After a few weeks of very solid practices, Coach Urban Meyer didn’t like what he saw on the field from his troops yesterday. On top of that, the linebacker corps suffered a casualty on the line yesterday with A.J. Jones’ broken foot. As a result, today Meyer was hoping for a better day and he got it.
The Gators usually have what they call their “Bloody Tuesday” during game week during which the players really go after it hard in practice. This week is a little different because it is opening week and the team is a little ahead of schedule.
“We are plus one like every team so yesterday was a ‘Bloody Monday’,” Meyer said. “Today was a pretty good, but yesterday was very disappointing as far as a lot of things during practice. I wasn’t pleased but they came out today and had one of our better practices. We need to answer again tomorrow, because we aren’t ready to play a game. I keep hearing comments about ‘We’re ready to hit someone else’ and that is all excuses. We need to get ourselves game ready.”
The Gators depth took a big hit on Monday when true freshman linebacker A.J. Jones broke a bone in his foot and will now miss the rest of the season.
“A.J. Jones broke a bone in his foot yesterday and his having surgery today or tomorrow,” Meyer said. “That is a pretty good sting for us because we thought he was going to have some game reps for us. He is a great young man. It was a non-contact injury where he broke the outside bone in his foot. It is a small crack and the same one that Ronnie Wilson had when he first got here. He will have about 7 weeks in a boot and 12 weeks to be able to play.”
The Gators are very thin at linebacker and A.J.’s injury will cause some shuffling when the starters have to come to the sideline.
“That is the limbo we are in right now,” Meyer said. “We have (Brandon) Spikes, Dustin Doe, Ryan Stamper, and Darryon Robinson as the backups. Spikes or possibly Earl Everett would pop out to the outside guy there. Dustin Doe is probably the next guy that is ready to play. We met at great length last night about what we would do.”
Outside of that major injury, the Gators seem to be getting a little healthier. Running back Brandon James was seen wearing shoulder pads and limping with a knee wrap on but walking without crutches. Jarvis Moss had a small hand cast protecting the middle finger on his right hand, but it didn’t look serious. The others seem to be healing nicely.
“He is doing really (well),” Meyer said about James. “Other that I think we are getting pretty close, Bryan Thomas is getting close too.
Meanwhile, the secondary seems to be strengthening by numbers daily. The Florida secondary and especially at cornerback was a position coming in to 2006 that was frightfully thin and inexperienced. Reggie Nelson was moved over to cornerback from before the spring to help out but has since been able to move back because others have stepped up.
“The Ryan Smith I remember is what I see right now,” Meyer said of the transfer from Utah that should start for the Gators on Saturday. “He has practiced very hard and is at a position we don’t have much depth right now. He has obviously played very well. He has done all the things we asked him to do and has a lot of game experience.”
Wondy Pierre-Louis was seen in a white jersey that usually signifies he will see playing time on game day. Wondy is a Gator favorite with his human interest story being from Haiti and making it in the United States. Meyer likes what he sees from the personable young man.
“Wondy is coming on and making a little of a push right now, Meyer said. “We are keeping him up with the varsity.”
DeShawn Wynn and Kestahn Moore are even right now in the race for the starting tailback spot. Meyer continues to like what he sees from the two.
“Tailback is down to two,” Meyer said. “Who starts doesn’t matter because they are both going to play and both are practicing pretty (well).”
It appears they will try and give Tim Tebow a special package for when he comes into the game. The Florida staff knows they need to play the true freshman quarterback and get him ready for game action against SEC competition. Tebow’s progress has been good.
“We added a couple of plays today for Tim,” Meyer said. “He is getting close and he had a very good practice today. The positive thing about Tim is that he ran the same kind of stuff in high school. The biggest thing is he has to get used to the speed.”
Tebow, like his three other freshman classmates, had the chance to enter Florida in the spring and graduate high school early. This allowed Tebow to practice the whole spring in the offense and compete against college talent. It also gave him all of the time from January until now to really get prepared for what he will see on Florida Field on Saturdays. Meyer knows it was a huge advantage for Tebow. “I don’t know how a quarterback could ever play unless he had a spring practice under his belt,” Meyer said.
Moving on to game day, the Gators will welcome back Former Head Coach Steve Spurrier who is currently the Head Coach at South Carolina. The SEC East rivalry between the two schools took a big turn last year when Spurrier led the Gamecocks to their only victory ever over Florida. Meyer has nothing but respect for the former Gator Head Coach and knows Saturday should be special for every Gator fan.
“I think its going to be great,” Meyer said. “It’s Coach Spurrier and the whole championship team. It will be a great celebration of the greatest team in Florida football history.”