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29 posts from August 2014

August 31, 2014

Gators Grades: Seriously...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida was particularly sharp in its weather-soiled opener against Idaho. 

OFFENSE - A

Kurt Roper's revamped unit produced zero turnovers on no snaps. That's still pretty good! Quarterback Jeff Driskel led the team on the field without injury or incident. Progress!

DEFENSE - A

The Gators pitched a shutout. You can't do any better than that. 

SPECIAL TEAMS - A

Valdez Showers' 64-yard return stands as Florida's greatest highlight since last October. 

OVERALL - INC

Unfortunately, Will Muschamp's seven-game losing streak still stands. 

August 30, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida vs. Idaho

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GAINESVILLE -- It's baaaaaaaacccckkkkkkk. 

I know the college football season officially kicked off in the middle of the week, but whatever.

Today, it really starts. 

Florida hosts Idaho tonight at 7 (ESPNU), as the Gators look to end their seven-game losing streak. 

There's a 70+ percent chance of thunderstorms, but Florida fans just hope the offense is raining touchdowns.

BOOM!

********** UPDATE **********

Florida announced wideout Demarcus Robinson (university sanction) and defensive tackles Darious Cummings (violation of team rules) and Jay-Nard Bostwick are suspended for tonight's opener. 

********************

If you missed ESPN "College GameDay" this morning, the Jimmy Kimmel-inspired "Mean Tweet" read is a must watch (Dan Mullen became an American hero). OnlyGators.com captured Will Muschamp's brief segment, but seriously, click the link. You'll die at Mullen's response. 

 

I'll pick Florida's game a little later, but in the meantime, if you missed a feature or article during the week, no worries. Read up now!

********* SEASON PREVIEWS *********

Gators' chance to rebound rest with quarterback Jeff Driskel

Grading the Gators: position-by-position look

Florida schedule predictions 

SEC capsules 

********* UF VS. IDAHO ********

Kurt Roper bring postive approach to offense

Gators face tough decision on whether to run Driskel

Former Deerfield Beach tailback Brandon Powell offers Gators speedy 'change-up'

Dante Fowler Jr. hopes to feast on Gators' opposing quarterbacks, spark anemic pass rush

Jabari Gorman brings much-needed experience to UF secondary

Former Booker T. Washington High standout Treon Harris wins backup quarterback job 

Gators' defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin very confident in unit 

Florida releases Week 1 depth chart 

Enjoy the game, y'all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 29, 2014

Desperate for 1-0

GAINESVILLE -- Florida, fresh off its worst season in 35 years, hasn’t won a game in nearly 11 months.

Senior linebacker Michael Taylor can barely remember the taste of victory. 

“Arkansas? In like October or something,” he said.

“Way too long.”

The Gators are desperate to end their seven-game losing streak and the lowly Idaho Vandals, losers of 22 games in the last two seasons, could be the perfect remedy.

“Everybody starts out the season undefeated, so I think it's a good chance to start fresh and really showcase all we've done throughout the spring and summer,” quarterback Jeff Driskel said.

“There’s a lot of excitement around our program right now.”

Florida holds the second-longest opener winning streak in the country (24) and Taylor admitted the team is desperate for a locker room celebration and a happy home crowd.

“Definitely excited to get a victory because we haven’t had a victory in a while around here,” he said.

“We’re definitely excited to get this thing started, the whole campus is excited, coaches excited, players excited so we’re definitely ready to showcase our talent. … The seven game losing streak was definitely tough to bear, to have to play through and witness. Getting a win will definitely help; definitely help the whole feeling around the stadium.”

The Gators and Vandals kickoff Saturday at 7 p.m. (SEC Network). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 28, 2014

Like Father, Like Daughter

M3TZ5797(Courtesy Gatorzone.com)

GAINESVILLE -- "We all have nerves, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t think it’ll ever go away. I was taking my daughter this summer to a swim meet. I could see her getting upset in the back of the car and I was like, “Reese, what’s going on?” She said her tummy was hurting. She was getting anxious to swim in a 6-year-old swim meet. That was an interesting thing to me. I was trying to calm her nerves, and I was like, 'Daddy gets nervous on game day, too, and it’s OK. It’s natural.'

"She swam her first race, and when she came out of the pool, first thing she came up and says, 'My tummy feels better, dad.' Once it started, the nerves go away. It’s natural. You’re going to get the nerves. Once it gets going, it goes away and you’re focused in."

--- Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, on pregame butterflies: at a 6-year-old’s swim meet or a college football game.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 27, 2014

Q&A: Alex McCalister

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GAINESVILLE -- Dante Fowler Jr. traded Big Macs for quarterbacks as his New Year's resolution, but the junior defensive end needs help resurrecting Florida's poor pass rushing production. 

