Spring Practice 9 Thoughts

It was another scrimmage type atmosphere with the staff keeping score between the offense and defense. Maybe for the first time all spring, the offense won the battle. They scored a myriad of ways in the red zone, but the defense also had it's plays as well. The running game was highlighted with enough passing to get the blood going. Here is one person's view on Spring Practice day nine.

After the usual warm ups and stretching the Florida Gators met in the big circle for the circle of life drill. They are starting to do this two fields over so it is virtually impossible to see who actually wins each battle, however the main purpose is to get the team focused and energized for the practice ahead.

Once done there they team headed off to position drills. For the third day in a row, freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins lined up as the starting MIKE backer. On the second unit, Jon Bostic was working at WILL on Monday and was moved back to MIKE on Wednesday. It appears they have the first group set and are working on settling in on a second group. Senior Emmanuel Moody returned from injury and ran with the first group at running back. Freshman Jon Halapio started another day at left guard and Jonotthan Harrison got a lot of first team reps at right guard, but was spelled by David Young at the position sometimes during the day.

Missing from action once again was senior receiver Carl Moore. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio addressed the media and told them all that Moore was absent for personal reasons. He would not elaborate more than that.

When the teams met for action, the fun stuff was on the north end of the field where the running game squared off against the run defense. Basically it consists of the quarterback, fullback, tight end, and five linemen vs. the four down line, three linebackers, and two safeties. It makes for a ton of nice hitting and I always considered this drill in favor of the defense, because they know the ball is going to be run. Anyway, I would say the offense really got the better of the defense on this day and in this drill.

One thing noticeable off the bat was how hard that Emmanuel Moody ran on the day. It stated on this drill where he continually hit the hole hard and ran like he meant business. It was a welcome sight after three days off from an injured ankle.

Jordan Reed and Gerald Christian and both fullbacks were getting some nice praise from their coach Bran White during the drill.

The one defensive guy that really stood out to me during the drill was Lorenzo Edwards as the second team WILL backer, he seemed to be in on a lot of tackles in this particular drill. Edwards has been that guy we seem to praise every spring only to see him disappear every fall.

The two sides squared off for a little 11 on 11 for a bit after the running game drill. Here are a few of the highlights.

Junior quarterback John Brantley started out the 11 on 11 doing well. He hit Deonte Thompson on a quick slant at about ten yards and Thompson turned it up field and raced for a score.

One name that seems to start getting mentioned a little more these days is freshman linebacker Neiron ball. Ball is a tall linebacker,, close to 6-4. he needs a little bit of weight on him, but he can run really well. He had a nice pass break up covering Omarius Hines on a deep corner pass. He actually didn't see the pass coming, but was running stride for stride with Hines and was able to get between him and the ball.

In this particular session sophomore running back Mike Gillislee came alive. He had a beautiful sweep around the right side that went for big yardage. He followed that up with a tough run up the middle that culminated with a huge collision with freshman safety Jordan Haden. Both guys got up a bit wobbly from the collision.

After a bit of even play there, the two sides split up and worked on individual stuff for a while then came back and it was time for the 7 on 7 passing drill.

It was a mixed bag yet again as Brantley and Burton hit a lot of big plays, probably more than they have in any other practice. But Brantley in particular, really was harassed by a few defenders, especially Janoris Jenkins.

Brantley hit freshman slot receiver Robert Clark with a corner pass in the end zone. Brantley later to Thompson on a corner pass for a TD in front of freshman cornerback Jaylen Watkins. Sophomore receiver Omarius Hines got in the act and caught a TD from Brantley in the corner. Brantley likes the right corner. Brantley also hit junior athlete Chris Rainey on a deep out for about 20 yards with Watkins in coverage. Deonte also burned Watkins again.

The defense also got the best of Brantley during the drill. He threw a pick to Janoris who took it the other way and pitched it to Urban Meyer when he was done....Meyer took the ball and throws and hits Janoris in the back as he was jogging back to the huddle.

Janoris picked off another Brantley pass to Justin Williams when Janoris jumped the route in the right flat. Janoris also had another pass break up from Brantley on a short pass to Deonte. But e did give up a slant pass touchdown to Justin Williams from Brantley.

Senior safety Ahmad Black had an interception go through his hands from Brantley on a mid range pass to Omarius Hines. Freshman safety Matt Elam broke up a pass from Brantley to Rainey on a little option route about five yards deep.

Emmanuel Moody got in the scoring act with a flat pass that he turned up field and ran for 20 yards for a score.

