GAINESVILLE -- Florida will be without two of its top offensive tackles when the season begins next Saturday, according to Gators coach Urban Meyer.
Meyer said on Thursday that sophomore left tackles Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan will not be available for the season against Miami (Ohio) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Nixon injured his right knee during fall camp and required a knee scope procedure to correct the problem. Patchan had a pin placed in his right wrist.
It's unclear who will play left tackle against Miami (Ohio). Marcus Gilbert, the starter at right tackle and line's most experienced player, said he could shift to left tackle while Nixon and Patchan are out. Mike Pouncey mentioned on Tuesday that he could play left tackle but that seems unlikely.
"I don't think we're going to do that," Meyer said. "We had that discussion. I was opposed to that because it's the first game and I want the ball to hit the quarterback in the hands and not look like the Bad News Bears out there."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for back-up center Sam Robey.
Meyer didn't offer much about the starting offensive line for the season opener but he did say offensive coordinator Steve Addazio had his "shift" going in practice. I'm betting the offensive line looks this way next Saturday:
Marcus Gilbert, LT; James Wilson, LG; Mike Pouncey, C; Maurice Hurt; RG; Carl Johnson, RT
JORDAN REED HURT
Redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed injured his right knee during practice on Tuesday, according to Meyer. Meyer called the injury a "deep knee bruise" and said "that's a pain tolerance thing, so we won't know when we'll get him back."
Reed status' seems questionable at this point, but it could improve. The Gators are getting creative in order to fill the tight end role with Reed out. Freshman quarterback Trey Burton and redshirt sophomore receiver Omarius Hines have been playing the vacated position. Meyer referred to it as the 'P' position on Thursday. Whatever you want to call it, it doesn't sound like the traditional role for a tight end.
Meyer said he has been pleasantly surprised by the ability of Burton, the former high school quarterback from Venice. Burton is contributing more than initially expected, according to Meyer.
"He's so versatile and he's so football smart," Meyer said. "I'm really proud of that guy."
JEREMY BROWN AT NICKEL
It appears that both Jeremy Brown and Moses Jenkins could start next Saturday against Miami (Ohio). Last week, Meyer indicated that Brown and Jenkins might possibly share time at cornerback. On Thursday, Meyer said that Brown could start at nickel back next Saturday with Jenkins at cornerback. True freshman Matt Elam is also an option at nickel.
"They paid their dues, man," Meyer said. "Imagine their families coming up here and watching them at the University of Florida. It's going to be really cool for them next week."
Be prepared for a new offense, Gators fans. Meyer offered a little teaser on Thursday.
"It's going to look different," Meyer said. "There will be some things that we have not done, including even when Chris Leak was here. So, there will be some interesting things to look at and we kind of got an idea of the playmakers on offense."
DEE FINLEY STINGER
UF strong-side linebacker Dee Finley had a stinger during fall camp but has recovered. He likely will not be in the linebacker rotation for the first game, though. Meyer said Finley had a strong camp and his weight is up to 220 pounds. Finley came to UF as a highly rated safety.
Meyer wouldn't offer any hints on Thursday about the Gators' middle linebacker position. When asked to name the starting linebackers, Meyer answered slyly, "Our three starting linebackers are A.J. Jones, Brandon Hicks, Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Lorenzo Edwards. So, those are our starting three. Neiron Ball is in that. He's a guy that will play. He's not starting but he will play."
With so many new assistants this season, the football team will conduct a "mechanics scrimmage" on Saturday to iron out all the game-day responsibilities for the staff.
"We're done with the scrimmaging until we go play the game," Meyer said. "Real important Saturday, though. It's mechanics. We've got a new D-coordinator and four new coaches on our staff. It's a real important day. More important than last year's."
Meyer said the new assistant coaches are gelling well.
"There are basically four coordinators in that room right now and I love that when you have four powerful guys in there that have great ideas but then you have one guy who's not an ego guy who's running the show," Meyer said. "It's a really comfortable room right now."
(We're assuming Meyer was referring to himself as the person without an ego. I think that's code for "objective and omnipotent onlooker".)
EVERYTHING IS 'ALL GOOD'
Meyer didn't say much on Thursday about the situations with Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley. The two freshmen defensive linemen missed practice on Tuesday.
"It's all good. They're all good," Meyer said. "The freshman class is doing great. I keep hearing this and I keep hearing that and everything is in good shape."
Meyer did say that neither Powell nor Easley asked to transfer. When asked why Powell and Easley missed practice on Tuesday, Meyer responded glibly, "They're all good."