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Hot Reads: Early returns from Florida fall practice, big recruiting week, Matt Rolin tears ACL

The early returns on Florida's fall practices are mostly wildly optimistic.


When, in the course of Internet events, things get so hectic as to require a single post about Florida football that stands in for what could've been several posts split up, that post shall be called Hot Reads.

Early Florida fall practice reports are optimistic

Florida began fall practice on August 2, bringing all of the true freshmen onto the field with the returnees from the 11-2 2012 team that was one of the best in the country despite a brutal schedule. And given how good some of those freshmen are, it was probably not unwise to anticipate a good team emerging from that new nucleus.

But Florida might be much better than anticipated. Already.

247Sports' Thomas Goldkamp and Franz Beard got a ton of detail around Florida's Saturday scrimmages and put it into three different posts (all free!) that you should really go read and then bookmark for reading after anything bad that happens in your life in the next few weeks, because they paint the portrait of a very good team that is much further along the development curve than even some of the rosier projections.

Without stealing too much from Goldkamp and Beard, though, here's a brief overview of what they heard:

  • The secondary, despite losing Matt Elam and Josh Evans, has a ton of young talent, which Beard calls "astonishingly good." Vernon Hargreaves III, additionally, is "the real deal" and "shows the ability to be a total lockdown corner," which is basically the best-case scenario I was expecting after he dominated the Under Armour All-America Game.
  • The offensive line that was alternately horrific and fantastic in 2012, largely depending on whether it was pass-blocking or run-blocking in 2012, looks to be much improved, with "a former UF coach" (who was probably Ron Zook) predicting it will be one of the SEC's best. Goldkamp writes that Jon Harrison is separating from his first blocker and engaging a second man well, while Beard writes that Harrison can handle nose tackles on his own and "has become the leader" of the line.
  • From Beard: "Trenton Brown is an eclipse." At 6'8" and 363 pounds, he ought to be, but Brown being impossible to get around makes him a really good body to have in reserve on the line ... and an even better weapon as the edge blocker in Brent Pease's highly effective unbalanced lines. Even if Brown's not a starter, he could be immensely effective in short stretches as that sixth or seventh lineman on the field.
  • Kyle Christy is the lone standout on special teams, which might be an adventure this fall thanks to the graduation of Caleb Sturgis and Andre Debose's season-ending injury.
  • Florida's wide receivers, especially Demarcus Robinson, are really learning from the coaching of Joker Phillips; Beard calls it a "night and day" difference. We've noted before here that Florida was essentially without a wide receivers coach in 2012 while graduate assistant Bush Hamdan was filling in for Aubrey Hill after Hill's sudden resignation, and that Hill wasn't exactly the world's best receivers coach. But Phillips absolutely is a very good receivers coach, and a much better coach in general than he is given credit for thanks to his underwhelming tenure as Kentucky's head coach, and he's got a lot of talent to work with at wideout.
  • Jeff Driskel is improving.
  • Ronald Powell "isn't showing any rust."

All of this is exciting, obviously, and I didn't really gloss over a lot of the negatives (special teams is the consistent negative in every practice report I've read), but there's also stuff that is unspoken here: Matt Jones, who has gotten a ton of offseason hype, is not practicing, and defenders Dominique Easley, Loucheiz Purifoy, and Marcus Roberson, probably the most NFL-ready players on this team in some order, aren't even mentioned.

You can read good (Florida's offense looks good without maybe its best player; Easley, Purifoy, and Roberson are all known quantities that don't rate mentions) or bad (we don't know how much Jones's viral infection and weight loss will linger with him; Florida's best defensive players aren't getting mentioned to reporters) into that, but the tenor of the reports and the demeanor of the reporters — I like both Goldkamp and Beard in part because they don't really pump sunshine — make me think it's more the former than the latter.

And we don't need to take their word alone for it, not when there's practice footage (carefully packaged by Florida) out in the wild, including touchdowns from Kelvin Taylor and Robinson:

Cautious optimism might be the way to go with this Florida team. And that cautious bit could get discarded pretty quickly.

Big recruiting week could net Gators four commits

Florida got a commitment from Nolan Kelleher on Saturday, and while that was a nice pick-up for the Gators, it's going to pale in comparison to the haul Florida is expected to take this week.

Today is the biggest day of the week for Florida, with South Florida stars Chris Lammons, Ermon Lane, and Quincy Wilson all announcing their college choices. And Florida's in excellent shape to get at least Lane, a wide receiver, and Wilson, a defensive back, announcing together on a Miami radio station tonight at 9 p.m., and to eventually add Lammons, a cornerback, regardless of whether he picks Florida today. Landing any one of the three players would be a good get for most teams, but potentially sweeping all three would be a feat, especially because Florida is plucking them from what should be a Miami stronghold and has been dueling Alabama for Lane.

Lane's the best of the three prospects, a potential go-getter the Gators have lacked in recent years, but Wilson could be a useful piece in the secondary as a safety/corner hybrid, and Lammons has the quickness and ball skills to work very well as a nickel corner. And, frankly, Florida's need for wide receivers is so great and Lane is so good that Lammons and Wilsoncould be pure throw-ins and this would be a major net positive.

But it's not just those three South Florida kids, all of whom played for the South Florida Express Elite 7-on-7 team, who could pop for Florida this week. Georgia defensive end Davonte Lambert is deciding on Tuesday, and while Tennessee is the prediction for Lambert according to his 247Sports Crystal Ball and SB Nation's Bud Elliott, ESPN's Derek Tyson, usually the most plugged-in Florida recruiting reporter, projected Lambert (and Lammons, Lane, and Wilson) would choose Florida in a Sunday tweet.

Four commitments from top-300 prospects, including a borderline five-star prospect in Lane, would be a shot in the arm for Florida's recruiting. Four commitments from top-300 prospects in 24 hours could start a tidal wave.

Matt Rolin tears ACL — again

Last Thursday, Florida freshman Matt Rolin became the second Gator to be lost for the season with a torn ACL over a three-day period. But the differences between his and Andre Debose's ACL tear may actually help him in the long run.

Rolin was an early enrollee this spring, after flipping from South Carolina to Florida in December, but he was limited in the weight room while recovering from a torn ACL suffered in November 2012 his senior season of high school football. And so Rolin was coming into this fall camp mostly recovered from the ACL tear, and certainly cleared to go, but with a spring that wasn't exactly ideal behind him.

Now, despite re-tearing the ligament in the same knee he hurt in high school, Rolin should be able to work back slowly and purposefully, and might well be in position to go at full speed by spring practice. (He's also got a great model for his rehabilitation on his team in the form of Ronald Powell, who tore his ACL in 2012's spring game and re-aggravated the injury last fall while on an aggressive timetable for his return.) He'll redshirt in 2013, obviously, and will become an honorary member of the recruiting class of 2014 despite his scholarship likely eventually counting toward Florida's 2012 class and his enrollment happening in 2013.

But he'll be back. Don't worry.

Andy Hutchins writes for Deadspin and is Alligator Army's managing editor. Follow Alligator Army on Twitter and Facebook.