The first day of spring practice saw about four hundred Gator fans fill up the grassy sidelines and the little bit of stands at the practice field. A new spring for the National Champions brings a lot of anticipation and we’ll all be there to cover it in all it’s glory like no else.
Without contact and a whole lot of learning going on, Day One was a little slow. Still, there were plenty of observations that can be gleaned from it.
Two weeks ago Urban Meyer said Markus Manson and Joe Haden would get a first look on defense. A week ago he retracted those comments and said they were offensive players. The first day of spring practice, they both lined up on defense and the second team at cornerback. For us to try and guess at depth charts even now is a little more than can be expected, but here are some first day observations:
Haden was the first person to step up when Wondy Pierre Louis went down with a hamstring injury. Haden looked good with the move. Manson looks like he has the tools and both appear to be stronger than the other corners on the roster, but Manson has to get used to the flexibility ad direction change associated with the position. It appears he has what it takes, but he has to get more reps at actually doing it on the field.
The rotation at running back was Kestahn Moore, Mon Williams, Brandon James, and Chevon Walker.
The starting offensive line was Phil Trautwein (LT), Jim Tartt (LG), Drew Miller (C), Ronnie Wilson (RG), and Carlton Medder (RT). The rest rotated in and out in the second and third groups. Carl Johnson was lining up at right tackle.
It is definitely an exceptional group of receivers, but they were all mixed up as far as a depth chart today.
The defensive line starters were Derrick Harvey, Brandon Antwine, Clint McMillan, and Jermaine Cunningham. The three starting linebackers were Dustin Doe (Will), Brandon Spikes (MLB), and A.J. Jones (Sam). Wondy started the day as a first teamer and after an injury was replaced by Haden at corner. The other starter was Markihe Anderson. Second team corners were Ahmad Black and Markus Manson. The starting safeties are Tony joiner and Kyle Jackson. Dorian Munroe was the first backup at both safety positions and Jamar Hornsby was next in line at strong safety while Bryan Thomas was next in line at free safety.
The Gators lined up in a 3-3-5 defense and with it, the line consisted of Harvey, Antwine and Lawrence Marsh. The linebackers were Jones, Spikes, and Doe. The nickel was manned by Markihe Anderson with Haden and Manson at corner. Kyle Jackson and Tony Joiner were the safeties.
What I liked…
The receivers were pretty crisp on the day. Bubba Caldwell and Percy Harvin could not be touched in one on one drills. Jarred Fayson has all the skills of those two but got frustrated a couple of times on errant throws. Paul Wilson made the play of the day on a stretch out grab for a long completion. He is a hard working player with some underrated skills.
Justin Williams played big inside and so did David Nelson in 7 on 7 drills. They ran their interior routes with authority and caught everything thrown their way.
Haden really stepped up when he had help on the field. The 1 on 1’s were tough especially when he got matched against Bubba or Percy, but with safeties behind him and teammates telling him what to do, he stood his ground and played well.
I also liked the play of Markihe Anderson (very aggressive) and Ahmad Black (less aggressive but athletic). Black is really learning the ropes having played free safety last year in high school.
The three starting linebackers in Spikes, Doe, and Jones are all exceptionally fast for their position. Seeing Spikes move like he does at his size is just something to behold.
The strength and conditioning coaches and the nutritionists deserve a lot of credit for the shape this team is in—there are no “bodies by Hollywood Bob” on the field. Every lineman and every other position form a team full of lean athletes. Usually there are a handful that just aren’t physically prepared like they should be. That is not the case with this group.
What I didn’t like…
I didn’t think the quarterbacks were all that sharp today. It is early and the young guys struggled much more than Tim Tebow. Cameron Newton really dropped a lot of snaps as he was probably trying to look down field before he got the ball. All of the quarterbacks threw into traffic too much and I believe there were three interceptions and a couple of dropped ones on the day.
I didn’t notice Louis Murphy all day and he is only the second upperclassman receiver in the entire group.
There is nothing that can be done about it unless some bodies move during the spring, but the linebacker depth is absolutely scary at the moment.
Not too much really to complain about on the first day. The running backs were not tested without tackling going on, so we didn’t get a real good look at them, but we’ll keep an eye out as practices continue.
Highlights of the Day…
Paul Wilson’s laid out catch of a bomb in one on one drills.
Brandon Spikes interception and return where he looked like he was ready to option pitch it the whole time. Coach Heater got on him about tucking the ball in like a running back.
A.J. Jones made a nice slice into a pass pattern and should have come up with an interception that would have gone the other way for six points.