Coping with the Loss

How do you replace two first round NFL Draft picks on the defensive side of the ball? You don't, but you also don't dwell on it either.

Urban Meyer said after Tuesday's practice that the Florida Gators will try to compensate for last year's personnel losses by making up ground in other areas of the team.

"You can try as hard as you want to, but you can't replace Jarvis Moss and Reggie Nelson," Meyer said. "It's not going to happen. We can sit here and moan and complain, or maybe our punt block team can play a little better."

That's the Gator philosophy heading into the season that is just 11 days away. While questions remain on a young defense, Meyer continues to search for players that can improve units of last year's team that didn't perform as well as he would have liked.

"To sit here and complain, our coaches don't do that," Meyer said. "Some other phase of the football team is going to have to pick it up because [the defense] is obviously going to take a little bit of time to get it back to where it was. The challenge is out. For instance, our kickoff return team last year wasn't ranked very high, so we've spent an enormous amount of time on that because that has to pick up the slack."

As Meyer looks to improve the kick return team, he also needs to strategize for the new kickoff rule that takes effect this season, moving kickoffs from the 35 to the 30-yard line. The kicker race is still hot, but senior Joey Ijjas has the upper hand. Walk-on freshman Jordan Means from Hoover (Ala.), however, is looking good as well. "Means is pretty good," Meyer said. "Jonathan Phillips hasn't gone because he has a hyper-extended knee. He should go pretty soon, but Ijjas has kind of separated himself."

As for the rest of the kickoff unit, Meyer is looking for the best combination of players to cope with the new rule.

"We're trying to find the best personnel we can," he said. "I just read about LSU's returner, and he's a 10.02 100-meters, and 10.5 is real fast, so 10.02 tells you how fast he is. I'm not sure how much you can change. I know some say you can sky kick more. If you sky kick, you're handing them the ball at the 30-yard line, so I'm not sure that's the answer. I think it will be better execution and how good the players are."

Making the Move

A few offensive players are making the move up the depth chart, or at least solidifying their current positions. Redshirt freshman Chevon Walker has shown brilliance at times during practice, but his consistency hasn't been always been there.

"He can't handle much praise, but he's one of our most improved players," Meyer said. "I'm going to get him involved in special teams early in the year and see how he plays, but I enjoy having him around."

For Walker, Meyer said he is realizing that the Gators are not short on talent, so he needs to make his move.

"This train is going real fast and if he doesn't jump on it this year then he's not going to be a part of it," Meyer said.

One of the deepest units on the team is the receiving corps, and on Tuesday, another pair of receivers had big days.

"Riley Cooper had a great day," Meyer said. "He scored two long touchdowns in the two-minute drill. David Nelson had a very good day today. Those are two names that in the last year have been non-factors other than Cooper on special teams."

Notes

  • John Brown's 14-day practice period is over, so the freshman defensive tackle was not able to workout with the team. Said Meyer, "We're just waiting on certification. The 14-day period is up, so we're just waiting to get the word."
  • Still no starting corners, but two have surfaced to the top of the list. Said Meyer, "Markihe Anderson and Joe Haden are probably a little ahead of the other ones. Markus Manson is involved and Wondy Pierre-Louis."
  • Senior offensive tackle and All-SEC candidate Phil Trautwein is back to his old position. Trautwein has moved back to left tackle, while junior Jason Watkins will now be watching Tim Tebow's blind side at right tackle.
  • The youth of the defense is making for a wild ride for the Gators this fall. Said Meyer, "The defense is a little behind because it's so young, and with youth comes spurts of excellence and then other spurts of not very good stuff. Our defense just changes every day."


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