A Final Look at Spring Practice

UFI take another look at how the Gators performed during spring football practice. A position by position analysis is given here.

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Here is  a final report guard on Spring Football for the Florida Gators.

Offense: Overall the offense had a "learning spring" in that the base for which they will work out of in the fall is in.  Coach Zaunbreaker has to feel good about his no huddle offense and his running game.  It appeared overall that this team was at it's best in scrimmages when Rex Grossman was calling the plays at the line of scrimmage.

Quarterbacks: Grossman was excellent for what they asked of him and did seem to get frustrated in the middle of spring practice. It was not some much one thing but a combination of a more deliberate passing game, inexperienced receivers and a new system overall. One thing the offense did find out in spring is that Ingle Martin can become an adequate backup to Grossman. He still has a way to go but the offensive system compliments his strengths and he does bring the added dimension of running the ball from the quarterback position.  He will receive a challenge from Patrick Dosh and Gavin Dickey for the backup job in the fall but his confidence really grew in an impressive spring game.  Grade:  B+

Wide Receivers: This unit really struggled in the spring to establish an identity. The new staff is no closer to a set rotation for the fall than they were 15 practices ago. Taylor Jacobs was superb but his supporting cast lacked consistency.  Carlos Perez could emerge as number two but he was bothered the entire spring with a heel injury. Kelvin Kight the other expected to emerge actually submerged in spring and really seems to be sliding.  Reggie Vickers has some big scrimmages including the Orange and Blue game but needs to bring it every play and every practice.  He could be number 3 or 4.  Matt Jackson still has a chance and will be in the rotation in the fall.  Antoine Sharpe must emerge in the first two weeks of fall camp or he will go to defense.  One move to keep an eye on is the possibility of Vernell Brown moving to this position.  He is a playmaker and would really fit well in the
offense.  Dallas Baker, if he qualifies, will have a chance as well.  Tight End was a better fit than Zaunbreaker would have had at Marshall and Aaron Walker earned some catches for his play in the spring.  Ben Troupe struggled but still has tremendous talent.
Grade C.

Offensive Line: When grading the men up front keep two things in mind 1.New system and 2.Thompson's scheme.  The first five is still up for grabs.  Max Starks is finally comfortable at left tackle and Mo Mitchell has gotten better at right tackle.  If the season started today and the Gators were facing a formidable front four expect the tight end to help out Mitchell.  He still has a lot of upside. Jon Colon has been the mystery with the former staff being real high on him but he cannot seem to get a true position. He has settled in a right guard but expect Jorgensen and possibly Dowdy to push him there. Shannon Snell is the left guard and his biggest adjustment has been to the new run blocking techniques. Mike Degory was the true bright spot of the spring and may win the job at center but expect David Jorgenson to compete in two a days with him.  Bobby Williams and Lance Butler also made strides and Dubose may make the staff's decision on Jorgensen easier with his steady play at center. The new scheme calls for lineman to pull and run more
including improvement in the quick screen passing game.  This is the complete opposite of the influence and retreat mode of the old system.  Grade C-.

Defensive Line: A tremendous spring for the front and it really showed that sometimes change is good.  Obviously Ian Scott was dominant and could be an All-American.  Arpedge Rolle and Bobby McCray benefited from the change in that Thompson's scheme allows both to maximize their ability.  Rolle was tough at the nose tackle position and McCray was unblockable showing several different moves to get to the Quarterback. Tron Lafavor and Bryan Savelio are the other tackles with Tron getting better later in the spring.  He benefits from the old scheme and the double teaming of Scott.  The new scheme sometimes forces him on a tackle guard combo and it took him awhile to get going.  Darrell Lee was solid not spectacular and Chris Reynolds showed signs as did Sylvester McGrew.  They will play a lot.  Kenny Parker got into the mix at tackle and Marcus Oquendo Johnson played well at end.  This has become a really deep and skilled unit. If they can make the same strides over the summer and and two a days this could be the surprise unit
in the SEC. Grade: A

Linebackers:  This unit was solid and started off real well but tapered off at the end of spring.  Matt Farrior won the middle linebacker job and needs to have a good summer in the weight room.  Mike Nattiel and Bam Hardman are solid not spectacular on the outside.  Thompson wants his middle linebackers to be the quarterback of the defense while the outside guys cut it loose and make plays.  They did not make enough after the offense got in-sync late in spring.  Travis Harris moved to outside with Hardman and seems to provide depth as does McCollough and Dwight Jackson who was injured.  Larry Kendrick moved back to safety after  spending time at outside.  Expect a freshmen to get a chance to compete with Reid Fleming for the backup spot at middle linebacker, possibly Channing Crowder from Georgia. Grade: B-.

Secondary:  The last line of defense is in good shape with three of the four spots locked up going into the fall.  Keiwan Ratliff is a big time player and there are no better safeties than Todd Johnson and Gus Scott.You may not see Scott blitz as much in this scheme but he will have a chance to make more tackles and interceptions.  The other corner is up for grabs between Robert Cromartie, who is coming back off an injury, Marquis Westbrook and DeShawn Carter.  Vernell Brown had an excellent spring  behind Ratliff and could switch over or move to offense. I believe he is too small to be an every down cover corner in the SEC but he proved me wrong in the fall.  Cromartie is steady but does not react to the ball in tight situations. Cory Bailey had a great spring at safety and is going to play in nickel and dime situations.  Daryl Dixon missed spring with an injury while Larry Kendrick and Herring need more time and reps.  This unit will make a lot of plays in the fall.  Grade: B+.

Special Teams:  Nothing to really grade until the fall but bet that under Zook and special teams coordinator Jerry Odom they will be very good.  They will block punts and they will be a factor in the return game, which is something Florida has not been very good at, well since Zook was here in 1995.

Overall no major injuries but some minor ones that forced some reps on new guys.  Expect the freshmen class to contribute at running back, receiver and linebacker this fall.  Summer is going to be important for all the returnees.

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