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The defense looked very good for a first day back to practice although the muggy conditions made everyone look like their legs were very tired. Still, it was a good first time out of the blocks and there is no doubt we'll see plenty of improvement in the days ahead.
Movers and Shakers:
Even though he's healing from a torn meniscus it looked like I saw Eric Wilbur punt one time. Coach Meyer says he is due back at full speed in two weeks. Nick Fleming punted well in his place ... Marcus Thomas was back practicing and ran with the first unit the whole practice. He looked rusty, but pretty healthy to these untrained eyes … Markell Thompson worked at both offensive tackle and running routes at tight end. We spent the summer months wondering if he was still on the team ... Ray McDonald moved to defensive end and Joe Cohen practiced a great bit at defensive tackle, both mainly switching positions for this first practice ... Gavin Dickey played exclusively at wide receiver today ... Kenneth Tookes was the fourth receiver in a four wide receiver set as Jemalle Cornelius was mainly the backup to Chad Jackson on the day.
Plays of the Day:
Lamont Sheppard, younger cousin of Gator great Lito Sheppard, brother of made a great deflection of a Chris Leak pass in one-on-ones ... Jemalle Cornelius looks stronger and is using his body physically to get open when the defensive back gets aggressive. He made a great push off of Jarvis Herring in close coverage to get open ... Reggie Lewis (they call him Winky) was really aggressive going after the ball in the one-on-ones. He forced a missed ball against Dallas Baker ... Earl Everett kind of tripped up Tate Casey over the middle but drew a lot of praise from the coaches on the play.
My pick for the play of the day is a Tate Casey catch over the middle of the field about 20 yards downfield. He was blanketed by Brian Crum and hauled in a strike that was thrown so that he (Casey) is the only one who had a shot to catch it. The quarterback, tight end, and defender all played about as perfect as one can on the play and were all congratulated by their respective coaches.
A close second was a strike on a fade pattern to Dallas Baker from Josh Portis that would have gone for six. It had the smallest of arcs and got there in a hurry 25 yards down field, a really beautiful pass.
Player of he Practice:
Vernell Brown gets my vote. The smallest scholarship Gator was all over every receiver he faced today and regularly drew applause from his teammates, the coaches and the crowd.
Solid as a Rock:
I'll give it to Earl Everett, he plays great in space and will be special this year in my opinion ... Reggie Lewis also gets a solid nod he was aggressive all day and lined up on the outside receiver as a corner instead of nickel a lot today ... Tremaine McCollum had a solid spring and stepped it up today also. Does anyone notice a theme today? The corners were good, especially the older ones.
Moving On Up:
With Dickey at receiver and Cornelius Ingram working with the freshmen, Portis was second string today at quarterback. He didn't have a great day but it certainly looked like a sign ... If Reggie Lewis plays like he did today all fall, he will be hard to keep off the field.
Freshman of Influence:
With the freshmen divided from this practice, I guess I will go with redshirt freshman Derrick Harvey. He looks so much the part and should have a huge impact on the defensive line this year.
What I liked:
The secondary forced two interceptions and played aggressively throughout the day. The corners and defensive backs as a whole are much more aggressive than I can ever remember, and I have been following Gator football since 1985 …Tate Casey lined up right at the offensive line, dispelling the reason I thought Dane Guthrie may have bolted for Arizona State. I don't think one play in the spring saw the tight end line up at the line and with the lineman on an offensive snap. In the spring he was always flexed out.
One general thing I liked was the cheering going on by guys competing for the same jobs. It was quite noticeable when players made great plays their teammates let them know they saw it.
What I Didn't Like
Dickey left practice with a stinger or something, but came back about 10-15 minutes later ... The quarterbacks had an off day and maybe it was due to the secondary stepping it up. Whatever the case, Portis threw two interceptions and Leak had a few batted balls in drills that normally favor the offense ... Hot Tamale (Terrance Holmes), where are you? He was there, but did he practice? Brandon Siler was noticeably limping.