Wednesday Practice Thoughts

A fiery speech by Urban Meyer to his team followed a high octane practice on Wednesday as the Florida Gators start to wind down their spring football practices. Meyer talked to his team about doing the right things for a solid ten minutes after practice and with several high profile recruits watching. The offense looked like it progressed again on Wednesday as the defense still won the practice.

John Brantley looked focused and on point Wednesday as he took all but two snaps of the 7 on 7 passing drill in the first part of the Florida Gators' 13th spring practice. Hitting several deep corner passes to the likes of receivers Omarius Hines, Deonte Thompson, Chris Rainey, Jordan Reed, didn't matter, the corner pass has become a staple of this offense especially with Brantley at the helm.

Brantley has progressed this spring and has really started to click with his receivers, a group that he needs to get in a rhythm with as a quarterback. Brantley in fact got the rare "atta-boy" from quarterback coach Scot Loeffler for checking down to his last receiver, a back in the flat on one play. "That's not a good job, that's a GREAT job" Loeffler was heard screaming out to Brantley after the play and low-fived him on the way back to the next huddle.

Brantley wasn't without his mistakes either. Ever the gun slinger, he isn't afraid to throw the ball on a rope and knows where it is going every time he does. At least three times on the day, Brantley threw into interceptions and fortunately for him only freshman starting middle linebacker Jelani Jenkins was able to come up with one.

Brantley also didn't fare that well in the 2-minute situations when he and the first team offense stalled on both tries, including once inside the ten yard line where he and athlete Chris Rainey screwed up a hand off.

Trey Burton had a solid but not spectacular day on Wednesday and pretty much stayed on his progressive course of getting better. He did move one of the 2-minute drills down and scored, the only score for the offense in four tries in that particular drill. He talked to the media after practice and came away sounding very confident in what he was doing out there.

One of the quarterback's biggest and best targets so far this spring has been sophomore Omarius Hines. Hines has actually done a lot of lining up as an H-back or in the Y- position normally reserved for Gators' tight ends. He took another shovel pass like he has for several practices lately for about ten yards in the 2-minute drill on Wednesday and has been a common target on those 25 yard corner patterns mentioned earlier. Hines has really become one of the bigger targets out there for the quarterbacks.

Junior receiver Deonte Thompson was the star of practice making several big time catches and being everywhere on the field and where his quarterbacks needed him. He had one drop because of the sun I believe, but made some tough catches in traffic and generally was unstoppable out there. In a weird way, the recent uproar over Thompson and his comments misconstrued in the media may have actually lighted a fire under the junior. Since that day, it seems like he has really done extremely well.

Freshman receiver Andre Debose was out working again. He got his first real contact including in the "Circle of Life". Coach Azzanni said after practice that Debose won his shot in the "Circle of Life" and his receiver teammates were ecstatic about that. Azzanni also said he is not sure if Debose will play in the Orange and Blue game on Saturday.

Azzanni also talked up Frankie Hammond as one of the more improved receivers this spring and his one highlight in the video has him burning starting cornerback Moses Jenkins on a Hitch and Go.

Carl Moore also made more strides on Monday. Moore has looked really good since getting his head straight and returning to the team last week. He just has to get over being too upset at times and shake off a bad throw or whatever happens on the field and get back to the next play.

Coach Brian White really talked up Jordan Reed after practice and said he could see how well the kid has played coming even last year when he was working out at the position ion the fall. Reed didn't have a big day on Wednesday but he continues to be the best tight end on the field every day. He is still my biggest surprise of the spring.

I guess I have been a little bit disappointed in the play of Gerald Christian so far, but that may have everything to do with the exceptional play of Reed. I thought Christian would come out and dominate and take the position right off the bat, but that hasn't happened. On Wednesday, coach White had to rip him for the way he was running his routes and not pushing with his legs and arms.

The offensive line remains banged up, but one good thing was more consistent snapping from Nick Alajajian at center. There were a couple that got away from the quarterbacks, but none seemed to be Alajajian's fault on Wednesday...a welcome sign. James Wilson looked like he was about ready to come back and participate as well. I would think they might hold him out on Saturday, but if he can go, they may not have the numbers to hold him out.

One guy that has struggled surprisingly this week is left tackle Xavier Nixon. It started from my point of view on Saturday and has continued all week. He is getting beat off the edge much more than I can remember. I am in no way worried about Nixon, but this is something that has happened in the last week too often.

One big reason for the struggling from Nixon has no doubt been the play of the defensive line, most notably the ends. Dan McCarney told the media after practice that Justin Trattou has gotten much better and had an "outstanding spring", but his most improved player up front "by far" is senior defensive end Duke Lemmens. According to McCarney, Trattou was far ahead of Lemmens at the end of the fall and now it is "flip a coin" to determine who is better.

