Quarterbacks look crisp…
Chris Leak looks decisive and sharp on all of his throws. He is hitting the slants and middle crossers in stride and really knowing when to put zip on it or lay some air under the ball. Actually, there have been very few deep balls where has just lofted it up there. Even the long balls look to be less of an arc and getting to the receiver quicker. There is one reason for this, and it is because he knows where he is throwing the ball and he knows earlier. I totally like what I am seeing from Leak so far this preseason.
Tebow seems much more accurate himself. It is very apparent he is not as far a long learning the passing plays as Leak right now, but he does some really good things at times. A great example was on one play when Jarvis Moss was in at defensive end in the 7 on 7. The defense ran coverage where Moss was supposed to cover the flat and the corner covering the receiver out there bailed to play a deep cover three coverage. Tebow saw the movement just before the snap and whipped the ball out to the receiver too fast for Moss to get there and the receiver had 10 yards before anyone could touch him. He will get there and moments like that have to put smiles on the offensive coordinator's face.
Prediction: I have a feeling it is going to be a very good year for Leak and company. He has some tools to work with at wide receiver and he seems more calm and in charge than I have seen him in four years. Tebow should get some playing time with some blowouts this year and I expect him to improve dramatically over the fall.
Wait for the pads with the running backs…
I really can't tell much about the running backs right now except that they all look like mirror images carrying the ball the way the coaches want them to. The Gators were one of the nation's best in ball control last year. I expect that trend to continue. We will see more form the backs when the pads come on but now it looks like the rotation is DeShawn Wynn, Kestahn Moore, and Markus Manson.
Wide Receivers know what they are doing…
It makes so much more of a difference when a receiver knows exactly where he is supposed to be when the ball is thrown. That slightest bit of thinking while moving that fast can make for the slightest hesitation and a route that isn't worth anything to an offensive coordinator. This is why the receivers have looked so sharp thus far. They know what they are doing.
Dallas Baker and Bubba Caldwell are the biggest difference makers out there at receiver. Baker makes little cuts on the move that he hasn't made before simply from what I stated above. His confidence in what he is doing leaves the cornerback almost defenseless. He also seems much quicker. Dallas did miss practice on Monday, but on Sunday there was this funny moment. Coach Heater was mocking Dallas during 1 on 1 drills. He screamed out, "Dallas Baker the Touchdown Maker!!". Everyone in the stands heard it and laughed. Then Dallas proceeded to burn Reggie Lewis.
Caldwell is much the same thing. I don't know how it is possible, but he actually looks faster after his broken leg than before. Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson will learn a thing or two about confidence from Bubba this year. They will be lacking that early on but they will play when he comes off the field and Bubba will have to take them under his wing.
Jemalle Cornelius is solid, but had a bad day catching the ball on Monday. I know Cornelius has as good of tools as any receiver in the bunch. Last year it didn't seem like he got much of a chance to show it. This fall he has too many drops and is leaving me scratching my head. He is another that knows what he is doing, but will have to be more consistent catching the ball foe sure.
Kenneth Tookes may be the biggest surprise of the spring among seniors so far. He is another that is really showing confidence in what he is doing and in 7 on 7 drills has pulled down some nice catches over the middle on deep balls thrown his way. Tookes is probably the best blocking receiver on the team and that will get him on the field as fast as anything with this coaching staff.
If David Nelson gets past the dropsies, he should be a big target for this team. The red-shirt freshman has had two great days of practice and is a very common target for both quarterbacks. He is the biggest of all the receivers and close to the fastest when he gets running. Nelson seems to really know what he is doing out there now and if his concentration is there as far as catching the ball, he too can have an important season for the Gators.
Nyan Boateng and Louis Murphy just have not stood out so far. Both have dropped their fair share of passes and both have made a few nice plays. Boateng has some decent speed and Murphy has the build to be good players. They need to step it up with the freshmen coming in on the scene.
Prediction: Caldwell, Baker, and Tookes start the first game along with a tight end. When the freshmen get added to the mix, the staff takes a serious look at Cornelius at cornerback. Nelson becomes Baker's first backup. Freshmen Harvin and Fayson fight to back up Bubba. Talk about a good problem to have at this position.
