Practice Summary: Morning One Offense

This was totally unlike last year when the Gators led off practice before the sun came up. I can remember being out there at 6 am and possibly ten people were on the sideline. With everyone knowing there are only two open days practice to watch this rendition of the Gators, there were more than 300 in attendance dark and early. Here is one man's take on practice today.

Offense

I think it is quite clear that Tim Tebow is throwing the ball better, more crisp and accurate, less loft on the ball when it needs to be that way. Hiring a technician like Scot Loeffler will do wonders for Tebow in my opinion. I am not one that wants Tebow to really change what he does, but I can see certain situations with certain personnel in the game where Tebow is going to have to be more of a pinpoint passer especially in or near traffic. I sensed Tebow going through his progressions and hitting third and fourth receivers a lot. That is just my thoughts.

John Brantley had his moments, but I don't think he was as sharp as he was at the end of spring ball. He looked fine, but threw a couple of interceptions as well. Janoris Jenkins baited him on one medium pass over the middle and Brantley threw it a little slow for Jenkins to run through it.

One thing I noticed was a lot more use of the slant pass. I think this will be a great weapon in this offense if the quarterback can spot the most open man to get the slant too. It can also be dangerous as a couple of times the slant was almost intercepted.

Receivers

One guy that everybody was going to watch was Riley Cooper. From a distance, Cooper really looks like he has trimmed down and imagine that is the case given that he has been playing baseball this summer and working more on his speed than his strength like the rest of the team. Still, you get next to Cooper and he is just a huge receiver and even though he has slimmed down he certainly has great size. He looks more nimble, we will just have to wonder how his football legs are going to be after a week or so of this.

Brandon James looked comfortable in the slot position vacated by Percy Harvin, but I didn't really see anyone else work there all day. I never saw James get anything more than a dump pass from the position during the 7-on-7.

I didn't see really any other receivers stand out today. Deonte Thompson had a couple of nice plays but also dropped a pass after making a nice come back for the pass. David Nelson was reliable but not spectacular. From looking at one practice and that isn't really a big indicator, I would say that Thompson and Cooper look like guys we should expect to get the ball more this season.

I will throw Aaron Hernandez in this group as well. He like Thompson had a bad drop,but showed well on the day. Hernandez is simply a mismatch on the field and I like him going vertical rather than horizontal in this offense, unless they can fool the defense and he is uncovered completely.

Carl Moore didn't work out.

Running Backs

Emmanuel Moody didn't practice because of a sprained ankle that we have confirmed from sources. I am really never one to question a player's toughness and I certainly do not know the seriousness of this particular injury, but he does not have the praise of this staff when it comes to playing through minor injuries. Again,I am not a doctor and do not know the extent, but I hope he can get on the field soon or we may see freshman Mike Gillislee making a bigger move than we thought this year.

With Moody sidelined, it meant that Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey were going to spend all of their time in the backfield, but without pads and no running game on tap for these two practices, we aren't going to see much at all from the running backs.

I liked what I saw out of Rainey catching the ball and sure hope they find a way to get him the ball via the passing game.

Offensive Line

The first line up on the offensive line was Carl Johnson at left tackle, James Wilson at left guard, Sam Robey at center, Mike Pouncey at right guard, and Marcus Gilbert at right tackle. As practice progressed we saw Carl Johnson move back in at left guard and Matt Patchan move out to left tackle.

The threesome group of Johnson, Patchan, and Wilson is going to be a nice war to see which two get on the field at left guard and left tackle. Carl Johnson will be one of the two, whether he plays at guard or tackle will depend highly on whether Wilson or Patchan out plays the other. Honestly this is a crazy good situation to have, but I would have to think the staff would love to keep the interior line of Johnson and Mike Pouncey at guard with Maurkice Pouncey at center, like they had for most of their best play last season. One thing is for certain, these guys will be able to move around regardless so a single injury or two is not going to be overly disruptive to this group.

Maurkice Pouncey got some reps at center today, but Sam Robey worked primarily at center. The staff is really comfortable with Robey at center and it showed at practice today. I talked to Maurice after practice today and will have that video interview up. He says he will be ready to go for the first game. Getting Robey first team snaps is nothing but a positive in my book.

As for Patchan, he is at least 280 and I think more than that now. He has some huge broad shoulders to carry upper weight although his legs are still thin. For him, weight isn't going to be everything, it needs to be good weight.

I'm a big David Young fan too. I know the coaches have a real dilemma with him because he is probably more polished as a tackle now, but they love him as a road grader on the inside too. I think with the youth infusion at tackle that the Gators got this past year, they should push him to the inside, but that is just this man's opinion.

What I liked the best: The flexible left offensive line side trio of James Wilson, Matt Patchan, and Carl Johnson on the line. It may not even be the best side of the offensive line this year for the Gators and it is probably better than any one side of any other SEC squad.

What I didn't like: Moody's injury. The guy needs to get on the field period.

Defense

Our boy Jonny Mack covered defense for us and did well for his first time, but I will touch on few things myself.

Jonny found out that Brandon Spikes is 18 pounds overweight and I have thought this since before the spring and just never pressed on it. Spikes always wore "extra" clothing in the spring and there were rumors before draft declaration day that he hadn't been working out much. I believe my inclinations were right and he isn't in the best shape even now. He claims to have wanted that weight to play at the line more, but also said he doesn't feel comfortable playing his position at that weight.

That said, he made a couple of pass breakups in 7-on-7 and I have always been amazed at Spikes' ability to make plays in the passing game being as big as he is and as good of a run stuffer as he is on defense.

In the other direction Janoris Jenkins has slimmed down and from everything I have heard, Jenkins is on a mission to make everyone believe him. I think he knows the Gator faithful believe in him, but he has worked on his speed and quickness in order to become an even more complete cornerback. Jenkins showed it today jumping a crossing route and baiting John Brantley into throwing it a little slow so he could pounce. I think Jenkins is going to be a different corner and for the better, than what we saw last season.

It is apparent that Jermaine Cunningham has become bigger and at the same time looks faster than ever. This would be Cunningham's "contract" year, so I expect huge things out of him and he looks to be in shape to do that.

Jonny Mack touched on this little tidbit and I think it needs to get more mention. Most of you will remember Brandon Spikes as a pass rusher in long down and distance situations. He is quite simply a devastating speed rusher off the end. Well, at the end of practice he along with fellow linebackers Lerentee McCray and Brendan Beal got some work on pass rushing drills.

Beal has long been talked about as a guy that could become a Fox End at Florida. He hasn't switched positions by any means, but this could be the first step in seeing something like that happen.

McCray is the one I am most interested in because we brought you that rumor a few weeks ago that he may get some look at Fox End. Already over 235 pounds, McCray is a guy that could handle the size on the line of scrimmage and he has a huge burst that could be almost criminal at the line of scrimmage. This is definitely something to pay attention to as we move forward.

Tonight, the freshmen line up and do their thing. We should see guys like Brandon Hicks and Ahmad Black out there with them. So stay tuned for more coverage.


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