Football Right Around the Corner

In less than two weeks, the Florida Gators hit the practice field to kick off the fourth spring session under Urban Meyer. With three strong recruiting classes, Meyer and the Gators start this spring with depth at every position, but still lack some experience in certain areas.

Also for the first time, the Gators start a spring practice after a disappointing finish to the regular season. Florida isn't coming off a national championship or a bowl win this time around. Instead, the Gators are coming off a loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl. But the loss to the Wolverines has put a chip on the shoulder of some of the veterans and Meyer's been pleased with the way the off-season workouts have gone.

There have been some surprises with some of the off-season performances. Meyer said guys like Cameron Newton, Emmanuel Moody and Kestahn Moore have had strong workouts, but also some guys like Carlos Dunlap have been impressive.

"He started out at about a minus-3, but he's up to about five or six," Urban Meyer said of Dunlap. "We use the term freak around here."

A.J. Jones earned a 10 rating from strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti for his off-season efforts.

"I'm not buying that until I see it in practice," Meyer said.

Jones had wrist surgery during the off-season and will wear a cast for the spring, but Meyer is confident he'll be ready for the fall. The head coach also singled out Deonte Thompson, Cornelius Ingram, John Brown, Leonard Marsh, Jacques Rickerson and Dorian Munroe as having strong winters.

Gameday at UF

ESPN will broadcast Florida's spring game festivities this year, and also the Gameday road show will come to Gainesville. Meyer sees it as a great chance to market the program and reward the loyal student body.

"When I heard that ESPN Gameday was coming, there are going to be some players that don't play in that game because they don't need to be in that game," he said. "It's really a chance to celebrate the youth, but we're going to take advantage of it to do some recruiting to sell our university and to sell our program."

Meyer plans speed contests where students will get to race Louis Murphy and Percy Harvin among others in the 40-yard dash.

"We have the best students – 27,000 for a home game – so we want to share it with them whether they get to catch a pass from Tim Tebow or catch a punt from our punter," Meyer said. "Hopefully, it sells our program and we can get some fast guys to come here."

Davis and Wilson still in school

Meyer silenced some of the off-season rumors regarding Torrey Davis and James Wilson. Wilson had approached Meyer about getting a release from UF, but Meyer has been doing what he can to keep the highly-touted defensive tackle in Gainesville.

"We have four offensive linemen who quit multiple times (Jason Watkins, Drew Miller, Jim Tartt and Steve Rissler)," Meyer said. "He is a quality person and a heck of a player and we're going to try to keep him here. He has not practiced once. Not even in warm-ups. He's going through a funk like most young people. At the end of the day we want to do what's best for him."

Davis is struggling with school, which Meyer said he expected when he recruited the former Seffner (Fla.) Armwood standout to UF. Meyer expects Davis to participate in spring drills but his time will be limited so he can focus on his academics.

Pouncey back to offense

Michael Pouncey will be moved back from defensive tackle to offensive guard. Meyer said it's where the Lakeland-native wants to play, and he wants to do what's happiest for him. Pouncey was moved to nose tackle in the middle of last season and the Gators won four straight before losing to Michigan with Pouncey on defense.

His brother Maurkice Pouncey will start the spring at center with Jim Tartt at left guard and Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins at the tackle spots.

Tebow with room to improve

There is no way that Meyer would say the reigning Heisman Trophy quarterback has nothing to improve on. Even Tebow himself would say he has work still to be done. The most glaring shortcoming of Tebow's game was his inability last season to manage the two-minute drill. Tebow had chances against Michigan and LSU, but couldn't move the Gators down field.

"We're going to do a lot of two-minute drills," Meyer said. "He has to learn to take a team down there and win one. It's not just Tim, it's the whole offense. Can he improve as a quarterback, yes he can. We're not going to pound the ball with him. It's going to be a lot of throwing the ball."

Two years ago, Meyer added a fullback to his offense, utilizing Billy Latsko in the backfield. Last year, he moved Percy Harvin into the backfield and spread the field more. This year, Meyer plans on tweaking the offense again.

"We're going to try some no huddle this spring," Meyer said. "Tebow did that in high school. Every year we add something to the offense."

Meyer said the battle for backup quarterback will also be big this spring because he wants to use two quarterbacks in the fall.

Notes

With three new assistants in town, the recruiting assignments have been shaken up a bit. New running backs coach Kenny Carter will be responsible for recruiting North Georgia. New cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford will recruit South Florida and new d-line coach Dan McCarney will be responsible for Tampa. … Chris Rainey has added some meat to his bones, weighing in at 174-pounds. Said Meyer, "He looks like a human being. He shaves and grooms himself. It's great. He loves Florida and he loves football. He and Percy are a good battle. Percy wins most of the time, but Rainey wins some of them. … Jerimy Finch is healing well from a broken leg, but will be limited in the spring. Meyer said he's still working on matriculating into college. … If everything comes together for Harvin, Meyer said he could be one of the best football players he's ever seen. Said Meyer, "With God-given ability, he could be the best guy I've ever been around."

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


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