Tight ends should be good to spectacular…
Tate Casey has had a good couple of days with one drop and one fumble. Those are his two biggest flaws and the staff is all over him when it happens. He gets open and he has good speed for the position.
Cornelius Ingram will push Casey big time to get on the field and it may come to a point where they have to get Ingram on the field period. He has great hands especially for a guy that was not a receiver until December. He is fast and big and will create more mismatches than anyone else on the offense. He is a true weapon.
Prediction: Casey will play a lot, but Ingram becomes the starter in the slot. He is much more of an H-back guy and opposite Bubba / Percy / Jarred in the other slot it makes for a deadly combination defenses don't want to see.
Offensive Line is another wait and see…
- LT: Phil Trautwein, Jason Watkins
- LG: Jim Tartt, Simon Codrington
- C: Steve Rissler, Eddie Haupt
- RG: Ronnie Wilson, Maurice Hurt / Carl Johnson
- RT: Drew Miller, Carlton Medder
We really can't tell much with the pads off, but all of these guys came in to the fall in the best shape of their lives. I think this is much more burley line that last season and therefore they will pound people up front. I don't like Tartt's nagging shoulder injury and that is cause for concern. Depth is young all the way around and I can see Johnson or Marcus Gilbert replacing Medder on the second unit.
Prediction: The Gators get about 700-1,000 more yards rushing this season behind this line. Early on they struggle against pass rush, but sack totals and passing yards are better by year end.
Defensive Line will be team strength…
- SDE: Ray McDonald, Derrick Harvey
- DT: Marcus Thomas, Clint McMillan
- DT: Joe Cohen, Lutrell Alford, Steven Harris
- WDE: Jarvis Moss, Javier Estopinan / Darryl Gresham
They should be the team strength this season. Three seniors and a junior start up front and all of them will probably be in the NFL in 2007. It is a big unit and fast, opponents will struggle against the run and pass because of this line.
Linebackers need freshmen depth…
Brandon Siler and Earl Everett are as much of the heart of the defense as anyone else out there. Both make plays and both are team leaders. There is really nothing to say negatively about both and both could be all-conference performers if not better.
Crum still is not instinctual as a linebacker but makes up for some of that with his speed and athleticism.
Demps is a monster backer that is still fighting a little knee tenderness. Once that is over, he should be a good one out there.
They aren't getting much from Ryan Stamper just yet, but he is a work in progress.
Eric Sledge really looks like a different person with the upper body weight he added in the off-season. He may get a good look this year with the speed he brings to the table and I think this would be a year ahead of schedule.
Prediction: Demps gets the nod at strong side linebacker by the second regular season game. Spikes will become the backup at middle backer by midseason and Doe is the backup at weak side backer by midseason. This will let Crum back up at strong.
Safety will be graded when pads come on…
As good as the receivers were this fall so far, some blame has to be on the safeties. Still, there is no hitting going on and a couple of times the receivers would have had their clocks cleaned making some of the catches they did.
Tony Joiner and Kyle Jackson should be good this year and Joiner could really move to linebacker with his size. Dorian Munroe is a bonus and a really good athlete backing these guys up. John Curtis and Nick Brooks will fight for the fourth spot.
Prediction: This position should be great whether Reggie Nelson stays at cornerback or not. Joiner and Jackson have both played a lot of football and it is their time to prove themselves. Joiner has proven himself a vocal leader already.
Cornerbacks will be fine, newcomers needed for depth…
The cornerback position was a worry coming into the preseason but Reggie Nelson has erased much of the worry with his play so far at cornerback. To be frank he has been damn good. Not perfect, but he really has the physical ability to play the position and I personally think he just loves the challenge.
Reggie Lewis got burned a few times early in day one, but settled down and is also playing very well at the opposite corner. I think Coach Heater has a great deal of confidence in Lewis to do the job.
The twins will fight, but we will see when the freshmen and Ryan Smith arrive where the twins stand in the rotation. I like their skills, but their height is an issue.
Prediction: A freshman or Ryan Smith comes in and establishes themselves as a starting corner somewhere along the line. This allows Nelson to move back to safety and frees up the Joiner to linebacker or maybe even a nickel situation with the defense, giving the coaching staff a great deal of flexibility back there.