Gator News Roundup: Game Week Edition

Captains named

Urban Meyer does captains a little differently than most coaches do. He has his players vote on who will be captains for the year, and then each week he selects players from that group to be go out for the coin toss. They’re all technically captains the whole year, but only a few get to be captain for a particular game. It’s kind of confusing, but they make it work.

This year’s captains are: senior DT Javier Estopinan, injured senior TE Cornelius Ingram, senior RB Kestahn Moore, senior WR Louis Murphy, senior long-snapper James Smith, junior LB Brandon Spikes, junior LB Ryan Stamper, senior OG Jim Tartt, junior QB Tim Tebow, senior OT Phil Trautwein, and senior OL Jason Watkins.

The captains for each game are announced during the week leading up to them.

Wide receivers

Percy Harvin has been back practicing again, though not participating in everything. Tebow remarked that Harvin looks extra fast because he hasn’t been practicing as much as everyone else. Harvin already knows the offense and has great rapport with his quarterback, so the lack of practice is not really a concern. Being fully healthy is the most important goal, so Meyer has yet to fully commit to Harvin playing against Hawaii.

JUCO transfer Carl Moore had a rough spring, which he attributes to the complexity of the Florida offense compared to his junior college offense. Murphy took him under his wing a bit during the offseason, and now Moore is said to be one of Tebow’s favorite targets. Meyer has gone so far as to compare him to Dallas Baker. Urban is very reluctant to compare players to his favorite guys from past teams and Baker was certainly one of those favorite players, so that says a lot.

Moore, Murphy, Riley Cooper, and Deonte Thompson have separated themselves from the rest of the receiving corps, and along with Harvin make up perhaps the most formidable top-five receivers of any team in the country.

Running backs

For the first time in his tenure at Florida, Meyer has said he is excited about the running backs. Meyer hasn’t been completely pleased with Emmanuel Moody, saying there is room for improvement. However, he also has indicated that up to four running backs could be used regularly, and Chris Rainey has said the goal is to get the backs as a unit over 1,000 yards collectively.

Kestahn Moore and Moody figure to be the workhorses, with Rainey and Jeff Demps as speed backs. If either Moore or Moody catch fumblitis or otherwise upset the coaches, Mon Williams could step up in place. We also know that Harvin will be getting carries, potentially up to 15 a game, and Tebow of course will be doing some running of his own.

Defense

Meyer thinks DE Jermaine Cunningham was just OK last season, but he should be “better than OK” in 2008. Freshman DE Earl Okine will probably redshirt thanks to some lingering injuries and the emergence of fellow freshman DE William Green.

It is almost certain at this point that Major Wright and Ahmad Black will be the starters at safety, with highly-touted freshman Will Hill as a backup. It is partly due to strong play by Black and partly due to inconsistency in Hill’s play.

Special teams

The Gainesville Sun put up an excellent article on the Gators’ special teams. Did you know UF led the SEC in punt blocks last season with four?

Brandon James will still be returning kicks and punts. He was so effective a season ago that opponents began kicking away from him or doing squib kicks to keep him from ripping off a long return. Rainey and Demps are also expected to put in some return work.

Meyer says that senior Brandon Phillips is slightly ahead for the starting place kicker job. Competitor Caleb Sturgis should see the field regardless doing kickoffs since he has the stronger leg of the two.

Et cetera

The quarterbacking situations for the Gators’ first two opponents is looking shaky. Newly-named Hawai’i starter Brent Rausch has missed recent practice with a strained arm, a serious deal for the leader of a pass-heavy offense.

Meanwhile, Miami redshirt freshman Robert Marve has been suspended for the first game against Charleston Southern because of an arrest last Halloween. The coaches did not tell him until last Friday that he would be suspended so as not to affect his motivation in trying to win the starter’s role over true freshman Jacory Harris.

The Gators did not practice last Thursday due to Tropical Storm Fay. Practice on Friday was in sloppy conditions, but no one complained or slacked, much to the coaches’ delight. There have been many reports that last year’s team did not handle the recent success well and didn’t always put forth maximum effort in practice. Giving good effort in adverse conditions is a great sign for this year’s team.

Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen has been getting help from Dirk Koetter in understanding the new NFL-style 40 second play clock. Koetter is a former head coach of Boise State and Arizona State and is now the offensive coordinator for the nearby Jacksonville Jaguars.

For whatever it’s worth, Florida is a 34 1/2-point favorite over Hawai’i. I don’t gamble, but personally I’d take the over. The Gators put up 59 on Troy, Tennessee, and FAU last season. This year’s offense (which will be even better) should be able to put up 60 or 70 on Hawai’i if they want to, and the defense isn’t going to let the Warriors get to 30 points.

Raycom Sports (formerly Lincoln Financial Sports and Jefferson Pilot Sports before that) has renewed its partnership with Yahoo! Sports this season. If you don’t have a Raycom affiliate in your area and would like to see the Gators eviscerate Hawai’i, you can stream the game live from here.

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