Defense Improving

It's just a week into spring practice, but the Florida Gator defense is starting to stand out. During Wednesday's workout, the Gators held a scrimmage between the offense and defense and the defense finished on top after making play after play and shutting down the offense that looked so good last week.

"I'm kind of excited to see defensive players getting enthusiastic," head coach Urban Meyer said after practice.

During the scrimmage, Wondy Pierre-Louis and Joe Haden both had interceptions and the defensive line managed to stuff the run on a consistent basis.

Not all was bad for the offense as both Brandon James and Chris Rainey were able to break out for long runs, and they were also short Percy Harvin, but the young defense is beginning to take shape.

"Our two offensive line is struggling and we're just not making plays," Meyer said. "Guys that were making plays in the past need to start making plays."

Most impressive to Meyer is the Gator secondary that made big play after big play. And that was with the absence of free safety Major Wright who missed Wednesday's practice because he was feeling under the weather.

"We're improving on defense," he said. "I'm pleased with what the defense has done over the last couple of days, and I'm happy with the way the secondary is playing right now. Those corners and two safeties are playing well."

Ahmad Black stepped in for Wright today at safety. In addition to Wright, Harvin missed the workout because he was getting an MRI on his sore heel. James Wilson also did not suit up because his knee was acting up, and Paul Wilson who injured his knee during a contact drill on Monday was on crutches with a wrap around his left knee. Wilson said he expects to be out about two weeks.

During 7-on-7 goal line situations, Janoris Jenkins knocked knees with Markihe Anderson who had to be helped off the field. Meyer said he should be fine.

The offensive is mostly struggling with the no-huddle approach that Meyer is trying out this spring. Throughout Wednesday's scrimmage, the offense went no-huddle but had trouble getting set up quickly, getting into the right formations and reading the defense.

"On offense we're not going to be a full no-huddle team, but we're just messing with it," Meyer said. "I'm tempted to go back to the way we were because we were a decent offense a year ago."

The backfield had a good day with several of the backs standing out.

"Kestahn Moore is doing very well," Meyer said. "He's the number one tailback right now. He had a great day today. He dropped one on the sidelines, but he's had a good spring, had a good day today and ran hard."

Meyer said Moore's tendency to fumble every once in a while is a concern.

"A guy like Kestahn, he's conscientious," Meyer said. "First you look at their technique and strength and he's got both of those. He's just got to become a baller and take better care of the ball especially in key situations. There's only one way to overcome that concern as a coach and that's time."

Meyer said he's been very impressed with Chris Rainey who is up to about 177 pounds. He said everything he had problems with last fall, he's improved on in the spring.

"Rainey's been good," Meyer said. "When he gets open you can't touch him."

He also likes the way Emmanuel Moody is running.

"Moody's been impressive," Meyer said.

And even though he's only practicing two days a week because of baseball, Meyer said he's been impressed with Riley Cooper.

"He's getting ready to be a junior," Meyer said. "He's a grown man now. In my opinion, freshman and sophomores, they're young and immature players. Sometimes you're blessed with an immature guy that can play. But by the time you become a junior you're starting to make career decisions. He's grown up now."

Meyer said he's also pleased with Cameron Newton this spring.

Lending a helping hand

Some select Gators took part in a barbeque after practice celebrating their role with former Gator Terry Jackson's new community initiative – BLAQUE. The program matches up Gator football players with middle schoolers who are considered at-risk. Louis Murphy, Cameron Newton and Emmanuel Moody are some of the players involved.

"Terry Jackson is one of my close friends and I have great respect for him," Meyer said. "Everybody's trying to, including us, go into schools and hospitals to help people out. I'm really disappointed in Downtown Gainesville. It could be one of the best downtowns in the country but you hear about some of the things going on down there. All of these young kids need to start making better choices and what better way than to use the role models which are the football players. It's been tremendous."

Meyer has even taken the role of mentoring a teen himself.

"Kenny Carter is in charge of it from our staff and I help out," he said. "I have a great kid. I promise him stuff if he gets good grades. I met his sister the other day and she told me how well he's doing. He calls me all the time. It's kind of neat."

Patchan switching sides

Early enrollee Matt Patchan started at offensive tackle, but has moved to defense. The Tampa-native was hoping to play on both sides when he got to Florida, but defense will provide him with the fastest track to the field.

"[Playing both sides], that's very rare with lineman," Meyer said. "Mo Mitchell did that a little bit Charlie Strong said. Other than a guy doing some goal line, I've never heard of that before."

Michael Pouncey did it for the Gators last season.

Questions or comments? Contact's Chris Chmielenski

Fightin Gators Top Stories