Gator Country, in order to bring a little more in-depth coverage this week, is planning on splitting up the roster and three of us will report different parts of the team at practice. I have been assigned the offensive skill (QB, RB, WR) players.
With that in mind, the Gators are loaded with freshmen skill players and they showed off Sunday evening. Later that night, the offensive skill guys took charge and dominated that practice. Here is an in-depth report on those players, and a little more.
The heat at practice number one was pretty unbelievable. As the fans and media were running for some shade and liquids, the players took more periodic breaks because of it. The defensive guys needed it as the wide receivers were not there to just play around.
The quarterback play was shaky without Tebow out there. Butch Rowley was the main signal caller and looked alright at times, but he mostly completed the short stuff and let the receivers do the rest. My take on these guys after day one goes something like this:
Percy Harvin: I got to watch Harvin a bunch in San Antonio in January. The only knock on him at the time was his lack of size. Well, there is no doubt about it. He has put on some weight in the upper body which will allow him to fight for the ball. Today, it was apparent that he and Jarred Fayson had the quickest feet for any freshmen. They may be the quickest on the team. Harvin is also so fast. Once he gets a step he is gone. But, it is his quick feet that get him separation between he and the defender and he showed it quite a bit.
Jarred Fayson: Ditto Harvin, but he is about an inch and a half taller. Fayson is ultra quick too and he is up to 203 pounds now and very strong. Like Harvin he uses his quickness to separate him and the defender, he also has a ton of speed. He and Harvin need to get on the field and early.
Jamar Hornsby: Hornsby surprised me today. I keep picturing him as a safety and all he did was come out and have a great day at receiver. He is the tallest of the group and has decent build too. He is a strong receiver, but not ultra fast. He is a perfect follow up to Dallas Baker, although I would love to see him roam the secondary also.
Riley Cooper: Cooper has a lot of the same attributes as Hornsby except he is faster. I didn’t get a great read on him today, but I know he is a very physically mature player. He didn’t seem to be bothered by the arm injury he had last year. I will follow him a little more closely later today.
Justin Williams: Faster than most think and he is smooth also. He got beat a couple of times as a cornerback going against Percy, but he has the tools to play there if needed. He makes this a well rounded class of receivers with his speed and smooth running style.
Brandon James: To be honest, I only noticed James on kick returns. I couldn’t even tell you, with the offense on the far field, if he was playing at receiver or running back. I will have to watch him closer.
Chevon Walker: I talked to him after practice and have an interview that will be up shortly. Walker is another with really quick feet, but he is a very strong player. He is just another one of those athletes that probably needs to find a way to get on the field and get the ball in his hands.
Mon Williams: Down hill runner and has great lean. They used to say the same about Ciatrick Fason, but Mon has more speed. He is probably already bigger than Ciatrick when he arrived on campus in 2002. Mon could be this year’s Kestahn Moore with more size and speed.
Trent Pupello: Some how the guy kept getting open running corners and deep out routes. I don’t know how the defense could lose a 260 pounder rumbling down the field, but they did a few times and I caught a couple on the video. He is an absolute load after the catch and should be a big time asset when used as a blocker in the future.
Later Sunday night the old guard was out at practice and with about 800 or so in attendance, the fans were not disappointed in the offensive showing of the upper classmen. Chris leak and Tim Tebow were both very sharp on the night and both made reads that showed they are getting comfortable with the offense. Here is my take on the offensive skill guys.
Chris Leak: Leak was extremely sharp and right from the start. There was one play on the video where he missed a streaking Dallas Baker, but he did hit Jemalle Cornelius for a long gainer on a post pattern on the same play. He made better reads, or so it seemed tonight, and his throws were crisp. His receivers knew what they were doing so it was tough to see if he was really taking charge or if it as even necessary. That will become obvious over the course of the week in my opinion.
Tim Tebow: Also very crisp tonight and made some reads that were very impressive for someone that has only been on campus for eight months. Tebow has a gun when he wants to use it. I really thought both quarterbacks were quite good on Sunday night.
