Photo: Ventrell Miller and Jay Bateman; Credit: Zach Goodall
The Florida Gators were back in the indoor practice facility to avoid Sunday's rain showers on day four of 2022 fall camp, preparing for Billy Napier's first season in charge as UF's head coach.
You can find AllGators' observations from the media viewing portion of practice below.
As noted on Friday, we have begun to focus on individual position groups after covering the offense as a whole on day one and the defensive in its entirety on day two. Following a fan vote, we assessed the wide receiver unit on day three and fixated on the linebacker group for the latest practice.
Focusing on the linebackers
During the media viewing portion of day four, the linebackers were tasked with 45-degree run fits against a blocker and running back (manned by fellow LBs), gap-shooting where the defenders had to evade two blockers (tackling dummies) by bending and/or swiping, and chute drills where pad level, balance, punching and catching passes were tested all at once.
As expected, the first two linebackers to go through every drill were upperclassmen 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 redo his ga-shooting rep for going the wrong direction. Burney successfully completed his first rep in nearly every drill and displayed great fluidity while gap-shooting and in the chute drill.
(Update: Hat-tip to Zach Abolverdi of On3 Sports for noticing Burney re-doing one rep, which we did not see live after changing filming positions.)
It was interesting to see true freshman and summer enrollee Shemar James third in line throughout the drills, behind the current projected starters in Miller and Burney. As we noted on day two, players are rotating through the first and second teams and notes like this are not an indication of what the depth chart looks like, but they do offer the idea that a player is at least fighting to move up the chart.
That being said, James is still learning his technique and how to key the run game at this time. He was asked to take a second turn in several drills in order to correct mistakes committed in the first run, although those errors appeared minor and technical such as his footwork and leveraging instead of mental mistakes.
He is advanced in terms of athleticism and physicality for a linebacker of his age, and also ran two of the better gap-shooting reps of the bunch. This aligns with James' scouting report coming out of prep ball, known well as a dynamic blitzer from the off-ball position.
Derek Wingo, Jeremiah Williams and Diwun Black make up the remainder of the scholarship linebacker room and Wingo looked to be the best of the trio in these circuits in particular. His ability to key the run and shed blockers downhill appears much improved from when we watched him do similar drills in spring camp.
Wingo's block-shedding punch is about as powerful as Miller and Burney's, which you can see below in the clips of the day, as the trio stood out in the chute drills.
Williams and Black are some of if not the most athletic linebackers on the team and their movement skills are apparent 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 run-keying drill, getting too far outside and clearing a rushing lane for the running back to push through.
A former pass rushing specialist in high school, Williams had his best reps of the session during the gap-shooting drills where his ability to bend served him well.
Below are the players that were seen wearing no-contact jerseys throughout the media viewing portion of practice. An asterisk indicates that the player worked off to the side instead of on the field. This list does not include the quarterbacks as they are required to wear no-contact jerseys at all times.
- QB Jalen Kitna*
- TE Jonathan Odom
This was the first time Kitna did not take part in practice this fall, at least during the media viewing portion. He was seen stretching and riding a stationary bike during the practice's open window.
Left tackle Richard Gouraige was not at practice on Sunday and has yet to participate in camp this fall due to an undisclosed injury. He has been seen working off to the side at practice prior to Sunday's workout in a no-contact jersey.
Kicker Trey Smack wore a standard jersey on Sunday, seemingly marking his first full participation practice after wearing a no-contact jersey across the first three days of camp. The same could be said for defensive back Dakota Mitchell, who shed his no-contact jersey and was seen working in defensive back drills.
As Napier confirmed on Friday, cornerback Jaydon Hill is not currently participating in practice as he recovers from an undisclosed offseason injury.
Clip of the day
How about a two-piece for the clip-of-the-day?
Miller, Burney and Wingo put up the best reps in chute drills near the end of the viewing period, each 'backer keeping a low center of gravity through the chute, hitting the bag with a strong punch and hauling in the ball immediately after.
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