Meyer Comfortable with LB Depth

When linebacker Brandon Spikes could not longer play Saturday against Tennessee, Ryan Stamper moved over to middle linebacker. He finished the game leading the Florida Gators in tackles with 12 and had a forced fumble and a sack. UF coach Urban Meyer said Spikes is probable for the Kentucky game but hasn't practiced this week. If he is unable to go again, Stamper will be needed to fill the void.

"He is a big reason we won that game Saturday. We don't hold that team, those running backs to what they were without a guy like Stamper to come in and play like that," Meyer said.

Ryan Stamper has always received the respect of his teammate, being named a captain before he was every named a captain.

Now, he may be leaned on to take over the leadership role usually provided by Spikes. The Gators would trot out A.J. Jones and Dustin Doe alongside Stamper if Spikes cannot go.

Doe is still getting back in the groove of playing after missing most of fall camp while dealing with his legal issues, but Meyer is expected him to continue to return to form after getting significant playing time against the Volunteers in his second game available.

"We expect him to play a little better this week because now he is back," Meyer said.

Some would expect freshman Jon Bostic to be up for consideration to get some playing time, but Meyer doesn't think he is quite ready.

"Jon Bostic is getting close, but we got Stamper there and Stamper is a better player than Jon is right now," Meyer said. "I think Job will be a fine player here though."

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Six more players sat out of practice with flu-like symptoms: starting linebacker Jones, DE Earl Okine, DB Josh Evans, WR Justin Williams, RB Mike Gillislee and OL Shawn Schiemder. Wide receiver coach Billy Gonzales was back at practice after being sent home from Monday's practice, but he was sporting a new look. "He had a mask on and gloves, and he was out there coaching."

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Meyer said they were taking no extra precaution for quarterback Tim Tebow to keep him from getting sick. He did joke about the subject though. "He's going to go with me to the deserted island we talked about."

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The running backs – Emmanuel Moody, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps – have been the playmakers on the Gators besides Tebow, and Meyer recognized them today after practice. "We're going to rely on those three cats. Those are three of our better players," he said. "They are getting more and more involved, and I thought Chris Rainey played his best game as a Gator."

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Many do not have high expectations for Kentucky this season, but Meyer said he expects the Wildcats to contend for the SEC East title this season. He is really high on their cornerback Trevard Lindley and middle linebacker Micah Johnsons. "(Lindley) is an NFL corner," Meyer said. "(Johnson) is a hell of a player too."

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WR Deonte Thompson is still probable, but Meyer said he has been holding him out of practice for extra precaution. With him out, Meyer would like one of the second string receivers to step up, looking at Omarius Hines, T.J. Lawrence and Frankie Hammond. He isn't surprised they are still struggling in their second years in the offense. "We're trying to accelerate the growth process," Meyer said. "Those guys go through their sophomore blues and we just don't have time to wait for them. They got to go."

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He said Matt Patchan and Mo Hurt are pushing Carl Johnson and James Wilson for playing time on the left side of the offensive line.

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Meyer said he will decide who will handle the kicking duties on Thursday.


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