UF tackle Patchan appears on schedule for fall

Published: Friday, March 18, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 12:39 a.m.

In what has been a long road to recovery from wrist surgery, Florida offensive tackle Matt Patchan has taken a significant step.

On Friday, the junior from Tampa, who missed all of last season, was cleared to start lifting weights. He will not be able to participate in any contact this spring, but it appears he is on schedule now to be full-go for the start of fall drills in August.

“He’s been cleared for exercise, but not contact,” UF coach Will Muschamp said after Friday’s practice, the second of the spring. “He was cleared today to lift. To my knowledge, he will have no contact this spring, but he is lifting and we’re going to amp up that a little bit so he can get his strength back.

“He’s doing all the cardiovascular stuff, change of direction, endurance and all that.”

Patchan’s UF career has been marred by injury after injury. But he may be the best pure tackle on the team, and if he can fully recover from his latest setback and get back to full speed, he’s considered a strong candidate to start at one of the tackle positions.

There also is a little concern at the moment about a likely starting offensive tackle — junior Xavier Nixon.

He’s healthy, but he has lost weight since last season and appears to be at or below the 270-pound mark, which is considered too light to play the position in the SEC.

“He’s certainly not where we want him to be right now,” Muschamp said. “But Xavier is working hard and we’re proud of his effort and what he’s trying to do.”

Another possible starter on the offensive line, guard James Wilson is practicing some despite battling knee injuries.

“It’s very limited with what we’re doing with James,” Muschamp said. “He is (taking reps). We will watch his reps in practice to make sure we’re not overdoing it.”

Meanwhile, one injured Gator’s playing career is over. Redshirt sophomore Desmond Parks, who has been dealing with shoulder and knee injuries, will be given a medical hardship, which means he will remain on scholarship but not count against UF’s 85 total.

Even though the Gators are only two days deep into the spring, Muschamp said the timing in the passing game looked good in practice Friday.

“John (Brantley) threw some nice balls, and I thought we caught the ball on the outside well,” he said. “The offense had some good execution. There was some positives. There is a lot of teaching going on, a lot of learning. There is a lot to learn about our tempo and how we want to do things.”

Muschamp said senior Chris Rainey and sophomore Trey Burton have distinguished themselves at the running back positions.

“Chris Rainey has done a nice job, and Trey Burton has,” Muschamp said. “After that, we need to have some guys step up.

“It’s hard in helmets (and no pad) to evaluate. You see (Mack Brown) has made a couple of nice cuts here and there. But the two that would jump out listening to our coaching staff are Chris Rainey and Trey Burton.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.

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