Published August 10, 2012 - 5:29pm
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Seven days of fall practice have come and gone, and there are only twenty-two more to go until the Gators kick off the 2012 season in the Swamp. We won’t exactly know how this squad will perform until they take the field against Bowling Green on the first Saturday in September, but early indications are pointing to a more cohesive, conditioned, and prepared team than this time a year ago- a promising sign for Gator Nation. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the highlights…
Pease Corps: At times it is hard to fathom that the Gators have been in an offensive “funk” since the 2009 season, and the funk hasn’t just been on the field. Look back, when was the last time you heard a member of Florida’s staff speak optimistically about offense? I’m not talking about coach speak, I’m talking about real optimism. It has been a while, a long while, that’s probably why most Gator fans will feel the same warm tingly feeling I get when I hear new offensive coordinator Brent Pease says that he is “ecstatic” about where his offensive is right now.
He has good reason to feel that way. Though still unproven, he has depth in the backfield, at receiver, and along the line. There are two young, athletic, and smart quarterbacks who both seem ready to assume the starting spot at any moment. The biggest topics of conversation at running back are how far Mike Gillislee has pulled away from the competition and who is going to be his back-up.
Wide receivers have also received their fair share of praise; Quinton Dunbar and Latroy Pittman have both been impressive and the receiver group, as a whole, has been commended for their performance in the transition to Pease’s offense. The SEC-tested offensive line has even become a potential area of strength for the Gators due, in large part, to the training program brought in by new Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jeff Dillman.
Getting over the Hill: The first week of practice wasn’t just all good news for the Gators; citing personal reasons, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, Aubrey Hill resigned from his position on the Florida coaching staff. Hill, who has been tied to the recent recruiting scandal at the University of Miami, has stressed that the situation in Coral Gables had nothing to do with his decision to leave Florida.
You never want to see a well-respected coach leave a staff; you especially do not want to see him leave the day before fall practice starts. Luckily for the Gators the void should not seem too noticeable as both positions that Hill left open have already been “filled.” Head coach Will Muschamp will be taking over the recruiting coordinator duties and Pease will handle the receivers with the help of graduate assistant Bush Hamdan, who has been named as the new position coach.
Hamdan, a former backup quarterback at Boise State, already has a strong relationship with Pease. Impressed by Hamdan’s work ethic while at Boise State, Pease brought Hamdan to Florida to be a graduate assistant in January. Hamdan was the tight ends coach at Sacramento State last season; he also served as an offensive assistant at the University of Maryland in 2010.
Instant Impact? A head coach’s worst fear was realized this spring when Buck/MLB Ronald Powell tore his ACL during Florida’s spring game. Powell, who is on track to return to the Gators by midseason, was expected to be one of the best, if not the best, players on the defensive side of the ball. One of the main storylines all summer has been who would step up in the fall during Powell’s absence. There was a strong feeling that senior Lerentee McCray would be the one to fill the gap but he may be getting some competition from an unexpected source.
Incoming freshman and former five-star recruit Dante Fowler, Jr. has auditioned for the starting Buck linebacker spot and has been getting some good reviews. Fowler, who switched his commitment from Florida State to the Gators late in the year, was highly regarded but few expected him to possibly contend for a starting spot this quickly. He and early-enrollee freshman, Antonio Morrison, could bring some much needed depth to an already strong linebacker group.
A New Year, a New Look: It was confirmed earlier this week that The Swamp will be sporting an updated look for the 2012 season. The phrases “This is… the Swamp” and “Home of the… Florida Gators” will still be present on the walls of the stadium but will be painted in the new slanted or “fast” font that Florida has been adopting. The field is also getting an update look as the Gator head logo will be replacing the traditional block “F” on the 50-yard line. The “F” won’t be forgotten though as it will now be featured, in the new style font, on the 25-yard lines opposite of the SEC logo.
- Cornerback Marcus Roberson and linebacker Neiron Ball, both sophomores, are back 100% from injury.
- Ronald Powell has been spotted running in both straight-line and change of direction drills.
- Redshirt Freshman wide receiver Ja’Juan Story has decided to transfer from Florida.