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For the past three years, there has been a lot of talk that Dickey should switch positions. He came to the University of Florida as a Parade All-America quarterback. He redshirted as a true freshman behind incumbent starter Rex Grossman and the past two years, he's been the backup to starter Chris Leak. Because he has so many athletic skills, fans have wondered when his talents would be put to use although he did see some plays at wideout and occasionally at running back during the 2004 season.
Dickey's time at wide receiver Monday was by necessity, but it's likely that in the future he'll be there some of the time by design. He has the speed and athletic ability to get open and catch the football. With the way the offense is designed, having him on the field at the same time with Leak could add other dimensions. He's an outstanding runner and he could add the dynamic of an option pass.
"Mike McIntosh is hurt right now and (Kenneth) Tookes has a concussion so he couldn't go," said Meyer after Monday's practice. "What I saw was a good looking athlete running around. We'll probably have a little package for him. The one thing we've been known for is the best players touch the ball."
Meyer said he really hasn't talked to Dickey about the possibilities of playing wide receiver or in other positions but said, "I imagine he wants to step on the field. But, that doesn't mean he's not going to play quarterback, too. He's really coming on. I think he can help us possibly by learning a few plays at receiver as well."
Meanwhile, Dickey splits time with football and baseball. He's hitting .377 and coming off a sensational third game of Florida's series with South Carolina. In game three in which the Gators took the series from the Gamecocks, Dickey doubled and made two memorable defensive plays by bringing two potential homers back into the park with leaping catches at the wall.
By playing Dickey some at wide receiver Monday, Meyer was able to get a longer look at backups Josh Portis and Cornelius Ingram.
"There is a positive of having four quarterbacks just as there is a negative," said Meyer. "The repetitions is a negative. Right now we have to get two ready to play."
PRACTICE SUPERLATIVES: Meyer singled out Mike Degory (senior center) and Randy Hand (senior tackle) for their work on the offensive line Monday. On the defensive side of the ball, his standouts were senior safety Jarvis Herring and junior corner Dee Webb.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Derrick Harvey also caught Meyer's eye. Harvey, 6-4, 253, practiced with the first team defensive line during Monday's practice.
"Derrick had a real good day today," said Meyer. "He's a young buck now and it's coming at him too fast but he's a talented guy. He'll help us out."
CORNERBACK SITUATION: Webb is firmly entrenched at one corner but the battle rages for the second starting cornerback position. Vernell Brown continues to fight hard to stay with the first teamers but he is being pushed by Reggie Lewis, who continues to improve by leaps and bounds just eight practices into a new position. Dawayne Grace is running as the fourth corner at this time.
Dee Webb checks out the line prior to the snap in today's practice.
Webb said the corners are reacting well to the teaching of cornerbacks Coach Chuck Heater.
"When it comes to the technical side before the ball is snapped and getting you ready to go out there to play, he's a great coach," said Webb. "Because the way he coaches you, when the ball is snapped you're ready to make plays."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Asked about where the team is midway through the spring, Coach Meyer said, "You know what I'm encouraged by? We have good people. Am I discouraged by lack of plays and maybe lack of toughness? Yeah, but we can change those things. If we had bad people here I'd really be concerned. We don't have bad people here."
COACH MATTISON ON ACCOUNTABILITY/DEFENSIVE LINE: Meyer's philosophy of accountability is shared by his staff of assistants. Co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who came to Florida from Notre Dame, preaches to his linemen daily that they have to earn the right to be on the playing field. In his way of thinking, there is no such thing as a free ticket. By making players accountable for their actions, whether on the field or off, in games or in practice, Meyer and Mattison believe they will have players who are better prepared to win football games and play with the kind of intensity that they expect, which is lights out on every play.
#91 Derrick Harvey and #90 Michael Hill being coached up by Mattison
Mattison knows that today's high tech offenses that spread the field and try to exploit weaknesses by creating personnel mismatches can only be contained by talented players who are rested and able to give 100 percent on every play. Having a rotation of players is a necessity so much of the first eight practice sessions of the spring have been devoted to finding players who can fit right in.
