The first thing the teams did was a "walk through" which was really more like a "fast jog through". It was joint with both the A-Group and the B-Group and they lined up back to back on the near field 50 yard line. The first drill was a blitz only, about 15 plays for each group. So they ripped off 30 plays in about ten minutes.
Because they aren't going full speed, the only real thing we get out of this as a spectator is when someone misses an assignment and the wrath of the coaching staff comes down upon their hands. Unfortunately Michael Hill was the victim of the first verbal assault and it came from Coach Strong. He was out of position or ran through the wrong gap and Stong's gravel voice could be heard.
One noticeable thing in the Blitz package was the first bubble screen of fall practice. The infamous play of Georgia's demise hasn't been seen on the field this fall until early this morning about 9:14 am. Of course both groups were running the same scripted plays back to back, so the next bubble screen came at 9:14:30 a.m. Both went for about 12 yards.
That was really just a warm-up - immediately after that they moved to stretch. Then the offense and defense went to their separate fields and began their drills. The defense always comes over as a group first and practices pursuit to the ball. They do a series of intercepting the ball or having someone run with it and the whole defense pursues to the ball to block for the interceptor or smother the ball carrier. Just before heading to their positional instruction, the defense huddles as an entire group and gets a small motivational speech to make this practice their best. When done with the speech, the chant shouted out in unison was "Fly Around!!"
One particular moment that stood out today in the installation was Tony Joiner yelling out instructions to an older teammate. He evidently knew what to do and was helping his fellow player out. This is a great sign because Joiner is a guy that the Gators need to step up quickly this year and help out. Once the offense and defense finish with their drills and installations of new plays and game plans they head over to do a little bit of 1 on 1 receivers vs defensive backs. This is the part of practice where the instruction is missing due to time constraints. The rest of the team heads to the farthest field to do their running drill. Without full pads it's more about knowing your assignments with that group.
Another observation of this squad is with the defensive line. In pictures of the starting defensive line and even into the second string somewhat, it is easy to see that the size of the ends are the ends are close and the tackles are all pretty much the same. In viewing practice the spectator can see that the ends don't ever switch sides. In other words, they don't have a specific strong side defensive end (SSDE) and a weak side defensive end (WSDE). The starters, for example, are Joe Cohen and Jeremy Mincey, both very big and fast for the position. To look at them and know their strengths it would be hard for anyone to peg one as a SSDE and the other as a WSDE. In that vein they don't change sides. Cohen is always on the right side of the line and Mincey is always on the left side. The tackles are actually the same, both starters and actually almost all of the defensive tackles are about 285 pounds or so. The starters happen to be very similar in their attributes of quickness and strength. They do not switch either; Marcus always lines up to the right side of the formation and Ray McDonald always lines up to the left side. It doesn't matter which one happens to be playing in the inside gap because both have very similar traits.
Zook Practice 101
I am going to define a few terms that I use at times and make the assumption that the reader knows what I talking about. I will have this segment from time to time and if anyone else has a term they don't understand please feel free to ask on our message boards. They're a great way to interact with us and I'm often prowling them.
Pass-skel: Short for pass skeleton. The term is used for a practice drill containing the quarterback, receivers, tight ends, and running backs on offense and the linebackers and defensive backs on defense. They run regular pass plays only in these drills.
Weak side/strong side: A formation always has a designated weak side and strong side. They are opposite of each other on each play. The strong side is usually designated in a few different ways. First and foremost, if the offense has one tight end in a regular set, the strong side is the side of the formation where the tight end is. In other words, If the tight end lines up to the right of the offensive line, the strong side or strength of the formation is on the right. At the same time the weak side is to the left. Another way to distinguish strength is from field position. For example, the tight end is missing and there are 2 receivers on each side of the formation -- if the ball is on the left hash for the center to snap, the largest portion of the field is to the right and therefore the strength is on the right. In the same instance, if the ball is in the middle in the same formation, the usual designation is automatically right strength. The last way to call strength is when there is no tight end but more receivers on one side than the other. In that instance the strength is called to the side with the most receivers. Therefore, in a four receiver set with three receivers set to the right, the strength or strong side is to the right.
1 on 1: The one on one drill is just a passing drill where one receiver is being covered by one defensive back. The quarterback will signal a pass route to the receiver and the defensive back will try and defend. The wide receiver and quarterback should almost always win this drill.
Hitch and Go: This is a route that we have seen a lot of out at the practice field. The receiver runs a curl route (10 yards and then turn around). The quarterback fakes the pass and the receiver suddenly takes off for the end zone and the ball should be coming his way deep.
1 on 1
Dee Webb had a great day in 1 on 1 today. On the first play in the 1 on 1 drill, Dee was all over Jamelle Cornelius and totally denied him the ball. He all but took Dallas Baker out of his route on a deep corner pass; the ball skidded to the turf. Webb came back and put a blanket on Chad Jackson on a mid range in route.
Baker has become the Hitch and Go King. He burned Dawayne Grace today on his first play in the 1 on 1 drill. He ran another hitch and go that left Reynaldo Hill in the dust but dropped the perfectly thrown ball.
Kenneth Tookes has looked good in practice this week; he seems more confident in what he is doing. However, in his first try in the 1 on 1 today, Tony Joiner covered him like a blanket. Joiner wasn't so lucky the next go around when he drew OJ Small, OJ put one move on Joiner and that was all she wrote as he screamed for the end zone untouched.
