A Final Draft Wrapup

April 29, 2009

In the end, three Gators got drafted and four more found jobs as undrafted free agents:

Percy Harvin, 1st round to Minnesota

Louis Murphy, 4th round to Oakland

Cornelius Ingram, 5th round to Philadelphia

Phil Trautwein to St. Louis

Jason Watkins to Houston

James Smith to Cincinnati

Kestahn Moore to Denver

It was a bit disappointing, all things considered. I had heard that Murphy and Ingram each had the potential to go as high as the second round. I never expected to see them have to wait until the fourth and fifth rounds to go.

In Murphy’s case, it may not have a happy ending. The Raiders at this point are a black hole for talent, though he does get to have JaMarcus Russell put football-shaped holes in his hands on Sundays. He’ll be a great addition to Oakland’s track team, along with Darrius Heyward-Bey, but whether Oakland will find football success is beyond me. Incidentally, I don’t think Heyward-Bey is any better than Murphy is, but the inanity surrounding 40 times at the combine made him a No. 1 pick. Go figure.

In Ingram’s case, it is probably a blessing in disguise. Philly had the best draft in my estimation, and with Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and Ingram, no one upgraded their offense more. He did say in an interview that the Eagles would have taken him earlier if they had a third or fourth round pick, so that makes him (and me) feel better. Regardless, he’s going to be on one of the NFL’s best offenses within two years thanks to McNabb, Westbrook, Jackson, and his fellow draftmates.

It seems odd to me that neither of the tackles got drafted. I know that Trautwein and Watkins weren’t going to be franchise cornerstones, but I would have thought they’d be worth a late round pick. It seemse like the NFL hasn’t been liking Florida offensive linemen lately, though that will probably change whenever the Pouncey brothers enter their names in.

I am glad to see Moore get picked up by Denver. He has no shot at playing running back there, as Denver now has about 15 of them on the roster, but he could make it as a blocker and a special teams guy. Last season had to be tough for him, having lost his feature back role to a couple of freshmen. However, he apparently never complained and kept on picking up blitz after blitz to buy Tebow time. Say what you want about his running back play, and someone probably already has, but the guy can block and could be in the league for at least a few seasons.

I am also glad to see James Smith get picked up. He’s a former walk on who will be remembered by die hard Gators as the guy who recovered South Carolina’s ill-fated throwback during a kickoff last season. It’s rare that long snappers ever get drafted, so he really never had a shot at hearing his name called over the weekend. However, he probably has a decent shot at making a roster somewhere due to his specialization and demonstrated ability to play well on special teams.

Next year, Florida will have a boatload of guys in the draft. Seniors like Spikes, Tebow, and Cunningham will be there, and underclassmen like Haden, Dunlap, and the Pounceys will probably be there too. Some mock drafts for 2010 are already out there, but I won’t link to any since they’re of no use now. After all, at this time last year, Todd Boeckman and Cullen Harper were no worse than second round picks.

What I do know is that the thin draft is not a sign of weakness, as FSU’s and Miami’s were, but the last echoing effect of the final, uncertain year of the Zook era and the transitional class that Urban Meyer had to throw together at the last minute in 2005. Only five players who we’ll see take the field from that time remain: Dorian Munroe, Jonathan Phillips, David Nelson, and Ryan Stamper in the two-deep plus Cade Holliday on special teams.

Next year is when Meyer’s monster 2006 recruiting class (minus Percy, of course) finally hits the draft. But before that, there is the matter of the fall when those seniors lead Florida to its third title in four years.

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Reviewing the Gators’ 2005 Recruiting Class

February 4, 2009

National signing day is today, and the recruitniks are restless with excitement. I’ve already gone over why I don’t follow recruiting closely, but the main reason why I don’t go nuts over it is the same as why it’s not worth going nuts over any professional drafts.

With a few exceptions, you generally don’t know who will pan out and who won’t for years. I would much rather look at past classes to see how they turned out years later, because you’ve seen how they’ve done and can revisit (hopefully) fond memories of seeing them play.

