It is decision time for Jon Demps and his family. The sophomore linebacker from Pensacola, who missed more than half of his freshman year with a knee injury, re-injured the same knee Wednesday and the news was not good. According to Coach Urban Meyer, plenty of decisions will have to be made in the next several days.
“He tore the graft of the ACL that he had repaired last year,” said Meyer after practice Thursday morning. Very similar [to last year], non-contact injury which means he was basically running.
“They did an on the field test and the knee gives the appearance of being sound so there’s two choices. Dr. Pete (Indelicato) said that at there’s those at the combine that brace up and strengthen their knee and play with it and there’s others that have surgery.”
What path Demps and his family choose to take will be decided in the next few days.
“That’s up to Jon and his family and our doctors will advise them what they think is best,” said Meyer. “He does have a redshirt year available. We used up his first year of eligibility so he does have a redshirt. It’s a tough injury … tough on our depth because we need him.”
Demps was battling with senior Brian Crum for the starter’s role at strong side (SAM) linebacker. Redshirt freshman Ryan Stamper and true freshman A.J. Jones will be in line for the backup role at that position now.
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With the rash of injuries in the past few days, the learning curve for many of the freshmen has been accelerated out of necessity. Meyer said he’s not sure how many of the freshmen will be used this year but added “I think we’re going to play a good chunk of them.”
On the offensive line, Marcus Gilbert continues to make strides and it’s highly likely that he’s going to play. Gilbert, who is 6-6, 300, has been working at guard but he’s good enough fundamentally that he could move outside to tackle as well.
“There’s a chance he’s going to play,” said Meyer. “He’s really coming on. He’s got a little hip flexor right now and he hyper-extended his elbow but he’s practicing. He’s one of the better guys.”
Gilbert played his high school football at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, traditionally one of the best high school programs in the state.
“If you look at Marcus Gilbert you just love taking guys from where he came from,” said Meyer. “He’s very well coached, he’s very disciplined about little things like snap counts … obviously he comes from a good high school program. If I had my choice I’d take everyone from programs like that.”
Another true freshman lineman, 6-6, 322-pound Carl Johnson, who has been working mostly at the two guard slots, saw some action at left tackle on Thursday. True freshman offensive guard Maurice Hurt (6-4, 310) is likely to miss just a week instead of the two weeks. An MRI to his knee showed no tear. Hurt has run with the second unit offensive line for most of the preseason camp.
In other offensive line news, junior Carlton Medder (6-5, 315) continues to play well. With Drew Miller moving inside to guard when Ronnie Wilson broke his ankle, Medder and sophomore Jason Watkins have been battling it out for the starting job at right tackle. Medder has shown steady improvement in practice.
“Medder is the one who’ stood out a bit,” said Meyer. “Jarvis Moss got after his tail a little bit today but Medder has been practicing fairly good.”
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Tailback DeShawn Wynn had a tough practice Thursday because of some cramping issues but Meyer likes what he’s seeing of the fifth-year senior.
“He’s dehydrated,” said Meyer. “In my opinion, you know why he’s cramping? His body is not used to straining like it’s straining. He’s lost a lot of weight and he’s practicing very well.”
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Senior corner Reggie Lewis continues to have an outstanding camp. Meyer likes the way the 5-10, 196-pounder from Jacksonville comes to work every day in practice. The way he’s working hard and leading on the field, there is some speculation that he will be named one of the team captains when those decisions are made over the weekend.
“Reggie Lewis had a very good day today, a very confident day today,” said Meyer. “You mention him as captain. The way he’s playing right now he’s playing like a captain and he’s kind of pushing the other guys so he’s doing one heckuva job.”
In previous years, a captain had to be a starter the previous year. Lewis was a backup until the final two games of the regular season when he took over after Vernell Brown went down with a broken ankle.
“In the past you were supposed to be a starter last year,” said Meyer. “The way he practiced today and if they came to me and wanted him as captain I would have to think about that plus he’s been getting really good grades.”
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In other news, freshman wide receivers Percy Harvin (hip flexor) and Jarred Fayson (shoulder) both practiced Thursday.
“They both went today,” said Meyer. “Limited roles, they’re not full speed yet. Harvin should be full speed tomorrow or the weekend for sure.”
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Meyer said that Chris Leak is probably looking over his shoulder just a little bit at who’s behind him on the quarterback depth chart for the first time since he’s been at Florida. While Leak is clearly the starter and freshman Tim Tebow is clearly the backup, Meyer thinks Leak notices who’s behind him.
“When you sit and evaluate what’s been going on at Florida the last three years you know Chris Leak has been the quarterback period, end of discussion,” said Meyer. “Now there seems to be discussion about this other young kid. He’s not outperforming Chris but I think Chris knows right where he is in the rear view mirror all the time.”
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The heat and humidity make practice conditions tough but Meyer says that there is no lack of motivation for his team. He likes the way they come out and work hard even under less than ideal circumstances. He says that it’s a totally different atmosphere than last year.
“It’s different,” he said. “These kids are motivated. It’s hot, it’s ugly, it’s hard right now but motivation is not an issue. It’s just execution and that’s a coach’s job. If you have to motivate all the time the execution is going to be poor. We’re working on execution. It’s a lot of fun coaching right now.”
Meyer attributes a good bit of the motivation to senior leadership.
“We’ve got 20 seniors,” he said. “If you have 20 dogs for seniors we’d have a little issue. Bill Bellichik said it best … what’s the difference between the Cleveland Browns and the New England Patriots? It’s the fact that his leaders at the Cleveland Browns, to use his terms … they were dogs. The leaders he has at New England, Bruschi, Vrable, Tom Brady … those guys go. If I had 20 dogs that were seniors you’d hear a lot more screaming out there than coaching. It’s fun to coach a team like this right now.”