3-2-1: Wrapping up week one of practice

Aug 4, 2019 | 0 comments


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With the first full week of fall camp in the books, it seems like a good time to reflect on what we’ve learned so far, what questions remain and what we think will happen in the coming weeks.

Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction after the first week of practice:

Three Observations

1. The offensive line might be better off than you think. The media hasn’t gotten to see anything from the offensive line other than individual drills, so this is highly speculative. The players and coaches seem to speak with a quiet confidence, like they know something the rest of us don’t. Dan Mullen and John Hevesy both have said they feel comfortable with the first unit. Prior to camp, Hevesy said communication was going to be the biggest thing he was going to watch for in practice. On Tuesday, he said communication had been good among the first unit and mistakes were minimal. What few mistakes they’ve made have been corrected and not repeated. Hevesy said the early enrollees seem to have made big strides since the spring. They don’t forget which way to go as often, and they’re able to play a bit freer. Perhaps most importantly, nobody’s gotten injured so far. It’s still early, but things seem to be trending up for the offensive line.

2. The wide receiver corps is as good as advertised. They might not have a dominant No. 1 guy who’s going to reach 1,000 yards and get drafted in the first round, but you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of receiving corps that can match Florida’s depth. Van Jefferson runs crisp routes and catches everything thrown his way effortlessly. Trevon Grimes, at 6-foot-5, looks more like a small tight end than a receiver. He looks more comfortable than he did this time a year ago, and he could be ready for a breakout season. Kadarius Toney looks a little bit more natural as a wide receiver. He still has his problems with drops, but he at least looks like a wide receiver running routes instead of a quarterback still learning the position. He should be more than just a gimmick this season. Then there’s the old reliable targets, Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond. They’re not flashy, but they seem to always make big catches when called upon. Tyrie Cleveland isn’t receiving much attention from fans, but some of his teammates think he’s the fastest player on the team and he led the Gators in receiving yards in 2017, so he can’t be counted out. Finally, Jacob Copeland and Kyle Pitts would likely start on 90 percent of teams, but they might be buried on the depth chart at UF. Sometimes, position groups don’t live up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon them. So far, this group has.


3. The secondary can’t withstand much more attrition. They were a thin group entering the fall, and they’re even thinner now. Projected backup nickelback John Huggins still hasn’t reported to camp as he deals with what Mullen referred to as a “family matter.” To fill the void left by his absence, the Gators moved C.J. McWilliams inside. He missed Friday’s practice with a potential injury. Safety Brad Stewart, who some thought could be an All-SEC candidate, also missed Friday’s practice. So, right now, they have two corners, one nickel and three safeties who are healthy and have game experience. It’s going to be important for the defensive backfield to avoid injuries for the rest of camp, the three freshmen corners to grow up quickly and to get the missing players back in the fold as soon as possible.

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Two Questions

1. How will some of the position battles play out? Kyle Trask has been the No. 2 quarterback throughout camp, while Malik Davis has been the No. 2 running back. Will this still be true three weeks from now, or do Emory Jones and Dameon Pierce have late charges in them? At linebacker, Lacedrick Brunson has been working with the twos ahead of Ventrell Miller. Luke Ancrum is ahead of Tedarrell Slaton at defensive tackle. Can they hold on to these jobs?

2. The media got to see a couple of periods of special teams drills on Friday, but we still don’t know what they’re going to do at the kick and punt returner spots. They’ve got a bunch of fast, elusive skill players to choose from, such as Swain, Toney, Davis, Cleveland and Copeland. Who will handle returns? Might this be where we see Copeland carve out a role for himself with the wide receiver position being as deep as it is?

One Prediction

Davis will be the biggest surprise this season. Lamical Perine received a lot of attention this off-season, and rightfully so, but Davis could be the offense’s most dynamic and versatile player. He’s showing no signs of rust coming off a broken foot, and he appears to have the same explosion in his step that he had when he became UF’s No. 1 back as a freshman in 2017. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and few defenders have the agility to tackle him in space. Don’t be surprised if he finishes the season among the team leaders in touchdowns.

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