DeShawn Wynn: Without contact, it is hard to see what the running backs are doing at practice. What I can tell you about Wynn is that he looks like he is chiseled out of stone. He really is in shape and hopefully we will get to see him more soon.
Markus Manson: I saw him make one catch out of the backfield. I am anxious to watch him run behind the line with defenders tackling to see if he has improved running through arm tackles. That will come later in the week.
Kestahn Moore: Didn’t even notice if he was out there. Again, the running back drills are on the far side and most of the passes on the 7 on 7 are thrown to receivers. So, he may very well have been there.
Dallas Baker: I swear Baker has gotten faster. He certainly runs more sure footed and makes life difficult for defensive backs. Last season’s best receiver looks to make good on another productive season. He made a couple of head fakes and at full speed changed slight direction to get wide open a couple of times. It was a thing of beauty from Baker.
Jemalle Cornelius: Jemalle is just steady. I think he has spectacular plays in him, I don’t know what they have to do to get them out of him. In the meantime he is fast and solid and knows what he is doing. He will likely be on the field a lot.
Kenneth Tookes: Even Tookes, who has been relegated to backup status for years, looks like a senior destined for some positive playing time after practice number one. Given that the cornerback numbers were a little low, Tookes still made some great plays and a couple on the video highlights. I think he and Dallas are the best blocking receivers on the team.
Bubba Caldwell: Bubba looked totally healed form his injuries out there. Just look at Tim Casey’s photo gallery and you can see that Caldwell is running full speed and cutting on a dime from those still shots. He can teach Harvin and Fayson a thing or two about using his quickness in traffic. I expect Bubba to have a huge year.
Louis Murphy: Have to admit he had a pretty quiet night. I know he caught a couple of passes in the 7 on 7, but did not stand out.
Nyan Boateng: I would say pretty much the same as Murphy. He caught a few more I believe and did make one nice catch and wiggle over the middle of the field after a pass from Leak. David Nelson: Of the wide outs, he was probably the biggest positive surprise of the first practice. One thing was he was a continuous target of the quarterbacks and he usually caught it when the ball was thrown his way. I believe he dropped two that he should have caught, but he caught a few passes in full stride. Nelson is one of those receivers that get faster as he is running. A long strider, if he gets deep he can run by anyone.
Tate Casey: Casey got open in the 7 on 7 and made the catches he needed to make. Brandon Siler stripped him of the ball in Casey’s only error of the night from what I saw. Casey does have to cure that. He had an overall good night.
Cornelius Ingram: There is one highlight on the 1 on 1’s that shows Ingram using his strength to get open. He will overpower any safety or corner that tries to cover him. He will run by any linebacker that dares to try. Coach Gonzales hinted at a special package for Ingram that he will be very comfortable in running. I really like that idea and it should bring nightmares to opposing defensive coaches.
I figure I would add in a few more things I noticed around the field today, just in case they aren’t covered by the rest of our gang.
I got the distinct impression that Lawrence Marsh was working at a defensive tackle position today. He and Jermaine Cunningham were separated with Marsh working with Coach Mattison this afternoon and Cunningham working with the new defensive grad assistant Sean Cronin. It makes me wonder what will go on with Corey Hobbs and Terron Sanders although both were wearing defensive jerseys today.
Speaking of Cunningham, he is much bigger than what I had heard. I heard last week he reported at 205, but the guy I saw on the field tonight was around 230 or even bugger. I got a couple of shots on video so you guys can see how big he is.
Two more that are noticeably bigger are linebackers Eric Sledge and Ryan Stamper. Sledge looks like a different human being with his muscle mass up top compared to last season. Stamper added some thickness in his legs and looks a bit stronger.
Brandon Siler got all over Jon Demps one time for not running after the ball at the end of a play. He was quite vocal in his displeasure over the lack of hustle. Siler is a true leader.
I’d say I was a little disappointed in the safety play tonight, although they could have taken a few heads off if the pads were on.
Linebacker John Jones of Sarasota Booker was in attendance at the freshman practice. A bunch of players from PK Yonge were there for the night practice including cornerback / safety Moses Parker.