More than a year into the new system under a new coaching regime, the Gators seem much more comfortable this spring than a year ago.
“More so even just the whole flow of practice, you know, and the terminology part,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “And it felt like we were way ahead, obviously, than where we were. You could tell by the install. We were in three personnel groups. We weren’t handcuffed by formations, that type of thing, which I know as a coach.
“It comes down, and I know it’s cliché, but the blocking and tackling is what it’s all about. However, the system part, we’re way ahead of where we were a year ago.”
Defensive leaders emerge
With Jon Bullard, Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal gone, new leaders are already to starting to emerge on defense, McElwain said.
“Obviously, Jarrad Davis, I mean you know, and Marcus Maye are guys as well as Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson. Those guys have a lot of quality reps,” McElwain said. “I’ve been really happy with Caleb Brantley in the front. I think Jon Bullard did a great job of kind of teaching him what it is to be that person. So far he’s been really good this offseason.”
Linebacker Alex Anzalone also has developed leadership qualities, McElwain said.
“Here’s a guy who didn’t play (because of an injured shoulder), but obviously has great leadership ability as well,” McElwain said. “Having him back out there, I think that helps Jarrad Davis as well. You can see those two guys automatically from the communication side that it’s really going.”
Anzalone missed most of last season with a chronic shoulder injury. He’s going to be limited to non-contact work this spring. McElwain said it’s too early for Anzalone to petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility after missing last season.
Sharpe looking sharp
When asked about the early performance of the offensive line, McElwain singled out junior tackle David Sharpe.
“You know, it’s awful hard in a practice like this to see. I think David Sharpe this off-season, I’ve seen a maturity growth,” McElwain said. “That’s something that’s got to really happen and continue to happen. I think he realizes he has the opportunity to be a leader, be a guy who can be kind of the bell cow of that front, and we need him to do that, and I’ve seen him moving in that area.
“I was impressed, a couple times on the outside zones today, he already corrected himself from last year where he always took a step backwards. He actually was gaining ground with his first step, and what that tells me is that you know what, he was working on getting better in this off-season.”
True freshmen defensive backs Chauncey Gardner and McArthur Burnett have made a favorable early impression and figure to help UF’s depth situation in the secondary.
“The good thing I saw was it wasn’t too big for either one of them. They were out there competing and having fun. They weren’t a step slow. They were reacting, which really says these guys came here on a mission and that’s good to see.”