For Now, Gavin Dickey Is A Backup QB

For the next couple of weeks, he is Gavin Dickey, backup quarterback for the Florida Gators in the Outback Bowl. He's once again playing the position he's played all his life, trying to do whatever he can to help the Gators win one more football game. It's football that has his complete focus for now, but in a couple of weeks his attention will switch about 50 yards south of the practice fields to McKethan Stadium, a place where he believes his athletic future lies.

Dickey spent the fall helping the Gators depleted receiving corps get through a very difficult season. The emergence of freshman Josh Portis at quarterback allowed Dickey to make the switch from quarterback to wide receiver in August to bolster a receiver corps that counted just seven scholarship players. He made the switch for the good of the team and there were predictions that he would be able to make a real contribution to the team in the new position.

As the season progressed and injuries riddled the receiving corps, Dickey saw the field on a regular basis but he rarely saw the football. After two years of backing up Chris Leak at quarterback he finally was on the field enough to make a difference if only the ball had come his way. The numbers had to be frustrating for the former Parade All-American quarterback from his days at Tallahassee Lincoln: one pass reception for 12 yards, one rushing attempt for one yard and two kickoff returns for 34 total yards. Not exactly eye-popping numbers over an 11-game schedule.

He would still be at wide receiver except that Portis has left the team with the intention of transferring. Asked to return to quarterback, Coach Urban Meyer says that he will be Florida's chief backup for Leak in the Outback Bowl. It is a move that Dickey can make with ease since he knows the offense from both the quarterback position and from the different perspective of a season spent at wide receiver.

"I'm just picking back up the offense from a different perspective," he said after Saturday morning's practice. "I haven't played it [quarterback] in awhile. I'm still rusty but hopefully if I work hard enough I'll be ready if they need me in the bowl game."

The time spent at wide receiver actually could prove to be helpful for him in this transition back to quarterback. Having played wide receiver, he's knows exactly where the receivers are supposed to be and what they're supposed to be doing on every single play.

"You know what the receiver is thinking at the time on certain routes and you know exactly where the receiver ought to be because I've sat in the meetings with the receiver coach," he said. "I know where they're going to be."

Switching back to quarterback means he's throwing every day, something that he didn't have to do at wide receiver. He rarely threw during the fall since he was too busy learning how to run pass routes and block.

"I didn't throw hardly at all," he said, but the throwing is not all that difficult since it's something he's done all his life. The tough part is brushing up on the mechanics of the position.

"I know the offense so that [throwing] is not the hard part," he said. "The mechanics are the biggest part. I know where the ball is supposed to go. I have to work on my mechanics, get my feet set and get the ball there accurately."

He's made the move back to quarterback without hesitation. Even if he's grown comfortable playing wide receiver, he's all about the team and doing whatever he can do to help the Florida Gators win another football game.

"I wouldn't say I relish [switching back to quarterback]," he said. "It's just that whatever Coach (Meyer) wants me to do I'm willing to do …whether it's quarterback, receiver, running back … whatever they want me to do."

He may be switching positions in the spring as well. He hit .293 starting in left field for the Florida baseball team last year when the Gators made it to the championship game of the College World Series. In a couple of weeks, when he returns to Coach Pat McMahon to start preparations for the 2006 baseball season, he could very well find himself in center field.

Last season was Dickey's first chance to play baseball for a full season since he's been at Florida. Early in the season, he had some struggles both at the plate and in the field, visible amplification of his two years away from the game. During the Gators stretch run that enabled them to capture the SEC Eastern Division and the Super Regional victory over FSU that propelled Florida into the College World Series, Dickey's improvement was dramatic. He started making all the plays in the outfield and at the plate, he became a tough out who delivered key hits in some of Florida's most important games.

"When you're playing and struggling and then things start clicking for you it's a wonderful feeling," he said. "I worked with the coaches so hard and they put in so much time with me and when things started clicking it felt great."

Things clicked well enough that he's on just about every Major League Baseball scout's watch list for 2006. If he puts together the kind of season that is expected, he will likely be drafted. Most experts think he would go in the first 15 rounds and there are some who think he could go in the first 10.

If and when that happens, he's already got a plan in place. Playing professional baseball is his goal and he's already preparing himself for that eventuality.

"That's what I want to do in life … I want to play baseball," he said. "If the opportunity presents itself I will have to sit down with my parents and evaluate that situation."

He is eligible to play one more season of college football, but that will be predicated by what happens with baseball. If he's not drafted, then he will be more than willing to help the Florida football team in whatever way he can.

"I came here to play football so I will honor that," he said. "I told them I was coming here to play football and I've been here four years."

TEBOW SIGHTING: Just four days after he committed to Florida, US Army All-American prep quarterback Tim Tebow was at Florida's practice along with his high school coach, Craig Howard, and some of his teammates. While Tebow, his coach and teammates were seen walking down to the Florida locker room with offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, Coach Urban Meyer and Tim's dad, Bob Tebow were seen talking as they moved through a post-graduation crowd from the emptying O'Connell Center.

Tebow said earlier in the week that he will be deciding very soon whether to play high school baseball at Nease during the spring or enroll at the University of Florida immediately after the US Army All-American Game in San Antonio (January 7). While he gave no indication at his press conference what he will be doing, most close Tebow followers believe he will forego baseball to participate in Florida's spring practice.

Seen after Friday's practice was next year's best bet to represent the state of Florida at the 2007 US Army All-American Game, John Brantley III. Like Tebow did with St. Augustine Nease, Brantley led his team (Trinity Catholic) to a state championship. Brantley will be a senior at Trinity Catholic next year and he is expected to rank among the top five quarterback prospects in the nation.

GRADUATION ADDITION: In its post-practice football report from Friday, Gator Country listed six football players who would participate in graduation (Lance Butler, Todd McCullough, Brian Royal, Shane Cimock and Jimmy Newmeyer). Also participating in graduation exercises Saturday was offensive lineman Jonathon Marvin.

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