Gators Will Be Prepared

Anyone worried about a lax offseason and complacency from this Florida Gator football team will just have to find something else to worry about. Senior receiver David Nelson believes this has been the toughest offseason yet for the Urban Meyer Gators and expects nothing but great things in the fall.

The one thing this small group of seniors has going for it is how to do things the right way compared to the wrong one. The preparation before the 2007 season wasn't up to snuff. Last year they made strides in getting better and it showed on Saturdays. This offseason, David Nelson said they took it to another level.

"It was, if anyone can say that, I can say that," Nelson said of the hardest offseason since 2005. "A few years ago we felt like we had a team that felt like they didn't need to work to get to the top. This team came into the beginning of the summer and were hungry. We have great senior leadership and Mick pushed us as hard as he could and we feel pretty confident going into camp."

Nelson said that the approach they used every day in the weight room was to surpass their previous trip to the weight room. They pushed themselves individually and as a group throughout the spring and summer.

"The main thing is that no matter what happens, we are going to push through it," Nelson said. "Two years ago we always felt like we did enough, this year it was never enough. We continually built upon our last workout and repeatedly kept our edge."

All the celebration done by Gator fans over last year's national title was short lived by this group of Gators. They still are hungry for another and ready to do something not seen in this era of college football. Nelson said it doesn't feel like they won a championship last season.

"It doesn't...we joke about that all the time," he said. "Sometimes we will be tired and hurting in the weight room and say 'we won a national championship and should get some special treatment'. That isn't how it is or supposed to be. That is the human element sinking in and you have to push through it and want to be the best. We feel very confident what we have done so far this offseason and leading into the season."

Cooper is important to this team

Of concern for the 2009 campaign is the hopeful return of senior receiver Riley Cooper. Cooper is currently contemplating a career in professional baseball and possibly skipping the football season. Nelson said that Cooper is certainly a guy they want back on the field with the Gators for another championship run.

"We really want Cooper," Nelson said. "He's a great teammate and guy to have. He's fun to hang out with and good for the team. He does a lot of stuff people don't realize and blocks well down the field. That springs runs for 40 yards or maybe a touchdown. He does a great job for us on the team and brings us a different element."

Nelson has done his part to persuade Cooper to return.

"I have talked to him a few times," Nelson said. "I gave him my recruiting (speech). The last time he texted me back and said 'Thanks Urban'.

Coaching up the young receivers...

The Gators lost two starters at receiver from the championship team and will look to replace Louis Murphy and Percy Harvin's production in the offense. Nelson says that some young guys are really getting ready to help and step up.

"I have noticed a lot of competitiveness and willingness to learn. Frankie (Hammond), Omarius (Hines), and T.J. Lawrence have done a great job of listening and learning from us. They are constantly trying to learn and get better from us. They are all competing and want to play and want to get on the field."

One guy that hasn't quite been healthy enough to make a difference yet is true freshman Andre Debose who Nelson said is still nursing a sore hamstring.

"I haven't seen much of him because he's been limited with a hamstring injury," Nelson said of Debose.

Nelson has taken it upon himself to help the young guys out and he loves the way they have responded.

"I feel like I have a lot to relay to these guys and the different receivers," he said. "I don't want to act like I have all the answers, but they listen to what I have to say it's been a fun summer and we've become close. This is the closest group of receivers we've had since I have been here."

Nelson talks of young guys that have impressed

With the players away from the coaches in the offseason, it should be much easier to have the older players grade the production of the younger ones in this part of the year. Nelson provided us with a glimpse of what to expect from a few of the younger offensive players.

"I spend a lot of time with the receivers so I am biased," he said. "I see them do a lot of work and drills. One guy that has surprised me is T.J. Lawrence. He is hungry and has eagerness to learn. He listens to everything we say he watches film and works hard. One other guy is Frankie Hammond. He is getting bigger, is smart,and runs consistent routes. Sam Robey stepped up on the offensive line and Matt Patchan has really beefed up. I'd have to say that the two guys are T.J. Lawrence and Matt Patchan."

On defense, one player has caught the attention of the senior receiver and that is a seldom used sophomore defender that moved from end to tackle during last season.

"Jaye Howard has come in and has really worked hard," Nelson said of the offseason performance of the Orlando native. "He is doing well on the defensive line and working hard this summer."

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