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March 16, 2013

Saturday Practice: In-depth offensive observations



On a gorgeous spring Saturday afternoon, the Gators practiced in full pads for the first time since opening camp last week.

The 15-session workout out on UF's Sanders Fields was final of two open practices this past weekend, as both fans and media must wait until April 6 (The Orange & Blue Debut) too see the team in action again.

Unlike last spring, the Gators didn't conduct any head-smashing Oklahoma drills, and instead focused mainly on special teams, pass skeletons and various other 1-on-1 sessions.

Here's Inside the Gators' complete offensive breakdown of Saturday's practice…

LOOKING AT THE OFFENSE

* Just as it was yesterday, Florida's first-team offensive line was D.J. Humphries (LT), Max Garcia (LG), Jonotthan Harrison (C), Kyle Koehne (RG) and Tyler Moore (RT). With limited healthy bodies, the first-team line played the majority of snaps with the exception of shuffling Koehne around -- he played center, guard (both spots) and tackle -- and inserting Trip Thurman at guard and tackle.

* Matt Jones had a nice day, displaying some physicality, agility and cutback ability during 11-on-11's. On one 20-yard burst, Jones shoved Cody Riggs to the turf before running out of bounds giggling. Saturday's surprise was recently converted fullback Gideon Ajagbe, who appears to have the inside track as Hunter Joyer's backup. Ajagbe flashed some smooth hands and a tough stiff arm during 11-on-11's, while also showcasing his physicality during kick return drills. Ajagbe received the majority of second-team reps, especially in the Wild-Gator packages, while Rhaheim Ledbetter got minimal team prep.

* The 1-on-1 drills between DB's and WR's were again spirited on Saturday. Quinton Dunbar badly schooled Marcus Roberson on one post-corner -- much to the crowd's glee -- only to be shut down on a simple crossing pattern the very next go-around. Louchiez Purifoy flaunted his after-the-catch skills and knack of snagging the ball at its highest point, but his route running and position concepts remain a work in progress. During one rep, Purifoy - with poor technique - was badly jammed by Jaylen Watkins, only to complain of holding after the play. Instantly, DB's coach Travaris Robinson laughed, "Oh, you're one of those guys now, huh?" Robinson was also heard yelling to Roberson, "Malcolm Mitchell, Malcolm Mitchell," a reference to the UGA receiver, during a press-comeback route.

* Andre Debose couldn't put together two straight solid practices. The senior struggled throughout Saturday's sessions and constantly drew the ire of Brent Pease and Joker Phillips. During the 1-on-1 drill, Debose half-heartily fought off press coverage and Phillips angrily screamed, "Do your effing job!" Later (in 11-on-11's), Pease briefly stopped the scrimmage to light into the wide out for giving up on a route.

* Aside from Debose, most of the receivers had decent days, even if the quarterbacks didn't (more later). There were the occasional drops, but fewer on-target-balls hit the dirt Saturday compared to the day before. Latroy Pittman worked with enrollee Demarcus Robinson a lot, and individually, Pittman had a great day. On multiple reps, the sophomore toasted safety Cody Riggs (1-on-1) with crisp routes. Although Pease barked at him over a missed assignment, the game has definitely slowed down for Pittman compared to the previous spring. Robinson didn't receive as much work Saturday -- the freshman did burn Jeremy Brown twice though -- as both he and Purifoy are still grasping the scheme. Before nearly every rep (skeleton drills or 11-on-11's) both wide outs can be seen seeking instructions from coach Phillips.

* The Wild Gator made its triumphant return. The first five or six plays during one 11-on-11 session was Trey Burton in the backfield taking direct snaps. Both Debose (blown up by Jonathan Bullard) and Purifoy took jet sweeps out of the package, but mainly it was the usual two-yards and a cloud of dust Burton run.

* As for the quarterbacks, welp, fans might want delete Saturday's practice from their memories. Incumbent Jeff Driskel didn't haven an atrocious day, but he regressed from Friday, and this was with fewer difficult throws even in the practice game plan. Florida's 7-on-7 skeletons were nothing more than glorified check-down tosses, with Driskel consistently targeting short crossing patterns. Although there was a consistent breeze in the air, the wind was not a significant factor yet Driskel had too much trouble with ball placement, constantly targeting passes behind intended receivers. Even when the passes were completed, oftentimes the wide out didn't have the chance to turn up field for additional yardage. Driskel did complete two deep fade routes to Trey Burton during 11-on-11's -- one never would've occurred in real speed though as Antonio Morrison was in position to sack Driskel before pulling up. Backup quarterback Tyler Murphy improved from Friday's pitiful performance, but he couldn't compete much worse and his accuracy was erratic again today. Redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg piloted The Worst Performance of the Afternoon Award. Pease was constantly stopping play to yell at Mornhinweg over a wrong call, missed assignment or poor throw.

SPECIAL TEAMS

* For the second straight day, the gunner/kickoff coverage drills were the most exciting element of practice. The notion of actually catching/returning punts, however, likely made fans in attendance shriek in horror.

* Joker Phillips couldn't yell fast enough as Florida's punt returners kept bobbling, dropping or cowering away from just about every rep. Under a sparkling sun, Marcus Roberson had two smack him in the dome, while Trey Burton and Demarcus Robinson kept letting the ball hit the ground. Phillips had seen enough before he hollered, "Ya'll know we play at this time of the day right? It's the damn Sunshine State." Debose was only one not fearful of the ball, but even he labored corralling every rep. As an aside, the punts themselves were terrible with Kyle Christy sidelined.

* Florida rotated Leon Orr, Koehne, Burton and Darious Cummings as personal protectors.

* Raphael Andrades had some yips catching the ball on Saturday, but he again showcased his talent as a blocker and special teams ace. Twice the sophomore pinned his opponent in a kickoff return drill. Also during the same session, Joyer popped Jeremi Powell big-time, Ajagbe toasted Dante Fowler Jr. and Alex McCalister and Pittman bested Bryan Cox Jr. Towards the end of the session, tailback Matt Jones ran straight through walk-on corner Mark Herndon with an audible smash, sending his teammates into a tizzy.

* D.J. Durkin gave Kent Taylor an earful after the sophomore tight end shied away from competing as a blocker in the drill.

QUICK HITTERS

* Ian Silberman is out for the spring, but the offensive lineman was in full pads Saturday, as was the limited Jon Halapio. However, neither participated in any drills or scrimmages. Instead, the pair, alongside Chaz Green and Ronald Powell, worked in the pit with trainers on the far field.

* Reserve tailback Mack Brown stoned a rusher twice in pass protection. Overall, the offensive line was better in pads on Saturday, but coach Tim Davis was still ripping players following every rep. Davis was again Moore's face much of the afternoon, but Humphries also drew the coach's fury after Dominique Easley tossed him away like a rag doll. Harrison and Garcia were the top two performers, both quieting Orr, Cummings and signee Joey Ivie most of the day. Harrison wrecked Ivie on two separate occasions.

* Purifoy and Dunbar were the stars during the 1-on-1 tackling session, easily shoving defenders off of them. Debose struggled and was put on his ass twice, once by redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye and another time by Riggs.

* While the were several 2014 prospects and coaches observing practice, 2013 signees Trenton Brown and Caleb Brantley were again in attendance. Former Gators Jordan Reed and Caleb Sturgis were also present.

* In a déjà vu moment from last season's open practice, the tight end position is the go-to guy in Florida's obsessively short and intermediate offense. If Saturday is any indication, Taylor will catch 150 balls in 2013.


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