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Atkins, a 5-11, 185-pounder from Daytona Beach Mainland, was one of the highest rated corners in the nation last year as a senior. Nelson, who originally signed with the Gators out of Palm Bay two years ago, went the junior college route. After earning first team juco All-America honors, Nelson was considered the most talented player in the Florida signing class. Both Atkins and Nelson figured to be in the mix for playing time long before fall practice began. One day into practice, both made a statement with their on the field play that they're ready to factor into the staff's plans for the defensive backfield.
"Reggie Nelson and Avery Atkins … it's too soon to say they're going to play, but they're going to play unless they're cowards and won't hit you," said Meyer. "Athleticism and importance level … they're good people and they really want to play but it's day one.
"Do they have the loose hips? Can they move around? Do they have the athleticism? Avery Atkins and Reggie Nelson do."
Meyer said it's too early to tell if Nelson, a linebacker in high school and a safety in junior college, will adapt to playing corner but noted that Nelson has "got a lot of ability."
Meyer said he was happy to be back to coaching and preparing to play for a football game again. Once spring practice ends, the football coaches are not allowed to do any kind of coaching the players as per NCAA rules, so getting out on the field again had Florida's first year coach happy to be doing what he does best.
Reggie Nelson high fives Avery Atkins
Meyer expressed his pleasure that the Gators had the kind of quiet offseason that he felt was necessary to get the team ready for the fall.
"I am impressed," Meyer said after practice. "I didn't know these guys in the spring. Now, I like these guys … I like them as people.. I like their behavior … I like the fact they care about each other … I like the fact they represented Florida well in this offseason, all those things."
In the spring Meyer said he would be lying if he said that he trusted this team. It is obvious that at least a measurable amount of trust has been earned and extended.
"How do you get trust? You earn it," he said. "Have they earned it? To a point, yes. This was a heckuva thing that they did this summer. I really admire people that train as hard as they did, they live the way they did and they became closer like they did. We still have a ways to go, though."
Toughness and the ability to finish are what Meyer says are the two keys to a successful season for the Gators. He noted that one day on the practice field without pads doesn't tell him anything about where the team is when it comes to the toughness aspect.
"You wanted them mentally right," he said. "You wanted to have great attendance which we had. You wanted them to have great gains which we had. The mental toughness is the part that I'm concerned with and we don't know yet. It's going to take another couple of weeks [to determine that]."
Asked if running back Deshawn Wynn had put together a good summer, Meyer responded that everything he had heard about his 220-pound junior was good and that "he had a good day running around out there today" but in the same breath added "the guy that looks good to me is Markus Manson … he really looked good today."
Meyer said that there is good news regarding defensive end Jarvis Moss who has had a lingering groin problem that has curtailed his ability to play or even to get stronger in the weight room. Meyer said that Moss has a bone infection to go with some other issues but that the infection is treatable with antibiotics that should knock it out completely in about six weeks.
He said that punter Eric Wilbur will be ready to start kicking again in two weeks and that linebacker Jimbo Latsko had a minor muscle pull. Additionally, he said that defensive tackle Marcus Thomas is ahead of schedule when it comes to being at full speed after missing the spring due to back surgery.
In the morning session of practice, the true freshmen saw the practice field for the first time. Meyer liked what he saw of his young receivers. Nyan Boateng made a couple of spectacular leaping graps during the morning session while David Nelson showed great ability to adjust to the ball while it is in the air and Louis Murphy showed great hands and ability to accelerate.
"Boateng is a little ahead of the others, but David Nelson and Louis Murphy did good," he said. "But for a who had that major injury and missed his senior year, I thought Nyan Boateng looked really good."