Friday night defensive observations

Gator County’s was at the Florida Gators football practice and here are a few defensive observations from Friday night’s open practice to kick off your weekend.

Defensive line

Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick. / Photo by David Bowie
Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick. / Photo by David Bowie

The defensive line won the night, specifically the second unit.

Dante Fowler is getting the Dominique Easley treatment. Florida knows what to expect out of Fowler, so he is getting a lot of rest which, in turn, is giving the younger players more reps and letting the coaches see what they have in some of the younger guys.

Speaking of younger guys, Gerald Willis is going to be good. Willis has exceptional speed and is very physical with his hands. He chased down Matt Jones from the backside of a play and would have had a sack if not for that darn red non-contact jersey on the quarterbacks. He’s a special talent and he’s picking things up quickly.

On the inside, Joey Ivie had a very productive practice. The sophomore from Pasco County continues to grow and develop. He looks like he will crack the rotation this year. Darious Cummings is getting more pressure, specifically against the run but you still want to see more of him against the pass.

Will Muschamp made a point to note how much weight Alex McCalister has put on — he does look like he has added some size to his frame — but that isn’t translating to the field in the two practices that we have seen. Bryan Cox continues to come on but has a way to go.

Jonathan Bullard is playing mainly defensive end and he has been disruptive there. He has seen a little bit of time inside and he is outperforming some of the defensive tackles when he slides down inside.



Photo by David Bowie
Photo by David Bowie

This was a position of contention last season. Jarrad Davis is the obvious standout of the group and the sophomore is poised to have a breakout season. Davis had a great read on Friday where he saw Jake McGee go in motion, read the screen and would have killed Valdez Showers if he didn’t pull up. He’s been great with the media early on and if he keeps up this kind of play he’ll be speaking with the media more often this season.

Antonio Morrison has been moving around very well, showing no ill effects of his knee injury last season. Morrison is a big talker on the field and he seems to have taken on a vocal leadership role on the field.

Mike Taylor has been working with the first and second team behind Morrison. He’s hasn’t shined yet but he has been reliable and productive.

Neiron Ball has been great against the run. He’s quietly putting together a very nice fall camp.

Alex Anzalone has been putting himself in very good positions to make plays. It’s good to see Anzalone not having to deal with the injuries that plagued him all last season.



JC Jackson is looking to lock down a starting job. / Photo by David Bowie
JC Jackson is looking to lock down a starting job. / Photo by David Bowie

Vernon Hargreaves’ absence opened a door for playing time and JC Jackson sprinted through it. Despite being in a non-contact jersey, Jackson is playing very well, showing his natural athleticism and instincts for the game.

Jalen Tabor continues to play very well. With Dawson working at safety Tabor was already holding down one of the two starting spots before Hargreaves went down. Jackson’s emergence will push Tabor once Hargreaves is cleared to return but both players appear to be, at the moment, very good options for the Gators.

Brian Poole is working outside, splitting reps with JC Jackson and Poole has looked good on the boundary. While Poole is capable of playing outside, I think he’s better in the nickel, covering slot receivers.


Keanu Neal goes through drills during fall camp. / Photo by David Bowie
Keanu Neal goes through drills during fall camp. / Photo by David Bowie


Keanu Neal continues to show off how athletic he is and is playing at a high level. He worked with the first team for most of the night next to Duke Dawson. Dawson continues to work almost exclusive at safety and he’s becoming Muschamp’s personal project.

Say what you will about Muschamp, but he knows his stuff, especially with safeties. It’s been fun to watch how closely Muschamp is working with Dawson on the finer points of technique and what he needs to see at safety. Dawson has a lot of potential and the move to safety could be permanent with Marcus Maye dropping down to play the nickel.


Previous articleTen in-state underclassmen to watch
Next articleGators passing Chemistry 101
Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC


  1. It is very good news about Geral Willis. Maybe he can provide the pass rush that UF has been lacking. UF was 96h in sacks last year. As seen with Joey Bosa at Ohio State, it is possible to have a freshman become a pass rushing terror. If he develops, and Fowler gets his act together, UF could once again become a threat to the other team’s quarterback This could also allow Bullard to slide inside where he would, hopefully, be an upgrade from the guys playing there now. Bullard is one of the main reasons that UF is so poor at getting to the quarterback, hopefully Willis can take his job at end.
    I am surprised that Fowler is allowed to stand around. Durkin described his play last year, he said that Fowler came close to being a dominant player sometimes, but there were also games where he didn’t show up. I think Easley had shown on the field that he was a great player, Fowler has not done that yet, so I don’t understand why the coaches are treating him this way. Fowler needs the work, he’s not a great player yet. Just like some folks don’t think it matters if Hargreaves misses time, I think they’re wrong. Hargreaves has a lot of work to do to become the shut down corner that everyone has already anointed him as being. As good as he was last year, he has a lot of room for improvement, and missing time does not help. Some of the thing the coaches do make me scratch my head at times, and hearing that Fowler is getting the royal treatment is one of them.