Backfield Starting to Stand Out

On Friday night, Urban Meyer was hoping for a great scrimmage during Saturday's scrimmage, and that's exactly what the head Gator got. Big plays from both sides of the ball and a high level of intensity capped off the Gators' final weekend practice before next week's Orange and Blue Game.

"It was a very good day today," Urban Meyer said. "Actually, the execution wasn't that bad. It was a good tempo practice. What I'm finding out is that we're a young team and it's no different than playing in the backyard when you start giving points, which is a good sign. It was a very productive day today."

The defense finished on top again, but it took a tiebreaker at the end of the day to determine who won. Usually the losing squad stays around for some extra work and running, but Meyer cut them all loose when the team meeting was done.

Two offensive players stood out, including running back Mon Williams. Williams had his first big day since missing last season with a knee injury. In fact, the entire Gator backfield had a strong day.

"We officially welcomed him (Williams) back to Florida football," Meyer said. "He ran the ball really hard today. We gave the ball to him on one stretch for about 10 plays and he ran real hard today."

Ever since Wednesday, the running backs are starting to earn some more kind words from Meyer.

"The expectation level that I have for those guys with the talent that they have is so high," Meyer said. "We still don't have that guy where we can turn around and give him the ball. There are a lot of talented guys, but they have to improve. I expect them to be no different than the receivers."

Meyer expects just about every offensive unit to be among the best in the Southeastern Conference and he expects no different from the backfield.

"Right now, I think our tight ends will be among the best in the SEC," Meyer said. "I think our receivers are some of the best in the SEC and our quarterback. How about our backs? I don't know. They should be."

Meyer also listed Aaron Hernandez, Carl Moore and Lawrence Marsh as having good days on Saturday. Deonte Thompson also had a good day, pulling in two long touchdown catches even after dropping one.

"He laid one on the ground, but then came back and had a long touchdown," Meyer said. "That's typical of a young player. The good thing about Deonte is he came here and was he transferring – no, just get better. He has gotten better, and he knows that."

Energizing the defensive line

Early enrollee Matt Patchan has been credited with energizing the defensive line in much the same way that Michael Pouncey did last season.

"Patchan is going to play," Meyer said. "Remember last year? We had to move a backup center to defensive tackle to bring energy to the offensive line. Never had that been done before in college football. We shouldn't have to do that. That tells you how bad we were back there. I don't see that right now. I see a lot more energy and Patchan is bringing a lot of that to the table."

Patchan has exceptional speed and quickness and is starting to fill back out following a year of health issues. A sore shoulder suffered in his fourth high school game last fall kept him out of the weight room. And then a bout with mononucleosis caused him to lose more weight. He's slowly bringing it back up, and he fully expects to be in the mid-250 range by the fall.

Safeties galore

Meyer made the comment during his signing day press conference that the Gators are loaded with safeties. After having no safety rotation in Meyer's first three seasons, Ahmad Black and Jamar Hornsby are working their way into the picture.

"I talked to coach Chuck Heater and he's saying there are 3-4 guys that he's starting to feel much more comfortable about," Meyer said.

Major Wright secured a starting role during his freshman season in the fall and came into the spring looking to solidify his job. After battling some illness, Wright is starting to play better.

"Major Wright is a guy that tries to knock your helmet off on every play," Meyer said. "That's good if you do it, but he has the tendency to drop his head and miss some tackles, which he did last year and he missed some earlier in the spring. In the last few days, he's been much better."

Patience for Brantley and Wilson

Quarterback John Brantley is starting to show signs of improvement after a shoulder injury sidelined him for the first week of the spring. Like James Wilson who announced his intentions to stay at UF yesterday, both players have understanding families as they develop and grow as players.

"[Brantley] is going to be to be a really good player," Meyer said. "When James Wilson and Johnny Brantley and you think about all these kids, they were the number one players. That's where you admire the families around them. If you want to be extremely selfish and not give your kid a chance to let your kid grow as a football player, that's where you see problems. John Brantley's family and James Wilson's family, they understand. Both of those kids are having very good springs."

Notes

  • Michael Pouncey, Carl Johnson and Justin Trattou all suffered minor injuries during Saturday's scrimmage, but Meyer said they'll be fine.
  • Meyer said early enrollee Janoris Jenkins should see playing time in the fall.
  • After missing time with a staph infection, Louis Murphy is also suffering from chronic headaches that date all the way back to the fall. Said Meyer, "He's had headaches since the fall and they found out what was wrong with him, so they're just being cautious with him."
  • Even though he's done it during past spring games, Meyer said not to look for Tim Tebow to get involved in the Circle of Life drill next Saturday. Said Meyer, "I'd have to have seven cops walk me out of here if he ever got hurt in the Circle of Life."

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


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