Defensive Stand

Despite some struggles from the offense, Florida's defense picks up the pace in the Gators' second scrimmage Saturday....

Just when Florida's offense seemed prematurely prepared for the season opener, those who watched Saturday evening's scrimmage learned their lesson.

It's just too early to judge.

In a showing much less intriguing than the pass-happy progress made in Wednesday's scrimmage, Florida's defense came alive. And in turn, they grounded all four quarterbacks – including freshman Chris Leak.

"The offense always comes out early," cornerback Keiwan Ratliff said. "Especially with the young inexperienced players we have now. Some of those players it was there first time playing in the swamp. We tried to get them more focused on Thursday and Friday because we knew the scrimmage was coming up."

Yet despite a few notable mistakes, Leak and Ingle Martin did manage to separate themselves from the pack of four.

Leak, who once drove the offense 95 yards downfield, finished 18-28 with 209 yards. Martin, who threw the only two touchdown passes, completed 7-of-12 for 76 yards. Still, Martin wasn't pleased.

"I wasn't real focused out there and it probably showed a little bit, for whatever reason," Martin said. "The defense got after us and it's a good sign for our football team."

As for Justin Midgett and Gavin Dickey, the pair wasn't especially weak. They just weren't overly impressive, either. Dickey went 6-for-14 with 35 yards. But until his last drive, he had only completed one pass of his six attempts for two yards.

Perhaps the most impressive showing Saturday – aside from a few key defensive plays -- was the performance of the special teams.

Freshman Eric Wilbur drew the loudest ovations of the night on his first two punts, which both sailed more than 50 yards.

"I was excited, too," Zook said. "He's got a chance to be a good punter. He really does."

Amongst the most unimpressive offensive blunders, Martin fumbled a wild option pitch to Ran Carthon which was snatched up by Guss Scott and carried 80 yards for a touchdown.

"I should have kept it and ate it," Martin said. "Ran wasn't even looking at me." Leak had his share of freshman slip-ups as well.

One was a miscommunication with freshman Chad Jackson which resulted in a Reynaldo Hill interception. Offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher defended Leak, suggesting Hill ran a wrong route.

Leak may have looked most like his age when he had the ball stripped away by Jermaine McCollum who ran it in 25 yards for a touchdown.

But he then looked ahead of his years on one fourth down and short, when he launched a deep sideline pass to Kelvin Kight. It was one of few long pass attempts all day, but failed to convert the first down.

What it succeeded at doing, though, was sending a spark through an otherwise lethargic crowd. The play reminded Coach Ron Zook of another former quarterback.

"I really didn't want to see him go for that one," Zook said. "That brings back Rex [Grossman] there. But he's [Leak's] like Rex, he feels he can go downtown."

Leak's performance may have still been good enough to get him in the mix among the top two candidates for the starting job, which will likely be named Monday.

"We'll sit down after we watch the film and make some determinations about weighting some things one way or another," Zaunbrecher said. "Everything is going 90 miles per hour and tomorrow we'll have a chance to catch our breath and sit down and discuss it as a staff."

The Gators, who failed to make The Associate Press Top 25, were given Sunday off from practice. Instead, they will have meetings to discuss the scrimmage through most of the day.

INJURIES: Linebacker Taurean Charles wore a neck brace and sat out with a sprained neck. He expects to be fine. Defensive lineman Ronald Dowdy broke his hand, but shouldn't miss much practice, if any at all. Linebacker Brian Crum will have a hurting foot x-rayed.

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