It's Official: Ray Mac Moves To Defensive End

Now that it is official that Ray McDonald has been moved outside to defensive end, University of Florida Coach Urban Meyer says he is starting to like the way his front four is starting to shape up. McDonald has started at tackle the past two years, but now he will become the other defensive end opposite Jeremy Mincey.

"He [McDonald] is going to start at end," said Meyer after the Tuesday afternoon practice. "He's a five technique guy which is different than the other end who is Mincey, real athletic fast guy. I like the way our defensive line looks."

With McDonald shifting to the outside at defensive end, the starters at defensive tackle are Marcus Thomas (6-4, 300) and Stephen Harris (6-5, 285). Harris started out as a defensive end but his move to the inside is now permanent.

"It's hard to imagine that he [Harris] came here as a 220-pound player and now he's 285 and in pretty good shape," said Meyer. "I'd put him as one of the most improved players after spring practice. Marcus Thomas

Meyer said that Joe Cohen will split time between defensive end and defensive tackle. Redshirt freshman Javier Estopinan, who came to Florida as a linebacker, continues to grow, so he's been moved inside to defensive tackle where Meyer said "Coach (Greg) Mattison is happy with what he's seen so far."

While the defensive line took some shuffling, the first five players in the linebacker rotation remained the same. The starters are Brandon Siler in the middle with Todd McCullough and Earl Everett on the outside. Brian Crum and Billy Latsko are working as backups. Meyer is happy with those five, but said his freshmen have a way to go before he'll consider them part of the rotation.

As for Tuesday's practice, Meyer said that Brian Crum stood out and that "Earl Everett had a fabulous morning. Todd McCullough had a good morning as well."

Siler, who has a 3.6 grade point average, has become the team leader on the field as well as off the field where he sets the example in the classroom and weight room. Meyer said that since Siler is only a sophomore he won't allow him to be a team captain --- the captains are always upperclassmen --- but the coach emphasized that the 6-2, 240-pounder out of Orlando Evans is an unquestioned team leader.

"He's a leader of this football team and he's a respected leader," said Meyer. "There are a lot of guys who talk and no one listens but when he talks, people listen."

While the defense is shaping up nicely, Meyer is still looking to find the fifth wide receiver to go with Florida's Fab Four of Dallas Baker, Chad Jackson, Andre Caldwell and Jemalle Cornelius. For the second straight day, Gavin Dickey got all his reps at wide receiver as Meyer is giving him every opportunity to become the fifth wideout.

"You'll see Gavin Dickey go back to quarterback and get some reps at quarterback in the next few days," said Meyer. "We know what he can do at quarterback. We have a real problem right now at receiver, though.

"We have four who can play. I'm not a math major but when you're playing five wide sometimes you have a void there. Gavin Dickey is the next best athlete and he's a guy who handles the ball well. Him and Tate Casey (tight end) are the next two [wide receivers]."

Ideally, Meyer says, either Josh Portis or Cornelius Ingram would improve to the point that he's totally comfortable leaving Dickey permanently at wide receiver. Until that happens, Dickey will likely be the number two quarterback.

Meanwhile, Chris Leak is unchallenged as the starting quarterback. Meyer said that his junior quarterback still has some learning to do when it comes to running the option phase of the offense, but there is no doubt that this is the trigger man for the Gators.

"Chris Leak will flourish in this offense because he's a good football player," said Meyer. "He's going to do things he can do well and we're going to do things he can do well. It's not this offense. Chris Leak is a good football player."

Questioned further about Leak running the option, Meyer said, "I could run the option. You run down and you pitch off the end man at the line of scrimmage. If the end comes to you, you pitch it. If he doesn't you duck up and run."

Because he's been a pocket passer all his life, there are questions can Leak take the hits he will have to take running the option. Meyer discounted any thoughts that Leak wouldn't be able to take it.

"No question he's tough enough," said Meyer. "You could challenge his size. He's not big but he's thick, a real strong guy but not a 6-4, 225-pound guy … but he is tough enough. That's unchallenged."

MEYER DISCUSSES DESHAWN WYNN: It was reported on Terry Bowden's radio show in Orlando Monday that Wynn would be suspended for game one. Meyer was asked if it is true after Monday afternoon's practice.

"He had to deal with some issues when I first got here," Meyer answered. "We're handling a lot of things within the team. I'm not sure where that is coming from but at the appropriate time we'll discuss it."

MEYER LIKES KESTAHN MOORE: True freshman running back Kestahn Moore got a chance in the afternoon session to show that he can both run and catch the football.

Meyer said, "Kestahn Moore is showing signs that there's a good chance he'll play this year if he can handle the contact."

Moore said that he has no doubts that he can run, catch and block. His only problems at this point are absorbing everything that's been thrown at him so far.

"In high school you get the ball and you just run with it," said Moore, listed at 5-10, 205. "Here you have to know the defense so it becomes easy for you to run. You have to know the offsets, the threats and the blitzes before they even come so you know what you're supposed to do before the play's even snapped. You have to know your job before the quarterback says hut."

At Mansfield Summit High School in Arlington, Texas, Moore averaged nearly 10 yards per carry out of a wing-T offense that also made him a primary threat as a pass catcher. It was the offense that Meyer runs that first got his attention and it is the main reason he became a Gator.

"I like this offense," he said. "I watched Coach Urban run it at Utah and I really liked it a lot. Actually, I really loved it so much that it's the reason I came here to Florida. It's a good offense for my abilities because of catching and running. Here you get a chance to catch, run and block so you can use all your abilities. This offense is a running back's dream."

He is behind veterans Markus Manson, Skyler Thornton and Deshawn Wynn on the depth chart because he's a newcomer but also because he doesn't yet know the offense well enough. To make up ground on his competitors for the tailback position, Moore says he can't get enough of the film room.

"I'm learning to read and react to what I'm seeing," he said. "That means I spend a lot of time … as much as I can in the film room. Being a freshman, I'm in there as much as I can. I wake up and I go in there and whenever I can, I'm studying the playbook."

The other battle he's having is with the humidity. Florida and Texas are comparable when it comes to heat, but when it comes to humidity, Moore says Florida is the winner there, hands down.

"Heatwise, it can be just about the same, but the humidity is way different here in Florida," he said. "It can be 98 in Texas and only 85 here, but the 85 here is with 85 percent humidity, so it makes Florida hotter … a lot hotter!"

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