Since everyone (fans and media alike) is locked out of practice, it’s impossible to project a complete picture about what’s going on in spring practice. But I can offer up a lot or snapshots based on interviews with Will Muschamp and players, and after attending Muschamp’s high school football clinic this past weekend.
So, here’s some of the stuff that’s going on:
* Chris Rainey appears to be a perfect fit for Charlie Weis’ offense. He’s broken off quite a few runs and has been lining up in various spots in the offense (mostly at tailback). Muschamp said Rainey really likes lining up deep in the backfield in the I-formation. All that space allows him to better use his great vision and cutting ability. He’s been THE offensive star of the spring so far.
* All three quarterbacks are adapting to the pro-style offense and doing some good things, including redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy. Many were writing Murphy off heading into the spring because he was signed by Meyer to be a spread quarterback. But, by all accounts, Murphy has a very impressive and lively passing arm to go along with his ability to scramble out of the pocket. Offensive guard Jon Halapio said Monday the quarterback who has really been coming on lately is true freshman Jeff Driskel. I saw him coming out of the tunnel before Saturday’s scrimmage, and he’s a physical specimen. As for John Brantley, several players have mentioned what a leader he has become this spring. He’s clearly more comfortable in an offense that better fits his skill set, and he’s performing with a great deal of confidence. He’s being pushed for the starting role (which is good for everybody), but he’s going to be hard to beat out.
* The young offensive linemen are excited about the chemistry that’s developing up front — and the potential of the unit. Xavier Nixon and Chaz Green are the starting tackles at the moment, while Halapio is holding down one guard spot and Jonotthan Harrision is working as the No. 1 center after recently making the move from guard. Harrison (who looks much stronger and more cut than a year ago) said he loves the center position now and has been getting some pointers from Mike Pouncey, who made the move from guard to center last season.
* Several players indicated Monday that some team leaders have started to emerge. On defense, the leaders have been end/outside linebacker Ronald Powell, tackle Sharrif Floyd and strong safety Matt Elam. The offensive leaders have been Brantley, Halapio, Nixon and Rainey. Speaking of Powell, Halapio calls him a beast. Powell, according to Halapio, is comfortable in the defense now and is no longer thinking about what to do, he’s simply reacting and playing — and making plays all over the field.
* By all accounts, true sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley has a much better attitude than last fall, and he has a chance to be a dominant player on the defensive front. Harrison said Easley is the toughest defensive lineman he’s gone against because he’s so strong and has a lightning first step. “He’s making me a better player,” Harrison said.
* I saw redshirt freshman linebacker Gideon Ajagbe before Saturday’s scrimmage, and he looks like a different person. He’s much bigger and stronger than he was in the fall. And after watching a short tape of the scrimmage, it looks like he’s making plays. His emergence would be significant, given how little depth the Gators have at linebacker.
* The wide receivers who apparently are consistently making plays are redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar, senior Deonte Thompson, sophomore Stephen Alli, junior Frankie Hammond Jr. and sophomore Solomon Patton.
* I had a chance to watch true freshman punter Kyle Christy launch a few before Saturday’s scrimmage, and he looks like the real deal (and the starting punter).
* Defensively, the Gators are aggressive and always on the attack. There are numerous blitz packages, and the Gators have been throwing them all at the offense this spring.
* Offensively, the Gators look like they’re going to be very good with play-action passes, screens on the perimeter and in the downhill running attack out of the I. Weis was limited in what he could do with the Kansas City Chiefs last year. He appears to have more components that would allow him to run an offense similar to the one he did with the Patriots.
* The players seem to really enjoy playing for this coaching staff. Some strong bonds have already developed between players and position coaches.
* A lot of energy that was missing with last year’s team has returned.
So, there you have it. We can’t give you the entire picture, but hopefully these snapshots will give you a better idea of what’s happening on the practice field.