The Florida Gators conducted a two-hour scrimmage Saturday, their 11th practice of the spring and it was a good, although unspectacular day for the defense, which was bolstered by a steady pass rush that made things difficult for quarterback John Brantley.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The one consistent problem all spring has been the lack of a pass rush. That is something that won’t be fixed in a single day, but Saturday the defensive ends took a step forward in the right direction.
William Green had his best day of the spring with two sacks of John Brantley. The first one came on a speed rush to the outside where he wrapped up Brantley, who was trying to throw a quick pass but didn’t even have time to get it out. The next sack when Green beat left tackle Xavier Nixon to the edge again. Every offensive tackle Green went up against struggled to block him Saturday. Clearly it was the most dominant performance he’s ever had in a practice.
Earl Okine also recorded two sacks. The first one came against Ian Silberman, where Okine used a stutter step to get Silberman off balance, and Okine beat him to the outside with ease and followed by completing the play with a big hit on Trey Burton as he threw. The next sack came with Okine at defensive tackle. He faked to the outside against guard Jon Halapio, and then used a quick cut to the inside and had an unabated path to the quarterback.
Duke Lemmens didn’t record a sack, but he did force the quarterback to step up in the pocket on two plays, both of which helped Omar Hunter and Jaye Howard record a sack each.
Leon Orr had a rough day, completing his first week of practice. He is easily the biggest defensive lineman on the team when you factor in height and weight combined (6-5, 330), but he was thrown down off the line of scrimmage multiple times by offensive linemen.
LINEBACKERS: The hit of the day came from sophomore middle linebacker Jon Bostic. Mike Gillislee took a handoff and ran right, looking for a crease to turn and get into the end zone. He read his blocks and thought he had an open lane to run through, only to be put on his back by a thunderous hit from Bostic.
Lorenzo Edwards has always struggled to keep his weight down since he has been on campus, and he still looks thick. However, he is using that as a benefit and has put together a good spring with stopping the run.
Brendan Beal was also extremely active. He made a big hit on Gillislee that had the entire defense celebrating. A.J. Jones had a big hit that kept Chris Rainey from breaking a big play after Rainey had turned a two-yard screen into nine-yard gain.
Normally, the linebackers this spring have been all about Jelani Jenkins, A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks, so Saturday’s practice showed the depth of the position with as well as backups played.
CORNERBACK: There isn’t a missed tackle by Moses Jenkins that pops into my mind. He really seems to have taken the next step this season. Deonte Thompson ran some short routes against Jenkins, and the cornerback wrapped him up with no additional yardage gain. When he started at first team cornerback at the beginning of spring, most people expected him to give it up, but he has played well enough to keep the spot at least through the first 11 practices.
The two freshmen, Jaylen Watkins and Josh Shaw, struggled for the most part although Watkins stole an interception by muscling the ball away from the receiver. Shaw got torched on the last play of practice by Carl Moore, who got open deep for a 65-yard touchdown pass from Burton that was thrown perfectly.
Watkins got turned around on a fade pass to Moore. He was looking at Moore while covering him, and then turned to look for the ball too late, and it was floating behind him and into the arms of Moore.
SAFETIES: Ahmad Black made an interception that was very similar to his interception of Sam Bradford in the 2008 National Championship game. Brantley threw to Chris Rainey about 20 yards down the field. The ball hit Rainey’s hands, and just as it did, Black snuck it and stripped the ball from Rainey for the interception.
Matt Elam continued to impress. He has been covering Rainey for most of the spring, so he has learned to adjust and cover quicker players. Saturday he stayed with Rainey as much as at any point this spring, and even had a few solid hits on him.