Change of Pace

A morning spent at an Ocala water park instead of on the practice field and an evening filled with some of the best champions in the world, and it's a good day to be a Florida Gator. Urban Meyer is holding his second annual Champions Night tonight, and it's become one of his favorite events of the year.

"We have a great night tonight," Urban Meyer said after Thursday's practice. "We have a video that our video staff, which is the best in the country, put together, and it's terrific. Billy Donovan will speak to the team, also. It's the second annual event for the team, and I can't wait. It's one of my favorite nights."

Meyer said the football video staff put together about a 20-minute video that includes a variety of champions, including Tiger Woods.

"It's true champions," Meyer said. "Guys that are the best at what they do. I've had a sneak preview. No one else has seen it yet. It's as good a video as I've ever seen, and, obviously, I have great respect and admiration for coach Donovan."

For the players, the day got off to an even better start than expected. After double sessions in two of the last three days, they woke up early this morning expecting to hit the practice field just before 9:00 a.m.

"We got them all dressed up and drove them past the practice fields like we were going to practice," Meyer said. "We went right past those practice fields and had a good time."

The team went to Wild Waters in Ocala about 30 minutes south of Gainesville. The change in plans wasn't just a treat for the team, but a bit of a test.

"Good practice teams are able to have some time off and get back and refocus," Meyer said. "That affects how I handle Bowls, it effects how I handle bye-weeks. If it's a team that can handle it, then I can trust these guys. That was a good day today. "

Meyer was very pleased with the way practice went in the afternoon, and hopes to see it continue for the rest of fall camp. The trip was something he would not have tried in his first year in Gainesville.

"That first year, it was a bad deal," he said. "If it were a bye-week, I'd rather practice seven days."

Some bad news

Not all the news around Gator camp was good news today. Walk-on freshman wide receiver Chris Jones wowed spectators on the opening days of camp with some of his skills, but the Gators learned he'll never be able to strap on a helmet again.

The medical staff came across a pre-existing neck injury that medically disqualifies Jones.

"He'll never play football again," Meyer said. "He's still going to be around and helping us out. He's a great young man and I love him."

Jones played his high school ball in Jacksonville at The Bolles School.

"It's horrible," Meyer said. "He's a kid that loves football, and he's devastated, but he's a kid that just wants to be around the Gators. We're going to do the best we can to keep him here."

Defense shaping up

The young Gator defense may be coming around, but don't tell anyone.

"You have to be careful around here because any time you give anyone praise around here they come back and have an awful day," Meyer said.

He did say he has been very pleased with the effort of the defensive line, which now goes eight strong. But Meyer doesn't want to name the eight until he sees some more practices.

"They go three plays as hard as you can and get out," Meyer said. "That's the way [Greg Mattison] coaches, that's what he expects. That's the way they played last year."

The cornerbacks also appear to be progressing as well.

"Improved," Meyer said. "Certainly no where near where we need them to be, but corner and the D-line the last couple days, if we can keep it going for the next week and a half, we'll be functional."

Markihe Anderson appears to have locked down one starting spot at corner, but there's a battle for the second spot. Both Markus Manson and Wondy Pierre-Louis are battling with Joe Haden looking good as well.

"It's a street fight at that position," Meyer said.


  • Andre Caldwell was held out today because of a sore groin, but he'll be fine. Meyer said it's just precautionary. Percy Harvin was still limited because of tendinitis in his Achilles.
  • Just when the Gators thought they were going to name a backup quarterback, the position took one step back. Said Meyer, "We had one and he didn't perform, so we're back to square one a little bit."
  • Major Wright is still the only newcomer to lose a stripe, but Meyer said he expects three to lose their stripes later tonight.

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