Meyer stamps approval on Florida spring football
Published: Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 6:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 7:22 p.m.
Moving on from the Tim Tebow era carried with it the potential for a somewhat somber spring for the Florida Gators.
Instead, this turned out to be a feel-good spring that ended with a feel-good day in The Swamp on Saturday.
Urban Meyer, a demanding coach who is sometimes hard to please, handed out two rare As to his team at the end of the day. One for the spring in general. One for the spring game.
"I grade the spring game an 'A' and I haven't had many," Meyer said. "We stink as a team, but that's not the intent. The intent is to have a good attitude and a good work ethic and go as hard as you can and try and identify players and and playmakers. I'd give (the spring) an 'A.' I think today was an 'A.'
"Certainly, there were bad snaps, there was this and this, but once again this was a no winner-loser day today. We identified some players today."
One thing to feel good about coming out of the spring is UF's situation at quarterback. It's much better than it was at the start of drills, when junior John Brantley's only backup was a true freshman, Trey Burton.
After Saturday's game, it appears the Gators now have three quarterbacks who can potentially have success running the offense.
Brantley played very well, about the way many were expecting, completing 15-of-19 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Burton, whose progress has been one of the stories of the spring, completed 12-of-18 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown and had a 76-yard run, the longest on record in the Orange and Blue game. His 9-yard touchdown run gave the Orange a 24-21 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the game.
And Jordan Reed, the starting tight end, came in at quarterback and executed the Gators' Wildcat package. Reed rushed for 19 yards, completed 3-of-5 passes for 80 yards and produced the game-winning touchdown — throwing a 31-yard TD strike to wide receiver T.J. Lawrence with 3:04 remaining to give the Blue a 27-24 victory before an estimated crowd of 51,500.
"I thought they all played well," offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said of the three quarterbacks. "They're competitive guys, they're athletic guys. You can see they're wired the right way. Coach (Meyer) and I were standing back there and it was really pretty cool. They all did a great job."
Brantley was extremely sharp throwing the ball. He also provided some leadership the coaches have been trying to draw out of him this spring.
"He was good," Meyer said. "John's next step is just the whole leadership thing. Instead of, 'Aw, shucks,' to 'Let's get it done.' I've seen tremendous growth from January 2 until now."
The soft-spoken Brantley said he's feeling more comfortable with the leadership role.
"It feels like my huddle now," Brantley said. "I just want to keep (UF's success) going. People talk about our receivers or defense not being as good as last year. I think that's what we want to improve on. We're not going to miss anything, we're not going to take a step back at all."
The quarterbacks weren't the only playmakers on the field Saturday.
Senior wide receiver Carl Moore had probably his best day as a Gator, catching eight passes (playing for both teams) for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Wide receivers Omarius Hines, Frankie Hammond and Lawrence caught touchdown passes.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Debose, who missed last season after undergoing hamstring surgery, caught two passes for 30 yards even though he just started practicing this spring earlier in the week.
True freshmen defensive backs Matt Elam and Joshua Shaw and true freshman wide receiver Robert Clark made plays.
Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Jelani Jenkins did what he's done all spring, making plays from sideline to sideline in Saturday's game.
There are a lot of reasons for that 'A' grade the Gators picked up after the game.
"We've got a group of guys who love ball," Addazio said. "They want to do things the right way. They're hungry. They're coachable. They've bought in totally to accountability and holding each other accountable. That's what we needed to get done this spring and that's what we got done. That's why we graded it an 'A.' "
New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin seemed just as pleased as those smiling offensive coaches.
"I like what I see," Austin said. "I like the tenacity. I like the effort. This is going to be a great collective (defensive) unit."
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