Meyer Happy with Defensive Line Play

If there is one position on the Florida roster that stands to be the most improved in 2009 from the national championship season of 2008 it is along the defensive line. It isn't as if the Gators were slouches last year, but they were young with all freshmen and sophomores and one junior in the bunch. Loaded with juniors and one prominent senior, Meyer likes what he is seeing.

Jermaine Cunningham is the lone senior expected to provide big minutes up front. He and junior Carlos Dunlap look to dominate at end, while the interior of the line is making moves to be dominant as well. Meyer likes what he is seeing from some of the backups as well.

"(William Green is) doing great and right in the middle of this whole thing," Meyer said of his sophomore that backs up Cunningham. Jermaine had a good day and our defensive line is coming on pretty good.

"We are getting depth inside. Jaye Howard has had a really good camp. He and Sanders are neck and neck at the three-technique. We are hoping Brandon Antwine (BA) comes back and gives us (something)…then we have Marsh, BA, and Omar Hunter…and Epps is a role guy. We have a little depth in there."

For Meyer, the practice competition makes the players better and it is easy for a coach to do his thing under those circumstances.

"I love coaching it, because there isn't a lot of ‘rah rah' and cheer them on," Meyer said. "They just go in there and play. That three-technique…should be classic Florida player development. It means you go hard and (he goes) hard, and whoever starts…starts.

The depth on the defensive line is great but linebacker is something else at the moment. Freshman Jelani Jenkins is in a boot right now and not practicing with an ankle sprain. Junior Brandon Hicks is in the same boat while freshman Brendan Beal is limited.

"We have a couple of sprained ankles, Jelani and Hicks are the only two right now," Meyer said. "…Jelani is in a boot right now but off crutches. He has an ankle sprain. It happened yesterday, but didn't know about the extent of it. Preliminary reports are it isn't broken so we are looking at next week.

"Beal didn't practice much today he had a sore neck. We have been banging them up pretty good. Tomorrow we are going to go in shorts and give them a Thursday practice. We had a good day today."

One other linebacker is still out due to off the field issues and Meyer still hasn't said when Dustin Doe will return to the team.

"Doe is in the pit and in conditioning," Meyer said. "He has to pay his penance and I am kind of leaving that up to Coach Strong to handle that situation."

Meyer also isn't thrilled about the progress of Carl Moore's back injury. He was hoping for a little better news after the procedure he had done last week to relieve some swelling in his back.

"Carl Moore's back, I am worried about that one," Meyer said. "Jeremy Brown is getting a little closer, he is further ahead than Carl. It is something about the nerves in his back, so it will still be a while till he is ready. A lot of players have those disc issues in their back and some go their whole life without it."

Meyer is happy with the progress of sophomore receiver Deonte Thompson who is playing in the X position. Meyer rattled off the success of the X receiver at Florida in just the short four years he has been at the helm of the defending national champions.

"He started a little slow, but his last two practices were really good," Meyer said of Thompson. "He had a good day today and a really good day yesterday. His role is a primary receiver at Florida, which is pretty good. I made a comment to our guys that the expectation at Florida from the X receiver is pretty good. From Dallas Baker to Bubba Caldwell, to Louis Murphy, they are all starting in the NFL or could be starters."

Meyer finally was able to talk about the progress of this year's most anticipated signee in the 2009 recruiting class. Freshman Andre Debose has been hampered by a hamstring injury since his arrival on campus and has not been able to push for real playing time. Meyer acknowledged that has changed a little bit in the last few days.

"He started making a move today and yesterday," Meyer said of Debose. "Not up until this point, but he finally made a move…He is a natural receiver with 10.4, 100 meter speed, so we are trying to get him ready to play."

Debose will be used in the slot position on offense that will also require him to learn the running game a great deal and be able to run out of the backfield. This week, Debose has actually been working a bit from the backfield.

"We taught him the counter play and that was a big part of our game last year," Meyer said. "He is starting to make a move right now."

Meyer likes his outside receivers, Thompson and Riley Cooper. He knows the rest of the group have a little ways to go.

"They are fast and big play guys," Meyer said. "Right now we only have two. We are used to having a couple of more. Frankie Hammond at times shows like he has something…there just isn't much depth."

- Meyer said he doesn't anticipate freshman tight end Desmond Parks playing this year, with the Gators frightfully thin at TE, they really need Aaron Hernandez to play well and stay healthy.

- Meyer is only counting on three safeties right now… Will Hill, Ahmad Black, and Major Wright. But, he believes Dee Finley can give some depth somewhere down the line. "Dee Finley made a move in the last few days," Meyer said. "Not at safety but on special teams, but he will provide some depth at safety."

- The nickel back on defense will vary depending on the opposition. With a bigger receiver in the slot, the Gators will likely use Will Hill and his skills at the nickel. Meyer said that two corners are standing out right now in that spot and those two will get a good look when the slot receiver is more of a scat player. "The guy that has had a really good camp is Markihe Anderson," Meyer said. "We are playing Will in there and Janoris Jenkins in there a little bit. So, we actually have some options. We will announce it next week. As of today, I don't know who would be in the nickel."

- No freshmen have lost their stripes in the last two days and with over half of the 17 players in the class left to lose their stripe, Meyer understands it is something that needs to happen soon. "No stripes off," Meyer said. "It is going to be embarrassing to get to the first game and have a bunch of stripes on the helmets."


Fightin Gators Top Stories