9/9: Florida Gators week two practice notes

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer met with the media after practice on Thursday and divulged a few important notes about the team’s second game Saturday against the South Florida Bulls. OGGOA has compiled some of the key details.

NIXON HEALTHY…BUT ACTIVE?

Sophomore left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee) has been cleared to play Saturday; whether or not he will actually step on the field (or how long he will play) is another subject all together. Though Nixon is healthy enough to participate in game action, the Gators may choose to let him heal for another week if offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio believes his unit will be steady enough without him.

On Wednesday, redshirt senior right guard Maurice Hurt, who has been filling in at right tackle while redshirt senior RT Marcus Gilbert has been playing on the left side, was under the impression that he would once again start there this week. “We’re still getting some guys back and we’re still shuffling the rotation, but for now I think I’m going to be at right tackle,” Hurt said. No matter what is decided Saturday, it looks like Nixon will return to his starting role against Tennessee the following week.

INJURY UPDATES

As Meyer predicted earlier in the week, it looks like redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed (knee) will be ready to go Saturday. Reed’s snaps may be limited, but his presence should allow for a more typical rotation at the position with him and sophomore wide receiver Omarius Hines as the primary plug-ins.

Meyer noted that freshman WR Chris Dunkley, who is still recovering from hamstring issues stemming from the conclusion of his high school career, is doubtful. With redshirt sophomore Frankie Hammond, Jr. (DUI) returning, redshirt freshman Andre Debose looking to get on the field and other receivers ahead of him knowledge-wise, Dunkley needs to get healthy while simultaneously learning the requirements of the position. Fellow freshman WR Quinton Dunbar is also hoping to see some action shortly.

Additionally, redshirt senior defensive tackles Terron Sanders and Lawrence Marsh will both be active and on the field playing Saturday against the Bulls.

BURTON BACKING UP; MURPHY STANDING IN

Last week we alerted you that the perception that freshman quarterback Tyler Murphy had replaced fellow freshman signal caller Trey Burton as the team’s primary backup behind redshirt junior starter John Brantley was likely a one-week scenario due to the fact that Burton was learning a bevy of other positions. Now that Reed is back in the mix at tight end and H-back, Burton has moved back to the No. 2 QB role (though he will likely see time on the field in other positions, too).

Simultaneously this week, Florida utilized Murphy as a stand-in for South Florida starting QB B.J. Daniels, a dual-threat player with a big arm and quick feet. Murphy apparently did well in this role during practice and was instrumental in helping the Gators prepare for their opponent this week.

For what it’s worth, Meyer continuously compares Burton’s talent and potential impact to that of former Florida stars WR Percy Harvin and TE Aaron Hernandez.

QUOTES

Meyer on Nixon’s starting status: “We don’t know that yet. That’s up to coach Addazio. We did talk about that today, and he hasn’t decided yet. Today’s practice was … key.”

Meyer on Dunkley’s progress: “He’s getting real close. He actually had a good day [Thursday]. I don’t know if he’ll get in this week [because] he’s had that hamstring forever. I wouldn’t say he was about 100 percent until last week. We’d like to get him involved. Same with Quinton Dunbar, who’s doing a nice job. [...] It’s just learning. [Dunkley] missed almost all of training camp. We’re in the season now and it’s hard to learn. We’re game-planning now. But he’s doing a good job. Talented guy.”

Special thanks to the Palm Beach Post and The Gainesville Sun.

TWO BITS: Tebow returns home, Driskel compared

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will once again be playing football in his hometown of Jacksonville, FL, on Sunday; unfortunately for many residents, he will be doing so as a member of the Denver Broncos – not the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nevertheless, Jags players know that the city is Tebow’s for the day, just ask star running back Maurice Jones-Drew. “It’s his town man. It’s going to be exciting for him,” Jones-Drew said. “Everybody is probably going to try to be at the hotel and see him. Word around here flies around fast where everyone is staying, so my advice to him is get a private room and stay in there the entire night.”

