With Florida’s players finally donning full pads for the first time this spring, Saturday’s practice session was the first real glimpse at what Gators fans can expect to see this fall.
The early afternoon session was shorter than Friday’s, but much more lively, as both players and coaches alike ramped up the intensity.
Here are the offensive observations from Saturday.
– One on one matchups were the highlight of the day, with the wide receivers and defensive backs being the first two groups to go at it. One of the first battles of the afternoon pitted WR/CB Loucheiz Purifoy vs. CB Jaylen Watkins. Florida DB coach Travaris Robinson had fun with Purifoy before the players lined up, telling Watkins “bring him back to the dark side” in reference to Purifoy’s temporary position switch. Purifoy won the battle, but not without a good fight from Watkins.
– The offensive line had a tough time on Friday, and while Saturday offered some improvement, it’s clear there is still a ways to go with the big uglies.
– Max Garcia made the biggest jump from yesterday, proving that once he puts the pads on, he can hang with the best of them. The offense ran its share of running plays, and Garcia did a good job of engaging off the line of scrimmage and locking into defenders inside.
– During one on one drills, Jon Harrison gave freshman Joey Ivie a “welcome to college” moment when he dominated the young d-lineman on back-to-back plays. Harrison ran right over Ivie on the first play, and the freshman was hurried back in for another go immediately. Ivie gave more of a push the second time around, but Harrison stood the freshman straight up before driving him off to the sideline.
– On the other end of the spectrum, Nebraska-transfer Tyler Moore is still adjusting to life in the SEC. The 6’6 312-pound redshirt sophomore was bullied by Jon Bullard in one on ones. After being driven into the backfield, OL coach Tim Davis explained to Moore as loud as possible to “anchor” himself. After the play, Moore spent some one-on-one time with former Florida tackle Phil Trautwein, who looked to be giving Moore some pointers.
– After a tough individual session, Moore regrouped during the team period, and although he didn’t stand out with any excellent plays, he didn’t stand out for the wrong reasons either.
– The most impressive looking group offensively was the backs. Despite losing it’s first 1,000-yard rusher in eight years in Mike Gillislee, the rotation this year could be just as, if not more stronger than last season.
– It’s almost hard not to confuse Matt Jones with a wide receiver the way the running back catches the ball. The 6’2 226-pounder catches the ball as well as anyone on the Florida roster. In addition to his catching ability, Jones runs extremely well for a guy pushing 230 pounds. He possesses good agility and has the quickness of a player much smaller.
– With the pads finally strapped on, today was Kelvin Taylor’s first day to show what he can do when he’s asked to pound the rock into the teeth of a defense. He didn’t disappoint. Taylor looked to be the quickest of the Florida backs today, and he also gives Jones a run for his money in the pass-catching department.
– At fullback, Gideon Ajagbe looks to have potentially sewn up the backup fullback spot already. Ajagbe is a little on the lean side for a bruising fullback, but at 6’3 and 243 pounds, the converted linebacker could be a potentially matchup issue for opposing defenses. Ajagbe made a really nice grab down the sideline during team drills, and capped off the ball with a hard stiff arm to a Florida defender. If Ajagbe can continue to develop at this rate, it won’t be surprising to see him get significant snaps during the fall. Will Muschamp went on record this week saying the Gators would like to explore more one-back sets with Hunter Joyer, but they do not want to tire him out. Ajagbe looks like a player who could give Joyer a spell, as the redshirt junior more than held his own in blocking drills as well.
– If anyone was looking for anything significant out of the quarterback position on Saturday, the practice session was probably a little disappointing. Jeff Driskel did not go deep very often, choosing to defer to short and intermediate routes throughout the afternoon.
– Florida’s backup quarterback battle may drag on for a while as neither Tyler Murphy or Skyler Mornhinweg did anything to stand out on Saturday. Murphy’s problems seem to be more of the physical variety, as he failed to put the ball where it needed to be.
– Mornhinweg is still trying to grasp hold of the playbook, as he had several discussions with Brent Pease about making the correct calls.
– The receivers stood out on Friday, and while they didn’t have the same deep ball opportunities on Saturday, Demarcus Robinson again showed that he is already one of Florida’s best offensive threats.
– When the offense lined up in the Wildcat package with Trey Burton (and it was often), Robinson and Andre Debose took turns as the player running the jet sweep.
– Speaking of Debose, he and Marcus Roberson had a tough day fielding punts. Facing towards the sun, the ball hit both players in the helmet on back-to-back plays.
– One receiver who really stood out on Saturday was Latroy Pittman. Pittman was a player whose name was praised often last spring, but that spring performance failed to correlate into anything of significance in the fall. Pittman looks determined to see the field this year, and showed it during blocking drills, as he dominated nearly everyone he faced, including defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr.
– Quinton Dunbar has quietly put together two solid days. He made a really nice move on Marcus Roberson — who was probably the best DB on Saturday — during one-on-one drills.
– Quinteze Williams is still getting adjusted to life on the o-line. Alex McCalister left Williams absolutely frozen during one-on-one drills. Williams spent a lot of time with Tim Davis on Saturday.
– Speaking of Davis, he’s clearly a firm believer in position uniformity. When sophomore tackle DJ Humphries jumped offsides, the whole group had to do pushups.
– Offensive lineman Ian Silberman was listed as “out for spring practice” when UF handed out its depth charts earlier this week. However, Silberman was dressed out in full gear on Saturday.
Need to See More From:
– Clay Burton had a nice day on Friday, but no tight ends stood out on Saturday. Florida has depth at the position with Burton, Kent Taylor, Colin Thompson and Tevin Westbrook manning the spot. However, none did anything of significance in the passing game.
Five who stood out:
- Matt Jones – As aforementioned, Jones can seemingly do it all. He runs well, isn’t afraid to absorb contact, and is a serious threat in the passing game. For a player as big as he is, he has the quickness and agility of someone half his size.
- Latroy Pittman – The importance of blocking on the perimeter cannot be understated, and Pittman may already be Florida’s best blocker on the outside. He doesn’t simply try to stay in front of a guy, Pittman attacks them. Ask Cox Jr.
- Gideon Ajagbe – The more reps he gets, the better he’ll become. He may have found a home at fullback.
- Demarcus Robinson – The kid is simply a playmaker. His speed and athleticism at receiver is already tops in the unit, matched only by Purifoy/Debose.
- Kelvin Taylor/Jon Harrison- I’ll cop out and list two players here. Taylor is young and carries with him a lot of expectations, but the kid can play. Greet feet and acceleration. Definitely knows what to do with the ball once he gets it. Harrison did a good job upfront and has developed into a leader on the o-line. Harrison may not have lost a one-on-one battle all day, and helped the o-line get a good push during running plays in the team period.
-Former players in attendance today: Trautwein, Jordan Reed, Caleb Sturgis.
– Practice drew a nice crowd considering there was a basketball and baseball game today.
– Today marked the last open practice of the spring until the Orange and Blue Debut on Saturday, April 6th at 1 p.m. ET.