FOOTBALL: 8/16 Night Scrimmage In-depth Report

The Florida Gators scrimmaged tonight for the first time this 2004 fall season. The offense and defense went full contact for 2 hours in front of a crowd of about 1,000 in The Swamp. There were some early good signs on the injury front. I talked to Skyler Thornton tonight and he told me that his injury will only sideline him for 1 week. He was on crutches all day today and it looked like it might take a little more time.

We were told that Kyle Jackson would be held out tonight, but he definitely played and had a nice highlight for the fans. Dee Webb, who was hobbling this morning at workouts, and was on the stationary bike on Sunday, returned to action and played pretty well himself. Michael Hill was hitting out there and that is a great sign for the defensive tackle rotation. Dallas Baker, Tavares Washington, and Dane Guthrie were held out with various ailments.

The practice started off with a pass-skel drill that was highlighted by close interceptions by DaWayne grace and Tremaine McCullom. Justin Midgett threw a sweet drag at the back of the end zone to the waiting arms of Kyle Morgan. Kyle would go on to have an excellent scrimmage.

The Drives

The scrimmage started out reasonably slow as the 1st team offense played against the 2nd team defense and stalled on a 34 for yard drive that started on their own 20. The drive was highlighted by a nice bootleg pass to Billy Latsko for 14 yards and a first down. During the drive, Tree Morant continued his troubles with jumping off-sides, but came back to combine with Eric Holcombe on a sack. The defense held the offense on their own 46.

The second drive matched the 1st team defense and the 2nd team offense. Gavin Dickey led the offense and the drive went 10 yards in 5 plays before freshman Markus Manson fumbled.

Drive 3 had the same participants as the first drive. Chris Leak hit Caldwell on a beautiful post pattern and Caldwell was ht and dropped as he caught the ball. DeShawm Wynn really ran hard all night and had a nice run of 15 yards. Jemalle Cornelius made a nice move after a hitch route and scooted for 17 yards to the 2 yard line. Billy Latsko finished it off with a catch of a bootleg pass from Chris Leak for 2 yards and a touchdown. The swinging gate made its way out there for the extra point and the coaches decided to go for it and scored a 2 point conversion.

Dickey and the second team offense got to more shots at the defense when their second drive went three plays and out and ended on a Reynaldo Hill swat of the ball. Coach Zook left the same groups out there for another series that lasted all of one play. Gavin threw an errant pass that Dee Web picked off and returned 44 yards back to the 18 yard line.

Having seen enough of that group the 3rd teams take the field and the offense was led by Cornelius Ingram at quarterback. Another 3 plays and out ended in a sack. The staff left the same teams out there and the next series lasted all of three plays as Ingram's 3rd down pass fell to the dirt.

Red Zone

Te Gators entered the red zone portion of the scrimmage in somewhat of a funk. The offense last year was rated near the bottom of the SEC in red zone efficiency. That combined with the previous few drives by the 2nd team offense didn't pant a rosy picture.

Gavin Dickey calmly changed the tone of the scrimmage as he helped guide the 2nd team offense into the end-zone, 3 of 4 times from 18 yards out. Twice by air and once by land, Dickey used his feet and his arm to make things happen. On the last drive, he leaned on freshman Markus Manson to do all of the leg work to get to the 1 yard line. Dickey scored on a quarterback sneak. On the third drive in this series, the offense had what appeared to be the best looking reverse of the pre-season. The receiver / running back handoff fell to the turf and the defense pounced on it. Still, the 1st team defense certainly showed it had some work to do in the red zone.

Chris Leak promptly came in with the 1st offensive unit and guided them to two touchdowns in 5 plays from 18 yards out. The first was a pass that hung in the air forever as OJ Small ran under the ball in the corner of the endzone. The next drive, DeShawn Wynn did most of the work and carried the ball to the 5 yard line on two carries. From there, Leak used another bootleg roll out to find to find Billy Latsko for the TD. It was a common theme all night that this route was left uncovered.

Justin Midget got his chance with the 2nd team against the 1st team defense. Vernell Brown broke up the first pass from the 22 yard line. Jeremy Mincey broke through and sacked Midgett for an 8 yard loss. The drive ended when Channing Crowder intercepted the ball and returned it 90 or so yards for a touchdown. Fortunately for the offense, Channing nearly decapitated the intended receiver, before the ball got to him and pass interference was called. At that point the team took a break and headed to the locker room.

Back from the break they continued the red zone action from the 22 yard line. Midgett handed off the ball 4 straight times to Markus Manson who got the ball to the 4 yard line. The drive stalled when Midgett kept the ball on an option run and the play went for no yards.

The first team offense stepped back in as Ciatrick Fason grounded out 11 yards on 2 carries to the 11 yard line. Leak finished it off with a strike to Bubba Caldwell for the touchdown.

The 3rd teams got in the action next and Markus Manson grounded out 10 yards on 5 carries. Cornelius Ingram's 5 yards on a quarterback keeper was the longest run of the 15 yard drive, but the combination of Ingram and Manson was enough for 6 points. Dawayne Grace was a little shaken up in the series, but it didn't look serious.

Coming Out

The next series of the scrimmage is designed to test the offense and its ability to pull away from their own end zone. From their own 2 yard line, if they can reach the 20 yard line, they have succeeded.

DeShawn Wynn with the 2nd team unit did all the work on one play as he rambled 18 yards to the 20 on the first series. Wynn played extremely well tonight and was really tough to bring to the ground.