Homecoming or not, ESPN analyst and former QB Trent Dilfer continues to seriously doubt Tebow’s future in the NFL, even though he is rooting for him on a personal level. “I’m one that said he won’t [succeed],” Dilfer said. “I want to be wrong. I want Tim Tebow to be a superstar because there’s one thing you cannot coach and that’s will. […] Saying that, if he is successful as a quarterback in the first three years of his career, it will be one of the most remarkable jobs of coaching by Josh McDaniels and his staff that we have seen since [what] Bill Walsh did with Joe Montana. It will be absolutely mind-boggling from a quarterback standpoint if Josh McDaniels and his staff can make him a successful quarterback in the first three years.”

2 » Five-star Florida QB commit Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), already an accomplished high school player, is drawing further comparisons to Tebow after running for 68- and 61-yard touchdowns while simultaneously setting his school’s single-game rushing record in a game last week. Driskel, who ran for 246 yards in the game, brushes off the Tebow talk, even though it is complimentary. “People are going to make that comparison just because of my size and the fact that I’m committed to Florida,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and keep leading my team.”

Photo Credit: Ed Reinke/Associated Press

TWO BITS: Herbstreit’s thoughts, Black’s tough

1 » A guest on the Joe Rose Show on 560 WQAM in South Florida, ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit discussed the Florida Gators offense and expressed some concerns about how it has looked since former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen went to take the head coaching job with Mississippi State. “I know the Florida offense was OK last year [...] but when I watched Florida last year, if you had taken Tim Tebow’s creativity and determination and skill away from the offense, I really wonder how they would have scored a lot of points, because they didn’t have a lot of threats downfield,” he said. “I didn’t really see a lot of vertical passing. And I think now, without an athletic quarterback, they’re going to have to be able to complete some balls downfield to be able to open up all that underneath, quick stuff, where they want to get the ball into the hands of [Jeff] Demps and [Chris] Rainey and co[mpany].”

2 » Giving Gators senior safety Ahmad Black lofty praise as the “Manny Pacquiao of college football,” the Miami Herald’s Joseph Goodman notes that the bruiser is already one of the best at his position in the game, regardless of his smaller stature. Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin agrees. “That little guy is a good player,” Austin said. “Sometimes there are small guys who play small, but he’s not. He’s a small guy who plays big and that’s important.” Also drawing rave reviews from his teammates in the Gators’ secondary, Black has a team-high 12 tackles and one interception on Saturday against Miami (OH); he may be even more important this week against the South Florida Bulls as UF tries to corrall speedy quarterback B.J. Daniels.

9/8: Meyer’s teleconference and Gators notes

OGGOA had the opportunity to participate in Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer’s Southeastern Conference teleconference on Wednesday (we will be doing so every week). Below are some notes from media availabilities with Meyer and other members of the team over the course of the day:

» Even though sophomore left tackle Xavier Nixon may be ready to play Saturday, redshirt senior right guard Maurice Hurt told reporters Wednesday that he believes he will continue starting at right tackle while normal starting RT redshirt senior Marcus Gilbert fills in on the left side. “We’re still getting some guys back and we’re still shuffling the rotation, but for now I think I’m going to be at right tackle,” Hurt said.

» Meyer noted that while it may not have appeared the Gators were trying to throw the ball deep and spread the field in the first three quarters, many of the called pass players were messed up before they could develop due to some of the miscues in the backfield. Additionally, he felt that the team was put in a hole yardage-wise due to some of the bad snaps that was tough to get out from on particular drives.

QUOTES FROM MEYER

Opening statement: “We’re 1-0 but a little disappointed from last week. The guys have come out with some urgency and worked real hard, so we’ll have to play a lot better or we won’t beat South Florida, an excellent team – one of the best quarterbacks we’ll face all year and very athletic on defense, so we better get our game right.”

On if the spread offense allows “little guys” to excel: “We don’t just look for smaller… We look for the best football players and adapt the system to them. So if a guy’s a little undersized – like a Brandon James or Chris Rainey or Jeff Demps – we certainly will not not take them because they don’t fit our system. We’ll make the system fit.”