The members of everyone’s recruiting class of 2005 at this point has all either graduated or are now becoming fifth year seniors. It was a transitional year for Florida, going from the Zook era to Meyer era. One would think that with both of them being known as great recruiters that it would turn out all right for a transition year, but as you’ll see, it was very much a star-crossed bunch.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

Avery Atkins – DB (4* Rivals / 5* Scout)

Atkins’ career looked promising initially, but he quickly got into trouble off of the field. After essentially being kicked off the team, he transferred to Bethune Cookman where his legal problems continued. After multiple arrests for domestic battery, he would be found dead in his car in an apparent suicide.

His is a sad story all around, one of a bright future wasted and unnecessary grief for those he mistreated.

Kalvin Baker – LB (3* / 4*)

Never played at linebacker and transferred to Tennessee State.

Nyan Boateng – WR (4*/ 3*)

He never found a way to get playing time behind guys like Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell, and Percy Harvin. He transferred to Cal after the 2006 season to get more playing time, got arrested before leaving town, and had a decent year for the Bears last year.

Simon Codrington – OL (3* / 3*)

He played some as backup in 2006, but missed all of 2007 with a fractured wrist. His career ended due to injury.

Jon Demps – LB (4* / 4*)

He played in a couple of games in 2005, but missed 2006 and 2007 with injury issues. He also had some off-field problems. The last time his name surfaced was in December of ’07 when he was arrested for throwing a sandwich at a Jimmy John’s employee who simply wanted him to pay for a bag of chips.

No, he is not related to current running back Jeff Demps.

Brian Ellis – TE (3* / 3*)

He couldn’t get an SAT or ACT score high enough to get into school, and went to a junior college in California. He switched to linebacker, signed with Purdue, but couldn’t get into school there either.

Darryl Gresham, Jr. – LB (3* / 3*)

Was on the 2005 scout team, and only saw action in 2006 against Western Carolina. He left the team after the 2007 spring game.

Eddie Haupt – OL (3* / 4*)

He played sparingly from 2005-07, and his career ended due to injury.

Kestahn Moore – RB (3* / 4*)

He is part of an interesting bit of trivia in that he’s the only running back to start a season-opening game under Urban Meyer. He had an up and down time in Gainesville. Just as he was hitting his stride in 2007, fumble problems (especially against LSU) derailed his career.

Moore was good but not great, and he got passed up by others on the team largely thanks to not having an explosive speed burst. He played some in all four seasons, and he was the best pass blocking running back Urban Meyer has had at UF.

Dorian Munroe – S (4* / 4*)

He played some key minutes in relief of starting S Tony Joiner late in 2006, and he played often on defense and special teams in 2007. He was in line to get a starting role in 2008 before an ACL tear ended his season in August. He’ll be back in 2009.

Louis Murphy – WR (3* / 3*)

He spent a couple years on campus before things finally began to click with him. He got himself on track in 2007, and he was a key target and deep threat for Tim Tebow in 2008.

He’s one of the two or three best players of the class.

David Nelson – WR (4* / 4*)

Urban Meyer proclaimed him a waste of a scholarship for most of his time in Gainesville, and Nelson actually agrees. He admitted he didn’t take things fully seriously until about midway through the 2008 season, at which point he began playing a lot better. He had key catches late in the season and might actually fulfill his promise in 2009.

Reggie Nelson – S (4* / 5*)

After spending a year in junior college in 2004, this Nelson made it to campus in 2005. He is the unquestioned best player of the class, earning the nickname “The Eraser” for correcting any mistakes the guys around him made. His outstanding coverage and bone crushing hits will live on in Gator football lore forever.

Jonathan Phillips – K (2* / 4*)

He kicked a random extra point every now and then for four years, and he decided to go to Miami (FL) law school after the 2007 season. Meyer convinced him to stay, and he won the kicking job in 2008. He had an outstanding season, missing just two total kicks (one of which was blocked due to poor protection up front).

Josh Portis – QB (4* / 4*)

Originally a Meyer recruit to Utah, he followed the head coach to Florida. Everyone assumed that he would be the guy to run the Real Urban Meyer Offense once Chris Leak graduated (or maybe even sooner). Instead his crazy, meddling mother convinced him to transfer after the ’05 season rather than lose another year of eligibility playing behind Leak.

He transferred to Maryland, where he never got higher than third on the depth chart. After sparse minutes in 2008, he once again transferred, this time to a small school called California (Pa.) for the spring semester. He has good athletic ability, but has never been able to translate it into being a polished quarterback.

