As bad as the weather has been, the Gators have been lucky to miss very little practice time. This is only due to the flexibility of the schedule and the players not having classes right now. This would be a problem during regular two-a-day practices. The schedule will be adjusted around the rain if possible but they generally won't leave the field just for rain. They will only leave the field if the team trainer tells them there is a lightning alarm
Practice started off and ended today with special teams - in particular kick-off returns.
The starting Kick Returner depth chart is:
1st Team - Bubba Caldwell and Dee Webb
2nd Team - Reggie Lewis and Chad Jackson
3rd Team - A combination of Jamelle Cornelius, Mike McIntosh, and Markus Manson.
They worked specifically on running their lanes on kick-off returns.
Warm up and Run Through
They then started directly into a blitz run through session. The blitz run through is a long series of downs where the defense is always sending more than 4 defenders on the pass rush. They actually ran a little slower today on the run through, most likely due to the bad weather. There isn't really much to talk about here as they were definitely not going full speed. All they are trying to accomplish is getting everyone on the same page and making sure they know their assignments. The rain was coming down pretty good in the middle of this drill and Chris Leak struggled a little with the wet ball. Coach Strong was animated during the blitz drills and was after his troops to straighten up.
After stretch they went into a short field goal / extra point session. They practice these on the far field, so normally you can't tell if the field goals are good or not. On Matt Leach's first two shots from the middle of the field and there was no question he made his field goals. My former boss, Dave Houts, was hit twice in a row on the filming tower directly behind the middle of the end zone. The tower, which is about 30 feet high, might need a little glass barrier now with Leach's deadly accuracy.
After the field goal exhibition, the offense and defense split up. The defense moved to a tackling circuit on the near field. The defense split up in 3 groups of linebackers, defensive backs and linemen and each went to a county-fair like station where 3 coaches were there waiting to give them instruction on the drill. Each drill contained some different element of offensive movement so that the players would have a variety of ways to make a tackle. Of note was one time when Coach Zook walked over to Coach Miller's station and yelled out, "Yeah coach, they are already hitting better!! Yeah Baby!!" Dee Webb, Jarvis Herring, and Tony Joiner applied multiple big time pops on the circuit. On the first play for the defensive linemen in Coach Miller's station, Ray McDonald really pissed him off and he made Ray watch the rest. These guys are not just playing out here. The "play of the day" came in the same little drill when Jeremy Mincey lined up against Michael Brown. In the drill the two squared up at the line of scrimmage, on the snap of the ball Mincey is supposed to fend off the block of Brown and go and make a tackle on the ball carrier running with the ball on a toss pattern. On the snap of the ball, Mincey wailed into Brown and sent the true freshman flying in the air and on his back. The small crowd erupted as Mincey completed the tackle. When he headed back towards Brown afterwards, Mincey said, "You go against me, I'm gonna hit ya!!" Like I said in one summer workout report, Mincey will be the quote machine this year. Of that, I have no doubt.
As I am listening to my tape here, the rain is just pelting my umbrella. I start to have a real fear of some player getting hurt during the first real tackling of the preseason in the Oklahoma Drills. Fortunately it never materialized.
Todd McCullough was the first winner in the Oklahoma drill. He came back and handled Markell to make the tackle.
Randy Hand ate Jeremy Mincey alive as Markus Manson went in untouched. The next trip for Hand and he handled McKenzie Pierre like a red-headed step child.
Mo Mitchell ate up Eric Holcombe. On his next chance to impress Mo got a hold of Brandon Siler and backed him up about 15 feet and basically out of the entire drill.
Mike Degory takes out Ray McDonald as Deshawn Wynn scores. Later on he demonstrates that it was no mistake an schooled McDonald again.
Channing gave up one to Ciatrick on his first shot. Then, he came back and beat Billy Latsko for a tackle in the backfield.
Colon started out excellent against Cohen and allowed little DuJuan Lawrence to score. He came back again and did a nice job on Julian Riley.
Guererro is a hoss in the little space required for the Oklahoma drill. If he can get contact on someone, he can really eat them up. On his last chance he rode Joe Cohen to the ground.
On one snap, Marcus Thomas owned Ron Dowdy in front of him only to have Ciatrick Fason lower his shoulder, plow over him, and score standing up. On the next try for Marcus, Lance Butler took control and whipped him at the line.
Tree Morant did very well in the Oklahoma drill. He had three shots and won all three handily.
