What a difference a year makes…
You could see it in Urban Meyer's posture. The Florida head coach was a ball of nerves and other things a year ago when all the pressure in the world was squarely on Meyer and his team. Now his team is a top ten squad and the pressure seems nowhere near Gainesville this time around. Meyer sat relaxed in the media room talking to reporters Thursday, something you never saw from him a year ago.
They still expect a lot from this team and Meyer isn't hiding behind the thought of a lack of talent, as the recruiting services have ranked his classes high, Meyer agrees and believes he has a talented team. That talent isn't lost on the 2010 recruiting class that finished tops in the country and has several players that Meyer already believes can play at the SEC level.
"It's not like we've got a whole bunch of bad classes roaming through the hallway here at Florida," Meyer said about the previous classes he has recruited. "This one is extra special. They're good guys and they look really good out there. We'll find out."
A new leader on offense…
John Brantley knows he will have to take the reins as the guy in charge of the offense. Doing that means he will have to step slightly outside his comfort zone. Brantley has all the physical gifts to be a great Florida quarterback. What we don't know is whether he can be a leader like the quarterback of the team needs to be.
The way John Brantley can lead this team may be the single most important thing that happens on and off the field. Leading means proving to your fellow players that you are with them through thick and thin.
He spent a great deal of time in the offseason getting with his receivers and linemen, building that camaraderie…something that will likely pay off.
"Just hanging out with them," Brantley said of the receivers. "That makes it easier. It makes it easier because they look up to you on and off the field…just that respect. I respect all of them and we've done a good job with our relationship so far."
Brantley can throw with the best and read the field; he has the talent around him to make this a special offense. It really is on him to make this thing work and he seems to be doing everything he can to make it so.
The Moody's Blues…
Emmanuel Moody can't win for losing. The guy seems to always be on the injured reserve at Florida and now is some of the same, except he is playing through it. Cursed with two separate surgeries to clear bone spurs from his ankles, Moody isn't exactly 100 percent, but is going hard at practice.
Moody should get credit for recognizing he has been that injured soul on the depth chart for much of the two years he has been eligible to play. He seems more at peace with the past and maybe a guy that is ready to get things going a little differently. He was praising his teammates a great deal when he talked Thursday. He really seemed a bit different when he talked to the media and even quipped on the freshmen defensive line class, something we will approach later on.
Believe in the receivers…
Deonte Thompson is sick and tired of hearing about the dropped balls. He said as much and was slightly disgruntled when the subject was brought up to him on Thursday. The new look Thompson is 205 pounds and ready to prove the disbelievers wrong about him and catching the ball. Boasting he ran a 4.22 in the 40, he also isn't going to take any heat with someone questioning his speed.
As exciting as Chris Rainey is on the field, he is probably more exciting for the reporters in the media area when he talks. Leave it to Rainey to call his teammates out from a year ago, something we haven't seen from this squad and is hard to believe after a 13-1 record. Urban Meyer was none too pleased with the words and chastised Rainey later in the day. C'mon Chris, just catch the ball and run with it.
Offensive Line has some action in the two-deep…
Don't set your two-deep just yet for the Florida offensive line. As Cody Jones told us Wednesday, there is going to be a battle at left tackle and that was reaffirmed by the incumbent starter Xavier Nixon on Thursday. Nixon told the crowd of reporters on Thursday he indeed is in a battle with sophomore Matt Patchan. Nixon took over the starting left tackle spot against South Carolina and never wavered a year ago
Matt Patchan was destined for a starting role last year before tearing up his knee. Now he has regained the health in his knee and has added on significant weight…up to 292 pounds. He looks like a different man and the battle royale for the starting left tackle spot is on.
Not to be out done is the battle at right guard. With Michael Pouncey moving over to take the place of his brother at center, the right guard spot is wide open and two older players are in the fight for now. Junior James Wilson and senior Maurice Hurt will be fighting it out for the spot and will be joined by freshman Jon Halapio when the freshmen are joined with the older guys in a couple of days. All of this was confirmed by Marcus Gilbert. Gilbert also added as we told you earlier in the week that Kyle Koehne has been moved out to tackle from center and is Gilbert's immediate back up at right tackle.
Maybe the best news of the day was hearing Marcus Gilbert answer in the affirmative that all the offensive linemen on campus were healthy enough and working out in all the drills on Thursday. That hasn't happened in quite some time.
Defensive Line with a youth infusion…
Omar Hunter is in the best shape of his young life and down 35 pounds from the day he stepped on campus. Still, the starting nose guard isn't the talk of the defensive line, neither are the other four guys at defensive tackle that have a lot of playing time. The real buzz has been the freshmen defensive linemen in Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, Ronald Powell, Lynden Trail and Leon Orr. The group received kudos all around from the other position players.
Emmanuel Moody said Floyd, "looks like he just stepped out of prison." Moody was joking about Floyd's chiseled body and mean look.
Middle linebacker up for grabs…
We got more confirmation in the battle for the middle linebacker spot. Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic will be trying to hammer that position down this fall. Both will play and the four man linebacker rotation with A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks. When posed with the question of this being the fastest linebacker corps in the nation, Jones shook his head and certainly agreed he couldn't dream of another one faster.
Accountability was the theme throughout…
Accountable for each other was the storyline of the morning and almost every player talked about it in his own way. Junior safety Will Hill admitted he hasn't pushed himself in previous years but did so this spring and offseason. We heard form Moody before and he is more accountable. A.J. Jones wouldn't talk about starting, just making his team better. They seem to all be buying in.
Follow Bob Redman on