DAY SEVEN: Ingram Makes Push For Backup QB Role

Remember all that talk about Cornelius Ingram playing tight end or wide receiver? Remember all those folks who were thinking that he'll never play a lick of quarterback at the Division I level? Well, you weren't alone if that's what you were thinking back in the spring and throughout the summer months.

Florida football Coach Urban Meyer was thinking the same thing, like perhaps this 6-4, 220-pound athlete with what seems like immeasurable talent to go with a body made by God just might be better suited for another position. Meyer knew that Ingram, who made high school All-America in both football and basketball at nearby Hawthorne, had plenty of talent but he was not at all certain that the talent equated to what he was looking for in a quarterback.

Ingram redshirted last year as a true freshman. In October he left the football team to join Coach Billy Donovan with the basketball team. He missed at least a third of spring football practices because Florida won the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. By the time he got out to practice in the spring, Ingram was way behind incumbent Chris Leak and true freshman Josh Portis.

In the few reps he got at quarterback in the spring, Ingram showed that he can run like a deer but he was hesitant in the passing game. He was slow to pick out receivers and even though he has a very strong arm, it was rare when he would cut loose. Most of the time when he threw the ball, it was to an underneath receiver. He was very quick to settle for the short receiver instead of looking down the field, and if the short receiver was covered, more often than not he took off running the ball.

"I didn't know if he could play quarterback," said Meyer after Sunday evening's practice. He even admitted that he was thinking that perhaps Ingram would fit in better at another position where he could use his speed, size and athleticism.

After seven days of practice, Meyer's perceptions are changing. In the past three days especially, Ingram has come on like gangbusters. In Saturday's morning practice, Ingram threw a couple of deep out patterns that not only showed the strength of his arm, but the maturity that he's gained. In the spring, he would have either overthrown the pass or tucked the ball and run. Saturday morning, he hit his receivers on the numbers.

"Can you believe he made those throws?" asked offensive coordinator and quarterbacks Coach Dan Mullen after Saturday's practices. "He would have sailed those passes in the spring. He's starting to show what kind of arm he has. I'm really getting excited about him."

What has transformed Ingram from likely candidate for a transfer to a new position to quarterback who is challenging Josh Portis for the backup role is a combination of hard work in the summer months and quality reps and good coaching in the first week of fall practice.

"It's not his fault, but he hasn't played football," said Meyer. "In this offense you have to play a lot of ball. He's practiced more in the last eight days than he has probably in two years in football. I don't know what practice we're at … probably nine or ten … and he only had ten in spring ball."

Meyer watched Ingram make some poor decisions throwing the ball in the first three days of practice, but since Thursday, his throws have been sharper and it's obvious he's picking up the offense because he's begun making good decisions about where to go with the ball. In the spring, he would look to one receiver --- usually one on a short route --- and if the receiver wasn't wide open, he tucked and run. Now, he's showing patience, waiting for downfield receivers to get separation from defenders and his throws that hit receivers as they make their break indicates that he's doing a nice job of anticipating who will be open.

His progress has certainly caught Meyer's eye.

"I can't believe it's him," said Meyer. "I thought maybe he could run the ball a little bit like he did in the spring game but he's really coming on. He's pushing for that backup spot right now."

MARCUS THOMAS WATCH: Thomas, who missed spring practice because of back surgery, was held out of Sunday evening's practice as a precaution.

"His back was a little sore today so we had to slow down with him a little bit," said Meyer.

Thomas, who admits he's carrying 305 pounds now, should be back at practice Monday morning.

WEBB UPDATE: After Saturday's practice, Meyer said that starting cornerback Dee Webb had a cold to go with some heat issues. Sunday evening, he said Florida's training and medical staff believes it might be a bit more than just a cold.

"He hasn't been right for awhile so we got to find out what's going on," said Meyer. "We have to get him healthy. I think they're going to put him on some antibiotics to try to clean it up."

FIRST WEEK ASSESSMENT: One week into fall practice, Meyer said that the offense needs some work but he's happy with the way the defense has been playing.

"We're behind on the offensive line but on defense we're ahead," he said. "I think we found out we can cover people. We'll be fine on the defensive line as long as Marcus is okay, but I think we're a little ahead on defense and a little bit behind on defense."

WILBUR PUNTING AGAIN: Junior punter Eric Wilbur, who was expected to be out awhile after arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus, spent most of the week practicing his drop but not punting the football. That all changed Sunday.

Prior to practice, Wilbur was booming 50-60 yard punts routinely and he also took a few shots kicking field goals. He nailed a couple from 45 yards.

After Saturday's practice, Meyer said that walkon Chris Hetland is presently ahead in the competition to see who will be the number one placekicker. It remains to be seen if Meyer will give Wilbur a shot at kicking field goals and extra points. Wilbur hit 11-14 on field goals in high school with a career long of 48 yards.


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