Florida Football Week 2 Spring Practice Report

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 21, 2016

Florida DL Caleb Brantley
Florida DL Caleb BrantleySam Greenwood/Getty Images

The defending SEC East champion Florida Gators were back at it last week for their second week of practice leading up to the annual Orange & Blue Debut spring game, which will be held Friday, April 8 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

What did we learn about the Gators in Week 2?

DL Caleb Brantley Thinks Very Highly of Himself

Florida DL Caleb Brantley
Florida DL Caleb BrantleyRob Foldy/Getty Images

With Jonathan Bullard gone to the NFL, Florida's defensive line is in search of a new leader.

Redshirt senior Caleb Brantley hopes to be that leader.

The 6'2", 300-pound redshirt junior has already set the bar as high as possible for himself in 2016.

"I feel like I'm the best D-lineman in the country. I'm coming out trying to prove it," he said, according to Florida's post-practice release on Thursday

Bold, but that's OK.

Florida has a fantastic tradition of producing top-tier defensive linemen, including Bullard, Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd and others. That tradition, coupled with the coaching the defensive front gets from coordinator Geoff Collins, has set the bar extremely high up front.

"[Bullard] taught me how to be a leader, a role model to the younger guys, to always do stuff right," Brantley said. "You don't want to be the guy that coaches look at to lead the young guys, and you're messing stuff up. I'm just trying to lead by example, do all the little stuff right—have your shirt tucked in—just the little things."

Whether his shirt is tucked in or not, Brantley needs to be "the man" and clearly cherishes that responsibility. With a line that also includes Cece Jefferson and Bryan Cox, Jr., don't be surprised if Brantley lives up to his own hype.

About That Battle In The Trenches, Though

While Brantley and the rest of the defensive line will be a force, it wasn't on Saturday, according to head coach Jim McElwain, per Only Gators Get Out Alive:

If you're looking for the best possible news for the Florida Gators this spring, this is it. 

The quarterback battle will remain open for a while, the quest for a running back will last well into fall camp and the new defensive pieces will take some time to come together. The offensive line enjoying any success—any at all—will be considered ground-breaking.

The Gators gave up 24 sacks over the final six games of the season, clearly regressing due to inexperience, injuries and youth. But those lessons and playing time earned by younger players could be blessings in disguise.

On Saturday, at least, that appeared to be the case. 

Whoever wins the starting quarterback and running back jobs will need to show more consistency in the trenches if Florida intends to contend for the SEC title again in 2016.

"Ful" Of Hope

Florida WR Ahmad Fulwood
Florida WR Ahmad FulwoodRob Foldy/Getty Images

With sophomore receiver Antonio Callaway suspended and Demarcus Robinson gone to the NFL, somebody needs to become the go-to wide receiver this spring.

Senior Ahmad Fulwood seems to have obliged. 

The 6'4", 211-pounder from Jacksonville, Florida, hasn't exactly lived up to the 4-star hype that followed him to Gainesville, catching just 35 passes over three years. 

Things have changed this spring, apparently.

That's big for Florida and for the quarterback battle. 

It's abundantly clear that Callaway—if and when he's allowed to return to the team—will be the primary playmaker for the Gators. But Callaway and Fulwood are entirely different players. Fulwood's massive frame makes him a big threat downfield over smaller defensive backs and over the middle in possession situations. Callaway is best suited as a weapon on bubble screens, in the slot and in space in the quick passing game.

You know what you're getting from Callaway after a stellar freshman season that saw him catch 35 passes for 678 yards and four touchdowns. The rest of the passing game, regardless of who wins the quarterback battle, is still a mystery.

Fulwood's emergence allows all of the contenders to work on and develop a different aspect of the passing game, which will help the entire offense become more diverse.

Duke Of The Defense

Florida DB Duke Dawson
Florida DB Duke DawsonRob Foldy/Getty Images

Duke Dawson has played a secondary role in the Florida secondary during his first two seasons in Gainesville, bouncing between safety and corner when needed as a rotational player.

According to Zach Aboverdi of SEC Country, the 5'10", 194-pounder appears to have found a home in the hybrid-nickelback spot for a Gator defense that includes several stars like Jalen Tabor and Marcus Maye.

If he can keep it up, he will be a big factor for the defense. 

The hybrid role in Florida's defense requires a player to be solid in coverage and still stick his nose in to help out on run support, which is something that Dawson has done—in a small sample size—during the first two years of his career.

Figuring that part of the depth chart out now will allow the rest of the pieces to fall into place and keep that Gator defense elite. 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.


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