Notebook: Receivers vs. DBs an elite Florida practice matchup

Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson reaches out to catch a pass as he runs a drill at preseason practice at the Sanders Practice Fields on campus. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

While the defensive coordinator at Michigan, Florida safeties coach Ron English went up against a talented group of receivers every day in practice. But that challenge doesn’t quite compare to the one the UF defensive backs are facing in preseason camp, English said.

The Gator receivers are striving to become the No. 1 group in college football. English sounds like he’s ready to give them his vote now.

“(At Michigan) we had Braylon Edwards, (Laterryal) Savoy, who played a great game for Philly, (Steve) Breaston, who I think is still the return yardage leader in Rose Bowl history,” English said. “Those were three really good players, but the depth of these guys, I think they’re the best in the country.”

English said the stiff competition is making both the receivers and the defensive backs better.

“I told the guys, ‘Look, they’re going to make their plays, we better make ours. We’re the best in the country too, so let’s go out here (and compete),’ ” English said. “It’s a competitive deal. I want to make plays and I want to win the day.”

Lots of stars

With sophomore John Huggins, the backup at the star defensive back position, still a no-show at preseason camp while he deals with a family issue, several players from other positions are getting reps at the star spot.

“We’ve got a lot of guys,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “You look, obviously Trey (Dean) is there, C.J (McWilliams) is there, Amari Burney is there, Jeremiah Moon can be there. Quincy Lenton can be there. Mohamoud (Diabate) can be there. Really, a lot of guys.”

Burney is an inside linebacker, while Moon and Diabate are at the buck end position. McWilliams is a backup at corner and Lenton is a safety.

Grantham said the defensive scheme doesn’t change regardless of who is at the star position.

“It doesn’t change anything we’ve got,” Grantham said. “We just run our same package.”

The Wright stuff

The latest addition to what is becoming a deep running back room is true freshman Nay’Quan Wright, a four-star prospect out of Miami Gardens. He’s fourth on the depth chart but getting reps in practice.

“Going to be a good player,” running backs coach Greg Knox said. “It’s the early phase, got to get him out of the high school mode and then get him to a point where he’s reacting and not thinking so much.

“We throw a lot at them in the first four days, so he’s got a lot on his mind right now and he’s trying to digest it all, but he’s going to be a good player.”

While Wright could be considered the unknown running back, sophomore Malik Davis might be the forgotten one after missing most of last season with an injured foot.

But Davis is back and looking impressive, Knox said.

“I’m excited (about him),” he said. “I go back to the spring. He had a healthy spring. He actually went through all of spring ball, stayed healthy, went through all the drills. Summer camp, still healthy again. He’s bigger, he’s stronger and the fact he’s staying healthy, that’s the big key.

“He’s got the same ability as (Lamical) Perine. He’s got great hands. He can play out in space, and he can beat you inside. He’s a quality back. He can accelerate like (Jordan) Scarlett. Scarlett was a quick accelerator. In five yards he could be at top speed.”

McDowell back competing

Redshirt freshman center Griffin McDowell is one of those three-star prospects Dan Mullen and his staff have a way of developing into productive players.

But his development went into a standstill when he missed the entire spring after injuring himself in a scooter accident. Now, McDowell is back to 100% and ready for the development to continue.

“It was tough (missing the spring),” he said. “I know I messed up getting in a scooter accident. It was tough seeing guys take multiple reps that I could have been taking. And them taking extra reps, I know it was tough on them.

“I’m glad to have this opportunity.”

McDowell’s mental development continued while he was out in the spring.

“I just studied my plays and really took rehab on and made sure I could get back before football camp,” he said. “I just listen to the trainers as they told me to take steps. Everything like that I was able to do.”


  1. Best in the country? I am a dyed in the wool fan but that has to be earned on the field. Do I think they can be? Without a doubt. But earn it on Saturdays. Shut down opposing offenses win the against passing, running, take the ball away. Make them warry of challenging our DB’s, DL, LB. Their QB’s only memory of the game should be looking at the stadium from his back or running before a LB or DB plants him still holding the ball. Opposing QB’s should say I had nowhere to go with the ball. Opposing RB’s should say they closed all the lanes, opposing receivers should remember nothing but our DB’s, LB’s stepping in front and taking the ball the other way.

    • If our DL and blitz packages can continue to keep pressure on opposing backs, not just the QB but certainly that’s the main one, then our DBs ought to really shine. My take is that they work together — one without the other is tough — but when in harmony? Give me more of what we saw last year after things got straightened out!

