FOOTBALL: Receivers sharp in practices

The Florida Gators put in two practices Monday, taking advantage of cool, but clear weather to get in their pre-Christmas work for the Peach Bowl game. The Gators will get one more practice Tuesday before breaking camp for Christmas.

Monday's practices were conducted in helmets, pads and sweat pants, but there was some hitting going on above the waist any time receivers crossed the middle. Reggie Lewis continued to stand out. The slot receiver hasn't gotten a lot of playing time or many chances to show his stuff in games, but in the past two days, he's made several outstanding plays. He made the last play of the evening practice Monday and he also scored a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the two minute drill. Jemalle Cornelius made a terrific diving grab near the sideline. The receiver position is looking good for the future.

Sunday Channing Crowder looked a little slowed, but in Monday's workouts he showed more energy. I still don't think he is totally healthy, but he certainly improved a bunch in one day although he is still playing second team behind Travis Harris at Sam linebacker. Terrance Holmes participated in one-on-one drills and came up lame on one play. I didn't see him in the two deep at safety.

Marcus Thomas was conspicuously not participating in some of the drills Monday although he was dressed out. He was replaced on the first team by Clint McMillan.

Freshmen Markus Manson and Mike McIntosh have been quite impressive in their roles on the scout team. We talked extensively in the preseason how McIntosh impressed as a true freshman. He made a couple of great catches Monday and he is still performing at the same high level. Manson is a jitterbug who shows a never-ending repertoire of moves. A couple of times he was caught behind the line of scrimmage, but each time he made a couple of juke moves, then used his speed to break clear to the outside. He shows the kind of elusiveness and quickness from a standstill that you couldn't see in his high school highlight reels. He has tremendous speed and acceleration.

Mo Mitchell Reflects

With this being the last couple of practices here in Gainesville before the end of the season, we wanted to get a senior's point of view on things past and future. We turned to Mo Mitchell who has had a tumultuous career here at UF. He went from being nearly thrown off the team a few times to coaches All-SEC first team. He has a career ahead of him in the NFL, yet only last season there were questions if he could even finish his college career at UF.

He was quoted negatively a few weeks ago after new coach Urban Meyer met with the players for the first time. Mitchell has had more time to reflect on the change and wanted to share this with the team mates he is leaving behind.

"I think they need to have a positive approach towards the new coach", he said. He asked that they "try to go along with the change and attitudes that he wants to approach them with."

He had words of encouragement and wisdom to share, "I also want to wish everybody the best, and want them to do the right things, because I don't think they will be in a situation where they can do a lot of things with the new head coach."

Mitchell is a Gator through and through and tells us what he loved most while playing for the Gators.

"Just playing here gave me more satisfaction than anything else," he said.

He looks forward to the next step in his life, the one that comes right after the Peach Bowl against Miami. The NFL is always looking for big ole linemen to push people around and at 6-7, 360, Mo fits the bill.

He added, "Hopefully I am moving on to bigger and better things."

Coach Charlie Strong After Practice …

The big question on the team and its preparation for the bowl game is have they had enough preparation. Coach Strong tackled that question, "I think what was helpful this week was we were able to put in everything we are going to do so that when we get to Atlanta, we can go right into the game plan and people can focus on it right away. "

The team arrives in Atlanta on Christmas day and everyone is responsible to get themselves there. Strong reiterated, "We have a 6:30 pm meeting on Christmas day in Atlanta. That is the first day we meet. We will talk about their conduct while there.

The last time the Coach Strong coached in the dome in Atlanta, he was part of the defensive staff in a game that saw the Gators resort to a little bit of trickery to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide. Gator fans should remember fondly Danny Wuerffel faking an injury and Eric Kresser rushing into the game without warmup as his sub, then throwing a long pass to set up a key touchdown. Will there be trick plays for the Gators against Miami? "(Offensive coordinator Larry) Fedora has something in his pocket," said Strong. "Offensively they have done a good job, so they will be ready."

Strong seems pleased with the way practices have been going for the Gators this week. His first stint as head coach, he hopes, will be a good one.

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