FALL CAMP: Defense Dominates

They may be young, but there's one thing the defense brings to the field and that's energy and heart. The Florida Gators ended Wednesday's practice with some third down situations in the red zone, and it was the defense making the big plays.

The loudest hit of the evening came between two true freshmen. Chris Rainey took an inside handoff from John Brantley and got around the line. But safety Major Wright stopped Rainey in his tracks, and the entire defensive unit rushed the field.

"Major's been known to do that," Meyer said. "He's missed a couple. He's had a few glancing blows, but that wasn't a glancing blow. That was right down the middle of Rainey. He almost got a stripe off today, but not yet."

Urban Meyer continues his tradition of placing black stripes on the back of the newcomer's helmets. The stripe is removed when a newcomer makes enough big plays that he officially becomes a Florida Gator. Mayer typically makes the stripe removal part of his post-practice speech, but no one has lost their stripe yet this fall. Wright has come the closest, but Meyer said the Gators aren't officially in fall camp yet, either.

"With the Summer B still going on it's hard," he said. "Those kids are still taking tests and classes, so camp officially starts Friday after class."

As for the offense, Meyer wasn't too upset despite a poor performance. It was clear, however, that the defense had the better day.

"The offense was not very good," Meyer said. "We did blitz situation with third downs. Whenever you put the offense in that first situation with a blitz pickup, it's usually an ugly deal and that was an ugly deal. That was the first day of blitz pickup."

Plus, the Gators were short some linemen. On the first team, right guard Jim Tartt was replaced by Maurice Hurt because of heat exhaustion, and second teamer Marcus Gilbert sprained his ankle early in the workout. Regardless, Meyer didn't want to take away from the defense's day.

"I loved the defensive enthusiasm and the energy," he said. "I thought they played good today, real good."

Rainey Moving Up

Minus the big hit he received from Major Wright, Rainey is moving up on Meyer's list. The true freshman is taking lots of reps at tailback and is getting a serious look as a punt returner.

"We're auditioning Chris Rainey back there," Meyer said. "Obviously, there's Brandon James and Cornelius Ingram does a nice job catching the ball back there and Jarred Fayson. We're just making sure we have enough depth back there. I remember a few years ago, we had Vernell Brown and that was it. I think we had Cam Brewer back there to help him catch punts."

Rainey broke a long run during yesterday's practice and had another good day today.

"Yeah, if Major Wright is not hitting him," Meyer said. "Well find out if he's electric tomorrow. That was a big-time hit. He's doing very good. We're going to scrimmage here in a few days and we'll find out."


  • In addition to Jim Tartt, quarterback Bryan Waggener also sat out much of the practice due to heat exhaustion.

  • Louis Murphy continues to make a big impression. Said Meyer, "He's good. He had a little soreness in his leg today, a little tendinitis in his knee. He's one of our main guys."

  • Wondy Pierre-Louis also has solidified a role, at least for now, on the first team defense at cornerback. Said Meyer, "Wondy's making good strides. He's doing a good job on special teams. I think he had one of his better days yesterday, I don't know about today."

  • Rainey's been working at punt return, and he'll get a shot at kick return as well. The Gators start working on kick return in two days. It's a focus area for Meyer after the rule change that moves kickoffs from the 35 to the 30-yard line. Said Meyer, "That's changed games now. It's going to change how we manage the game a little bit and who's returning for us. We're going to have Brandon back there and maybe someone else, Rainey maybe. We have some dynamic players, more than we have had in the last couple years. We're giving a lot of thought to that, but haven't made a decision yet.

  • Freshman Bryan Thomas looks good at safety, but has got to make some noise elsewhere before he gets his chance on defense. Said Meyer, "His first step will be getting involved on special teams before he even thinks about getting in on defense. You can't play defense until you do something on special teams. That's the rule and he's trying to find a way to do that."

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