I have been looking around at the reports for the first two days of Gator football practice and compiling them so you don’t have to.
The Gainesville Sun has the best coverage, natch, with articles, live updates from reporter Brandon Zimmerman on the message board, and videos. Other information comes from the Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, and Jacksonville’s Florida Times-Union. There are also a variety of pay sites covering practice, but I don’t subscribe to any of them.
Who’s there and who’s not?
Sophomore DT Torrey Davis is not at practice due to academic issues. He’s not kicked off the team or anything, just held out of practice. We likely won’t get any more updates on him until Summer B is done.
Freshman DB Adrian Bushell is also not practicing as he’s not been cleared academically by the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Redshirt sophomore safety Bryan Thomas is out of practice for now after a cyst was removed from his knee.
Ronnie Wilson, now preferring to be called “Ron” instead, is at practice as a defensive lineman in his old #70 jersey. He is on the practice roster, but Urban Meyer says he’s not fully back on the team and is still being evaluated.
Wilson has passed 20 credits since being booted from the team last year, and though he had a marijuana possession arrest in January, the charges were dropped in April. Contrary to some reports, Wilson has not been working out with the team over the past year according to senior DT Javier Estopinan.
Shuffling the deck
The beginning of practice before pads go on is typically a time when coaches try guys out at different positions.
Freshman WR T.J. Lawrence is practicing as a safety to help with depth issues, but Lawrence, aside from being a receiver, played safety in high school, though not his senior year, so the transition will be easier than it otherwise might have been. The main three guys playing the position are sophomore Major Wright, sophomore converted CB Ahmad Black, and freshman Will Hill. Black appears to be ahead of Hill for now, though Hill, wearing #10, is an impressive athlete.
Freshman DT Bryan Jones has been working with the offensive line.
RB/KR Brandon James has been seeing time at receiver and could possibly switch there permanently. Mon Williams is the only other running back who has lined up at receiver so far.
The rumors and rumblings that RB Kestahn Moore might switch to fullback are still persisting, but I personally doubt the only guy to start at running back on opening day for Meyer at Florida will change positions, especially since he had 5.58 yards per carry last year.
Perhaps the most impressive guy in Monday morning’s all-freshman practice was WR Frankie Hammond, Jr.
After Monday’s practice, Meyer singled out USC transfer RB Emmanuel Moody and freshman DT Omar Hunter for excellent play. Despite recent reports of Hunter experiencing back pain, he has been playing like a “beast” according to multiple beat writers covering practice.
WR Percy Harvin has impressed, but the coaches are limiting his work as a precautionary measure. He had an apparent mild limp at the end of Monday’s session.
CB Joe Haden has switched from #12 to #5. He already has an interception of Tebow and has been playing well all around.
Sophomore LB Lorenzo Edwards is a serious threat to pass A.J. Jones for the third starting linebacker spot alongside Brandon Spikes and Dustin Doe.
P Chas Henry has been booming his punts. Only five of his punts were even returned last year, but his distance wasn’t remarkable. This is a welcome development and matches what I noticed in the spring game. A quarterback in high school, he also has been showing off his arm while playing QB for defensive drills.
Speaking of special teams, RB Chris Rainey has been practicing with the punt blocking unit. He also is apparently a gunner for the punt coverage team. Rainey has switched from wearing #8 to #3.
Speedy RB/track star Jeffrey Demps has been getting reps at running back, and along with Rainey he has the best burst on the team. Demps is also wearing #2, coincidentally the same number as the last track star to play running back at Florida, Bo Carroll.
TE Aaron Hernandez appears to be great at finding open space. That was true of him in his limited duty last year, so look for his role to expand greatly in 2008.
DE Carlos Dunlap has also been impressive. On one play he forced Tebow to pump fake simply by raising his hand up, and the next play he got a practice sack on Tebow. He is still wearing #8, which looks really strange for a guy his size let alone a defensive end.
Sophomore QB Cam Newton has not looked sharp throwing the ball yet. New walk on QB Zack O’Quinn from Louisiana apparently has also not been impressing.
Despite the praise from Meyer, Moody is practicing as the third string running back. Sounds like a classic Meyer motivational scheme to me.
JUCO transfer WR Carl Moore is noticeably behind WR Riley Cooper in the speed department. That may not be a huge deal as Cooper is the fourth fastest guy on the team, just a step or two behind Harvin, Rainey, and Demps. In fairness and for what it’s worth, someone has reported that Moore has been “catching everything in sight,” though I don’t know who.
Senior OG Jim Tartt has been seeing limited time as a precaution due to a shoulder ailment that has plagued him nearly his entire time at Florida.
OL Maurice Hurt is recovering from minor injuries sustained in a scooter accident and will be fine in a few days.
OL Carl Johnson is recovering from a broken wrist and is spending his time in the Pit, an area where injured players do excercises to make sure they’re working as hard as everyone else, rather than on the field practicing.
Redshirt freshman WR Paul Wilson had wrist surgery in June, is wearing a cast, and obviously will not be ready to go by the first game.
Scouts for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants were on hand for Monday’s session.