Practice report: Grier shows off arm strength


Florida freshman quarterback Will Grier prepares for a handoff during practice at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 5:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 5:27 p.m.

QUARTERBACK UPDATE: Saturday was Florida's final open practice of fall training camp, and the Gators only went for an hour in shorts. However, true freshman quarterbacks Will Grier and Treon Harris were still able to showcase their abilities in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. Starter Jeff Driskel was inaccurate with some of his throws, but he didn't play much near the end of practice when the real work took place. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper gave Grier and Harris a lot of snaps, and they didn't disappoint. Grier had more highlights on the day, launching a couple of bombs that gained lots of yardage. He looks to have the best deep ball among the quarterbacks. Harris closed out his impressive week of practice with another solid outing Saturday. He threw a few first-down passes and looked comfortable running Roper's system. He tends to hold the ball too long at times, but is smooth in the pocket and dangerous when he decides to run. The No. 2 quarterback job will likely go to Grier or Harris based on how the reps have been allocated recently, although Skyler Mornhinweg had a well-thrown ball on a corner route late in practice.

TRENDING ON OFFENSE: Saturday didn't feature many running plays for the tailbacks, but Mark Herndon and Brandon Powell both had long runs. One interesting formation the Gators showed had Powell, Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor all lined up in the backfield and running routes. It's clear Roper will involve his backs in the passing game. Florida's top four receivers at this point appear to be Quinton Dunbar, Ahmad Fulwood, Latroy Pittman and Demarcus Robinson, who had a couple of nice receptions Saturday. Freshmen Alvin Bailey and C.J. Worton have both made strong cases for playing time. Bailey has great hands and is elusive after the catch, while Worton has a knack for getting open. Transfer Jake McGee continues to separate himself from the other tight ends on the roster. He has the body control to snag almost any pass and also possesses the physicality to overpower linebackers and safeties.

TRENDING ON DEFENSE: In a day that wasn't meant for linemen to shine, redshirt sophomore defensive end Alex McCalister still stood out. He made his way into the backfield a few times and generated pressure. At linebacker, Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian both had interceptions. Michael Taylor also looked good in coverage, although he got away with holding on one of his pass breakups. But no one had more deflections than cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Back at full strength without a non-contact jersey on, the star sophomore was in lock-down mode throughout practice and denied almost everything thrown his way. True freshman corners J.C. Jackson and Jalen Tabor also did well consistently covering their receivers, something they've struggled with earlier in camp. Senior safety Jabari Gorman ran with the first-team defense and looks to be the leading candidate to start opposite Keanu Neal. Duke Dawson also saw time at safety with the starters.

TRUE FRESHMAN SPOTLIGHT: UF coach Will Muschamp said Friday that redshirting wide receivers their first year is ideal, but he may have a hard time keeping Worton off the field. He's a superb route-runner and regularly gets behind the defense on deep patterns. His hands have been suspect at times in camp, but he didn't drop anything Saturday and scored on the play of the day.

PLAY OF THE DAY: In 11-on-11 work, the offense was at its own 40 with Grier at quarterback. He dropped back and was under duress after a couple of seconds. Grier stepped to his left as the pocket collapsed and then tossed a pass that sailed more than 50 yards through the air. The ball landed perfectly in Worton's hands inside the 10-yard line, and he ran it in for the touchdown.

INJURY UPDATE: Every one of Florida's running backs practiced Saturday for the first time this week, and all of them looked to be at full speed. ... Starting left guard Trip Thurman (shoulder) returned to action. ... Hargreaves and Jackson are no longer in non-contact jerseys.

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