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With Saturday's spring practice in the books, it is time for an Inside the Gators Roundtable. Blake Alderman, Robert Lopez and Brian Richie talk about the day's events - including their most impressive and disappointing players and more.
What was the biggest moment out there during Saturday's two hour practice in your opinion:
Alderman: With this being the first day in pads, both the media and the Gator Nation got a chance to see just what this year's football team looks like going full contact. It is a little out of the ordinary, especially when the offense and defense usually take center stage, but during Saturday's practice the coaches put together a drill where the gunners on punt return coverage went full speed against the blockers. The drill was very loud and full of big hits that got not only the players and coaches hyped up, but also got the crowd energized as well. It was the most intense drill of the day.
Lopez: In what was a relatively quiet day, the biggest moment has to be the injury to freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone. The 6-foot-3, 238-pounder went up against sophomore tight end Kent Taylor in a one-on-one drill. Taylor got the best of him as he went in with his right shoulder trying to make the tackle. He was slow to get up and was grabbing the right shoulder as he did so. The trainers worked with him on the sideline for a couple of minutes before taking him back in to the facility. Obviously there is still a while before the season starts, so if the injury is not serious Anzalone has time to recover. However, if the shoulder does become a problem, the loss of Anzalone would be a blow to the defense as he is currently the back-up middle linebacker.
Richie: Not many noteworthy moments from the Gators' first practice in pads. Moments that may cause some concern were apparent injuries to two players on the defense, although neither looks too severe. Freshman early enrollee linebacker Alex Anzalone left the field mid-practice with an apparent shoulder injury, while sophomore defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard ended practice with a limp after a reported hamstring injury during a drill. The fieriest drill of the day once again came from special teams in which gunners had to fight off a block and make a tackle on the return man within a cone-designated running lane. Coaches awarded points to players who won against their man, and the players cheered on their teammates.
In your opinion, who was the most impressive player on offense?
Alderman: This is rough, because after a so-so 2012 season for the offense, you would love to have plenty of positives to choose from here, but that simply wasn't the case as there really weren't many offensive standouts on Saturday. The unit as a whole was very bland, which can happen early in the spring. If you had to pick out one standout, it would have to be freshman wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. Though he made some nice catches in traffic, he struggled for his second straight day returning punts. The Gators are going to need someone to step up at the wide receiver position and if he keeps up the good work and progress Robinson could be that guy.
Lopez: Matt Jones looked awesome Saturday afternoon. He got the majority of reps at running back and ran hard the whole day. During 11 vs. 11 at the end of practice he had two impressive 20-yard runs to the outside, along the left sideline. He ran another sweep to the right where he popped a defender and protected the ball very well as three different defenders tried to strip it. Jones also showed his ability to catch the ball as he reeled in several short screen passes from Jeff Driskel.
Richie: For the second day in a row, there are only a few bright spots on offense as the entire unit seems to be struggling to get better. However, I'd like to bring some light to junior Loucheiz Purifoy, who impressed me again today. His natural football instincts are obvious, and it is making his "tryout" at receiver very impressive. He has great agility and speed, making it easy for him to run good routes with little wasted motion, and has shown good hands in drills and 7-on-7 scrimmages. Today was the first time in pads, and he looked equally as impressive as yesterday. Purifoy is making a strong case to stay on the offensive side of the ball.
In your opinion, who was the most impressive player on defense?
Alderman: Unlike offense, this one is really easy; sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison is one of the most energetic players on Florida's entire defense. He is always first in line for drills and is very vocal in talking up his fellow linebackers. During drills against the offense, Morrison was one of the more vocal players giving little jabs to the offense to make the drills more intense. With the loss of senior MIKE linebacker Jon Bostic, Florida will need Morrison to grow up quick.
Lopez: From both a physical and playing stand point, Dante Fowler Jr. has looked incredible these last two days. Fowler Jr. is in better shape and is better conditioned and it shows. He has clearly lost some weight and is in much better shape than he was last season. He has a good first step and is very quick off the line. The rising sophomore blew up Tyler Moore several times in o-line vs. d-line drills; granted, Moore did not look very good this weekend, but regardless Fowler was still very impressive. I almost considered naming him my most impressive defensive player on Friday as well. To put it mildly, he had a very good two days of practice.
Richie: Redshirt junior defensive back Cody Riggs caught my eye today again, and has put together two very nice practices in a row. He looked agile in coverage drills, blanketing his receiver several times, as well as displaying good awareness during 11v11. He was one of the more impressive players during the gunner gauntlet special teams drill, managing to beat his man for a tackle a few times. Riggs looks to be shaping up to be one of the more consistent defensive backs Florida will have this season.
In your opinion, who was the most disappointing player on offense?
