The morning after former Gator greats Erricht Rhett and James Bates spoke to the Florida football team, Urban Meyer saw a team inspired and ready to practice. It was just the kind of effort that he was looking for as two-a-days wind down to a close. Monday afternoon’s practice will be the final two-practice session of the preseason.
“Everything went great today,” said Meyer Monday morning. “Today the defense had the upper hand but there was a lot of energy. It was the last double practice. Last night we finished up with what we call the Gator Experience. I figured we’d have a good day today.
“We had Errict Rhett come in and speak to the team and he did a phenomenal job and we had James Bates come in. They both talked about the Georgia rivalry and then the Tennnessee rivalry. It was a great night and then they came out today with a lot of passion.”
Rhett is Florida’s all-time leading rusher with 4,163 yards. He also caught 153 passes in his four-year career, best ever for Florida running backs. He made first team All-SEC in 1991 and 1993, second team All-SEC in 1992. He was first team Football News All-America in 1993. Rhett may be best remembered for the 1993 Georgia game when he carried the ball 41 times in brutal rainy conditions. Before the game, Rhett stood at midfield, doing backflips and somersaults into the puddles on the field at the Gator Bowl.
Bates made first team All-SEC as the Gators’ middle linebacker on the 1996 national championship team. Off the field, Bates was known for his zany personality but when the games began, he was a picture of intensity. His father, Jim Bates, was Florida’s defensive coordinator on Steve Spurrier’s first Gator team in 1990.
Meyer said the Gators practiced hard in the hot, humid conditions Monday morning.
“They were a very motivated team today,” he said.
After Monday evening’s practice, the Gators will go to a more normal one practice a day and they will start getting into their game preparations. Tuesday the team will be all football all day, but classes begin on Wednesday.
“We’ve got one more day with them,” said Meyer. “We’’ll keep them all day long, they’ll get outta here about 10 o’clock tonight. We got them up at 5:30 this morning. Obviously you can’t do that during school so we’ve just got one more day with a single then it’s game week preparation and it’s just 2:30 to 5:30 and that’s all we have them for.”
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Ray McDonald left practice a little bit early Monday morning but Meyer said there’s nothing to worry about.
“We took him in today … precautionary, he’s fine, just sore,” said Meyer.
McDonald is coming back from dual ACL surgery in January.
Offensive left tackle Phil Trautwein missed practice Monday because of a sore foot but Meyer said that also was precautionary.
“Trautwein didn’t go today,” said Meyer. “His foot was sore. He had a stress fracture back in the spring. They don’t anticipate a problem. They X-rayed it and it’s not a fracture so he didn’t go today.”
The injuries on the offensive line have caused a problem with continuity as the Gators get ready for their season opener with Southern Miss in less than two weeks. Offensive guard Maurice Hurt is running again but it might be a few more days before he’s back. Ronnie Wilson (broken ankle) won’t be back until two or three weeks into the season.
“It’s hard to get that continuity going now,” said Meyer. “Jim Tartt’s not practicing full speed so we just got to make sure they’re ready for the first game.”
Senior defensive tackle Marcus Thomas didn’t practice Monday morning. He’s recovering from a sprained ankle but there are no problems anticipated there. Freshman wide receiver Jarred Fayson, who had a shoulder problem, sat out Monday morning with a hamstring injury but Meyer doesn’t anticipate a problem there. Freshman wideout Percy Harvin only went about half the practice Monday but Meyer said, “they’re telling me Wednesday should be a go.”
Wide receiver Bubba Caldwell missed Monday’s practice with a 101 degree temperature.
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There were two de-stripings Monday morning. Freshman safety Jamar Hornsby of Jacksonville Sandalwood lost his stripe as did walkon freshman safety Cody Worton. Worton is out of South Dade High School in Homestead.
Meyer likes what he’s seeing of Hornsby, noting “he’s doing pretty good. There’s a chance he’ll play this year.”
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Senior tailback DeShawn Wynn practiced with a yellow (non-contact) jersey Monday but Meyer said “he practiced hard today, doing everything we asked.”
Meyer is looking for Wynn to play up to his potential in this his fifth and final season. For the Florida offense to operate on all cylinders, it’s imperative for the Gators to get good production from the tailback position.
“It’s a position where we need a boost,” said Meyer. “As we were a year ago we’re inadequate at that position. There’s just not been a lot to that position.”
Meyer wants Wynn to step up his production this season but says the senior doesn’t have to carry the entire team.
“I’m not worried about him taking a team on his shoulders,” he said. “I just want him to take that position and go play football. He doesn’t need to worry about taking the team on his shoulders. We’re all set at other positions. We just need that position to become a real position. He’s doing a good job.”