      • I expect to hit the ground running this year. There will not be a uneasiness like last year when a whole new system was being installed. CDM morphed his system to what he had and brought them along nicely. This year the returning vets know what to expect and they all are communicating on the same net and from what has been written about the installs the team seems to be getting it and the squads seem to be executing the drills. The first time they go (live) at speed with contact and pads will tell a lot. I actually hope that is closed to the media. Even though I want to know. I don’t think the opposition needs to know. And I hope they prove the media and poll (pole) dancers wrong in a lot of ways. To use a phrase from Buzz Lightyear To Atlanta and Beyond!!! Ok his was infinity I think but.

    • Gator65 – Of course they will have to prove it on the field, but the potential is there especially with an improved Franks. I feel really good about this team already and that hasn’t happened since the Tebow era. The only thing that could ruin it are injuries. The way Savage runs his S&C program will make it easier for the young men to avoid injuries better. Injuries will always happen in a physical sport like football, but having your body ready for it works wonders. Neal will attest that we have/had bodies by Uncle Sam, and I know I avoided serious injuries until my late 40.s. I cannot post what I want to say as it will be ghosted like a couple of my other posts. All I can state is that I feel good about our situation. GO GATORS!!!

  2. One las comment here on CDM @ MsST he was 69 wins in 9 years with one losing season his first. Jackie S the winningest coach there was 75-75-2 over 13 years with 59 wins in the first 9 vs CDM 69 over 9 years. While we could hit a bump this year or next as sometimes happens with new coaches CDM never had a losing season after year one. Our two previous coaches first time Muschamp and second HC Mac were exposed for their inabilities in year 3. Don’t feel that with CDM. I may be alone out there but I had hopeful optimism Muschamp and Mac but never felt the storyline was right.

    • I agree with you, 65, about hitting a bump with new coaches, but not in the case of CDM. With nine years as an SEC hbc (caps reserved for SOS) in the toughest division of college football, coupled with his already having been a huge part of two national championship teams at UF, I do not anticipate a let down of the likes we suffered from Muschamp and McEl (not John) wain. Meyer’s fate was sealed for the positive when he landed Timmy and Harvin, and Chris Leak took advantage (especially with his football IQ) of being underestimated by our opposition and media in general.

      • I agree with your agreement with 65 who reads Ed lima-charlie.
        Mullen is a seasoned coach, this not being his first rodeo in the big leagues by any stretch of the imagination, and he’s now in a place where is true abilities will surface. There will be some slips along the way, but nothing catastrophic like under two of the three M-Boys. What I worry about is the same thing Daz articulated the other day…..that we run him off! God forbid.

  3. Alabama probably has the top wide receiver and may have the top starting group, but I think it’s completely fair to say we probably have the best two deep receiver group in the country.

    On another subject, I’m not that worried about the offensive line… They’re repping against our defense every day.

    As for another offensive line, can anybody explain why there is so much hype about Georgia’s offensive line? I understand all the 5 star recruiting ratings, but isn’t this pretty much the same Georgia line that couldn’t move the ball against the Gators inside the red zone last year? (For those of you who may not recall, the leg lifters won on field goals and big plays against a depleted Gator secondary.)

    Can’t wait for this season to get here.

  4. After talking with a Miami fan this, I’m convinced that game will come down to how well we can stop their running game. They have a stable of backs, they are touting as strong as ours. Stop their running game and I like our chances of a pretty thorough win. If not,,,,we will have to battle for four quarters.

    • Which are exactly the conditions under which we should see the S&C program bear even more fruit, Sparky. That, plus the mental preparation and self discipline it seems CDM and staff are instilling now. You guys want to go 15 rounds with us? Bring on the chomp! 🐊🏈

        • Something I DO take pride in, especially over a bowl of Phillie’s chili, and also Phil’s Brr-bon Slush! A lethal combo that can be another reckoning on your brain and digestive prowess. Cannot remember how high the count is that fam and folks wanted me to open either/and/or restaurant, a bar or both.

          I do enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, because that’s where we keep the alcohol. So here is my latest, 2019, fowl festive feature.

          How to curry Sebastard the Ibis:

          The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts have declared August ‘National Patriotism Month’. And what better way to celebrate than to head to the river for a cookout lime with friends and family. Engaging in those two great Trinbagonian pastimes; heart disease and the senseless destruction of nature. But why not make your river lime extra special this year. Instead of the usual menu of curry duck seasoned in White Oak, try some curry Scarlet Sebastard Ibis.

