The Defense Rested

If the Orange and Blue Game was your only experience with the Gator football team this spring, you probably came away with two overriding thoughts. One, that Florida could be an explosive, dynamic offensive football team. Two, that the Gators have a lot of problems on defense.

I'm not convinced the first viewpoint is certain. I know for sure the second analysis is completely wrong.

Florida's wrap-up of spring football was glorified flag football in many ways. Not only was the Gator defense shorthanded with injuries that have kept several key guys on the sidelines. They also went through Saturday's activity without Will Hill, Janoris Jenkins, Ahmad Black, Brandon Hicks, AJ Jones and Justin Trattou. Take six starters away from a defense that lost six starters from last season and you're going to have some issues.

Still the game did give a pretty good glimpse of how Florida's offense will be significantly different than it was in 2009, and those changes are going to excited Florida fans.

Passing downfield ---- We all expected the downfield passing game to be upgraded with the transition from Tim Tebow to Johnny Brantley and if that's what you want to see you won't be disappointed. A 47 yard streak pass to Deonte Thompson on the first play this afternoon was a clear signal that things would be different. The laser throw to Carl Moore for the second TD was another sign that Brantley is a completely different kind of QB, and that the Florida coaching staff is comfortable making use of his skills.

Keeping passing plays alive ---- Lost in the hubbub over Deonte Thompson's "real quarterback" comment was the reality that Tim Tebow would turn a pass play into a running play on a regular basis. While it was a great weapon for the Gator offense there's no question it frustrates wide receivers. Today we saw Brantley repeatedly step up in the pocket and keep pass plays alive eventually making them successful and in the case of Frankie Hammond a TD throw. Opposing DBs will have to stay with their receiver even longer, or pay a heckuva price.

Gillislee is for real ---- It's pretty clear that the second year runner from Deland has the best combination of abilities of any Florida runner in the last five years. Gillislee won't become a 20 carry a game guy, not with Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moody returning. Still he has the strength to gain tough yards inside and quickness to bounce it outside as well. The other runners better be prepared to fight to their carries in the fall.

Receiver diversity ---- One of the best things to come out of the afternoon was the number of receivers who made significant plays during the scrimmage. There's no arguing that Florida's passing game became incredibly predictable last season and a higher and higher percentage of the throws went to Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez.

Coming attractions ---- On two plays we saw what Andre Debose can bring to this offense. He is a natural pass catcher and has the kind of speed to terrify opposing defenses. If he stays healthy all summer Debose will be a major factor in the Florida offense.

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There's really little to say about the Florida defensive effort today as I pointed out earlier. The battle for the corner opposite Janoris Jenkins is too close to call and the presence of an outside pass rush remains one of the biggest concerns for 2010.

However it is remarkable that the Gators could lose three linebackers off last year's team and emerge from spring with a better two-deep at the position than they had a year ago. That's a credit to new LB Coach D.J. Durkin sore sure, but it's more of a tribute to Jelani Jenkins, Jon Bostic, Brendan Beal and Lorenzo Edwards.

The most impressive thing to me from that side of the ball had to be the play of Omar Hunter and Jaye Howard at tackle. Right now the two younger guys have passed seniors Terron Sanders and Lawrence Marsh and have to be viewed as the starters. If those guys, Brandon Antwine and Leon Orr are healthy in the fall Florida will be loaded at DT. That's before factoring in mega prospects Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley.


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