Receiver Woes

Two years ago, Urban Meyer's offense suffered a major hit when three of the Gators' receivers – Chad Jackson, Jemalle Cornelius and Andre Caldwell – were all sidelined with injuries. The Gators face a similar situation now, albeit not as bad, but they also have the depth this season to overcome it.

Percy Harvin had a huge game against Ole Miss, pulling in 11 catches for 121 yards, but he went down with a hip injury in the second quarter. He did return, but wasn't quite the same after that. Harvin hasn't practiced with the team this week; he's just done some running on the side.

"It's a deep bruise in his hip," Urban Meyer said after Wednesday's practice. "The good news is that it's not structural. Even if we have to practice him Friday, we'll do that."

The Gators are also still missing the eldest member of the receiving corps Andre Caldwell who has been sidelined with a knee sprain. Caldwell has missed the last two games and is not expected to play against Auburn on Saturday. Although, he worked out for the entire practice on Wednesday and Meyer said he looked terrific. The training staff is telling Meyer he won't be ready by the weekend.

Riley Cooper saw limited action against Ole Miss, but is still nursing a sprained ankle.

"He said he was about 80-85 percent," Meyer said. "He should be full speed by Saturday."

True freshman Deonte Thompson could work his way into the mix if the Gators are shorthanded at wide receiver. The South Florida native has been mentioned in rumors about transferring out of Gainesville to head to Miami, but Meyer has quieted those rumors.

"Deonte Thompson is coming on," Meyer said. "Write that name down somewhere. You know why – he's a worker. He works and works and stays after with Coach [Billy] Gonzales. You can see the player development right in front of your eyes."

Thompson fell victim to a common trend among younger players. Meyer said they are so used to not having to give 100 percent at the high school level that they get off to slow starts in college.

"For some reason these young guys play at a seven instead of a 10," Meyer said. "They are so much better than everyone else that a seven scores touchdowns. A seven in that stadium against Auburn and you're not going to get off the line of scrimmage. He's not the only one. It takes a while for guys to play at SEC speed. He's got it. He just hasn't played with it. But he's starting to play with it."

Meyer almost played him against Ole Miss, but said he doesn't want to waste a year on just a couple of plays. That philosophy may be changing.

"Things can change," Meyer said. "As of right now, he's going to play."

Safety situation

Neither Kyle Jackson nor Major Wright has been able to nail down the starting free safety spot. Jackson has started, but then makes a mistake and gets lifted for Wright. The true freshman hasn't been consistent, though, leaving the door open for the senior.

"They are practicing much better," Meyer said. "That position just has to play better. Both safety positions have to, but we're mostly a single high safety. It's the quarterback of the defense, so if you miss a play there, the opponent's band is playing."

Meyer said those are the only two options at free safety.

"Dorian [Munroe] is more of a down guy," Meyer said. "We've discussed it a little bit. Bryan Thomas will play some special teams. You won't see him on defense, but he was doing well before he got hurt. That's a name that will come around again."

Practicing squibs

The Gators ended Wednesday's practice working on squib kicks.

"Auburn does a lot of that and we're starting to see a lot of that because of Brandon James," Meyer said.

James has worked his way onto the list of the nation's top kick returners. Averaging 32.2 yards per return, James ranks ninth nationally.

"I wouldn't kick to Brandon," Meyer said.

Notes

  • There's no different look in Tim Tebow's eyes this week as the Gators prepare to avenge a loss to Auburn. But then again, there rarely is a different look in his eyes. Said Meyer, "I can never tell the difference with him. He was the same today as he was in spring practice last year. The intensity never changes with him."
  • Auburn may be 2-2, but it's the same old dominating Auburn defense. Said Meyer, "They want to get those defensive ends to rush up-field and create havoc in the pass rush. Someone said they're struggling, they're not struggling on defense. You don't want to have to drop back, and that's what Chris [Leak] ended up having to do and he got rattled. We can't let that happen this year."

    Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


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