Gator County’s was at the Florida Gators football practice and here are a few defensive observations from Friday night’s open practice to kick off your weekend.
The defensive line won the night, specifically the second unit.
Dante Fowler is getting the Dominique Easley treatment. Florida knows what to expect out of Fowler, so he is getting a lot of rest which, in turn, is giving the younger players more reps and letting the coaches see what they have in some of the younger guys.
Speaking of younger guys, Gerald Willis is going to be good. Willis has exceptional speed and is very physical with his hands. He chased down Matt Jones from the backside of a play and would have had a sack if not for that darn red non-contact jersey on the quarterbacks. He’s a special talent and he’s picking things up quickly.
On the inside, Joey Ivie had a very productive practice. The sophomore from Pasco County continues to grow and develop. He looks like he will crack the rotation this year. Darious Cummings is getting more pressure, specifically against the run but you still want to see more of him against the pass.
Will Muschamp made a point to note how much weight Alex McCalister has put on — he does look like he has added some size to his frame — but that isn’t translating to the field in the two practices that we have seen. Bryan Cox continues to come on but has a way to go.
Jonathan Bullard is playing mainly defensive end and he has been disruptive there. He has seen a little bit of time inside and he is outperforming some of the defensive tackles when he slides down inside.
This was a position of contention last season. Jarrad Davis is the obvious standout of the group and the sophomore is poised to have a breakout season. Davis had a great read on Friday where he saw Jake McGee go in motion, read the screen and would have killed Valdez Showers if he didn’t pull up. He’s been great with the media early on and if he keeps up this kind of play he’ll be speaking with the media more often this season.
Antonio Morrison has been moving around very well, showing no ill effects of his knee injury last season. Morrison is a big talker on the field and he seems to have taken on a vocal leadership role on the field.
Mike Taylor has been working with the first and second team behind Morrison. He’s hasn’t shined yet but he has been reliable and productive.
Neiron Ball has been great against the run. He’s quietly putting together a very nice fall camp.
Alex Anzalone has been putting himself in very good positions to make plays. It’s good to see Anzalone not having to deal with the injuries that plagued him all last season.
Vernon Hargreaves’ absence opened a door for playing time and JC Jackson sprinted through it. Despite being in a non-contact jersey, Jackson is playing very well, showing his natural athleticism and instincts for the game.
Jalen Tabor continues to play very well. With Dawson working at safety Tabor was already holding down one of the two starting spots before Hargreaves went down. Jackson’s emergence will push Tabor once Hargreaves is cleared to return but both players appear to be, at the moment, very good options for the Gators.
Brian Poole is working outside, splitting reps with JC Jackson and Poole has looked good on the boundary. While Poole is capable of playing outside, I think he’s better in the nickel, covering slot receivers.
Keanu Neal continues to show off how athletic he is and is playing at a high level. He worked with the first team for most of the night next to Duke Dawson. Dawson continues to work almost exclusive at safety and he’s becoming Muschamp’s personal project.
Say what you will about Muschamp, but he knows his stuff, especially with safeties. It’s been fun to watch how closely Muschamp is working with Dawson on the finer points of technique and what he needs to see at safety. Dawson has a lot of potential and the move to safety could be permanent with Marcus Maye dropping down to play the nickel.