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Florida Gators spring football preview

Practice | Begins today, and all are open to the public. Fans are not permitted to bring cameras.

Spring game | 1 p.m., April 18, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville

Scheduled practice dates

Today (3:25 p.m.), Friday (3:25), Saturday (10:10), Monday (3:45), April 1 (3:25), 3 (3:25), 4 (10:10), 6 (3:45), 8 (3:25), 10 (2:45), 11 (10:10), 13 (3:45), 15 (3:25) and 17 (3:25).

MISSING, NO ACTION

Eight players will miss spring practice because of injuries, including junior starting OL Mike Pouncey (left shoulder).

The others:

DT Brandon Antwine (right knee)

LB Brandon Hicks (right shoulder)

LB Chris Pintado (right shoulder)

WR Omarius Hines (thighs)

KR/RB Brandon James (right foot)

DB Joey Sorrentino (left knee)

S Cody Worton (left wrist/left knee)

WANTED: OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

With the loss of OL Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins, look for a shakeup of the line as there is competition to start at left guard and both tackle positions. Tampa's Matt Patchan, who came to Florida as a touted OL but moved to DT to help fill a void last season, is moving back to the offensive line. Also in the running are Maurice Hurt, James Wilson, Sam Robey, David Young, Corey Hobbs and Marcus Gilbert.

READY THE RECEIVERS

QB Tim Tebow is back, and he needs some fresh go-to guys. Even with the loss of WR/RB Percy Harvin and WR Louis Murphy, 59 percent of the receiving offense returns. Senior Riley Cooper has shown playmaking ability and may get his chance at the spotlight, and David Nelson came on strong at the end of the season. The player with the greatest unfulfilled expectations? Redshirt sophomore Deonte Thompson. He had 269 receiving yards last season, but coach Urban Meyer believes he's capable of so much more.

IN SEARCH OF …

The real Emmanuel Moody. The transfer from USC arrived two years ago (and sat out a season) amid a ton of hype, and though he rushed for 417 yards last season, he was upstaged by two freshmen. No one has denied Moody has talent, but this spring practice is critical for him to show he's the go-to, hard-driving rusher the coaches believe he can be.

TEBOW'S NEW DIRECTION

As hard as it may be for Florida fans to comprehend, this is Tebow's final season. And with the departure of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen, the million-dollar question was who would take over the tutelage of the national-championship winning senior quarterback? Meyer chose former Michigan and most recently Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler. Meyer's message to Loeffler: "Just don't screw him up," Loeffler said, joking. Loeffler began recruiting Tebow as a sophomore in high school. The consensus is that Loeffler's NFL experience will help him fine-tune Tebow's mechanics and get him ready for the next level. Tebow acknowledges that the Loeffler hire factored into his return, though both downplay the notion. Tebow ranks in the top five returning quarterbacks in eight categories, including passer rating, touchdown percentage and rushing touchdowns. Today will mark the first day the two will work together on the field, and Loeffler has found it difficult to hide his excitement over the man he calls "the best college football player in America, without a doubt."

"It's an honor," he said of coaching Tebow.

Antonya English, Times staff writer

Florida Gators spring football preview 03/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 1:06am]

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