "I'm just going to take that physical energy and turn myself into a player."
Coach Zook said that Sophomore WR Jemalle Cornelius is a very good athletic guy who can do a lot of things. We have got to get him to do more on the offensive side of the football. It's not because he can't do it. We need to have big things out of him in all phases. They all kind of ‘flip the switch' at their own time, and, his goes on and off sometimes." Sophomore Punter Eric Wilbur got right to the point this morning when asked about his javelin throwing. Yes, javelin, as in track and field. "I can't focus on punting all of the time. It kind of gets to me. It seems like I'll just get burnt out, and, I need something else to do. I'm not allowed to kick out here (at the stadium). So, I figured I'd go out to the track and try something." Coach Zook expressed to Wilbur that he thinks throwing the javelin will affect his punting, because he isn't doing as well as he should right now. Wilber said he understands that logic.
=====Bits & Pieces====
The University of Florida hosted the 2004 high school Florida Relays at Pearcy Beard Stadium over the weekend. During their spare time, some of the prep athletes came over to the Sander's Facility to watch the Gator football team practice on Friday afternoon.
Ed White High School had a group of athletes on hand who watched the Gators, and, also, watched their ‘old' high school leader Dan Disch, as the Gators new secondary coach.
Sophomore RB Savier Stephens, who played under Coach Disch in Jacksonville, said his ‘old' coach was a very good one. "He showed a lot of tough love. We were all kind of disappointed that he was leaving us. But, we were also, at the same time, happy for him to make this big jump. We felt like he deserved it."
Stephens then chuckled about how Coach Disch looked at Gators practice. "We're proud to see how he's looking…because, he used to look kind of different at our school. He would wear the same khakis (pants) every day, the same football belts, the same shoes -- forever…with holes in them. I came out to Gators practice, and, said: ‘that's Disch??' We never had seen him wear shorts before…ever."
I asked Coach Zook if he spoke with Coach Disch about his attire. "As long as he wears Gator gear, that's the rule," said Coach Zook.