The Gators took Florida Field for their only open practice of 2012 fall camp Saturday. The workout came one day after a physical 130-play scrimmage that head coach Will Muschamp admitted made his team a bit "sluggish" Saturday.
Florida's offense took the field as the unit with the most to prove. The Gators are largely expected to be a defensive team in 2012, and story of fall camp has been a quarterback battle between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel.
Before we get into positional observations from Saturday's two-hour practice, here are some quick tidbits:
Tight end Jordan Reed continues to miss time after "twisting his knee" in last Saturday's scrimmage. Muschamp had said he would miss three or four days, but he remains out of action.
Freshman offensive tackle D.J. Humphries sprained his MCL in Friday's scrimmage and will be out 2-3 weeks.
No. 1 running back Mike Gillislee was used sparingly after only getting six touches in Friday's scrimmage. Florida is resting him while trying to sort out who will get carries behind him.
- Brissett, Driskel, Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg all wore non-contact jerseys and started out working on goal-line pass plays. Walk-on quarterbacks like freshman Jacob Guy took snaps over at line drills.
Brissett and Driskel both struggled throwing fade routes during goal-line drills. Brissett consistently overthrew targets before over-correcting and underthrowing a ball that turned into a Rhaheim Ledbetter interception.
Brissett and Driskel got two reps for every one Murphy and Mornhinweg got. Mornhinweg showed some potential but had difficulty putting touch on certain passes. Murphy had an overall rough day.
Quarterback play opened up a bit when things swapped over to more wide-open passing drills. Receivers tended to run deeper routes when Brissett was in at quarterback. A few highlight plays came courtesy of Solomon Patton, Latroy Pittman and Frankie Hammond Jr. Brissett showed great touch throwing the deep ball, but that wasn't always the case with some underneath routes.
In contrast, receivers tended to run more underneath routes for Driskel. He was on point with most of the throws but seldom went longer than 10-15 yards.
The only quarterback to run a designed quarterback run play during the scrimmage was Murphy. Brissett was forced to scramble out of the pocket a few times and took off running on one play when he received pressure from Dante Fowler Jr. on the blind side.
Both Driskel and Brissett ran their own one-minute drill to conclude practice.
Brissett's session ended poorly and it was the one part of the day when he was clearly out-performed by Driskel. His only completion was on an underneath route to Kent Taylor. He threw one go route to Andre Debose that fell incomplete and had to force another wayward pass because of blindside pressure.
Driskel managed his version better, getting the ball to Taylor for a touchdown 29 seconds into the drill.
Running backs, Receivers and Tight Ends
Florida's running backs got little work as a whole Saturday, likely getting a break after Friday's heavy work.
Florida only went through its shifts during one portion of Saturday's practice. Muschamp said the shifts were limited and only based off things they knew were already on film for opponents. After notching a 61-yard touchdown run in Friday's scrimmage, Omarius Hines was heavily involved in Florida's handful of shifts. With the ability to play both tailback and tight end, Hines could be a serious weapon in Brent Pease's offense.
In one of the more bizarre moments of the day, walk-on redshirt senior fullback Scott Peek dominated Darrin Kitchens during a special teams blocking drill.
Quarterbacks weren't the only ones who struggled during the goal-line drills. Florida's receivers repeatedly failed to get open until Frankie Hammond Jr. put a move on Brian Poole that left the freshman lost and resulted in a touchdown.
Hammond was a reliable target throughout the practice, both deep and underneath.
Freshman Raphael Andrades overcame some early problems with drops and stretched the field vertically, though he did get away with a push-off at one point. Fellow freshman Latroy Pittman also burned a defensive back en route to a deep diving catch at one point.
Junior wide receiver Stephen Alli played poorly throughout the practice. His frame and speed shows great potential, but he simply cannot catch well enough to make an impact as a wideout unless he improves his consistency catching the ball.
Running backs coach Brian White talked extensively with Hines at one point after he appeared frustrated from mixing up his assignment on a route.
Kent Taylor improved as the practice went on. Muschamp said after the practice he likes what he sees from Taylor as a receiver. He plans to use Taylor this year but will not put him into blocking situations until he gets stronger.
It's tough to read exactly what was going on with tackle Xavier Nixon, but Muschamp's "sluggish" description seemed to apply particularly to him. Nixon was blown up by Fowler early and often and appeared to lose serious motivation to fight back by the practice's end.
The line's interior looked better but also had the advantage of Sharrif Floyd being out for much of the practice. On the rare run occasions, Florida's guards appeared to get a decent push on the line.
The blind side was better protected when Matt Patchan moved over to left tackle, leaving Chaz Green at right tackle. The fact that Florida is severely lacking in the area of a true blocking tight end is certainly not helping the Gators on the outside.
Quick kicking note
Field goals were a struggle early on for Florida's kickers. At one point, Caleb Sturgis missed back-to-back field goals by hitting the left upright. Freshman Austin Hardin followed up by hitting his first kick off the left upright to make it three in a row.