Photo: Ventrell Miller and Jay Bateman. Credit: Zach Goodall
The Florida Gators returned to their indoor practice facility to avoid the rain Sunday on the fourth day of 2022 fall camp in preparation for Billy Napier’s first season as UF head coach.
You can find AllGatorsObservations from the media exposure practice section below.
As noted on Friday, we’re starting to focus on individual position groups after covering the offense as a whole on day one and the defense as a whole on day two. Following a fan vote, we evaluated the wide receiver unit on day three and zeroed in on the linebacker group for the most recent practice.
Focus on linebackers
During the media screening portion of day four, the linebackers were tasked with 45-degree tackles against a blocker and running back (manned by fellow LBs), where the defenders had to avoid two blockers (tackle dummies) by bending and/or slide and parachute drills where pad level, balance, punching and catch passes were tested simultaneously.
As expected, the first two linebackers to go through each drill were seniors and projected starters Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney. Burney had the cleaner day of the two in terms of successfully completing drills as Miller was asked to repeat his shooting rep for going the wrong way. Burney successfully completed his first rep in nearly every drill and showed great fluidity in the gap shooting and parachute drill.
(Modernize: Hat to Zach Abolverdi of On3 Sports for spotting Burney again doing a replay, which we didn’t see live after the shooting locations were changed.)
It was interesting to see true freshman and summer enrolled Shemar James third in line in all drills behind current projected starters in Miller and Burney. As we noted on day two, players rotate between the first and second teams, and notes like this aren’t an indication of how the depth chart looks, but offer the idea that one player is at least fighting to move up the chart .
That said, James is still learning his technique and how to lock down the running game right now. He was asked to take a second turn in several drills to correct mistakes made in the first round, though those mistakes appeared small and technical, such as his footwork and leverage rather than mental mistakes.
He is advanced in terms of athleticism and physicality for a player his age, and he also ran two of the team’s best reps. This aligns with James’ scouting report coming off the ball prep, aka being a dynamic off-ball blitzer.
Derek Wingo, Jeremiah Williams and Diwun Black make up the rest of the scholarship hall, and Wingo seemed to be the best of the trio on those tracks. His ability to hit the run and shed blocks downhill looks much improved from when we watched him go through similar drills in spring camp.
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Wingo’s punch is as powerful as Miller and Burney’s, which you can see below in clips from the day as the trio excelled in their parachute drills.
Williams and Black are some of, if not the most athletic linebackers on the team and their movement skills are evident in these drills. However, their physicality at the point of attack can continue to improve, and each of them over-pursued a rep in the drill, going wide and clearing a rushing lane to pass the running back.
A former high school specialist, Williams had his best reps during gap shooting drills, where his bending ability served him well.
Below are the players seen wearing non-contact jerseys during the media preview. An asterisk indicates that the player worked on the sidelines instead of on the field. This list does not include quarterbacks, as they are required to wear non-contact jerseys at all times.
- QB Jalen Kitna*
- THE Jonathan Odom
This was the first time Kitna did not participate in practice this fall, at least during the media viewing. He was seen stretching and riding a stationary bike during the open training window.
Left tackle Richard Gouraige was not at practice Sunday and has yet to participate in camp this fall due to an undisclosed injury. He has been seen working on the sidelines in practice before Sunday’s practice in a non-contact jersey.
Kicker Trey Smack wore a standard jersey Sunday, seemingly marking his first full practice after wearing a non-contact jersey the first three days of camp. The same could be said for the defensive back Dakota Mitchellwho shed his jersey without contact and was seen working on defensive back drills.
As Napier confirmed on Friday, corner Jaydon Hill is currently sitting out practice as he recovers from an undisclosed offseason injury.
Clip of the day
How about a two-pointer for clip-of-the-day?
Miller, Burney and Wingo had their best reps in parachute drills near the end of the screening period, with each linebacker keeping a low center of gravity through the parachute, punching the bag and pulling the ball immediately afterward.
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