Snippets and Tidbits:
UF will use its five day acclimation period a little differently than other teams. For the coaches it will be extremely difficult because they will be on the field for five hours in a row essentially coaching guys up. The team will be split into two groups and each will get the maximum amount of repetitions as possible including the freshman. Because the NCAA eliminated early camps for freshman this allows UF to integrate their young guys with the vets while getting a lot of repetitions. Next Friday is media day then the Gators will begin to scrimmage and go through more two a day practice sessions.
The NCAA instituted the acclimation period last year along with the new two a day sessions. Teams will practice two times a day but must practice only once the next day. This is a far cry from what I went through at Florida and is designed by the NCAA to avoid coaches fatiguing the athletes in camp and possible health hazards to student athletes.
While the coaches voted Florida tenth in the preseason poll, I don't think there is a chance the media will. Coaches recognize how close UF must be with wins over National Champion LSU and Georgia. As for the coaching fraternity, Ron Zook is very well respected and many members of his staff are well thought of by other coaches. UF is in a good starting position and it may help this young team by being in the top ten. This team must embrace pressure and welcome success if the Gators are going to get back to Atlanta.
Here are some names of guys you may see emerge in camp as contributors for this year's team. These guys are players that I feel have put themselves in a position to get some serious playing time as either starters, first subs or on special teams:
Zeph Augustine is a fearless special teams player and may get some serious time at safety in the Middle game with Herring being out. Michael Hill is a promising defensive tackle who may finally be healthy. I am really looking forward to seeing Hill get into the mix on the defensive line. Reggie Lewis could be a force at receiver. If Baker, Caldwell, and Cornelius emerge, Reggie could be the benefactor of in the four receiver set. He is not afraid to line up inside and is a tough matchup for linebackers and nickel backs. Carlton Medder is a load of potential and after a summer with Rob Glass could be ready to get some key snaps at tackle. "Big Greasy" reminds me a little of another former Gator great Reggie Green. Todd McCollough returns to the lineup after being UF's most consistent and reliable player for a season and a half. McCollough is a smart, tough hard nosed kid who can play all three linebacking spots. This is the first time in the Zook era that the "4th" linebacker could easily be a starter. Cornerback Jermaine McCollum has shown flashes of brilliance with interceptions his first two years on campus. He is not the biggest corner but he has an attitude and a nose for the football. He could filter in the nickel and dime packages for that reason. He is also UF's most likely designated punt blocker. Also cannot forget about the first time freshmen: Mike McIntosh apparently looks very good and it will be hard to redshirt his talent. Brandon Siler looks like he may be a kid who is as ready as anyone. Defensive End Derrick Harvey would have definitely been in the rotation last season and may still work his way on the field. Marcus Manson could be the running back of the future for the Florida Gators.
Some quick notes on your Gator Football Coaches:
Since the beginning of 2002 Ron Zook has won more games than any coach who started their new job that season. The number of coaches is 15 and includes Ty Willingham, Jeff Tedford, and Chan Gailey.
Red Anderson helped develop Brad Culpepper when I was here at Florida and Marcus Thomas has a lot of the same qualities as Pep did in college. Culpepper was a first team All American under Anderson.
We all know about the receiver Dwayne Dixon has coached and developed at Florida but his best coaching job was getting Ben Troupe to realize his true potential. Before Troupe was under Dixon's guidance his practice habits were suspect at best. Dixon turned Troupe into the first pick of the Tennessee Titans.
Mike Locksley knows talent. Ralph Friedgen has won 10 games at Maryland every year he has been there. Last season half the starters on the top 22 were recruited by Locksley. He has coached top running attacks before and this may be UF's best running team since Fred Taylor in 1997. In 1999 his running attack at Maryland finished 12th in the country.
Bill Miller has seen it all and done it all. He has been a coordinator for 17 years of his career and this offseason turned down a job by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. He has coached Nate Webster, Dan Morgan, and Ray Lewis. He knows how to get talented players to reach their potential.
Joe Wickline is a terrific recruiter and may have assembled UF's best front under Ron Zook. Wickline is a former Gator and actually played in the Blue Gray game. The biggest thing Joe demands of his guys is to be physical. He did coach at Florida once before in 1982 and Lomas Brown was one of his pupils.
Ed Zaunbrecher's name comes up every time Byron Leftwich mentions Marshall University. Zaunbrecher knows how to develop quarterbacks in any system and in every conference. Chris Leak was the winningest freshman QB in the country last season.
Dan Disch was a legendary high school coach in Jacksonville,Florida. He sent more kids to division one schools in Jacksonville the last decade than any other public school. His coaching style is physically demanding and already rubbed off the players in the spring. He has never had a losing season as a coach.
Charlie Strong has been at Florida on four different occasions and knows the program as well as anyone. Some of his best coaching was done with less talent at South Carolina. He took a defense that lost four defensive lineman to the NFL draft and led the SEC in takeaways. His defenses always improve from year to year and last season the Gators improved in five defensive categories. Strong is a candidate for many coaching openings but this off-season he chose to keep his focus on Florida and the chance to return the Gators to elite status.
Larry Fedora has coached and recruited NFL talent before and he was at Middle Tennessee State. His offenses were attacking up tempo approaches that constantly put pressure on defenses. He may be one of the best recruiters in the country and is certainly a candidate for a head coaching job in the future. Fedora keeps defenses "defensive" by attacking what the defense gives them. His offense at Middle Tennessee State was not only a top passing team and total offense team but a very stout running team.
Stat of the Week: 52-3. Chris Leak's record in his last 55 games as a starting quarterback. He won 46 in a row in high school and then his first start at Florida. His three losses were Ole Miss, FSU and Iowa. I think we all agree he probably should be 54-1.