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March 23, 2007

Spring Practice: Friday Quick Hits

The Overview

The second day of practice of course meant the second day without pads as the Gators came out in helmets and shorts once again. On Saturday they'll go to shells (helmets and shoulder pads) before going to full pads on Monday.

The biggest news of the day, first reported in the Alley during our live practice reports, was seeing backup quarterback candidate Bryan Waggener enter the practice field on crutches.

The junior college transfer suffered a broken left foot on Wednesday, sidelining him for the remainder of spring ball.

There weren't many changes to the starting units on either side of the ball except for the fact that Javier Estopinan was rotating in and out with Brandon Antwine today at nose guard with the 1st team defense.

When the Gators went to a nickel defense, Dorian Munroe was the fifth defensive back.

Expanding Role

In InsidetheGators.net's Spring Breakdown - one of the players chosen as a potential spring surprise just happened to be redshirt sophomore receiver David Nelson.

If Friday's practice is any indication, he may just fulfill that prophecy.

Nelson put together one of the better practices of his young career and was actually the go-to guy during 7-on-7 drills.

With the departure of play makers such as Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius, Nelson sees this as his time to shine.

"We've had some key parts of our offense leave and coach (Billy Gonzales) came to us and said he needs some guys to step up. This is my third year and it's time for me to step up and show I can make plays in this offense."

Now that he is playing a bigger role in Florida's spread option attack, he has had to change his approach somewhat. The last two years he was along for the ride, this year he realizes he has to bring his A game each and every day.

"Really the difference between last year and now is being prepared mentally every practice, every snap. Part of being a competitor is being ready when your number's called. I know that when the ball comes my way - I need to step up and make the catch if I want to continue to have the ball thrown my way. With the receivers we have, if you don't show that you're dependable, they'll (quarterbacks) will look someone else's way."

Nelson, already one of the taller receivers, said he targeted three areas for improvement during the off season.

"My quickness, my footwork and my strength are the three things I worked on. I definitely feel better running my routes and getting in and out of my breaks."

Switching Sides

On Wednesday, during the first day of spring practice, freshman offensive tackle Carl Johnson spent the session lining up on the right side of the line.

Friday, he switched to the other side.

"Coach wants me to be more versatile in case something happens or somebody goes down," was the explanation from Johnson as to the reason behind the move.

According to Johnson, not only does he not have a problem with the switch, he welcomes it. "I feel better on the left, that's where I was recruited to play. It felt a little awkward because I've been on the right side, but give me a few days and I'll get used to it."

Though it's still early, Johnson has been one of the better looking linemen. His appearance and play are night and day from last spring - when he was limited because he reported out of shape.

He credits his rise to second team status to a new found approach to the game.

"I'm more motivated," he said. "I have a little more fire. I want to play. I found out last year it's no fun to sit on the bench."

Thumbs Up

For the second day in a row sophomore linebacker Brandon Spikes had an interception. This one came off a throw from Cameron Newton to Paul Wilson. The ball arrived a little high, ricocheting off of Wilson into the waiting arms of Spikes.

Not only does Joe Haden continue to work extensively with the 1st team defense, he had a couple of nice plays on the day and looked as if he is becoming more comfortable at cornerback.

Much like Wednesday, Tim Tebow was on top of his game once again on Friday. The true sophomore quarterback not only looked great throwing the ball, but during 8-on-8 running drills, he faked a hand-off to the left, kept the ball himself and was out on the left edge with only a outmatched defensive end between himself and the goal line. It was no contest.

The play of the day was made by Andre Caldwell who made a spectacular catch down the left sideline - leaping up, tipping the ball to himself and catching it while on his back on the ground.

Thumbs Down

Nothing stood out as being overly negative today. Late in the practice Doc Holliday wasn't thrilled with Bryan Thomas on one play in particular, but that can be expected of a red shirt freshman.

The biggest thumbs down has to be the injury situation. Not only did Florida lose a backup quarterback candidate in Waggener, but as is stated below, Pierre-Louis was hobbled and Lawrence Marsh looked to be slowed down somewhat going from defensive drill station to drill station. He did however participate during practice.

This & That

Wondy Pierre-Louis spent most of the day in the Pit with some sort of brace on his right shin/ankle. … Former Gator and current Chicago Bear defensive end Alex Brown was out at practice as was his teammate, defensive tackle Ian Scott. … With the move of Carl Johnson to left tackle, that meant Jason Watkins switched to the right side. … Corey Hobbs continues to hold down the backup right guard spot. … Maurice Hurt was the 3rd team center today. … Kyle Jackson is still ahead of Dorian Munroe at free safety.

Much more impressions coming up in Mark Wheeler's daily practice blog - (Wednesday's Free Insider Blog)

InsidetheGators.net will have LIVE practice reports in the Alley as well as a post practice notebooks, a Meyer interview, News & Notes, photos, videos, other features and more.

If you haven't already, now would be the time to try out our 7 day free trial.


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