Gators Ready to Close Successful Spring

The Florida Gators have only one practice plus the Orange and Blue Game left before their spring season is over, but Wednesday's practice was Urban Meyer's last real chance to judge how far the Gators have come since their loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl.

Friday's practice will be just a light workout followed by Urban Meyer's coaching clinic and then Saturday's spring game is more of an exhibition than anything else, so Wednesday's scrimmage was the last chance to have a real winner and loser with the kind of intensity the coaching staff desires. Tim Tebow drove the offense down the field for a game winning field goal giving the offense a slight edge over the defense.

"We're leaving the practice field after 13 practices and I'm fairly positive," Meyer said. "There are some things that we have to work on and we have to grow up. There are still some things that are going on that you don't expect out of a mature football team."

Of course the offense set several season records last year, so the focus this spring has been on the defense.

"There are a lot of positives [with the defense]," Meyer said. "We have a lot of good players, and that's the good thing."

A few members of the d-line made moves during the spring.

"Carlos [Dunlap] has really impressed us," Meyer said. "Terron Sanders and Lawrence Marsh have improved. Not to the point where we can say that they are functional defensive linemen yet. At times they are. Troy Epps is right up in that same category."

One of the Gators' key defensive returnees, however, had an average spring at best.

"Jermaine [Cunningham] has had a very average spring," Meyer said. "The injury with the rapid heart rate showed up a little bit. He's got to get a lot better. That position he plays is where Jarvis Moss played and he changed the game. Jermaine hasn't done that yet."

Another goal for Meyer heading into this spring was to improve team chemistry. He said there's still a ways to go, but he is seeing improvements.

"We're better," Meyer said. "You can't win on the field without great team chemistry. Last year we had awful chemistry on our football team. I'm surprised we won as much as we did after witnessing some of the things we had to witness. That's not good football. I think they recognize that we have an issue. Last year, I think they denied it. We were shaking hands with the president and they're saying, ‘chemistry issues, what are you talking about coach? We're the champs.'"

Spring Game more of fan appreciation

Saturday's Orange and Blue Game will be less about football and more about thanking the Gator Nation. In addition to ESPN's presence, the day's festivities will include a player autograph session, pictures with the national championship and Heisman trophies and student contests.

"I wanted to do it to sell Florida and give back to our students," Meyer said. "I wanted to see how our players react in front of a big crowd. Other than that, we've had 13 great days. I'm just so cautious. I think spring games are for players that haven't done a whole lot. I don't want to disappoint the fans and now there're millions of people watching on ESPN, so that's why we're trying to do a little bit of the fastest man stuff. It'll be something more than a lousy football game."

But the bottom line is that a nationally televised spring game is a perfect opportunity to reach recruits across the nation.

"I just want our recruits across the country to say, ‘man, I want to be a part of that,'" Meyer said. "We're doing as much as we can and still have a game."

Meyer admits that before coming to Florida, spring games were just another practice. But in Gainesville, it's something special.

"When I was at Ohio State they gave away tickets and they got 15 to 16 thousand," Meyer said. "It was 1986. My first time in The Swamp with 50,000 people I remember thinking what are these people doing. Go play golf or something. It's great for the game."

Gates open up at 9:30 a.m. with the ESPN broadcast taking place inside The Swamp at 11 a.m. The game kicks off at 1 p.m.

Notes

  • Meyer talked with Percy Harvin this morning following Harvin's heel surgery on Monday night. Said Meyer, "It was painful. They actually took bone out of his heel and then poked holes into it."
  • Meyer he expects Harvin's rehab to stay on schedule, which should have him at full speed in the fall.
  • With Chris Rainey having a great spring and Emmanuel Moody on campus, rising senior Kestahn Moore has been in the background. But Meyer said the spring has been business as usual for Moore. Said Meyer, "There's not a better guy than Kestahn Moore. I predict that if he held onto the ball a little better last year then he was a 1,000-yard rusher. He's got great concentration and we're drilling it into him."
  • Meyer couldn't imagine not having the Pouncey twins on the football team. Said Meyer, "We talked just the other day about how important recruiting is. Everybody's worried about what plays we're going to run. Go walk in a meeting today and imagine it without Michael and Maurkice Pouncey. I think they helped James Wilson. I think they've helped Jason Watkins. I think they've helped Urban Meyer. Every time they come out here they love the game and have a smile on their face."

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


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