According to McCarney, they are two of the smarter players on the team could play SAM linebacker, FOX end, Nose in the Joker package, strong side defensive end, and probably play the WILL linebacker spot.

The flexibility of this group actually allowed them to throw one line up out there in short yardage with five defensive linemen. Omar Hunter, Jaye Howard, Trattou, William Green, and Lemmens.

To top it of, McCarney said junior FOX end William Green is "playing like a starter". Green has victimized Nixon a few times this week.

We must remember that McCarney is straight shooter and if he believes these guys are struggling he will no doubt let the expletives fly about their lack of progress.

McCarney also mentioned Earl Okine who was out for the day with a 101 degree fever and said it was disappointing because Okine has definitely gotten better.

The three senior defensive tackles were also mentioned. He expects all three of Terron Sanders, Brandon Antwine, and Lawrence Marsh to return healthy in the fall, but there is a little hesitation when mentioning Marsh.

He said Sanders will definitely be back, Antwine will definitely be back. Marsh will probably be ready...he has had surgery on both hips according to McCarney. Muscle issues that were torn...he should be ready to go.

Omar Hunter and Jaye Howard have been consistent players all spring. Jaye Howard had surgery on his wrist after the season and before spring and has worked his way into shape this spring.

One guy that doesn't get mentioned much but seems to make a big play or two every practice is sophomore SAM linebacker Dee Finley. Finley seems to really do well in coverage and when he gets a shot on a receiver, he brings the pain...he did so twice in the highlight video.

Jelani Jenkins continues to separate himself from the other middle linebackers. On Wednesday he undercut Hines for an interception of John Brantley and headed the other direction for six points. Jenkins is just an exceptionally smooth player that packs a wallop when he gets to the ball carrier.

Starting WILL linebacker Brandon Hicks had another sack from the Joker package. Hicks seems to get one of these a practice and looks like he is going to be a force in pass rushing the quarterback in 2010.

Will Hill is playing his best ball of the spring, but could use some stick'em for his gloves. He has had several chances at interceptions this spring that have fallen to the ground. I expect a lot of these chances in the fall as Hill is breaking on the ball as good as ever from his free safety position.

At corner Janoris Jenkins continues to shine and is a blanket out there. He was seen talking trash to Xavier Nixon who got the best of him on one corner blitz, then Janoris comes back and flushes Brantley out of the pocket and into an incomplete pass a few plays later.

Jeremy Brown also continues showing signs of progressing through the back injury that sidelined him for two seasons. Brown had a big hit on a T.J. Lawrence catch over the middle that can be seen on the highlight reel. Brown has really come on in the last two weeks after starting the spring a little rusty. It is my belief he is now pushing Moses Jenkins for the starting spot opposite Janoris Jenkins.


RB Emmanuel Moody (quad muscle) dressed and did drills but no contact. WR Stephen Alli (groin) did not do any drills. WR Solomon Patton (ankle) did not do any drills. TE Desmond Parks (wrist) is out for the spring. OL Matt Patchan (knee) is out for the spring. OL Carl Johnson (shoulder) is out for the spring. OL Maurice Hurt (shoulder) did not practice. OL Jon Halapio (unknown) did not practice. OL Sam Robey (knee) is out for the spring. OL Kyle Koehne (shoulder) is out for the spring. DT Brandon Antwine (shoulder) is out for the spring. DT Lawrence Marsh (hip) is out for the spring. DT Terron Sanders (knee) is out for the spring. Safety Josh Evans (knee) is out for the spring.


I didn't see cornerbacks Jaylen Watkins or Adrian Bushell at practice. It was the second practice in a row that Bushell was missing.

Prospects on hand...

The Gators continue to reel in big time visitors at spring practice and Wednesday had a stellar bunch of national level high school prospects on hand. Here is who we saw out there.

QB Max Wittek Corona Del Mar,(CA) Mater Dei, RB Chevelle Buie of Cocoa, WR Malcolm Mitchell of Valdosta (GA), OL Errin Joe of Lakeland Lake Gibson, LB Curtis Grant of Richmond, (VA) Hermitage, LB Norkeithus Otis of Gastonia (NC) Ashbrook, LB Stephone Anthony of Wadesboro, (NC) Anson, and CB Nick Waisome of Groveland South Lake

The group had a special host as well. Gator 2010 signee and number one defensive end Ronald Powell was on hand to offer his opinion to those prospects that would listen on the school he will be attending in the fall.

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