On freshman quarterback Trey Burton's first play during the drill, with no linemen, Watkins comes in on a cornerback blitz. Burton is delayed throwing the ball and as quarterback coach Scot Loeffler is yelling to him to get rid of it, he throws and right into the extended hands of Watkins for a pass break up. Loeffler was all over Burton for that one.

Jordan Haden picked off a Burton pass and goes the other direction. Haden ducked after bringing the ball in because he thought he was going to get nailed by an offensive player, but there was no one really close to him when he caught it.

Burton completed some shorter stuff during the drill, but nothing that was eye catching.

On to the Red-Zone session of the practice

Brantley has some smarts about him when it comes to running the show. On one play he head faked a charging Duke Lemmens into believing he was going to throw and the stall from Lemmens allowed Brantley to get a pass off to a 10 yard deep Rainey racing to the sideline.

On the next play Brantley threw to sophomore receiver Frankie Hammond who caught the ball in front of Elam for ten yards. On the first down, Gerald Christian is substituting in and receiver coach Zach Azzanni all over Christian yelling at him to scream to his teammates it is first down when he runs into the huddle.

As I was saying Moody was running with authority and looked like he had some life breathed into him. On one play he spun away from junior defensive end William Green four yards deep in the back field and gets back to the line of scrimmage. On the next play we had a Jet Sweep from Rainey for about seven yards on 2nd and 11. That was followed by Rainey on a slant, who weaved his way for a 15 yard TD.

Brantley hit Jordan Reed as a safety valve in the flat and Reed makes senior cornerback Moses Jenkins grab for air and gets the first down. A few plays later, Emmanuel Moody was running around the left side and looked like he would be untouched, only to have Jelani Jenkins come out of nowhere to smack him hard at the goal line. Moody had enough momentum to carry him forward and into the end zone.

The sweetest play design of the day came on an option reverse to Rainey for a TD. I totally missed it when shooting with my camera...so did 11 defenders who were all a minimum five yards away when Rainey scored. .

Rainey had a few runs today on sweeps and tosses that he was approached in the backfield and totally made defenders miss him. On one particular play, Rainey made Elam and senior linebacker A.J. Jones miss before the other nine defenders show up near the line of scrimmage to force him out of bounds.

Brantley showed some improvement in running the option from last week. He started right with the ball and waited till the last second to pitch to Moody who went in untouched in the front right corner of the end zone. Brantley's last pass was a deep corner pass to freshman tight end Jordan Reed in the back corner of the end zone over Watkins.

When I talk about Burton being a gamer, he really shows it when the game is on the line. Down in the red-zone he was particularly good.

On his first play, Burton was on an option keeper and scores after breaking a tackle and going untouched the rest of the way. He followed that with a ten yard run ducking and weaving in traffic. Then a keeper over the right side for a TD...followed by a middle ruin over the left guard.

Not to do it all by foot, Burton hit Robert Clark with a bullet pass down the seam for TD. Jaylen Watkins broke up the next pass to sophomore receiver T.J. Lawrence.

With the second group, Mike Gillislee got to show off some his Rainey moves. Freshman linebacker Neiron Ball had Gillislee dead to rights in the backfield and whiffed on the sophomore back. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was all over Ball about it.

On one particular inside run with Jordan Reed playing quarterback, Urban Meyer was all over Gerald Christian. "That's you, come off the ball!!", Meyer yelled. He was referring to Christian missing his block because he didn't fire off the ball right when the ball was snapped.

Final Thoughts...

The offense definitely got the better of the defense during the day. The ground game was dominating comparatively speaking and the passing game scored a ton, but gave up some big time turnovers and others that should have been turnovers.

It was good to see the offensive front force it's hand as we haven't seen that much this spring.

Brantley looked decisive on the day but that decisiveness led to a few turnovers.

Rainey was the player of the day on offense while Janoris Jenkins continues his stellar play and his best day of the spring on Wednesday.

Sophomore defensive lineman Earl Okine got more work out there as the sixth lineman on offense and technically the tight end in short yardage situations. Coach White stayed after practice to work on his route running and catching a pass. In my opinion it isn't really to move him to tight end, but at the position you want to be able to pose a threat as a pass catcher or keep the defense honest.


Gator cornerback commitment Pop Saunders of DeLand was reportedly at practice although I didn't see him. I know Trey Pettis, an FSU commitment and DeLand Bulldog was at practice watching the offensive line.

Mike McFarland, tight end signee out of Tampa, was present and we have a full video interview with McFarland. He is a character and fun to interview.

Matt Elam's brother Abe Elam of the New York Jets was in attendance as well. Abe and Urban Meyer talked frequently during the practice. Gator Great defensive end Willie Rodgers made his second appearance of the spring at practice.

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