Ragged Practice? Don't Worry, It's Tuesday

(NOTE: Due to a system glitch, Tuesday's practice report was not posted. Here's a repost of it in case you missed it...) The backup quarterback position still isn't settled and there are only two more full practices and a walk-through before the Florida Gators play their first game. No problem. No worries. It's just Tuesday.

There still isn't one player who has stepped it up enough at tailback that Coach Urban Meyer is ready to name a starter for Saturday's season opener against Wyoming. Worried? No way. It's just Tuesday.

On the offensive line there are a couple of players still dinged up a little bit and there are two defensive players getting over injuries. No problems there, either. It's just Tuesday.

The offense wasn't nearly as sharp as Meyer would have liked to have seen it, either. But, after all, it did rain and then again, it's just Tuesday.

If it sounds like a broken record, that's because … well, it's Tuesday. There are still two more full practice sessions to go and his football team is probably right where he wants them to be on a Tuesday. And, if you see a sparkle in the coach's eye and a wry smile on his face, take heart. It's just Tuesday and that means he's not about to tell anything more than he has to tell that can be interpreted one way or the other by Wyoming.

So for this post-practice report, just remember. It's just Tuesday.

Asked if he's ready to name a backup quarterback to Chris Leak from a pool that includes true freshman Josh Portis, junior Gavin Dickey and redshirt freshman Cornelius Ingram, Meyer said, "Not yet, it's only Tuesday. We've got some work to do but it's only Tuesday."

The tailback position has four players battling for the starting role: juniors DeShawn Wynn and Skyler Thornton, redshirt freshman Markus Manson and true freshman Kestahn Moore. Asked if he's got a starter in mind, Meyer's response was, "Tailback? Good question. I don't know that. It's Tuesday."

On the offensive line, Tavares Washington and Jim Tartt continue to work their way through some sore body parts. On defense, the non-contact jersey is off corner Dee Webb and Earl Everett will be ready to go without his non-contact jersey Wednesday and Thursday.

"Tavares Washington is a little sore and so is Jim Tartt on the offensive line but today's Tuesday so we should be fine," said Meyer.

With time growing short before the opener, the offense didn't have one of its better sessions. Part of that could be blamed on the weather. There was intermittent rain and near the end of practice, the rain came down quite hard.

"We went out and practiced in a little driving rain there for awhile and it looked like an offense practicing in a driving rain," said Meyer. "We didn't look very sharp and crisp. This offense is only as good as your quarterback and receivers better be on their game, not just throwing but blocking on the perimeter, carrying the ball … we weren't sharp there at that position but it's Tuesday and we've got some work to do."

There is no panic in Meyer's voice, not even a hint of concern. He's been through this before. This is his fifth season opener as a head coach so he's got game week preparation down pat. He doesn't want his team peaking on Tuesday. In 20 years of coaching college football, he knows that there is a fine art to getting the team to peak emotionally and physically at the right moment. So when he sees a team that's not quite there on Tuesday, he's not the least bit concerned, particularly if the practices leading up to Tuesday were the kind he likes to see.

"I get upset now but I've also been on teams that they kind of shoot it on Tuesday and you don't play until Saturday," he said. "We need to keep the pressure on them in practice. I know a lot of coaches, myself included, that you see some things happening and you say 'doggone it, why?' But it's Tuesday and we have another Wednesday and Thursday that we take very serious so we'll be all right."

So don't worry that the practice wasn't all that great. After all, it was only Tuesday.

TAILBACK: While he wouldn't name a starter for Saturday's game, Meyer continued to heap the praise on Moore, the 5-10, 205-pounder from Arlington, Texas.

"Kestahn Moore keeps coming," he said. "He's one of those every play guys."

Although rumors continue to swirl that Wynn will miss the first game due to a single-game suspension that also kept him out of the Orange and Blue Game back in April, Meyer hasn't put the rumor to rest one way or the other.

WIDE RECEIVER: The Gators have the Fab Four --- Dallas Baker, Chad Jackson, Bubba Caldwell and Jemalle Cornelius --- but Meyer has been calling for a fifth receiver to step it up in practice. For awhile it appeared that Dickey would be the fifth receiver as well as a backup quarterback, but recently there has been a new mover and shaker at the position.

"Kenneth Tookes has made a good push," said Meyer. "He's a pretty good blocker and that's a big part of what we do, too.

"We run a lot of perimeter plays. Our first year at Utah we weren't very good on the edge and we weren't a strong perimeter run team. The second year I thought we were as good as anybody in the country on perimeter blocking. Right now I just don't see us being that way here so we have a lot of work to do. Tookes gives you a little bit of a solid blocker out there."

Tookes is a fourth year junior out of Jacksonville First Coast. He has two career catches good for 30 yards. Another First Coast product starting to step it up is redshirt freshman Mike McIntosh. Meyer indicated that McIntosh will see some game action Saturday.

"He is a much improved player than he was in the spring and I think he has a future here at Florida," said Meyer.

VERNELL BROWN UPDATE: When Meyer first took a look at Vernell Brown in the spring, he had serious concerns about the corner position opposite Webb. Since those early concerns, all Brown has done is to one by one eliminate all the doubts in Meyer's mind. The coach admits that his estimation of the 5-8, 165-pound senior out of Gainesville High has changed considerably.

"I remember our first tackle drill we did with him and everybody was concerned," said Meyer. "I was concerned after I watched him but then I saw a guy who could take coaching and worked on the little things. He's a starting corner in the SEC and he should be."

At Monday's media day gathering, starting safety Jarvis Herring, whom Meyer continues to tout as an All-SEC caliber player, said that Brown has opened everyone's eyes by making one play after another in practices.

DEFENSIVE LINE: The expectations from the defensive line have been raised considerably since spring practice. The Gators went through spring practice with Marcus Thomas on the sideline recuperating from back surgery and with Joe Cohen trying to get through the spring before he had a finger sized bone spur taken out of his hip.

After a strong offseason of hard work, the defensive line has stood out continually in August. Meyer says part of the transition from a line of underachievers to one that has a chance to be dominating has to do with maturity.

"I think Coach (Greg) Mattison has done a heckuva job and they were young," said Meyer. "Everybody makes a big deal of it but between your sophomore and junior year you grow up. That's what it is. Guys like Marcus, Ray McDonald, Steven Harris … Joe Cohen. They've played some football. Now they're juniors and its time they better play some good football."

MEANWHILE ON OFFENSE: In the offense of 2004, everything was signaled in from the sideline. Quarterback Chris Leak got the play from the sideline and center Mike Degory called out the adjustments.

In the Meyer spread option offense, the quarterback has the burden of seeing the defense and making sure everyone is in the right position to execute the plays. Meyer said Monday that there were games when Leak never had to speak. All that has changed and now Leak is taking over as the vocal leader off the field and as a true field general at quarterback.

"The quarterback has got to do a lot of things to make sure everyone on the offense is on the right page," said Meyer. "That's why the center can't be the only guy that makes the calls like he did last year. The quarterback's got to control it and I thought he did the last couple of days and he threw the ball well."

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