Florida practice opens early; Ronnie Wilson returns
Florida's early morning kickoff to fall practice, actually began even earlier than expected as the Gators opened fall camp just after 5:30 a.m. Monday.
Among the highlights was the return of Florida defensive lineman Ronnie Wilson, who was among the mostly-freshman players participating in the drills. Wilson has been allowed back on the team as a walk-on after he was dismissed last season following charges of battery and discharging a firearm in the spring of 2007.
Wilson received deferred prosecution, and was placed on probation as part of the agreement. He also had a marijuana possession charge in January that was eventually dropped.
While in Tampa this past May, Florida coach Urban Meyer said there was a chance that Wilson could return to the team. He had not been allowed to work out with the team during the past year, and attending school in the spring and summer - paying his own way.
Wilson was among the nation's top recruits out of high school, but broke his ankle during the 2006 preseason, and then came his legal problems.
Meyer said following Monday evening's practice that Wilson is not officially back with the team, and is still being evaluated. But he will practice with the team while that evaluation is ongoing.
"In his attempt to rejoin the team, Ron has passed 20 hours since January 2008 (and is on schedule to add six more from Summer B) while not on scholarship,'' Meyer said. "He is on track to graduate in May 2009 and if he follows University and team guidelines, he will have the opportunity to achieve this goal.''
Meyer reiterated he has always been a coach who believes in second chances if a player proves he's determined to turn things around.
In a statement, Wilson apologized for his past behavior.
"I'm sorry that I caused so much embarrassment for my family, the school and the football program,'' he said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity to be out here. It was very difficult being away from the school and the football team that I care so much about. I'm blessed to have this chance.''
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM MONDAY'S PRACTICE
- Freshman DB Adrian Bushell was at practice, but did not dress and participate in drills.
- WR T.J. Lawrence was working out at safety.
- Returning players Brandon Hicks, and John Brown worked out among the rookies.
- Former Armwood standout Matt Patchan was going full speed, obviously fully recovered from his spring gunshot wound. New UF coach Dan McCarney had to tell Patchan at one point to "be smart'' during early drills, because he was going so hard.
- WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. had several big-time receptions, including a finger-tip grab while diving to keep his toes inbounds.
- DT Omar Hunter is listed as 6-foot, 315 pounds. He looks MUCH bigger.
- T.J. Pridemore showed his strength by manhandling Ronnie Wilson during several drills.
- The players ended the morning session by singing the Gators' fight song. It's mandatory they learn it because it's part of the postgame ritual the players participate in during the season.
FUNNIEST LINE OF THE DAY: Former Michigan secondary coach Vance Bedford was a little surprised by the number of people who showed up for Monday morning's practice (Michigan practices are generally closed). Actually, by Florida standards it wasn't a large crowd at all, but that didn't stop Bedford from saying this as he left the practice field: "It's good to see you all out here. You got no life, but you love football. And we love you.''