Linebacker Jon Demps says practices have gone well. "The first week has gone really well. I am learning a lot. It started off extremely fast, but now that I am starting to learn a lot about the system, it's a lot easier. It was hard at the beginning of the week when I really didn't know that much." He also said he'll be ready this season. "I need to add probably about five or six more pounds and then I'll be solid."
On the team's high expecations, safety Kyle Jackson said "We should have high expectations. After all, we are the Florida Gators and we want to live up to that. Everyone is a year older; we're stronger and we're faster." Linebacker Earl Everett agreed, saying, "I think we can accomplish a lot of good things this season. We've got a new coaching staff that has pushed us harder than we've ever been pushed. We can accomplish a lot if we are able to come together -- that's the main thing."
There's also renewed emphasis on reclaiming the mystique of The Swamp that was lost in year past. Cornerback Dee Webb says it's important to have the home field edge back,"Getting the Swamp back is the first thing that we really need to do. We want to have an edge here at home. We want to regain that momentum and swagger. We want opposing teams to come to the Swamp knowing that they are going to get beat." Safety Jarvis Herring agreed, but says it'll take longer: "That might take more than a season. The Swamp was a pretty scary place for a while. It'll be good this year, especially with the caliber of teams coming in."
Cornerback Vernell Brown is sky high right now and feels he's at a peak in his career, especially with Meyer giving him high praise and becoming a Team Captain. "I feel great right now. I have been through a lot in my playing career. I just go to practice and grind it out. I've started to gain some respect for the way I have been performing. This is the first year that I have kind of known that I was going to be a major role player and a leader. It just feels great after all that I have been through."
One of the most intriguing moves in the off-season has been Gavin Dickey's slide over to wide receiver due to the lack of depth at the position. Gavin doesn't seem to mind, "I just want to go out there and help any way that I can. I don't care where I am playing, I just want to help the team focus on its goal of winning a championship." But it's also a period of adjustment for him. "It's definitely different. I've never really had to run like that, but I am starting to get adjusted to all the running and my body is too. It's less mentally draining, maybe, than playing quarterback. You just have to really focus on beating the guy that is guarding you."
Speaking of adjusting, wide receiver Andre Caldwell says the receivers are also trying to adjust to the new system. "We're adjusting. We're not used to being in this style of offense and seeing this kind of stuff. But we know what we're doing and we're going to go out there and make plays."
Quarterback Cornelius Ingram talks about being behind Chris Leak: "If I keep learning and doing good things on the field, I'm pretty sure there will be points in games when I'll be going out there. Chris is a great quarterback; you can't get mad at that. Whatever it takes to win, I'm all for it. But there might be some points in the game when I might get in there."
Although quarterback Chris Leak has been the annointed quarterback for so long, he says he knows it's time for him to step up to the plate when it comes to attaining a true leadership role. "There are many ways to lead. I just try to talk guys through things. All our teammates want the same thing, everyone wants to get better. If I can say something to have somebody improve that day, then I'm going to say something. You don't want to have to go back and say, 'I wish I would have said something.'"
COACH MEYER'S IMPACT:
As fans have very well known by now, Coach Meyer has made a tremendous impact on the players and the team as a whole through a variety of ways. Jarvis Herring said about Meyer, "He's a real person. After going on for a while you know that he's not going to change. Everything that he does and says - that's who Coach Meyer is. He's just trying to make me as perfect as possible."
Quarterback Chris Leak also loves the passion Meyer brings to the game, "He's a really passionate guy about the game. He wants everyone to get better somehow that day. That's what you want from your coach; you want a coach that expects everyone to be great." Todd McCullough gave accolades to the entire staff by saying, "What this new staff has done in such a short time is just really remarkable."
Center Mike Degory says the impact has even rippled to life outside of the stadium - "When you're out there going to get a bite to eat and people are patting you on the back and saying they're looking forward to the season that adds up. Once the players start getting excited the fans start getting excited."