Gators grinding away

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Even though the Gators are only one week into their preseason camp, plenty of things about this young team have begun to emerge.

Here’s a camp update:

* Quarterback depth is a lot better than anyone thought it would be last winter. John Brantley is having a strong camp and is the clear starter. Redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy has shown he can manage and move the offense. True freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett have been impressive and are pushing Murphy for the backup role. Driskel has a much better understanding of the offense than he did coming out of the spring. Brissett is a little behind Driskel because he did not arrive until this summer, but by all accounts, he’s an excellent passer with a big-time arm — and a great fit in Charlie Weis’ offense.

* Everyone talks about how Weis prefers a big, physical tailback in his offense, but the little guys — Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps — have sprinted to the top of the depth chart in camp. Rainey and Demps have tremendous speed and Weis is getting them out on the edge, where they’ve made some long runs. If the Gators are a threat on the ground, it’s going to open all kinds of opportunities in the play-action passing game.

* Frankie Hammond Jr. has been the Gators’ best and most consistent receiver thus far. Will Muschamp said earlier in the week that he’s been the complete package in terms of catching, blocking, running routes and making plays. Deonte Thompson and Quinton Dunbar have been the best down-field threats. The coaches are still waiting for some of the other receivers to emerge, although Muschamp made it sound earlier in the week that Andre Debose has started to make a move.

* Depth on the offensive line, especially at tackle, remains a huge concern, although the coaches are feeling better about what the Gators have at the guard and center spots. The addition of Notre Dame transfer Dan Wenger, who can play all three inside positions, has been a tremendous plus.

* Even though A.C. Leonard is out after undergoing knee surgery, the Gators still plan to use a two tight end package this season. That nugget came from TE Gerald Christian on Thursday, who said the package gives the Gators a lot of options in both the running and passing game. Weis has shown in the past that he will feature his tight end (or ends), so we’ll see plenty of Jordan Reed and Christian this fall.

* Florida’s defensive front seven has a chance to be pretty dominant — if the Gators can stay healthy. Those five-star prospects who are now sophomores (Sharrif Floyd, Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley) have grown into major players. The same can be said of linebacker Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins — both of whom have come into their own and now are defensive leaders.

* Muschamp has expressed little or no concern about the inexperience in the secondary, saying he prefers athleticism to experience. This group is fast and athletic. Here’s one reason why Muschamp might be feeling so good about the secondary: true freshmen Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy have performed at a high level and have brought depth to the cornerback positions. Who knows, Roberson might even end up starting at the corner opposite junior Jeremy Brown.

* When the Gators added Boston College commitment Graham Stewart to the 2011 signing class, many speculated whether he was good enough to play linebacker in the SEC. Apparently he’s already answered that question. Muschamp and several of the defensive players have praised the early work of Stewart, saying he’s a physical and athletic guy who has a chance to play this season.

* Jaylen Watkins has emerged as one of the key players in the secondary. He can play corner and both safety positions and is expected to see extensive playing time. Redshirt freshman safety Josh Shaw also has had an excellent camp thus far.

* Jeremy Brown, safety Josh Evans and strong safety Matt Elam have emerged as the leaders in the secondary.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Robbie for the info. One question, where is Omarius Hines? is he a receiver or a tight end in this new offense? He seemed to a mismatch for defenses last year and it seems odd that he is not getting any mention so far this year.
    thanks and GO GATORS!!

  2. Here wishing and thinking Brantley will transfer his practice success to game-day success this year. I will believe after game one, when Brantley exhibits strong leadership skills and the abiliy to go through his his passing options without panic and fear in the pocket. I hope he can…and will….the success of the Gators this year is largely dependent on him doing so.

  3. I agree with TampaGator that John B is the big question mark on offense. He has proven his worth in practice but historically has cracked under the pressure during the game. If his practice success carries over into games, our offense may have some success. I do hope the Florida faithful stand behind our QB versus booing at the first bad pass. He needs some fan support and confidence building. That said, if he continues to perform poorly, I would like to see what some of the other guys can do.