Enter: Redshirt sophomore end Alex McCalister. 

The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder came to UF as a project, raw but with impressive measurables.

Three years later and 40 pounds heavier, McCalister is ready to display his "freakish" athleticism and is now studying film of NFL icons J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. 

Fowler -- McCalister's roomate and best friend -- teased the sophomore as Florida's surprise impact player this fall.

Recently, McCalister spoke about his 7-foot-2 wingspan, his development and his relationship with position coach Brad Lawing. 

On his slow and steady development…

"Getting that extra weight playing in the 240-250 range is way easier now. When I first came in at like 206 I really couldn't push anything. Now I can hold the point, push the point and the pocket back with that weight.”

On his go-to moves as an edge rusher…

“I [use] my speed and power. I'll stick out my long arm. My long arm pass rush is my golden ticket. There's not a lot of people that can stop that. The long arm my pass rush move. It's because I have a long wingspan [7-2], so using that to my advantage, bigger people can do speed and power, quicker people can do footwork, mine is my left. I use my left.

On the importance of his emergence opposite Fowler… 

“Most teams are going to set to Dante as a big threat, so that just allows others to come aboard, come along and show what they can do to get to the quarterback as well.”

On his relationship with position coach Brad Lawing…

“Coach Lawing’s my dog, Big Law-dog. Coach Lawing has showed me a lot. He’ll show you everything really. He’s been coaching for 92,000 years, so you can learn a lot from coach Lawing.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 26, 2014

Depth Chart dispatch: UF releases Week 1 two-deep

GAINESVILLE -- Drumroll, everyone. Game week is officially here.

Florida coach Will Muschamp met with reporters Tuesday afternoon discussing a myriad of topic -- most notably, the depth chart. 

There were few surprises, but highlights included Treon Harris as the No. 2 quarterback -- for now anyways, Clay Burton over Jake McGee at tight end (first play must be a run) and the addition of nine 'OR's (see: nearly all the special teams jobs, backup cornerback, tailback, right guard). 

As I noted, the kicking situation will remain fluid all season. I still think Kyle Christy wins the punter battle and Kelvin Taylor will be UF's No. 1 tailback. 

*************** Florida's "unofficial" depth chart ***************

Unnamed

Unnamed-1

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 25, 2014

Projected two-deep? The Gators' 2014 depth chart

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GAINESVILLE -- Florida will release its 2014 depth chart on Tuesday.

It’s largely an academic exercise, as coach Will Muschamp said late last week, “Kids and parents want to start. Coach Muschamp cares about who finishes.”

Really it’s a crapshoot. Florida rotates a ton of players, so the two-deep is probably written in pencil anyways.

But here she goes.

I should note: This is both my best guess at UF’s listed depth chart coupled with reading between the coach-parlance and listing who actually is second string on the field … and not on a piece of paper.

For example: Trip Thurman will not be listed as the backup at three positions, but rest assured, he is Florida’s super-sub offensive lineman and will be the first guy off the bench if any of the regulars inside go down.    

********** OFFENSE **********

POSITION

FIRST TEAM

SECOND TEAM

QUARTERBACK

Jeff Driskel

Treon Harris

RUNNING BACK

Kelvin Taylor

Matt Jones

‘B’ BACK

Matt Jones

Jake McGee

WIDE RECEIVER (x)

Quinton Dunbar

Demarcus Robinson

WIDE RECEIVER (z)

Ahmad Fulwood

Demarcus Robinson

WIDE RECEIVER (s)

Latroy Pittman

C.J. Worton

TIGHT END

Jake McGee

Clay Burton

LEFT TACKLE

D.J. Humphries

Roderick Johnson

LEFT GUARD

Tyler Moore

Trip Thurman

CENTER

Max Garcia

Trip Thurman

RIGHT GUARD

Trenton Brown

Trip Thurman

RIGHT TACKLE

Chaz Green

Roderick Johnson

********** THE SKINNEY **********

Harris wins the quarterback battle with his ability as a special package runner.

The wideout positions are a mess, as Florida will move Dunbar around to get Robinson on the field with Fulwood. Alvin Bailey and Andre Debose aren’t listed, but both receivers will figure into the mix. 

The tight end and ‘B’ positions are tricky -- and perhaps the most interesting note to examine when the official depth chart is released. Where exactly is Jones listed? Guys like Hunter Joyer and DeAndre Goolsby will see snaps. But how many, and where, is largely dependent on how the Gators designate Jones and McGee.

