The injury bug hit the Florida Gators in a big way over the weekend. First unit offensive guard Ronnie Wilson had surgery on his ankle and he will be out at least until the early part of the season plus there were a number of dinged up players that will miss some practices.
Wilson, a 6-4, 309-pound redshirt freshman from Pompano Beach, injured his ankle Saturday morning. At first it was thought to be a bad sprain but further examination revealed the break.
“The injury to Ronnie Wilson was much worse,” said Coach Urban Meyer after Monday morning’s practice. “He broke it. He had surgery two days ago but I have great confidence in our training staff to get him back as soon as we can.
“The first question is when? It’s going to be early in the season. Until then drink a lot of milk and get that thing ready.”
Others out Monday were freshmen wide receivers Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson and junior wide receiver Bubba Caldwell. Freshmen defensive linemen Brandon Antwine (turf toe) and Lawrence Marsh (sore shoulder) have been slowed by their injuries. Freshman defensive tackle Terron Sanders is still waiting to be cleared to go again after suffering a neck injury last week.
Harvin and Fayson are both expected to return to practice Tuesday.
“One’s a muscle strain (Harvin, hip flexor) and the other (Fayson) is a shoulder … actually it subluxed, went out and popped back in,” said Meyer. “They’re scanning him just to make sure. He’s sore but they’re telling me Tuesday. Both of them will be back Tuesday.”
Caldwell was seen leaving practice Monday morning with a cast on his hand but Meyer doesn’t think it’s too serious.
“Bubba Caldwell hurt his hand,” said Meyer. “It’s precautionary, cast it up for three or four days and then it will come off but he practiced today.”
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It wasn’t all bad news on the offensive line. Starting left guard Jim Tartt participated in contact drills for the first time Monday so that softened the blow of losing Wilson somewhat. To solidify the middle of the offensive line, the Gators did some shuffling, moving Drew Miller inside from tackle to the right guard position vacated by Wilson.
“Someone else has got to step up and we had a good day today,” said Meyer. “We have some candidates. Jim Tartt is back so that gives us a little more depth in there. Drew Miller is a swing guy that we can move inside so he practiced today on the inside. That’s where he played last year.”
Miller, a 6-5, 305-pound junior, was the Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance in last year’s Georgia game.
Moving up to replace Miller will be either third-year sophomore Jason Watkins (6-6, 310) or fourth year junior Carlton Medder (6-5, 312). Meyer said that Watkins and Medder have “been in the program awhile and they’re getting much better.” In another move to bolster the offensive line, true freshman Corey Hobbs (6-5, 322) was moved from defensive tackle to the O-line where he’ll probably add depth at the guard position.
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Meyer thought his quarterback play was very good Monday morning. He’s liking what he sees out of senior Chris Leak.
“Chris is just a much better player than he was,” said Meyer. “He’s a quarterback now. I think he was a guy that kind of stood back there and looked for the snap to come in his hands so he could throw to a fast guy running across the field. Now he’s taking care of the ball much better. Last year he did, too. His command of the offense is pretty good right now.”
Meyer says that not only does Leak have a command of the offense, he’s in command of the team now. It really has become Chris Leaks’ team.
“You watch him command the team,” said Meyer. “He did not do that two years ago. He did not do that a year ago. He’s doing very well right now.”
Meyer also believes that having freshman Tim Tebow around has helped Leak open up his personality, too. By nature, Tebow is an outgoing sort that never meets a stranger. Leak, on the other hand, is quiet and reserved by nature. Having Tebow around has also made the quarterback meetings more lively.
“Last year there was no relationship [with the quarterbacks],” said Meyer. “Last year there was no Type A personality where Tim obviously has that. You walk into a meeting room and he’s forcing conversation. Last year, you walked into a meeting room with Gavin Dickey, CI (Cornelius Ingram), Josh Portis and Chris … and no one really liked to speak. You’d walk into a room and ‘Hi guys, how you doing?’ They kind of look at you like ‘why you ask me that?’ You ask Tebow how you doing and you get about a three and a half hour dissertation on how he’s doing. He’s easy.”
Being around the live wire personality of Tebow, Leak has opened up and Meyer is enjoying the change in disposition. Meyer said that he’s seeing Leak showing more of an “outgoing personality and smiling and being contagious to the guys.”
This is quite a change, but it’s welcomed.
“Chris is a new guy,” he said. “I love Chris Leak. Keep him healthy and he’s going to have a fine year. We have to keep the guys around him healthy.”
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A couple more freshmen lost their black helmet stripe Monday morning. Offensive guard Maurice Hurt, who is running second team behind Tartt, lost his as did 6-1, 214-pound walkon linebacker Chris Pintano out of Miami Sunset.
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Now that there has been a few days of contact, Meyer says he can see a real difference in team attitudes this year compared to this time last year.
“Hopefully you guys can see a difference when they walk off the field,” said Meyer. “Certainly, they get them up at 5:30 and come out here it’s up tempo. Our coaches are doing a great job of making sure they’re uptempo but it’s completely different.”