The Florida Gators opened up the Jim McElwain era on Thursday when they took the field for the first day of spring camp. Offensively there is a lot to work on but defensively the Gators have some big playmakers they need to replace.
New defensive coordinator Geoff Collins returned to the team on Thursday and was at practice after losing his father earlier in the week. Collins tweeted, “Many thanks for texts/tweets about my dad passing. He’s the original ‘Coach Collins’ & I’m heading back to the field like he’d expect me to.”
In a Q&A session on the app Periscope, junior safety Keanu Neal said it “meant a lot” to the defense to have Collins back for the first day of camp.
Like the offensive line, it’s hard to form a solid opinion on the defensive line until the pads come on. From the little that we can take away though…
Freshmen CeCe Jefferson looks to be in great shape. Like a lot of the freshmen class, Jefferson doesn’t look like he’s a first year player at all. Jefferson worked out at weak side defensive end in the fastball portion of the second session.
The inexperienced interior of the line looks really good physically. Joey Ivie, Taven Bryan and Caleb Brantley are all physically imposing players and it will be good to see what they can do when the pads come on.
Thomas Holley attended practice in shorts and a t-shirt. Holley has not been cleared to play since re-injuring himself in spring camp.
Freshman Jabari Zuniga may not need to redshirt like many thought he would. Zuniga has added some good size and his get off is great. Zuniga was attacking Martez Ivey during the fastball portion of practice and, again, he’s someone to keep an eye on when the pads come on.
One of the first players off the bus for the first session was Antonio Morrison. Morrison worked out with the team during some non-contact drills and, while he wasn’t anywhere near full speed, didn’t appear to be hampered by the bulky brace on his left knee.
Alex Anzalone continues to fill in for Morrison at the middle linebacker spot. Anzalone made tremendous strides in the spring and he’s really taken control of the defense.
Matt Rolin worked with the second team linebackers and continues to look better coming off of two ACL surgeries. The question with Rolin is can he stay healthy and what level can he play at coming off of the surgeries?
Jarrad Davis worked next to Anzalone with the first team.
Vernon Hargreaves competes like a walk-on trying to earn a seat at the table rather than the only All-American on the roster. Hargreaves had a nice pass breakup on a pass intended for Brandon Powell and he continues to push everyone around them to elevate their game and try to keep up with him.
Quincy Wilson and Brian Poole worked with the first team outside of Hargreaves. Poole continues to get work outside at cornerback as well as at nickel. He has worked outside every offseason that he’s been at Florida but when the season rolls around always finds his way back to the nickel.
Jalen Tabor looked good today in coverage.
Florida’s secondary is even more impressive in person than they are on paper.
Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye and Marcell Harris were running with the first group. It seems obvious at this early juncture that Maye and Neal will be the two starting safeties with Duke Dawson being the first one in after them. Nick Washington and Harris fall in line after those three.