Mack Brown is probably the technical backup tailback, but he won’t see traditional No. 2 carries with Jones and Brandon Powell vying for snaps. 

Lastly, Green or Brown could be the backup left tackle, but recently, Muschamp has praised the efforts of Johnson.

********** DEFENSE **********

POSITION

FIRST TEAM

SECOND TEAM

BUCK

Dante Fowler Jr.

Alex McCalister

NOSE TACKLE

Leon Orr

Jay-nard Bostwick

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Darious Cummings

Joey Ivie

DEFENSIVE END

Jon Bullard

Bryan Cox Jr.

WEAK-SIDE BACKER

Michael Taylor

Daniel McMillian

MIDDLE BACKER

Antonio Morrison

Jarrad Davis

STRONG-SIDE BACKER

Neiron Ball

Jeremi Powell

CORNERBACK

Vernon Hargreaves III

Jalen Tabor

SAFETY

Keanu Neal

Marcell Harris

SAFETY

Jabari Gorman

Duke Dawson

CORNERBACK

Brian Poole

J.C. Jackson

NICKELBACK

Marcus Maye

Brian Poole

********** THE SKINNEY **********

The front-seven is rather straightforward. Davis didn’t do enough in camp to warrant a starting gig over Morrison or Taylor, but he’ll play plenty. The backup SAM spot is whatever, as even Ball won’t be on the field all that much. 

Hargreaves and Neal are assured starters. Beyond that? It’s secondary roulette. Poole, Maye and Gorman could all be shuffled around.

In truth, I have the least confidence in Harris as a No. 2 safety, but where exactly the freshmen corners slide in is anyone's guess too. Jackson was the best in camp, but Tabor has the most upside. They’ll both play a lot. Nick Washington could sneak his way into a rotational spot at safety (over Dawson) if Duke moves to nickel. 

********** SPECIAL TEAMS **********

POSITION

FIRST TEAM

SECOND TEAM

KICKER

Austin Hardin

Frankie Velez

PUNTER

Kyle Christy

Johnny Townsend

KICK RETURNER

Andre Debose

Chris Thompson

PUNT RETURNER

Demarcus Robinson

Brandon Powell

********** THE SKINNEY **********

Townsend is a natural redshirt candidate, while the competition at kicker probably never ends all season. Velez earning a scholarship could be nothing more than a generous gesture to a hard-working fifth-year senior, or it’s a wake-up call to Hardin. 

Thoughts? Comments?

Pull. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 23, 2014

McNeely, Velez awarded scholarships

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp awarded a pair of walk-ons scholarships Friday, honoring wideout and special teams contributor Michael McNeely and kicker Frankie Velez in a team huddle at the end of practice.

 

“We had two available scholarships. Both of those guys will contribute to our football team,” Muschamp said.

“Mike has been a fantastic special teams player and just a wonderful young man and has done everything we've asked him to do. He will be a huge contributor on special teams. Frankie is still in competition for field goal mixing duties and extra point duties and I think he has done a fantastic job in camp and has been here for five years and done everything we've asked him to do as far as those things. Plugging in last year. Both of those guys very well rewarded.”

Muschamp was a former walk-on at Georgia before earning a scholarship, and called the ability to honor others among the more gratifying experiences as a head coach.

“Awesome, absolutely awesome,” he said. 

“I earned a scholarship when I went to school and I’ll never forget the feeling when my coach, Ray Goff, walked up to me and said you earned your scholarship. That means you have now gained the respect of your staff and your teammates, not that you didn’t have it before. But now you’re recognized as one of the guys, not that you weren’t before. And that’s why walk-ons are so important to me. They’re treated no different than a scholarship player. They’re not going to get as many turns and opportunities because obviously we have invested ourselves into some of these scholarship players that we feel like may be further along. But we’re not always right either. So there’s nothing better than that feeling of seeing that today and being able to do that on the field with Frankie and Mike. They’re two very well-deserved young men.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 22, 2014

Fowler, Hargreaves III earn first-team honors

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GAINESVILLE -- The Southeastern Conference released the 2014 coaches’ preseason all-conference teams Thursday, and Florida had seven players selected including star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. 

Hargreaves and Fowler earned deserved first-team honors, while no player from Florida’s offense was named to the first team. 

Right tackle Chaz Green was selected to the second-team offense, and junior offensive tackle D.J. Humphries and tailback Matt Jones were third-team picks. 

Lastly, junior linebacker Antonio Morrison was a third-team linebacker, while sixth-year senior Andre Debose was the coaches’ third return specialist. 

Alabama and LSU led all squads with 11 selections. 

The real question: Which players will earn honors at season’s end?