Eric Sledge – ATH (3* / 3*)

He wanted to play receiver or safety, but the Florida coaches had him play linebacker. He transferred to Valdosta State in January 2007.

Ryan Stamper – LB (4* / 4*)

He spent a season on the scout team in 2005 and hardly played at all in 2006. In 2007 he was still just a top reserve, but in 2008 he emerged as one of the linebacking corps’ most versatile and consistent performers. He started a few games and spent time at all three positions.

He figures to have a prominent role again in 2009.

Ronnie Wilson – OL (3* / 4*)

He redshirted in 2005, but thanks to some injuries to guys ahead of him he played often enough (and well enough) in 2006 to be named an honorable mention Freshman All-American and was put on the SEC All-Freshman team by The Sporting News. In the off season before the 2007 season, he discharged a semiautomatic weapon during an altercation, thereby getting himself thrown off the team.

He continued to pay his way to attend UF, and in 2008 Meyer allowed him to try to work his way back on the team. After spending some time on the defensive line and never playing a meaningful minute, he was once again kicked off the team after getting in a fight. He never got his scholarship back.

In Total

The class had only four players who became starters for a significant amount of time by now: Kestahn Moore, Louis Murphy, Reggie Nelson, and Jonathan Phillips. Ryan Stamper played significant minutes this year, even starting a few games, and along with Dorian Munroe will likely be a top contributor next season. David Nelson figures to be a key part of the receiver rotation if the second half of 2008 was not a mirage.

Two players had a single season of playing noticeable roles before getting kicked off the team: the late Avery Atkins and Ronnie Wilson. Josh Portis played spot duty for a season before transferring.

Of the 18 players of the class, six have been significant contributors now four years later. Three had single notable seasons before leaving, and one has one last year to impress after a half season of productivity. If you’re counting at home, that leaves eight players who had no impact at all.

For a recruiting class that was ranked No. 15 by Rivals and No. 11 by Scout, the actual contributions are surprisingly low. Reggie Nelson (an All-American), Wilson, Munroe, and Moore (54 carries, 282 yards) were the only players to play a measurable role on the 2006 national title team. Only Murphy, Phillips, Stamper, and to a lesser extent Moore and David Nelson played measurable roles on the 2008 national title team.

Those are not good numbers. It speaks to the talent that Ron Zook left behind as well as the outstanding quality of Meyer’s subsequent classes. When you consider that a team has 44 starters and backups on offense and defense, not to mention special teams players, four or five contributors is not a high number.

As everyone pores over this year’s classes and predicts fortune or doom, just remember that they don’t always turn out as advertised.


Florida’s Running Game Against LSU

October 10, 2008

If you’re a Gator fan, you probably already know all this. It was done by request for someone at Bleacher Report, so I figured I’d go ahead and post it here. Just skip to the end for an interesting stat on LSU. If you’re not a Gator, by all means, have at it.

Tebow and Harvin

Any discussion of Florida’s offense, rushing or passing, begins with these guys.

Tim Tebow’s rushing numbers are down since he’s carrying the ball about five fewer times a game than he did last year. The coaches have made a concerted effort to get him to do less freelancing, and that has been the case so far. Even so, he has had a few long runs on scrambles when no one is open.  He will do most designed runs on read option plays, and he’s still the short yardage back.

Percy Harvin has played only one game this season where he was fully healthy: the Ole Miss game where he racked up 82 yards on 10 carries. First he was recovering from his offseason heel surgery, and then he sprained his ankle at Arkansas. He put on some strength in the offseason, moving up to around 205 pounds from about 185 last year, and that has allowed him to fight through defenses and break tackles.

It will be difficult for Tebow to get much on the read option plays thanks to LSU’s great defensive line. His ability to scramble will largely be determined by how LSU uses their linebackers; if they’re blitzing and Tebow gets away, he could have some nice gains.

Harvin will get as many carries as his ankle will allow him to. He will likely be effective because, well, he’s always effective. There’s a reason he averages an absurd amount of yards per touch: the guy is good. He won’t run wild like he did against the Rebels, but he’ll get his yards.

Rainey and Demps

Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are a couple of small backs who are lightning quick.

