Gators spring practice news and notes – 03/26

With the Florida Gators 2010 spring practice now in full swing, there is plenty of newsworthy information around the program. Rather than publishing it all in long form, OGGOA thought it would be best to lay it out piece-by-piece. We continue this series with a look at spring practice from Fri., March 26.

Absences/Injuries:
» Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley returned to practice after missing it Wednesday with what the school said was a sore throat and the flu. He also has a bruised left knee and has been (and likely will continue) wearing a brace.

» Wide receivers redshirt freshman Andre Debose and redshirt junior Chris Rainey each saw limited action Friday. The Gators will be cautious with both players and not work them too hard until summer practice begins.

» Redshirt sophomore WR T.J. Lawrence visited Shands Hospital to undergo tests Wednesday before practice. Friday, the school explained Lawrence had an issue with low blood sugar. He also returned to action.

» Redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody, who left the field on crutches after injuring his ankle Wednesday, was back with the team but noticeably limping. He had minor surgery on the ankle last January and has had injury issues throughout his career.

» Sitting out for the remainder of spring practice are sophomore defensive back Josh Evans (left knee) and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Kyle Koehne (elbow). Many of the offensive linemen continue to sit nursing injuries, and junior RB Jeff Demps remains out due to his participation in the outdoor track and field season.

Check out many more practice, notes and interesting quotes…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Tebow on Deonte; Haden; Newton

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is in South Florida speaking at an event for the Boy Scouts of America Thursday. Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post caught up with him to ask his opinion of redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson’s recent comments. “I don’t think Deonte meant anything by that,” Tebow said. “He was just stating facts. [John] Brantley is a guy who throws on timing. You know when the ball is coming and when it’s not.”

For details on Joe Haden and the Cleveland Browns, the Carolina Panthers’ interest in Tebow and Cameron Newton claiming his innocence…keep reading…
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Urban Meyer goes off on reporter after practice

The top story coming out of Florida Gators spring practice Wednesday was not redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley being absent due to a fever and sore throat or even redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody leaving the field on crutches with an ankle injury. Instead, it was head coach Urban Meyer verbally attacking beat writer Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel.

Monday, Fowler wrote an article quoting redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson who made an eyebrow-raising comments about former QB Tim Tebow. “You never know with Tim,” Thompson said. “He can bolt. You think he’s running but he’ll come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready. With Brantley, everything’s with rhythm, with time. You know what I mean, a real quarterback.”

Fowler was doing his job here – the player said it, he quoted him word-for-word. Some might question whether doing so in the manner he did was sensationalistic, but if he didn’t report the quote, it is likely someone else would have. However, Meyer did not see it that way and, after practice Wednesday, he made that quite clear to Fowler in what is (right now) the biggest story of the spring.

Watch and read what Meyer and Fowler had to say to each other after the break!
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WR Thompson: Brantley is “a real quarterback”

Offering up the first media pounce-worthy soundbite of 2010 spring practice is Florida Gators redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Speaking with reporters after practice Monday, Thompson relayed this gem when asked about what it is like to catch balls from fellow redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley:

“You never know with Tim [Tebow],” Thompson said. “He can bolt. You think he’s running but he’ll come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready. With Brantley, everything’s with rhythm, with time. You know what I mean, a real quarterback.”

The last thing Gators fans want to hear from a guy who was supposed to be the team’s No. 1 receiver but ended up being its third option is that the best player in school history was not “a real quarterback.” Especially when some might question whether or not said player is a real pass-catcher, seeing as he had more drops than touchdowns (four) and only totaled 343 yards on the season.

Then again, there is what Thompson said and what he meant, which was likely that Brantley is simply more traditional than Tebow – a pro-style, drop-back passer with a stronger arm and more crisp ball – all facts.

“Things are going to get better here,” Thompson added. “Any receiver would be happy [to have] a guy like Brantley throwing the ball, spreading it around to everybody.”

Already supporting him is new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who believes that Thompson can be his top receiver in 2010.

“I can’t say enough about him,” Azzanni said. “He knows he hasn’t lived up to the billing. That’s what’s great about him. He’s humbled. He’s let his guard down. ‘Coach, coach me. I want to catch all the balls I might not have caught in the fall. I want to run better routes. What do I need to do?’ He knows he hasn’t lived up to his billing.”

Special thanks to Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel for some of the quoted material.

