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Thoughts from UF's final open practice

3/17/2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Here are some observations/thoughts from Florida's open spring practice on Saturday afternoon:

Cornerback Jaylen Watkins had two interceptions, giving him three in the two open practices. He picked off Jeff Driskel's pass intended for Andre Debose in 11-on-11 work and then out-fought Frankie Hammond for an under-thrown ball by Tyler Murphy on a play in which Murphy scrambled to his left. Debose, however, got a bit of revenge in one-on-one passing drills. He knocked Watkins toward the sideline and cut inside and got away clean -- although he dropped the pass.

The Gators were in full pads for the first time and spent about 10 minutes in the Oklahoma drill. Offensive linemen Sam Robey and D.J. Humphries had two impressive blocks in the drill.

For someone who's not supposed to have any contact, cornerback Marcus Roberson has been pretty physical in the two practices. Roberson, who is wearing an orange jersey because he's still recovering from a neck injury, got into receiver Quinton Dunbar in one-on-one pass drills Saturday and wouldn't let him get a clean release.

Roberson and safety De'Ante Saunders appear to be the top two punt returners. They took the majority of reps when the Gators were working on punt team. Dunbar also caught a few.

Driskel, Jacoby Brissett and Murphy had a lot of success completing passes in the 10- to 15-yard range, but were unable to get the ball down the field. Each quarterback did complete deep balls over the two days, but it was rare to see any completions of 20 or more yards that weren't sideline or seam patters. No deep ins or outs. It's understandable that they would struggle, though, because it is only the first week of practice, and the Gators' secondary is pretty good.

Tight end Clay Burton had a couple nice catches, but he also dropped an easy short pass in the 7-on-7 drills. With A.C. Leonard, who showed up at practice, still suspended because of his arrest, Burton is getting plenty of work behind starter Jordan Reed.

Running back Mack Brown showed a lot of shiftiness on Saturday, darting and cutting in the backfield before exploding through the hole on several carries. Running back Chris Johnson, who was moved from safety this spring, showed a bit of pop on Saturday, running over defensive back Willie Bailey during one drill.

Receiver Latroy Pittman, an early enrollee, has been noticeable in the two days of open practice. He's caught a couple of deep balls and is a pretty physical receiver. However, he hadn't really gotten popped until safety Matt Elam upended him during one-on-one tackle drills.

The move that intrigues me the most is Omarius Hines to running back. Mike Gillislee and Brown don't have great hands, and the Gators need a pass-catching threat out of the backfield besides Trey Burton. Hines certainly gives them that, and he caught several passes Saturday. He has been surprisingly good as a runner from the backfield. It's a different beast taking a hand-off and finding the hole rather than running after the catch as a receiver.

Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy left the practice with what appeared to be a minor injury -- possibly to his lower back. He went into the building in the back of the practice fields for treatment. Defensive end Earl Okine also appeared to be suffer a minor injury because he left the field and ended up doing what appeared to be stretching drills on the sideline.

The Gators do not have another open practice. The April 7 spring game will be the next chance to see them on the field.