Riggs gets rough at open spring practice
Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 8:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 11:12 p.m.
The Florida football team put on their pads for the first time Saturday, which was the second of two open practices to the media and public.
There wasn't much full-contact work that took place, but some players were popped hard enough to draw a reaction from the crowd of just under 300 fans.
UF cornerback Cody Riggs was involved in the two biggest hits of the day. One play went his way, the other didn't.
In the pass skeleton drill, which matches the quarterback and five eligible receivers (running backs, wideouts and tight ends) against linebackers and defensive backs, Riggs rocked tight end Kent Taylor and lifted him off his feet. But later in practice, during 11-on-11 work, Riggs was run over by starting running back Matt Jones on an option.
Here are some more observations from Saturday:
*Jones was the most impressive offensive player of the day. He caught every pass thrown his way, unlike Friday when he had a drop. He was even better carrying the ball, especially on outside runs and in open space.
*As good as Jones played, don't hand him the reins from Mike Gillislee just yet. Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor looked strong in their own right, with both backs making marvelous moves in the hole. Although Jones has three inches and more than 10 pounds on Brown and Taylor, they appear to be better runners between the tackles. It's going to be a competitive race this spring and in fall camp for the starting job.
*Gideon Ajagbe, who moved from linebacker to fullback this spring, has a considerable edge in the battle for the backup role behind starter Hunter Joyer. He showed the ability to block and catch on numerous plays in Saturday's practice. At 5-foot-9, 207 pounds, former safety Rhaheim Ledbetter doesn't have the size or strength to pose much of a threat to the 6-foot-3, 243-pound Ajagbe. Ledbetter didn't help his cause when he fumbled following a vicious hit from freshman linebacker Daniel McMillian.
*Quarterback Jeff Driskel wasn't quite as sharp as he was Friday, but his poise and presence never seemed to be shaken. At one point in practice, he badly overthrew Latroy Pittman on a fade route and his pass sailed out of bounds. But Driskel rebounded on the next play with a nice sideline throw to Loucheiz Purifoy on the opposite side for about 15 yards. The best pitch-and-catch of the day was a back-shoulder throw by Driskel to Trey Burton, who leaped high and fully extended his arms to come down with the reception.
*Tyler Murphy made more quick passes, something he wasn't doing Friday. Skyler Mornhinweg has to improve his accuracy and mechanics. His unconventional delivery once again resulted in several bad throws, including some that hit the dirt.
*Much like the first open practice, the wide receivers performed well while the tight ends were unimpressive and rarely targeted. Quinton Dunbar led the pack and should be Driskel's go-to guy this year. Although it's early, Purifoy is Florida's best playmaker given his elusiveness and sure hands. If he keeps it up and gains an understanding of the receiver position and offense, there's no way he doesn't play both ways in the fall. The positive signs Andre Debose and Pittman showed Friday carried over into Saturday, which is an important note. In 2012, the UF coaches said both players lacked consistency in practice. Dynamic freshman Demarcus Robinson got reps as the punt returner and the reverse option in the wildcat, a formation the Gators spent about 10 minutes on.
*Florida's offensive line looked much better than it did Friday. Other than Dominique Easley, who was unblockable at defensive tackle, the guards and centers were able to contain the interior defensive linemen. However, sophomore defensive ends Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr. dominated the edge. Right tackle Tyler Moore didn't get beat as much as D.J. Humphries, who got an earful from offensive line coach Tim Davis throughout practice.
*Starting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison had another stellar outing, breaking up a pass in coverage and thumping a few players in tackling drills. His backup, freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone, left practice with an apparent right shoulder injury and did not return. Strongside linebacker Neiron Ball, who also plays the Buck position, did some defensive line drills and received a lot of one-on-one coaching from Brad Lawing.
*Saturday's standouts in the secondary were Brian Poole, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins, who practiced despite dislocating his finger Friday. All three defensive backs blanketed their receivers and forced the quarterbacks into several check-downs.