Photo Credit: Willie J. Allen, Jr./St. Petersburg Times

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FOUR BITS: Transfers, Shelley, Haden, Thompson

1 » Over the weekend, Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel and OGGOA went back-and-forth about the potential transfers of Florida Gators basketball bench players guard Ray Shipman and center Kenny Kadji. Fowler caught up with their former AAU coach, Matt Ramker, who informed him that the duo is expected to remain with Florida. “They are happy at UF and are looking forward to next season,” Ramker said.

2 » Speaking with The Salt Lake Tribune, Shelley Meyer said her husband and Gators head coach Urban Meyer is “150 percent better.” Now that he is back at work, Meyer’s wife is keeping tabs on him in the same respect he stays on top of recruits. Sending him multiple texts ensuring that he is eating, exercising and resting, Shelley claims it is “part of my plan. I’m keeping an eye on him and I’m looking for signs. What happened to Urban was a huge wake-up call that he couldn’t go on like he was.”

3 » In a question-and-answer session with The Gainesville Sun, former Florida cornerback Joe Haden said he felt the pressure of running an improved 40-yard dash at Pro Day last week. Asked how important 40 times actually were, Haden agreed that they were overrated. “They don’t really measure how you run on the field during a game,” he said. “You may be running with someone who runs a 4.2, and you might not be able to run a 4.2, but if you can run with him and cover him, you’re OK. But it’s part of the process and I respect that.” Haden also admitted that he did not do much to help Meyer’s heart issues, playing an April Fool’s joke on him last season when he and former Gators safety Major Wright told their coach they planned to transfer.

4 » One of the biggest disappointments of the 2009 Florida football season was the lack of development of now-redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Though he failed to make much of an impact throughout the season, Thompson is confident he can turn it on in 2010 with new quarterback John Brantley. “I feel I had a good Sugar Bowl,” Thompson told the Sun. “I know now I’ve got to come out hard every day because I pretty much should be the No. 1 guy.”

Photo Credit: Willie J. Allen, Jr./St. Petersburg Times

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Notes and quotes from the start of spring practice

With the Florida Gators beginning spring practice for the 2010 season on Wednesday, there is plenty of newsworthy information around the program. Rather than publishing it all in long form, OGGOA thought it would be best to lay it out piece-by-piece.

Blink your eyes and check out over 1,000 words and two videos on Florida Gators football after the jump!
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SIX BITS: Tebow, Spikes, Wright, Boynton, Billy D

1 » With former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow changing his throwing motion, heading off to autograph signings, speaking at engagements and being filmed at all times for a documentary about his trip to the NFL, the question was bound to come up some time: Is he spreading himself too thin? “The circus that followed Tebow around at the Senior Bowl traveled with him to Tennessee as he prepares for pre-draft workouts,” DraftInsider.net is reporting. “It seems Tebow’s workouts have been interrupted daily for marketing meetings and appearances. One source told us Tebow has had to schedule his workouts around the plans of his marketing people.”

Five more BITS on Brandon Spikes, Major Wright, John Brantley, Kenny Boynton and Billy Donovan…after the break!
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Grading the Florida vs. Cincinnati game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive grades the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the final game of their season, the 2010 Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

QUARTERBACKS: A+
When the best player in school history plays the best game of his career in the final game of his career, it is tough not to give him an “A+” grade. And that is exactly what senior quarterback Tim Tebow has earned – not just for his outstanding performance Friday evening but for his career in the Orange and Blue. Pick your poison: was it the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award he was given before the game, the Sugar Bowl record 12 consecutive completions, the career-long 80-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Riley Cooper, the Sugar Bowl and BCS bowl game record 533 yards of total offense, the Sugar Bowl/BCS record 482 passing yards, the 31 completions which set a new Sugar Bowl record, the Sugar Bowl high four touchdowns or the 88.6 completion percentage that set a BCS record? The answer, of course, is “all of the above.”

RUNNING BACKS: A-
Tebow was once again the leading ball carrier for the Gators with 14 touches for 51 yards and a touchdown, but both redshirt junior Emmanuel Moody and redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey came up big throughout the game. Moody rushed eight times for only 14 yards but scored two touchdowns on the ground (he also had four receptions for 19 yards) while Rainey caught four passes for 71 yards and ran four times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Mike Gillislee cleaned up at the end of the fourth quarter and took a ball 52 yards for a final line of five carries for 78 yards. Sophomore Jeff Demps, the true starter, left the game after he dislocated his elbow on his third rush of the game. Though the attempts and yards were not there, three rushing touchdowns brought this unit up a half-grade.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Sugar Bowl after the jump…
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