TAMPA — USF QB Matt Grothe remained a spectator at Wednesday's practice but without a protective boot on his injured left ankle, a small step toward playing in Sunday's final home game against Connecticut.
Coach Jim Leavitt acknowledged that these few practices are crucial to preparing senior Grant Gregory in case Grothe is out.
"I think (Grothe) will be fine," Leavitt said. "… Grant hasn't played much. So if he has to play, we want to give him a lot of reps."
Gregory has attempted only 15 passes this season with an interception and fumble. Asked if he's confident in Gregory's ability to handle the offense in a crucial game, Leavitt was blunt: "He's going to have to. I thought he did a good job last game, moved the offense down."
Grothe twisted his ankle in the fourth quarter Saturday vs. Rutgers and had the boot on Tuesday, but he said he's confident he can play Sunday.
RBs Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor, who barely played in the last two losses because of ankle injuries, both looked ready to play in practice. Both ran pass routes and carried the ball at full speed. Tackles Jake Sims (ankle) and Danous Estenor (knee), recovering from injuries, did not participate in practice.
UF: Assistants' names get bandied about
GAINESVILLE — The effect of having a successful season is nationwide attention. Eventually, it often turns to assistant coaches and rumors about open positions elsewhere. Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong have been mentioned as jobs open up.
Mullen said he wouldn't even consider talking to another team until after the No. 3 Gators play in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 6, still it's okay that his name is out there. "I'll say as long as it was in a positive manner; that's a good thing instead of a negative manner," he said.
This isn't the first time Strong's name has come up. "I have a great job here, and I don't even listen to it anymore," he said.
Coach Urban Meyer said: "The great thing is you don't leave Florida unless it's going to another spot as a head coach or maybe the NFL for a ridiculous amount of money. If it's a chance to better your family, I'm in favor of bettering your family."
NOTABLE: QB Tim Tebow is one of five finalists for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup awarded annually to a collegiate and professional athlete who has made the greatest positive influence in the lives of others. Winners are announced Jan. 14. … LB Brandon Spikes is a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy given to the best defensive player in the nation. The others: TCU DE Jerry Hughes, USC LB Rey Maualuga, Texas DE Brian Orakpo and Wake Forest CB Alphonso Smith. The winner will be announced Dec. 7.
FSU: Spirits rising
TALLAHASSEE — FSU's defensive players are practicing playing with emotion. Loud cheers could be heard outside the gates of Tuesday's and Wednesday's closed practices, as the Seminoles tried to regain enthusiasm.
Players and coaches agreed the team seemed flat during a 27-17 loss to Boston College.
"Nobody was really showing enthusiasm," S Jamie Robinson said. "… So we're coming out this week trying to turn it around."
Times correspondents Phil Kegler and Ira Schoffel contributed to this report.