Tuesday afternoon: Defensive report

Watching Florida’s cornerbacks going head-to-head with what is probably the best set of wide receivers in the country, you had to wonder why there are so many concerns about the position. Tuesday afternoon they were flying all over the field, tipping passes and making plays. In the two-minute drill, the corners more than held their own and only a couple of exceptional offensive plays kept the defense from winning.

Here is a look at what the defense was doing Tuesday afternoon:

DEFENSIVE LINE: Jermaine Cunningham participated in all non-contact drills, but when the offensive and defensive lines went head-to-head, Cunningham was a spectator. In his place during the two-minute drill was Duke Lemmens, who made some nice moves off the line. Carlos Dunlap continued to earn his nickname — “The Freak II” — as he spun off Phil Trautwein and chased down a scrambling Tim Tebow for a sack. We better get used to it. He can flat out make plays.  Justin Trattou makes it easy to sit in the blazing sun and watch practice. Everything he does is high energy, and his motor is constantly going. Earl Okine also picked up a sack with the second team. Freshman William Green worked with the second team. He reminds me of a lot of Cunningham.

The defensive tackle starters were Troy Epps and Terron Sanders. I like what Epps has done with his body this offseason. He looked a little pudgy in the spring, but since then he’s turned most of that fat into muscle. Lawrence Marsh impressed me with the way he used his hands. He even got a deflection on a pass by Cameron Newton, and linebacker Ryan Stamper turned the batted ball into an interception. Ronnie Wilson got some snaps with the second team, as did John Brown. Omar Hunter didn’t do anything that was all that impressive during the two-minute drill, but a lot of the passes were short slants so there wasn’t much he could have done. 

LINEBACKERS: The first thing that impressed me at this position today was Brandon Spikes. Some people have been worried because he hasn’t put a ton of muscle on, but he looks much more cut right now. He’s listed at 240-plus and it’s all muscle. Watch him move and you know he’s going to have an outstanding year. The pass coverage from this group was outstanding, and you could say that about the entire defensive unit. Spikes intercepted Tebow during the two-minute drill. Lorenzo Edwards, after getting blasted by Coach Chuck Heater during field goal blocking drills, also played well in pass coverage. He had an interception go through his hands, but he locked down a few other guys in the slot position. A.J. Jones also had a pass deflection as Tebow rolled out and attempted to dump off to Cornelius Ingram.  Jones aggressively broke on the play. Lerentee McCray took it easy getting to the ball on one play and got reamed for lack of effort by the coaches. He went full speed from then on. He is bigger than I expected, and his speed is something else. This kid is going to be a force at the linebacker position when he’s needed.

CORNERBACKS: The emergence of this group in the spring was great, but if it didn’t carry over to the fall, it would mean nothing. Not only do we see carry over, but this group is even better than it was four months ago. It starts with Coach Vance Bedford. His energy is contagious not only in the secondary, but in the defense as a whole. Joe Haden was my player of the day. He locked guys down in the one-on-one drills and bumped them off the line to break up a few routes. He jumped a few out routes and on one pass swatted the ball a good ten feet away. Haden jumped one route on Riley Cooper and came away with a pick of a Tebow pass. Wondy Pierre-Louis got ripped by Coach Bedford during a defensive walk through, and was lockdown from there out. He made plays in the one-on-one drills that caused Bedford to launch his hat in excitement and lead the celebration of the defense. Markihe Anderson has been a solid cornerback since his time on campus and the only issue is his health. Moses Jenkins impressed me my playing physical. If he added some legitimate weight to go with the height, he could be a great cornerback. Jeremy Brown broke up three passes that I saw and drew high praise from all his coaches and teammates.

SAFETY: Will Hill stood out in his first practice with the upperclassmen. Ahmad Black and Major Wright got all of the first team snaps, but Hill showed true signs of being a playmaker. On one play, Cameron Newton rolled out and threw to Tate Casey but Hill dove in to break up the pass. He came out of nowhere and showed tremendous closing speed on the play. He soaks up everything the coaches have to say, and showed a great vertical during some of the drills. Wright and Black played solid in coverage together, but didn’t do anything outstanding. Deonte Thompson caught a 30-yard pass from Tebow in between the two of them, but there wasn’t much more the defense could have done. Tebow’s throw was simply perfect. Coach Heater laid into this group at the very beginning of practice, saying how none of them were above any other ones, and the individual drills at the position were very intense. T.J. Lawrence is obviously still learning the position, but he’s got the natural ability to succeed there.