Tomorrow Arrives, Reggie Nelson Back At Practice

For the past several days Urban Meyer has been waiting for tomorrow to get here. Tomorrow is when the Florida football coach has been told by the training staff that Reggie Nelson will get back to practicing but Nelson's return from a staph infection in his ankle was delayed at least three different days. Things changed on Wednesday and that brought a smile to Meyer's face.

"Our boy Reggie went today a little bit," said Meyer. "He's coming back so tomorrow was today."

Meyer had voiced his concerns after Tuesday's practice that Nelson was needed back at full speed quickly or else he wouldn't be able to go against Wyoming in the season opener on September 3. Meyer knows that Nelson still has a lot of ground to make up from missing at least six practices but he knows that this is not your ordinary football player.

"He just hasn't played at this level …ever," said Meyer, "but he's a gifted guy and gifted people usually make up quickly."

Nelson was a high school All-America selection as a linebacker at Melbourne Palm Bay and at Coffeyville (KS) Community College he was a first team All-America safety. At Florida he's being asked to play the nickel and corner positions, but Meyer thinks Nelson is making the adjustment well.

"He's handled it pretty good but it's fairly limited," said Meyer, "We're not giving him the whole scope of things because he would never be ready by the first game. We're playing a team that's going to spread you out a little bit. Wyoming's got a very good passing attack so we'll give him a limited role but we need his athleticism in there."

Wyoming will bring a sophisticated passing game into The Swamp in nine days. The Cowboys of Coach Joe Glenn have a talented quarterback in Corey Bramlett and they have a wide receiver in Jovon Bouknight who is one of the best in the nation. Bouknight caught 63 passes for 1,075 yards last season. In his career Bouknight has 173 receptions for 2,510 yards, third best of all returning players in the NCAA this year. Because he's also a gifted kick returner, Bouknight has 4,156 all-purpose yards.

"I think he's tremendous," said Meyer, who faced Bouknight the last two seasons when he was coaching Utah. "I asked Dee Webb and Vernell Brown (UF's starting corners) and they think he's an SEC receiver. I don't think he's as fast but there are a lot of receivers who maybe aren't 4.4 that play in the NFL. He's an NFL receiver so he's an SEC receiver."

Bramlett threw for 2,409 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2004, leading Wyoming to a 7-5 season that included a bowl victory over UCLA. Meyer believes that Wyoming will be running more of a spread type attack this year although Bramlett is not a real threat to run the ball.

"Their quarterback is not a runner but I wonder if they're going to do a little bit more empty [backfield] passing," Meyer said. "I just seem to think there's a chance they're going to do that."

Asked to compare Wyoming's offense to a West Coast style attack, Meyer said, "I think there are more spread elements [in Wyoming's offense] especially when they play us. We're a man coverage team …we were at Utah … we're going to be here. They move guys around and they try to get number nine (Bouknight) the ball. He's their best player. Their quarterback is very accurate."

INJURY UPDATE: Not only was Reggie Nelson back practicing at full speed, Todd McCullough went full speed Wednesday for the first time in several days. McCullough, the senior linebacker from Macclenny, has been nursing a sore knee.

"I don't know if he'll go 60-70 plays but he'll go against Wyoming," said Meyer.

Middle linebacker Brandon Siler was held out of practice for a second straight day because of a concussion but he will be back practicing Thursday and able to go full speed again on Friday. Earl Everett continues to be bothered by a stinger in his neck but there is progress there as well.

Randy Hand was pulled out of practice because of soreness in his knee, but it's not serious, Meyer said.

"He's got a bone contusion which is a bone bruise and he should be fine," the coach reported.

BRIAN CRUM MOVING UP: Junior linebacker Brian Crum continues to settle in at his new position and he's making tremendous progress. Crum was shuffled between wide receiver, tight end and linebacker his first three years at Florida but now he's found a home. Right now he's the top backup on both the strong side and weak side.

Always known as a body by Tarzan, game by Jane type, Crum has begun to show the athletic ability that everyone expected when he was recruited to Florida from a south Georgia high school. The transformation isn't all that surprising to Meyer.

"I think it's just growing up," said Meyer. "A lot of times guys who haven't played much will show up as juniors. I think he's been challenged. He's been put in a position where he has to play. I think he's a good kid who wants to help the Gators."

During the past three years, whether right or unjustified, Crum had a reputation as a player who preferred to avoid contact, not exactly what you're looking for in a linebacker mentality. That reputation has been supplanted by a hitter's mentality according to Siler.

"I don't know about that reputation but I know he'll dang sure hit somebody now," said Siler. "You just watch."

Siler said that Crum is a different player than he was last year or even during the spring.

"Crum is probably the most improved of any linebacker," said Siler. "I don't know what got into him but he's definitely a different person now than what he was last year. He's doing a lot of things you never knew he could do but he's definitely doing them now."

RUNNING BACK SITUATION: There remains no clearcut choice to be the starter at tailback. Meyer is giving all four of his tailbacks a chance to secure the first string job, but so far neither DeShawn Wynn, Skyler Thornton, Markus Manson or Kestahn Moore have distinguished themselves as the top gun at the position.

"I keep waiting for someone to take it [first string tailback job] but no one's taken it," said Meyer. "They've all shown signs of being pretty good players, but no one's taken that job yet."

DEFENSIVE LINE ROTATION: Co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who is the defensive line coach, has settled in on a rotation that he likes with his defensive linemen. He's got a starting foursome of Jeremy Mincey and Ray McDonald at the ends with Marcus Thomas and Steven Harris as the tackles. He says that he considers ends Joe Cohen and Derrick Harvey almost as starters and he's found a couple of backup tackles that he can trust in Clint McMillan and Lutrell Alford.

With Mattison, the August practice sessions have been all about finding eight guys that he can trust.

"When we haven't done well in practice it's been the seconds who I've really been upset with," he said. "They're letting these other guys hang out there in the heat, trying to do what I ask them to do but they can't because you can't every play. It's their responsibility to get to where I can trust them.

"We only keep out so many guys that I can trust. Those are the guys who are going to get the reps."

With the emergence of Alford and McMillan at the backup tackle slots, Mattison said he's finally got "eight guys that I can trust."


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