Michael Brown continued having a bad day today as Phil Trautwein planted him on the turf and landed on top of him.
Derrick Harvey made a sweet move on Jason Watkins and tackled the little scat back Lawrence for minus yardage.
Jarvis Moss may seem like he is a little outmatched in close quarters. However, he is so quick that he was almost by Jason Watkins before he ever was touched. The back narrowly escaped a huge loss as Moss just missed him.
A little 2 on 2 action
They switched up today and instead of 1 defensive back against 1 wide receiver, it was 2 on 2.
Vernell Brown made a great play on a corner route to break up the pass early on. He came back a little while later and picked off a poorly thrown Jeff Whitaker pass.
Dawayne Grace had his best practice of the preseason as he seemed to be flying around with the pads on.
Justin Midgett is not having any problems throwing the ball in the rain. He and Ingram are the tallest of the quarterbacks and they seemed the least affected by the wet ball out there today. Midgett threw a perfect fade route to Jemalle Cornelius late in the 2 on 2 action. He followed it by a precise deep corner pass to Kenneth Tookes between DeShawn Carter and Terrance Holmes.
Dee Webb continued his excellent play today, playing close and giving the rookie Mike McIntosh a nice jolt as he forced a drop.
The offense started out in a 4 wide receiver set today. Although I think our base set will be a 2 wide receiver 1 back and 1 tight end look, we will use a lot of 4 wide receiver sets to take advantage of and maximize the talent on the team.
Mike McIntosh, still looking solid, does a lot of the little things that receivers don't do when they first get here. One of those things is shielding the ball from the defender on a pass. He came back to the ball when closely defended and shielded Dee Webb again in pass-skel drills. He just never seems to take a play off. Of course he doesn't know the offense all that well, but he is going to be a player.
We are really starting to see a lot more of Tony Joiner out there in the drills. The plays are scripted and the defense calls for Joiner to assume the strong safety spot in the nickel package with the team split like it is now. But he continues to make plays and look like he knows what he is doing out there.
Kyle Jackson still leads all defenders with his 3rd interception of the fall now. He is running second team on the Group B so it seems like he isn't getting a lot of chances but he must be taking advantage of what limited action he has.
Jarvis Herring, playing with the second team so far, has had an pretty good fall camp. He made a nice little pop on Tate Casey as the ball arrived to make him cough up the ball.
Terrance Holmes (Hot Tamale) continues to play well and is probably playing the best of any safety at the moment. He gained a little fame coming out of the spring game because of his hitting ability, but he has taken a nice leadership role and been ultra steady in the defensive backfield.
The instructions for the team drill today were that they go full speed. The tackling was thud (can pop but not tackle), and nobody is to be on the ground at any time. This will get changed around from time to time and full tackle from time to time, but I am guessing they don't want to mess with the nasty fields and bad weather.
The first play from scrimmage was an option from Chris Leak to Ciatrick Fason. (I'm sure Otis80 just loves that).
Continuing on his best day in preseason camp, Dawayne had excellent coverage but dropped a sure pick that was in both hands.
Bubba Caldwell drew the ire of Coach Fedora when he "alligator armed" a pass after anticipating a hit from Dee Webb. Fedora was on him for a while on that one. Have to mention the twins today.
Brandon Siler continues to show excellent drops into the flat from his will position. He dropped straight back and lured the quarterback into making a sideline pass that he was able to get over to and knock away. This is the second time I have seen this from him in team drills in as many days.
Joe Cohen looked like a kid in a candy store when he intercepted an option pitch. He was so excited to get it he didn't know what to do with it.
Reynaldo Hill came out with a little more spunk today. I have mentioned briefly that he has tried to be more aggressive. He stepped it up a little notch today. I don't think he is anywhere where they want him to be, but it's a start. He definitely has the speed and the agility to play the position. If he adds a mean streak he could be a very productive corner back for the University of Florida.
Milli Vanilli would have been proud today as OJ Small actually dropped a ball today and I "blamed it on the rain". The sure handed receiver had one slip right through his fingers on a middle out route and was very disgusted with himself on the sideline afterwards.
One of the guys that I haven't mentioned very often so far is Earl Everett. The weak side linebacker hasn't made any big plays in the parts of practice we have been able to see closely. One problem is that the running game stuff and most of the team stuff all week has been far across the practice field out of our vision. However, I am hearing that Earl is doing well.
Look for more incidentals in the secret BullGator Insider Den forum tonight!