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With the second day of 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 Friday's two hour practice in your opinion:
Alderman: In only shorts and helmets it's hard to really grasp a big moment with not a lot of contact. However, sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison had a play where he slung fellow sophomore tight end Kent Taylor to the ground at the end of a play. Head Coach Will Muschamp tore into Morrison on the sidelines for what had to be considered an over-the-top act of aggression in what was a non, or at least limited, contact practice for all intents and purposes.
Lopez: The play that got the biggest response from the crowd was a leaping catch by Andre Debose down the right sideline toward the end of practice. Debose was well covered by the defender, but was able to jump up and grab a 20-yard pass from Jeff Driskel right in front of all the fans. It might have been Driskel's longest throw of the day.
Richie: There are not usually many "big moments" in a team's second spring practice when the players are only in shorts and helmets, but a few things do stand out of the ordinary. One moment of frustration and aggressiveness was shown by sophomore linebacker Morrison when he slung sophomore tight end Taylor to the ground after a 7v7 drill. This moment drew the ire of Muschamp, who blew up on Morrison following the play after the whistle. While the aggressiveness is something Muschamp is certainly looking for from his players, the extra-curricular activity is something he is looking to cut down on from a team that was the most penalized in the SEC last season. Other moments that drew applause from the crowd were a few nice one-handed interceptions from sophomore defensive back Cody Riggs along the sidelines in position drills, as well as a deep hookup from Driskel to Debose during 7v7.
In your opinion, who was the most impressive player on offense?
Alderman: The offensive player who really stood out on Wednesday is newly converted defensive back Louchiez Purifoy. After Wednesday's first spring practice, Inside the Gators was told from a source that Purifoy struggled catching the ball. That however wasn't the case on Friday. Purifoy showed speed and the ability to catch the ball across the middle of the field. Though he may only play the receiver position in certain situations this fall, he provided a spark on offense that was absent last season.
Lopez: It was tough to see the offense for most of practice because they were on the far field. However, I got to see the passing drills and freshman wide-out Demarcus Robinson was pretty impressive. He's got good size and speed and he consistently reeled in the catchable balls; unfortunately the quarterbacks overthrew their receivers more than a few times during offensive drills. The Peach State product even saw some reps with the first team offense during 11 vs. 11 and caught a short pass on the right side of the formation from Driskel. He also snagged a ball from back up quarterback Tyler Murphy - in one of the few times Murphy looked good on the day.
Richie: All in all, the offense looked pretty abysmal on the day. It is also important, however, to remember this is very early in spring practice and defense usually tends to come together before offense. The brightest spot may have just come from junior Purifoy, who is learning the receiver position to give the Gators options in addition to his services as a defensive back. Purifoy showed good burst off the line in positional drills and flashed good agility and ability to catch the ball in 11v11 drills. He spent much of the day being coached up between drills by Muschamp and new receivers' coach Joker Phillips, and seems to be making a fluid switch to offense. His football instincts look to be the spark the Gators might just be missing on the offensive end.
In your opinion, who was the most impressive player on defense?
Alderman: After losing both starting safeties from last season's 11-2 team, there is some legitimate concern about the position heading into 2013. Though this is just one practice, going by what we saw today, it appears as though Florida has players who are capable of stepping up and filling the void. Junior safety Jabari Gorman stood out, grabbing two interceptions on the day, one at the expense of starting quarterback Driskel.
Lopez: Sophomore defensive back Brian Poole was very impressive throughout the entire practice. Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson complemented Poole after almost every rep during cornerback position drills. Coach T-Rob gave Poole some advice after he slipped up in a coverage drill; on the next rep the defensive back apparently made the proper adjustments and garnered even more praise from his coach. The 5-foot-10, 203-pounder saw time at both safety and corner during 11 vs. 11 where he deflected a Driskel pass over the middle.
Richie: The entire defensive secondary played very well today, as expected. The Gators look to have solid depth despite Purifoy practicing on offense. The most impressive plays were made by junior Gorman, who had two interceptions and ran well in positional drills. Senior cornerback Jaylen Watkins flashed good coverage skills, as did Cody Riggs.
In your opinion, who was the most disappointing player on offense?
Alderman: The Gators signed one of the top rated offensive line classes in the nation in 2013, with the jewel being former Rivals100 member Tyler Moore, a transfer from Nebraska. Though he came in with plenty of accolades, he struggled for most of the day Friday. Dante Fowler Jr. in particular gave him fits. Still, he wasn't alone as far as linemen struggling. Max Garcia and D.J. Humphries had their issues as well while trying to match up against the UF defensive linemen.
