Cluing in on the Gators

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Since everyone (fans and media alike) is locked out of practice, it’s impossible  to project a complete picture about what’s going on in spring practice. But I can offer up a lot or snapshots based on interviews with Will Muschamp and players, and after attending Muschamp’s high school football clinic this past weekend.

So, here’s some of the stuff that’s going on:

* Chris Rainey appears to be a perfect fit for Charlie Weis’ offense. He’s broken off quite a few runs and has been lining up in various spots in the offense (mostly at tailback). Muschamp said Rainey really likes lining up deep in the backfield in the I-formation. All that space allows him to better use his great vision and cutting ability. He’s been THE offensive star of the spring so far.

* All three quarterbacks are adapting to the pro-style offense and doing some good things, including redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy. Many were writing Murphy off heading into the spring because he was signed by Meyer to be a spread quarterback. But, by all accounts, Murphy has a very impressive and lively passing arm to go along with his ability to scramble out of the pocket. Offensive guard Jon Halapio said Monday the quarterback who has really been coming on lately is true freshman Jeff Driskel. I saw him coming out of the tunnel before Saturday’s scrimmage, and he’s a physical specimen. As for John Brantley, several players have mentioned what a leader he has become this spring. He’s clearly more comfortable in an offense that better fits his skill set, and he’s performing with a great deal of confidence. He’s being pushed for the starting role (which is good for everybody), but he’s going to be hard to beat out.

* The young offensive linemen are excited about the chemistry that’s developing up front — and the potential of the unit. Xavier Nixon and Chaz Green are the starting tackles at the moment, while Halapio is holding down one guard spot and Jonotthan Harrision is working as the No. 1 center after recently making the move from guard. Harrison (who looks much stronger and more cut than a year ago) said he loves the center position now and has been getting some pointers from Mike Pouncey, who made the move from guard to center last season.

* Several players indicated Monday that some team leaders have started to emerge. On defense, the leaders have been end/outside linebacker Ronald Powell, tackle Sharrif Floyd and strong safety Matt Elam. The offensive leaders have been Brantley, Halapio, Nixon and Rainey. Speaking of Powell, Halapio calls him a beast. Powell, according to Halapio, is comfortable in the defense now and is no longer thinking about what to do, he’s simply reacting and playing — and making plays all over the field.

* By all accounts, true sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley has a much better attitude than last fall, and he has a chance to be a dominant player on the defensive front. Harrison said Easley is the toughest defensive lineman he’s gone against because he’s so strong and has a lightning first step. “He’s making me a better player,” Harrison said.

* I saw redshirt freshman linebacker Gideon Ajagbe before Saturday’s scrimmage, and he looks like a different person. He’s much bigger and stronger than he was in the fall. And after watching a short tape of the scrimmage, it looks like he’s making plays. His emergence would be significant, given how little depth the Gators have at linebacker.

* The wide receivers who apparently are consistently making plays are redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar, senior Deonte Thompson, sophomore Stephen Alli, junior Frankie Hammond Jr. and sophomore Solomon Patton.

* I had a chance to watch true freshman punter Kyle Christy launch a few before Saturday’s scrimmage, and he looks like the real deal (and the starting punter).

* Defensively, the Gators are aggressive and always on the attack. There are numerous blitz packages, and the Gators have been throwing them all at the offense this spring.

* Offensively, the Gators look like they’re going to be very good with play-action passes, screens on the perimeter and in the downhill running attack out of the I. Weis was limited in what he could do with the Kansas City Chiefs last year. He appears to have more components that would allow him to run an offense similar to the one he did with the Patriots.

* The players seem to really enjoy playing for this coaching staff. Some strong bonds have already developed between players and position coaches.

* A lot of energy that was missing with last year’s team has returned.

So, there you have it. We can’t give you the entire picture, but hopefully these snapshots will give you a better idea of what’s happening on the practice field.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Glad to hear about Dominque Ealey coming on strong. His emergence gives the Gators an impressive defensive tackle rotation for the fall. I am also looking forward to seeing Powell creating havoc all over the field next year. How is Chris Martin developing at DE? His quick progress might be the key to the effectiveness of entire defensive front this year. Trattou and Lemmens gave the Gators little to no pass rush from the DE postions last year. Is William Green ever going to develop at DE for the Gators?

  2. good stuff,
    how is josh shaw comeing along? he could have a BIG year oppisite JJ. how dose g.christianson look at OLB? and m.taylor at MLB? also whatever happened to dee finley? he was rated as our 1st and 2nd player in 2 consecitive recruiting classes!

  3. NFL players make mistakes too…Weis has coached both…we’ll be fine. I’m glad to hear a lot of positive news coming from Spring…I expect as much…there is plenty of talent at UF…I expect 9 wins this year but there could be more. Excited for th O&B Game…Go Gators!

  4. I agree with college football fan. Pouncy made the switch, overcame extreme adversity under intense scrutiny while playing for the best program in America and is going to be a first round draft pick like his brother. I wouldn’t want advice from him either.

  5. I believe getting advice from Mike to be very valuable. Even if he made mistakes early on, he learned from them and improved. He also had the advice of his brother so in my opinion, he is a wealth of information to be tapped. GO GATORS

  6. I think DENNIS said it best… ‘Chemistry with a game plan”. These kids simply were not led or coordinated well last season. New coaches, new faces, new vitality, it seems to be sending a new energy though the program players. Btw, I know there has been talk abou the Ol struggling some this spring,especially in the run game, but it is a lot harder to learn to run-block than pass-block. Defenses usually dominate springs anyway and so far, everything looks to be normal. Glad to hear Brantley is really stepping up now that he’s being given a chance to enlist his real skill-set in the appropriate offensive style.

