Mistakes the norm at Saturday scrimmage

That lack of continuity on both sides of the ball that Urban Meyer was talking about a day earlier reared its ugly head during Florida’s two hour, full contact scrimmage Saturday morning. On a day when there were ten bad snaps, four sacks, three fumbles, two interceptions and several missed field goals, it was hard to get a gauge on how much progress the Gators have made as they finished up their eleventh practice of the spring.

From an offensive standpoint, Brantley had problems with timing in large part due to adventurous shotgun snaps from Nick Alajajian. In defense of Alajajian, he is a converted offensive tackle finishing up his second week as a snapper, but still, the lack of a consistent snap took its toll on both the running and passing games.

The sacks had plenty to do with a patchwork offensive line that was missing Mike Pouncey (center; held out); Carl Johnson (left guard; held out); James Wilson (right guard; missed second scrimmage due to minor injuries suffered Wednesday); and Marcus Gilbert (right tackle; held out).

If there was a star Saturday it was Chris Rainey, who continues to show explosiveness and playmaking ability as he makes the adjustment to the slot. Rainey did see some snaps at tailback after Emmanuel Moody took a helmet to the kneecap, but most of his damage was done in the slot. For the day, Rainey had four pass receptions for 43 yards and eight carries for 65.

QUARTERBACKS: Johnny Brantley was hampered by bad snaps (eight) and poor pass protection (sacked four times) but he still managed to complete 15-22 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown, a beautiful 33-yard strike to Deonte Thompson. Brantley was charged with an interception when Ahmad Black literally stole the ball from the receiver over the middle.

Brantley was also hampered by dropped passes (three) including one by Thompson which would have been good for 44-yard touchdown on a skinny post in which Thompson got inside position on Janoris Jenkins.

Trey Burton finished the day 7-14 for 114 yards and two touchdowns including a 64-yarder to Carl Moore on the last play of the scrimmage. Burton also had an eight-yard touchdown pass to Moore on a fade during the red zone drills. Burton ran six times for 30 yards. He had one exceptional run on an option play that was blown dead by the coaches after he had gone for 13 yards.

Burton was also picked off by Jaylen Watkins and he fumbled the ball twice.

Jordan Reed ran the wildcat package twice for six yards. His longest gain was good for five yards but he was stripped from behind on the play. Although the offense recovered the ball seven yards downfield, Reed heard it from at least three assistant coaches and Urban Meyer that he had to protect the ball.

RUNNING BACKS: Mike Gillislee had the run of the day, a 49-yard dash around the left side in which he turned the corner on a sweep, made a move to get past the linebacker and then turned on the jets. On that particular drive during the two-minute drills, Gillislee carried three straight times for 64 yards. For the day, Gillislee carried the ball 13 times for 95 yards and had a three-yard run for a touchdown. Gillislee continues to emerge as a go-to tailback who can get the tough yards up the middle while turning any sweep into a potential long-gainer. On a 17-yard gain he made on a sweep late in the scrimmage, he showed the ability to wait patiently for his blockers before turning on the speed.

Emmanuel Moody had eight carries for 32 yards before leaving the scrimmage after taking a helmet to his knee. Moody walked it off and was seen walking with a slight limp after the scrimmage. Moody had one very impressive 11-yard gain midway through the morning.

Fullback Steve Wilks had two catches for 21 yards. His best play was a little five-yard outlet pass out of the backfield from Trey Burton that he turned into a 19-yard gain for a first down. Wilks continues to separate himself from T.J. Pridemore in the battle for the number one fullback job.

RECEIVERS: Thompson’s big day — seven catches for 128 yards — was marred by a couple of dropped passes. The dropped ball on the skinny post was influenced by an aggressive hit by Janoris Jenkins, but the second drop was right through his hands.

Rainey produced 108 total yards while splitting time between the slot and tailback. He had a 20-yard run on a jet sweep out of the slot and turned a three-yard screen pass into a 17-yard gain for a first down during the two-minute drill.

Carl Moore had his most productive day of the spring with three catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns. On the final play of the scrimmage, he set up freshman Josh Shaw with a stutter step move and then blew by to catch Burton’s well thrown pass and turn it into a touchdown.

Reed had a productive day at tight end with three catches for 57 yards. He turned a five-yard shallow cross into a 25-yard gain and also had a pair of 16-yard catches on out routes. Reed had some problems with blocking assignments but there is no question he knows what to do with the ball once he gets it in his hands.

OFFENSIVE LINE:  For most of the day, the first team offensive line had Alajajian at center, Mo Hurt at left guard, Jon Halapio at right guard, Xavier Nixon at left tackle and David Young at right tackle.

Pass protection was spotty throughout the practice but as the morning wore on and the linemen started showing some wear and tear, Brantley rarely had time to set up and throw. The line did a fairly decent job handling the rush up the middle although Omar Hunter bull rushed his way for a sack over Alajajian. Nixon had some problems handling William Green off the edge, giving up two sacks, and Young gave up a sack to Earl Okine.

The Gators had the most success running the ball outside the tackles. There was limited success going straight at the defense but that should clear up in the fall with Johnson and Pouncey on the inside with Hurt and Wilson sharing right guard.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Chris Rainey is the number one option on kickoff returns backed up by freshman Robert Clark. Rainey and Janoris Jenkins were 1-2 on punt returns.

Chas Henry had punts of 37, 38 and 43 yards.

Timing was a real issue for field goal kicker Caleb Sturgis, who was good from 53, 52 and 41 yards but missed from 53, twice from 52 and twice from 35 yards. Three of the misses were directly related to snap/hold issues.



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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.