Three skills position players appear to be on the brink of emerging from
potential superstars to scrimmage playmakers as the Florida football team
conducted their second scrimmage session of the spring. Running back
Chevon Walker, receiver Jarred Fayson, and tight end Aaron Hernandez each
turned in big plays yesterday.
Walker, who demonstrated big play ability during Wednesday’s practice session continued his stellar playmaking skills. Fayson also turned it up during today’s scrimmage session. The pair possess a similar ability to stop on a dime, cut and quickly start in another direction leaving defenders grabbing air.
Hernandez struggled at times to hang on the football during the first week and a half of spring drills. He performed much better today and was instrumental as a playmaker in those red zone drills.
The first offensive line remains unchanged. Senior Drew Miller (6-5, 297) started at center, while left guard Jim Tartt (6-3, 312) and left tackle Phil Trautwein (6-6, 298) rounded out the left side. Right guard Ronnie Wilson (6-3, 316) and right tackle Carlton Medder (6-5, 318) manned the strong side.
The receivers were junior Louis Murphy (6-2, 199), Fayson (6-0, 200), and redshirt freshman Justin Williams (6-1, 195). I would imagine the coaches left Andre Caldwell and Percy Harvin out of early action to get a better look at these other players. Both played during the red zone drills later in the day. Tight end/receiver Cornelius Ingram (6-4, 221) was in a protective boot on his left ankle and held out of contact. Hernandez saw extensive action with both the first and second team tight end.
Senior Eric Rutledge (5-11, 250) started at H-Back. Sophomore Brandon James (5-6, 178) got most of the work with the first unit at running back, and of course, Tim Tebow (6-3, 234) was the starting quarterback. Junior running back Kestahn Moore (5-10, 208) saw action later with the first team, but spent a majority of the session watching.
The offense went 0-3 in their first three series. That included a couple of opportunities by the first unit and one awful one by the second team. The highlights were few and much of their failure seemed to be because of their lack of emotion. They tried to fire themselves up as the defensive players congratulated their playmakers for their efforts.
There was a play that sprung James for a first down as Tartt and Miller got a terrific push and Wilson pulled ahead running left. James briefly used Wilson as a shield and cut back into the middle of the field for a big gain. I saw a nice block by Fayson on the previous play hat netted little yardage. The former Hillsborough High School graduate struggled with his blocking in practice sessions during his first season.
On their next series, Rutledge missed a block that allowed weakside linebacker A.J. Jones to come up and make a big hit on Moore who had nowhere to run. Once again, a loss on the play.
One of the best plays occurred when Tebow hit Fayson with a middle screen. The sophomore took the ball and slashed and dashed through the secondary for a huge gain. Tebow followed with a 12 yard pass on the left side to Murphy for yet another first down.
James took a handoff from Tebow one play later and had no room to run, pushing forward for a yard. Miller and Wilson didn’t fire off the ball and the defensive front wrapped him up. However, Miller and Medder sealed off the right side with a great block on Brandon Antwine on the following play. Tebow ran the option pitching the ball to James, who took it just over nine yards for a first down. The first team offense picked up four first downs on the series.
The offense suffered a let down with the ball backed up against their own endzone. A problem with the exchange between Tebow and Miller placed the ball on the ground. It was picked up by the defense for a score.
3rd down Scrimmage
The officials set the ball down with the offense challenged to convert third down opportunities. The first team was only able to convert on two third down opportunities. Tebow hit Percy Harvin with a pass that covered eight yards on a 3rd and 7. Harvin beat Haden on the play. Moore took a handoff from Tebow up the middle for a little more than one yard on 3rd and 1.
They failed to convert on 3rd and 9, when Tebow underthrew Caldwell. Thye missed because of a penalty on 3rd and 5, while Tebow was sacked by defensive end Jermaine Cunningham on 3rd and 3. Cunningham blew by right tackle Carlton Medder, who totally missed the block.
Red Zone Scrimmage
The ball was set down at the 12 yard line. However, just before the red zone scrimmage began the first unit had the opportunity to move the ball in from the 25 yard line. Tebow optioned left on first down for five yards. He pitched the ball to James who make a couple of defenders miss as he ran down to the 6 yard line for a huge gain. Tebow then to the ball left on the following play and pitched the ball to Fayson who had reversed field to the right. The defense bit was fooled. Fayson ran right, cut back inside avoiding the boxed end and weaved and juked his way through several defenders six yards in for the score. It was a sensational run. Defensive lineman Clint McMillan lay on the tuf after the play- he thought that he had a grasp on Fayson’s leg and came up with air.
When the officials placed the ball on the 12 yard line, Fayson took a bubble screen on the right side and sped through the defense for a touchdown. It was just another tremendous testament of Fayson’s big play ability after the catch.
Moore go the call on the following attempt. He picked up five yards running behind Tartt and Trautwein. He then went up the middle, cut over right tackle and scored on a beautiful run.
