Wide receivers among those who stand out at Florida’s football practice

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Florida Gators receiver Trevon Grimes. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Florida held its third open practice of the spring Saturday, energetically going at it in full pads for a little more than two-and-a-half hours. Here are some observations:

One of the most noticeable things was the overall play of the wide receivers. It appears they are receiving much better coaching than they did the past seasons, based on their performance Saturday.

The receivers were running precise routes, getting some separation from the defensive backs and making catches, including some difficult ones where players had to lay out for the ball.

Transfers Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes had another good day, with both catching deep balls, Jefferson on a diving reception for one. Jefferson’s route running appeared close to flawless. Several times, he made quick, sudden moves that created separation and led to big pass plays.

Josh Hammond, Freddie Swain, Kadarius Toney and Rick Wells also had multiple receptions during seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills. Toney and Hammond were especially effective working the middle of the field.

Tight ends C’yontai Lewis, Moral Stephens and Kemore Gamble were also much involved in the passing game. Lewis and Gamble each caught several balls down the sideline well down the field. The coaches have said TE is going to be a featured position in the offense, and that showed up Saturday.

UF coach Dan Mullen has been stressing how important accuracy is for his quarterbacks, saying it’s one of the things he’s looking for the most in a quarterback.

On Saturday, the most accurate passer appeared to be redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask, who was on target for most of the day. He completed several passes through some small windows, an indication how much he trusts his arm.

Not far behind Trask was Feleipe Franks, whose accuracy was spot-on for much of the practice. He did some other encouraging things, including going through his progressions to find open receivers several times. This is an area where he was clearly lacking last season. It appears Mullen’s coaching is already starting to sink in.

Almost predictably, true freshman quarterback Emory Jones struggled with his accuracy, throwing wild high on several occasions. A couple of other times, he threw the ball too hard on short routes that receivers had a hard time securing.

Here’s something you don’t see very often: wide receivers hitting a blocking sled. But that may happen quite often on the UF practice field, where wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales has made blocking a priority. He said earlier this week that if a wide receiver can’t block, he can’t play. The receivers went at it hard early in the practice, pushing and guiding the one-man blocking sled from sideline to sideline.

Sophomore cornerback CJ Henderson got an unfortunate draw during one-on-one passing drills, getting Jefferson almost every single time. And Jefferson beat Henderson several times, including on a deep ball from Franks. Jefferson also beat the other starting cornerback, Marco Wilson.

True freshman Dameon Pierce appears to be making a strong push for significant playing time at running back. He had another impressive day that was highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown run during 11-on-11. Pierce bursted through a small hole on the right side of the line and outran the secondary to the end zone.

During an edge rushing/blocking drill, Lewis fended off middle linebacker David Reese and tight end R.J. Raymond did the same to outside linebacker Vosean Joseph. But another linebacker, Kylan Johnson, blew around the edge untouched for what would have been a sack.

Florida’s starters at cornerback and linebacker appear to be good, but depth at both spots is still a concern. The good news Saturday, at least at LB, is that redshirt freshman Nick Smith and sophomore Ventrell Miller, who was suspended last season, each had a big hit and made other plays during 11-on-11. Both appear quick and athletic, with the ability to deliver a big blow.

Sophomore cornerback C.J. McWilliams made a nice break-up on a deep pass intended for Grimes during seven-on-seven.

Franks made one glaring mistake during 11-on-11, giving up a pick-six to Wilson attempting to throw into double coverage in the shallow flat.

The Gators opened practice with some special team drills in which Mullen was very involved. He’s putting an emphasis on special teams.

Toney snatched a pass away from Miller during 11-on-11. What looked like an easy interception turned into a good gain for the offense thanks to Toney’s play.

Danny Weldon, a sophomore walk-on athlete from Tampa, stood out on special teams with his toughness and physical play. He made it hard on some scholarship players who were trying to block him. Mullen would call it relentless effort.

39 COMMENTS

  1. I was at the practice. From what I witnessed, Franks has not progressed very much from last season. He is still seeing and staying focused on one receiver (ie the pick six by Wilson) most of the time, and he takes too long to set up and get rid of the ball. Trask is simply a better QB right now, and that is not a good thing. The QB situation is still very, very troublesome. And the offensive line play today was just horrible. They simply cannot pass protect at all. But, as the article states, the receiving corp is going to be outstanding if Jefferson and Grimes get their waivers to play this year. But who gets them the ball? And who can protect the person trying to get them the ball? Big issues right now for this team.

    • I agree…Mullen has a serious rebuild job on his hands. I hope we don’t run him (and his wife) out of town prematurely. He’s a great coach but I seriously think he’ll need 4-5 years to get us back where we belong. Unfortunately, the nut jobs in the fan base will give him no more than 2-3 years.