My guess: VG3, Fowler Jr., Debose, TE Jake McGee, DE Jon Bullard and just maybe, QB Jeff Driskel. 

Y'alls turn. 

Pull. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 21, 2014

Muschamp accepts ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

 

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp completed the popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday evening, accepting a challenge by Alabama coach Nick Saban, formers Gator golfer Chris Dimarco and UF softball coach Tim Walton. 

Muschamp, who completed the ice bath with his son Whit, then challenged his nine assistant coaches, Gators trainer Paul Silvestri and his three first round picks with Florida: safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and defensive tackle Dominique Easley.

He also noted he would contribute a donation to ALS research. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 19, 2014

About-face: What depth concerns?

Will-muschamp

GAINESVILLE -- Just three days after calling Florida’s depth along both lines of scrimmage his principal concern (or worse: “a huge issue”), Gators coach Will Muschamp said he was “misquoted somehow.”

“We don’t have depth issues on the offensive and defensive line,” Muschamp explained.

“We have depth that doesn’t that have experience on the offensive and defensive line. We have good depth. We’ve got 15 scholarship offensive linemen. We’ve got 16 scholarship defensive linemen. … We have very good depth. We have some guys that haven’t played a lot.”

Semantics.

Muschamp is absolutely correct that Florida is healthy (unlike a year ago) with plenty of talented players (unlike a year ago) behind its prospective starters along the offensive and defensive lines.

But inexperience still = questionable depth.

That’s not a debatable point.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 18, 2014

Unranked: Gators No. 27 in AP preseason poll

GAINESVILLE -- For the first time since 2003, Florida will open the season unranked.

RON ZOOK RETURNS!

The Associated Press released its preseason poll Sunday, and the Gators stand as the consensus preseason No. 27 team in the country.

Like with the USA Today Amway coaches’ poll, Florida received the second-most “others” votes following its disastrous 4-8 season in 2013. 

But the Gators will have plenty of opportunities to prove their naysayers wrong this fall. Florida plays six teams ranked in the preseason top 25, including No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Alabama. 

The Gators are the first team since 2010 Penn State to square off against the preseason top two teams, per Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News. 

In all, eight Southeastern Conference teams are ranked in the preseason poll: Alabama (No. 2), Auburn (No. 6), South Carolina (No. 9), Georgia (No. 12), LSU (No. 13), Ole Miss (No. 18), Texas A&M (No. 21), Missouri (No. 24). 

The real question: Where does Florida finish the season? Ranked or on the outside looking in?

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

August 16, 2014

Durkin talks pass rush, Gerald Willis & more

03_140807_DurkinDJ_0381_TimCasey(Courtesy gatorzone.com)

GAINESVILLE -- While all eyes will be on Florida’s revamped offense this fall, the Gators’ defense hopes to improve its consistency too.

Coordinator D.J. Durkin spearheaded the nation’s No. 8 unit in 2013, but dispirited by the team’s woeful attack and a season-ending injury to leader Dominique Easley, the defense never found its true traction.

Florida returns seven starters this year, led by all-conference stars Dante Fowler Jr. and Vernon Hargreaves III. The secondary is inexperienced, albeit with a slew of talent, while Florida’s linebackers are a talented but enigmatic group.

Recently, Durkin discussed a number of topics, including the desire to improve the team’s pass rush, the youth in the defensive backfield and more.

On Florida’s pass rush…

“Our guys have done a good job all through camp with that. We’re finding some more guys that can win some one-on-ones. Coach Lawing is doing a great job with those guys. They’re developing. We’ve got to keep them coming. …Dante Fowler’s doing a great job. Jon Bullard’s doing a great job, Alex McCalister’s coming on; We’re even using Neiron Ball and Jeremi Powell in pass rush situations up at defensive end. I think those guys can really get it. We’ll keep it going. Gerald Willis is a young guy too.” 

On Willis’ role this season…

“[He’ll play] Somewhere. Somewhere.  He can play, he’s good. He’ll play and help us. Gerald’s got to keep learning the defense and being in the right spot and all the typical things for a normal freshman. But he’s going to play."

On the five freshmen in the secondary…

“It's been great. We've had great competition. Competition makes everyone better, and they're battling really good. So Quincy [Wilson], J.C. [Jackson], Jalen Tabor, Duke Dawson, all those guys out there, Deiondre Porter as well, they've all had days where you could say this guy is better than the other. But the good news is they're all competing and playing well. They're going to help us."

