GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Five things I noticed during Florida's open practice at Florida Field on Saturday.
TE Kent Taylor can be a weapon in the passing game. The freshman from Land O'Lakes, Fla., is too skinny (225 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame) but he's got great hands and is able to do something that UF's receivers have struggled with the past two seasons: Get open. He's got great body control and showed an ability to work the sideline and the corner of the end zone. More importantly, UF coach Will Muschamp is going to be smart in how he uses Taylor. He won't ask Taylor to block because, frankly, he's not physically ready to do that. But he can play in the slot and will move around the formation.
DE Dante Fowler may be the most physically impressive freshman to step foot on campus in a long time. He played in high school at 236 pounds but now weighs 277 -- and it doesn't seem to be affecting his quickness one bit. The offensive tackles were having trouble with him and he would have had at least one sack during the team drills. Muschamp said Fowler is going to play a lot, and if he's as impressive in games as he is on the practice field, the Gators might have solved their pass-rush problem -- especially if Ronald Powell returns from his ACL surgery this season. Can you imagine Powell and Fowler both coming off the edge at the same time?
Florida's starting cornerbacks should be Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy. Those two looked really good on Saturday. Both locked up receivers in coverage and knocked away passes. Neither got beat badly. Roberson was flagged for pass interference twice but he's shown that he's more physical than he was last season. Those two give the Gators a pair of big corners -- Roberson is 6-0, 180 and Purifoy is 6-1, 186 -- who can run. The secondary should be the strength of the defense.
The quarterbacks are still not consistent in completing intermediate passes. Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett appeared solid on the short passes but had trouble with anything 10-20 yards during 11-on-11. Part of that is probably due to the fact that UF's secondary is so good and the receivers just weren't open -- but some of that blame belongs on the receivers, too. Still, this area has to improve because it's asking too much of an offense to always have to grind out 70- or 80-yard drives. You have to be able to get yardage in chunks sometimes.
It wasn't against a live rush, but P Kyle Christy struck the ball pretty well. He improved last season after a shaky start and maybe the Gators again have a weapon in the field-position game like they used to have with Chas Henry.