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The morning session featured freshman, redshirt freshman, and transfers. I watched those players competing for positions of need, specifically linebacker and secondary. This nreport will focus on the secondary. Obviously, this is day one with no pads, so most of the information will focus on their athleticism and speed.
If you had to describe the play among the secondary it would have to be The Reggie Nelson Show. The Palm Bay native was just as advertised. He was easily the most impressive all-around performer on the field today. Certainly, playing junior college ball gave him a leg up, but Nelson took the opportunity to light it up.
There is no question in my mind that barring any unforeseen problems, Nelson (6-1 175, Palm Bay) will not only start in the Florida secondary, he will star in the Florida secondary. He really was that much better than the others. I usually find first day predictions are laughable. This is one that I can easily make.
Everything Nelson did from jamming the receivers at the ball to covering with intensity was first rate. Wearing number #32, Nelson's first assignment in one-on-one drills was covering Georgia Tech transfer Pat Carter, who is playing wide receiver. Nelson blanketed Carter. He had no real shot for the ball, because he looked as though he was auditioning for a role as a pinball, with Nelson playing the bumpers.
Nelson looked good throughout the man-on-man drills. He mixed it up a bit with a couple of receivers (Nyan Boateng and Cade Holliday) who both tried to drive Nelson off of them at the line. He didn't take any shots without reciprocation. He made a couple of mistakes later in the drills and the coaches' spoke to him about those, but there is no question that he has been sparring with receivers at the JC level. It is also interesting to note that Nelson went to the sidelines and slapped his hands together in frustration after making a mistake. That competitive spirit is always a plus on day one.
One other thing that Nelson did that caught my eye was take time to point out a few things and give some reinforcement to freshman Avery Atkins. When Coach Heater corrected Avery after a play, Nelson stepped over and pointed to the field saying a few things to him. He then slapped him on the headgear.
Atkins (5-11 189, Daytona Beach Mainland) is the one defensive back who can hang with Nelson in the various drills through the cones. Both were very impressive in their quickness, footwork, and speed. However, Atkins will need a day or so to soak up the drills and work on the various foot skills and positioning that Heater and company are teaching him. Atkins is a very athletic freshman, who really seems like he's thinking before reacting, as most freshmen to do on day one. He's another guy who will be interesting to watch as the team goes into full pads, as he might be yet another to help provide depth to the Florida secondary.
Atkins was solid on one of the man-on-man drills, but must have rolled his ankle a bit. He didn't participate in many of the other man-on-man drills as he had his ankle wrapped. Atkins (# 4) returned for the final round in man drills, and later participated in the seven-on-seven drills. Atkins was the typical freshman, making his share of mistakes, but turning in a slid performance as well.
Safety Dorian Munroe (6-0 191, Miami Coral Reef) obviously does not possess the quickness and agility of Nelson and Atkins, but he has the body of a strong safety, who seemingly enjoys laying a lick on a would-be defender. He has pretty good speed deep, but obviously didn't demonstrate the type of speed that receivers Louis Murphy and Nyan Boateng displayed.
Munroe made a few mistakes in cover drills that cost him the opportunity to make plays. Obviously, the coaching staff immediately addressed those mistakes. Munroe (# 34) was better in coverage against Carter, who is not the swiftest afoot.
I also thought that Lamont Sheppard (5-9 185, Jacksonville Raines) demonstrated some impressive quickness and speed as he navigated through the cones this morning. Sheppard was not as quick or fast as Nelson or Atkins, but he definitely caught your eye in the cones.
Overall, it was a very good first day among the newcomers. Nelson turned heads, Atkins opened a few eyes, and we'll probably get a better feel for Munroe once they go into full gear.