On key adjustment for young cornerbacks…

"The biggest thing with guys coming out of high school is breaking some habits they may have of things they were doing and got away with in high school technique-wise that we've got to break. They're doing a good job with it. They're taking coaching well and getting rid of those habits. The receivers they're going against every day, those guys are pretty darn good they're going against. They're seeing game speed right now from those guys. That to me has them prepared well because of who they're going against."

On Marcus Maye's emergence at nickel-back...

"That was something we just tried out here going into camp and he's looked really good doing it. Obviously, he has great coverage ability. That nickel spot is a unique thing. That guy's got to be able to bliz, cover, man cover, zone cover, do all those things. Marcus kind of has a feel for it."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

August 14, 2014

The Good, the Bad & (just one) Ugly: Harris shines again, other Thursday practice observations

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GAINESVILLE -- On a sizzling (really boiling) Thursday morning, Florida completed its seventh open practice of training camp, as freshman quarterback Treon Harris continued his red-hot week.

The Booker T. Washington standout, currently battling for UF’s backup job, was impressive for the third straight practice, showcasing his arm-strength, accuracy and decisiveness. Harris produced the day’s top play: a gorgeous seam-route to freshman wideout C.J. Worton, drilling the receiver in stride for a 40-yard touchdown against solid coverage.

With his ability as a duel-threat option, especially as a special package short-yardage runner, Harris appears to separating himself in the battle with fellow freshman Will Grier.

Although Grier has a greater command of the offense, his touch has been suspect of late and his frame could use a year of development.

Meanwhile, Harris had a poor first week of camp, but the freshman is rapidly progressing and has been very sharp in recent practices. 

A decision could be made soon. Stay tuned.

As for the rest of practice, the Gators ran through plenty of special teams drills (punt/kickoff return/field goal practice), 2-minute hurry-up, positional drills and more.

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Lightening Round Style…

GOOD 

WR Ahmad Fulwood & WR Quinton Dunbar (consistent, solid route runners), DB Marcus Maye (best day yet), LB Antonio Morrison (sharp again), freshmen secondary, namely DB Jalen Tabor (highlight-reel tip-pick), RB Mack Brown (long wheel-route touchdown), WR/KR Andre Debose (knee appeared fine, speed fluid)

BAD

WR Demarcus Robinson (too many drops), RT Chaz Green, DB Marcell Harris (too inconsistent), TE Clay Burton (drops, effort), Jabari Gorman (poor eye control)  

UGLY

Nada, well, maybe the No. 2 offensive line (a work in progress indeed) but overall it was a strong practice by the Gators

INJURY UPDATE

Starting tailback Kelvin Taylor (hamstring strain) returned to practice after missing three days.

Dante Fowler Jr. (undisclosed) was non-contact and mostly worked out in “the pit,” but defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said Fowler “is fine” and the day-off was "just precautionary.”

Linebacker Daniel McMillian, offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder) and cornerback Duke Dawson (shoulder) joined Fowler in the pit. 

Tailback Adam Lane (undisclosed), cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (knee bruise) and J.C. Jackson (shoulder) were all non-contact.

Junior tailback Matt Jones (knee swelling) missed practice for the fourth straight day.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 13, 2014

Tebow in Gainesville as part of SEC Network launch

GAINESVILLE -- Former Florida legend Tim Tebow will be in Gainesville on Thursday, reporting live from UF’s campus as part of the SEC Network’s premiere launch event. 

Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion quarterback, will join host Joe Tessitore for the 6 p.m. special outside the Heavener Football Complex. 

Florida is encouraging students and fans to come out and participate in the background of live shots. 

Tebow, who continues to train daily for another shot in the NFL, will be an analyst on SEC Nation, a travelling pregame show similar to ESPN's College GameDay.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 12, 2014

In a rainy open practice, Harris, Dunbar shine

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GAINESVILLE -- The lights were on, the field was wet and Florida’s revamped offense actually won the practice Tuesday morning.

Despite the inclement weather, the rain didn’t dampen UF’s effort, as Tuesday 14-session workout was much crisper than Monday’s practice.

The Gators focused on plenty of positional drills and special teams work, but they also concentrated on short-yardage, goal line and red zone drives -- with their offense winning their fair share of battles.

A number of players returned to practice following Sunday’s physical scrimmage, highlighted by Vernon Hargreaves III. The sophomore cornerback (knee bruise) wore a non-contact jersey and participated in minimal drills. Defensive end Jon Bullard (ankle) was back in action too, while offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder) and defensive tackle Leon Orr (undisclosed) practiced both with the team and in “the pit.”

Marcus Maye, J.C. Jackson, Alex McCalister and Bryan Cox Jr. all worked out in non-contact jerseys, and unlike recent days, freshman tight end DeAndre Gooslby no longer wore orange.  