On the new NCAA rule not allowing schools to offer scholarships to recruits until the summer of their senior year: “I think that’s all in good intent. The problem with rules is, when you make rules, you have to enforce them. But I think the purpose of the rule is very well thought out, and we’re obviously going to follow that rule.”

On redshirt sophomore Sam Robey’s health: “There is a chance he’ll get in [Saturday]. He’s 100 percent healthy now. He’s had injuries all training camp with a knee and then bursitis in his elbow. He practiced a full-go [Tuesday] and is on-call this weekend.”

On Nixon’s health: “We’re very positive from what he did [Tuesday] in practice. Today is a big day for him, but he looked really good [Tuesday] as did [redshirt senior defensive tackle Terron] Sanders and [redshirt senior left guard] Carl Johnson. So we’re expected to have those guys for Saturday.”

On redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan’s health: “He’s still in that pretty long cast. He’s still going to be a few weeks, but we wish we had him because he’s such an intense player.”

On South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels: “He’s a playmaker… He’s a mobile guy and every time there’s a guy that can move around back there, he can be trouble. […] He’s the man on offense that you have to contain. Once he gets out of that pocket, it can be trouble.”

As rookie season begins, brand Tebow expands

Fact is, Tim Tebow was already a brand coming out of high school – just ask anyone who followed his recruitment. Now, after achieving legendary status while playing four years for the University of Florida Gators and being selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, Tebow is finally able to capitalize on the fame and following he has built over the last handful of years.

On Wednesday, Tebow’s marketing push began by rolling out an official website (TimTebow.com), Twitter account (@TimTebow) and Facebook page (Tim Tebow) at the same time as his brother Robby Tebow and longtime friend Angel Gonzalez publicly debuted their website for XV Enterprises, an agency featuring Tebow as its first client.

While the website and social media accounts are aimed at fans, XV Enterprises’ goal is to become a major player in the sports marketing world by attracting only the best clients who have a particular “it” factor, as Gonzalez explained to CNBC’s Darren Rovell.

Currently featured on Tebow’s website is a four-minute trailer to an upcoming documentary about his path to the NFL, information about the player, pictures, videos and a list of his upcoming Broncos games and events.

The man who some have begun calling T2 has also debuted a new slogan that is sure to catch on with his supporters: GB2 = God Bless + Go Broncos.

TWO BITS: Logo crackdown, Leak’s performance

1 » The University of Florida continues its crackdown on its intellectual property being used by other schools without consent and has recently forced Palm Beach Gardens High School in South Florida to rid themselves of the Florida Gators logo, just as they did to the Two Rivers School District in Russellville, AR, in early July. Below is a news report from CBS 12 detailing the situation.

2 » Marking his first start as a quarterback in the CFL last Friday, former Gators signal caller Chris Leak had a rough showing for the Montreal Alouettes. Leak, who went 15-of-27 for 135 yards and threw two interceptions in his debut, also rushed once but fumbled the ball. He was eventually replaced by Ricky Santos, who outshined Leak with a 10-of-12 performance for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Nevertheless, head coach Mark Trestman remains confident in his backup and refused to put the loss on his shoulders. “Chris is going to own up for the mistakes he made [Friday], but we lost this game as a team and that starts with me,” Trestman said. “I wanted to make sure that every guy left here tonight not thinking that the reason we lost is because we didn’t have the right quarterback in there.” Leak still felt the responsibility. “We didn’t execute offensively, anytime you turn the ball over and have a lack of focus it’s never going to be an easy thing, especially against a good team,” he said.

9/7: Florida reflects on Miami, looks ahead to USF

The Florida Gators make a selection of coaches and players available to the media each Tuesday, many of whom reflect about the previous game while simultaneously looking ahead to the upcoming contest. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

BROWN READY TO STEP UP AS A STARTER

Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Brown, who has the second starting CB role all to himself after senior CB Moses Jenkins hyperextended his elbow last Saturday, is confident but realizes it is now up to him to keep his side of the secondary secure.

