Judgement Time

The next few days of the Florida Gators fall camp may be the most crucial. After Friday's workout, head coach Urban Meyer was not ready to name starters and backups at a few key positions, but with the season opener only two weeks away, a decision will be made by the middle of next week.

One of the biggest battles on the squad is coming at quarterback. Tim Tebow is obviously the starter, but the backup has yet to be named. The race is wide open between junior college transfer Bryan Waggener and true freshmen Cameron Newton and John Brantley.

"We have some talented guys," Urban Meyer said. "We still haven't decided on a backup yet. We're going to give it until early next week. We just have to pull the trigger and go with it."

One cornerback spot is locked up by Markihe Anderson. Meyer called Anderson the Gators' best corner after Friday's practice, but the other spot is still open with Wondy Pierre-Louis, Markus Manson and Joe Haden battling it out.

With the kicking game, Meyer is still uncertain of the starters, but offered the same timeline as the backup quarterback situation. At placekicker, senior Joey Ijjas has the upperhand right now because junior Jonathan Phillips is nursing a hyper-extended knee. The punting battle is between freshman Chas Henry and sophomore Bobby Kane.

"In the long term Chas Henry is the best option because he's so talented," Meyer said. "But his get-off time and experience, and Bobby's been doing it for a little while. So, I haven't made that decision yet."

Meyer puts an extra emphasis on the Gators' kicking game, and feels it's been a difference maker in the last couple season.

"Every major win we've had around here has been special teams," he said. "In all the tight games, special teams has always been the difference."

Meyer attributes the special team success to a great attitude, something that was non-existent two years ago.

"Our attitude on special teams is our strongest point," Meyer said. "I remember before the national championship game someone saying that our kicking game was suspect because we missed some field goals. That's just a small element of our special teams. We have good players and it's part of our plan to win."

Meyer said special teams helps to dictate momentum during the game, and because of the new rule that has backed kickoffs from the 35 to the 30-yard line, look for the Gators to receive the ball if they win the opening coin toss instead of Meyer's traditional choice to defer to the second half.

"It will be game-to-game," he said. "We want momentum in the game. The fake punt against Arkansas, we had to get momentum so that's why we did that."

Meyer said the Gators will receive rather than defer in the season opener should they win the coin toss.

"To let our defense start anywhere past the 30-40 yard line, that's not what we do," Meyer said. "I don't like that rule."

Lots of stripes removed

Meyer promised yesterday that some stripes would be removed and he was right. During yesterday's Champions Night event, Carlos Dunlap and Brandon Hicks had their stripes removed. At Friday's practice, Mike Pouncey, Joe Haden and Steven Wilks all had their stripes removed.

"[Deonte] was close all along," Meyer said. "He's just had a couple of dropped balls. But he played hard today and made a couple of plays."

Chris Rainey has also had his stripe removed.


  • Meyer may be uncertain about this year's team versus team's of the past, but he certainly likes the attitude better than past years. Said Meyer, "The whole persona of this team has changed. The first year I was here we had a backup tailback that looked at me and said I don't care. When Jemalle Cornelius got hurt against Alabama on the opening kickoff, he looked at me and said I don't care. Now we have guys fighting each other for the punt block team."
  • No one has changed their attitude more in he last few years than junior receiver Louis Murphy. Said Meyer, "I don't know if I've ever coached a guy who has changed so much. His seriousness, his attention to detail, the way he takes care of his body like a professional athlete, the respect he has for his family ... He's one of our guys right now."
  • Percy Harvin went for half of Friday's practice still slowed by tendinitis in his Achilles. Markihe Anderson is also dealing with a slight groin pull, but Andre Caldwell was back at full strength after resting a sore groin the last couple of days.

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