          There is no better way to demonstrate your love for your country than by eating the Scarlet Sebastard Ibis. It is 100% organic and gluten free. And tastes like chicken.

          Here is my newly concocted, official Curry Sebastard Scarlet Ibis recipe, featuring Frank’s hot sauce and bourbon, the quicker picker upper:

          Step 1. Find a Scarlet Sebastard Ibis, which, thankfully we intercept in Orlando, since a hurricane screws up its sense of direction.

          In days gone by the Miami Caroni Bird Sanctuary was a virtual Scarlet Sebastard Ibis supermarket. However, according to sanctuary tour operators, the numbers of these delicious creatures have severely dwindled. Leaving tourists with nothing to look at except the majestic car parts dealers who have nestled on the edges of the Everglades.

          Fortunately there are generous souls who tirelessly seek out what remaining Ibis are left and shoot them in the head. Simply ask your clandestine neighborhood wild meat provider if he knows anybody who might know anybody who selling them.
          Alternatively you can hunt the Scarlet Sebastard Ibis yourself. All you need is a gun or a trained Gator. Maybe some dynamite or a bald eagle, or a brave aquatic Beagle to to fell this absurd fowl.

          Step 2. Season your Scarlet Sebastard Ibis

          First, remove all the feathers of your Scarlet Sebastard Ibis. Here’s a quick tip; don’t just throw them away. Simply staple them to a bikini and presto; you’re a carnival band costume designer and poll dancer.

          Now chop the head off, trust me you don’t want the dead, vacuous eyes of a Scarlet Sebastard Ibis staring up at you, especially since you can visit That Look in most UM classrooms. Basket weaving sugar cane aside for rum production. Their has to be a reason for this institution to continue keeping its drawers open.

          After you have finished cutting up the meat, wash it using lemon juice and bourbon. This will help kill bacteria as well as mask the fresh smell of ‘Cane shame filling the room. Add a dash of salt and black pepper. To really bring out that rich scarlet, employ Frank’s.

          A good rule to follow in the world of Scarlet Sebastard Ibis cookery is that the more people plead with you to please don’t kill and eat something, the more flavor it probably has. To ‘Cane fans, it probably tastes like crow.

          Step 3. Cook in pot for 60 minutes

          Put your Scarlet Sebastard Ibis to gently cook in a pot heated to 75 degrees. Which also happens to be the highest number the typical Scarlet Sebastard ‘Cane Ibis connoisseur can count up too. While you’re waiting for your meat to cook, starting getting all the other elements of your meal together. Like your roti and your your tumbler of Phil’s Brr-bon Slush. If you’ve already done this, why not do some chores. You’ll know when your meat has finished cooking from the strong smell of Frank’s, bourbon and a failed UM education system wafting through the air.

          Step 4. Serve with low IQ

          Your Scarlet Sebastard Ibis is now ready to eat. To fully enjoy the juicy goodness you’ll need a strong stomach and an exceptionally low IQ. In fact the lower your IQ is, the more your tastes buds will savor the Scarlet Sebastard Ibis’ tangy flavor. To lower your IQ, enroll at the University of Miami, where the prostitutes are more intelligent than the students attending, but make far less money, unless on they are on the football team.

          • Thanks, again, SpringHillPhil, for another great post! I literally laughed out loud. ”Tastes like chicken,” huh? Some Miami Hurricane Crane for dinner! ”It’s the other white meat!”
            Go Gators! Chomp-chomp!

          • But we don’t have any Scarlet Sebastard Ibises (or is the plural Ibisie?) is Texas, Phil. Not even in Galvaston or Corpus Christie, where you’d naturally expect to find at least one or two. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Will the recipe work with Chupacabras? Buzzards? We got plenty of them (buzzards, not Chupacabras — they only come out at night and I can’t stay up that late). How ’bout Scorpions if you can round up enough (I’ve been building up my herd at the ranch in the hopes of claiming an agricultural tax exemption someday, but am willing to wait a little longer). Please advise.

          • Tom, I can’t wait for my wife to wake up so I can share this. She’s gonna pee MY britches, she’ll be laughing so hard! (I’m afraid it’ll be lost on my hard headed Longhorn and Aggie friends out here)

  5. This could be a season where we depend more on our defense to keep us in the game against our tougher opponents – hopefully not, but we’ve been there before, UM will be a major early test – we will see where we are at on offense (particularly) after the UM game. I’m thinking we will successfully execute a number of plays and may have a few go south on us. However, our defense should also make a bunch of plays and hopefully shut down UM’s offense. This will buy our offense time to make some scores and win the game. GO GATORS!!!