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April 7, 2008The Gators hit the field for the twelfth of 15 spring practices on Saturday morning for a spirited two and a half hour scrimmage session and the staff of GatorBait.net was there to bring you the latest. Today's Insider Notebook takes you inside the practice with a look at what took place on the field. Included is a look at the top five players, some news and notes, and Cameron Newton making a strong case for the backup spot today.
Though the squad was in full pads as the days wind down to this Saturday's spring finale.
A couple of those injured during last Saturday's scrimmage - Carl Johnson, Justin Trattou and Mike Pouncey returned to full speed.
Other than that, there wasn't much new on the injury front. Jim Tartt was in full pads, but didn't participate. The only real new injury was Carl Moore tweaking his ankle. Another receiver, Cade Holliday has a meniscus injury. Markihe Anderson sat out as well.
The linebacker trio of Brendan Beal, A.J. Jones and Ryan Stamper were dressed in their yellow jerseys. John Jones was working with a trainer as well.
Following the schedule he has been on all spring, Torrey Davis of course sat out today. Another player who has been in and out of practice depending on his baseball schedule is Riley Cooper. Today he was 'in' in a big way. He had several long catches and was one of the receivers the ball was thrown at most often (Louis Murphy was first).
The starting defense during 11-on-11 drills: Justin Trattou, Jermaine Cunningham, Lawrence Marsh, Matt Patchan, Brandon Spikes, Dustin Doe, Brandon Hicks, Wondy Pierre-Louis, Joe Haden, Major Wright and Dorian Munroe.
Ahmad Black saw as much time with the first team defense as Munroe.
Although he wasn't with the starters the first rotation, Carlos Dunlap saw plenty of action with the first team.
Moses Jenkins and Jacques Rickerson were the second string corners (Rickerson is the first team nickel back still). John Curtis and Jamar Hornsby were the second team safeties.
The second team linebackers were walk-on Chris Pintado, Lorenzo Edwards and Jerimy Finch.
On the offenses first possession during 11-on-11 drills, James Wilson lined up at first team left guard in place of the injured Tartt. Later Johnson played the spot.
The most physical defensive backs during 1-on-1 'touchdown' tackling drills were Moses Jenkins, Black and Jamar Hornsby. The least physical were Jacques Rickerson and Jeremy Brown.
Brown had an overall positive day though making a couple of plays in coverage including an interception of John Brantley during 7-on-7 drills.
The 7-on-7 drills were down and distance situations.
John Brantley must be wondering if he did something to tick off the coaching staff. During his first time out during 11-on-11 drills he was being protected by an offensive line which featured 3 walk-ons and 2 other players Corey Hobbs and Jim Barrie who have yet to play in a game.
The result was back to back sacks.
Then the staff reshuffled the line and put in Marcus Gilbert at right tackle and Johnson at left guard, moving Barrie to the right side, but Jaye Howard then got to him twice in a row.
The first time Howard sacked Brantley, he drove him to the ground, which brought Cameron Newton storming in taking issue with Howard (they were separated).
It was a rough practice all around for Brantley who suffered through 2-3 picks on the day including the very last play of the day (by John Curtis).
Things weren't much better for the starter. Tim Tebow had a Jekyll & Hyde act going on.
He looked great at one moment, terrible the next on his way to 4-5 picks on the afternoon. At least one of them was tipped, but two others, he simply made bad throws or poor decisions.
On one play, during the hurry up offense portion of the drills, he threw a pick to Dustin Doe (in today's video highlights) while falling backward off balance.
They were on the middle field, making it hard to measure the distance by counting yard markers, but both Caleb Sturgis and Jonathan Phillips were more on than off today from long range. Sturgis' last kick, which he nailed, had to go a good 55 to 60 yards. Phillips had the distance plus from over 50-yards, but ended up hitting the upright.
Usually when there's a coach on the offensive side of the raising his voice, it goes without saying that it's line coach Steve Addazio. However today, while the offense was on the middle field - well away from the crowd, a voice could be heard reading the offense the riot act. For the first time this spring, maybe the first time ever, offensive coordinator Dan Mullen chewed out the players on his side of the ball for several minutes.
The coaches got on Jerimy Finch for not being physical enough on one play, reminding him that he was a linebacker. Taking it to heart, on the very next play Lorenzo Edwards drilled Riley Cooper.
With two picks on the day, Wondy Pierre-Louis might have slipped into Monday's top 5. However he was also beaten a couple of times and on his last interception, to end the 1st team offenses 2-minute drill drive, he attempted to run his pick-off back down the sideline with Chuck Heater in tow yelling at him to get down. Heater explained to him that the game is over with the interception, if he runs it back, he could fumble it giving the opposing team a chance. As a junior-to-be, he should play smarter than that.
After doing little to nothing in the passing game this spring, Cornelius Ingram had his best day catching the ball.
During the 1-on-1 'touchdown' tackling drills, Kestahn Moore was once again the back most consistently hard to wrap up. He also made some big runs during 9-on-7 drills.
Emmanuel Moody had a couple of good runs including a 35-to-40 yard run before being stopped by Hornsby, that was the longest run of the day. However he also had an issue holding on to the ball (it looked like a shovel pass). At the end of the day he was doing up-and-downs with a ball in each hand. He had Urban Meyer walking in front of him the entire length of the field.
There are too many players going through drills at too many different stations to pretend like any one person can see it all.
With that being said, the daily top five isn't the top five players on the team, it is comprised of five players who stood out while I was watching them.
1) Cameron Newton - The presumed backup to Tebow has had his moments this spring, but then again has had his rough spots as well. He's looked good in 7-on-7 only to come back and have a terrible 11-on-11 drill. Today was the first time all spring he looked better than average from start to finish. He still had a couple of errant throws (he tends to overthrow at times, causing the ball to land well short of his target), but he was able to connect on his deep and intermediate passes all day.
2) Joe Haden - With the defense getting as many picks as they had today, it's a natural to include a member of the secondary in today's top 5. Haden only had 1 pick, but he had a couple of passes defended in there too and was by far the most physical of the corners defending the run. During the 1-on-1 'touchdown' tackling drills, he was the first defender to stop Deonte Thompson, causing Heater to yell out, not this time D, not this time Deonte.
3) Louis Murphy - Though he's still wearing the yellow jersey, he stepped up his game today. He was as active as he's been over the last 7-to-8 practices making catch after catch. His speed was on display a couple of times as he went by defenders catching long balls.
4) Mike Pouncey - The last time he was seen, he was leaving the practice field Saturday on crutches. Today he proved that he is fully recovered from whatever ailed him then. During line drills he was the most dominate player on the field. Burying Troy Epps two times in a row (the second one is included in today's video highlights).
5) Terron Sanders & Jaye Howard - These two have been practicing well over the last several practices, but like many young players, they've been inconsistent. Sanders made a couple of plays in the backfield today, including 2 sacks (they were against backup OL though). Howard on the other hand got to Brantley twice today while going against Gilbert. On his second sack he made a spin move that left Gilbert and Barrie wondering what happened.
Two who just missed making the listing were Justin Williams, who had several big catches including what might be the play of the day, a catch down the sideline for a good 40-plus yards and Riley Cooper, who made catch after catch.