Meyer: Questions Remain at OL and WR

They were the two biggest question marks on a team that returned almost everyone and the offensive line and wide receiver positions remain questions for the defending national champions. On the offensive offensive line it is more about injuries keeping them back while at receiver, the Gators are waiting on some young guys to step in and be able to play.

Along the offensive line, there have been injuries to Maurkice Pouncey at center and that has forced redshirt freshman Sam Robey to play there almost all fall. Also injuries to tackle Matt Patchan and guard James Wilson have slowed those two down from figuring out who will start on the left side of the line.

"The offensive line until they are all back," Meyer responded when asked about the weakest link on this veteran team. "You take Maurkice Pouncey and Patchan out and they are struggling. Some guys are playing with the first unit that have no business there.

When healthy it appears that four spots are nailed down in the starting group.

"Pouncey, Pouncey, and Carl Johnson are the starters, Marcus Gilbert has earned that right too. He's a starter and played his best scrimmage. He's the fourth starter and getting close."

Meyer is also looking for some depth at wide receiver. He knows what he is getting from his veterans, but there are several young guys this team will need production from.

"The other one is receiver," Meyer fired again about the position being behind. "We need to know who the guys are going to be to pick up the slack. Right now it looks like it will be Deonte Thompson and Riley Cooper and we need some other guys to step up and play."

With the losses of Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy from last year's squad, it is imperative that others step up. Meyer doesn't want to downplay the loss of Murphy just because Harvin was so special.

"He is starting for the Raiders and the coach called me and told me how proud he is of his guy," Meyer said of Murphy. "The Alabama game he made three tremendous plays and then some in the national championship game. He is a major loss in our program. You put him on a lot of other teams he was probably an All-American. That is how important he was.

"Riley and Deonte will both share that spot right now. Nelson is more of an inside guy."

Injuries are always an issue with so much practice time and the emphasis this program places on toughness. Paul Wilson was lost maybe for his career last week, but overall, the injuries aren't many and on the light side so far.

"Major Wright and Patchan are as tough as you are going to get,"Meyer said of the two that sustained concussions last weekend. "Patchan will practice this afternoon, Major Wright is still day to day. Justin Trattou practiced today. Jon Bostic had a neck stinger, but practiced today. Brandon Antwine didn't practice with his knee and we will see him in a couple of weeks. Just minor (injuries), Jim Barrie's knee is bothering him, that is about it."

The defensive line has stayed relatively healthy and one guy making a move inside is defensive tackle Jaye Howard. Howard started the spring a little overweight and worked his way back into shape last April. He came into the fall and a chiseled 290 and has been a beast along the defensive line. Meyer is starting to see Howard make an impression.

"That is big time," Meyer said about the competition in the defensive trenches. "Jaye Howard is splitting time with Terron Sanders. Lawrence Marsh is the other starter and we are looking for a backup. Troy Epps did better today. Omar Hunter did well today."

Meyer has also watched the progression of SAM linebacker A.J. Jones. Jones was the starter a year ago but lost out late in the season to Brandon Hicks. Now Hicks is on the mend due to injury and Meyer says Jones is playing is best football.

"The guy that has played much better than he has played since he's been here is A.J. Jones," Meyer said. "He had a tremendous scrimmage and earned a starting spot. Brandon Hicks will probably be another 4-5 days. A.J. Jones is what we thought he would be now and he wasn't for two years."

Meyer has also seen junior linebacker Lorenzo Edwards make some noise this camp.

"Lorenzo Edwards is doing okay," he said. "He is starting to make plays and is having a good camp."

Another position where guys are battling it out for starting spots is at running back. Meyer likes the progression of his young group, including true freshman Mike Gillislee.

"Jeff Demps is the number one guy right now," Meyer said. "Chris Rainey is becoming an all purpose back. Moody is a still a little bit gimped but had a good scrimmage and looked solid. Gillislee will play this year. he will probably be on special teams and then in a position where he just keeps learning."

Look for a lot of the above and more players to participate on special teams when it s time. Meyer places a huge emphasis on special teams and he believes his 2009 group could be special.

"It could be a freak show and I hope it is," Meyer said. "It was all kick off stuff today. We had Gillislee, Josh Evans, Jelani Jenkins...Brendan Beal was going really good. We have Bostic, so we have some cats than can go."

..................................

Meyer touched on the reasons Ahmad Black missed the opening couple of days of practice. The Gators' starting safety from last season came into camp a little underweight and a couple of other things to deal with along with the back injury.

"Ahmad just has to maintain his weight," Meyer said. "He has to play at 185-186 and he has that body that runs pretty hard. He played well today and Will Hill had another great practice. We were on him to take care of his business in the class room and also his back injury. There were a multitude of reasons why he didn't report on the reporting date."

.......................................

Quarterback Jordan Reed was the third true freshman to remove the black strip from his helmet. The black stripe represents a barrier for the freshman to cross until they are finally labeled Gators. So far Reed is the third and all three have been offensive players following lineman Jonotthan Harrison and running back Mike Gillislee.

"The quarterback had his stripe removed too...so Jordan Reed is a Gator," Meyer told the media Monday. "We put him in the 'Circle of Life' and he went after (defensive end) Kedric Johnson and got him. I guess we will start that tradition...if you are a quarterback and defeat a defensive lineman, you will get your stripe off. Once again, he's really going hard."

Meyer also continued the tradition of bringing in motivational speakers to talk to the team. On Monday it was the trio of Gator greats James Bates, Doug Johnson, and Brad Culpepper. They came to talk to the group about the many Gator rivalries.


Fightin Gators Top Stories