Cornelius gave Deshawn Carter a move at the line of scrimmage that nearly broke Carter's ankles. Give him 6.
Bubba Caldwell is making nice moves without the ball. His cuts and routes are about as good as anyone right now. He made a nice cut on a middle in route and Reynaldo Hill had no chance. We are still waiting to see the after the catch moves from Bubba, but maybe they will come when the pads come on.
Corey Bailey has played tough in the 1 on 1 drills. He had a nice jump on a pass intended for Reggie Lewis and broke it up.
Justin Midgett threw a beautiful post pass to Jemalle. The ball arrived about two steps after Jemalle made his cut to the post but he wasn't ready for it and it hit him in the head. Midgett came back and threw a very nice go route to Reggie Lewis with Joiner in good coverage. The ball floated in on a low arc and right into Reggie's hands.
Gavin Dickey has been throwing the ball very well this preseason. He seems to have a little more touch but is still more apt the complete the line drive pass than the long looping pass.
The flare out of the backfield has been an under-utilized portion of the offense. Chris Leak put the defense on alert for the play when he hit Ciatrick Fason in perfect stride for a play that may have gone the distance. He used it 3 times very effectively with linebackers trailing the back and not being able to make the tackle. Leak followed that with a corner pass that went for 6 pts to Caldwell with Hill training in coverage.
Justin Midgett is still able to throw the ropes across the middle of the field, even with all of the other defenders on the field.
Reynaldo Hill dropped a sure interception of an ill-advised pass from Chris Leak. The pass was a little slow getting there and Hill was able to make a great jump but let it slip through his fingers.
Tony Joiner had his first interception of the preseason as he played centerfield and caught an over-thrown ball from Matt Kynes.
Dee Webb continued his great play as he was blanketing every intended receiver in his path. The lone player that caught the ball on his watch was Mike McIntosh. McIntosh did a great job of coming back to the ball and shielding it away from Webb as reeled it in.
Dane Guthrie played a little with the first team. He was in on a play with two tight ends and ran a seam route. He got open quick and the ball was threaded to him. He seemed to pull the ball in and the all of a sudden fumbled it.
The team drills were run from the first field today so we got to see a little more of the line and running-back play. To be honest, the line play and the running game can be very hard to judge when the pads are not on and hitting is not going on. When linemen on both sides are not going full throttle, it is hard to determine if a play would actually work or not. Here's the little things we can see:
Jason Watkins pulled on a counter play and would have leveled the two guys in front of him when he turned the corner. The left tackle got around so quick and surprised the defenders on the other side. Had the pads been on someone may have had to leave early from the resulting crunch.
Ciatrick Fason definitely has a pep in his step. What's especially noticeable is how fast he moves his feet when he wants to change direction. In the past I have more or less considered him a straight ahead runner that is big and fast. I see a little more juke in his step from a leaner and quicker Fason.
Chris Leak has come so far on his play action fake handoffs and bootlegs. The first pass play from scrimmage was a naked bootleg and everyone but his intended receiver OJ Small was on the wrong side of the middle of the field by the time he threw the ball.
Jarvis Moss is so quick getting to the backfield. He can disrupt the flow even if he doesn't make the initial tackle. If a tackle misses the block on Moss he can get to the back before the ball is handed off sometimes. That happened a few times, and only because they aren't allowed to hit did the play actually continue.
Tranell (Tree) Morant got blistered twice by the coach calling the defensive plays. Coach Strong lit him up for not knowing his assignments -- something he definitely needs to grow out of.
Tremaine McCullom had an interception of a Matt Kynes pass late in team drills.
The special teams practice today consisted of the punt team lining up a half line at a time to protect the punter. They always overload each half to force the protection of the punter on each side. It is used to teach each side of the ball to protect against one extra punt blocker. The two most effective guys that we have blocking the punts is Jemalle Cornelius and Jermaine McCullom. They didn't disappoint today as they showed their blazing speed off of the snap today. Although the ball wasn't punted due to not having full pads, it was easy to see these two shining in the drill.
In a sign of big things tom come from young players, it looked as if Eric Rutledge and Dane Guthrie were working a lot with the first team on punt protection / coverage.
The punt returners today were Gavin Dickey, Reynaldo Hill, Vernell Brown, and Mike McIntoch.
The middle of the field has been exploited so far in the first week of practice. In the good news / bad news area, it is a bone of contention about the offense not utilizing that part of the field over the last two years. At the same time, it doesn't bode well for the defense to be giving up so many connections in the middle of the defense. So it goes for pre-season practice!
The depth all around is going to have added effect on the team. The scout teams are now going to be full of players that can put up some competition for the starters during game week preparations. I think this will be a major factor in the success of this team this year.
Dee Webb gets the vote for player of the day, hands down. He was a human blanket out there as only one person caught a pass on him all practice Even then it was a perfectly thrown ball and a perfect come back to the ball my Mike McIntosh that ended the shutout. In my opinion it was the best preseason performance by a Gator player.
One of the big buzzes about practice since Coach Zook's arrival has been the speed that the practice takes place. It was very apparent today what can be accomplished when everyone is on the same page and the backs are against the wall. Because of the weather and the fact that the A-Group and B-Group were combined, the staff was forced to run certain drills back-to-back on the field. In total they were able to complete 46 plays of pass-skel in 16 minutes and 50 plays of full team drill in 19 minutes. That's a combined 96 plays in 35 minutes or almost 3 plays a minute, which allowed almost all of the other time in practice to be used for coaching them up. Talk about incredible efficiency!