Saturday Practice: In-depth defensive observations
Saturday's football practice - the second and final of those open to the public this spring - was both boosted by being the first full pads practice of the spring and hindered by being just the third overall workout of camp. Some players treated the day as an opportunity to elevate intensity, while others treated it like another day of getting back into the rhythm of football.
Here are complete defensive observations from Saturday's workout:
- Sporting his traditional grey sweatshirt, black track pants and orange cleats, defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson was a ball of energy from the moment he hit the field, shouting "Great day!" anyone who greeted him. He drank less than one-quarter of a Gatorade bottle before asking a UAA staffer to throw it away and starting his orders.
- Will Muschamp always spends more time with the defensive backs than any other unit, but during Saturday's early workouts, he was especially active coaching sophomore Brian Poole. Muschamp had several one-on-one conversations with Poole in between plays.
- Junior linebacker Michael Taylor got things started from a playmaking perspective with a diving interception of Jeff Driskel during early 11-on-11 drills.
- After a quiet Friday, freshman defensive end Joey Ivie made plenty of noise Saturday. It started during three-on-three run defense drills in which Ivie blew up starting left tackle D.J. Humphries twice, knocking his helmet off once. That carried over into later 11-on-11 drills when Ivie was once again difficult for Florida's offensive linemen to stop, this time on the interior.
- New defensive line coach Brad Lawing has quickly found his niche on the team. Despite being one of two defensive line coaches, Lawing has primary control of all teaching down, as Bryant Young roams around and works with players individually. Lawing takes his time and is very deliberate and precise in his teaching. At one point, every other position group was practicing for several minutes before Lawing would let his group get started on a drill. He put special emphasis on making sure Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr. were perfect in technique, often making them do drills more than once. Lawing was known for doing the same to Jadeveon Clowney when he coached at South Carolina.
- Signee Caleb Brantley followed Florida's defensive tackles around the entire day, spectating everything that went on in their workouts.
- Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin wore a smile the entire time he was coaching linebacker drills but that doesn't mean he wasn't ripping into players when needed. Antonio Morrison, who demonstrated the kind of lateral movement that made him so good last year, was one of the few who rarely got corrected. Morrison was often used as Durkin's model whenever things needed to be demonstrated.
- Durkin complimented freshman Alex Anzalone several times on his pad level. Anzalone was having a solid day until he ran into tight end Kent Taylor in one-on-one tackling drills. Taylor ran through Anzalone, leaving Anzalone on the ground for a few moments before he got up holding his right shoulder. Anzalone was tended to by trainers on the sidelines and did not return to practice.
- Florida lost serious leadership at linebacker this offseason, and Morrison is doing his best to replace it. Morrison stood away from the group of linebackers, closer to whoever was going through drills and had words for each of them as they finished. While working on shedding blocks, Morrison yelled to Anzalone "Put him in the f---ing dirt!" in reference to the blocker. Anzalone was redoing the drill at Durkin's order.
- Showing a snarky side of his coaching, Durkin told his linebackers during hitting drills: "Aww, you guys are all friends. It's so cute when you're all friends." The taunts got the linebackers going a little harder.
- Freshman linebacker Daniel McMillian continues to be a work in progress. Durkin made him redo drills a couple times, eventually telling him he is "getting better." His highlight of the day came on a massive shot at fullback Rhaheim Ledbetter that forced a fumble. The lowlight came during pass protection drills when McMillian could get past walk-on running back Mark Herndon.
- Redshirt freshman Alex McCalister is listed at 230 pounds and still has a long way to go size-wise before he will fit in on the defense. He worked exclusively with defensive ends in Saturday's practice as the Gators continue to work defensively out of standard four-linemen sets that minimize the versatility of the Buck linebacker. McCalister was handled fairly easier by Florida's offensive tackles.
- Poor Kelvin Taylor. After being paired up with a couple of walk-on linebackers during pass-protection drills and handling business, Durkin threw Morrison at him. Taylor fought as hard as he could but was blown up by Morrison, who got a hand in his face, cranked his head back and drove him into the other running backs.
- On back-to-back plays, it was evident why Marcus Roberson starts at corner and Jeremy Brown does not. Roberson stepped into a quick slant from Driskel to Andre Debose and knocked it down. One play later, Demarcus Robinson turned the same route into a big gain and Brown looked helpless. Roberson later made a nice play to knock a pass away from an open Trey Burton at the last second after getting beat earlier in the route.
- Travaris Robinson complimented Jaylen Watkins on his coverage at one point, saying "There's no way they can get it in there if you do that."
- Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs used a water break to get some extra individual work in on one of the goal posts.
- McMillian got some opportunities to work on the punt team and held his own. Junior Leon Orr served as the personal protector on a few punts. After a string of strange tweets that seemed to hint at a transfer, Orr took part in the entire practice and seemed to have a normal demeanor.
- For the second day in a row, senior Dominique Easley was very limited in practice as the team seems to be taking every precaution possible with his knee.
- Darious Cummings had an uneventful day at nose tackle, thanks largely to a solid day from left guard Max Garcia. Cummings had trouble getting any kind of penetration against the Maryland transfer.
- It will go down as Driskel's only deep-ball completion of the day, a long fade route hauled in by Trey Burton. If real football was being played Saturday, the play would have actually been a monstrous sack. Morrison quickly shed a blocker and had run past Driskel on a blitz by the time he was able to get rid of the ball.