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April 9, 2008

Meyer talks about weekend spring game

Saturday's festivities will entail a lot more than just the Orange and Blue Game as Florida has planned a bunch of fan-friendly activities throughout the day. There will be a photo opportunity with the national championship trophy and Heisman Trophy.

A player autograph session is planned. ESPN College GameDay will broadcast from the northeast corner of Florida Field.

Students will be able to participate in a flag football game. The student skills contest and the Fastest Gator on Campus race is scheduled prior to the spring game kickoff at 1:07 p.m.

Saturday is for the fans. But coach Urban Meyer won't let a recruiting opportunity like this pass by either so it's also for the prospects expected to be in attendance and those watching the live coverage on national television.

"I want to see our recruits across the country watch and say, 'Man, I want to be a part of that,'" Meyer said after Wednesday's practice.

The attendance at the Orange and Blue Game surprised Meyer during his first year at Florida.

Spring game football wasn't as big a deal at Utah and Bowling Green but Meyer said he grasped just how big spring games could be when he was a graduate assistant at Ohio State in the mid-1980s.

"When I was at Ohio State they gave away tickets to 50 or 60,000," he said. "It was the first time anybody heard of that. That was in 1986. My first time in The Swamp when we had that huge crowd I was kind of like, 'What are you people doing? Go play golf or something.'"

A bunch of players might not be in Saturday's game. Wide receiver Percy Harvin had heel surgery Monday night and will be out. Offensive linemen Phil Trautwein and Jim Tartt aren't expected to play. Wide receiver Louis Murphy and linebacker Brandon Spikes will be limited.

Tight end Cornelius Ingram, who sprained his ankle earlier this week and used crutches Wednesday, isn't expected to participate. Wide receiver Carl Moore also has a sprained ankle. He wore a boot to Wednesday's practice.

"I don't want Maurkice Pouncey in there but he's going to have to play," Meyer said. "Brandon Spikes, how much more does he need right now?"

There will be plenty to watch, though. All the cornerbacks will see action as the battle at that position continues. Kestahn Moore won't play a lot but the other running backs will compete.

Quarterback Tim Tebow will play but Meyer said he'll be standing behind Tebow with a whistle to make sure no one hits him. The backup battle between John Brantley and Cameron Newton should be of note.

Meyer said he wants to see how the unproven players perform in front of thousands of fans. He wants to watch the kickers as well so there will be a lot to watch. But there is no denying that Meyer is not a big fan of spring games.

"The one thing we get at Florida is an opportunity to see how players react in front of big crowds," Meyer said. "Other than that, we've had 13 excellent days. I'm so cautious. Spring games are for players who haven't done a whole lot.

"I don't want to disappoint the fans and now all of a sudden there are millions of fans watching on ESPN so that's kind of why we tried to do the Fastest Man (race) and do something more than just a lousy football game."

After 13 practices, Meyer said he is fairly positive about what the Gators accomplished in spring ball. Whether players denied it, Meyer said team chemistry was not up to par in 2007 but he sees it getting better this season.

"We're better but we're not where we need to be," he said. "You can't win a championship without great chemistry. Last year was awful chemistry on our football team. I'm surprised it went as well as it did at times when I think of the things we witnessed and did as a team. It (was) not good football compared to where it was a year before."

Recruiting Note: Rivals 250 members Demonte McAllister and Rodney Scott were at Wednesday's practice. So was 6-foot-5, 298-pound offensive tackle Kellen Williams from Snellville (Ga.) Brookwood. Williams lists offers from UAB, Arkansas, NC State, Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and UCF.

McAllister is a four-star defensive tackle from Tampa Alonso who has at least 10 offers. Rivals.com rates him as the No. 128 prospect nationally after recording 10 sacks in his junior season.

Scott, a four-star running back from Cross City Dixie County, is No. 203 on the Rivals 250 list. He finished with 2,017 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 250 carries last season and had 11 receptions for 151 yards and two scores.





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