SPRING: Two Steps Forward And One Step Backward

At the north end of the University of Florida practice field Friday afternoon, the Gators were gathered around Coach Urban Meyer. Football practice had ended and as is always the case, the team was hearing the final words of the day from the coach. On Monday and Wednesday when they had completed practice, the team meeting was a rather quick affair. Friday, the meeting dragged on and on.

Unlike the previous two practices this week when there were a lot of superlatives to hand out, Meyer thought Friday's practice was pretty much a bust.

I really felt we were making a good push, but you can't have a bad day and I've heard that too many times around here. I'm tired of that ‘I've had a bad day.' Well, yeah, you had a bunch of bad days around here.

Coach Meyer at today's practice

It was too far away to hear what he was saying, but judging by Meyer's brutally honest assessment of Friday's practice when he talked to the media, it's probably a fair assumption that the Gators got an earful and then some. If there's one thing we have learned in this first spring practice under Urban Meyer it is that he doesn't sugar coat anything. He doles out praise when he thinks it's been earned and when he thinks his team stinks, he's not afraid to say so. Friday, he thought his team stunk.

With more than 700 high school coaches watching to go with the crowd of five or six hundred of the usual onlookers, he wanted a showcase practice. Coming off the two best practices of the spring earlier in the week (Monday and Wednesday) he was anticipating another good day but what he got was far below his expectations.

"I made a mistake," he said to the media after practice was over. "We had a great Monday and Wednesday. Today was not a very good day, a bad day all the way around. We have an immature team, a young team, a team that when you bring 700 high school coaches out here that can't handle the distractions."

Derrick Harvey has looked good so far - he's on the far right as #91

Throughout the spring, Meyer has focused on the things the team has to do to get to a point where he is confident in their ability to grasp the new concepts that are being thrown at them. The Gators are learning a radically new offense that is a hybrid of the option, the double wing, west coast and pro spread. Although many principles of the defense remain the same as they were under Coach Ron Zook the past three years, it's obvious the coaching staff is looking for a far more aggressive approach.

At Monday's practice, the Gators looked sharp throwing the ball and the defensive intensity picked up measurably. Wednesday, the Gators showed the best efforts of the spring both running the football. It was a day when the quarterbacks handled the nuances of the option well, the offensive line had its best day of the spring and the running backs all ran hard.

So Friday was one of those two steps forward, one step backward kind of days and Meyer had no problems expressing his displeasure. Other than an occasional joust at some of the things that happened in the previous three years, Meyer has pretty much kept the focus on what is being done to get the team to the high standards he has set. For the most part, he's avoided talking about the way things were done in the Zook era although it has ben obvious with the way the team is coached on the field that things are indeed different.

Friday, he took a shot at a leftover attitude from the previous three years when Florida lost 15 football games.

"I really felt we were making a good push, but you can't have a bad day and I've heard that too many times around here," he said. "I'm tired of that 'I've had a bad day.' Well, yeah, you had a bunch of bad days around here. You can't have a bad day. Up until today I thought it was good progress. I thought Monday and Wednesday were excellent. Wednesday was an excellent practice. Monday was an excellent practice. Today wasn't very good."

The bad practice comes on the eve of Saturday's scrimmage in The Swamp. This is a scrimmage that is expected to set the tone for the final week of spring practice that ends in a week with the annual Orange and Blue Game. It is a scrimmage that should give the coaching staff a good idea of how much progress has been made in all areas.

Meyer wasted no time responding to a question regarding the importance of Saturday's scrimmage.

Cornelius Ingram as he's chased out of the pocket (and sacked) by Tre Morant

"This is the most important day in Gator football," he said. "Tomorrow is the most important day in Gator football. I'll tell you exactly what we've got tomorrow. Up until this point I started feeling good but I'll find out tomorrow what we've got."

Saturday's scrimmage in The Swamp is scheduled to get underway at 10 a.m.

COACHING CLINIC: Last year the coaching clinic that coincided with spring football at UF was attended by 380 high school coaches. This year, due to the excitement of a new coach and the intrigue of Coach Urban Meyer's spread option offense the number is more than 700.

High school coaches from all over Florida attended and coaches from as far away as Richlands, North Carolina were seen in attendance.

COHEN INJURY UPDATE: Defensive end Joe Cohen was noticeably missing from Friday's drills. He's got a hip problem that Meyer said is "minor" but will require some surgery.

"Joe Cohen has that hip that we're going to have surgery on but it's a minor thing," said Meyer. "He can't work out for five days [after the surgery]. We're just waiting for the end of spring practice. I think it's minor."

JARVIS MOSS UPDATE: Moss came to Florida one of the most heralded defensive recruits in the nation. He's spent the two years he's been at Florida trying to gain weight and suffering from a variety of injuries. Most of the 2004 season, he battled tendonitis in his knees. Moss has been practicing this spring, but he's not shown the explosiveness nor the playmaking ability that he showed as a high school senior. Meyer is aware that Moss has battled through injuries and the coach seemed to be showing some patience.

Jarvis Moss

"He's been hurt for two and a half years," said Meyer of the 6-7, 238-pound defensive end. "We just want to get him right."

HARVEY COMING ON STRONG: Even though the team had a poor practice on Friday, it was obvious that defensive end Derrick Harvey (redshirt freshman, 6-4, 253) is growing up quickly. He's shown an ability to make plays and his speed is most impressive. He's caught the eye of the coaches who moved him up to the second unit defense on Monday. On Friday, he had some snaps with the first defense.

"He's a positive," said Meyer. "I like Derrick Harvey and so does Coach (Greg) Mattison (co-defensive coordinator). A lot of positives are being said about him. He'll be all right. He's got a lot of talent. He's just got to learn the defense. Too many mental mistakes but you take Derrick Harvey every time. That's what you should be playing with every time at the University of Florida."

BACKUP QUARTERBACK: Gavin Dickey left practice at 5 p.m. to go next door to join the Florida baseball team which began a three-game Southeastern Conference series with Kentucky. Dickey has become Florida's starting left fielder. He's hitting .386. Dickey will be participating in Saturday morning's scrimmage with the football team.

The other two quarterbacks who are vying for the position to back up starting quarterback Chris Leak are redshirt freshman Cornelius Ingram and true freshman Josh Portis.

"Josh does some good things and does some 17-year-old things," said Meyer. "I keep reminding myself he's 17 but he's talented. CI came in today and he really threw the ball. He doesn't have a concept of the finer points of quarterback play but standing up and throwing the ball he did a nice job."

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