Saturday Scrimmage: CI Makes A Splash

It started out as one of those tricky running plays that Coach Urban Meyer likes to throw at a defense just to keep them on their toes. Cornelius Ingram, the H-back, who went in motion just before the snap, took a little toss from Chris Leak and headed around the right end, selling everybody on the run. The moment he applied the brakes and pulled up, the defense knew they'd been taken to school by Meyer and this former high school All-American quarterback.


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Ingram looked back to his left and floated the perfect pass to Leak who breezed into the end zone untouched for a touchdown, the highlight play of a scrimmage that was more about who was on the sidelines with an injury than who was actually on the field playing. Ingram, who first made the switch to H-back/tight end during preparations for the Outback Bowl back in December, continued to show that he's going to be a factor in the offense. He made some catches including a nice grab of a Tim Tebow pass on an out pattern and looked like he's making real progress with his blocking.

"CI was a star today," said Coach Urban Meyer. "He played very well. I think we're doing a pretty good job of figuring out what he does well and we're letting him play. He's having a lot of fun playing. That's the one guy that stood out for me on offense."

Asked if Ingram will be given a chance to show off his many talents on the field in the fall, Meyer responded, "He'll make an impact."

The sidelines at Saturday's scrimmage were a virtual who's who for the Gators. A combination of injuries and some players with a past history of injury being held out meant the Gators were going at it without some of the usual standouts on the field. Where it showed up most was on the offensive side of the ball where Meyer lamented a lack of playmakers.

Among the players who sat out Saturday were starting wide receivers Dallas Baker (played a couple of plays then held out) and Bubba Caldwell (still recovering from broken leg), defensive tackles Marcus Thomas (precautionary) and Ray McDonald (recovering from ACL surgery), linebacker Jonathon Demps (recovering from ACL surgery), fullback Billy Latsko (precautionary) and running backs Kestahn Moore (back), Chevon Walker (sprained ankle) and Markus Manson (concussion).

"I just tallied up the numbers and we started with 46 live scholarship bodies for spring practice," said Meyer, who noted that Florida's situation isn't all that much different than what other schools face. He added that the numbers will be better in the fall when players have recovered from injury and the signing class is on campus.

But for now, depth is an issue at several positions including linebacker where he said, "We really don't have any."

The Gators return starting linebackers Earl Everett and Brandon Siler plus Brian Crum, who was a backup last year. Red-shirt freshman Ryan Stamper has been dinged up this spring and Demps is being held out of contact. He may have an opportunity to play the last couple of days of spring practice, but it's more likely that he'll be held out all spring.

"I don't know who our [third] starter is," said Meyer. "We have Earl Everett and Brandon Siler and we have the three kids coming in so that's an issue."

If there is a bright spot in the depth department at linebacker, it is senior Darryon Robinson, a walkon from Gainesville Eastside who transferred into UF a couple of years ago after playing his freshman year at Bethel College.

"Darryon Robinson's doing a helluva job," said Meyer.

At wide receiver, there are enough bodies to practice but when Baker and Caldwell aren't playing, there is a lack of playmaking ability on the field.

"We're missing players on offense," Meyer said. "Dallas didn't scrimmage much … played only a couple of plays early … Bubba's not going and Jamelle [Cornelius] has got to make more plays.

"At the University of Florida, I try to make this point, when the ball goes in the air it should be a show. It should be a show. I can remember Ike Hilliard and the boys … when the ball went in the air you enjoyed watching it. Other than CI today I'm not seeing a dynamic wide receiver crew which is something we have to improve."

The defense, even limited by the absence of Thomas and McDonald on the line, got the better of the offense most of the day. One area that Meyer saw as an encouragement was corner where Reggie Lewis and Avery Atkins have taken over for departed starters Vernell Brown and Dee Webb.

"We lost Vernell Brown (graduation) and we lost Dee Webb (early entry NFL draft)," said Meyer. "I think Avery Atkins and Reggie Lewis are coming on."

OFFENSIVE LINE: Meyer likes the chemistry he sees developing in a very young offensive line that has Steven Rissler (center), Jim Tartt and Ronnie Wilson (guards) and Phil Trautwein and Drew Miller (tackles) as the current starters. Meyer said that all great offensive lines have great chemistry.

"I love the chemistry right now," he said. "I don't like them as a group yet but I like the chemistry."

True freshmen Carl Johnson and Maurice Hurt, he said, continue to show a lot of improvement. Johnson is still making typical freshman mistakes but he's showing progress.

"He's playing like a true freshman," said Meyer. "He's got a way to go and Maurice Hurt is a little bit ahead of him but we're glad they're here. We're glad we recruited them. Carl Johnson does things that most big guys can't do. He's getting ready for his high school prom still and he plays like it."

KICKING GAME: A good bit of Saturday's scrimmage was devoted to the kicking game where the field goal team struggled somewhat kicking into the wind. The punting team had an outstanding day, though, as Eric Wilbur was hitting rockets. Meyer wasn't worried about the field goal unit, noting that the wind had a big effect on Chris Hetland.

"Hetland is okay," he said. "We were kicking in the wind and I did that on purpose. I wanted to make it hard on them. Wilbur had a helluva day. Our punt team is a lot of fun to watch … a little bit of chemistry there now."

The emphasis that Meyer places on special teams showed up big last year with the punting unit, which proved to be one of the best in the country.

"We recovered three fumbles, had three fakes and we finished eighth in the country in net punt and we had a couple downed inside the one yard line," said Meyer. "That's one of the most productive punt teams I've ever been around. There's a little bit of stuff to them right now. I've really enjoyed coaching those guys."

TEBOW FACTOR: Tebow continues to show progress at quarterback. He's starting to pick out the right receivers and doesn't hesitate to take what the defense gives him on rollouts. If he's unaccounted for, he turns the ball upfield for positive yards.

"He's all right," said Meyer. "He's a try hard guy. He sat for four hours with us [coaches] yesterday. He's either in the weight room, in class or in the office which is kind of a neat guy to coach."


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