UF looking for playmakers
Published: Sunday, March 29, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 11:36 p.m.
Saturday's spring playmakers were some of the same who made the plays late last fall for the Florida Gators.
Tim Tebow. David Nelson. Aaron Hernandez. Lawrence Marsh. Brandon Spikes. Ahmad Black. Joe Haden.
That's good, in a way. Not so good in another way.
The Florida coaches are looking for some new playmakers this spring to complement the holdovers, and they're giving their talented young players the opportunity to emerge. Thus far, none have.
The result was Saturday's scrimmage looked like something straight out of 2008, instead of something new and different.
"I wasn't pleased," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "There are a couple of positions where we're going to have to put out an APB.
"One of the things our staff does better than anybody is they put (the players) in competitive situations as much as they can. The guys who made the plays today were some who made them in the SEC Championship Game and the national championship game last season.
"What we're trying to do is find the guys who have not made the plays. I was a little disappointed today in some spots."
Meyer said the biggest areas of concern at the moment are the offensive line, wide receiver and fullback.
"Those are the weak points in our offense," Meyer said. "The offensive line is weak. (Tackle) Matt Patchan has got to get back (from a knee injury). (Guard) James Wilson has got to be a player. It's year three coming up. He had a decent day today.
"The tackle positions, with Carl Johnson, Matt Patchan and Marcus Gilbert, however we do that, that's not the strength right now."
The Gators also haven't yet found an answer to the question of who will replace big-time playmaker Percy Harvin in the offense. At this early stage, the only receivers consistently making plays are Hernandez and Nelson.
The answer may be a guy who wasn't there Saturday, or maybe a kid who attended the past two practices - signee Andre Debose, the speedy and elusive wide receiver from Sanford Seminole.
"It might be (sophomore tailback) Jeff Demps (who is running track on the weekends)," Meyer said. "Maybe it's Debose or (sophomore tailback) Chris Rainey.
"We're not going to give up that position. You just don't replace Percy. The people I talked to who tried to defend us (last season) said the two issues they had were Hernandez andHarvin. Not just that they're great players, but they're matchup nightmares."
The Gators also have to replace Louis Murphy in the receiving game.
"The wide receiver position isn't where it needs to be," Meyer said.
The shakiest position on the field right now appears to be fullback, where sophomores Steven Wilks and T.J. Pridmore and senior walk-on Rick Burgess are struggling to carry out blocking assignments. The blocking role of the position was capably handled last year by senior tight end Tate Casey, and Hernandez on occasion.
"That fullback position right now (is a weak point)," Meyer said. "Those three (Wilks, Pridemore and Burgess) are the ones we're trying to I.D. right now. (True freshman tight end) Desmond Parks is going to have to play. Tate Casey had a purpose last year and really helped us."
While there are concerns on offense, the defense, with all 11 starters and most of the backups returning, seems to be operating at its usual high level early in the spring.
The defense won Saturday's scrimmage, Meyer said.
The defense was very tough in the goal-line phase, coming up with three interceptions, one each by Black, Will Hill and redshirt freshman cornerback Adrian Bushell.
Tebow and No. 2 quarterback John Brantley did get the offense in the end zone four times. Tebow threw two TD passes to Hernandez and Brantley hooked up twice with Parks. For the most part, it was a defensive day on the practice field.
"It usually is this early (in the spring)," Meyer said.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article