Florida’s first practice of August got started ahead of the scheduled starting time Monday afternoon. Maybe that was a sign of things to come because it was a very solid practice turned in by the returning veterans. Most of the position rotational spots stayed the same, but there were a few notable changes. There are still going to be some ongoing questions at tackle and safety.
Here is a look at Monday afternoon:
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DEFENSIVE LINE: The starters were Duke Lemmens, Troy Epps, Terron Sanders and Carlos Dunlap. Jermaine Cunningham was at practice but not participating due to a back injury. Javier Estopinan (recovering from knee surgery) was there but didn’t participate. Lemmens and Epps have really filled out a lot since April and Epps particularly looks like a different person. He might have added weight but certainly he’s in much better physical condition. Justin Trattou played inside on every snap that I saw which surprised me. I am not sure I like this move just yet, but we shall see. I am one that believes Trattou needs to be on the field. Jaye Howard looked good and got after it. He played both inside and outside on the line. They switched up a lot with Dunlap also getting some reps inside in pure pass situations. Sanders was running real well and I think their size and ability to run is what is placing Sanders and Epps on the first unit right now. Lawrence Marsh looked good too, but he was definitely playing second fiddle today. There was no one-on-one with offensive linemen today so it is really hard to gauge just how hard these guys are able to play.
BEST PRACTICE: I will go with Epps as he looked the part that he just didn’t look in the spring. I can now see him producing if his motor matches his body this fall.
LINEBACKER: Starters were the same with A.J. Jones at the Sam, Brandon Spikes at Mike, and Dustin Doe at Will. The big change here comes on the second unit where Lorenzo Edwards was moved to Sam from middle. He told me after practice it is because the coaches think he made more plays on the outside in the spring than inside. This sets up a natural challenge with A.J. Jones for the starting spot eventually. This should be a good battle this fall. Ryan Stamper played strictly Mike on the second team and John Jones was the second Will. When the young guys and old guys combine tomorrow I am expecting Brandon Hicks to be the backup at Will for now. One note I made was that Dustin Doe looks more chiseled than I have seen him. In 7-on-7 drills Spikes tipped a pass that A.J. Jones intercepted and ran back for a while. Their stellar pass coverage from the spring seemed to continue through today,
BEST PRACTICE: I will go with Doe, of the group he looked like the one that has changed the most for the better.
CORNER: Staring corners were Joe Haden and Wondy Pierre-Louis. Second team was Markihe Anderson and Moses Jenkins. In the nickel, Joe was out and Markihe moved inside with Moses Jenkins playing one outside man mirrored with Pierre-Louis. Jacques Rickerson saw plenty of time on the second unit switching around from corner to nickel a bunch. The corners were sticky good in pass coverage when they finally lined up with the offense. The quarterbacks probably threw four passes over 10 yards out of 20-plus because of the coverage by the corners on the receivers. Joe Haden jumped the first pass from Tim Tebow and should have had a pick. Markihe had one quite similar in the flat that should have gone the other way. Wondy also jumped a pass and almost took it the distance. These cornerbacks have grown up a lot in a short period of time ad I believe it all comes from being sure in what they are doing and that comes from experience. That is something they had none of last year.
BEST PRACTICE: I will go with Markihe Anderson. He seemed to have a little bit of an attitude out there today and in the face of the receivers he faced.
SAFETY: Starters were Major Wright and Ahmad Black followed by walk-ons Cade Holliday and Andrew Fritze. The staff alternated the guys from playing in the box to playing deep safety. They certainly looked at playing the one deep free safety some, something we rarely saw last season with all the inexperience back there. Wright and Black seem real confident in their abilities, so at least that part of their game is not missing. They didn’t have many chances to make plays today, so we will have to wait and see on this position.
BEST PRACTICE: Practice: not applicable really.
Tomorrow the freshmen join forces with the older guys. On defense this will make a huge impact when Will Hill comes over along with T.J. Lawrence at safety. It will also get real interesting with Omar Hunter, Matt Patchan, and Ronnie Wilson in the mix at defensive tackle.