Rainey is a shifty type. He can spin and juke his way to large gains on nearly every play if he can find a hole. The offensive staff has used him in some puzzling ways though. Three times in the past two games they’ve sent him up the middle on 3rd-and-1, and all three times it has not worked.

Demps is a track star as many know, the holder of the national high school record in the 100 meters. He doesn’t do the fancy things that Rainey does; he hits the hole and speeds away. Demps is always all by himself at the end of his big plays because he almost always runs vertically. In terms of straight line speed, no one can catch him.

These two have a chance to be real difference makers. The trick will be getting them into space, because they will not find success between the tackles thanks to their small stature. Even on their long runs against Arkansas, they first bounced out to the outside rather than going through a hole in the middle.

If Florida can find a way to get them in running lanes, they’ll play a huge part against LSU.

Moore

Kestahn Moore is the only power back on the roster available. Emmanuel Moody is out with a sprained ankle, and Mon Williams is still experimenting at linebacker full time. If the Gators want tough running from someone other than a quarterback, Moore’s the man for the job.

Given his past history with fumbling, especially against LSU, it’s doubtful we’ll see him carry the ball too many times. However he is the best guy on the roster at protecting the quarterback, so we could see him more as a blocker than a runner.

Overall

LSU sports the No. 8 ranked rushing defense in the country, but it also has the No. 44 ranked pass defense. Florida has established itself as a “use the run to set up the pass” team, but that may need to be reversed given the Tiger D’s performance so far.

Regardless, if Florida can’t run the ball, it won’t win the game. These are the guys who will be called upon to make it happen.


LSU Game Preview

October 9, 2008

I did this in conjunction with the LSU Football Community Leader on Bleacher Report, Justin Goar, and you can read his side of this here.

Game Preview:

This game is far more critical for Florida at this juncture of the season than it is for LSU. The unexpected loss to Ole Miss has made it so another conference loss prevents the Gators from controlling their own destiny in the East. Granted, Vandy won’t run the table and a loss for the Commodores will give UF that control back even with a loss to LSU, but the margin for error becomes razor thin with a defeat on Saturday.

It could have some significance in the court of public opinion as well. Some people, including Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel, have begun beating the “Urban Meyer’s shine is wearing off” drum. A win here would definitely help boost his image, even though it shouldn’t need it after producing a national championship and a Heisman winner in his first three years.

LSU on the other hand, has very little to lose in my opinion. A loss only jeopardizes the Tigers’ national title chances, and given how seldom teams win two in a row, a repeat was always doubtful in my mind. A loss on the road at night with a freshman starting quarterback falls squarely in the “understandable” category, and even then running the table from here would keep LSU right in the race for the crystal football.

The one catch is that LSU hasn’t looked all that great so far. The blowouts over Appalachian State and North Texas were nice. However they needed a dramatic comeback to beat Auburn, something that sounds less appetizing every day now. The win over Mississippi State was not overly impressive either given that the Bulldogs scored 24 on them whereas they didn’t manage a single point against those same Auburn Tigers.

Florida will win if: the Gators play “Florida football.” I put that in quotes because I mean it how Meyer defines it: winning the field position battle, playing great on special teams, and beating the other guy on the lines. Outside of the Ole Miss game, Florida has done well with the first two. The third part has been more troublesome.

The offensive line has been hit hard by injuries at left guard, which has thrown off the play of senior left tackle Phil Trautwein too. It also had some shuffling going on before the season. Sophomore center Maurkice Pouncey was a guard last year, and his twin brother Mike, the starting right guard, was an emergency defensive lineman after practicing at center for most of the year. The defensive line has been better that last year, though it’s hard to be worse, but it has not been consistent with getting pressure.

It’s unlikely the offense will click back into “destroy” mode, as it had been in 2007, against LSU’s defense, so the special teams will have to have another great game. Brandon James will be the man of interest in that respect, and he will help with the field position battle too. Punter Chas Henry has been quietly outstanding as well, so the same thing applies. Kicker Jonathan Phillips has been perfect so far, but don’t expect him to be attempting anything beyond 40-43 yards.

Florida will lose if: they can’t stop the run. Charles Scott has been stellar this year, and an inability to stop the run played a huge part in LSU’s comeback win last season.

