Spring Practice 8 Thoughts

It was the day for the running game and there were probably 100 snaps of just the running game itself on the day. Hard hitting and getting after it all the way around sparked a few small skirmishes between the offensive and defensive players. It looks like the staff wanted to see just how physical this team could be and we saw it from both sides in a fun practice to watch. Here is what we saw.

With the emphasis on the running game on Monday, one thing to keep in mind is that the defense has a little bit of an edge. If they know it is going to be a running play, 11 guys can fly to the ball even if receivers are out there on the edge. They have the disadvantage of the corners knowing it is a running play and coming hard inside because of it.

With that, the Florida offense did surprise with passing a few downs and the first one caught them off guard. Here is how we saw practice by position.

Quarterback...

Brantley had a decent day, but the wind was tough on Monday and the deep ball wasn't as accurate as one would like. I still think he is pressing a little it, still aggressive, but pressing and his deep ball hasn't been on much all spring.

Trey Burton didn't throw a lot of deep passes, but is still looking good running the ball. One thing noticeable about Burton is that he is patient and sets up his blocking even when running in tight quarters behind the line of scrimmage. He did that a number of times on Monday and found himself getting extra yardage because of it.

Running Back...

The offense finally made the defense pay for not guarding the pass when fullback T.J. Pridemore took a flare pass and raced about 20 yards after a quick release from a block. Pridemore was totally open with no defender within 15 yards of him when he caught the ball. Pridemore plays the game with a mean streak and is often getting into it with defenders. Monday, he ripped Kedric Johnson's helmet off and threw it back at him. Brian White jokingly yelled out "don't throw helmets, we get penalized for that!!"

Mike Gillislee continued to look strong running the ball and had an early run during the day that would have gone the distance. Running back coach Stan Drayton talked about Gillislee after practice and said there are a few mental things that he continues to mess up and once he gets beyond that, he can as good as he wants to be.

Receiver...

Carl Moore was conspicuously absent after storming out at the end of practice mad on Saturday. Receiver coach Zach Azzanni had no comment on why Moore wasn't at practice on Monday.

Chris Rainey continues to develop as a receiver. He really has caught the ball well this spring and continued that on Monday. Rainey caught two long balls in stride and really looks at ease in the passing game. In 1 on 1's he had a post-corner route, which is a fake post move and then cut to the corner and Matt Elam was just plain lost trying to cover him. In team drills he caught a wide open corner pattern with Elam following him yet again.

Even with the success of the play Urban Meyer was critiquing it and met with Rainey right afterward to talk about perfecting his cuts. Ever the stickler for detail, Meyer seemed to tutoring Rainey into cutting a little earlier before reaching the defender to give himself some more space.

Rainey did finally get some work at running back and it was a mixed bag. When the hand off was a good one the play was usually positive, but a few times the hand offs never got there as Brantley and Rainey are working a lot from the I-formation and under center for the first time like everyone else in the offense.

True freshmen Robert Clark and Solomon Patton saw extended work as running backs on Monday. Both athletes are playing the slot position and as we know the slot will be asked to run the ball a bit in this offense.

Clark didn't fare well in the beginning running the ball and then broke out about 5-6 snaps into it. After the rough start, Clark reeled off two runs of over 15 yards and one of them was about 30 yards before a safety had an angle on him. Clark and freshman safety Jordan Haden seemed to tangle a few times during the day and helmets flew a couple of times during their scuffles. Clark is ultra quick but could use a few pounds before September if you ask me.

Patton really started off with a bang from the position and is lightning quick getting around the edge. He seems a little more natural as a running back and just looks right at home getting the ball in the backfield. He got a ton of work, probably 15-20 carries during the practice and almost always got positive yards with at least three runs of over 10 yards and many more in the six plus range. Patton got a little dinged up during one of his last carries, but seemed to be alright after practice.

Stan Drayton really was pumping up Patton after one of his nice runs and I could see a little more action coming from him at running back.

Frankie Hammond had two long catches on the day, and so did Deonte Thompson. Hammond was praised big time by Azzanni after practice about his play this spring and he had a couple of moves that were really awesome out there. But, this day was for the running game and they didn't really participate in that all that much.

Tight End...

Before I forget to mention him, Gerald Christian was out there, but not utilized at all in the passing and was primarily a blocker when in there.

The real star of the day on either side of the ball was Jordan Reed. Not only did Reed catch three corner passes for 20 plus yards, he also played a lot of option quarterback in what I wanted to call the Tebow-Cat offense, but it should probably be the Wild-Tebow offense.

Outside of his constant impressive play as a receiver, Reed showed he can be a bull at quarterback much like the folk hero and legend that Tebow was. Reed weighs more than Tebow and stands taller, he is a monster out on the field. On Monday he ran the triple option well and directed a nice running game for several full possessions. He even threw the ball a few times...not with much success except for one laser to Hammond on a seam route.