  4. Wow! What a difference from last year! This time last year, I watched player and coach interviews, after practice, and you could sense things weren’t going well. There were rumors of in-fighting and players threatening to leave, but even more than that, you could read the body language on the players and coaches and you knew something was wrong. You could see there was no leadership and no confidence.

    I was listening the Bianchi on the radio this week and he thinks UF will win 5 games this year. He said the over/under in Vegas is 8 games and the under is the bet of the year. I know I’m a homer, but I’m a realist too and I believe UF has a good shot this year. In interviews, you can see confidence in the players, you can see a team that is coming together as a single unit. They’re all high on one another and there’s enough talent to beat anyone they play. If the entire team can stay healthy, there’s not many weaknesses on either side of the ball. If Brantley plays well, QB is solid, RB & FB are both solid and explosive, the OL has 3 veterans and seems to be playing better than expected, WRs also seem to be playing better than expected. They’re stretching the field and catching the ball. We had an injury at TE, but we have really good TEs who can play. On the other side of the ball, our front 7 could be the best in the league. The secondary is the question mark, but they’re athletic and we’re being told they’re doing great. We have a great kicker, but we don’t know much about our punter.

    I know they’re thin in certain areas and a few injuries could make a difference, but if they stay healthy, I’m cautiously optimistic. Plus they have a great coaching staff, low expectations outside of Gainesville and a huge chip on their shoulder.

  5. Dare we overlook…….. 1) passes & patterns need only be 2 feet off
    2) with Brantley only one OL block need be missed partially. He can’t elude, can’t rush-throw, can’t run
    3)slight injury can get a player beat 4) Brantley must stop being so very
    “sack-easy” 5) superiority is required all over the field

    Thus Brantley has to be transformed into “non-Brantley”….. Demps & Rainey need quick opened corridors …..rush defense needs be smothering of old ……..
    pass rush needs be Alex Brownish

  6. I am very optimistic about this team, but practice reports mean very little. No sense speculating until this team has at least 3 games under it’s belt. As we all remember, they were 3-0 last year after 3 games, but no one was fooled from what they saw on the field in those games. I think this year those first games will tell us what this Gator team has under the hood. Go Gators.

  7. Two things must happen this year for the Gators. 1 Brantley does not have to be great he just has to manage the team with Charlies offence. 2 the secondary must step up and with reports coming out of camp they are and with the D-line putting heat on the QB it will take alot of pressure off of the young guys. Needless to say I’m a Gator fan but it does not take a genius to see that the Gators are ranked low (disrespected) and alot of expectations have been taken off their shoulders, I’m starting to think this might be the perfect storm.

  8. My predicition is that the Gator offense willaverage 27 points against SEC opponents in 2011.
    That will be enough to win since the Defense will average holding opponents to 24 points.
    The reason for this is:
    -the receivers can stretch the fieled vertically &catch the ball
    -the RB’s can run the edges with greater vision
    -the Tight ends will pick up the tough third down and 4’s
    -we have a real field goal kicker
    The D will excel because (don’t tell anyone this:)
    -we have seven legitimate ALl -SEC players on D who will wreak havoc on the opposition’s O-Line.
    My prediction is that we meet the ole ball coach in Atlanta for the SEC East Championship and the SEC Chamionship is ours for the taking.

  9. Among the biggest problems we had last year was the offense putting the defense in bad positions and situations, this defense should (if they can stay healthy as Robbie indicated) then they should be able to “hold serve” and i beleive there’s enough talent on offense to give us a puncher’s chance in every game on the schedule. Or we could blow.

  10. Gator DL must “outmuscle” opposing OL’s run blocking & “speed-slip” their
    pass blocking to hassle their QB…… Offensive plays must “fool” opposing defenses………. Gator OL must give Brantley unworrisome protection– better
    than ever in the history of college football……… Gator OL must quick-open corridors for Rainey/Demps…… Gator WRs must have sticky-hands & go-get-it
    “attidudes”.

    Still, I hope & pray Driscoll &/or Brissett are worthy unhesitatingly of taking over

  11. I’ll be very surprised (pleasantly so, for it’ll mean he’s succeeding) if Brantley’s not replaced before mid-season — probably by Tyler Murphy.
    ————
    IGTBAG! (It’s Great To Be A Gator!)
    Ciao