The Jacksons…but thankfully, not those Jacksons
Two of the most impressive performers today were wide receiver Chad Jackson and true freshman free safety Kyle Jackson. Chad (6'1 206) caught about everything thrown his way today. He has looked awfully good thus far, breaking away from the secondary guys at times, while using his body to his advantage while being covered solidly on short routes. Chad made a beautiful adjustment to get open on a deep ball thrown in there by Gavin Dickey. He looks much better than last year at this time.
Kyle (6'0 199) received praise from Coaches Disch and Zook a couple of times today for getting in the right position. He made a beautiful play picking off a pass on the near sideline. Kyle came right through the wide receiver for the ball. It was a textbook read and he hung on to the ball as it bounced away from the wideout who was falling to the ground. Kyle plays with a tremendous anticipation of the offensive strategy. He's a real student of the game.
Granted things change when the full gear is added, but they both look like guys who will have an impact in '04.
School was certainly in session for the Orlando Evans graduate. Coach Miller repeatedly provided counsel for Siler (6'2 226) after each play as the linebackers worked on skels. It's back to basics for some of these young guys. They are so far above the norm at the high school level that when they arrive on campus they quickly realize that they can't get away with breaking from the basic fundamentals because of their athleticism or size. For instance, Siler looked pretty green during the tackling drills. He didn't get his feet set and square up for the tackle on his first try, as the ball carrier wiggled away. On the second play, he didn't stay and low and hit the ball carrier too high, which will get you pushed backwards in a hurry at this level.
Coach Zook also jumped in and provided Siler with some instructions during the seven-on-seven drills. One big positive was Siler's questioning of the coaching as to his positioning during the passing drills. Siler looked a little better later in the scrimmage session. He has a long way too go, but certainly has the physical tools. Besides Todd McCullough, Siler was probably the most fleet of foot among the linebackers in Group B.
First Coast High School graduates
Two more guys who looked solid today were wide receivers Kenneth Tookes and Mike McIntosh. The former First Coast High School studs have looked fluid and fast. Tookes caught several passes today where he demonstrated outstanding hip rotation and athleticism.
I thought that McIntosh looked faster than I recall him being at First Coast. He was always known for his good hands and athleticism, but it appears that he definitely picked up a step or two since arriving in Gainesville.
Both of these guys will have to prove that they can get off of the line of scrimmage when the team goes full gear.
There is no question that Skyler Thornton has picked up some speed since last season. The LaGrange High School phenom looked impressive accelerating past linebackers and into the secondary for passes. Thornton looked solid catching the ball earlier in the session too. I wouldn't hesitate to flank him out with C-4 in the backfield and dare an outside backer or safety to keep up with him. With the added weight that he picked up, look for his contributions in the Gators backfield this season to increase dramatically.
I'm not really certain what to expect with the extended practice schedule, as the Gulf of Mexico churns into Hurricane Alley. Anyone with connections to Alan Archer, Florida's official weather guru, please have him contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll gladly pass along his forecast for the remaining Florida practice sessions.
It's just as well though; Hollywood and I may or may not be out there tomorrow. Negotiations with the evil Solari Empire are expected to continue through the night. Bob and I have informed management that we'll not settle for donuts and Cold Stone in lieu of payment. (Publisher Ray/Solari's note: It'll be a cold day in hell....)