FALL CAMP: Meyer Likes What He Sees

It's only two days into fall practice, but so far, head coach Urban Meyer likes what he sees from his Gators. After another two session day, Meyer named a few veterans and a few freshmen that have already caught his attention.

"Two days in shorts, I love it," Urban Meyer said after Monday night's workout. "I don't like it, I love it."

Overall, Meyer is pleased with veterans and freshmen alike, but it's the defensive side that is really sticking out. The defense was aggressive and played with a lot of energy on day two, led by the big man in the middle.

"[Brandon] Spikes is doing a good job and practicing hard," Meyer said. "Markihe Anderson is another good example. We were very concerned. He's done some good things and doing a very good job."

Spikes posted 15 tackles last season, with a pair of tackles for a loss, but he's replacing the second leading tackler on the team and the heart and soul of the defense. Meyer has challenged the true sophomore, and at least for now, Spikes is answering the call.

"That whole media push, sometimes I use the media to get a guy thinking," Meyer said. "That was all directed right at him. He has to be a real man in there like Brandon Siler was."

Behind Spikes, there are a few emerging stars. Anderson had another interception on Monday after picking off a pass on Sunday. Monday's interception resulted in some "friendly" exchanges after the play, ending with Jarred Fayson throwing a football at safety Tony Joiner. But Anderson is not the only sophomore looking good in the secondary.

"Wondy [Pierre-Louis] is much better now than he was in the spring," Meyer said. "There's not many 6-1 corners that play because corners are expected to be such change of direction guys. He's a long guy, but his footwork has improved. He's a much better player now than he was in the spring."

Pierre-Louis also plays aggressive, maybe too aggressive at times, but has shown good cover skills and great close-out ability.

Still, the defense will need to replace first round draft pick Reggie Nelson, and that job falls squarely on the shoulders of senior Kyle Jackson who has yet to impress Meyer this fall.

"Kyle Jackson is great person," he said. "I just hope he's improved as a football player because if he has than he'll be an excellent leader for us."

On the offensive side, the Gators need to find a backup for Tim Tebow. Junior college transfer Bryan Waggener missed the spring after breaking his foot on the first day of spring practice, but that allowed freshman Cameron Newton to get extra reps during spring ball. Newton has yet to practice in the fall, however, because Meyer said he is taking care of some academic things before the end of Summer B later this week.

Ocala Trinity Catholic's John Brantley has made a strong first impression, though.

"Johnny Brantley has come out throwing the ball very well," Meyer said. "[Back-up quarterback] is a concern, though. I have no idea which way that thing is going to go."

Meyer discussed in the spring plans to redshirt one of the two freshman quarterbacks. The obvious choice would have been Brantley who mentioned an interest in redshirting when he was a senior in high school, and Newton had the benefit of spring practice. But with Newton missing time, and Brantley showing well, it's an open race.

"We have to find a back up first," Meyer said. "I'm sure we are going to redshirt, but I don't know which direction we are going to go. Johnny Brantley is above where we thought he was going to be. He's doing very well."

As for the starter, Meyer is pleased with Tim Tebow after two days.

"Tebow looks really good," he said. "He ran the two-minute drill very well today. Yesterday, he came out a bit rusty, but today he threw the ball much better."

Speed That Kills

Some of the corners are looking good, but there are two guys they just can't cover – Andre Caldwell and Percy Harvin. The speedy duo finds themselves wide open time after time and continue to impress everyone.

"Wow!" Meyer said. "What Harvin was last year was a kid who ran real fast because he was hurt and missed a lot of two-a-days. He and Bubba Caldwell right now, I was a receivers coach for 16 years and what those two young people can do, there aren't too many folks who can do that."

Impressive Frosh

In addition to Brantley, two other true freshmen are making an impact on Meyer. One can make the wide receiver duo of Caldwell and Harvin that much more dangerous, and the other adds depth to the secondary.

"Major Wright has really stood out," Meyer said. "And Deonte Thompson, those two guys unless when we put on the pads they turn into something other than football players, those two guys look like they are going to play."


Trent Pupello did not practice on Monday, and Meyer said he was unsure of the redshirt freshman's status. Pupello's father was an offensive lineman for the Gators, and Trent was a highly recruited tight end out of Tampa. But he was moved to defensive end in the offseason and missed a few practices in the spring for personal reasons. … Riley Cooper has been active after sitting out the spring with a sore foot, but he's not 100 percent. "His left foot is bothering him, but he's doing everything he can," Meyer said. "In practice he made a great catch on the sideline. Your heart bleeds for him because it's like a bad toothache in his foot. They wish they could fix it, but it's a very unusual injury and it's really taking a toll on him." … The newcomers get there first opportunity to practice with the veterans on Tuesday. The Gators will hold only one practice, beginning at 5:50 p.m. and it will be their first of the fall in full pads.

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