First day of spring: Deonte is the star

The first day of Florida’s spring practice has come and gone and there were a lot of good things to be seen Wednesday. We will focus on the good and bad in this in depth, position by position break down.

This week, Gator Country’s practice coverage is FREE to give you an idea of what we deliver to our valued members. We’ve set the standard for practice coverage and continue to do so. Not a member? Join today and don’t miss out on the rest of our excellent practice coverage!

QUARTERBACKS: Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, John Brantley

What I liked: They all looked good throwing at times. Newton hit some particularly nice long throws. One was a double hitch and go pattern. He looked right and that one was covered up well, then he looked left and saw a streaking Deonte Thompson, who he hit in stride about 60 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. It was a beautiful throw after looking off of the first receiver.

What I didn’t like:  The quarterbacks were all inconsistent often times throwing behind the receivers. It was the first practice and shortly after spring break so not totally unexpected.

RUNNING BACKS: (This is a guess as to the rotation Wednesday) Kestahn Moore, Brandon James, Mon Williams, Emmanuel Moody, Chris Rainey, Aaron Hernandez, Steve Wilks

What I liked: Well, there wasn’t much to see from the running backs without pads on, so can’t really say a whole lot. However, Rainey had a nice highlight in the team drill where he ran into a crowd and somehow nobody touched him, then he slithered outside and raced for a very long 60-yards plus yard touchdown.

No negatives here until we can see them with the pads on and really critique.

WIDE RECEIVERS: (So much shuffling in and out that it’s hard to get the real rotation)

Louis Murphy, Justin Williams, David Nelson

Percy Harvin, Carl Moore, Paul Wilson

Deonte Thompson, Riley Cooper

Cornelius Ingram, Aaron Hernandez, Tate Casey

What I Liked: Murphy, Harvin, and Thompson were all outstanding every time they touched the ball. Carl Moore is powerful, big, and strong, but not exceptionally quick. He does have an awareness about him and uses his body well to make sure he is the guy that comes down with the ball. He plays the game like Mike Williams did at USC. He demands the ball and got plenty of chances on Wednesday. Contrary to what some people have written, Moore is a legitimate 6-4 and 220. Thompson was spectacular on the day and made plenty of defensive backs look both foolish and slow. He should be the third starter and will probably make the Gators with the fastest starting unit in America. Paul Wilson is in great shape and up to 190 pounds now. Justin Williams is really good but has some talent ahead of him. He will play a lot of ball starting in 2009 and needs to get some catches this season.

What I Didn’t Like: There were a lot of drops and a lot of missed assignments. They cut off routes short, or they ran the wrong routes due to coverage. It was the old guys as well as the young ones. But again, it is the first day, so these things should improve.

OFFENSIVE LINE: (The rotation will become obvious as the spring continues)

LT – Carl Johnson, Jason Watkins, Matt Patchan

LG – Jim Tartt, Corey Hobbs

C – Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey, Corey Hobbs

RG – Mike Pouncey, James Wilson

RT – Jason Watkins, Marcus Gilbert, Jim Barrie

What I Liked: Corey Hobbs looks like a specimen now and is in great shape. He has to be down at least 25 pounds from when he started. Wilson didn’t work out, but was out there and hopefully building relationships with his teammates. Jason Watkins and Marcus Gilbert look like they have really toned their bodies and look very fit. Carl Johnson seems to be down a little weight wise, which is a good thing.

What I Didn’t Like: No Mo Hurt due to his injury and that means with Wilson also nursing his injury, the interior line is a little thin right now. Matt Patchan is at least 30 pounds away from being effective on the offensive line at the moment. Other than that, with no pads on, we can’t get anything from the linemen just yet.

DEFENSIVE LINE: (Rotation will become more obvious as spring moves along)

SDE – Justin Trattou, Carlos Dunlap, Jaye Howard, Earl Okine

WDE – Jermaine Cunningham. Carlos Dunlap, Duke Lemmens

DT – Troy Epps, John Brown, Terron Sanders

DT – Lawrence Marsh, Torrey Davis

What I Liked: Without pads, it is hard to judge the effectiveness of the line as I mentioned with the offensive line. That said, watching Dunlap run is amazing sometimes. He can absolutely run anyone down it seems. Duke Lemmens added some weight, but he still needs more. Troy Epps is 285 and big enough. He needs to mold it a little better. John Brown looks great and moved ahead of Epps to starting position before the end of the day. Okine has a great frame. He looks like a beast until he stands next to the older guys and then you can see he needs to add a little muscle, but he will do so.

What I Didn’t Like: Epps wasn’t effective at all and needs to really tone up his body. He has gained a lot of weight and it seems a little too fast. Sanders looks bigger and I don’t know if that is a good thing.

LINEBACKERS: (Hard to judge the rotation because the Wills and Sams flip sides all the time)

MLB – Brandon Spikes, Lorenzo Edwards, Brendan Beal

SLB – AJ Jones, Ryan Stamper, John Jones

WLB – Dustin Doe, Brandon Hicks

What I Liked: Spikes was in charge. He has a chance to be an All-American this year and he looked like one in charge of the troops today. A.J. Jones has 10 extra pounds and that should bode well for him. Dustin Doe played well in coverage and had a couple of pass break ups. Beal has great size and intensity on the field. He will be hard to keep off the field. Edwards looked great and really flew around. He really looks like he lost 20 pounds and looks much more fluid. We will know more about these linebackers when the pads come on.

The staff actually worked a little differently in individual sessions as safeties coach Chuck Heater took the linebackers and safeties and really coached them on their drops in zone coverages. This is something that will pay dividends big time this season and we never saw it last season.

What I Didn’t Like: Even with the extra practice with Heater, the linebackers seemed to have coverage issues in the seven on seven drills, except for maybe Doe who had a couple of pass break ups.

SECONDARY: (My best guess as to the rotation)

CB – Joe Haden, Jacques Rickerson, Jeremy Brown

CB – Wondy Pierre-Louis, Markihe Anderson, Moses Jenkins, Janoris Jenkins

Saf – Major Wright, Jamar Hornsby, Ahmad Black

Saf – Dorian Munroe, John Curtis, Bryan Thomas, Jerimy Finch

What I Liked: Haden broke up several passes on the day and was absolutely phenomenal most of the day. He should be a star this season. Wondy did get beat a couple of times, but also played excellent deep coverage on the day. He is ultra-aggressive, and needs to know when to be that way and when to lay off. Janoris Jenkins looked good for his first day. Hornsby had a decent day also. He had a couple of nice passes broken up in the one-on-one drills that really work to the advantage of the receiver. Major Wright looked good for all but one or two passes on the day. I think he has trimmed down, hopefully gaining some speed in the process.

What I Didn’t Like: I wanted to see more from Rickerson and Anderson, but the saying goes if you don’t hear about the corners then it was a good day for them. Still, they need to step up and be a force. Dorian Munroe was also silent as was Bryan Thomas who is a great athlete that just never seems to make the plays in practice.

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Deonte Thompson was a machine, and a fast one at that. He could not be stopped. He is so fast when he gets going and that bomb from Newton was beautiful. He looks great keeping his speed on his cuts.

RUNNER-UP: Joe Haden – I think he broke up a half dozen passes on the day and a couple he made the receivers work hard for the catch. He will be a great one.