Unfortunately, yesterday's practice was the last scheduled open football practice of the spring until the Orange and Blue Debut later in April. The next time that we will get to look at the Florida Gators on the football field will be April 7th. As always, we'll offer a few observations (both first and second hand) as we continue our coverage of spring practice.
Also, yesterday was the first day that the Gators worked out in full pads. Football the way it was meant to be played!
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy reminded everyone Saturday that Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are not the only players involved in the competition at quarterback. Of the three quarterbacks, Murphy may have had the best day. He definitely threw the ball consistently better than the other two. He threw a deep strike down the sideline to Andre Debose and completed numerous other passes. He seemed to throw nothing but tight spirals
Last year there were a lot of people who were talking about Murphy getting some playing time. What they meant by that was the "don't forget he is on the roster" type stuff. Having Murphy on the roster, if he's practicing (and playing) like this, is a good thing.
As for Brissett and Driskel, well, Driskel is drawing some comparisons to former quarterback John Brantley because he seems to be checking down quite a bit. Brissett on the other hand, is just doing what he does. It's still too early to name a favorite in the race.
Jaylen Watkins, who entered the spring second on the depth chart at one cornerback position, stood out in Saturday's practice. He intercepted a deep pass from Driskel early in the practice, then came up with another nice pick near the end. He seems to be practicing with a lot of confidence and desire.
Signs are pointing to a good year for Watkins. Which is fantastic for the defense as the defensive backs are sort of the weak links. You know, everyone not named Matt Elam.
Several players left Saturday's practice for the injury pit. Starting cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was shaken up during a one-on-one drill. He got up and stayed on the field, but about 15 minutes later he slowly walked to the training area for some kind of treatment. Also, defensive end Earl Okine, who already has a cast on the hand he injured in the Gator Bowl, appeared to pull or strain a leg muscle. He spent the final 30 minutes of practice stretching his legs. Wide receiver Stephen Alli must have gotten injured at some point in Friday's practice. He spent Saturday in the injury pit.
I'm guessing that Earl Okine getting hurt isn't really going to help him. Especially after what happened on Friday.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Ja'Juan Story, who seemed to be a non-factor in Friday's practice, made a nice catch over the middle Saturday. He's a big (6-foot-3, 206 pounds) receiver who also appears to run very well. With veteran receivers Frankie Hammond and Debose both dropping passes Saturday, Story may have a chance to move up on the depth chart if he continues to make plays.
Outside of the quarterback battle between Jacoby Brissett and Driskel, the wide receiver battle is probably going to be the most watched during the spring. Not because we don't know who his going to play, but rather in what order they will be on the depth chart entering the season. Story picking things up will do wonders for the unit as a whole.
Mack Brown may have had one of his best days as a Gator. He made several nice runs, showing an excellent burst and deft cutting ability. He also made a defender whiff with a sharp move he put on during a kickoff return.
The running back position, yeah, I guess it is kind of like the wide receivers. Everybody is watching it.
Some other notes in case you missed it courtesy of Andy Hutchins who was at the practice and on the @AlligatorArmy Twitter account:
- Marcus Roberson, Pop Saunders, and Quinton Dunbar working as punt returners.
- He's (Driskel) making reads and electing to check down. Brissett taking more chances.
- Muschamp telling CBs: "Respond and finish!"
- Trey Burton working on punt returns, because I needed another context in which to be skeptical about him.
- Latroy Pittman and Andre Debose with good catches in WR drills.