Gator News and Notes from Week 2 of Practice

Injury report

As most everyone has heard by now, two more players went down with ACL tears: OG Jim Barrie and LB Brendan Beal. Both were expected to contribute, but neither was going to start. It’s a hit on depth, but not much more than that.

In other injury news… Emmanuel Moody has been slowed by a thigh contusion. Louis Murphy has been in a boot recently with a mild ankle sprain, but he’s out of it now and back to jogging. Senior OL Jason Watkins, freshman S Will Hill, and sophomore DB Moses Jenkins have missed time with minor concussions. Junior CB Markihe Anderson and OL Maurice Hurt have missed some time with wrist injuries.

Freshmen DLs Omar Hunter and Matt Patchan are close to being ready for contact drills. Chris Rainey appears to be completely healed from his groin issue that he had been dealing with since track season. Percy Harvin is able to go through drills despite his heel injury but was held out of Wednesday’s scrimmage.

DT Torrey Davis is not injured, but he hasn’t been at practice either. Urban Meyer has said Davis will not be playing against Hawai’i because in addition to his academic issues, he’s gotten himself into some off-field issues too.

Offensive backfield

Kestahn Moore, as I expected, will be the starter at running back on August 30. However, Meyer plans on having him line up at fullback some to keep him on the field as much as possible. He’s the best blocker among the running backs, so it makes sense. It also gives the tiny guys like Brandon James and Rainey someone to pave the way while giving Dan Mullen a fullback who can both run the ball and catch passes.

Meyer has already said Moore has been a dynamic player for the offense this offseason, so I don’t think he’ll just be an early-season placeholder for Moody like many people I know seem to think he’ll be. He averaged over five yards a carry last year, so as long as he quits fumbling he’ll be a big part of the offense.

Neither Cameron Newton nor John Brantley has taken a firm grasp of the backup quarterback position. It’s an important question because Meyer has already said he wants to go back to a two-QB system to lighten the load on Tim Tebow. Who plays backup won’t likely be settled until right before the first game.

Most people I’ve seen around the ‘net expect to see Newton regardless in some of the 3rd-and-short situations this year to take some pounding for Tebow; considering he’s noticeably bigger than Tim I’d say it rings true, but we’ll see.

If Brantley takes the No. 2 job I don’t know that it will happen, because having Tebow as your No. 1, Brantley as your change of pace guy, and Newton as your hammer makes a three quarterback system. Meyer is bold, but he’s not that bold. I’d like to see more of the jumbo triple-I formation with Moore or Moody on short yardage situations myself.

First scrimmage

The Gators were supposed to have their first scrimmage on Tuesday, but too many guys were out injured. It was instead played Wednesday. You can see a video with highlights at Urban Meyer’s website. Just a warning to those of you at work, the site has auto-playing sound, so turn those speakers down before visiting.

The biggest news was the performance of veteran receiver Justin Williams at safety. After moving freshman T.J. Lawrence from safety back to receiver, the position he was recruited for, they tried Williams in the secondary. He hauled in two interceptions, both of which you can see in that video (he’s #7). The second one is particularly impressive. He still needs to learn to tackle, but the coaches are impressed with his baseline level of play.

With Harvin out, Brandon James has been the Mr. Do-Everything. He will probably take a larger role in the offense as he’s already been playing receiver some. If he does, that opens up some return duty for Jeffrey Demps, who has been doing some extra punt catching duty.

Charlie Strong was pleased with the defense, saying they looked better in the scrimmage than they did all of last year. Those are some mighty encouraging words, even if it was only a scrimmage.

The coaches say that the evaluation period is done, and from here on out they’re game planning for Hawai’i.

Defense

Lawrence Marsh appears to have one of the starting defensive tackle spots locked up, with JUCO transfer Troy Epps as his backup. Terron Sanders and Javier Estopinan figure to battle for the other starting spot, with freshmen Hunter, Patchan, and William Green also getting some playing time too. DE Justin Trattou lined up inside a few times last year and might again, so there are plenty of options in the middle.

LB Lorenzo Edwards is being slowed by injury, so it’s not looking likely after all that he’ll get a chance to play much. Strong confirmed that Carlos Dunlap has the edge over Trattou for starting at defensive end opposite Jermaine Cunningham.

Losing their stripes

Around the country, freshman are figuratively earning their stripes in fall practice. In Gainesville, they’re quite literally doing the opposite.

Meyer instituted a practice when he arrived in 2005 of having the “Gators” logo on the helmets of freshmen covered with a piece of black tape. The tape symbolizes the fact that they aren’t Gators simply by showing up; rather, they have to earn their way onto the team. Once a player has done enough in the coaches’ eyes to earn his spot, he “loses his stripe” as the veterans cheer their new teammate.

The first player to lose his stripe in 2006 was Percy Harvin. Last year, Major Wright was the first to lose his stripe after delivering a bone-rattling hit on Chris Rainey.

This season, DE William Green was the first to lose his stripe. I have not seen the story of how he did it, but I have seen that CB Janoris Jenkins lost his early on too. By the end of Tuesday, impressive young guys Demps and Frankie Hammond, Jr. also lost their stripes.

Players who enroll early in January do not have stripes in fall practice.

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