Both the Florida Gators basketball and football teams have been hard at work this week. The basketball team is preparing for another national championship run, and the football team is busy getting yelled at and sweating it out in hopes of creating a turnaround season.
The Gators have had two spring practices over the last week, and the April 12 spring game is right around the corner.
It’s been much of the same this spring, as the coaching staff continues to preach tempo and is searching for guys from key position battles to step up.
Here’s the biggest spring takeaways from Week 3.
The Good and Bad of the Defensive Tackles
With Dominique Easley no longer around to lean on in the middle of the defensive line, the Florida coaching staff knew that it was time for players to grow up. The Gators have a handful of talented prospects at defensive tackle, but they lack experience.
Leon Orr has missed the spring with a wrist injury, Darious Cummings has missed time for personal matters, and Jonathan Bullard has gone from defensive end to defensive tackle. Besides those three guys, Will Muschamp and Co. have reason to be concerned, according to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports (subscription required):
"I’ve seen some positive things just very inconsistent once we get past that first group. The drop down is way too big. Way too much of a separation between the groups."
Teams win and lose games in the SEC with their defensive line. With the physical play, teams must have defensive line depth so guys can rotate in and out and stay fresh. Right now, Florida is relying on redshirt freshmen Jaynard Bostwick, Antonio Riles and Caleb Brantley to provide that depth.
While this is clearly a concern heading into the spring game, Bullard has learned to accept becoming a defensive tackle. Bullard came to Florida as a highly recruited defensive end and wasn’t exactly thrilled when told he was moving inside. However, he told Jeff Barlis of ESPN that he’s catching on to the position change:
All offseason I’ve been working at it because I know we’re kind of light there now and had a couple of players out, so I was going to play a lot of it, he said. Now I’ve got the hang of it and I can read things better at D-tackle like I could at end. Now it’s kind of even.
To be honest, I’m actually trying to embrace it and enjoy it rather than last year, not wanting to but knowing I had to. So now I'm trying to embrace it and do it at a high level.
Bullard has the potential to be an all-conference player and help take the Florida defensive line to the next level.
Ah yes, what’s a spring update article without mentioning the quarterback? I think it’s pretty obvious that Jeff Driskel is going to be the starter with the way offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has been drooling over him throughout the week. It’s now time to turn our attention to the backup position.
Skyler Mornhinweg and Will Grier have been duking it out, but it now seems like that race isn’t even that close, according to Zach Abolverdi of Gator Sports:
Grier received the majority of the second-team reps Monday and is a step closer to winning the backup job. Like Driskel, he had just one poor pass and was on target with the rest of his attempts. Near the end of practice, he launched a perfectly-thrown deep ball that would have been a touchdown had Andre Debose kept running instead of misjudging and turning around on his route.
Florida knew it was getting an extremely talented quarterback when Grier signed on the dotted line earlier this season, and he’s clearly living up to the hype early in spring ball. Making Grier the backup quarterback likely means there’s absolutely no plans to redshirt him this season. It also means that there will be added pressure on Driskel this season.
Hey, if Grier is good enough to earn a backup job as a true freshman, he’s certainly good enough to see starting playing time if Driskel continues to struggle during the regular season.
Asked Muschamp after whether J.C. Jackson needs shoulder surgery and he said he hurt it playing some schoolyard football (something like that) and they're looking into whether he needs surgery on that.
Jackson is a two-way player, who at the very least would have seen playing time this season in nickel packages and on special teams. Florida fans can only hope the injury isn't as serious as Muschamp made it sound.
Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson continues to blossom in spring ball and should be putting a grin on your face if you bleed orange and blue.
Until next week.