With exactly two weeks until they are slated to kickoff against Toledo, the Florida Gators took to Florida Field with a strong crowd in attendance Saturday for the second open practice of fall camp.
Even though there was only one day in-between open practices, plenty happened during that single day, as Will Muschamp’s squad held their second scrimmage of fall camp in a day that Muschamp dubbed “D-Day” for his football team. Muschamp and his staff used that second scrimmage to get a clearer picture of which players they will need to count on this season. You could begin to tell today which players have begun to earn the coach’s favor for the remainder of camp. We saw more of the first and second stringers on Saturday morning than we did on Thursday and we will see reps increase more and more for the first and second unit the rest of the way.
Gator Country was out at practice on Saturday and Richard and I once again split up the team in order to maximize what we could focus on. Richard watched the ‘big uglies’ battle in the trenches, while I played close attention to the skill players.
Let’s breakdown what we saw.
First the positives. Jeff Driskel has really taken command of this team. Driskel is being more vocal and shows both verbal and non-verbal leadership qualities on the field. Driskel appears to be infinitely more confident on the field and in his role on the team.
Other than that, the quarterbacks, as a whole, really struggled today. There were moments and plays where they looked good, but for the most part Driskel and Co. looked out of rhythm and inaccurate on the day. Driskel’s pocket presence, which had looked to be improved on Thursday night, took a step back on Saturday. One play in particular that showed this, was Driskel failing to pick up a blitzing Brian Poole from his nickle back position. Poole came around the edge untouched and would have rocked Driskel’s if not for his red non-contact jersey.
To end on a positive note, Driskel did have some good moments during the two-hour practice. Twice we saw Driskel throw balls away when his receivers were covered. The one that stuck out the most in practice, was a play where Driskel was forced to roll out to his right and rather than trying to run for a first down which wasn’t there – or squeeze a ball into coverage – he threw the ball away and lived to see another down – progress.
Driskel also had a great touchdown pass to Quinton Dunbar early on in the day. He stepped up into his throw and delivered a high pass in the back of the end zone that only his man could get to; Dunbar took advantage and the duo appear to have developed a very nice chemistry. Max Staver also had a very nice throw on the day; finding Raphael Andrades open deep down the sideline on a nice completion. The play was one of the few bright spots for Staver, who was wild on his throws for most of the morning.
Following a very physical scrimmage on Friday, the team was not tackling on Saturday in drills. It’s hard to gauge the running backs when the defense isn’t actively trying to tackle them, but there are several things that stood out.
Based on how the reps were handed out, it is clear that Mack Brown is leading the running backs at the moment. Brown took the first team snaps whenever Driskel took the field.
The running backs looked good today catching passes out of the backfield. All of the running backs performed well today with the exception of Adam Lane. Lane doesn’t look comfortable when the ball is thrown his way and he even dropped some passes thrown his way with no defenders in the drill with him.
Of all the running backs, it was Mark Herndon that once again stood out the most. The walk-on running back played fast and decisive. Herndon had a very good spring camp and has built on that momentum this fall. If he keeps it up, we could see #37 getting some touches this season.
Demarcus Robinson and Quinton Dunbar have clearly taken the top two spots on the depth chart at the “X” and “Z” positions. Driskel and Dunbar have developed a nice rapport with each other and it appears that Driskel is starting to trust his freshman receiver as well.
Solomon Patton is another receiver who appears to be developing an increased role on the team. Patton was limited to mainly screens and end-arounds last season but he has been given a bigger role as a pass catcher this year.
Latroy Pittman and Raphael Andrades had a tough day. The two sophomores had several drops on the day – more so from Pittman – and appear to be getting passed up quickly by other receivers.
Ahmad Fulwood appears to be developing into a very nice receiver. Fulwood runs very crisp routes and was the recipient of a couple of passes from Tyler Murphy while working with the second unit.
