DAY SIX PM: Meyer Says Leak Starting To Turn It On

The Chris Leak that began the first week of fall practice at the University of Florida looking like he'd forgotten all about timing and making reads of the defense has been replaced the last couple of days by the Chris Leak that Coach Urban Meyer has been expecting.

A solid Friday effort in the first day in full pads was followed up by two exceptional practices on Saturday.

The difference in what Meyer saw the first three days of the week to what he's seen in the last two days is night and day.

"Has made great strides," said Meyer after Florida's second practice of the day, Saturday afternoon. "Chris Leak has really been doing an excellent job. He started slow, kind of rusty but his last two days … he was great today."

In both the morning and evening practices on Saturday, Leak made excellent decisions and his throws were consistently on the money. He hit some nice deep routes but found the underneath receiver when the defensive backs snuffed out the deep threat.

In situational drills, Meyer thought Leak truly stood out.

"On third downs he was terrific," said Meyer. "Today was a great day with two good practices."

Meanwhile, the number two quarterback race seems to have tightened up somewhat. Josh Portis, who looked so good in the spring game, has been up and down all week. He's made some great plays but on others he looks like the true freshman that he is. Cornelius Ingram, the redshirt freshman from nearby Hawthorne, has made tremendous strides in the past three days.

Offensive coordinator/quarterback Coach Dan Mullen said that Portis has his moments but it should be remembered that he's just 18 and a true freshman.

"Where he needs to be right now … well, he's learning," said Mullen. "He's doing okay but he's picking stuff up and he's making progress.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for Portis has been making the adjustment to the speed of the game. This was a problem he faced in the first couple of weeks of spring practice before the lights started to come on in the final four practices. In the spring game, he threw for more than 250 yards and four touchdowns.

"Stuff happens fast and it's going to be a long process with him," said Mullen. "Where he needs to be to actually get in a game, though, he's not close yet."

Ingram only participated in about half the spring drills because he was a member of Florida's SEC Tournament Champion basketball team that made the NCAA second round. In the spring, he showed great speed and running skills but his passing and decision making lagged behind. In the past three days of fall practice Ingram has shown better decision making and his passing is starting to pick up.

"He's really surprised me," said Mullen. "He's picking up stuff a lot faster than I thought he would. I thought coming out of the spring it would take him a lot longer to learn some of the things. He's starting to make some plays and he's starting to understand the offense."

Mullen stressed that patience is necessary with both Portis and Ingram.

"Both of those guys are freshmen," he said. "Portis was in high school last year and Cornelius Ingram played half a season last year before he went to basketball and then he missed half of spring ball, so he's basically a true freshman, starting all over this year."

Mullen's last four quarterbacks have lit it up. His quarterback at Bowling Green, Josh Harris, set records before going to the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL. He's with the Cleveland Browns this year. Mullen recruited Omar Jacobs to Bowling Green, too, and he coached him one year before going to Utah. Last year at Bowling Green, Jacobs threw for 4,002 yards and 41 touchdowns against only four picks.

Mullen's starting quarterback at Utah in the first year Meyer was the head coach there was Brett Elliott. Elliott broke his wrist in the third game and that opened the door for Alex Smith who started the next nine games and then last year took Utah to a 12-0 season. Smith was the first pick in the NFL draft back in March. Elliott transferred to Linfield (Oregon) College. Last year he led Linfield to the Division III national championship and he set the all-time record for quarterbacks in any division of college football with 61 touchdown passes.

"I got to coach the top two quarterbacks in college football last year," said Mullen. "Alex Smith was the top quarterback among the big schools and Brett Elliott was the top quarterback in the small schools."

Florida fans are eagerly watching Chris Leak's progress in the spread option offense that Meyer and Mullen brought with them from Utah. While everyone expects Leak to make the transition a smooth one by the time the Wyoming game gets here on September 3, all eyes are on Portis and Ingram since there is not a clear choice for the backup role yet.

"They (Portis and Ingram) both have a long way to go," said Mullen, "but they're getting there. They both work extremely hard."

WASHINGTON ABSENT: Tavares Washington was excused from practices on Saturday. The senior left guard was given permission to be away for a family function.

"His brother got married so he skipped out of town for a day," said Meyer. "He'll be back tomorrow (Sunday) about 2 o'clock."

Meyer emphasized that the absence had nothing at all to do with Washington having a heat issue during Friday morning's practice. The coach made it a point to single out the Florida training staff for handling the heat issues well.

"Our guys [training staff] do a heckuva job dealing with that stuff," he said. "Obviously they're experienced with it. We have had a couple of heat issues but they responded well. Tavares is a good example. The guy who's been down a little bit has been Dee Webb who's had a cold on top of heat issues."

INJURY REPORT: True freshman center Eddie Haupt (Merrit Island) has a bulging disk in his back that is not responding well to treatment.

Meyer said that the disk problem "doesn't seem to be getting fixed." He said that the problem with his back makes Haupt a candidate to redshirt.

"He probably would have been redshirted anyway," said Meyer.

WALKON REPORT: Wide receiver John Curtis, a redshirt freshman from Rockledge, continues to impress the coaches. The 6-2, 196-pounder made some nice catches all week, but on Saturday he caught everyone's attention when he made a nice catch on a deep ball. .

"I don't know his story other than he won our dunk contest," said Meyer. "I thought he was just a kid who could dunk because he couldn't play in the spring but he's really doing a nice job now."

Three special teamers who are walkons have a shot at earning a scholarship.

Punter Nick Fleming (Kirkwood, Missouri), who is a senior, has a chance to be on scholarship for his final semester of eligibility, according to Meyer.

"Nick Fleming is a guy who's been here a long time," said Meyer. "We need a little bit more consistency from him."

Placekicker Chris Hetland, a junior from Leesburg, Georgia, could also earn a scholarship in the fall. Meyer said that Hetland has pulled away a little bit from true freshman Jonathon Phillips, who was part of Florida's signing class back in February.

Long snapper James Smith, a redshirt freshman from Gainesville Buchholz, is another one with scholarship in the future.

"It won't happen this year but he's a candidate the following year," said Meyer.

PAT CARTER UPDATE: Carter, who was in uniform the first couple of days of practice earlier in the week, has been absent the last three days. The Georgia Tech transfer, who is from St. Petersburg Lakewood, is a quarterback by trade. He was trying to walk on at Florida as a wide receiver.

"He's looking into other situations," said Meyer, who emphasized that Carter is always welcome to come back to Florida. The word is that Carter may wind up at South Florida.

"He's never played wide receiver so we wanted to take a look at him," said Meyer. "I'm not sure he can be a WR at the University of Florida. I just don't know that."

Meyer said that it is next to impossible to determine if Carter can make the position change in just three days of practice.

"I'm just not sure what he's going to do," said Meyer. "He's a terrific young man from a terrific family."

Fightin Gators Top Stories