The summer officially ended this morning at ten o'clock when the Florida Gators took to the field for the first fall practice of 2004. The Gators actually moved up the scheduled (2:30) session because of the chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Guys…. That chance ain't going away anytime soon!

It was your typical opening day with two sessions, the first featuring current first teamers and the second including more of this year's freshman class.

Some personal observations:

  • The Freshmen O-Linemen seem to be in excellent shape and look better than a large number of the returning veterans
  • Rookie DB candidates Tony Joiner and Dawayne Grace will get a real shot at earning playing time right out of the chute
  • Joe Cohen and Tranell Morant are scary (in a good way) to look at and should be the first two guys off the bus on game day
  • Michael McIntosh is THE young receiver to watch, very smooth with excellent acceleration.
  • Markell Thompson has himself in very good shape and is moving better. He won't be Ben Troupe, but he should be a solid threat
  • Cornelius Ingram has a long way to go mechanically and mentally, but he can really zip it in there.
  • Nick Brooks is now a safety and it looks like he might help
  • Eric Rutledge is starting out at FB, but I would move him to LB

Other day one notes… No sign of Taurean Charles or Mike Mangold although both remain on the roster. Charles remains suspended while Mangold has an appeal pending for possible admission. Marcus Baker, a wide receiver from nearby Hawthorne, who signed late, will apparently not be admitted to UF. Jermaine Thomas who has had some personal problems is back on the team and was at practice.

Assorted comments:

Channing Crowder insists Gators have enough LB depth:
"We have a couple of All-SEC pre-seasons and stuff and I think we have enough guys and great players and we can all play all three positions so that's not going to hurt us at all.

Javier and Siler should be able to play. They did real good in summer training and just working with the team. Basically, I'll help them a lot because I know the defense pretty well."

Chris Leak on pressure because of Zook's status and fan expectations:
"We're just going out there and playing, you know. We're going to play to the best of our abilities and be the best we can be. The Gators have always been about winning Championships and that's what we're gonna focus on."

Dallas Baker on getting going:
"We're real excited, we've been off for seven months. It's kinda hard to come back out with the heat and all, but I'm excited to be back out, it feels good."

Dallas Baker on gaining weight:
"I put on about 13 pounds, but come out here the first day I believe I lost about eight so I'm back to square one."

Larry Fedora on O.J. Small being too slow:
"He's got a bad rap. Watch him when he's running his routes. Watch him in seven-on-seven when he's always open. I don't know how fast he is or how slow he is, but he's got a bad rap because he's always open."


Not Freed Willie, he has no appeal, but Mike Williams of Southern Cal does it should be rejected loudly. Williams turned his back on college football when it appeared the Maurice Clarett decision would allow him to enter the NFL draft after two years with the men of Troy. However when the NFL won its appeal, it reversed itself and took Williams out of the draft.

So now Williams wants the NCAA to re-instate him because he has been injured by the situation. He's right, he has been, but NOT by the NCAA. The NFL screwed Mike Williams and it is there where he should have sought remedy. Mike Williams took a ton of money, signed endorsement deals and dropped out of school. If Mo Collins had to miss six games for taking $ 500 from an agent, Williams by comparison should sit out six YEARS. And on top of that, he is academically ineligible since he did not pass enough hours during the core school year.

Sue the NFL Mikey, but your time in college ball is over.


This is our first entry the emails and my intention is to choose one each column from those you guys send me. I also promise to try and give direct personal replies to all I receive…. Emphasis on TRY.

Monty55 writes:

What ever happened to the lost art of coffin-corner punting? I damn near need an ice pack to cool off my head when I see a punter kick it straight down Broadway (and into the end zone).

Great question Monty, the NCAA staff limits a number of years back eliminated a position many schools used for a kicking coach called a "volunteer" assistant. They got paid, but were not involved in recruiting and things like that, but gave kickers some much-needed tutelage. The late Bobby Joe Green did a great job for the Gators in that category.

Without that staff position, kickers are rarely coached. It's a shame for the kids doing the kicking and a shame for the game as a whole. There are specific techniques that need to be taught, problems that have to be detected and corrected and really no one to do it. I would like to see the NCAA create a job called "kicking coach" just to have someone on staff to help those guys out. Until then, a full-time special teams coach with specific experience and/or training in the art of kicking would be the best option.

Thanx for reading gang…. I'll look for more emails and write again after Friday.

We will we be ending this column with an e-mail question and answer... So write in whenever to me at - I'd be glad to hear from you. If you want a response that's private, please specify. And of course, you can always call me Sunday nights between 6 and 8 on Gainesville station WSKY (877 / 975 - 9825).

See You Friday.

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