Scrimmage Observations

The Gators hit the halfway point of the Spring with their second scrimmage in the Swamp. This week UF added some redzone and goal line situations to the formula to provide a more well rounded look at this year's team. Inside I discuss my thoughts and observations from today's workout.

Once again I thought the defense would get the win in the scrimmage, but I felt the offense showed some signs of big plays. Right now I think the team is right where they should be and the final two weeks will give them an opportunity to prepare for an important summer in the weight room.

Thoughts on the Offense and Defense:
I think the offense is right where it should be in spring practice. With all the movement on the offensive line because of injuries it has been hard to sustain a consistent running attack. Today we got a look at what could be the opening day offensive line and they pass protected well for Chris Leak. UF worked under center some today, working on the play action part of their passing game. UF also showed some "I" formation in the open field and goal line situations. 

I think there are couple of things this team will get better at the next few weeks and in the fall. They are not scoring many touchdowns especially in the open field and that is for two reasons. One the defense is tightening up (I will get to that next paragraph) and with the youth at receiver and newness at tight end they are not finishing the drives. Even Chris Leak made a mistake in a scoring opportunity and that is to be expected still because he is only a sophomore. With UF settling for field goals right now the focus has to be on finishing drives and doing it with the running game. The Redzone offense will be without Ben Troupe and his presence alone was a factor for defenses. The second thing they need to improve on is ball security. These turnovers are mostly coming from backups but these backups are expected to contribute this fall. Turnovers kill drives, momentum and field position. Finally I think the passing game would benefit from having as many reps with the top six players as possible. At times I think if OJ Small was in the game it would provide Leak a security blanket. A couple of guys had big days today but this unit and the passing game will look so much better mid season than it does right now. I think the number one offense needs to practice scoring to get the feel of it and maybe send the number ones vs a collection of two's and three's on defense just for drills .

Despite the injuries to Kenny Parker and Marcus Thomas, the defense is light years ahead of where it was last year. I think with the numbers on the front line, the offense is having a tough time moving the ball late in the scrimmage because Strong's unit is still relatively fresh. I think this unit will surprise some experts this fall. The redzone defense is better because of the amount of speed on the team. Last season this unit was almost a lay down when a team got in the redzone but this season because it has so much recovery speed they will be tough to get touchdowns on. The biggest concern will be big plays given up because this unit has youth and inexperience. But most great defenses over the last four years (LSU, Oklahoma, Miami) gave up big plays because that was the only way you could score on them. I think the days of 12 play six minute drives for scores may be over in the Ron Zook era. With Channing Crowder in the middle UF has a linebacker that can go sideline to sideline better than anyone since the 1996 team with James Bates. That is a big bonus for this team vs the run this season. What can they improve on the final two week? Continue to work on tackling, there have been some missed tackles but they are definitely getting to the ball. Pass rush has been good at times and others not so good. They have a lot of blitzes still to get in and that will help create different looks of pressure.

Gators who caught my eye today in the scrimmage:
Dallas Baker continues to get better and better. He had a big spring last year but it was all on deep fades and big plays on the under thrown stop route. He has improved his route running and today had a big day once again using his hands not his body. He is maturing as a player.

Jemalle Cornelius has become a solid route runner and a "quicker" possession receiver. He is a bit ahead of the competition at his position and seems to have control of the starting job. He does a good job of working away from his defender on timing routes. He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Mo Mitchell looked healthy and dominant at times on the offensive line today. He has tremendous agility for man of his size. He also has the nastiness you look for in an offensive linemen.

DeShawn Wynn made the most of his scrimmage today and is making a move on C-4. The one thing Wynn lacks is the consistency to be great. He has the tools to be a back who plays on Sunday but he must commit to it every day. He made two big time short yardage runs in the redzone that fired up coach Ron Zook.

Tree Morant is not going anywhere but up at the defensive end spot. He took on the pulling guard Mo Mitchell and stood him up on a run play. He also was extremely disruptive in the pass rush and showed the ability to move inside in a nickel situation and play in traffic.

Joe Cohen continues to make one or two plays a scrimmage that make you stand up and take notice. Today he made a play, chasing from behind, showing the speed of a running back.

Dee Webb blocked a punt today, delivered a big hit on a receiver and broke up a couple of passes. He is a playmaker and will step into Ratliff's spot on the defense with that role.

Cory Bailey had his best scrimmage delivering big hits and being very active in coverage.

Ray McDonald was disruptive on the inside registering a pair of TFL's and QB pressures. He looks bigger, stronger and more physical to me.

Channing Crowder was at his usual level. You know he made a bunch of plays!

Snippets and Tidbits...
While Deshawn Carter is improving he still needs to get more physical. That said he seems to have a nose for the football, grabbing another turnover in a scrimmage (his fourth in the last five practices) by recovering a fumble. 

The play of the day was a throw and catch from Justin Midgett to Chad Jackson for over 40 yds down the field. Midgett had a good two minute drill while struggling at times with the backups. He seems to be more comfortable when he just goes and plays .This is typical for young quarterbacks. Right now everything is moving very fast for him. He made some big time throws today and some ones he wished he had back.

Jeremy Mincey is one junior college player who understands how to play fast at this level. He has a good motor and is adapting to division one very well.

Vernell Brown looks very good at corner and as of right now would be the third corner behind Webb and Hill.

UF's starting offensive line from Left tackle to Right was: Washington, Butler, Rissler, Mitchell and Hand. Mitchell worked at some Left tackle today and Butler at some right guard.

One nickel set for the defensive front from left to right was: Travis Harris, Ray McDonald, Tree Morant and Steven Harris. Speaking of Harris, he catches my eye at every practice.

The best run of the day was by Wynn as he bounced outside and carried Crowder past the first down marker.

Markell Thompson continues to do well but he did drop an open touchdown from Chris Leak. The offense had to settle for a field goal.

Howard Lingard and Taurean Charles both delivered big hits today but are still looking for consistency. Kenneth Tookes had a pretty good day and showed some toughness by coming back to drills after and early ankle sprain.

Players who are making a move:
Reggie Lewis at slot receiver
Deshawn Wynn at running back
Vernell Brown at cornerback
Mo Mitchell at offensive line
Travis Harris at linebacker

Scrimmage Edge: Defense..... but the offense is coming around.

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