Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida

Gators add glitz to spring football game

GAINESVILLE — There was a time when Urban Meyer wasn't all that fond of spring games. In fact, he didn't quite understand why the fans were so interested in a glorified practice.

"My first time in the Swamp, we had that huge crowd (58,500), and I remember thinking, 'What are you people doing?' " he said. " 'Go play golf or something.' "

Three years later, things have changed, and so has Meyer's thinking. Which is why he's pulling out all the stops today for Florida's annual Orange and Blue game.

"It's kind of a fan appreciation day, to get them out there," Meyer said. "It's going to be much more than just a game."

For starters, ESPN's College GameDay crew will broadcast live from a spring game for the first time. There will be pregame autograph sessions, a yard sale and opportunities for fans to get photos with the 2007 Heisman Trophy and 2006 national championship trophy.

And there's the fastest Gator on campus competition, which pits finalists who qualified this spring against receivers Louis Murphy and Deonte Thompson and running back Chris Rainey in a 40-yard dash.

And yes, there will actually be a scrimmage, too. But don't expect to see some of the Gators' best players in action for long. Murphy, quarterback Tim Tebow, linebacker Brandon Spikes, running back Kestahn Moore and offensive lineman Jim Tartt will play sparingly.

The future, however, will be on display quite a bit, including the two quarterbacks battling to back up Tebow — Cameron Newton and John Brantley.

"I want to see how they handle the crowd," Meyer said. "I know how Tebow handles the crowds. Now I want to see how the other two handle it."

What you might see is a much-improved defense. That unit was of greatest concern entering the spring.

But first-year cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford said several returning players have made "dramatic improvements." And incoming freshman cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Jeremy Brown have made an early impact, Bedford said.

"We have a lot of competition, and those two young freshmen are making the guys that are here better," he said. "We started off a little bit slow, a little bit raggedy. But as we've gone through spring practice, they know what the expectations are now. So I'm pleased right now with their performance. The way we've practiced this spring, I think they've matured quite a bit."

Meyer said he's hoping for a huge crowd today to give his young players an opportunity to play in the kind of atmosphere they'll be asked to perform in about four months from now. That's all that's left to accomplish this spring, he said.

"One thing we want at Florida is for the players to see how they react in front of a big crowd," Meyer said. "Otherwise, we've had 13 excellent days (of practice). The spring game is for players who haven't done a whole lot, but I don't want to disappoint the fans and people watching on ESPN.

"So that's why we wanted to do something more than just a lousy football game."

Antonya English can be reached

at english@sptimes.com.

Gators add glitz to spring football game 04/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 14, 2008 1:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays vs. Rangers, 1:10 p.m. Sunday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Today: vs. Rangers

    1:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Florida; 620-AM, 760-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Pitcher Jake Odorizzi #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait at Charlotte Sports Park during photo day on February 26, 2014 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  2. Gators pick up commitment from 5-star QB Matt Corral

    Blogs

    Florida has picked up a major commitment toward its 2018 recruiting class, getting a pledge Saturday night from quarterback Matt Corral, rated a five-star recruit by Rivals and Scout.

  3. Warren Sapp has firsthand advice as Bucs try to toughen up

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was a molten morning, surface of Mercury, on the football field at Skyway Park, near Tampa International Airport. Bucs Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp was working with some Bucs defensive linemen. HBO Hard Knocks crews followed them. Training camp was a week away. Sapp pointed to Bucs …

    Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp made it clear as a rookie that he wasn’t backing down from anyone, mixing it up with the Dolphins during summer scrimmages. [Times file]
  4. Rays Tales: With Rays surprising buyers, a look back at previous deadline deals

    The Heater

    The buildup to this July 31 trading deadline is different for the Rays, for the rudimentary reason that they are working — feverishly, from what we hear — to add on to a team they feel has a legitimate chance to make a playoff run.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) throws a strike to open up the first inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 25, 2014.
  5. Former Rays/current Cubs manager Joe Maddon featured on NBC Sunday news show

    Blogs

    Former Rays and current Cubs manager Joe Maddon will be featured on this week's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" show at 7 p.m. on NBC, the Harry Smith interview covering not just Maddon's on-field accomplishments but his extensive efforts to help his hometown of Hazleton, Pa.

    "Here's what's so …

    Joe Maddon talking with NBC News' Harry Smith.