Florida’s 20th and final practice of fall camp open to the general public and media took place today at the Sanders Practice Facility. There was another scheduled open practice tomorrow but the UAA made a decision to only open the practice to current University of Florida students, saying they “wanted to do something special for the students.”
The open practices have done exactly what they were designed to do, generate a buzz around the team, give fans a closer look into what their 2013 Florida Gators will look, all while giving the team a boost as fall camp moves into its third week.
After 20 practices and two scrimmages, players have begun to separate themselves and the reps are not being split as evenly as they have been the first 17 or so practices. Another change today was that the first team offense and defense didn’t face each other. Rather it was the number one’s going up against the two’s for the entire practice, something the defense feasted on.
The defensive line absolutely dominated the second string offensive line of Trip Thurman, Kyle Koehne, Octavius Jackson, Cam Dillard and Trenton Brown. The starting front four of Dante Fowler Jr., Dominique Easley, Jon Bullard and Leon Orr all had good days and Bryan Cox Jr. saw some time with the first team as well.
Dominique Easley and Leon Orr did a good job of getting off the ball and collapsing the line against the run.
One thing that you really see the defensive linemen doing a much better job of doing is getting their hands up when they know they’re not going to get to the quarterback. Fowler almost had a couple of tipped passes and Bullard did have a tipped pass. At worst, they’re going to force quarterbacks to make an awkward throw in order to get the ball over or around them.
The linebackers had a very, very impressive day. Starting with Antonio Morrison – who was back as the starting middle linebacker. Morrison looked comfortable in his new role and was even tasked with changing the defensive assignments and making adjustments to the defense after reading the offensive formation. Morrison looked to make his calls with confidence and the team responded well with him in the middle of the defense.
Neiron Ball looks the best he has since he has been at Florida. Ball is long and lean and playing fast and confidant. Despite playing all three linebacker positions this offseason, Ball has played well everywhere he has played. After everything that he has been through, 2013 looks like it will finally be Ball’s year to make a serious impact on the defense.
Jarrad Davis also stood out today. He dominated the running backs in 1-on-1 pass blocking drills and put Adam Lane on his back today. The freshman continues to come on and it’s starting to look like he will give the coaches an easy decision to give him some playing time this season.
By his standards, Marcus Roberson struggled today. He has been getting a lot of reps due to the injuries at his position and might just be going through a little camp fatigue. Roberson did have several nice pass breakups today and most of the time he was beat it was on comebacks and underneath routes, he didn’t get beat over the top today.
Loucheiz Purifoy had a great practice. Purifoy had two interceptions that I saw and played lockdown coverage all afternoon. Florida also worked extensively with their punt block unit and Purifoy was able to get his hand on two punts today. This was his best performance in the three practices that we have been to.
Jaylen Watkins came back from his sprained foot on Sunday and was back out at practice today. Watkins was a full participant in practice and didn’t appear to be behind after missing time.
Other than getting called out once by Coach Muschamp for making a mistake, Marcus Maye had yet another solid performance today. He and Riggs have been the top performers at safety and look to have the starting spots at safety on lock at the moment.
Keanu Neal had another good day at practice. The youngster continues to progress at a quick pace. After watching three practices where the team was working “THUD tackles,” (where they make contact and wrap up but do not finish tackles) I found myself dying to see some real contact. Neal delivered on that today when he absolutely demolished Solomon Patton on an out route. The hit earned him an earful from the coaching staff but it earned “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from the crowd.
Top five performers
- Dominique Easley – Easley feasted on the second team offensive line and while there wasn’t as much dancing from him today, there were plenty of plays made.
- Loucheiz Purifoy – Multiple interceptions, lockdown coverage and two blocked punts, this was the kind of performance that has Gator fans excited about No. 15 heading into 2013.
- Keanu Neal – Neal is clearly ahead of Marcell Harris on the depth chart and is getting better with each practice.
- Jonathan Bullard – The reserve offensive tackles were no match for Bullard who has had a very impressive camp.
- Jarrad Davis – Davis abused the running backs in 1-on-1 drills today. While some of the freshmen are still swimming, Davis is doing his best Ryan Lochte impression and seems to be getting things quicker than his fellow freshmen.