Day two of open spring practice saw the first day of full pads. This is what the defense has been waiting for. As the offensive play-makers made the most impact in shorts and t-shirts on Friday, the defense was able to shine when we got into more full contact work today.
Right off the bat you could tell that the tempo and nature of practice was going to be different. Guys were excited as practice began and that enthusiasm continued throughout practice.
Let’s take a look at the how the defense looked and get right into our second spring practice notebook.
- Dominique Easley was a beast in practice today. Easley had his way with whoever was in front of him (with the exception of D.J. Humphries during 1-on-1 drills) and looks to be in midseason form already. One play in particular stood out. Jonathan Bullard got around Humphries, forcing Driskel to scramble to his right. Easley shed his blocker and if the quarterback wasn’t in a red jersey, could have come away with a sack.
- Speaking of Jonathan Bullard, the sophomore is looking more and more comfortable at his strong side defensive end spot. Bullard has been giving both Humphries and Moore all they can handle on the outside and was a beast in 1-on-1 drills. The play that stood out for Bullard was a bull rush against Moore where he was able to drive Moore back five or six yards before the whistle blew.
- Cody Riggs had another good day. The additional weight that Riggs has added is really benefiting him on the field. While he is still a sound cover guy, he’s now able to give offensive players a little extra when he comes down from his new spot at safety. Riggs came down and separated Kent Taylor from the ball today. Taylor is listed at 6’5”, 224 pounds while Riggs is just listed at 5’9” 184 pounds. For Riggs to take Taylor off his feet the way he did really opened some eyes today.
- Dante Fowler continues to impress with his new, slimmed-down physique. Fowler was able to play a little more physical today in pads and despite shedding a few pounds hasn’t lost any of his strength. Fowler is making a strong case to be the opening game starter at Buck LB.
- While Max Garcia played better today, Damien Jacobs still got the best of the match-up overall today. One play that stands out in particular came on a running play to Matt Jones. Jacobs got a great jump on the snap, used a swim move to get by Garcia and almost got to Jones before the hand-off Jones was able to make a cut and get away initially but Jacobs, along with Easley, were able to bring Jones down in the backfield.
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- The defensive early enrollees were quiet today. Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian were seemingly all over the field yesterday but much quieter today. Antonio Morrison and Michael Taylor took most of the reps, so it may just have been how well those two played and not necessarily something the freshmen did.
- Joey Ivie got a “welcome to the big leagues” moment today in 1-on-1 drills. Ivie has garnered praise from Will Muschamp for coming into camp physically ready, but Jon Harrison made him look like every bit the freshman he is. On back-to-back plays Ivie attempted to bull rush Harrison, only to be driven backwards and to the ground.
- Dante Fowler is standing out above the rest at BUCK. Bryan Cox Jr. looks much bigger this off season and is having a solid camp thus far.
- Alex McCalister took advantage of Quinteze Williams in the last rep of 1-on-1 drills today. McCalister used a speed rush off the edge and got to the quarterback almost untouched.
- Dominique Easley continues to impress, as was expected.
- Jonathan Bullard looks to have taken the momentum he built towards the end of last season and carried it into the offseason.
- Damien Jacobs and Leon Orr look like a good tandem inside. It will take a lot to replace Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter, but these two have the talent to do so.
- The way the defensive line is shaping up they could be one of the most impressive units in the SEC this season. They will be in the backfield a lot in 2013 and should make things easier on the linebackers and secondary.
- Antonio Morrison is looking very comfortable in the middle. Morrison struggled at times in coverage during his freshman season but looks a lot better covering tight ends, slot receivers and even running backs. He’s bulked up but is still moving from sideline-to-sideline well and strong in space.
- I was skeptical of how well Michael Taylor would fit in at Will LB, but after the past two days he’s showed more than enough speed and skill to man Jelani Jenkins’ old spot. Like Morrison, Taylor has improved in coverage and he is a beast coming off the edge in blitz packages.
- Jeremi Powell has been impressive at the linebacker spot. Powell drew praise from the coaching staff last year while redshirting and his natural athletic ability allows him to always be around the ball. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on as spring practice continues.
- Mark my words: the early enrollees will make an impact this fall. They are simply too talented to not see the field as freshmen.
- Cody Riggs, and Marcuse Roberson have been the two standouts in this group. Riggs looks like a natural at safety and his additional size is a plus. Roberson remains the Gators best cover corner and was blanketing receivers the past two days.
- Jabari Gorman, Brian Poole and Valdez Showers have all looked good this camp. Other than ending up on the wrong side of a Matt Jones truck stick today, Poole has looks good in coverage, shown good hands and is still a sound tackler.
- Marcus Maye is very impressive in person. He took a red shirt while rehabbing an injury from high school last year, but he is making plays and should be in the mix at safety.
Unfortunately, this is the last time we will get a first-hand look at practice before the Orange and Blue Game on April 6. It was nice to see the players back in pads and we now have a better idea of how some positional battles are shaking out.