Extra Practices Like Having An Extra Spring

The Florida Gators don't know who they're playing in the bowl game, where they'll be playing or even what date the game will be played, but football practice has plenty of added incentive and Coach Meyer has used this week with the future in mind. Meyer is well aware that the every practice day is an added bonus that can pay great dividends next fall.

Meyer posted a 10-2 record his first year at Utah, earning a Liberty Bowl win over Southern Mississippi. The extra practice days the Utes got for that bowl game were like having an extra spring practice and they helped springboard Utah to a 12-0 record in year two. Meyer is hoping for the same result for Florida, using this practice time as an opportunity to get some young players better prepared for increased roles next fall.

The Gators could be playing their next game in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport (December 30) against a Big 12 opponent (Missouri, Nebraska or Oklahoma), in the Peach Bowl (December 30) in Atlanta against an ACC opponent (Clemson or Boston College) or in the Outback Bowl in Tampa (January 2) against Michigan. Where the Gators play and against whom will be figured out on Sunday, but the opponent isn't as important as getting in the extra practices. The coaches can use this as a time to measure the progress of some of the younger players whose contributions have been limited to the scout team in practice so it is an important time.

"Very important, that's a big deal," said Meyer after Thursday's two-hour practice. "You figure you get 30 more practices to get a guy ready like David Nelson, who is going to have to play next year … Kestahn Moore, 30 practices for him… Josh Portis, all the young guys.

"That's the way coaches look at it. It's 30 days that we're allowed to go out and work with them. The NCAA limits everything else."

Once the Gators find out who they're playing, it will take a couple of days to evaluate the opponent and come up with a game plan.

"We should find out early next week who we're playing," said Meyer. "I haven't heard the exact date but film will be here in a day, it will broken down in a day, and then we'll start game planning immediately. We'll practice next Saturday in earnest which means preparation for our opponent."

RECRUITING MOMENTUM: Meyer is obviously pleased with the momentum in recruiting the Gators have gained since beating Florida State 34-7 last Saturday at The Swamp. The Gators have come away with seven new commitments and there are indications that there will be more on the way in the next few days, but he's cautious about commitments when players say they'll still be taking more visits after announcing one school or another.

"Everybody plays that game of recruiting, I think, especially here in the south," he said. "[They say] I'm committee but I'm going to take four more trips. Well, then don't commit.

The outcome of the Florida State game was a tremendous shot in the arm for Florida's recruiting, which now stands at 19 verbal, non-binding commitments.

"That game Saturday obviously had a lot to do with a lot of guys wanting to be here now and that's a real positive," said Meyer. "I heard that that game was gigantic in recruiting, obviously in the style. I think everybody wants to see the style that the team plays and it couldn't have been better … the energy, the stadium, the fact that it was home and a beautiful night … all three phases played with great energy and showed great defense, great special teams and at times good offense."

VERNELL UPDATE: Cornerback Vernell Brown, who broke his leg against Vanderbilt four weeks ago, is progressing nicely in his rehabilitation. Prior to the injury, Brown was playing as well as any corner in the SEC. He could be back on the playing field in four weeks when the Gators play their bowl game.

"He says he's going to play in three weeks," said Meyer. "That's not verified by our doctors which I'm going to do in a minute. He deserves a chance to play in a bowl game."

On another injury front, Meyer said that doctors still haven't determined what to do about defensive end/tackle Ray McDonald. McDonald had knee surgery after the Tennessee game but came back three weeks later. He's not been effective since returning from the injury and team doctors are trying to determine if more surgery is necessary.

LEAK WILL BE BACK: Although quarterback Chris Leak's dad has filed papers with the NFL to determine his draft status, Meyer isn't worried.

"I think from what Chris told me, he's coming back for sure," said Meyer, who indicated that filing for the draft has more to do with getting information necessary to purchase an insurance policy to guard against debilitating injury during Leak's final year at Florida.

"I still have to learn more about it, something about insurance," said Meyer. "The NCAA gives young guys the opportunity to get insurance. That's what that's about."

Florida fans may remember that during the 1998 season, defensive tackle Ed Chester suffered a career ending knee injury. Chester had requested draft information that was used to help him purchase an insurance policy. When it was determined that his injury was so severe he could never play again, Chester's policy paid off in seven figures.

PRE-GAME SCUFFLES: When Florida State came onto the field Saturday, the Gators were just concluding their Senior Day ceremonies. Several of the Seminoles charged onto the field taunting and shouting at Florida players. They continued the finger pointing and shouting even when FSU coaches and security people restrained them.

Florida linebacker Todd McCullough and his family were among the closest to the Seminoles and the targets of some of the verbal assault. McCullough didn't want to fan the flames because of the incident but did say Thursday that "it was pretty disrespectful what they did with our parents on the field." He said that there is always passion and emotion in a rivalry such as this, but the Seminoles actions were uncalled for.

"It's the FSU game and it's a heated rivalry game and sometimes, I guess things like that happen," said McCullough. "I'm not trying to bad mouth any other program, but it was our Senior Day and it was really disrespectful of them."

McCullough declined to go into detail about exactly what was said.

"Nah, I don't want to get into naming names and saying what was said," said McCullough. "Just say it was disrespectful and leave it at that."

Senior tackle Lance Butler, although not directly involved in the outburst, added, "To come into another team's place and do something like that on Senior Day is really disrespectful and it shouldn't have happened."

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