Would you believe it? Florida’s fall camp is halfway done. Or in other words, we’re halfway between the point where fall practice began- which in itself is a date marked on Gator fans’ calendars as a sign that football season is near- and the start of the Gator football season.
So now that we’ve reached that halfway mark, here are five things that have stood out:
5) Secondary leads the way for the defense
Given the talent and experience in the Gators’ defensive backfield, it’s no surprise that the secondary would be the engine of the defense. But it’s still nice to see, especially since Vernon Hargreaves isn’t the only guy back there making plays. Marcus Maye has had a great fall so far in his safety spot, and Jalen Tabor could probably be the #1 cornerback on any other team in the SEC East. The defensive backfield is also responsible for bringing a lot of the energy. It’s VH3 who breaks the team down and does most of the talking. This position, which also features Brian Poole, Keanu Neal, Duke Dawson and Quincy Wilson, very well may be the nation’s best- and has played like it so far.
4) Scarlett rising
We knew Kelvin Taylor would be the Gators’ number one back, but what about the backup role? Freshman Jordan Scarlett was gaining ground on second string tailback Adam Lane anyway, but Lane’s somewhat abrupt transfer made it official: Scarlett is second in line. He hasn’t disappointed. He’s shown great vision and instincts in drills, making one cut and going forward as opposed to dancing around in the backfield. Naturally, this has paid off in scrimmages and 11 vs. 11 drills, where his athleticism is best suited to show up. I really like his patient yet quick-thinking approach as a runner, waiting for a hole to open up, finding it and then exploding through it without a moment’s hesitation. The way he’s performing in practice, I’d be stunned if he doesn’t get meaningful carries in week one.
3) Rebirth of the offensive line
Thanks to the various deficiencies of the dearly departed Will Muschamp, Florida’s offensive line was turned over to Jim McElwain in pretty much the same way the entire program was- a mess. But while it’s still way too early to declare it fixed- Florida hasn’t played a real game yet- McElwain has at least fixed it from a numbers perspective. First, he snagged prized left tackle Martez Ivey on National Signing Day. Then he landed transfers TJ McCoy (NC State) and Mason Halter (FCS All-American at Fordham). That’s all paying off now. Florida’s offensive line actually looks decent in practices against what we know is a very good Gator defense. For the most part, the linemen are quick off the snap and explode into the defenders, much more so than in the spring. And well, it’s deeper. Just… better than Muschamp left it in every way imaginable.
2) Powell’s new role
We knew that running back Brandon Powell was going to have a new job. What exactly that job entailed was left up in the air, but now we’re starting to see it get defined. Powell is by no means Percy Harvin, but he appears to be set to play a similar role to the one Harvin played in 2008. That means lining up in the backfield, taking handoffs and running jet sweeps or wheel routes. That means lining up in the slot, catching short passes and trying to make guys miss. And that means lining up as an outside receiver and going deep. He’s been used in every such fashion so far, and based on his success in practice so far, I’m betting he’ll have success as the Gators’ Swiss army knife on game day.
1) Grier pulls away in QB battle
The quarterback battle was the most talked about piece of Florida’s entire roster since Jeff Driskel opted to transfer after the Birmingham Bowl victory over East Carolina. But it really hasn’t been much of a battle so far. I’ve said it in previous practice reports, and I’ll say it again: Grier has dominated the competition. He’s got the better arm. He makes good decisions. He’s not afraid to hit the check down option when necessary. He’s accurate. Harris, on the other hand, has been inconsistent at best and sloppy at worst, frequently throwing behind receivers and sometimes simply makes awful decisions. He’s a very talented athlete, and a good kid, so I’d like to think McElwain will find a spot for him. But given the way Grier has played so far, it’s hard to imagine it will be at QB.