For the second and final day this spring, football practice was open to the public Saturday afternoon. Before Inside the Gators rolls out in-depth coverage of both sides of the ball, we take an instant look at how the day went.
QUICK OVERVIEW: Saturday was the first day in pads for a Gators team that took pride in its physicality in 2012. Full pads meant one-on-one tackling drills, a better read of the running game and more realistic 11-on-11 settings. It also brought possibly the first real injury of the spring.
THUMBS UP: Sophomore middle linebacker Antonio Morrison is the budding alpha male on Florida's roster and that was clear as the pace of practice picked up Saturday. Morrison is looked to as the vocal leader of a young linebacker corps and has no problem providing that whether his teammates always want to hear it or not. Junior cornerback-turned-wide receiver Loucheiz Purifoy continues to show flashes of his elite athleticism and ball skills at receiver while struggling occasionally with some specific mechanics of the position. One day after looking a step slow on their new offensive line, transfers Max Garcia and Tyler Moore were more substantial blockers Saturday. Garcia was especially effective blocking Florida's interior rushers.
THUMBS DOWN: If fans were hoping to leave these opening practices excited about the passing game, they left sorely disappointed. Quarterback Jeff Driskel was his conservative self, throwing almost nothing but check-down routes between five and 15 yards. It only got worst behind him. Tyler Murphy was largely erratic for the second day in a row and Skyler Mornhinweg had to be pulled aside by Brent Pease on more than once occasion because he made the wrong calls. Cody Riggs had a rough day at defensive back after a fairly impressive performance Friday. Riggs was the only starting defensive back to consistently struggle in coverage. Cornerback Jeremy Brown was given the task of trying to cover Demarcus Robinson a couple times and failed miserably.
FIVE WHO STOOD OUT:
1. Morrison - Aside from whiffing once at Mack Brown on a tackling drill, Saturday was Morrison's day to shine. He was active and physical and D.J. Durkin's go-to man whenever he needed something demonstrated. At one point, Morrison went against freshman Kelvin Taylor in a backfield blocking drill and gave the freshman his "Welcome to the SEC" moment by blowing up his block attempt.
2. Matt Jones - Florida's sophomore running back was the first non-special teams player at practice Saturday and showed agility and quickness throughout the day. He froze Dante Fowler Jr. on a strong toss and held his own both in blocking and as a receiving option out of the backfield.
3. Latroy Pittman - He's not flashy, but Pittman should easily be Florida's best blocking wide receiver this year and goes about his business in an efficient manner. His presence is extremely helpful for Robinson, who went to Pittman with questions a couple times during drills.
4. Jaylen Watkins - It's no longer a surprised when Watkins steps on to the field and out-performs the rest of Florida's incredibly talented crop of defensive backs. Watkins gave no ground to receivers like Robinson and Quinton Dunbar Saturday, severely limiting what Driskel was able to do.
5. Gideon Ajagbe - The battle for who will be Hunter Joyer's backup at fullback doesn't feel like much of a battle right now. At 6-foot-3, Ajagbe doesn't look like you're average fullback, but he held his own blocking as well as any UF back Saturday. Rhaheim Ledbetter's fumble on a massive hit by Daniel McMillian made Ajagbe's look even better.
THIS AND THAT: During a one-on-one tackling drill, freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone was bulldozed by sophomore tight end Kent Taylor. Anzalone got up holding his right shoulder and was tended to on the sidelines. He did not return to practice. … Among the former players in attendance at Saturday's practice were Jordan Reed and Caleb Sturgis. … It was family day at practice, as Trey Burton and Solomon Patton, both recent fathers in the past year, had their babies at the fields. … Among the 2014 recruits in attendance were linebacker Dillon Bates and offensive tackle Joseph Paul.