Today was “Gut Check” Day for Meyer and Team

The Florida Gators football team scrimmaged Tuesday morning and Head Coach Urban Meyer was very pleased with the effort. It was a scrimmage that saw a lot of the younger players on the team get some serious repetitions as the coaching staff deals with mounting injuries.

Despite the injuries Meyer feels they are getting a lot accomplished and likes the young players on the squad.

“That was a great day, it was a gut check,” Meyer said as he addressed the media. “It was hard and hot. Our two’s (2nd team) got probably 50 plays in the scrimmage. Our 1’s, we are being cautious because we are down in the offensive line.”

“We are beat upright now on the offensive and defensive line right now. Terron Sanders is beat up a little bit, Lawrence Marsh is beat up a little bit, Brandon Antwine has a turf toe, Clint McMillan is about 50%, and Javier Estopinan has a sprained ankle. We are very limited with Ray (McDonald). He is a great football player.”

One question facing Meyer with all the injuries is how hard to go at practice. Is there some magical formula that gets a player enough reps without risking more injuries? However, Meyer is not prone to take it “easy” on the team.

“I don’t like that word,” he said when someone asked if he would take it easy. “We are going to be smart. I don’t know how many times Ray McDonald needs to go scrimmage and tackle. The bottom line is we are going to be smart and efficient with them.”

Allowing the backups to get a lot of reps is part of the efficiency process, but on the offensive line, it isn’t necessarily that easy. Saturday, starting right guard Ronnie Wilson was lost for several weeks with a broken ankle. Since that point in time, Maurice Hurt, a freshman backup at left guard, and Jason Watkins, a sophomore that was moved to right tackle both got hurt. Eddie Haupt was seen in a boot after practice today.

“(Hurt) had arthroscopic surgery (right knee) today so he will be out two or three weeks,” Meyer said. “He was making great strides. Watkins didn’t practice today. He had a headache yesterday and should be out tomorrow. (Carlton) Medder (now starting at right tackle) went all day and has gotten a lot better.”

“We went into it knowing that we couldn’t get anyone hurt,” he said. “The good thing is the leadership of that crew with (Steve) Rissler. I know we will have those guys ready.”

Coach Meyer is certain of the resilience and capabilities of his offensive line when opening day rolls around. “Damn right it will be ready,” he said. “I don’t know who will be playing but it will be ready.”

The wide receivers that were injured last week are getting better. Freshmen Percy Harvin and jarred Fayson missed a few practices each so far. Junior starter Bubba Caldwell injured his hand earlier but has played through it. He left practice with just a slight wrap on his hand.

“Fayson is fine,” Meyer said. “He actually practiced some today. Harvin has a hip flexor and will probably be another couple of days.

One of the topics being discussed around the Gator Nation concerns the young Gators in this most recent signing class, the true freshmen on the team. The talent in the class was very visible from the first couple of practices. Some true freshmen are already bypassing some of the older players ahead of them on the roster. At issue is the possible attitude of players getting passed.

“It’s not our job to motivate guys,” Meyer said of the older guys getting jumped on the depth chart. “It is their job to impress us. This is Florida. If we are motivating receivers to play at Florida then I took the wrong job. We make that clear, if we have to cheerlead them and pat them on the back every time they catch a pass, then we made a mistake in recruiting them. It’s wide open right now.”

The offensive line is a given with all the injuries that true freshmen are going to play. Two positions the Gators recruited hard this past year was wide receiver and linebacker. Both groups were very solid and every freshman that came in could see playing time this fall.

“Percy and Jarred were ahead but then they got hurt,” he said. “The guy right now that is making a push is Riley Cooper.”

The Gators brought in three talented linebackers with Brandon Spikes, Dustin Doe, and A.J. Jones. There is likely to be some jostling of the linebacker rotation.

“(Jon) Demps hasn’t been passed and (Ryan) Stamper may get passed, but I don’t see a problem there,” Meyer said. “There are plenty of opportunities for linebackers to get on the field, and I don’t see an attitude with those guys.”

Two more freshmen can officially call themselves Gators today as running back Mon Williams and offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert both had their black stripes removed signifying them being a part of team officially.

“Mon Williams is tough,” Meyer said. “He didn’t run our style of offense in high school so he is behind, but he is tough fast guy. He had about a 50 yard run in the scrimmage today.”

“Gilbert is making a push. He is playing both guard and tackle. I would say he and Maurice Hurt will play this year.”

Meyer had some praise for a few other individuals on Tuesday. DeShawn Wynn rode back to the hotel with Meyer on his golf cart yesterday. It is a spot usually reserved for players he wants to reflect with and let them know he likes what they are doing on the practice field. Meyer alluded to that today.

“I don’t usually say nice things about (Wynn) but he has done some real decent things the last couple of days,” Meyer said.

On senior Steven Harris, who has been in the doghouse since before the spring. Meyer is proud of what Harris has accomplished in the classroom.

“Steven Harris is an internship away from graduating at the University of Florida,” he said.

Junior defensive end Jarvis Moss is always one of Meyer’s favorite stories to tell. The turnaround for Moss a year and a half ago when Meyer arrived to now is one of the more of the remarkable stories in college football.

“Unbelievable,” Meyer said about the change in Moss. “Maybe as good as I have ever seen as far as lifestyle, work ethic, and attitude. To think of where he is right now with his leadership and effort, he is the top 1% of 1%.”

It is the group of little stories like these above that have Meyer thinking this could be one of those special teams. He likes the chemistry and the work habits of his squad.

“It is getting close,” he said about this being a great team. “Someone did a story about Reggie Nelson the other day where he says, ‘It doesn’t matter what position I play, I want to help the team.’ I want to get a whole bunch of guys talking like that, and getting an unselfish approach and we will be a hell of a football team.”