Tailbacks Matt Jones (knee swelling), Kelvin Taylor (hamstring) and Adam Lane (undisclosed), along with linebacker Matt Rolin (knee) and freshmen corners Jalen Tabor (undisclosed) and Duke Dawson (shoulder) pulled sleds, tossed medicine balls and rode bikes in the pit. 

Now, Tuesday’s quick-hitting observations from Florida’s ninth day of training camp…

-- Freshman quarterback Treon Harris has struggled for much of camp, but the athletic signal caller produced his best practice yet. Harris was decisive, accurate (noticeably so) and converted three consecutive first downs with his legs in a Wildcat package during short-yardage work. When the coaches forced Harris (and Will Grier) to go live, he further excelled. Unlike previous practices, Harris demonstrated an ability to hit wideouts in stride -- either on crossing patterns (top highlight: a sweet throw to Raphael Andrades) or deep balls (Chris Thompson, Ahmad Fulwood).

Grier also did some nice things, with a beautiful sideline throw to Demarcus Robinson [when the offense was backed up inside its own 1-yard line] his best play of the morning. Compared to Harris, Grier clearly has a better understanding of Kurt Roper’s offense, but he continues to struggle with decision-making and ball security lapses.

-- Receivers Quinton Dunbar and Latroy Pittman had their best (open) practice of camp. Dunbar, who's probably been UF's most consistent (albeit unspectacular) wideout in camp thus far, snagged a pair of touchdowns in red zone 7-on-7 work. Dunbar had the day's highlight play: a gorgeous finger-tip snag in the corner of the end zone as he was drapped by Nick Washington.

Meanwhile, Pittman, who has battled dropsies much of camp, was solid in pass skeleton drills. The rest of Florida’s wideouts had so-so days, as the slick balls did players little favors. C.J. Worten and Valdez Showers were forced to work with the JUGGS machine after practice due to too many drops. During one skeleton drill, Andrades, Thompson and Alvin Bailey whiffed three straight attempts. 

-- Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries continues to underwhelm in camp. One day it’s drills, the next it’s scrimmage snaps. On Tuesday, the junior -- who is clearly a team leader among the offensive linemen -- was beaten off the edge too often, as Dante Fowler Jr. (A monster yet again. Drink), Neiron Ball and Jon Bullard all won 1-on-1 scrimmage battles. Fowler straight rag-dolled Humphries on one play, beating him inside and meeting tailback Mack Brown in the hole. Florida's junior end, who also abused right tackle Chaz Green multiple times Tuesday, leveled Brown and stripped the ball at the same time. 

-- Surprisingly, Florida’s offense (namely No.1’s-vs-No.1’s) got the best of its defense during the goal line (backed up inside own 1-yard line) and short-yardage situations. Misdirection plays were key in both drills, springing Dunbar open for two huge gains on short throws. 

-- Others who showcased well Tuesday: WR Fulwood, DE Gerald Willis, DT Caleb Brantley, RB Brandon Powell, C Max Garcia

-- Others who did not: OG Antonio Riles, DB Maye (who seems to be the frontrunner for coaches’ whipping boy), DB Marcell Harris, RB Mark Herndon, C Cam Dillard, OT Rod Johnson  

THIS & THAT

Muschamp rocked a cut-off pullover with “I © Hard Counts” stitched across the front. … Walk-on wideout Ryan Parrish has taken over Dominique Easley’s dancing duties. Parrish showcased his moves on such hits as “Party in the USA” and “Classic.” … WR Andre Debose (knee swelling) was not at practice.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Neal, Taylor named as starters

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GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp tabbed senior linebacker Michael Taylor and sophomore safety Keanu Neal as definitive starters on Monday.

According to Muschamp, Neal -- an eraser defensive back with impressive eye control -- is “the team’s best safety right now. And past that, we’ll see.”

Senior Jabari Gorman and underclassmen Marcell Harris, Nick Washington and Marcus Maye are all competing for the second safety spot. Freshman Duke Dawson, a hybrid defensive back, is also repping at the position.

Meanwhile, Taylor, a redshirt senior, has locked up Florida’s weak-side linebacker job.

Muschamp praised Taylor’s offseason, saying, “Mike has lost weight and kept his strength. He’s a very intelligent, smart player, understands what we do and how we do it. … He is a physical, tough presence. There is no question he is a guy that’s been in the war before and understands what it’s going to take week in and week out in our league." 

YOUNGSTERS MAKING IMPACT

The Gators return just six offensive linemen with any collegiate experience, but a pair of underclassmen are slowly emerging as legitimate depth.

Redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson is now the seventh linemen in the rotation, per Muschamp.

Johnson, who impressed during Monday’s open practice, is competing with Chaz Green for Florida’s starting right tackle job. Mammoth freshman tackle David Sharpe continues to jockey for playing time, despite “swimming mentally.”

THIS & THAT

Muschamp applauded the recent work of Florida’s trio of kickers (Austin Hardin, Brooks Abbott and Frankie Velez), but he called out veteran specialists Drew Farris (long-snapper) and Kyle Crofoot (holder) saying, “I’m disappointed with [our] operation from snap to hold.” … Freshman wideout C.J. Worten (Homestead) remains in the mix for a rotational role in the slot. “He’s a guy we talked about we need to get more snaps,” Muschamp said. … Joey Ivie has flourished since his move to defensive tackle. The sophomore is up to 285-290 pounds and is “playing blocks extremely well,” per Muschamp.    

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 11, 2014

A litany of practice observations from Day 8 of camp

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GAINESVILLE -- A day after Florida completed a physical (closed) scrimmage with between “80-85 snaps,” the Gators practiced in the sweltering humidity early Monday morning.

It wasn’t the crispest of workouts, and once again, positional drills, special teams work and individual battles dominated the open practice. Florida also worked extensively on situational passing drills, namely third down and 1-minute scoring drives.

Following Sunday’s tough scrimmage, a number of players were absent from practice, including tailback Matt Jones (knee swelling), wideout Andre Debose (knee swelling), guard Trip Thurman (shoulder), defensive lineman Taven Bryan (strep throat) and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (knee bruise).

Meanwhile, starting tailback Kelvin Taylor (hamstring), tailback Adam Lane (undisclosed), end Alex McCalister (shoulder), end Bryan Cox Jr. (shoulder) and end Jon Bullard (ankle) worked out in the “the pit,” pulling sleds and tossing medicine balls.  Defensive backs Marcus Maye and J.C. Jackson, along with sophomore linebacker Alex Anzalone and freshman tight end DeAndre Gooslby, practiced in non-contact jerseys.

Without further ado, some quick-hitting observations from Florida’s eighth day of training camp…

-- Without Taylor, Jones or Lane, the Gators were down to just two scholarship tailbacks (Brandon Powell and Mack Brown). Powell continues to climb the depth chart, again showcasing his quick-twitch ability and skills an as option in the passing game.

-- Junior linebacker Antonio Morrison, much-maligned last season, had his best (open) practice of camp.

-- The ball hit the ground waaaaaay too much during pass skeleton drills and 7-on-7 work. The wideouts had tons of drops and the quarterbacks airmailed too many throws -- all while Florida’s defensive backs weren’t particularly impressive in coverage.

-- Jeff Driskel had a fine day, connecting well with various playmakers on short and/or intermediate throws. Driskel has an obvious chemisry with transfer tight end Jake McGee, but Florida's vertical passing game remains a real work in progress.

-- Freshman receiver C.J. Worton continues to stand out as the No. 2 slot wideout.

-- Florida’s coaches -- especially TEC Derek Lewis, DBC Travaris Robinson, OC Kurt Roper and HBC Will Muschamp -- were very vocal throughout practice. Roper constantly lit into the freshmen quarterbacks (Will Grier and Treon Harris both struggled again, mainly with decision-making and timing), while Muschamp and Robinson chewed out the freshmen defensive backs (namely Jalen Tabor) for gambling too often for interceptions. Also, Maye was forced to run laps for much of practice following multiple mistakes, including jumping offsides on a blitz during 11-on-11 work.

-- Florida successfully “completed” a pair of 1-minute scoring drives, as kickers Frankie Velez and Brooks Abbott both drilled game-tying 46-yard field goals. One drive was aided by the fact Florida’s defense played extremely loose coverage, with menacing pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. bizarrely lined up opposite wideout Demarcus Robinson. Robinson (predictably) gained 20+ yards on a quick hitter to set up the field goal try.

-- The offensive line produced another up-and-down day. D.J. Humphries struggled in 1-on-1 drills, but the left tackle preformed much better during scrimmage snaps. Roderick Johnson is battling for a starting spot at right tackle. The redshirt freshman dominated drill work, however, his success didn’t translate as well in 11-on-11 sessions. During one session, Johnson was whipped twice on consecutive snaps, as a walk-on and Morrison simply beat him off the edge with speed moves.

-- UF’s young, blue-chip defensive linemen continue to push for rotational roles. Joey Ivie (DT), Gerald Willis III (DE) and Jordan Sherit all flashed at times.

