Meyer warns his backs


Published: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Florida coach Urban Meyer issued a warning - and a promise - to his inconsistent tailbacks at his pre-spring news conference Tuesday.
Elevate your game or the position will not even exist in the offense in 2006.
"That may be the most disappointing position on our team," Meyer said. "Florida has a nice tradition of running backs and we're not fulfilling our obligation of upholding it. We're very poor at the tailback position. I don't know how else to tell you.
"I've been around football for 21 years and we've always had a back we could count on. We didn't have one (last season). We're starting from scratch (this spring). I'm getting very upset thinking about that position. It's not what's expected. If it continues, we'll play without a tailback. I'm not going to sit and watch that trash I watched last year."
The Gators failed to find a go-to tailback last season. As a result, Kestahn Moore, DeShawn Wynn and Markus Manson shared the position and the overall play was inconsistent.
Meyer said Moore will open the spring as the No. 1 tailback, but the position is wide open.
When asked if he would actually play without a tailback, Meyer said, "Absolutely. We have a freshman quarterback who weighs 230. We might hand it to him."
One big, strong QB
The 230-pound freshman quarterback Meyer was talking about, of course, is Tim Tebow, the highly rated prospect who is enrolled in classes and will be the No. 2 quarterback this spring.
Meyer said Tebow has been lifting weights with the linebackers and defensive tackles and recently bulked up to 242 pounds.
"He's earned a lot of respect with his work ethic and toughness," Meyer said. "We're trying to keep a ceiling on him. If he looks at a turkey sandwich he gains seven pounds. We've got to watch what we do with him.
"He likes to lift weights with the linebackers and defensive tackles. That's kind of neat for a while. Then after you see him up to 242 pounds you tell him to back off. We're trying to keep him as close to 230 as we can. He's 229 now. So he tells me. He's doing great, though."
Tebow recently bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times. That's only five reps fewer than 300-pound center Mike Degory did for the NFL scouts last week.
Meyer said Tebow definitely will see playing time in the fall.
"Tim Tebow will play. However, Chris Leak is the quarterback," Meyer said. "Tim Tebow is going to play, not because he's Tim Tebow, but because you have to have your backup ready to play. Playing time for him will be earned."
No contact for Caldwell
Wide receiver Andre Caldwell, who broke his lower leg in last season's Tennessee game, will practice this spring but will not participate in any contact work.
"He's doing very well," Meyer said. "He will not be a full contact guy. He's not quite at full strength in the leg."
Meyer said freshman linebacker Jon Demps (knee surgery last season) could see some contact this spring.
Starting defensive end Ray McDonald (ACL surgery on both knees) is doing well in rehab and should be back to full speed by June, Meyer said.
Meyer said Reggie Nelson (sprained knee) is full-go for the spring.
Baker, Latsko captains
Although the players will not vote on team captains for next season until later in the spring, Meyer said wide receiver Dallas Baker and fullback Billy Latsko are guaranteed two of the spots.
"Dallas Baker will be a captain," Meyer said. "His work ethic and leadership have come a long way. Last year Dallas could tell a good joke, but he wasn't good at much else, including academics. I'm so proud of that guy. I love Dallas Baker. He comes from a great family.
"Billy Latsko will be a captain as well. (Linebacker) Brandon Siler is a great leader as well and (wide receiver) Jemalle Cornelius is really coming on."
This and that
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was in Gainesville on Tuesday, spending time with Meyer and the UF coaching staff and working out the UF players in the NFL Draft. ... Meyer said senior scholarship players MacKenzie Pierre and Todd Bunce are graduating and are no longer on the team. ... Meyer said junior Drew Miller has had a strong offseason and will work at guard and tackle this spring. ... Redshirt freshman Ronnie Wilson will open the spring as a starter at offensive guard, Meyer said. "He's earn the starting spot as of now with his work ethic and ability level. He's an athletic guy," Meyer said.
Robbie Andreu can be reached at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com

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