Florida’s defensive line has been improved as I mentioned, and relatively unknown guys to the national stage like Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, and Justin Trattou will need to step up alongside the more known quantities, Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap.

They will also need help from the linebackers. Brandon Spikes has been fantastic, but Dustin Doe is out recovering from surgery for a double hernia. The Gators get backup Ryan Stamper, who was out hurt against Arkansas, a utility guy who is able to play all of the linebacker positions. He excels in run coverage, so that’s a good thing. The third ‘backer is A.J. Jones, who has yet to really distinguish himself but is making more plays this year.

Even after Jarrett Lee’s performance in the comeback over Auburn, I’d rather force LSU’s inexperienced quarterbacks, both of whom will see the field on Saturday, to win the game instead of Scott. Good memories of JaMarcus Russell turning the ball over and bad memories of Jacob Hester picking up fourth down conversions probably drive that as much as anything.

The X factor: Kestahn Moore.

He is widely seen as the goat of the 2007 game thanks to his fumble, but he rushed for more than five yards a carry and was very effective. Once he got benched, UF could no longer control the ball or the clock, opening the door for LSU’s win.

This season his role has been diminished thanks to the emergences of Emmanuel Moody, Chris Rainey, and Jeff Demps, and he missed the Arkansas game with a pulled hamstring. He will be healthy for this weekend though.

I don’t expect him to get many carries, despite his success last season, but he can play a big role anyway. He is Florida’s best blocker among the backs and receivers, and if given the chance he can be the guy to have Tebow’s back. Blitzes have caused problems for Florida thus far, but Moore can pick them up with enough regularity to buy time and avoid sacks.

This is a pure speculative pick; I can easily see Meyer not even putting him on the field but for five or six plays. What I am saying is that if he is used to get those extra rushers and provide backup when someone on LSU’s defensive line inevitably beats one of UF’s offensive linemen, Florida’s offense could have one of its best days.

Tebow needs time to throw, and Moore can provide him with that.

Prediction: Florida 23 – LSU 20

I am an incurable optimist when it comes to the Gators, so you can take that forecast with however much salt you want. However I saw the offense starting to form a real identity for the first time this season against Arkansas, and it was not solely a function of the Razorbacks having a questionable defense.

The absence of Bo Pelini, the inexperience under center, and environment in the Swamp at night are all negatives for the Tigers. I am by no means counting the Bayou Bengals out as you can see by the score prediction, but I think with Florida needing this one more than LSU does, the Gators will find a way to get it done.


Gators Working Through Injuries

October 6, 2008

It’s pretty remarkable how banged up the Gators were last Saturday.

They already had the five guys who tore ACLs in the offseason, most notably likely starters Cornelius Ingram and Dorian Munroe. Jim Tartt, Marcus Gilbert, and Maurice Hurt are all offensive guards that did not play (Tartt did for a couple plays before coming out permanently). Then you had running backs Emmanuel Moody and Kestahn Moore out with ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively. Even Tim Tebow admitted to being hurt or sore “a little bit;” I did notice him with a band aid on his left index finger after Brantley came in, but I don’t know if that’s what he was referring to.

Over on defense, the top two weakside linebackers were out with Dustin Doe and Ryan Stamper. Backup strong safety Will Hill apparently missed the game as well.

According to Urban Meyer, we can expect to see Stamper, Moore, Gilbert, and Hill play against LSU. Moody and Tartt are questionable right now, and Doe is definitely out until after the bye week, having just had surgery for a double hernia.

The guys that were missed most against Arkansas were Moody and Stamper. Tartt is a big loss for sure, but at this point he’s never going to be better than questionable for any game. For all the running up the middle the coaches wanted to do, Moody would have been perfect. Stamper is also great in run defense, something the Gators could have shored up last Saturday.

Kestahn Moore was able to run up the middle pretty reliably against LSU last season. That is until he fumbled of course, at which point Captain Hook benched him for the rest of the game. It would sure be nice to see Moody back for this one Saturday, and failing that to see Moore get another chance. LSU has some of their interior linemen a bit banged up, just like a season ago, and there could be opportunities for gains there.


Gator News Roundup: Game Week Edition

August 25, 2008

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.


Gator News and Notes from Week 2 of Practice

August 14, 2008

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.