Clay Burton continued to get most of the work at the position on Saturday. Last week Muschamp said that Burton was scheme versatile because he can play with his hand down on the line in the flex or in the “F” position. This means that Burton can be involved in more packages than the other tight ends and is consequently, leading to him being on the field more.
Kent Taylor showed some good things as a receiver today. He had several nice catches, including a ball that he had to go down to the ground to get – something that isn’t easy for a player who is 6’5”.
As a unit, the tight ends really struggled blocking today. Ronald Powell and Dante Fowler had their way with just about every tight end when working 11-on-11.
Based on reps today, it looks like Clay Burton is the No. 1 option at tight end followed by Kent Taylor, who compliments Burton as a much better receiving option at the position.
Showers is working in the Omarius Hines role in the offense, so he’ll be technically listed as a receiver but most of his work is coming out of the backfield when Driskel is in shotgun.
Through two practices, Showers has been highly impressive. Showers played running back in high school but has worked strictly on the defensive side of the ball at Florida until this fall. Showers is a natural runner and looks good while carrying the football. What has been most impressive has been his hands and catching ability out of the backfield.
The gloves that receivers and defensive backs wear today are like a cheat code. The palm has so much stick and tack to it that it’s a wonder how passes are ever dropped. During the time we have seen him, Showers has opted for the natural, no glove look and he hasn’t dropped a pass that has been thrown his way.
This move to offense might be the best thing that has happened to Showers while at Florida and he could be a viable weapon for the offense this season.
Maybe he has a secret membership to Gator County and has read all of you guys asking about him, or maybe it was just a good day for Brian Poole. Whatever the reason may be, Poole had a very productive practice from his starting spot at nickel.
Other than getting beat by Dunbar for a touchdown, Loucheiz Purifoy had a very nice practice. Purifoy is a very physical cornerback and excels when he can get his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage. Purifoy played exclusively on defense despite Muschamp saying he would be working out with the offense towards the end of the week.
Marcus Roberson had an up-and-down day. Roberson doesn’t get beat over the top but over the two practices we have been to, has been giving up underneath passes to receivers. I wouldn’t worry too much about Roberson; he is getting repped a lot right now with Jaylen Watkins and Vernon Hargreaves III sidelined with injuries while also handling most of the punt returns.
Nick Washington got picked on a little bit again today. He fared slightly better than he did on Thursday but he still appears to be swimming a little when playing cornerback.
I can’t say enough good things about Marcus Maye. Maye was the stand out defensive back on Thursday and he followed that performance up with an even better day on Saturday. Maye intercepted a Driskel pass during redzone work. Driskel’s pass was thrown way behind the receiver but Maye was in good coverage and was able to come away with the interception. He played down in the box a lot during scrimmage situations and was solid when asked to cover slot receivers as well as in one-on-one drills.
In our live thread during practice, I noted that Keanu Neal was getting to the receivers a little early today and would have been penalized for pass interference a couple of times. While Neal might have been early on the plays, he looked very good in coverage throughout the day and appears to be making up ground in his pursuit to earn early playing time this season. Neal is a very strong, physical tackler and today he showed versatility by being able to cover a lot of ground when playing back in coverage.
Cody Riggs was OK today. He got beat by Raphael Andrades for a highlight play down the sideline but was very productive in redzone work. One play that stuck out was Riggs covering Colin Thompson one-on-one in the end zone. Riggs stuck Thompson in the chest as he came off of the line of scrimmage and despite giving up a solid seven inches to Thompson, was able to stick with the tight end and force a pass breakup in the endzone.
Jabari Gorman struggled for the second consecutive open practice. He is still working at safety in the dime package but from what we have seen in two practices Florida Gator football players practice during the open practice on Saturday August 17th, 2013, that job could go to Neal if Gorman doesn’t pick it up.
Marcell Harris didn’t stand out in a good way or a bad way today. While he didn’t make any glaring errors in my eye, he isn’t making the same kind of plays that Neal is in practice. Harris did tweak his knee this week and looks like he is still working to feel more comfortable on the leg.