Day 13 spring practice: defense

The Gators had a full contact scrimmage Wednesday afternoon which produced some new looks on the defensive side of the ball. The coaches shuffled the lineups on nearly every play and they showed a couple of brand new wrinkles involving ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens. Trattou and Lemmens both saw some plays at linebacker and Trattou, in particular, was very effective coming off the edge and getting into the backfield as a pass rusher.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Justin Trattou had a good day. He was disruptive from the beginning, constantly in the backfield. The coaches tried something new with Trattou , using him as an outside linebacker during some plays. There was even a few times where he acted as if he was going to cover the slot receiver before rushing the quarterback on the snap. He made a lot of plays in the backfield from his normal defensive end spot, recording a sack and creating another sack after he forced quarterback John Brantley to step up in the pocket and into the arms of Brandon Hicks.

William Green spent some time working in coverage today. He had an interception in his hands after jumping to catch it, but it fell out of his hands when he hit the ground. It was good to see him play well in coverage after dominating as a pass rusher off the edge over the past two practices. Green twitched on one pass rush, causing Xavier Nixon to pick his hand up and that drew a five-yard flag from the zebra for a false start. If the zebras has been at Monday’s scrimmage, Green would have drawn at least six flags from Nixon. The last two or three practices, Green has clearly been way too quick off the edge for anyone to handle.

LINEBACKERS: Jelani Jenkins stands out at this position nearly every day. There is always at least one big moment where he steals the show on the field. On Wednesday, that came on an interception. He was guarding the slot receiver during seven-on-seven workouts and jumped a quick out for the interception that would have been returned for a touchdown. He will be on the field more often than not this fall. Jenkins is playing both middle and weakside, which are virtually interchangeable in Florida’s system.

Lorenzo Edwards and Brendan Beal both had big days. They both are talented in stopping the run from the middle linebacker spot. Linebackers coach D.J. Durkin has been moving all of the linebackers around this spring to different spots than they are used to, but Edwards and Beal have succeeded in the run game no matter where they are. This could be something that carries to the fall, where they play outside linebacker positions during running downs for the opposing offense.

Neiron Ball also had a big day. He is going to be a force when he adds some weight. He’s playing both defensive end and outside linebacker, but he’s been best at linebacker. The way he runs to the ball is impressive. He came off the edge and knocked the ball out of Trey Burton’s hand for a fumble, and Coach Meyer was very loud in his praise for Ball after the play.

CORNERBACKS: Janoris Jenkins looks the way Joe Haden did last spring. They’ve taken similar career paths, both having outstanding freshmen seasons before having a down year statistically as a sophomore. It looks like Jenkins will continue to follow Haden with a breakout junior year. He and Deonte Thompson have had legendary matchups this spring, and they seem to go back-and-forth. Jenkins did get his bell rung today by Carl Moore, who put the junior cornerback on his butt and caused Jenkins to take a few plays off.

Jeremy Brown’s outstanding spring continues. He laid a big hit on T.J. Lawrence right after he caught the ball that put the receiver on his back.

SAFETIES: Will Hill was the player of the day among the safeties and he might have had the best day of all the defensive players. He had a big fumble recovery to end a long drive that he would have been returned for a 75-yard touchdown if the zebras hadn’t blown it dead after he sprinted about 10-15 yards. He also had two pass deflections and dropped an interception that went through his hands. He had cover skills that you usually see in a cornerback, and most of his big plays came from playing a center field safety position. Will Hill and Ahmad Black are going to give the Gators a safety tandem that is as good as you will find in college football next year.