Late Practice Ends Long Day

After a long morning of interviews, the Gators day faded into the night with their first full-squad workout.

After a full morning -- including interviews with radio, print and television reporters – the Gators worked on special teams for a good portion of Saturday night's practice.

As the first workout without split squads, Coach Ron Zook said the freshman class handled the initiation well.

"We talked to them and explained what was going to happen," Zook said. "Those first three practices really helped us. They have a feeling of what's going on now. They've done it rather than standing back and watch."

The Gators practice once Sunday from 3 p.m to 5 p.m.

HELP ON THE WAY: If Florida true freshman Eric Wilbur lives up to his word, the Gators won't struggle with punting nearly as severely as they did a year ago.

Wilbur, who has picked up the reputation of being somewhat cocky, said he sees no problem averaging 50 yards a punt next season.

The standout from Trinity Prep in Winter Park said he watched closely as the Gators faced their problems last season.

"When they brought in Ingle Martin to start punting," Wilbur said, "it seemed like they were in a pretty desperate situation. I don't really know what happened last year."

When he was recruited, coaches told him he should work on his trigger speed and accuracy, as that was the biggest flaw of punter Sean Morton.

But Coach Ron Zook also said Saturday that Wilbur wouldn't be concentrating his efforts anywhere else. Regardless of Wilbur's wishes, there will be no field goal kicking.

"Eric's not going to kick," Zook said. "I told him and his father when we signed him that he could take those goalposts down in his backyard. He doesn't have to worry about those goalposts. We brought Eric in here to be a punter. That's what I want him concentrating on."

Long snapper Casey Griffith, last year's special teams captain, said he sees potential in Wilbur. But he won't judge until gameday.

"I think anybody can contribute could contribute to the punt team and make it better," Griffith said. "We kind of need that. Sometimes you get a highly touted guy that comes in and doesn't do anything. Or you get a highly touted guy who comes in and blows everybody away. It's all how you act in the game. He's a good kicker, but it's one of those things you don't really know about."

HE'S OVER IT: For so many Gators fans, recalling the final play of last year's Outback Bowl has been a painful memory. For those who need to be reminded, it included an end-around handoff from Keiwan Ratliff to Vernell Brown, who failed to hit Rex Grossman, the intended receiver.

"The whole left side of the line rushed," Brown recalled Saturday. "And I was thinking get to where I wanted to throw it out of bounds. But of course I was hit and it didn't make it."

Surprisingly, Brown, a Gainesville native, has handled the play in stride.

"I wouldn't change a thing," he said. "I've learned it and I've used it as motivation."

Of course, he has taken some heat from old friends around town.

"You had those who did bring it up and those who brought it up and tried to be sarcastic about it," he said. "I looked at it like, ‘How many of you have had the opportunity to make a play like that at a Division I University like Florida?' That's the way I look at. That's why I never let it bother me."

THE VOTE: Jonathan Colon, a potential factor at both offensive guard and tackle, talked about his off-season problems and his ability to overcome poor study habits.

After being suspended during the summer, Zook allowed his team to decided if Colon should be reinstated to the team.

Asked if he knew he'd be voted back on, Colon said: "Yeah, I was confident... Well, I was worried for a little while there. Who wouldn't be worried? But I had a good feeling.

A lot of them are my friends. They had to look at it from a team point of view. What's best for the team?"

TIME TO STEP UP: Redshirt senior Daryl Dixon conceded after his true freshman year, he struggled through two sub-par seasons. After sitting out last year because of a torn labrum and bone chips in his shoulder, he is ready to live up to his potential.

"Last year was hard on me but I learned a lot from it," Dixon said. "I know that I'm ready to play. I know that I'm 100 percent. I know I can play the kind of football I can play and that's real exciting."

Two years ago, Dixon was the top backup at free safety. Still, he doesn't feel he has tapped into the talent he is capable of producing.

‘The last two years I wasn't mentally where I should be and it took a toll on me," he said. "But now I'm healthy and my senior year is going to be better."

Zook praised Dixon for his leadership skills, noting that Dixon traveled with the team every game last year despite his redshirt status.

"They wanted him in the locker room," Zook said. "They wanted him in meetings and they wanted him around this football team. Daryl's not a guy that talks very much, but when he says something, they listen. He is a very, very talented guy."


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