"That was a great practice," Meyer said. "We stink, but a heck of an effort. One of the best efforts that I can remember."
The effort had been inconsistent during the first week of practice, but with classes still going on and the everyday campus distractions, it was tough for players to put 100 percent of their focus on football. But there are no excuses now.
"We got them up around 5:45 for the first day of two-a-days," Meyer said. "It's cooking out here. I don't know if we'll be any good, but I feel really good about what I saw. Like I said, we are awful. If we played a game, we'd get our teeth kicked in, but we got three weeks for that."
"As far as attitude, that was a hell of an attitude out there."
With so many newcomers on the practice field and coming of a national championship, Meyer said he's looking to make this the toughest camp in his three years at Florida
"It's all relative, so I don't know," he said. "I think the old guys are used to it, but the '07 guys are looking around like what in the world was that? That was about three hours."
True freshman quarterback Cameron Newton was still not in action for the morning session, but Meyer said he should practice in the afternoon. The quarterback from north Georgia looked solid in the spring after early-enrolling, but could see his backup role slipping away after missing the first week of fall practice. Newton had some loose ends academically to finish up throughout the week, but another concern is the status of a sore back.
"He hasn't done a whole lot," Meyer said. "A quarterback at Florida has got to get out there and throw. We'll know [where he stands] soon because the other ones are throwing pretty decent."
Another early-enrollee missed practice in the morning and will most likely miss the afternoon. Aaron Hernandez has a stinger, but is expected to return on Monday.
Hernandez, along with senior tight end Tate Casey and fullback Eric Rutledge could all be used to fill the role held by Billy Latsko a year ago. Latsko was an important piece to the Gator offense, providing lead blocks for the skill players. Rutledge hurt is hand during this morning's workout, requiring ice, and Meyer said he has some work to do before becoming Latsko.
"Billy Latsko is a special guy," Meyer said. "Rutledge is too, but he's got a long way to go. That's apple and oranges right now. That's a whole different animal."
One thing Rutledge needs to do is drop some weight. After moving from fullback to linebacker, Rutledge got his weight up to 250-pounds where he stands now, but since he's back at fullback, he needs to drop some pounds.
"He's 250-pounds and he runs like it, but he's getting better," Meyer said.
Close to Another Stripe
No black stripes came of any helmets this morning, but one player came close. Justin Trattou has been impressive during the first week of Gator practice, and almost became the second Gator this fall to earn the respect of the staff.
"Trattou was right on the verge, but then the heat got to him and he went into the tent and the stripe stays on," Meyer said. "He's close. He's busting his tail."
Trattou played his high school football at Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep, which has captured nine state titles and played in every title game since 2002. Consistently a member of the USA Today top-25, it's a program that produces well-coached players and Meyer can tell the difference.
"You can tell in about 15 seconds," Meyer said. "You can tell with Major Wright, you can tell George Smith [St. Thomas Aquinas coach] down there. You can tell with most of the Lakeland kids. You can tell the primo programs."
"If you're from a terrible program, it takes two years to teach them how to put their hands behind the white line," Meyer added. "If all is equal, we're going to take the state champions instead of the guy that went 0-11 who went through four coaches and doesn't understand why you have to tape your ankles. It just wears you out."
There are drawbacks to well-coached kids, however.
"A lot of times when you get a kid from a program like that, he's maxed out because he's been so well-coached," Meyer said. "You get the other guy and you coach him and all of a sudden, wow, and he turns out to be a great player. Sometimes if the guy's a winner, he may have played his best football already."
Impressed with the Effort
A few guys that may never see the field earned some recognition from Meyer this morning. The head coach recognized Mike Williamson, Joey Sorrentino, John Fairbanks, Jamaal Devaeaux and Andrew Fritze in front of the team after practice.
"They never get any attention and I just pointed them out to the team because they bust their tail," Meyer said. "Devaeaux might play at fullback. He knocked a helmet off a guy at practice."