Good News On UF's O-line Injury Front

After what seems to be a never-ending assortment of injuries that have kept various players out of practice, the Florida Gators are getting some good news at precisely the right time. With their first game with Southern Miss just a matter of a few days away, the Gators are starting to look a lot less like a M*A*S*H unit and more like a football team.

For awhile, the Gators looked like they were only minutes away from an emergency call to Benny Hinn. There were so many nicks and dings that the Gators were fairly close to needing the services of a faith healer, but the outlook has started changing and just at the right time, especially for a beleaguered offensive line that has taken its share of hits in the preseason.

"[Left tackle Phil] Trautwein (sore foot) was out there today," said Coach Urban Meyer after Thursday's practice. "Mo Hurt (offensive guard, sore knee) is close. He actually did a walk through and a little bit of stuff today, moving around. The trainers are doing a great job with him and we expect him full speed by Monday. That offensive line is starting to come on a bit now."

Guard Ronnie Wilson is still in a cast with a broken ankle but a quick recovery is expected. He could be back in September. When Wilson went down, right tackle Drew Miller slid down to the right guard slot that he played last year and that opened the right tackle position to a battle between junior Carlton Medder, redshirt freshman Simon Codrington and true freshman Carl Johnson.

Meyer said the situation at right tackle will likely change when Wilson gets back and with Maurice Hurt healthy, allowing Miller to slide back out to tackle where he was playing very well. But for now at least, Medder is the starter there.

"I wouldn't say it's locked but he'll start the first game," said Meyer.

Left guard Jim Tartt, who had offseason shoulder surgery, has been brought along slowly in August, but Meyer said, "Tartt was full speed today."

Injuries have also slowed down the progress of the wide receiver corps but there was good news on that front Thursday with the return to practice by freshmen Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson.

"Percy went today and so did Fayson," said Meyer, who added that starter Bubba Caldwell "still has a thumb issue but he went full speed."

Fullback Billy Latsko was back at full speed Thursday as well.

"He hasn't had a great camp because he sprained his ankle but he's back and going as hard as he can," said Meyer. Meyer also mentioned that Latsko will be one of the team captains when he makes that announcement.

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The search for a number one running back might be starting to tilt a little bit in the direction of sophomore Kestahn Moore. Moore and fifth-year senior DeShawn Wynn have been going at it in practice and while neither has distinguished himself in the manner that Meyer would like to see, Moore has begun to separate himself from Wynn.

"It's down to two … it's still a battle but there's not a clearcut guy," said Meyer. "We need a three. The three's probably Markus [Manson] but he's got to get better. Kestahn has probably outperformed them all in the last two or three days.

"He didn't have a good camp but the last two days he looked like Kestahn Moore did at the end of the year. He's a hard runner. He may not be as fast as some of them. Probably the correct statement is that he's the most reliable."

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The three starters at linebacker look very solid. Senior Earl Everett (WILL) and junior Brandon Siler (MIKE) have both had outstanding training camps.

"Everett is doing tremendous," said Meyer. "He's a leader and he's playing extremely well right now. Him and Siler … we feel good with those two guys. The problem is the backups. They're all young but they're trying."

On the strong side (SAM), senior Brian Crum is looking more and more the part of a starter every day and Meyer is feeling comfortable with him.

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Senior Reggie Lewis missed Thursday's practice with a 103 degree fever but he will be back in a day or so. Meyer said the other corner will be either Utah transfer Ryan Smith or fifth year senior Tremaine McCollum.

The situation at corner will allow Reggie Nelson to start at safety but Meyer said that the junior from Palm Bay will be moved around as needed.

"I think he'll probably start in the middle (free safety) but he knows corner and nickel as well," said Meyer.

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Meyer said his top three wide receivers are Dallas Baker, Bubba Caldwell and Jemalle Cornelius. Those three veterans have combined for 211 catches, 2,969 yards and 18 touchdowns in their Florida careers.

Last year the Florida offense slowed to a crawl when the injury bug hit the wide receiver corps but Meyer has what he believes will be dependable backups this year with freshman Percy Harvin, sophomore Cornelius Ingram and senior Kenneth Tookes as the immediate backups.

"We're a little bit play driven there," said Meyer. "They all have different skills. Percy has a little bit different skills than those other guys and CI obviously has his different skills and so does Kenneth Tookes."

Behind those three the Gators have redshirt freshman David Nelson, freshmen Fayson and Riley Cooper and sophomores Nyan Boateng and Louis Murphy. Freshman Justin Williams was seen in a scout team jersey Thursday which means he will likely redshirt.

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Meyer said that the offense is showing real signs of shaping up. That's a different tune than last year when he entered game one with as many questions as he had answers.

He said that the offense is "something I start to like because we're not having silly things happen to us a year ago. The best thing I like and I tell my wife this is I love every minute in practice because I don't feel that I have to encourage them to really get excited to play in that stadium and I didn't feel like that at all times last year so I enjoy coaching this team right now."

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