Lopez: I'm going to go with a whole unit here rather than one player because the entire offensive line had a rough day. During 11 vs. 11 the quarterbacks felt pressure on nearly every rep. Nebraska transfer Moore was blown up by Fowler Jr., Garcia was destroyed by Dominique Easley, and even Humphries had some struggles. It is obviously early, but the offensive line needs to make some serious improvements.
Richie: This notorious award probably goes to the offensive line as a whole today. With added depth and talent along a line that has been depleted in years past, Muschamp and offensive coordinator Pease is looking for much more growth from the line this season. It was not shown today. Transfers Garcia (Maryland) and Moore (Nebraska) struggled mightily with the pass rush of defensive lineman like sophomore Jonathan Bullard and senior Easley. Driskel threw under duress during much of the scrimmage, and backup quarterback Murphy would have been sacked more than once if not for the red jersey quarterbacks wear. The unit as a whole needs to show more tomorrow and in the weeks moving forward if the Gators hope to improve on their bottom-of-the-barrel passing statistics last season.
In your opinion, who was the most disappointing player on defense?
Alderman: For the most part the defense played well on the day, making this a hard designation to pinpoint. Since we have to pick one, I will go with freshman linebacker Daniel McMillian. He really looked as if his mind was swimming out there, which can be expected with him really being just a high school senior. There were several points in the linebacker drills that McMillian had to be taken out to receive more coaching from linebackers coach D.J. Durkin. That is exactly what spring is for when it comes to early entry sigees - a time to learn.
Lopez: He's only a freshman, and it was only his second collegiate football practice, but McMillian did not have a good day. The Jacksonville product looked good early on when he snagged an interception off back up quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, but he looked confused later in practice. During 7-on-7 drills new Gators defensive coordinator Durkin told McMillian to get off the field multiple times after some of misreads. I would not take too much from the freshman's play on Friday afternoon though; like I said it is only his second college practice and it was in front of a large crowd. Give him sometime to learn the playbook. The kid's got skills and seemed to be one of the most college ready players in the Gators 2013 recruiting class.
Richie: It is still very early, but early enrollee freshman linebacker McMillian had a rough time today. In a fast-paced practice, McMillian seemed to have a hard time grasping his responsibilities and assignments, and had to be taken off the field a few times for "coaching" from Muschamp and Durkin. He also struggled with coverage, getting beaten by junior tight end Clay Burton on one play in 7v7 drills. He has plenty of time to improve, but McMillian struggled today in his second practice in a Gators uniform.
This & That
Alderman: Another player on the offensive side of the ball that was a pleasant surprise on Friday was senior wide out Andre Debose. After doing little to nothing last season, Debose was more involved on Friday. The senior had a nice grab against sophomore Poole. Though he seemed to have his head more in the game than he did at times last year, he still looks as if he needs to work on his routes a bit more. ? The defensive backs as a group were the biggest highlight during Friday's practice. Just about every defensive back was solid at worst, and impressive at best. Despite what the Gators lost back there, this looks to be one of the stronger units on the team. Poole, Watkins, Riggs, Marcus Roberson and Jeremy Brown were some of the biggest standouts on the day.
Lopez: As usual Muschamp spent the majority of time during position drills coaching the defensive backs, specifically the safeties. Safety is a position of question for the Gators in 2013. Other than Riggs, none of the other current safeties (Gorman, Valdez Showers, and Marcus Maye) have seen much game time at the position. ? Other than linebacker Matt Rolin who is limited as he recovers from a knee injury, most of the 2013 early enrollees saw a good amount of reps today. As said earlier, Robinson got some reps with the starters, and linebackers Alex Anzalone and McMillian saw some reps during 7-on-7's and 11 vs. 11. Moore, who had a rough day, also saw a lot of time at right tackle. ? 2013 signees Caleb Brantley, Jarrad Davis, and Trenton Brown were also in town for the practice. Brantley's thoughts on what he saw: "Practice was good today. I thought they had a certain problem with intensity, but every thing else looked good. I'm too excited to get here in the summer. It was hard sitting here at practice today not being able to get out there and do it with them. I tried not to bother the coaches today but I tried to learn as much as I could from them."
Richie: Freshman wide receiver Robinson worked with a few others in returning punts and muffed more than one punt before being yelled at by Phillips to jump on the ball after dropping it. In positional drills he showed good speed and route running. ? Easley did not see as many reps as the younger players, but spent much of his time explaining things like shedding blockers to the freshmen. ? Tight ends did sprints after practice, although it was not clear why. ? Sophomore defensive lineman Fowler Jr. was a standout, he looked great in 11v11 drills, getting solid pressure on quarterbacks Murphy and Driskel. ? Redshirt junior Ronald Powell jogged around a bit during warm-ups but did not participate in any light contact drills.