DAY EIGHT: Detailed Football Practice Report

The Florida football team practiced this morning in full gear. The Gators are preparing for their first scrimmage session tomorrow, when the coaches will get a better idea of who is ready to contribute.

Movers and Shakers:

The play of several freshmen continues to impress. It appears that a comfort level is taking hold. Some of these guys no longer have to think as much, reaction is becoming more of the norm. Offensively, the play of Nyan Boateng and David Nelson, and Markus Manson has been impressive. Defensively, it's Demps, Gresham, and Atkins.

What's New:

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, Chad Jackson dropped a pass in the red zone drills. Jackson has schooled any and every defensive back who has dared to line up across from him. He makes his moves and is open for the reception. However, late in the drill Jackson doubled back toward the line of scrimmage and as he made his turn, the quarterback drilled the ball hitting him very high. He wasn't able to grasp the ball, and the streak was finally broken.

Making the Play:

The Gators worked on open field tackling with the linebackers and backs in one area, while the secondary and receivers worked just a few yards away. Early in the drill running back Marcus Manson proved to be the toughest to tackle. His quickness proved to be difficult for several defenders. Among the best defensively was Jon Demps. He didn't miss a stop. The closest was his grab on Manson's leg, but Demps' strength and a little help from gravity kept Manson from getting away this time.

Earl Everett drilled Kestahn Moore for the biggest hit of this drill. It was a textbook tackle and one of the assistant coaches yelled, "That's it Earl". Cornerback Vernell Brown had the other slam of this drill. Brown grabbed LaMont Sheppard, repositioned his hold, and drilled him into the turf.

Fellow linebackers Todd McCullough and Brian Crum were embarrassed at times in this one. McCullough whiffed after DeJuan Lawrence juked him to the right and went left, leaving McCullough with nothing but air. DeShawn Wynn put a wiggle on Crum that had Crum off balance allowing Wynn to pull away to freedom.

On the final play of the drill, John Curtis was hit by Avery Atkins and had to be helped off of the field by trainers. Atkins' tackle was right after Vernell Brown drilled Sheppard. Obviously, Atkins learns well.

Plays of the Practice:

The additional work on special teams gets my vote here. Coach Meyer personally oversaw the special teams work on punt blocking. At one time Meyer yelled, "Can you or can't you?!" directly challenging the players. Several players made good and bad attempts to get the ball. Atkins, Reggie Nelson, Reggie Lewis, and Markus Manson have plenty of speed coming from the outside.

Pass-skel: The team worked in red zone man-on-man coverage. Chad Jackson hauled in a pass for a score despite Vernell Brown's solid coverage….Tre McCollum knocked down a pass on the second play of the drill….Jemalle Cornelius laid out for a pass for a score in which Avery Atkins had great coverage… David Nelson prepared a little shake and bake and got a hand on a well thrown ball. Nelson bobbled the ball several times, but kept focus until it was secured… Dallas Baker worked Vernell Brown over for a easy touchdown grab… David Nelson again displayed some nice moves on Atkins for a score… Brown had the best play of the drill by a defensive back when he broke on a pass intended for Cornelius.

11-on-11: There wasn't long scrimmage sessions today. It appeared that the timing between the quarterbacks and receivers improved at times today during the scrimmage. I don't think the defense outright won the battle today, as they have since the start of drills. Nobody really stood out in the limited drill though. The starting offensive line today featured Hand and Butler at tackles, Tartt and Washington at the guard positions, and Degory at center.

Play of the Day: Running back Markus Manson's spin move away from linebacker Brandon Siler during the open field tackling drill.

Player of the Practice: There was really no clear winner of this award. Markus Manson's open field running was impressive. Demps tackling as well.

Solid as a Rock: Jim Tartt. He is dead set on proving that his shoulder will hold up just fine.

Freshman of Influence: Linebacker Jon Demps wins the award this morning. Demps was the best in the open field drills. He was devastating to the ball carrier, making every tackle rather easily in most cases.

What I liked:

The play of Demps on defense. It's evident that he picking things up nicely….Boateng and David Nelson at wide receiver. When I spoke with Nelson after the third day of drills, he was getting used to the speed and adjusting to the physical aspects at this level. It's evident that he is picking up on that as well… The consistency of Earl Everett. You just don't see him have a bad practice…. The extra attention this staff pays to special teams play. That is far too often an afterthought.

What I Didn't Like:

The play of McCullough and Crum during the open field drills…Where are you Jermaine McCollum?...It wasn't warm enough this morning.

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