“It definitely puts a little pressure on me to step up because behind me and Janoris [Jenkins], we got three freshmen,” Brown said. “I know how that is. It’s a little tougher as a true freshman.” Brown is speaking about Josh Shaw, Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins, all of whom are his and Janoris Jenkins’ reserves for the foreseeable future. “I’m definitely stepping up and taking the leadership role in that secondary because those are some talented corners. I’m trying to help them mature as fast as I can,” he said, “because one of them is going to have to step up and play.”

TOMLIN WANTS BOTH POUNCEYS (NO KIDDING)

Senior center Mike Pouncey knows he had a terrible game. He knows he needs to improve his snapping. He knows his brother – Pittsburgh Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey – was watching. But what Mike found out in the last few days was that he was not the only guy in Pittsburgh paying attention. “[Maurkice] said the guys up there were joking on my snaps,” Mike said. “He told me [Steelers head coach Mike] Tomlin said, ‘Just tell him to keep playing like that, we’ll take him by the end of the first round.’”

However, Maurkice did end up offering some advice. “He told me when he first started at center two years ago, he did the same thing,” Mike said. “His wasn’t as bad but he had high snaps – snaps were everywhere. He said just get back to work, and that’s what I’m doing.”

HOLTZ KNOWS FLORIDA IS STILL TOUGH

South Florida Bulls head coach Skip Holtz, a close friend of Gators head coach Urban Meyer, is well-aware that UF’s performance on Saturday was more an aberration than the norm for one of the best programs in the country over the last few years.

“Everybody right now is saying Florida is broke after last week’s performance,” Holtz said. “They won by 22 points. Their quarterback was 17 of 25. Their two tailbacks averaged 12 yards a carry and nine yards a carry. Defensively, they didn’t give up a touchdown. They gave up 0.2 yards per rush. [Miami (OH)] had 22 rushes for four yards, not four rushes for 22. They did not give up a touchdown. And that’s a bad day.”

QUOTES

Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio on Pouncey’s struggles: “No one’s got more focus or attention on that than Mike Pouncey. Those things weren’t all Mike Pouncey. Let’s get that clear. I’m not the least bit concerned about Mike Pouncey. Not even a little.”

Pouncey on his own snap problems: “It’s something I wished I had worked on before but I’m glad it happened at game one, rather than up at Tennessee or this week.”

Sophomore linebacker Jon Bostic on playing well as a starter last week and the defense’s performance: “Mainly [the coaching staff was] concerned about me taking charge out there – making calls for the whole defense and telling everybody what to do. Most of the time I was out there worried about my assignment. [Defensive coordinator Teryl] Austin the last couple of weeks has been getting on me about that. [...] You really can’t be satisfied. They still got yards on us. We wanted to get a shutout. We know the field position was bad, but that’s what sudden change is for. We’ve got to go out and pick the offense up when the offense isn’t moving right.”

Gators fall in second USA Today, AP Top 25 polls

Just three days after defeating the Miami (OH) Redhawks 34-12 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, the Florida Gators fell three and four spots, respectively, in the latest USA Today and Associated Press Top 25 polls.

Ranked No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches’ poll going into the season, the Gators dropped three places and lost 115 voting points in the process. The AP voters had Florida ranked No. 4 in their preseason poll, but knocked them down four spots, taking away 172 points from their total.

Even though the Gators won their opener by 22 points, sloppy play as the result of over a dozen fumbled snaps and the inability to consistently move the ball on offense found them much criticism over the weekend. That, combined with the more refined play of some of their competitors, led to Florida’s fall in the rankings.

USA Today 1-10: Alabama (55), Ohio State (4), Boise State, Texas, TCU, Florida, Nebraska, Oregon, Iowa, Oklahoma

AP 1-10: Alabama (47), Ohio State (4), Boise State (8), TCU, Texas (1), Nebraska, Oregon, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma

*Numbers in paranthesis represent first-place votes.

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