Saturday's Observations

In the last two Saturday scrimmages UF has run 218 plays in the open field, goal line and red zone situations. They have only run six bubble screens in those 218 to wide receivers. They have run some tailback screens to offset the pass rush but have added their quick game to replace the bubble screen. What are some of my other observations?

Saturday's scrimmage provided a glimpse of what UF's offense could look like at it's best under Ron Zook. The philosophy of new coordinator Larry Fedora is to take what the defense gives you and this afternoon they did just that. The defense was without Channing Crowder, Earl Everett, Marcus Thomas, Ray McDonald and Corey Bailey but for the first time this spring the second team offense joined in on the success and made some plays. This is a team that certainly will be in big time trouble if it has to go to battle without either of these two players: Chris Leak and Channing Crowder. That said it's situations like Saturday that help develop confidence and experience for other players. For this particular scrimmage the offense exacted some revenge on the defense for there spring long domination.

The success of the offense was a combination of both the defensive players that were missing and the fact that the receivers are getting more comfortable in the system. I have said this offense needs to see some success for it's work put in this spring and that maybe it should run against the two's for awhile. Yesterday was an example of the matchups the offense was able to get. The offense also upped it's tempo by snapping the ball faster in this scrimmage than any of the prior practices. Starting quarterback Chris Leak averaged 11 seconds per snap on his series in the open field. Justin Midgett's series was closer to 14/15 seconds from when the ball was blown into play by the official. Chris did his best job of the spring by getting the play called, reading the defense and getting rid of the ball. The offense used a lot of play action to confuse the linebackers and with the injuries on the defensive line he had plenty of time to get the ball down the field.

Another factor to the success is the offensive line seems to be coming together as a unit with Mike Degory back at center and Mo Mitchell and Steven Rissler alternating at right guard. Tavarus Washington got a bit dinged up and did not finish the scrimmage but his rise at left tackle is certainly being felt. Florida used a lot of crossing routes to the receivers to mix up the inexperienced linebackers. The run game had some success inside with DeShaun Wynn and Ciatrick Fason as essentially co-starters. The offense used some "I" formation, and shotgun three and four wide sets predominantly.

Chalk today up as a learning experience for many of the Gator defenders. Future star and current starter Dee Webb was victimized quite a bit from the arm of Chris Leak. While this secondary appears as a unit to be capable of filling the shoes of the departed seniors, it cannot cover quite as long and will be in trouble if the front cannot generate a consistent pass rush. With that noted, coordinator Charlie Strong continued to play his scheme and leave guys alone in man coverage. At no point in the scrimmage was either corner out of position so bad that a receiver was wide open. The plays that the offense did get off on the crossing routes should have gotten the defensive backs some help from the lineabackers. Without Crowder and Everett the linebackers really struggled with reads. Combine their departure with no McDonald and Thomas and you have a bad formula for success.

One other thing that worked against the defense was the ability of the offense to snap the ball so quickly and really wear them down. The defense continued to create some turnovers, which it has done all spring with a pair of interceptions by Nick Brooks and Deshawn Carter. In the front seven, Eric Holcombe was solid at times and Jeremy Mincey and Steven Harris showed some flashes of what we have seen all spring. In the secondary the safety play really struggled without Bailey and Terrence Holmes and the middle of the field surrendered a bunch of big plays.

Thoughts on players who caught my attention:
Chris Leak: He was very sharp directing the offense and showed some improvement in his decision making. He is very comfortable under center and may actually be mechanically more sound when going under center than in the shotgun.

Dallas Baker: He had another big day and this is no mirage folks. He is a more complete receiver and will be greatly improved this fall.

Andre Caldwell: He is the best pure receiving threat on the team. He displayed good hands and R.A.C. when called upon. I think he is uncoverable in UF's four receiver set.

Jemalle Cornelius: Aubry Hill, Harrison Houston, Travis McGriff: Pick one that is who he reminds me of and he may be UF's toughest receiver. Every scrimmage he has made a play.

