A Fresh Start

The first day of practice for a new season always brings the same kinds of questions. Whose changed numbers from the year before? Who looks bigger/smaller? And, whose missing?

There was one noticeable absence during Florida's afternoon session that featured the veteran players and that was defensive lineman Torrey Davis. The true sophomore from Tampa played in 11 games last season, but practiced sparingly in the spring as he struggled academically.

"Torrey Davis is dealing with some academic issues and other issues," head coach Urban Meyer said.

Davis wasn't the only absence. Redshirt sophomore Bryan Thomas was also missing. Thomas played some on special teams last season and is part of a very thin safety unit, but he had a cyst removed from his knee and Meyer said he should return before the start of the season.

Safety is by far the biggest concern for the Gators heading into the new season. In both the morning and afternoon sessions, the numbers were obviously low. Florida has lost one player bcause of transfer, another because of off-field issues, and most recently they learned that projected starter Dorian Munroe would miss the season with an ACL injury.

"That Dorian injury hurt because he's such a quality person," Meyer said. "It hurts special teams and it also hurts our depth at safety. But Will Hill looked great and Ahmad Black had a good practice, so we have some people just not enough."

The Gators have already moved true freshman T.J. Lawrence from wide receiver to safety, and another true freshman could also be moved over from corner.

"Janoris [Jenkins] is a tremendous football player and that safety position has been thinned out a little bit," Meyer said. "He's a guy, but we haven't made that move."

The numbers at safety could be a reason for a readjusted schedule during Florida's first week of practice. Like today, the freshmen were supposed to practice tomorrow morning with the veterans in the afternoon, but instead there will be one full team practice in the afternoon.

"We don't want to blow out the varsity," Meyer said. "We need more people to get quality reps. Secondly, there are some freshmen that have been here for a while and we want to integrate them in because they're going to be playing for us."

Loaded backfield

There's a lot of talent for the Gators in the backfield and that begs the question – who will be the go-to-guy? Florida has been with out a feature back in Meyer's first three seasons and with so many guys, there may not be one this season either.

"Everyone wants that one guy, but I've never had that one guy," Meyer said. "I think Kestahn Moore and Emmanuel Moody looked good today and so did Chris Rainey. I think we have some playmakers back there. I think we're all set at running back."

Mon Williams finished the spring strong after missing last season with a knee injury. He also had a good day and is looking to contribute again after carrying 13 times for 101 yards two years ago.

"He's working awful hard," Meyer said. "He had that one great day in the spring and he had a good day today. Those knees are hard to overcome, but he's a tough kid."

Brandon James took some reps at wide receiver during Monday's practice. It may be a way for him to get more touches with such a loaded backfield.

"He's a very natural catcher, he's just short," Meyer said. "The quarterback's got to be right on the target with short receivers."

NOTES

  • Riley Cooper is back after spending most of the summer playing baseball. He had a good day, but Meyer wants to be cautious since the junior has been slowed with foot injuries throughout his career. Said Meyer, "We just worry about his feet getting sore. We just have to manage him. When we get to two-a-days, he can only go a few times, but he had a great day today. It's great to see him back."

  • Percy Harvin ran today, but did not practice following heel surgery in the spring. Said Meyer, "He came out today and opened it up a little bit. My biggest concern is not with the heel, but that his body is going to react like it did last year with the knee and the tendinitis in the hip. We just want to do it right."

  • Meyer said left tackle Phil Trautwein's injury causing him to miss all of last season might have been a blessing in disguise. Said Meyer, "I think he looks great. You worry about those stress fractures in his foot, but he needed that not only for us, but for his career. He's stronger. He's more prepared to be a senior tackle in the SEC as well."

  • Ron Wilson practiced this morning after be kicked off the team last season for off-the-field incidents. Both Meyer and Wilson released statements through UF's Sports Information office. … Said Wilson, "I'm sorry that I caused so much embarrassment for my family, the school and the football program. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be out here. It was very difficult being away from the school and the football team that I care so much about. I'm blessed to have this chance." … Said Meyer, "In his attempt to rejoin the team, Ron has passed 20 hours since January of 2008 while not on scholarship. He is on track to graduate in May of 2009 and if he follows University and team guidelines, he will have the opportunity to achieve this goal." … Meyer added to that statement after practice, "He's not back, we're still evaluating him. I have a long history of giving guys close to graduation an opportunity."

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


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