  7. JJGator, Pouncey blasted a snap into the backfield in the Outback Bowl 13 games into the season! He also whiffed on three blocks that allowed a sack and two other QB pressures in that game. I am questioning Pouncey’s ability, but his position coaching was just abysmal last year. On that note, Pouncey offering advice to Harris is fine. It’s not like Pouncey doesn;t know ‘WHAT TO DO”, for him, it was a matter of not having the actually particular skill-set for C.

  8. Great pump up article! I’m glad everyone is seeing the positives with losing Meyer. I’m really looking forward to fall practice and getting all of our RB’s on the field so we can really get a grasp on our backfield. Mack Brown is going to be a beast if we can keep him healthy. I’m with Brian and 60sdcgator on the Chris Dunkley question. Where is he??? Also, any more news on Andre? a.k.a Percey JR. haha just kidding.

  9. I believe the gators will do well this year, if all is actually the way its being reported to us. As much as gatornation loves urban myer and the unrival heights that he elevated this program to, I just think that the pressure of winning to maintain the status qou, took the fun out of the game for a lot of the players last year. Im really liking what im hearing about the comradorie between the players and the coach’s. Im cheering for the blue team in the O&B game.

  10. Based upon what I’m reading here, the Gators may be the surprise team/ most improved team of the SEC this season.
    There seems to be a big upside with this team and the coaching staff.
    If we can get the O- Line in shape, good things can happen.
    And it might not be too far fetched to be thinking about competing for the SEC East championship this season.
    Next year we should be in solid contention with the new commitments coming on board.

  11. Rainey reminds me of Oklahoma-NFL star, Billy Sims. Hope he runs wild (only on the field tho).

    Why isn’t Robey at center? Seems Rainey or Demps could be similar to
    Percy Harvin, as one slight defensive error & they’re long gone.

  12. GO GATORS!
    I HAVE GUARDED OPTIMISM.
    HOPING FOR THE BEST, BUT PREPARED TO ACCEPT 8-5.
    SEROUS DEPTH PROBLEM AT OL & DL IS BIG RED FLAG.
    GOING WHOLE YEAR WITHOUT INJURIES AT OL & DL IS NOT LIKELY.
    IF YOU DO NOT WIN LINE PLAY IT IS VERY HARD TO WIN GAMES.

    LSU, FSU , SO CAR & GA WILL THROW VERY GOOD RUNNING GAME AT US.

    WHAT I HOPE TO SEE IS WELL COACHED, HIGH EFFORT TEAM.
    MINIMAL MISSED ASSIGNMENTS, MINIMAL PENALTIES, PLAYING WITH ALL OUT EFFORT.

  13. It’s nice to hear good things but, of course, it’s spring. We heard a lot of positive talk this time last year as well; I remember some very upbeat stories about the 2010 team’s chemistry, and we know how that turned out. This team has a lot to prove, whether it’s the O-line, the receivers, Brantley, the linebackers, the defensive ends, the corner opposite Janoris Jenkins, coaching staff, safeties… It goes on and on with this team. That said, I too share the guarded optimism that Gator Buck noted. Perhaps that’s natural in the spring — even Cub fans are optimistic now, right? It”s going to be fascinating to see how this unfolds. Can’t wait for September!

  14. I guess I’m pretty nieve about this season, I’m thinking a trip to ATL. and maybe a shot at the big prize because we are a 1(one) lost team. I really believe if Charlie gets that OFFENSE on track by game 3, we are on our way to big things. Just saying!! GO GATORS!!!

  15. As indicated by the injury bug I still don’t see how we can have too many offensive or defensive linemen, OR running backs on the roster, If we really do have left over scholarships what would be wrong with what could initially be seen as overloading at these positions? Are we really on to walkons for running backs? How ’bout if we have 3 power backs and 3 scatbacks at all times. Seems that that would be a good balance and not leave us undermanned. And, how good are the walkons…can you clue us in on who they are and what they offer?! Thanks much!!

  16. Even when John Brantley had time to throw, too often he overthrew short to intermediate passes, and underthrew the long ones. He is not an accurate passer. He could not play for an SOS team.
    I predict he will be replaced at some point during this season.
    ————
    IGTBAG!
    Ciao
    PS: Our schedule is BRUTAL. I’ll be satisfied (relieved even) if we can go 8-4.

  17. Brantley will keep “his” 2011 gators in position to lose in 6-8 games this
    season. By the sec spring games Brantley performed worse than all other sec
    teams’ 2nd string qb’s….including our own.

  18. There was a lot of injuries that affected performance at the spring game. All you negagators better keep your mouth shut when Johnny is in the hunt for the Heisman this year. No I told you so’s, no I said it all along, no just like I knew would happen, either. If you don’t support them now, don’t start when we beat the Vols and spank Bama. You blow hard know it all’s make me want to spit in your faces. Support your team for once, instead of tearing them down. Where did you coach at? How many hundreds of thousands of dollars are you being paid by the AAU? Shut up and get behind your team, you bunch of whiners.

  19. There is zero evidence that Brantley will be any more precise or effective in actual gameplay. Zero run-scramble cautions for opposing defenses makes opposing defensing oh so simple & sure shutdown. How can Brantley be an elite athlete yet can’t adlib to stress & stretch a defense. I don’t see how our new QBs won’t be able to put up a more potent offense than Brantley. New guys will improve exponentially. Speed kills… Note what a QB like Tebow,
    Cam Newton can do….national championships!!! or one loss only…could we
    settle for 10-2 season? With Brantley halfway thru gators will have 3 losses.