Markell Thompson: This year's JUCO class seems to be a dandy. Thompson has improved every day and even showed a bit of speed after a catch. He is a huge target and is not afraid to go across the middle.

Ciatrick Fason: Had one of the best catch and runs of the day and even took a fierce hit one time and did not go down. He has not had the spectacular spring running the ball but we know what C-4 can do on gameday.

Deshaun Wynn: He had the best running day of any UF back this spring. He ran hard in the middle and made people miss in traffic.

Skyler Thronton: He is talented and tough but needs to learn to run lower in traffic because he runs too high. Most young backs will go through this in their first college experience.

Steven Rissler: He has really made himself a commodity on the offensive line. He can play guard or center and is a fierce run blocker.

Steven Harris: He made several plays from both the defensive end spot and inside at tackle on nickel situations. With his body size he does a super job of staying low and keeping leverage.

Vernell Brown: He is really tough vs the run. Vernell is fearless and snuffed out several slip screens to the running backs.

Brandon Daniel: He got a lot of work inside Saturday and did some good things. He wore down however as the scrimmage went on and was too high in his rush. He needs to develop some "game stamina". But for a freshman he has a bright future.

Jeremy Mincey: Another JUCO player who continues to impress with his great motor. This biggest problem right now with Mincey is sometimes he blows an assignment and gets confused. He did force the interception by Deshawn Carter by pressuring Midgett into throwing early.

Travis Harris: Travis looks comfortable at linebacker and was very vocal during the scrimmage. Harris led the defense to a couple of stops in the third down phase.

Reggie Lewis: He dropped a sure first down inside the 20 from Justin Midgett early in the scrimmage but showed great maturity to bounce back with a big catch later on in the 3rd down phase. Both throws were over the middle.

Snippetts and Tidbits
The pre-spring emphasis for Chris Leak and the offense was third down conversions. He converted five in a row at one point to a variety of receivers and backs. The five in a row were to Latkso, Caldwell, Fason, Baker and Chad Jackson. The streak of five in a row ended at six on a run play on 3rd and short. Justin Midgett looks like he is improving, making several huge throws during the course of the scrimmage. It is the interception to Nick Brooks that must be corrected for him to continue to develop. He also had more time to throw today than in recent scrimmages. Tauren Charles registered a sack today from his end spot in nickel. I think if he can help this team this fall as a situational pass rusher utilizing his athletic ability. Chad Jackson continues to improve giving UF a deep and talented corp of receivers. He has become fearless going across the middle. Both Jackson and Caldwell are the starting gunners on the punt team. Jackson, Caldwell, Lewis and Cornelius are getting the brunt of the work at kickoff return. The second team offensive line today consisted of Anthony Guerrero, Rod Dowdy, Billy Griffin, Steven Rissler and Carlton Medder. Medder made a great block on Nick Brooks on a run play for Skyler Thornton. The first half of the scrimmage register four touchdown drives out of eight for the first and second team offenses. Finally, the variety of guys who scored for the Offense: Cornelius, Baker, Jackson, Thornton and Wynn.

Final thoughts
It was the first win for the offense of the spring although the defense had some guys out it appeared the offense was ready to perform. Not every defense UF plays will have a Channing Crowder so it was good for them to experience some success. In the last two Saturday scrimmages UF has run 218 plays in the open field, goal line and red zone situations. They have only run six bubble screens in those 218 to wide receivers. They have run some tailback screens to offset the pass rush but have added their quick game to replace the bubble screen. Part of the reason is the confidence in Leak to deliver the ball across the zone defense underneath. The other part is the emphasis on taking what the defense gives you. Two of the six called bubble screens went for touchdowns. The final week should provide spirited workouts as the defense will get Crowder back but the offense has made some strides with their backups as well. It should make for an entertaining game next Saturday in the Swamp.

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