      • 4-5 years? no way. If he can start getting good recruits now, which he did in his first year, shorthanded, without much time, and the coaching is as spot on as we think, why 5 years? 2-3 years is what I am expecting, and there is no reason to think otherwise, based on other successful coaches here.

        • A A Ron. Big “if” on the recruiting front. Miami and FSU are both likely to yet again out-recruit us with in-state players. Taggart is expected to haul in a top 5 class (currently has the attention of one of the top 2019 QBs), and Miami is already ranked Top 3. We’re somewhere in the teens for the moment. Truth is, both Miami and FSU are more appealing simply to recruits because each offers a high profile program with an easier path to the playoffs. No way we make any serious run in the SEC conference anytime soon with the way UGA and Bama have set themselves up. As it stands, the recruits know that, at best, we’ll be playing third or fourth place in the SEC for at least the next 2-3 years. And that isn’t even a guarantee given what’s going on in S. Carolina, UT, and Auburn.

          While good coaching may close the above gap, it’s no guarantee that Mullen and company will outperform the staffs of the aforementioned teams. While I think eventually he will, I don’t see it happening in the next 2-3 years. 4-5 years is more like it. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s unfortunately how I see things shaking out. The other unknown factor is Mullen’s wife, who I’m sure is holding her breath and angst ridden given her past experiences with our fan base and unhinged expectations. Hopefully she’ll have more pleasant experiences shopping in G’ville this time around.

          Go Gators!!!

          • Always sour grapes from you. All you do is complain, complain!
            BTW, what has Miami won in the past 10-12 years? More appealing?
            Really? Miami’s fan basis is horrible and has been for a very, very long time. What kind of facilities do they have? LOL Maybe you should become an FSU or Miami fan…..

          • Dude, ALL of the recruiting ranking right now don’t mean shit. It’s just too early. 90% of the kids committed this early are 3*.

          • Let’s not forget that our new defensive coordinator turned the MSU defense around in just two years. A good coach can take 3-star players and make them perform like 4-star players, and can take 4-star players and make them perform like 5-star players. We should be much better on our special teams this year (overall), which in close games can make all the difference between a “W” and an “L”. I was at the LSU game last year which was so disappointing that we could not put them away.

          • Not sure where you get either of those schools are out recruiting us. FSU just had an underwhelming turnout for their Jr Day event and we’ve had more top 100 players on campus since camp started than both those schools put together. The buzz in recruiting is UF right now.

          • Scotty. Twitter-verse is reporting the opposite — FSU rocked junior day and is bringing in large numbers of top talent. We shouldn’t underestimate our rivals’ ability to recruit, particularly when we’ve brought up the rear for years when it comes to talent. I’m with GatorG on this one.

          • TampaGator, with all due respect, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I have a chemistry degree from UF and live in the northeast. I love my alma mater deeply. I do not have a “fake ID” (G is my first initial) and do not recognize any of the names you list (although I do recall seeing bf’s obnoxious posts on the basketball forum the other day). I truly want our team to succeed, just think it’s going to take a little longer to get there. Sorry if that somehow offends the Gator brethren. If I’m wrong with my opinions, please persuade me…I’m all ears.

    • Wow Robbie, not even a mention of Allen. Guess he should have transferred if even the press is ignoring him, a top ranked recruit of last year.
      Trask won the competition last year at the spring game but the coach and press spoke only propaganda how Franks did as it was clear he was anointed. The only apples to apples comparison was the 1 series trask was allowed to run the 1st team offense against the 2nd team defense which franks had been doing all game and Trask drove right down and scored, the coach never let him do it again because it destroyed his narrative. franks hadnt been able to do that all game. franks never had to run the 2nd team offense against the 1st team defense as Trask had to all the game. Trask should have been our QB last year.

      • daz. Trask was clearly the better QB yesterday. Made better decisions. Threw the ball with more accuracy. Ran with it better. But the OL is the problem right now. They are having major issues blocking on pass play calls. Havesty finally just started yelling at them. The QBs had no chance to set up in the pocket during practice. It was really bad all day. Havesty has his work cut out of him with this OL.

      • It was never a talent issue with Trask, it was a leadership issue. Franks is just more alpha and the team seems to respond better when he is the guy. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with Trask not being the top guy in HS.

    • Tampa, what are they like 5 practices in? My god, give them a chance to learn the new playbook before criticizing. Don’t expect these guys to be flying on all cylinders at the orange and blue game either. You’re not going to see a whole lot of progression until summer camp or right before the season starts. Expecting to see a big change this early is basically expecting miracles. I can already see it coming. The fans are going to be all over Mullen in no time. Ridiculous!