Although the next series took three plays, Justin Midgett threw a rocket to Chad Jackson for a 30 yard gain and a successful series against the 1st team defense. The defense did drop freshman Markus Manson for a 2 yard loss, but the bomb was the sealer.

In one play Fason ripped off 24 as he played behind the 3rd team offensive line and against the 3rd team defense.

One of the plays of the night came on the next series. Gavin Dickey threw a corner pass from his own end zone, and freshman Kyle Jackson was Johnny on the spot yet again this pre season. Jackson's 5th interception of the preseason turned into 6 points as he made a great play to score.

Midgett led a three play series against the 1st defense. Chad Jackson had the first down pass go through his had to end the drive.

Ingram hit Tyler Guettler for a flare pass and 12 yards to move the 3rd team guys out of the end zone area. After the second pass was covered well by the defense, Ingram showed his great athletic ability and scooted for 13 yards to end the Coming Out session of practice.

3rd Down Conversions

In this portion of the scrimmage, the object is simple; the offense has one play to make a first down from different distances.

On the first set, the 1st team offense relied on Wynn to get the 6 yards and a first down. The next down, Stephen Harris held fast and held Wynn for a 1 yard gain on 3rd and 3. The last play saw Leak hit Jemalle Cornelius for a 9 yard strike and the 1st down. When they came back later the 1st team offense went 0 for 3 as 2 incomplete passes and a fumble by Ciatrick Fason marred their impressive performance on the day.

The first team defense went 4 out of 6 against the 2nd unit. In the series, Marcus Thomas and Jeremy Mincey combined to stop C-4 for no gain. The offense went a five wide set, but a blitz by the defense forced a quick throw and incomplete pass. Chad Jackson had a 1st down grab of 10 yards, and freshman Mike McIntosh got into the action with a 13 yard grab.

Cornelius Ingram and the 3rd team offense squared off against the third team defense for the final series of the 3rd down session. Tyler Guettler made another nice grab of a flare pass and steamed ahead for 12 yards and a 1st down. The 3rd team defense held on the final two plays.

2 Minute drill

The first scenario was a minute and 43 seconds to go 62 yards. The offense needed a touchdown. The first team offense strolled out against the second team defense. Chris Leak pulled out his surgeon gloves and reeled off a couple of 12 yard passes to OJ Small and Jermalle Cornelius. The next play should have been 6 points as Bubba Caldwell made a move on Tremaine McCullom and was all alone heading to the end zone. The ball was lofted, but Bubba seemed to run out of gas and was not able to get to the ball. Still, Leak didn't fret, he hit Small for 2 passes totaling 10 yards, but more importantly got the ball out of bounds. He scrambled around the left side for 11 yards. One of the freshman safeties had good coverage for another sure touchdown strike as he denied Reggie Lewis a chance to get to the ball. DeShawn Wynn finished it off with 2 hard nosed run of 8 yards each to score the touch down.

The second scenario had the 2nd team offense against the 1st team defense. With 57 seconds left, the offense had to travel 45 yards to score a touchdown. The drive started with two short passes to the sideline that netted a first down and little time off the clock. On 1st and 10 at the 35 Dickey dropped back and under heavy pressure from a Crowder blitz, he fired it complete deep to Mike McIntosh. The refs blew the play dead and said Crowder actually sacked Dickey. The very next play, Gavin faced some heat and scrambled right, he threw all the way across the field where Vernell Brown broke on the pas and intercepted it. Scrimmage over.


The stars

Leak was phenomenal, as was the backfield mates Fason and Wynn. While watching the first real tackling of the spring, it is easy to see the improved quickness of Fason. Wynn on the other hand played tough. He was a human pinball a few times and ran the ball hard.

The offensive line - The starting offensive line helped the two aforementioned backs to 8 yards a carry on 17 carries. Leak was pretty much hassle free all night and only had to scramble a few times and had one sack. I like the make up of this unit.

Markus Manson - I might as well name all the scholarship running backs that played tonight. Markus carried an astounding 22 times by my count, all in less than an hour and a half of real time. He only had 62 yards total but ran hard all night and seldom lost yards. He ran the wrong way a few times as freshmen are apt to do, but this kid is tough.

Dee Webb - He only played for a short wile tonight, but he made his presence felt early. He ha a beauty of an interception and return and a pass break up in the only two series I saw him.

Falling stars

Tight ends - The tight ends were non existent. They didn't catch a ball all night, and with Darrell Carpenter and Dane Guthrie limping around, the pass catching threats just are not there.

Defensive ends - I didn't see the pressure that I wanted to see and I am sure the defensive staff would agree. The starting unit did well, but not great. These guys have physical ability we have talked about for a while; we need to see them use it.

Reggie Lewis - He has been in on a lot of passes this fall, but he had one pass thrown to him all night. Will he get noticed later?

Final thoughts:

Scrimmages are always a bag of mixed feelings. If the offense does well, then maybe the defense isn't that good, and vice versa. Still, I thought the offensive blocking tonight was excellent. Leak is playing very well. The running back tandem of Wynn and Fason run well behind this line. The receivers caught most everything but there is definitely room for improvement Some in attendance didn't think the cornerbacks played well, but the stats for the starters don't bear that out, except for the red zone. There were plenty of big plays made by the secondary tonight and plenty of big plays that were made on them or could have been. I still think the success of this team depends more on the defensive front than any other part of the team. If the ends get pressure, this team will succeed.

Fightin Gators Top Stories