Fayson ran an out route after crossing the goal line on 1st and 3. He hauled in Tebow’s pass for the score. Tebow was pressured by Doe on the blitz and threw another attempt from the three incomplete.
Redshirt sophomore Eddie Haupt (6-4, 298) was the second team center. Three guards worked out with the reserves. True freshman Markice Pouncey (6-4, 310) was the left guard, while twin brother Michael Pouncey (6-4, 310) and redshirt freshman Corey Hobbs (6-3, 299) split time at right guard. Jim Barrie (6-5, 300) was the left tackle and Jason Watkins (6-6, 304) was the right tackle. As I said, Hernandez saw extended work with both the units.
The second team receivers were redshirt sophomore David Nelson (6-4, 208), redshirt sophomore Cade Holliday (5-11, 189), and true freshman Paul Wilson (6-0, 182). Quarterback Cam Newton (6-5, 242) had redshirt freshman Chevon Walker (5-10, 204).
The second team offense went backwards during their first scrimmage opportunity. A poor exchange on the handoff between Newton and Walker resulted in a big loss of yardage. Newton was blitzed on the following play and Newton was unsure of what to do on the play.
Newton then took the first play on their next series for five yards. Two plays later, he threw a ball behind David Nelson. It was a pass that Nelson probably should have caught. It hit him in the hands and wasn’t coming in very hard. He later hit Nelson in the hands with another pass that he dropped.
The squad then settled down. He found Paul Wilson on the next play for nine yards on a quick pass. Walker picked up just enough yardage for the first down on the following play. A few plays later on the drive, Newton tossed a beautiful strike to Holliday, who was running by Jamar Hornsby for a touchdown on a corner route.
Walker then took over for a bit. He took a handoff for 10 yards and a first down. One player later, he ran through the defense for a score. Later, Walker took a handoff from Newton, up the middle, stopped, cut back to the left, and broke a tackle before taking it to the house. His runs during this drive were sensational, demonstrating his ability to stop and go, cut and move. For a few plays we saw the playmaking skills that made Walker a promising big play back in southwest Florida.
After struggling with a couple of drops, Nelson later hauled in a touchdown pass on the left side from Newton. He also caught a six yard pass and a slant for short yardage which ended the regular scrimmage session.
3rd down Scrimmage
The officials set the ball down with the offense challenged to convert third down opportunities. The third team offense converted only one third down opportunity, a 3rd and 1 play when Walker bulled through the defensive front for two yards. The defense was pushed backwards as Barrie and Markice Pouncey caved in the left side.
They picked up a first down courtesy of a holding call on Jacques Rickerson, who was flagged in coverage on Nelson.
Newton completed 1 of 3 on the series- hitting only a 3rd and 7 pass to Williams. Unfortunately, he only picked up six yards on the play failing to convert. One of Newton’s passes sailed behind Fayson who was running the slant.
Red Zone Scrimmage
Again, the ball was spotted on the 12 yard line. Just as they did for the first team, the officials placed the ball at the 25 for the second team for one series.
Newton tossed a screen pass in the direction of Nelson who was running on the left side. However, Nelson no doubt saw safety Bryan Thomas bearing down on him. Nelson gave up on the ball and let it fall to the turf. Thomas gave him a pop anyway and a flag was thrown. Still, Nelson has to make an attempt on the play. You’re in the red zone and the ball is coming your way…lay out for it.
On second down, Newton hit Hernandez for a play that went to the five yard line for a first down. The pair hooked up on the following play for a score with Hernandez running the same route as Fayson, when the first squad was in there. Hernandez ran across the goal line and ran outside.
When the ball was placed at the 12 yard line, Walker got the call on first down and picked up two yards. Newton was under pressure from the left side and ran right. He took off and scored on the play. Newton really has a burst of speed for a 242 pound quarterback. Outstanding play.
Hernandez once again hauled in a touchdown pass from Newton when the two’s got another turn. This time it was from three yards out. He later had the ball snapped wide and picked it up running for no gain.
The offensive line was pretty good overall. They came out flat and improved throughout the session. They didn’t do an especially good job picking up the blitz. The second team guys have begun to improve. I’d say the Pouncey’s have made a significant improvement since the opening week of practice. It always takes time for freshmen to adjust and they are in the process of doing so. Obviously, they still have a long way to go, but the lighs are definitely on. Barrie looks to be improved at left tackle. He is seeing plenty of playing time with Carl Johnson out with a virus. Watkins has played on the right side.
Among the skills position players, there is no question that Walker, Fayson, and Hernandez have stepped up their play. They still have to perform consistently and have improvements to be made blocking. Consider the possibilities of Caldwell, Harvin, Ingram with these three and the improved play of James at tailback and the Orange and Blue game should feature plenty of fireworks. Two weeks remain and there is plenty of room at the inn for additional playmakers as well as improved play by these Gators.