Your Gator questions answered
Florida ’s 2008 season kicks off on Saturday, and since I haven’t seen the team practice in two weeks, I’m as eager to see them play as you fans are. Actually, I just want to know if the coaches have been honest with us all this time. What I can tell you is that there seems to be a sense of unity among this group that wasn’t evident last season. Ask a guy about himself, and he immediately starts talking about “the team.’’ As for Tim Tebow (pictured above), carrying the title of Heisman Trophy winner doesn’t seem to have affected him. He remains as genuine as he was last year this time when he hadn’t started one game.
Here are, hopefully, some decent answers to questions you’ve asked.
Q: How is our tight end situation coming along? -- Glenn Savell
A: Urban Meyer is absolutely in love with sophomore Aaron Hernandez, which is probably all you need to know. With the loss of Cornelius Ingram ( ACL ) a lot more will be required of Hernandez, who had nine receptions for 151 yards last season. Problem is, the coaching staff had plans to use the two-tight end offense, which they believed would create some unbelievable mismatches. So the reality is while the staff insists it hasn’t bagged the plan, Meyer is the master of mismatches and this isn’t much of a mismatch anymore. No offense to fifth-year senior Tate Casey, but he’s just not nearly as athletic at Cornelius Ingram who was big, strong and had good speed. Casey has gained weight and strength, but he isn’t Ingram.
Q: I would like to know what the status of the defense is. They were horrible last year, especially the secondary. Who will start on the defensive line, and how is the secondary progressing? -- Mike
A: There’s no way of telling the true status of this defense until they actually play somebody. It’s no secret how bad Florida’s secondary was last season, but according to the coaches, the addition of assistant coach Vance Bedford has made Wondy Pierre-Louis (left), Joe Haden and Ahmad Black remarkably better than they were last year. What that actually means remains to be seen. Here’s Meyer’s take: “Coach Bedford has done a good job and I like what he’s doing, but there will be challenges in the first game coming up.’’
As far as the defensive line: Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham will start at end, Lawrence Marsh at nose, Terron Sanders at DT. However, expect to see a lot of Tampa ’s own Matt Patchan at tackle as well. After just three full days of contact in practice, the coaches, particularly Dan McCarney, are raving about Patchan. McCarney said Wednesday afternoon he is hoping to rotate between seven and nine players, to keep the line fresh. And he believes he has the players to successfully do that.
Q: Love the blog, and read it daily. What is your impression with each of the back-up QBs? -- Steve in Lutz
A: This is a tough question for me to answer because the media has been locked out of practice since the end of the first week of camp. Heading into this week, offensive coordinator Dan Mullen was saying the race was too close to call between Cameron Newton and John Brantley, but obviously Brantley’s injury (staph infection) will set him back, yet again. I can tell you that Meyer likes them both –- a lot. Whatever that’s worth.
Q: Do we have a good backup QB for when Tebow gets T-boned? -- Doug
A: I guess it depends on how you define “good.’’ With John Brantley’s injury, Cam Newton is Tebow’s backup for now. He is 5-of-10 for 40 yards and no touchdowns in one season.
Q: What's the deal with Percy Harvin (right)? Could there be a potential problem with his heel injury that could affect the entire season? Gator Nation is worried!!! -- Matt
A: This was the surgery: Doctors went in and shaved some of the bone off of Harvin's heel. It's not your typical surgery, so there's no set timetable for how long it will take to recover. Obviously by now, the doctors and coaching staff had expected him to be ready to play, but he hasn't been able to sustain long periods of practice without pain. On Wednesday, Meyer said this: "Is there a concern, yes? With the people who know what they're talking about? No. I have to make a decision. Players play here when they are ready to go.''
My personal opinion is that everybody should relax until the Tennessee game. They'll take it easy on him the first two games because I think they believe they can win without him. The SEC is where they need Harvin most. If the Percy Harvin from 2007 does not walk on the field in Knoxville, then the Gators will have problems for 2008.
Q: I'm in S.C. and want to know if the game Sat. the 30 is going to be on TV. Don't get much info on Gators up here. thanks.
A: The Florida-Hawaii game will be televised regionally by Raycom Sports. I’m not sure where you are in South Carolina , but according to the SEC website, the game can be see n on: WHNS in Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C., WIS in Columbia , WMMP in Charleston and WWMB in Myrtle Beach/Florence.
Q: What is Florida wearing Saturday? White on white?
A: Florida officials said the Gators are not wearing white on white, but declined to say what they will wear. Odds are, they’ll probably be wearing white jerseys, but that’s part of negotiations between Florida and Hawaii , which has to agree to wear the dark jerseys if the Gators wear white.
-- Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
(Times photos -- Brian Cassella.)