Practice Day 6 Thoughts

The offense looked solid but not spectacular on Friday as the defense tried a new look or two. John Brantley returned from illness and looked pretty sharp. The Gators worked on a little blitzing and blitz protection for a change. All in all it was a solid practice with much less drama than the practice before as the Gators prepare for another Saturday scrimmage.

After the normal position drills that lead off practice at the University of Florida, the offense and defense squared off for the blitz drill. In the drill, the offense and defense line up regularly and run a pass play, but the pass is never thrown. To the non-veteran observer it looks like the quarterback is getting smothered as he retreats in the pocket and kind of ducks down to not get unintentionally hit in the drill.

With both lines facing several injuries it was interesting to note that the offensive line held it's own throughout the drill. John Brantley and Trey Burton continually dropped back and were given plenty of time to make a play more often than not. If I had to say one defender that got the most constant penetration, it was defensive tackle Jaye Howard. His quickness and size are hard to guard for stretches of time and when the defense knows for sure it is a pass play it allows him to generate moves to get by his man up front.

After the blitz protection drill, the offense and defense squared off in 7 on 7 passing scenarios. Brantley looked very crisp and maybe a day off from practice on Wednesday helped him come out focused. I have noticed that Brantley and even Burton have become quite adept at reading the blitzing cornerback and hitting the man vacated by the cornerback. Both have done this several times and the Gator defense loves to run that play. Unfortunately, the positive leads to the negative that the defense wasn't fooling anyone by coming off the edge like that and they probably need to do a better job of disguising it somehow.

As much as the offense looked crisp, the defense did a good job of keeping the 7 on 7 portion of the practice pretty much in front of them. The only deep pass that was completed during the drill was a bomb to junior receiver Deonte Thompson who has now had two very good practices since his name was wrongly skewered through the media on Monday. Deonte seems to be on a mission out there and has looked very good. The bomb he caught would have been the play of the day as he juggled it a bit when a defender was there as the ball hit him and then he gathered the ball in and raced away down field.

Most of the completed passes were underneath, including three or four to Chris Rainey in the slot who has a knack for catching the ball on the dead run and getting the ball upfield fast after the catch. Other highlights from players included passes to Omarius Hines and Frankie Hammonds.

On defense, Janoris Jenkins continues to have a crazy good spring. Jenkins looks trimmer than he did a year ago, but he also looks like he is cut. Maybe it is my imagination, but he just looks faster on the football field and has lost none of his aggressiveness. Jenkins broke up two passes during the drill.

The hit of the day is on the highlight film and came from Will Hill when he landed a big time blow to Frankie Hammond after a catch at mid range down the field. Hill actually let up on the hit or he could have really hurt Frankie.

During team drills, Stephen Alli seemed to be the biggest target. Standing 6-5 and over 200 pounds, he is an easy target to find, but his quickness is really surprising once he does catch the ball. There is one highlight where he catches it underneath for a short gain and dips under and outside and out races the entire defense down the field.

The quarterbacks continued to hit underneath stuff as the defense was really not giving anything deep. Brandon Hicks was the star of the defense in this drill as he broke up two passes and harassed receivers in the middle of the field.

One change in the defense on the day is the insertion of Hicks at middle linebacker. This moved Jelani Jenkins up to the starting WILL backer and then of course A.J. Jones as the starter at SAM. This was done mostly in long down and distance situations, namely passing downs. It looks like they really want to get a lot of speed on the field and honestly it appears that these are UF's best three linebackers right now.

After a short team session, the squad moved to the 2-minute drill. With Brantley at the helm of the first offense they drove the length of the field using short passes underneath and the receivers getting out of bounds to stop the clock. The coaches actually had headphones and the clock was running to really simulate game situations as much as possible.

Brantley was able to drive all the way down the field and then pressed with one more play or time will expire, he had to scramble from pressure and threw up an interception to A.J. Jones.

On the next series, Burton took the offense and completed a couple of short passes before his third bounced right off of both hands of Stephen Alli and into the waiting arms of Jaylen Watkins, who took the ball and ran the other direction for a score. For Alli it was the only mistake he seemed to make all day.

On the last possession, Brantley took over the first offense again and after getting a first down, the offense stalled and he scrambled on fourth down and came up a few yards short of the first.

In all, the defense went three for three with just the one long drive, but gave up no points.

Jeremy Brown was another that stood out during the day. He made plays in multiple drills and continues to really push up the depth chart in my opinion.

There are still quite a few players out with injuries. Chris Rainey and TJ Lawrence were back out there, but here is the list of guys that didn't perform at all.

RB Emmanuel Moody (ankle, but day to day), WR Andre Debose, TE Desmond Parks (wrist), OT Marcus Gilbert (elbow), OG Carl Johnson (shoulder), OT Matt Patchan (knee), C Sam Robey, C Kyle Koehne (shoulder), DT Terron Sanders, DT Lawrence Marsh, DT Brandon Antwine (shoulder), Saf Joshua Evans (ankle)

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