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March 21, 2007The defending national champions kicked off spring ball on Wednesday in helmets and shorts, but it was still an action packed two and a half hours in front of a packed house out at the practice fields.
By rule, the team isn't permitted to be in pads for the first three days in order to ease their way into full contact drills. There was however some contact among the linemen during 11-on-11 drills and some collisions between receivers and defensive backs.
On an offensive line that returns pretty much intact, the only question is who would be the starting center. If today is any indication, it looks as though Drew Miller will attempt to hold the job down.
The starting line from left to right was Phil Trautwein, Jim Tartt, Drew Miller, Ronnie Wilson and Carlton Medder.
Another position to keep an eye on is who will be the top backup to Tim Tebow. In most drills, junior college transfer Bryan Waggener was second in line, but he and true freshman Cameron Newton seemed to have the same amount of snaps.
A revamped defense saw Derrick Harvey, Clint McMillan, Brandon Antwine and Lawrence Marsh starting up front. Not surprisingly it was Dustin Doe, Brandon Spikes and A.J. Jones starting at linebacker.
The secondary was more of a situation where there was a lot of mixing and matching. The only sure thing was seeing Tony Joiner running with the first team. Other than that, both Kyle Jackson, Dorian Munroe, Jamar Hornsby and Bryan Thomas all saw action with the first unit defense at one time or another.
At cornerback, during 7-on-7 drills, onofficially, true freshman Joe Haden seemed to have seen more snaps than anyone else in the secondary. Markus Manson, Markihe Anderson and Wondy Pierre-Louis shared time at corner.
If there were any doubts that sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow is capable of taking over for the departed Chris Leak, they were quickly put to bed on Wednesday afternoon.
Okay, perhaps that is a bit too strong. But, he was by far the star of the day for the Gators.
During the first set of passing drills, he was actually over on the second field working with the running backs and offensive linemen on the running game while Waggener and Newton threw the ball around.
When finally made his way to the near field, he put on a show. During 7-on-7 drills he was nine for nine going against a mixture of first, second and third string defenders.
While he may not be in a battle for a starting position, he knows he has to bring it, "You have to come out here and you prove it every day and compete and get better every day. It was good, it was a lot of fun, we were excited to get back out here."
New Position, New Look
Former tight end Trent Pupello is not only trying out a new position this spring, he's trying out a new look as well.
The 6-foot-2, 275-pound lineman looked as if he had been playing the position for a while.
During the positional drills, he worked out with the defensive tackles, learning the technique needed to be a strong side defensive end, but by the looks of it, if he continues to get bigger, he might be a candidate to move inside permanently.
He has packed on a good 25-to-30 pounds since last year, but even more impressive, he looks comfortable carrying it and moved around well today.
Leaving the field without his helmet, he showed off the new 'do' he is sporting now.
Pupello used to have the Fabio look, locks that flowed down his back, but now has his hair cut above his shoulders.
When asked about the new look and new position, he replied, "I got rid of it, I had to do it (not that he was forced)," said Pupello before adding about his new position, "I'm liking it. It feels right."
There were a couple of players who were impressive today besides the above mentioned Tebow. Cornelius Ingram caught everything that came his way including a 11-on-11 session ending bomb from the arm of Newton.
Jamar Hornsby dropped a sure interception early in the practice session before coming back and holding on to one later.
Brandon Spikes had an interception.
Spikes and Doe received head slaps from Urban Meyer after a good series during 11-on-11 drills.
Of the young cornerbacks, Markihe Anderson seemed to standout more so than the rest. After practice, Meyer praised him saying he had an excellent day.
As expected, both Waggener and Newton struggled at times on the day. Each threw at least one pick during drills. And it wasn't so much that they looked bad, but they didn't fare well in comparison to Tebow. Newton in particular seemed to be pressing throughout the practice session. During pass skel drills he seemed to be throwing downward for some odd reason, which brought Dan Mullen over to go over his mechanics with him.
A.J. Jones played well on the day, but dropped an interception that Waggener put right between his numbers.
This & That
Sophomore receiver Riley Cooper (who has been suffering from turf-toe) was the only player unaccounted for this afternoon. Markus Manson and Joe Haden are going to be cross training this spring, but they were exclusively on defense today. Jeremy Mincey was out at practice today. Co defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is walking around with a cane and rides a golf cart from drill station to drill station.
Much more impressions coming up in Mark Wheeler's daily practice blog.
InsidetheGators.net will have LIVE practice reports in the Alley as well as a post practice notebooks, a Meyer interview, News & Notes, photos, videos, other features and more.
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