-- Skyler Morhinweg tossed the best pass of his career I’ve ever seen him make: A gorgeous 40-yard touchdown fade to sophomore wideout Ahmad Fulwood. Fulwood actually dropped a similar pass from Driskel at the beginning of practice. 

-- Finally, the absolute best moment of practice? When Robinson and Powell alternated fielding punts, trying to catch as many balls as possible at one time. Powell snagged five before barreling over, but then Robinson and his freakish hands did this… 

 

That between-the-legs, one-handed transfer? Whew.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 10, 2014

VIDEO: Highlights from UF's first week of camp

GAINESVILLE -- "We all we got. We all we need."

 

August 09, 2014

Friday Night Yikes? (Not really, but still...)

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GAINESVILLE -- The Gators practiced in full pads for the first time Friday night, but their revamped offense did not appear ready for primetime.  

Florida’s defense dominated the practice, especially the 2-minute drill session (zero touchdowns allowed) and late scrimmage "good-vs-good" work (five straight plays for zero or negative yardage) where the front-seven couldn’t be contained. 

Although UF’s offense teased its explosive ability (see below), the same inconsistencies that plagued the unit for much of last season were present throughout Friday’s proceedings. 

It was one practice, and there's absolutely zero reason to panic. The instillation of Kurt Roper's scheme -- both tangibly and mentally -- simply remains a work in progress. 

In all, Friday's 16-session practice was quiet, as the majority of scrimmage sessions took place on the far fields -- away from stands. The bulk of practice consisted of individual position work (specializing in technique, footwork and strength) with special teams drills mixed in. 

It’s the weekend, so here’s a six-pack of observations on Florida’s second open practice in training camp. 

1. Playmakers

Although Florida’s offense struggled for much of the evening, its top two skill players still showcased their individual talents. Starting tailback Kelvin Taylor -- who continues to remind me of a smaller Knowshon Moreno with his quick feet and hip-sinking ability -- made linebacker Antonio Morrison look silly with a cut and dash, while wideout Demarcus Robinson again dominated UF’s vaunted (but raw and thin minus Vernon Hargreaves III) secondary. Twice -- waaaay far away -- he snagged balls near the sideline, displaying incredible body control and athleticism. Robinson is easily Florida’s most talented wideout, and along with Quinton Dunbar and Ahmad Fulwood comprise a solid trio. How they all fit on the field at the same time (none currently plays the slot) is the biggest question mark moving forward. 

2. Bookends 

Dante Fowler Jr. and Jon Bullard abused Florida’s starting tackles during 1-on-1 drills and scrimmage sessions, consistently meeting quarterback Jeff Driskel in the backfield. Driskel, who labored with accuracy issues at times, was frequently forced to get rid of the ball with a pass rusher in his face. Even when UF’s dynamic duo sat out, backups Alex McCalister and SAM-backer Neiron Ball registered sacks off the edges.

3. Steady Emergence 

Sophomore DB Keanu Neal continues to emerge as Florida’s top option at safety. With a rare combination of speed, thunder, intellect and instincts, Neal is player ready to be unleashed. The sophomore's heady anticipation often times leads him to the exact spot in position to deliver a big hit, and he nearly decapitated Valdez Showers on one such play.  

4. Highlights

Driskel’s 30-yard back-shoulder throw to Dunbar; Nose tackle Darious ‘Bear’ Cummings swallowing Taylor in the hole after knifing through UF’s interior offensive line; Latroy Pittman's diving sideline grab; Matt Jones, not giving an inch, delivering a bit of payback withstanding another blow from Neal; Joey Ivie’s strength and motor; Freshman defensive lineman Gerald Willis’ penetration and power.

5. Lowlights

Florida’s second-team offensive line (sans Trenton Brown); The Dropsies, mainly by the tailbacks during skeleton drills, but Robinson, Dunbar and others all whiffed on several receptions as well; Tough evening for the freshmen corners, namely Deiondre Porter and Jalen Tabor; Velocity is not an issue for Florida's freshmen quarterbacks. Touch? That's horse of a different color.    

6. This & That

Redshirt freshman tailback Adam Lane and freshman tight end De’Andre Goolsby exited practice with apparent injuries. Later, sixth-year senior wideout Andre Debose was seen standing on the sideline with his left knee wrapped in ice. … Meanwhile, redshirt freshman linebacker Matt Rolin (knee) and freshman tight end C’yontai Lewis (thigh bruise) worked out in the pit with the strength and conditioning staff.  … A day after practicing with the running backs, junior fullback Hunter Joyer worked with the tight ends. … Finally, Roper had the play of the day -- catching a pass while demonstrating how to properly run a route, then spiking the ball in celebration. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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