Friday’s practice showed a defense anxious to put the pats on and have the chance to hit.
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(The rotation was difficult to notice today, but here’s my best guess.)
SDE: Justin Trattou, Carlos Dunlap, Jaye Howard, Early Okine
WDE: Jermaine Cunningham, Duke Lemmens, Earl Okine
DT: Troy Epps, Terron Sanders
DT: Lawrence Marsh, John Brown
What I liked: I love the versatility Justin Trattou brings. He was constantly moving inside and outside on the defensive line and looked just about as good as possible without pads. Troy Epps also had a better day today. He wasn’t demoted to second team like yesterday, and pushed some of the offensive line back a few times, as opposed to yesterday when he was dominated just about the whole practice. Carlos Dunlap is just a freak of an athlete that will make a big impact this fall. Tebow kept the ball and ran with it on one play, and watching Dunlap chase him and not lose much ground at all just makes you shake your head. Earl Okine picked the perfect number when he chose 91. When he grows a little bit more, he’s going to be reminding people of Derrick Harvey. Another thing I liked was Javier Estopinan being in the middle of the defensive line drills. He was always helping the younger guys on the team with any questions they had.
What I didn’t like: One negative was the absence of Torrey Davis. Meyer said at the beginning of spring that he would miss time to get his grades in order, so I’m assuming that is what happened today. Past that, it’s difficult to find many negatives until the pads go on tomorrow.
Also of note: The end of practice was 11-on-11, and the entire drill showed the defense using a three lineman set. When that was the case, Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham served as the first team defense ends, with Justin Trattou as the first team nose tackle. The second team used Duke Lemmens and Jaye Howard at defensive end, and John Brown played nose tackle.
(It was still hard to judge who was playing what position, but here’s my best guess)
MLB: Brandon Spikes, Lorenzo Edwards, Brendan Beal
SLB: AJ Jones, Ryan Stamper, John Jones
WLB: Dustin Doe, Brandon Hicks
What I liked: Brandon Spikes gets better every day. Meyer’s quotes about him stepping up and becoming a complete player couldn’t be more evident. One thing I loved about his game last year was his play in pass coverage. He had multiple deflected passes on Friday, one of which fell into the arms of AJ Jones for an interception. Jones played well in pass coverage as well. He and Hernandez went at it on a couple plays. One play had Jones dive in and tip the ball away from Hernandez’s hands. Lorenzo Edwards made a play where he jumped on top of a wide receiver and tipped the ball away without creating enough contact for pass interference. There isn’t much to report on outside of pass coverage since they aren’t hitting yet.
What I didn’t like: Brandon Hicks was scolded by Meyer during punt block drills for having to be told multiple times before doing things the right way. He came out and was confused on a couple plays about whether or not he should have been on the field. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong wasn’t very happy about it and let him know by grabbing his facemask to yell at him. Hicks did show good athleticism when he was in position. Brendan Beal was also yelled at to sit down as the middle linebacker in coverage, instead of running around and getting himself out of position. Still, you’d rather have a young player get scolded for moving too much, as opposed to not at all.
CB- Joe Haden, Markihe Anderson, Janoris Jenkins
CB- Wondy Pierre-Louis, Jacques Rickerson, Moses Jenkins, Jeremy Brown
What I liked: Everything about Coach Bedford. The cornerbacks do their drills right in front of the media section of the field, and I could listen to him coach all day. He is reiterating what Jenkins and Brown said after their first day, that he wants to press receivers. Joe Haden had an outstanding day. He picked Tebow off in 7-on-7s, when he jumped Louis Murphy’s post route to catch it. There was a great interaction between the two in one-on-ones. Murphy caught the first past and was jawing with Haden about the catch. The next play Haden jammed him off the line so much that Murphy couldn’t go anywhere but backwards. This sent the other cornerbacks into a frenzy, led by their coach Vance Bedford. He’s a great leader and the players are rallying around him already. What I love about Bedford’s drills is that he involves the cornerbacks catching the football to work on their hands. A lot of the drills are the same ones, but just that influx of new ideas should benefit them in the fall. Jenkins made his presence felt on a pass from Tebow after he locked up Carl Moore and then reached in to tip to pass away. He was physical all day and looked much improved in even one day of practice.
The biggest plus from the cornerbacks is that it looks like a fire has been lit under them. They still make mistakes, but they’re starting to stick their chest out a little bit as opposed to the head down attitude they had in the fall. During one-on-ones, they would get into furious debates about whether or not receivers were inbounds for catches because they didn’t want to give up anything. When Haden, Pierre-Louis and Rickerson weren’t up during the drills, they got into a yelling match with Harvin, Thompson and Murphy calling each other out. The cornerbacks had just made a big play, so they decided to let the offenses’ most feared players know about it. It’s that kind of pride in themselves that can make this group successful if they work hard and keep that swagger.
What I didn’t like: There were a few plays that stuck out in my mind here, but let’s think about it first. Any time you have young cornerbacks focusing on trying to learn the philosophy of a new coach, and you send them up against guys the caliber of Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy and Deonte Thompson, cornerbacks will struggle. I’m not going to call out young cornerbacks who are learning against the nation’s best receivers. That said, there really aren’t any of them that are getting embarrassed out there. Jenkins and Brown struggled in their first day of practice, but they looked better Friday. Murphy went from mocking Jenkins on Wednesday, to unsuccessfully trying to lose him on Friday.
S- Major Wright, Jamar Hornsby, Jerimy Finch, Ahmad Black
S-Dorian Munroe, John Curtis, Bryan Thomas
What I liked: Jerimy Finch participated in most of Friday’s drills. Wednesday had him not participating when the defense and offense went head-to-head, but he was on the field during almost every drill Friday. When I watch Major Wright play, I can’t help but laugh at the questions surrounding his pass coverage skills when he was in high school. One play he ended up one-on-one with Deonte Thompson in coverage and held him at bay. The throw was too far, but Wright was in position to make a play on the ball if it wasn’t. John Curtis is a guy that has always amazed me. He could probably go to another school and get consistent playing time, but instead he’s working hard to get time in as a Gator. He made a play deep across the middle to deflect a pass, and Coach Heater joked with him that he should get up after making a play like that and have a different walk and enthusiasm about it. Hopefully we’ll continue to see some big plays from him like the blocked punt at South Carolina in the fall.
What I didn’t like: Jamar Hornsby had played well throughout most of the day, but blew his coverage and allowed David Nelson to score a long, easy touchdown. Hornsby ignored his side of the field and left a gap wide open for Nelson to make the play.
Player of the Day: It’s got to be Brandon Spikes. Everyone knows how intimidating he is on the field, but he’s finally starting to become the complete player we all knew he could.