VETTEL: More Insight From Jemalle Cornelius

While the Gators are wrestling with their first significant off-the-field behavior issues since Urban Meyer's arrival, the vast majority of the team is diving into the off-season program and getting geared up for spring practice getting underway next month.

After an unusually small senior class in '05 that was predominantly offensive linemen the Gators will have a larger and more varied group of seniors next season. In that group you'll have a pair of veteran receivers in Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius, Baker really emerged last year with 52 catches for 697 yards and five touchdowns. Cornelius on the other hand struggled with injuries for the first time in his career and ended up with 29 catches with just one touchdown.

I sat down with Jemalle recently to talk about his final season in Orange and Blue, getting Bubba Caldwell back in the mix and making 2006 a championship season in Gainesville.

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LV: Jemalle, are you ready to be a senior?

JC: Yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to my last season and I'm trying to work hard and be prepared. We had a pretty good season last year, but we want to elevate to another level and win the SEC Championship next year.

LV: Let's talk about your unit. You guys made an off-season trade swapping Chad Jackson for Bubba Caldwell. What are your thoughts on getting Bubba back in the mix?

JC: I'm thrilled to have Bubba back he brings a lot of life and a lot of energy. We missed him a great deal last year and it's great to see him up and about and going through stuff with the team. We got a lot of guys coming back and we're going to be a lot stronger. I believe all the adversity we went through as a group will help us going into the off season.

LV: Do you feel that the receiving corps has something to prove since you guys have not had a healthy group since early in the Tennessee game?

JC: I think so, but we were healthier in the bowl game and showed what we can do against Iowa. I've been praying a lot that we stay healthy this season and stay together. We were an average receiving corps last year so we have a lot to prove. Coach (Billy) Gonzales has made that clear to us and we just have to work to get better.

LV: I'd like you to give me a scouting report on the guys we haven't seen very much, starting with Mike McIntosh. He's been around a while and has shown flashes of great ability but seems to have a lot of bad days too.

JC: I see a lot of potential in Mike. Ever since he got here has struggled to be more consistent. So far this off season he's been working hard every day and hopefully it'll be like that all year. (Louis) Murphy and (Nyan) Boateng played a little bit last year but I think their roles will be a lot greater. During bowl practices last year they showed a good deal of improvement and I definitely think they'll get a lot more playing time. Then you have David Nelson who people might have forgotten about because he redshirted. He is one heckuva receiver and I really think he'll get a lot of playing time here and make a lot of big plays.

LV: I used to think Dallas Baker was tall and thin until I met David.

JC: He's definitely a baby Dallas Baker waiting in the wings and I'm sure he's going to be ready when it's his time to play.

LV: I'm curious about the reaction you and other guys have had to Tim Tebow. He not only is one of the most hyped recruits in recent years, but he's getting autograph requests before he's even taken part in a practice. What do you think about all of that?

JC: You would expect a guy with all that publicity and stuff to be a little arrogant, but he's not. He's a humble guy, real down to earth and will talk to anybody. From what I've seen he works really hard and you can tell he's just a real genuine guy. I think they gravitate to him and want to be around him because he has a great personality. I don't think any of the guys resent him at all because of the way he carries himself. You can tell he's from a real good family.

LV: You guys went into the off-season program after bowl losses the last three years. This is the first time you have some momentum coming off the previous year. Do you see or feel a difference in any way as a result?

JC: We wanted to end the season good and we were able to do that. That momentum gives us a lot more confidence to set higher goals. We beat FSU, we won the bowl game and we had a great recruiting class. I think it just has a snowball effect on the way we approach this off season. There's something about finishing well that has all of us really pumped for the next season.

LV: Finally, what about this offense? What's it going to take to get the Gators putting up big numbers and hitting big plays again?

JC: I think what we saw in the bowl game is probably a lot like what we'll see next season. We had the opportunity to run the ball well and we took our shots downfield. Coach Meyer and his staff are definitely going to stick with the things that fit the personnel. We gotta have the O-line to protect Chris and give him time because if he has time to throw he's deadly. I think we'll have a better receiving corps and Coach Meyer will trust us and give us more chances to make big plays. I think 2006 is going to be a great year for the Gators and I really think you'll see us in the SEC Championship game.


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