Fighting for the No. 2 Job

Day two of Spring Practice for the Florida Gators was a little cleaner and a little crisper after the opening day rust. The biggest note of the day was the practice of freshman quarterback John Brantley.

John Brantley sat out Wednesday's workout after suffering a shoulder injury during mat drills. The 6-3, 213-pound quarterback was slinging the ball around to make up for lost time two days ago. With Cameron Newton throwing the ball well, Brantley needs to come out and have a solid spring if he wants to increase his role in the fall. Urban Meyer and the Gators want to run a two-quarterback system in the fall, so the No. 2 quarterback will have a larger role than last year.

"They both know that we like to play two quarterbacks," Meyer said. "It's only been two practices and we're just installing plays. I'm impressed by them because they are great kids. They throw the ball nice. We're just out here in shorts throwing it around. I like their enthusiasm. I like their retention. Cameron Newton has a lot of retention because he played as a backup all last year. But Brantley came out and threw the ball real nice, too, today."

The Gators were able to take advantage of defenses two seasons ago with their use of Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. The two quarterbacks had their own styles and their own packages, but in an ideal situation, Meyer said he'd rather have two identical quarterbacks. That way, they don't have to have different game plans for each QB. He did admit, though, that two different style quarterbacks is harder to defend.

Even though, the Gators went without pads for the second time in as many practices, they did work on one of the new aspects of the offense. During 11-on-11 drills, the offense worked on their no huddle approach.

"The no huddle just prepares you," Meyer said. "We failed to win some games at the end and we have some talented athletes. Going no huddle gives you a chance to wear people out. The number one thing is you can cover the defense. A lot of teams will do it with a hard snap count to find out what blitzes are coming so you can adjust your offense."

Wide receiver Riley Cooper did not practice on Friday. He traveled with the baseball team to Oxford for their three game set with Ole Miss. Meyer said the football team will have Cooper on Mondays and Wednesdays and he'll spend the weekends with the baseball team. He added that he had a strong practice on Wednesday and he thinks the limited practice time will be enough to get Cooper ready for the fall.

Too Early to Judge the D

Florida's weak link last season was undoubtedly the defense, but after just two workouts, Meyer said it's way too soon to see if there's been any improvement on that side of the ball.

"We're just trying to get them lined up," he said. "There are so many young players. We have a long way to go on defense. I see some safeties flying around out there and I see some other nice things, but you're not going to see that on day two. The defensive line is still figuring out what hand to put down."

Lining up at middle linebacker with the second team defense is Lorenzo Edwards. It's players like Edwards that really need to show what they can do during the spring.

"He goes to class and he's a good kid," Meyer said. "But he plays middle linebacker and the middle linebacker has got to knock the running back as hard as he can and he hasn't done that yet. We'll find out tomorrow. Everything else, he's been tremendous. He's an excellent kid. He's not a great football player. I'm hoping tomorrow that happens."

The Gators will put the pads on for the first time this spring for Saturday's workout. The focus of the day will be on goal line offense and defense.

"The quarterback is not running," Meyer said. "We're going to give it to the tailback and see what he does."

Meyer hopes players like Edwards can stand out and make a play.

"I hope they come out and the music is thumping and they're chirping at each other," Meyer said. "It's an offense versus defense day. I would love to see a guy like Lorenzo Edwards take a tailback and knock his helmet off. I'd feel really good if a guy that hasn't done much around here did something like that. That's what I'm looking for tomorrow."

Bombs away

Early enrollee Caleb Sturgis should off his leg at the end of Friday's workout. The placekicker effortlessly made kicks from inside 40 yards and stretched his leg out all the way to 57 yards.

"Oh my gosh, does he have a hose," Meyer said. "He missed a couple, but that's what it's supposed to sound like when they come off the foot. Those were 57-yard field goals. I don't think he made any, but he was clearing it by more than 10 yards."

After the kickoff spot was moved back before last season, a higher premium is put on placekickers.

"I'd love to just kick it out of the end zone, but I don't know if it changes your long field goals because of where the other team could get it," Meyer said. "I'd rather punt and keep them in there. If he can knock the ball out of the end zone we're going to give him two scholarships. If he can knock it out every time, we'll give him two. I don't know what he'll do with that extra money."

Off-the-field attitude

Meyer spoke extensively on Wednesday about what he'd like to see from his team from a team chemistry perspective. It's too early to tell if they got the message, but Meyer is still talking about what he's looking for.

"That's much deeper than just practice," he said. "It's how they handle themselves off the field. It's how they handle themselves in the locker room. I just get so sick and tired of seeing those guys walking around with those white things in their ears instead of talking to other players. I'd rather see guys talking and having conversations about going out and winning a bunch of games together."

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


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