"If we were playing today and this is always the way I look at it, guys have to earn the right to rotate," said Mattison. "That's a big deal for me. A guy has to get my trust. He has to get the team's trust. Just because you say you want to rotate guys up front doesn't mean it's the right thing to do, and they have to earn the right."
He's got returning starters at defensive end in Joe Cohen and Jeremy Mincey, and Ray McDonald is a returning starter at defensive tackle. Marcus Thomas, another returning starter at defensive tackle, is out for the spring with a back injury but he is expected to be ready to go in the fall. The returning starters are earning their way back onto the field, but so are the players who want to rotate in.
From left to right on the D-line: Mincey, McDonald, Hill, and Cohen.
"If we played a game today, (defensive tackle) Mike Hill and (defensive end) Derrick Harvey have earned the right to rotate and (defensive tackle) Clint McMillan is getting close," said Mattison. "So that gives us three to play two in the front and three to play two in the ends. That's a great mix and whoever else earns the right that makes us better.
"Now Ray (McDonald, defensive tackle) and Jeremy (Mincey, defensive end) and those guys can go as hard as they want, as hard as they can go and they can get a little break and they're back in there. That's the way I believe in playing the defensive line."
McDonald, 6-2, 290, is a rising junior with enormous potential. He's had some outstanding games in his first two years, but he's also been plagued with some inconsistencies and the knock on the big guy from Belle Glade is that he can be somewhat of a slacker in practice. Coach Meyer singled out McDonald for praise in Saturday's scrimmage, but he also called him out for needing to go hard on every play in practice.
"I'll be very honest with you, Ray McDonald could be as good a DL as there is," said Mattison. "At times when he wants to play, you see it all. What Ray has to do is he's got to go all the time."
Needing players to go hard all the time is essential to the defensive philosophy that Meyer wants from his co-coordinators, Mattison and Charlie Strong.
"No one can play hard for 70 plays," said Mattison, "so you start taking a play off. Well, that's not your prerogative in this system. You just don't go hard and you don't play."
Jeremy Mincey (left), Ray McDonald (center), and Joe Cohen (right) form a three man line in a dime defense.
That's why he's working so hard to develop players who can rotate in. He wants players to give it all they've got then he'll rotate in fresh bodies who can continue the pressure.
Another player who is beginning to make a mark is Steven Harris, who will be a fourth year junior. Harris began at defensive end when he came to UF but he's bulked up to close to 280 without losing much of his trademark quickness. He's been moved inside, but he's shown the kind of versatility that will allow Mattison to move him around.
"Steve Harris might be one of our most valuable guys because he can play end, he can play nose, he can play the three technique and he can play them all very well," said Mattison. "He's a tough kid who can move so to me Steve Harris becomes very valuable."
While Mattison said that he wants to see a strong pass rush, he's not in a panic mode because there has been very little rush coming from his defensive line in practices thus far. Part of the reason, he points out, is because the defensive line has been working against Florida's new offense, which incorporates the option.
"I didn't think we rushed the passer very well but that's what this offense makes you do," said Mattison. "When you're worried about playing the option you can't play the option in the backfield. You got to play at the line of scrimmage."
The threat of the option, Mattison says, makes players think option instead of getting up field to rush the passer. He's confident the Gators will have a good pass rush when they're playing teams whose offensive schemes don't spread the field and do so many funky things.
SEEN AT PRACTICE: A couple of Florida's all-time greats spent a good portion of Monday's practice catching up on old times. Neal Anderson and Kerwin Bell spent much of the practice together on the sideline ... Also seen at practice was former Florida State fullback Clarence "Pooh Bear" Williams, a coach for Crescent City High School. Pooh Bear looks a biscuit, perhaps two, under 310 pounds... Also at Monday's practice were coaches from the University of North America, a Mexican university that fields a college football team.
The 1984-85 backfield of Kerwin Bell (left) and Neal Anderson (third) were at practice today and joined here by Shelley and Urban Meyer.