Alderman: For the second straight practice junior quarterback Jeff Driskel wasn't very impressive. What stuck out most is that he is hesitant to take shots down the field, instead dumping the ball to the underneath options. On top of that, when he did try to find his receivers, many of his balls were off the mark. This season many in the Gator Nation are expecting Driskel to be the guy that takes control of the offense, but he made no real signs of doing that on Saturday.
Lopez: Really the whole offensive line, once again. Today I'll specify and say D.J. Humphries. The former five-star recruit, and number one rated offensive tackle in the 2012 class, obviously has talent and got a good amount of playing time last season, but he had several mental lapses on Saturday. During an o-line vs. d-line drill he let Dominique Easley blow right past him, which did not make offensive line coach Tim Davis too happy. He also got his helmet knocked off after getting blasted by freshman defensive lineman Joey Ivie during a drill. However, Humphries did have some bright spots. He displayed excellent footwork and did a very good job one-on-one against Easley on several reps, which earned him some praise from his coaches and teammates. Overall though, for his ranking and how much he is going to be counted on, he needs to show more consistency and until he does, it will be considered disappointing.
Richie: I think all who were out there would agree that Jeff Driskel looked less than spectacular today, to put it nicely. He rarely took any risks in throwing deeper than eight yards or so, settling for check-downs. With that said, I was once again disappointed with the offensive line, who rarely gave any of the quarterbacks time to throw deeper routes in 11-on-11 drills. But if I had to pick one player that just isn't showing me enough, it would be redshirt senior Andre Debose. Debose looks to be terrible at getting separation from Florida's very talented defensive backs except when running "go" or "fly" routes. He has the speed to separate, but never seems to give full effort doing what it takes to be a complete receiver. He also had one or two balls bounce off his helmet in punt return practice after failing to find the ball in the sun, although several other players struggled with this as well.
In your opinion, who was the most disappointing player on defense?
Alderman: Defensive tackle Leon Orr didn't have a very good day on Saturday. It is still early, but with what Florida lost along the line it should be his time to make his presence felt, but instead at times he looked as if he wasn't going 100% against the Florida offensive line and struggled shedding blocks. This coming season, if Orr is to be one of the building blocks along the Florida defensive line, he will need to step up his intensity going forward.
Lopez: This was tough because the defense is clearly the Gators' strongest unit, but since I have to pick I'll go with Ivie. I know I just said Ivie looked impressive against Humphries, but he had some of his own struggles throughout the day. He got, as might be expected, worked on by redshirt senior offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison several times in a one-on-one drill. Ivie's got strength and has clearly bulked up since arriving on campus this spring, but he still has to work on his quickness off the line. It is good for the freshman to enroll early to get a little more coaching, but he was clearly outmatched by the bigger, stronger, more experienced, linemen on Saturday.
Richie: It is hard to single out someone on defense who had a poor showing, because most of the defense looked solid once again. The player who struggled again today was once again freshman early enrollee linebacker Daniel McMillian. He received plenty of talking to from coaches after missing a few assignments during drills with the defense. He has plenty of time to catch up, but the game still seems too fast for him right now.
This & That
Alderman: Though there were times when you could tell that freshman defensive tackle Joey Ivie was just that, a freshman. There were times when he flashed great ability in shedding blocks, but is still inconsistent and was manhandled several times. ... After struggling mightily during Friday's practice, freshman linebacker Daniel McMillian made great strides and seemed to be grasping collegiate ball much better. Though there were still some 'lost' moments from him. ... Fellow 2013 signees Trenton Brown, Jarrad Davis, and Caleb Brantley were also in attendance for Saturday's practice, Brown has been to every one of the Gators' practices so far this spring.
Lopez: There were definitely more recruits out on the field Saturday, including two Rivals100 members, Ponte Vedra (Fla.) linebacker Dillon Bates and Cedartown (Ga.) running back Nick Chubb. A member of the UF staff introduced Bates and his father Bill to 2013 signee Jarrad Davis who was out at practice for the second day in row. Fayetteville (N.C.) Pine Forest defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard and New Orleans (L.A.) offensive lineman Joseph Paul were a couple of the other more notable 2014 recruits on hand for practice. ... One last quick observation about the offense: there was not a lot of vertical passing down the field from the Gators last season, and we have not seen much of it this spring either. Driskel threw almost all short and intermediate passes. When he did try to go down field he usually overthrew the receiver.
Richie: The jet sweep and wildcat package were practiced extensively on offense today, neither of which with much success. ... Antonio Morrison is a beast and looks like an early leader on this defense, despite being only a sophomore. He plays with great passion and made a highlight play on a special teams drill where he threw his blocker off him and stripped the ball from the return man.