Photo courtesy of @GatorsFB via Twitter.

Gators Football: Takeaways and Observations from Day Six of Spring Practice

The Florida Gators football team returned to the Sanders Practice Fields for day six of spring practice on Thursday. The Gators will hold a total of 15 practices, ending with the Orange and Blue Game in The Swamp on April 13 at 7:30 p.m. Here are observations from the 15-minute media viewing portion of Thursday’s practice, with a look at the biggest takeaways on both sides of the ball.

Coach Chaos Details Defensive Line

Florida Co-Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Sean Spencer broke down Florida’s defense following Thursday’s practice. Spencer, better known as “Coach Chaos” stepped up to the podium with a “Coach Chaos” chain around his neck and a sweat-soaked sweatshirt. He laughed, “I come as is.”

Spencer first spoke on the new depth in the defensive line. He shared how coming off a season where Gervon Dexter Sr. was given too many snaps, a newfound depth is a refreshing sight to see.

Gators defensive lineman Princely Umanmielen agreed with Spencer on having more depth on the defensive line.

In addition to freshmen talent, transfers Cam Jackson and Caleb Banks are standing out during spring practice. 

“They’re going to be really, really helpful for us,” Spencer shared. “They’ve shown a lot of stuff early on, we’re really excited about them.”

Spencer went on to praise the athleticism Jackson is showcasing during spring practice. He commended his balance, strength at the point of attack and impressive agility with a 6-foot-7 frame. 

He added how Banks has proven to be a natural athlete, who has been exciting to watch during spring practice. Spencer credited Banks’s athleticism to his prior experience on the hardwood. Another former basketball player joins Banks on the defensive line with freshman Will Norman. Spencer also tied Norman’s physical strengths to his time playing basketball, while complimenting the attitude and work ethic he brings to spring practice. 

Among the returning defensive linemen, Spencer shared how excited he is to see the progression of Chris Mclellan. Spencer described how Mclellan possesses the necessary physical tools with a strong lower body, broad shoulders and 320-pound frame.

Additionally, Spencer complimented Mclellan’s ability to pass rush and hold the point while emphasizing room for improvement within his technique. 

Spencer also spoke highly of Desmond Watson, labeling him as “the guy that sets the tone”.

Competition at Quarterback 

With former Gator quarterback Anthony Richardson gearing up for Pro Day and among the top-10 conversation for the 2023 NFL Draft, the Orange & Blue are left with some big shoes to fill. Competition for the quarterback role has continued throughout spring practice with Wisconsin redshirt junior transfer Graham Mertz and redshirt sophomore Jack Miller III at the forefront of the battle for the starting role.

Both quarterbacks executed the majority of their passes with accuracy during drills on Thursday. The quarterbacks began the viewing period throwing to the tight ends with curl, deep cross, drag, stop and corner routes. The quarterbacks continued to run drills with the running backs including play-action passes with wheel and out routes and to the wide receivers on slant, flat, post and hitch routes.

On day six of spring practice, Mertz had some high throws but executed several nice passes. Mertz connected well with Florida running back Montrell Johnson Jr. on a play-action pass and wheel route and later found Florida tight end Keon Zipperer on an excellent pass downfield. 

Miller was also mostly accurate during passing drills on Thursday. He reached Florida running back Trevor Etienne on curl and wheel routes and found Florida receiver Ricky Pearsall in stride during an out route.

Florida tight end Dante Zanders spoke highly of the entire quarterback room following day six of spring practice.

While Mertz and Miller may be the top two quarterbacks that come to mind while searching for Florida’s next starter, Max Brown did not fail to impress during Thursday’s passing drills. His day was highlighted by a nice connection downfield with Florida running back Treyaun Webb. 

Also among the quarterbacks was 2024 QB commit D.J. Lagway. Lagway was spotted watching passing drills during Thursday’s media viewing period.

Mazzcua’s Absence

For the first time this spring, left guard Micah Mazzccua and right tackle Damieon George Jr. were not observed at practice. Mazzcua, however, was observed in the Heavener facility at the end of practice. Just hours after the conclusion of practice, Mazzccua took to Twitter to announce his departure from the Gators and his return to the portal. However, later that night the tweet had been deleted.

Mazzcua had proven himself as one of the best offensive linemen the Gators have. He has collected praise from staff, teammates and media alike. Now, the question is whether the Gators will change his mind, look to their current roster or go after an interior offensive lineman in the portal once it reopens on April 15 through April 30. 

Meanwhile, during Thursday’s practice, both redshirt freshman Christian Williams and redshirt sophomore Jake Slaughter stepped in at Mazzccua’s absence. The duo was seen rotating reps at left guard. Sophomore Kiyaunta Goodwin was seen playing right tackle, Austin Barber at left tackle, redshirt junior Kingsley Eguakun at center and junior Richie Leonard IV at right guard.

Participation Report

Several players were spotted in non-contact jerseys during Thursday’s viewing period, including cornerbacks Devin Moore, Ethan Pouncey and Aaron Gates. Additionally, inside linebacker Derek Wingo and offensive linemen Jalen Farmer were dressed in non-contact jerseys. Wingo did not participate in regular drills. Pouncey was observed working individually with a trainer in between participating in normal drills. 

Meanwhile, Sophomore safety Kamari Wilson was observed without a non-contact jersey for the first time during spring practices. Wilson continued to take starting reps with the safety unit alongside Miguel Mitchell. 

Practice Highlights

About Ellie Shreve

Ellie is a third-year sports and media journalism major at the University of Florida.

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