  2. Thought Trask was a better option last year till he got hurt. Still no where near sold on Frank’s. Jake Allen still getting dished, oh well. If OL doesn’t get it’s act together it won’t matter who’s at QB. Sure hope NCAA rules Gators favor. Wow, great WR play. The D will be very good this year. Can’t wait till the O&B game.

    • TampaGator, with all due respect, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I have a chemistry degree from UF and live in the northeast. I love my alma mater deeply. I do not have a “fake ID” (G is my first initial) and do not recognize any of the names you list (although I do recall seeing bf’s obnoxious posts on the basketball forum the other day). I truly want our team to succeed, just think it’s going to take a little longer to get there. Sorry if that somehow offends the Gator brethren. If I’m wrong with my opinions, please persuade me…I’m all ears.

    • Scott. They held a kicking drill at the end of practice when the team lined up around the kickers and were screaming and yelling in their faces as they attempted kicks. I would say the kickers missed over half of their attempts at FGs during that practice ending session. Fingers crossed with the freshman kicker recruit coming in. He is badly needed.

  3. I too thought Trask would be the guy after the O&B game, as it was made public that he had the tougher job running 2’s vs 1’s. Franks had his shot all year and topped it off by being fsu’s MVP in that debacle of a game – gift-wrapped them 4 touchdowns – 28 of their 38 points. Unless he’s gone thru a complete metamorphosis, he just can’t think at game speed. The O-line didn’t help either. Or McFail and Nussy’s lousy coaching. The encouraging report on the WRs and TEs prove how bad the coaching has been.
    Clean slate this spring, but please give the best QB the reigns and the reps. And I’d like to hear about Allen. How did he do?

  4. I’ll take all the personal attacks and questioning of my legitimacy (whatever that means) as confirmation of my concerns. Frankly, it looks like I struck some raw nerves.

    Just know that I’m not going anywhere and will continue to speak my mind — no matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel.

    Go Gators!

      • TampaGator. You don’t get to decide what is true or not. I have legitimate concerns about where the program is and how long it will take for us to get back on top. Neither you nor any other Nervous Nelly on these boards has properly addressed much less rebutted my concerns. Your categorical labeling of my points as “lies and manipulation” is weak and non-responsive. Grow up.

        Also, I have no idea who Mike Winter is, so please do me the courtesy of not responding to my posts. I’ll do the same in return.

        • GatorG, I’ve been off net for about 6 weeks due to a medical situation, but I can see nothing has changed. I don’t agree with you as far as outcomes, but know what? I share the same concerns, especially about how far we are behind our in-state rivals in recruiting. I think we will close the gap quicker than you predict, but nobody knows for sure. There’s plenty of room here for all opinions, no doubt in my military mind that you’re a Gator to the core (no matter where you live). Carry on, I like reading your comments for one.

          • Taggart isn’t making many friends in Tallahassee and Mullen is making Richt and the Miami staff uncomfortable. Recruiting will not be an issue moving forward. The energy level in and around the program is higher now than it ever was under the previous staff and recruits have taken notice.

      • Scotty. I hope you’re right, but as it stands both FSU and Miami are ranked higher than UF recruiting-wise. I hope we make up the difference eventually, but there’s no guarantee for the reasons GatorG cites above. Sorry, just being frank.

  5. A famous WR once said he loved blocking since when the DB knew he might be blocked he sometime gave him more room on passing calls. And every running game works much better when WRs are blocking down field.

  6. UF is just beginning its journey for 2018-19. I do not believe much can be taken from the small sample given.

    What i think i know is that offense has underachieved since D Mullin left.
    D M has proven ability to develop QB’s.
    DM has succeeded in the killer SEC west division at MISS ST. No easy task.
    Defense will not be as good as the last few years because the WM players are gone.
    Def will be OK, but not great Def WM left.

    There is every reason to believe that this year UF will improve.
    I think a 2nd place east SEC division would be a great year. I think that is possible.

    I really believe in DM but do not think any QB will be great this year.
    The offense will only be as good as the OL. We will not really know that until SEC games are played.
    If this OL could protect QB probably all of them can be successful, but a bad OL will make them all poor QB.
    Heck look at BAMA, great OL line made the QB look OK until they needed him to win game , then he was useless.

    If this team could control the line of scrimmage, then anything is possible.
    That could be said of most teams.

    Only Will Grier looked to be good QB.
    He was better because he could see defense and get rid of the ball quick to the right receiver.
    So he over came the bad OL. I still miss what could have been.