Freshman Practice Report: Day 1

The rain soaked the practice field midway through, but that didn't stop one of the nation's best freshman classes from playing hard and showing a little something of what they could do on Thursday. Highlighted by surprisingly strong play from a quarterback from Connecticut and a myriad of former five-star recruits. The fans, media, and coaches got a real glimpse of some future Gator stars.

There were a few of the holder players present, but most of the afternoon's practice session was about the freshmen doing there thing.

Offense

Quarterback

I don't know what I was thinking coming in, but I must say I was really impressed with the tools that Jordan Reed has as a quarterback. He has a laser when he wants to use it and he is so big, he will be hard to take down easily. He isn't consistent really on all of his throws and he has a long ways to go in knowing the offense, but I think Reed can be a beast of a quarterback for the Gators. Watch the highlight video and I think you will agree. In Frankie Hammond's catch, he almost caves in Hammond's chest with the hard throw.

Running Back

Watch Gillislee's lone highlight on the video and you will see all you need to see. Once he makes the catch and turns quickly to move up field, he is a blur from that point on. It is that instant acceleration this staff looks for in skill players when they recruit and Gillislee has it. They expect him to get to around 200 pounds when the season starts. He is a little ways from that, but this kid can be a weapon.

Receiver

Stephen Alli will have to put on some muscle, but you can see the springs in his legs and the speed for a guy that tall. He is a different animal with worlds of potential just from his speed and height alone. However, I just believe going from Canada to a New Hampshire high school to the SEC is going to be a drastic jump for someone that needs to bulk up. He has the physical tools to surprise, but I see a redshirt.

Andre Debose has all the quick twitch of Mike Gillislee and then some. Debose has the quickness and speed of Percy, but he doesn't lean like Percy does and runs more up right. I think in space this probably means he is more dangerous but slithering through small creases won't be quite as easy. His quickness is better than anyone else on the team right now. It is just plain easy to see. I loved that he looked healthy after having a hamstring injury the entire summer. Debose looks like he was born with a football in his hand and everything is just so natural and effortless for him.

Tight End

It appears as though Desmond Parks has put some weight on since the spring. I didn't see him do much but he has the speed to compete now, gaining some extra bulk is key to him being any kind of help in his freshman season.

Offensive Line

I found out late Thursday night that Xavier Nixon is now weighing in at 305 pounds. That is 40 pounds heavier than he played as a senior in high school. He is unbelievably chiseled at that weight.

Jon Halapio looks like a bowling ball compared to the other guys. He's a little more squatty, but he is just so powerfully built you don't want to get in his way.

The offensive line stayed on the opposite field the whole time, so I didn't get much from them although it appeared that Nick Alajajian was working the most at left tackle with Xavier Nixon at right tackle.

Defense

Defensive Line

On the defensive line, Omar Hunter has trimmed down and I noticed he was trying to be first in all the drills, seemingly trying to make an impression on Dan McCarney. I think Omar looked good in his stamina drills and looked effortless doing them. Him being able to slot in the two deep at nose would be huge for this defense in my opinion.

Earl Okine mainly played end on the day...I know it is still a wait and see with him where he will actually end up.

Gary Brown is evidently getting in better shape, but still has too much around the middle to be effective right now. He is an absolute beast, but he will have to get himself in playing shape before he can be considered a possibility for real playing time.

Kedric Johnson looks like a William Green clone from last year physically. I don't think he is quite as quick as Green, but I think he is stronger than when Green showed up a year ago. Do not be surprised if Kedric gets a little bit of playing time this season much like Green did a year go.

Linebackers

As good as Debose looked, Jon Bostic was definitely the best player on the field. He made two great plays in 7-on-7 including an interception. Bostic is going to push for playing time early this year and it could be at any of the three linebacker positions.

Jelani Jenkins is extremely quick and is already built like Brandon Hicks with bigger legs. Jenkins should be another pass defense force as a linebacker and the Gators have probably become the best at that in the country as a linebacker unit. This kid can just fly everywhere.

Brandon Hicks participated with this unit and it appeared he was still favoring one shoulder. I didn't expect him to be totally ready by this point, but I was surprised to see him flipping tires in the celebrity challenge last week. When healthy, some considered him the best linebacker on the team last season.

Secondary

Josh Evans was really smooth at corner on Thursday and if he stays there Vance Bedford has to be giddy. Evans is huge for a corner and can play physical as well as run with anyone. This kid wasn't recruited hard by many, but Oklahoma and Florida were the two that spotted him and wanted him the most. That should tell you enough of why they were the two teams representing the BCS last year.

Dee Finley is imposing and can run, but I didn't notice any big play out of him. He looks in absolute great shape and should contribute early on special teams this year.

The three best freshman players on Thursday in order were Bostic, Debose, and Jordan Reed in my opinion. The staff should remain very excited about this class.


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