Reed is certainly finding himself a huge niche in this offense whether it is going to be as a quality receiver or a real change of pace quarterback running the ball. He is an exciting player on the field.

He also isn't scared. After one hard run where he fought for extra yardage, Meyer talked to him about something and nicely slapped him in the helmet to straighten up. That is a good sign when the big man is starting to get worried that you might hurt yourself by playing too hard.

Offensive Line...

One move up front happened after a few series in the rough practice. James Wilson went limping off the field and freshman Jon Halapio was inserted as the starter at left guard. Halapio showed very well and was seen pancaking several defensive linemen during the practice.

Marcus Gilbert got up slow and limping on one play and stayed in. Later, he blocked well on an edge run by Gillislee that saw the quick back race down the sideline for a would be touchdown. He was still limping after the play and Offensive Coordinator Steve Addazio had no sympathy yelling at him to quit limping.

Nick Alajajian snapped a bunch on Monday and had a few bad snaps, but was much better than Saturday.

Defensive Line...

Leon Orr saw his first action of the spring against an opposing player. You can just see Orr's quick feet as he dances out there and he really looked no worse for the wear from his knee injury from his high school season last year. In the inside drill before the receivers and DB's were added, Dan McCarney kept repping and repping Orr trying to see how long he could go. The big guy wouldn't come out and finally McCarney, who was impressed called for the Gatorade crew to come over and help him out with a quick drink.

When the offense and defense met for real, Orr did have two tackles in the backfield and continually shows he is a force. He does have technique issues though and plays way too high. Often times he comes out of his three-point stance and goes straight up and the offensive lineman can get under him. Halapio got one of his pancakes because of this from Orr. Still, he played well and on one of his big tackles for loss, McCarney yells out "there's an earthquake in the backfield". In reference to Orr's nickname, "Earthquake".

Jaye Howard continues to make plays and is just so quick in his 300 pound body. He almost stole the hand off between Rainey and Brantley on one play.

The scolding that Earl Okine took last week may have done some good. Okine seems to really be playing better and has made some big plays in the last two practices. McCarney was actually heard giving Earl some 'atta-boys' on defense. However, he again lined up as the sixth lineman (technically the TE) in the running game and was a force yet again today. I wouldn't be surprised when all the healthy bodies return at defensive tackle, if Okine is moved to offense at tackle. He looks like a natural there.

Linebacker...

The big thing on Monday was seeing Jelani Jenkins working at middle linebacker in the first group. Jelani and Brandon Hicks switched back and forth between middle and will backers. I saw Jelani actually telling Hicks where to line up at one point. With Jelani in the starting line up, the guy that was supposed to start and is out of that for now is Jon Bostic. Bostic was actually playing a lot of WILL backer behind Hicks on this day.

Lorenzo Edwards continues to move around between the three linebacker positions. Monday may have been his best day and he had two very nice hard tackles on the day.

A.J. Jones got ripped by Durkin to start the day during position drills and saw some of his playing time disappear during practice. The move actually pushed Edwards to be the first guy in there at the SAM. Neiron Ball got some time with the first unit at SAM as well and had a big tackle for loss on one play.

Safety...

Will Hill had an interception of a floating pass from Brantley that got hung up in a strong wind. Matt Elam was everywhere , but seemed to be a step behind in man coverage most of the day. He is extremely aggressive and the older receivers took advantage of that a few times.

Cornerback...

A great sign was seeing Adrian Bushell out working with the team for the first time. Bushell will not be allowed to put on pads for two days per NCAA rules.

Jeremy Brown made another break on a ball and almost intercepted it. Brown is one of those corners that actually plays just off the receivers but breaks on the ball better than most. He has a real knack for that.

Jaylen Watkins didn't have his best day on Monday. He got smoked by Frankie Hammond and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was all over him yelling "Jaylen that was awful", while the ball was still in the air.

Joshua Shaw showed that he can make an open field tackle. One on one with the ever elusive and blazing fast Solomon Patton, Shaw came up at full speed and lassoed Patton for a short gain that could have gone a great distance other wise.

Injures...

RB Emmanuel Moody, WR Stephen Alli, WR Andre Debose, TE Desmond Parks, OL Carl Johnson, OL James Wilson, OL Matt Patchan, OL Sam Robey, OL Kyle Koehne, DT Terron Sanders, DT Lawrence Marsh, S Josh Evans

Recruits in attendance were TE/DE Brandon Fulse of Ft. Meade, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Gig Harbor (WA), RB Mike Blakely of Bradenton, Ryan Shazier, QB Kevin Hogan of Washington DC.

Gator Greats in attendance were Ian Scott, Shane Matthews, Major Wright, and Markihe Anderson.


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