Meyer Back at Practice

Having been on the recruiting trail for the past couple weeks, head coach Urban Meyer returned for Friday's practice and answered questions with the media. The Gators are in the preliminary stages of preparing for the Capital One Bowl matchup with the Michigan Wolverines.

"I really like the way we prepare and the coaches are knee-deep into Michigan," Urban Meyer said. "The players aren't yet. The players have been concentrating on finals and we have a handful of guys graduating tomorrow."

In total, eight Gators will graduate this semester and will be recognized tomorrow afternoon at a luncheon alongside other graduating student-athletes. Andre Caldwell, Clint McMillan and Drew Miller will receive degrees in Sociology. Moise Paul and Phil Trautwein will receive degrees in Youth, Family and Community Sciences. Lastly, Markus Manson will graduate in Criminology, Carlton Medder with Anthropology and Derek Baldry with Journalism.

Meyer talked about the gratification that seeing players who may not have a future in the NFL leave the program with a degree to show for it.

"For the head coach and the position coach, it feels like if your child makes it," Meyer said. "That's how close we get with these guys."

It was a relatively long practice but the teams seems to be in good spirits and excited about the bowl game. Not having to prepare for an opponent week-in and week-out has allowed the coaching staff to go back to more basic drills and practices.

"We concentrated on tackling today, ball-security and all fundamentals," Meyer said. "And we'll do that all again tomorrow. On Monday it will be more into game-planning. It's just a little introduction. I'm sure coach Gonzales and coach Mullen did third downs with them today. It's just real beginning phases of watching the opponent."

With senior fullback Eric Rutledge being suspended for the bowl game for violating team rules, Meyer said he expects freshman tight end Aaron Hernandez to pick up a lot of the slack and continue to become more and more a part of the offense.

"He's tremendous," Meyer said. "He's as improved a player as we've had and he's a weapon. We'll use him in the bowl game quite a bit. He's a big time player and he's just scratching the surface of his potential. He's 245 right now…get him up around 250 and a real strong 400-pound bencher, that's a great matchup issue for a defense. He's real fast and a tremendous route-runner and has great hands. When you go out and recruit, that's what you look for. For us, we don't want the 268-pound guy that can't go down the middle of the field. He's exactly what we look for."

Notes

  • Tim Tebow had his cast removed this morning and said he was able to do everything the coaches wanted him to do in practice. He still has some light bandaging on the hand but the coaches expect it to be off before the Michigan game.
  • The Gators have quite a few highly-touted recruits visiting this weekend and several made an appearance at Friday's practice. Two of the more recognizable visitors were Sam Robey, who came with his parents from Louisville, Ky. Tampa Plant High quarterback and 2009 prospect Aaron Murray also visited with one of his high school coaches.
  • Coach Meyer said that he believes all players have maintained their academic eligibility for the bowl game and he's hopeful that will continue to be the case once the semester's final exam grades come in.
  • Meyer confirmed that offensive tackle Phil Trautwein will be returning next season and enrolling in graduate classes. He also expects running back Markus Manson to follow suit.

    Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Blake Bonsack


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