After spending Tuesday re-evaluating Monday's scrimmage, here are things I liked and didn't like:
THINGS I LIKED MONDAY NIGHT:
1. OFFENSIVE LINE: They looked very good on running plays although they had a few breakdowns on pass protection, something that should be expected in the first scrimmage of the season. Lance Butler is very mobile and able to get out in front on sweeps. As improved as he was last year, he is better this year. Mike Degory is solid as a rock at center. Randy Hand is an excellent run blocker who won't get beaten many times on the pass rush. Mo "Winnebago" Mitchell is huge, but a dominating run blocker. If he can handle quick inside pass rushers, this will be a real plus. The key to the line is going to be Jon Colon's health. If his knee and back hold up, he will be the missing link for a line that has the potential to be very good. On the second unit offensive line, nice performances were turned in by guards Drew Miller and Steve Rissler as well as left tackle Phil Trautwein who continues to build off good practice efforts.
2. FASON AND WYNN: They can talk all they want at St. Bob's Home for Wayward Boys about Booker and Washington, but there isn't a better tandem of running backs in the state of Florida than Fason and Wynn, who are both faster than the Nolette tandem, plus they're bigger and more powerful. The first scrimmage should be a preview of things to come. Wynn and Fason both broke a couple of 20-yard-plus runs. They combined for 16 carries and 125 yards. Expect them both to average about 15 carries per game in the regular season.
3. FRESHMEN SAFETIES: Tony Joiner and Kyle Jackson both showed they are light years ahead of where most freshman defensive backs should be. Jackson had a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown. Joiner showed he's not afraid to take on anyone when he took on 265-pound David Kenner. They have the speed, the size and toughness to see the field early and often. It will be surprising if both are not starting by midyear.
4. WIDE RECEIVERS: The Gators are loaded here. Dallas Baker didn't play because of a groin pull Monday night, so Chad Jackson and Andre Caldwell simply stepped up their games. Caldwell has the deep speed but he's also a fine runner after the catch. The dilemma for the coaching staff is to keep him outside where he will run more medium and deep routes or move him inside where he'll get a chance to show what he can do after the catch. Jackson keeps coming on strong in the preseason. He had three nice catches and showed he can move in traffic after the catch. Jemalle Cornelius turned a bubble screen into a 16-yard thing of beauty to set up a touchdown. OJ Small catches anything thrown close to him. Throw in a healthy Baker, freshman Mike McIntosh and Kenneth Tookes and this is a position of depth and strength.
5. BILLY LATSKO: If you are looking for your most improved player, look no further to the fullback position. Latsko is on scholarship now and he's said thanks to the coaching staff for the reward by having a lights out summer in preparation for the season. He's got 16 pounds of added muscle (230 now) plus his quickness is much improved. He had three catches out of the backfield Monday night, two for touchdowns. He's going to burn some people on wheel routes. He is fearless as a blocker, too.
6. RAY MC AND MT: Ray McDonald and Marcus Thomas are going to be a superb pair of defensive tackles. They showed great quickness off the ball Monday night and McDonald, in particular, showed tremendous lateral movement. This might be the most rangy pair of defensive tackles the Gators have had on the field since the days of Brad Culpepper and Tony McCoy. Thomas has a straight ahead burst that will allow him to split double teams and McDonald just doesn't give up on plays.
7. JEREMY MINCEY: Finally, a junior college transfer who can play! He's the real deal on the pass rush, and he showed that he can hold his own against the run. What I like best is he attitude he showed Monday night, the same nastiness that has been present in every single practice since contact began. He seems to thrive on contact and has shown he can take a tackle on inside as well as using his speed to get around on the outside. He had an excellent Monday night scrimmage. He will only get better.
8. CHRIS LEAK: He threw 23 passes and only one was a bad throw. He had four balls dropped, otherwise he has 17 completions for the night. He showed patience Monday, waiting for receivers to run their routes to get open, holding the ball till the last second before delivering. The patience in the pocket was so also evident in the fact he only scrambled one time, gaining 10 yards for a first down during the two minute drill.
THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE MONDAY:
1. TIGHT END PLAY: Darrell Carpenter went down with a broken bone (ankle or foot, I'm not sure which). David Kenner and Markell Thompson had decent but not spectacular evenings blocking on running plays, but neither showed any ability to get open on pass routes. Brian Crum didn't get anything thrown to him during the scrimmage but he's still on the third team or lower. Dane Guthrie missed the scrimmage with an ankle injury. This is a position that has to step things up in the next week. This will be a position of concern if significant improvement is not shown in Saturday's scrimmage.
2. SECOND UNIT LINEBACKING PLAY: Javier Estopinan and Brandon Siler spent most of the evening either over-running plays or being shoved around. They played like the true freshmen they are. They were hampered by the absence of Todd McCullough, who sat out with a sprained ankle. McCullough would have been making the audible calls and would have been able to get them in position to make plays. Don't read bust into these two. They are players and they will show marked improvement by Saturday's scrimmage. Jarvis Moss needs more than four days to figure out what to do and where he's supposed to line up. It may take awhile before he's anything more than a pass rush specialist. He has the speed, however, to be an every down linebacker.
3. OVERALL DEFENSIVE END PLAY: Tranell Morant played well enough with the second unit that I would expect him to move to first team opposite Jeremy Mincey. Joe Cohen was a non-factor as was Steven Harris. On paper this looks like a position of strength, but Monday night, the strength wasn't there. Harris was even moved inside a few plays. I'm comfortable with Morant and Mincey as the starters, but Cohen and Harris have to step their games up. Derrick Harvey showed a lot of speed, but he played like a true freshman. He needs experience.
4. RED ZONE DEFENSE: Gavin Dickey torched the first team defense for a couple of quick touchdown passes in the red zone. There was no pass rush on either of the two scoring plays, nor was there any help for the corners by the safeties. Other than the play in the red zone, the first team defense was quite solid but once in the red zone, there were far too many missed assignments. Chris Leak just toyed with the second unit defense when he worked the red zone with the first offense. As with the first unit, there were far too many breakdowns and zero pressure on the quarterback.
5. BACKUP DEFENSIVE TACKLES: The second unit defensive tackles got hammered by the first team offensive line. McDonald and Thomas are solid first teamers, but they can't go every play. At least two backups have to step up before game one to provide some semblance of depth at this position. Expect this to be the position which gets the most attention between now and Saturday.