GAINESVILLE — Florida receiver Percy Harvin is still recovering from heel surgery he had in the spring, and his health remains an ongoing issue as the Gators prepare for their Aug. 30 season opener.
The junior has participated in limited practice drills all week, and is noncontact at this point. He has not talked with the media all week (UF policy doesn't allow players who don't practice to be interviewed), and he was a no-show at Florida's team media day Friday.
"Percy took a little bit of a step back, there's still some pain there," coach Urban Meyer said. "He had a great three weeks of progress, but these last few days have been so-so. It's a concern."
Receivers coach Billy Gonzales said Harvin is working hard to get back to full speed, but the staff won't take any chances rushing him back too soon.
"His ankle obviously is still an issue," Gonzales said. "Every morning he's getting up, he's rehabbing with his trainers, he's doing all of his conditioning inside the aqua runner inside the swimming pool. There will be days when he's feeling really good. There will be other days when he'll start to feel a little sore.
"It's healed extremely well, it's just how comfortable and how hard can you go? … Eventually we need to get him out there in practice, it's like anything else. But the thing is, he's been there before, he's done it."
HEART OF THE SEASON: The type of team Florida is going to be in 2008 will be determined over the next three weeks, Meyer said. That's how critical he believes preseason camp is.
The players checked into their hotels Friday and will begin the intense preparation, including multiple two-a-day practices, that Meyer and his staff believe will make or break the season.
"The next two weeks are really hard," Meyer said. "We have seven double sessions coming up, and the next two weeks are going to be the foundation. … We have 29 practices before the first game. These next two weeks are absolutely imperative to the development of the team."
OVERSHADOWED NO MORE: For years, St. Petersburg native Louis Murphy has been a stellar player for the Gators in the shadow of other big-name players. But that's about to change.
Meyer and several players, including quarterback Tim Tebow, said Murphy, who was third on the team with 37 catches for 547 yards last season, has always been a big-time player as far as they're concerned, but this season should be his biggest yet.
"You've got Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow, two of the finest players in college football, but Louis Murphy is going to be the go-to guy," Meyer said. "He's got to have a good year."
For his part, Murphy said he's just trying to make sure the Gators win.
FRIENDS/RIVALS: Cameron Newton and John Brantley are in an intense battled for the backup quarterback position, but it might surprise you to learn they are also good friends.
"Me and Cam are actually pretty close, we hang out and we get along with each other very well," Brantley said. "We both know we're battling for that second spot, but we're also friends. I want the spot really bad, but we've got a lot of respect for each other."
Brantley has been hampered by injuries — he missed the spring game with a broken hand — but said he's "coming along really well" with the offense.
HE SAID IT: "I think the hardest thing to do in college football is win an SEC Championship." Tebow, on how he's focused solely on winning the SEC, with the belief that if the Gators win it, the national championship game likely will be in reach.
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.