Gators ready for workouts


Florida quarterback Tim Tebow talks with coach Urban Meyer during 2009 Pro Scout Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on March 18.

Doug Finger/Staff Photographer
Published: Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 11:53 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE — Urban Meyer’s players are on vacation at the moment, resting and relaxing between semesters.

Their Summer from Hell begins next Monday, with the start of Summer A.

Meyer promised after the spring game that he was going to put the Gators through the toughest, most brutal offseason in the history of Florida football. Well, it’s only a few days away now.

“Everybody’s home right now,” Meyer said before addressing a Gator Gathering at the Morocco Shrine Center on Wednesday night. “They get back on May 11th, and we start. I’ve seen the program we’re going to do. The one thing that the NCAA changed years back, and it’s the right thing to do, is coaches are not allowed, so it’s all Mickey (Marotti). We have the best strength staff, and that’s easy to evaluate. Just look at what our guys have done.

“There’s ways of making it (tough). You don’t want to burn out and you don’t want injuries, so how do you make it that hard? There are creative ways and it’s mental training as much as anything.

“Everybody is going to bench press. Every school in the country is going to bench press a lot of weight in the summer. Every school in the country is going to run those 110-yard sprints across the field. How do you mentally make it so taxing that they don’t have time to worry about the Street & Smith, Athlon’s and all (the other preseason magazines).”

Meyer said his players are ready and eager to get started on the offseason conditioning grind. They want it to be tough, he said.

“This group would be very disappointed if it was anything else. Other groups? No, they just want to get through it. This group wants to. ... I love this group. A good group of guys.”

This is a veteran group, a group with all 11 defensive starters returning, a group that is led by super leaders Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes.

Meyer said complacency should not be a problem like it was with a much more immature UF team was coming off the 2006 national championship.

“Obviously, a much different scale,” Meyer said. “Utah’s 2004 team. ... first time preseason ranked and we finished the way we did (undefeated) with all those players coming back, and we took the same approach, so we’ve got a little bit of experience with that.

“The ‘06-’07, maybe the media or fans thought that was a good team coming back. That was not a good team coming back and we knew that as coaches. Wo, we’ve got a little experience. The ‘04 (Utah team), we made it real hard. You don’t give them time to breathe. You don’t give them time. That’s the only way to do it.”

The impending offseason conditioning program has been a hot topic on Meyer’s recent tour of Gator Gatherings. So has the subject of incoming freshman wide receiver Andre Debose, whom many are hoping can come in and give the offense some Percy Harvin-like playmaking.

Meyer said there has been no push to get Debose on campus early (Summer A) like UF did with defensive tackle Omar Hunter a year ago.

“No, I don’t think so,” Meyer said. “We kind of frown upon that at Florida. I love him. That’s a key name for this season. We didn’t have Demps and we didn’t have (Debose) in the spring. You take those two cats out of the offense. ... we were very mediocre on offense. That’s as important as those guys are.”

Meyer said Debose, sophomore tailback Jeff Demps and senior return specialist Brandon James will try to fill the Harvin role in the fall, while Chris Rainey will focus on playing tailback, along with senior Emmanuel Moody.

“That position that we created three years ago with Percy. ... we never had it at Utah and other places,” Meyer said. “From people I’ve talked to, that makes your offense that much more difficult to defend. A guy who can run routes and can also run the ball.

“I don’t think Rainey can handle it all. We’ll let him concentrate on tailback, him and Moody. We’ll have Demps at tailback and the three spot (at receiver). Demps can handle it all. So, hopefully, can Debose. Brandon James has proven he can. It’s a key spot.”

Another key spot is at center, Meyer said, where redshirt freshman Sam Robey was perhaps the surprise of the spring, working with the No. 1 offense in place of injured starter Maurkice Pouncey. Meyer said there’s a chance Robey will start and Maurkice would join twin brother Michael Pouncey as the starters at guard. But true sophomore tackle Matt Patchan ultimately could determine what happens at center, Meyer said.

“The two-guard thing (with the Pounceys), that’s kind of intriguing for us,” Meyer said. “A lot depends on (guard) James Wilson and he he progresses. And Patchan. If Patchan does what he did at the end of the spring, (left tackle) Carl (Johnson) goes back in at guard and Maurkice at center.”

NOTES: Tebow was back in his hometown Wednesday, playing a round of golf with PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson at Timuquana Country Club on the west side. “I heard he might do that. I’m curious how it went. I played with Tim one time. He crushes it. He’s better than you’d think, and he doesn’t work at it,” Meyer said. The word Wednesday night was that Tebow shot an 82 Wednesday. ... Before arriving for the Gator Gathering, Meyer spent time visiting the Jacksonville Jaguars and former UF players Derrick Harvey, Reggie Nelson and Drew Miller. “I’m a big fan of that coaching staff. I like guys that work, that come in and do their research on players. They do their job. It’s a tremendous organization,” Meyer said.

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