Spring football tracker: Defense focuses on fundamentals
Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 4:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 24, 2014 at 12:26 a.m.
QB UPDATE: Jeff Driskel had another solid practice working exclusively with the first-team offense. He was on target throwing the ball downfield and showed the ability to complete passes rolling out of the pocket, something the quarterbacks spent quite a bit of time working on Saturday. One of Driskel's best passes came late in practice, when he threw a strike to Demarcus Robinson over the deep middle. Driskel, still in the early process of learning the new offense, also had some shaky moments, right along with the other quarterbacks. He telegraphed a pass during seven-on-seven and would have thrown a pick six had true freshman cornerback Jalen Tabor not dropped the ball. Behind Driskel, sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg appeared to move ahead of true freshman Will Grier into the No. 2 spot, at least for the day. He was the first one in after Driskel took his reps in drills. Mornhinweg seems to be making good decisions with where to go with the ball, and his passes seem to have much more zip than they did last fall. His experience over Grier, it appears, is becoming a factor. Grier had another solid day. Once again, he was at his best throwing the ball on the short and intermediate routes. Although Driskel, Mornhinweg and Grier are the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, there are four walk-ons at the position who are not getting much in the way of reps. Of the four, Jacob Guy seems to be the most natural passer.
TRENDING ON OFFENSE: Redshirt freshman Adam Lane continues to impress at tailback with his ability to make sharp cuts and run through tacklers. With Matt Jones sidelined for the spring, Lane appears to be making the most out of the reps he's getting behind Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor. … The Gators' top wide receivers through three practices have been Robinson, Quinton Dunbar, Ahmad Fulwood, Chris Thompson and Latroy Pittman. For the second day in a row, Thompson made a big catch for a touchdown and caught numerous balls. He's emerging as a potential go-to guy, along with Dunbar and Fulwood. Thompson has been UF's most consistent deep threat. Robinson, suspended from three games as a true freshman last season, is consistently making plays. … Tevin Westbrook caught several passes Saturday and appears in a dead heat (or maybe even slightly leading) for the starting role at tight end with Clay Burton. Westbrook has shown good hands and is a big target. … Taylor had a nice touchdown run up the middle early in practice going against the defensive front seven. He burst through a huge hole. … Valdez Showers is being used mainly as a slot receiver after playing some tailback last season. He has rarely (if at all) lined up at running back so far. … Fullback Hunter Joyer continues to be used as a receiver down the field. He caught another pass on a seam route Saturday and appears to have good hands.
TRENDING ON DEFENSE: While the offense is learning an entirely new playbook this spring, the defense is running basically the same one the Gators have had since Muschamp arrived in 2011. That means the Gators are stressing fundamentals more than anything else on defense this spring. … Tabor continues to impress. Despite getting off to a shaky start Saturday (he was run over during a tackling drill and got beat by a walk-on wide receiver in seven-on-seven), he rebounded to finish strong. He nearly had a pick six on a pass thrown by Driskel, but after making a great break on the ball, he dropped it. Tabor also broke loose on an impressive punt return and showed the ability to shed blocks during full-contact drills. He's clearly pushing Brian Poole hard for the starting role at corner. Even if he doesn't win the job, it's obvious Tabor is going to be a major contributor on defense and on special teams in the fall. … Sophomore safety Marcus Maye had a good day. He was physical during contact drills and also intercepted a pass. … Like Maye, redshirt freshman Marcell Harris is showing that he's a physical safety with good instincts. He had some big hits Saturday and also broke up a pass for the second day in a row. He appears to be pushing for serious playing time. … With the Gators thin at defensive tackle this spring, former starting defensive end Jonathan Bullard continues to practice full time at tackle. … For the second consecutive practice, Kyle Christy boomed some punts. He appears to have pulled himself out of the slump he fell into last season, a slump that cost him his starting job.
TRUE FRESHMAN SPOTLIGHT: Tight end DeAndre Goolsby is getting reps lining up with the third-team offense. It appears he has to make up a lot of ground on Burton and Westbrook in the next few weeks if he's going to have a chance to get into the playing rotation in the fall. He's shown good hands and speed, but he appears thin, despite being listed at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds.
PLAY OF THE DAY: Thompson, a true sophomore wide receiver, made a great adjustment on a deep ball thrown by Driskel and made the catch over cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III for a touchdown during seven-on-seven.
INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker Neiron Ball, who banged up his knee in the first practice Wednesday, missed his second straight practice and is day-to-day. … Fullback Gideon Ajagbe (hamstring) did not practice, but could return Monday. … Safety Keanu Neal (hamstring) missed his second consecutive practice and is day-to-day. … Starting defensive tackle Leon Orr was dressed in full pads and did some running Saturday, but he is out for the spring after undergoing wrist surgery in the offseason.
NEXT OPEN PRACTICE: Monday TBA (probably around 4 p.m.), at the Sanders Practice Fields.