It was a harder hitting day than maybe most expected on the practice field in Gainesville Wednesday and still a lot of sloppy play to go along with the intense hitting. The Gators had a strong practice and a couple of new names showed up on the radar and may have made a move on the depth chart. Here is our account of spring practice on day five.
They did a half line drill with three offensive linemen against three defensive players. Most of that is on video and you can see it for yourself. I thought the offensive line showed some great push almost on every play and drove the defenders out of the play most of the time. The depth and strength of the entire offensive line is starting to shine through and young players like Michael and Maurkice Pouncey are starting to get noticed, even with all of the depth. I suggest you watch the video.
I also filmed a good deal of the open field tackling drill and that was a little more in favor of the defense. There were some nice hits and runs, seen on video and the big one came form one of the starting linebackers.
A.J. Jones had the hit of the day seen in the video clips. He went one on one with Mon Williams and it was probably the hardest hit I have seen at practice in a long time. Mon took some time off and shook it off, even jogging a bit, but didn’t return to the drill. He got back in action in the running game exercises that followed and took one step before collapsing to the ground with a knee injury. My thought is the real injury happened in the collision and then he finished it trying to take a full speed step in the running game action. Again, that is just my opinion.
Defense started strong in the running game drill stuffing the first five plays or so, then the offense started making things happen and the big mashers up front started really making some holes.
Kestahn Moore in one of those runs saw a lane open up by the linemen and cut back for a big time gain. It was what you want from the zone blocking scheme. Start one direction and run with the blocking, then see the crease and cut back.
On one play during the drill, Brandon James slowed up before the end and he got clobbered. Coach Drayton was running right behind him and chewed him out for not finishing and telling him “see, that is what happens when you don’t finish!”
Chevon made four great runs in the running drill. He really has a very quick change of direction and runs with authority. A few times he was seemingly tangled in traffic only to shift directions ever so slightly and dart through a hole that wasn’t there a second earlier. This may have been one of those turning point days for Walker. More on him later.
This may have something to do with a young defensive unit, but in the running game drill, the offensive line, fullbacks, and tight ends consistently did a great job on the outside runs. They pinned everything inside so on a toss the backs had all kinds of space to run and were able to make some long runs often times totally untouched to the end zone. It happened a great deal today.
7 on 7 Passing Drill…
Bubba Caldwell dropped the first pass right in his chest
Tim Tebow had Percy Harvin on a crosser that would have gone a long way, but led him a little too much and Harvin couldn’t drag it in.
Brandon Spikes broke up a pass to David Nelson. Spikes is surprising sometimes when he covers these receivers.
Tate Casey dropped a corner pass for a touchdown, it was a bullet from Cam Newton that was right on the mark and traveled about 20 yards.
Caldwell caught a 15 yard crossing pattern and went untouched into the end zone he then dropped a pass from Newton that hit him in the chest.
Newton threw just a little behind on a crosser to Fayson and Spikes dove and broke up the pass. Again it was a nice play by Spikes being in coverage.
Aaron Hernandez caught an out pass and was able to turn up field for a big gain.
Louis Murphy made a nice catch in traffic, and then later Murphy drops the ball after Jamar Hornsby lays a hit on him. The two start talking trash to each other.
Dustin Doe broke up a pass to Fayson over the middle.
Spikes broke up his third pass of the day. It was a Tebow pass intended for Louis Murphy.
Tate Casey caught a nice mid range touchdown pas from Tebow, right in the middle of the field at the goal line.
Lawrence Marsh got some reps with the first team at strong side defensive end as Derrick Harvey took some time off. Marsh really surprised me with his speed form side to side. Look for a video interview of him in the next day or two.
I missed the fumble and return, but Brandon Spikes took advantage of a blindside hit of Carlton Medder and absolutely de-cleated him and put him on the ground.
Cam Newton rolled left and threw a beautiful pass to Jarred Fayson on a deep corner route. Fayson turned up field and got extra yardage.
Chevon Walker continued his excellent day and ran inside and then a little to the right for a long run. He continued later on another inside run and took it to the left outside and up field for a very long gain in the team drill.
Dorian Munroe laid out Brandon James in the backfield on a sweep.
The defense was strong for the most part in the team portion of practice except for the plays mentioned above and a couple of more. The real issue with offense is consistency and all being on the same page. When the defense blows it, it is usually a huge play and because there is so much youth on defense.
Things I Disliked…
David Nelson has a badly sprained or possible fractured wrist. I really don’t know what Mon Williams knee problem is, but it didn’t look good and he was I a lot of pain.
The defensive linemen are getting pushed around when they become engaged with the offensive linemen. That is to be somewhat expected due to the relative strengths of the two units, but still something to look at improving on.
Caldwell dropped the ball twice today when he was wide open.
Newton is still struggling throwing the ball when under pressure.
Justin Williams disappeared today unlike most other days this spring.
Things I Liked…
Chevon Walker will get the player of the day nod from me. Quite honestly it was my pick for the best day for a running back in a contact practice since Meyer started coaching here. He really turned in some long runs and absolutely looked like a perfect fit in this running game. What a nice surprise it would be if Chevon Walker were to step up and be a big time player for the Gators this season.
Most days Brandon Spikes would have been the player of the day. I saw him break up three passes, mostly to the outside when he was covering receivers on crossing routes. We all know he can really bring the heat when making a tackle, he showed today he can also roam the field and make plays in space.
Although he struggles under pressure, Cam Newton started making more nice throws today. The every day observer can see him getting better and coming along. He really can throw a rope for about 30 or more yards and once he gets a lot of repetitions and starts getting more comfortable in the system he will just let the thing fly. His time is coming, and is fun to watch him mature.
It really will be a strong safety group. So strong in fact, they may have to move someone to get the talent on the field. Jamar Hornsby continues to play strong and physical and I still believe Dorian Munroe is on track to challenge Kyle Jackson. Jackson in the meantime has been playing well himself. Could Hornsby grow into a linebacker and possibly help out there and get more playing time to boot? I think it is a possibility. With the cornerbacks down a few de to small injuries, the safeties have been playing in the nickel as the fifth defensive back. It has been Munroe and Hornsby sliding in to cover the slot receiver and they have done well.
Notable visitors at practice on the day included Lakeland running back and Gator signee Chris Rainey, Davenport Ridge Community linebacker Vincent Williams, and Dunnellon linebacker Lerentee McCray.