The importance of secondary coach Chuck Heater to the Florida defense
has never been in question. It appears that his coaching skills are
beginning to mold a group of inexperienced, but talented athletes into
dependable cover corners.
Make no mistake- there is a long way to go and an awful lot to prove before the Gators suit up that first weekend in September. Still, Heater’s young group is starting to make some plays. There were a few notable plays, both positive and negative in today’s scrimmage session. I focused a bit on three key players who are challenging for the open cornerback spots.
Anderson is beginning to come around after missing some time due to injury. He had solid coverage on receiver David Nelson, who was running in the endzone with Anderson just behind him. He had a chance to make a play on the ball as it was coming down, but misplayed his jump leaving Nelson with the play.
I was able to isolate on Anderson while he was matched up against Caldwell. He had pretty good coverage on the wideout. Caldwell gave him a little juke, but he was able to stay with him on the play. The ball went downfield to Nelson on the play.
One of the most humorous moments during today’s scrimmage session occurred in the goal line work. Quarterback Tim Tebow had taken the ball and after finding no room ran to his left. As he was about to cross the goal line the officials quickly blew the whistle, because Tebow is wearing the red no-contact jersey.
Tebow lowered his should would obviously loved to tear through Anderson and the other undersized defensive backs in the area. The opportunity didn’t provide itself and Anderson told Tebow that he wouldn’t play that here.
The truth is that there is little Anderson or most of the other defenders could do to kep him out of the endzone.
Joe Haden looked outstanding at times during the 7-on-7 work. Haden did a terrific job in coverage on Andre Caldwell. He stayed glued to Caldwell’s hip and when the ball was thrown, he stayed with the receiver as he adjusted to the ball. He even positioned himself to keep Caldwell in front of him. Haden was praised by secondary coach Chuck Heater, who said that he had good position and that it was a good idea.
During the goal line work, Nelson had a ball fired his way in the endzone. However, Haden got position and was so closely attached to the 6-5 receiver that he was unable to hang on to the ball.
He was on the spot when yet another ball was thrown in to Caldwell during the goal line drills. Haden was in position to pick off the pass or at the very least knock the ball away, but he did not. The coaches and his teammates told him to make a play, Joe.
The man with the best feet at the cornerback position has had some good moments in practice. Rickerson does not appear to have any further issues with his knee. He was locked in coverage against Nelson in the endzone when the ball arrived. Rickerson jumped up and tipped the ball back to his teammates, who were positioned at the goal line.
He was beaten by Harvin off the line on a later play. Rickerson lost him as he ran the post. The ball was not thrown to Harvin, but had it been…Ouch.
There were two other plays where I had the opportunity to isolate on Rickerson when he had solid coverage. One was against Caldwell, who had a half-step on Rickerson. The ball went to the opposite side though. He was tight on Paul Wilson, who appeared to be running a corner. Again, the ball went to another receiver. Solid coverage though.
**A little bonus coverage on a couple of non-members of the cornerback family- safety Jamar Hornsby
Safety Jamar Hornsby had three nice plays during the 7-on-7 scrimmage. He did a solid job in coverage against wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was running a post. One play later, Hornsby had tremendous coverage on wide receiver David Nelson, who went straight down the field.
Jackson had the hit of the day. Running back Brandon James had taken the pitch from Tebow and was running wide left. The defense had the play strung out and James was looking for a crease. However, Jackson quickly came up and popped James, knocking his headgear off and putting him on the turf.
Again, there is still remains a lot of work for these guys, but you can see the improvements. As long as Heater roams the secondary- they’ll only get better, probably much better.