The Gators held their third practice in full pads on Friday morning on the southwest part of campus. The media got to watch the first six periods, making it the first practice with open periods in nearly a week.
With the way practice was set-up, we only got a good look at the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. But, it’s better than nothing, so here are our observations from practice.
Thumbs Up: The Gators’ receivers ran a drill where they had to line up, strike a dummy at the ‘snap,’ make a sharp cut around an obstacle and catch a ball from the Jugs machine. They seemed to run crisp routes, and there were only a few drops. After dropping back-to-back passes during the first practice of camp a week ago, Kadarius Toney caught everything, including some balls that weren’t right at him. Wide receiver was expected to be the UF’s deepest position this season, and they’ve done nothing in practice to suggest otherwise.
Thumbs Down: Safety Brad Stewart was nowhere to be found at practice. A lot of experts and fans projected him to be a starter and a potential All-SEC candidate this season. Instead, he’s ran with the ‘twos’ in all of the open portions of practice so far, and now he’s missing practice while he deals with what is likely an injury that caused him to leave practice earlier this week. There’s still plenty of time for him to turn things around, but it’s not been a very good start to fall camp for him. Reserve cornerback C.J. McWilliams was also absent from practice. No reason was given for their absences. A thin position might be getting even thinner.
1. Nickelback John Huggins and receiver Arjei Henderson still haven’t reported for fall camp. Huggins has been out dealing with what Dan Mullen has described as a ‘family matter,’ while Henderson, a freshman, is still trying to get everything squared away academically so he can enroll in the fall. They can survive without Henderson this season, but losing Huggins for any extended period of time would be a big blow to an already thin secondary.
2. The Gators started practice with some special teams drills. There were about five drills going on at once, with a different coach running each drill. After a minute or two, the players rotated drills. In one of the drills, the specialists ran with the ball while a teammate blocked for them. In some of the more notable one-on-one blocks during this period, defensive end/outside linebacker Khris Bogle put walk-on Isaac Ricks on his back, defensive end/outside linebacker Jeremiah Moon got the best of receiver Trevon Grimes and freshman Mohamoud Diabate defeated receiver Kyle Pitts.
3. Safety Jeawon Taylor wore a red non-contact jersey, as he has throughout the fall. So far, he, David Reese (out for year) and possibly Stewart and McWilliams (if they’re injured) are the only players dealing with notable injuries. That’s about as good as you could ask for. They’ll need to continue to stay healthy over the next three weeks.
4. As has been the case throughout the fall, Kyle Trask was the second quarterback and Malik Davis was the second running back. These were thought to be two of the biggest position battles entering camp. Perhaps the battles have already been decided?
5. In a routes-on-air drill, freshman tight end Keon Zipperer took his eyes off the ball and started looking downfield, causing him to drop it. Coach Larry Scott told him to “catch it first.” It sounds simple, but Toney was given a near identical message by Billy Gonzales a week ago. You’ve got to catch the ball first for any of the athleticism and explosive abilities to matter, particularly when there’s no defense on the field.
This and That
Scouts from the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs attended practice … Dionte Marks and Trevon Grimes each had a pair of drops on the Jugs machine. That’s non unexpected from Marks, a freshman, but Grimes is usually pretty sure-handed … In the routes-on-air drill, Van Jefferson, Grimes, Freddie Swain and Pitts were the first four receivers up, followed by Jacob Copeland, Lucas Krull, Josh Hammond and Tyrie Cleveland.