Monday, August 18, 2008

Gators May Have Another Single-Wing Back

Notebook: Rains don't deter Gators from making progress

By Edward Aschoff
Special to The Sun

Published: Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 2:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 2:59 p.m.
The rains came Thursday, but it didn’t deter UF coach Urban Meyer or his team from getting a lot accomplished at Thursday morning’s practice.

“The negative about this weather, it’s just a pain in the rear end,” Meyer said Thursday. “The positive is we’re getting a lot of throwing and catching and kicking the ball in this weather. We hit two 47s (47-yard field goals) at the end of practice in this weather, so it’s a good sign.”

The last few practices have been interrupted by bad weather, but it has yet to sour the mood of UF’s head coach. He was pleased yet again with the way his team performed and said it seems like every position is beginning to show real signs of improvement each day.

“You can tell from my demeanor right now that we had a heck of a practice,” Meyer said. “That was good stuff today. ... I heard that thunder and said, ‘Here we go again,’ and we jumped right into full-contact team scrimmage situation, third downs and we had two sets scripted and we went six sets and then we went to our two-minute drill.

"Our guys reacted and that’s a good sign. There was not complaining or whining. The defensive ends were getting good pressure.”

With the team only a couple weeks away from the opener against Hawaii, Meyer said he expects to hold the last scrimmage Tuesday, which will center on the Hawaii game plan.

Newton running well

Sophomore quarterback Cameron Newton hasn’t been named second-string quarterback yet, but he could play a huge role in the offense this season.

With Meyer wanting to see Tebow throw more and carry less, he said there’s a chance that Newton could see a lot of action this season as the single-wing back instead of Tebow at times.

“I’ll tell you the one thing Cameron’s doing is running the football really well,” Meyer said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do that (in games). I think he gives us that element because I think he’s a very functional runner and he’s very tight with the ball right now.”

The idea is to use Newton in running situations as opposed to Tebow to limit the number of hits Tebow takes during games.

Kicking battle

One of the forgotten battles at UF’s camp is the battle for No. 1 place-kicker.

Freshman Caleb Sturgis came in the favorite, but senior Jonathan Phillips isn’t making it easy.

“We got a good battle,” Meyer said. “Jonathan Phillips is not giving that thing up. He got accepted to Miami Law School and we had a long discussion and he came back because he wanted a chance to kick at Florida. He’s not done a darn thing yet, but his whole approach to the game has been very impressive.”

Sturgis’ accuracy has been an issue since arriving this spring, but he turned things up during UF’s spring game when he knocked one through from 60 yards – setting a spring-game record.

“I made a comment that when his foot hits the ball it sounds different from most other kickers,” Meyer said of Sturgis. “He hits bombs, but he’s also go to split the uprights with them. There’s a great battle going on over there.”

Meyer excited about special teams

UF ranked seventh nationally and first in the Southeastern Conference in punt returns last season with an average of 15.08 yards per return with two touchdowns and Meyer hopes to increase those numbers.

To do so, Meyer is looking to find more weapons to put on the field.

“We’re really going to work hard on that,” Meyer said. “The good thing is Brandon James is dynamic and there’s a couple guys right behind him. Joe Haden, I watch him catch those punts and he’s going to be a punt returner. We got Joe Haden, we got (Chris) Rainey, (Louis) Murphy’s back there catching punts. We’ve got some guys. I remember my first year we had Vernell (Brown) and me. It wasn’t a good deal.”

Running backs to catch more

Running backs coach Kenny Carter said Thursday that he’s hoping to get more production out of his running backs in the passing game by using more dump off passes if the rest of the field doesn’t open up.

“If it’s not down the field, then you get available underneath,” Carter said. “And if they’re putting their man-to-man against you and they’re trying to match you up then you create separation and you go and you get open. We’re (an) offense that’s based on matchups.”

Meyer said the dump offs make up the “best” part of UF’s passing game. All that he asks is that his runners make some guys miss once they get the ball.

“Our running backs are very productive right now,” he said. “Having a productive running back that can catch the ball and run a route (helps the offense). The reason you haven’t see them in there is because they weren’t productive and they didn’t do their stuff the right way. Our guys are doing a good job with them.”

Two tight ends still possible

Even with the loss of Cornelius Ingram (ACL) for the season UF will still look to fifth-year senior Tate Casey and sophomore Aaron Hernandez to be productive on the field together.

“It’s still there,” tight ends coach John Hevesy said of still using a two tight end set. “The things you get with Tate being that second tight end compared to a CI, you’re dealing with a little bit of a speed difference. In terms of blocking and everything else and assignments, everything’s still there.”


Meyer said junior receiver Percy Harvin didn’t participate in contact drills, but did do some conditioning during practice. He is still unsure of his return. … Freshmen defensive linemen Omar Hunter (back) and Matt Patchan (peck) were held out of team drills again, but did work out individually and Meyer said they are starting to look healthier. … Redshirt senior offensive lineman Jim Tartt (shoulder) went through individual drills and Meyer expects him back healthy in a week. … Redshirt senior offensive lineman Phil Trautwein (shoulder) was limited because Meyer and his staff are being extra cautious, but Meyer said his injury is minor.
The Gainesville Sun

No comments: