Lewis, Brooks Latest Reclamation Projects

It is becoming an almost daily ritual that another Urban Meyer reclamation project steps to the forefront to make some plays. The latest players to rejoin the living among the Florida football players are from a secondary that is suddenly looking more and more formidable. Add the names Reggie Lewis and Nick Brooks to your list of players who will be making contributions this fall.

After spending their careers buried on depth charts at other positions, Lewis and Brooks have gotten new leases on life by making a position change. Lewis spent his first three years at Florida as a wide receiver. Now the fourth year junior is making a move at cornerback. Nick Brooks is also a fourth year junior. He has languished on the cornerback depth chart. He made the switch to safety where he's flourishing.

Lewis has come on strong this week, looking confident and able. He's been tight in coverage and has shown the ability to make a break on the ball when it's in the air.

"Reggie Lewis is gonna play … play a lot of football here," said Meyer. "He hasn't done that in the past."

Brooks, who perhaps was a step too slow to be a corner, moved to safety where he's becoming somewhat of a ball hawk. He's making a push for serious playing time.

"Nick Brooks was on the 'don't like list' for awhile," said Meyer. "He just did nothing, acted like he didn't care. That's not at all the case now so he's being treated pretty good and he's going to play. He's battling for a spot on that first team. He's doing a good job for us."

The arrival of Lewis and Brooks as playmakers continues to remove the question marks that were there in the spring. The secondary has become the surprise of the fall camp.

"The secondary along with the D-line I'd have to say is most improved," said Meyer after Friday morning's practice.

Meyer entered August with a proven corner in Dee Webb and a solid group of safeties headed by senior Jarvis Herring and sophomore Kyle Jackson. Since practice began in earnest for the season opener against Wyoming on September 3, Meyer has seen Vernell Brown emerge as a true starter at the corner opposite Webb and he's seen Lewis, true freshman Avery Atkins and junior college transfer Reggie Nelson make statements for playing time.

"Even (redshirt freshman) Dawayne Grace every once in awhile shows it," said Meyer.

At safety, Tony Joiner is making plays and backups Brooks, Deshawn Carter and Terrance Holmes are giving the position quality depth with their inspired play.

FRIDAY SCRIMMAGING: Meyer had the team working on red zone and third down offense Friday in scrimmage situations. It was obvious after practice that the coach was more pleased with what he saw Friday than he was on Tuesday.

Nick Brooks collides with Skyler Thornton

"It was a good day today … a hard day today," said Meyer. "We did red zone and third downs. The ones made some nice plays, the twos are really struggling."

Meyer said that the offense is starting to come around even though it has yet to kick in on all cylinders.

"We're heading in the right direction," he said. "I'm feeling a little better than I did a few days ago. Today was a great day. We got a lot of work done, not great execution though but that's our job to get that done."

RUNNING GAME: Meyer is starting to get a positive feeling for the running game even though he's not ready to name a number one tailback yet. Friday's scrimmage made the coach a bit more comfortable with that phase of the offense.

"Deshawn Wynn and Kestahn Moore had great days today," said Meyer. Wynn, a fourth year junior, has the most experience of all Florida's backs. His combination of size (5-11, 225) and speed would make him the ideal first team tailback. Moore is a true freshman out of Texas who has really come on strong in the last week.

Meyer said that the improvement he is seeing in the running game is largely because the players are "starting to understand it. In the spring they didn't understand it like they do now. I'm pleased with the first group. I really think we're getting the hang of this offense and it starts with the running game."

BACKUP OFFENSIVE LINE: The second unit offensive line is dominated by redshirt and true freshmen. The left side of the number two unit today had true freshmen Simon Codrington at tackle and Ronnie Wilson at guard. Redshirt freshmen Jason Watkins and Michael Brown are vying for time at the tackle spots along with Codrington.

Junior Steve Rissler is the backup center and sophomore Drew Miller is seeing time at both guard on the second unit and as the third unit center. Sophomores Phil Trautwein (tackle) and Carlton Medder (guard) are the others on the second unit. Medder has seen some time at guard with the first unit due to Jim Tartt's ailing shoulder.

INJURY REPORT: Seen in The Pit were defensive end/tackle Joe Cohen and Jonathon Marvin, among others. The Pit on the temporary practice field allows Coach Mickey Marotti to get a little creative with the workout. Thanks to beach volleyball courts, Marotti had all the folks in the pit shoveling sand into trash cans and then lifting the trash cans to empty them.

Earl Everett missed practice with a sore neck but he will be good to go on Saturday. Reggie Nelson (staph infection) still has his foot in a boot but he's a day or two at the most from returning to practice. Todd McCullough (sore knee) will probably return to contact Saturday.

COACHING INFLUENCES: At every stop on his spring tour of Gator Clubs, Meyer talked about how legendary basketball Coach John Wooden believes that successful coaches do not treat all players alike. Wooden believes that players who work hard on and off the field and who are productive in practice should be treated better than slackers.

"You're lying to yourself if you say you can't do that," said Meyer. "You reward the guys that help you and you try to discipline and get after the guys who don't, and hopefully they want to become a good guy."

By using reward as an incentive, Meyer believes that a lot of players who lack self-confidence and self-respect will do the hard work to not just earn rewards, but gain a new perspective on life.

"Maybe they'll want it because of a pair of black mesh shorts," said Meyer. "Everything we do is based on that… give the guys who give back, treat them pretty good."

LOSING THE STRIPE: The latest freshman or newcomer to lose the black stripe on his helmet is freshman wide receiver Louis Murphy of St. Petersburg Lakewood.

"I hope I lose mine tonight," said freshman wideout David Nelson of Texas. "I got a touchdown today and I made all my assignments."

All freshmen and newcomers get a black stripe on their orange practice helmet. When Meyer, the coaches and veteran teammates think that one of the newbies has earned the right to be a real Gator, the newbie's big brother on the team gets to peel the stripe off the helmet.

Fightin Gators Top Stories