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20 observations (at least) from the Florida Gators' first day of spring practice

GAINESVILLE -- Here's the No.1 thing you need to take away from the first day of Florida's spring practice: Wednesday was the first practice since Urban Meyer showed up in 2005 to feature a team comprised exclusively of his own players.

It's a pretty good team, right?

David Nelson, who will be a fifth-year senior next season, was one of Meyer's first recruits. He has watched the program evolve for more than four years. He's been a first-hand witness to Meyer's vision. 

"This is the first time he has had all his recruiting classes here," Nelson said. "This is the team he wants. You can tell this is his team and these are the style of players and the type of people he wants on this team. You can just see that through his attitude with us and the players' attitudes with each other."

Quarterback Tim Tebow has a lot to with that attitude. On Wednesday, Tebow was the first player on the practice field and the first player to leave. (It was probably staged that way but it was pretty cool nonetheless.) Everyone got the point. This is Tebow's team and he gets the honor of jogging onto the field first.

"I feel like an old veteran out here now," Tebow said. "It's just fun and it's great to see the guys who I've come up with just mature and get that much better and the guys I saw come in after me really step up in those leadership roles.

"It's just cool to see how it develops here and how it's turning into a program."

OK, that's the big picture. Now for the minutiae I was promising everyone. Here's a few observations from today's practice:

1. Matt Patchan is hurt again. The offensive lineman was involved in a scooter accident this week and was on crutches on Wednesday with his leg immobilized in a removable cast. Patchan played on the defensive line last year but was expected to move to the offensive line this spring. He was recruited as an offensive tackle and Florida must replace two starting tackles from the championship team. Meyer said on Wednesday that Patchan told his coach that he would be ready to practice "in about a week."

"He's a fast healer," Meyer said. "He's had a lot of chances the last year."

2. Here's the starting offensive line, which took the field together at the beginning of practice: LT Carl Johnson, LG James Wilson C Maurkice Pouncey, RG Mike Pouncey, RT Marcus Gilbert. After a few snaps, Mike Pouncey stepped away from the practice field and joined other injured players. Pouncey is not expected to practice this spring due to a shoulder injury. He had surgery after the championship game.

3. RG Maurice Hurt is filling in at first-string right guard while Mike Pouncey recovers.

4. WRs Justin Williams, David Nelson and Deonte Thompson practiced with the first-team offense during team drills. WR Riley Cooper is playing baseball this spring and will not participate in spring football practice.

5. Defensive linemen Duke Lemmens and Justin Trattou are looking pretty good. They lined up at defensive tackle during team drills.

6. Lemmens and Trattou, defensive ends last season, are playing defensive tackle because the Gators' lost two tackles in the offseason. John Brown is gone and so is Torrey Davis.

7. Meyer said that Davis will not rejoin the team this fall and indicated that Davis might transfer to a junior college to get his grades in order.

8. Back-up quarterback John Brantley sure throws a pretty ball. He hooked up several times during team drills with redshirt freshman receiver Frankie Hammond Jr., who also played well on Wednesday. Meyer is looking forward to watching Brantley compete with pads on. The Gators practiced in shorts and helmets on Wednesday. This is the first spring practice that Brantley has been completely healthy.

9. SS Dorian Munroe practiced with a brace on his right knee but appeared in good health. He moved well and didn't have any problems competing with Florida's other talented safeties. Munroe tore his ACL last summer.

10. Tebow took snaps from under center for about nine minutes and 52 seconds on Wednesday.

11. Florida ran a few plays in the I-formation during its team drills. Emmanuel Moody was the single back. Moody says he's looking forward to being an all-purpose back this year.

12. Urban Meyer was in his practice uniform. Long-sleeved white T-shirt and middle-aged-white-guy khaki shorts.

13. Freshman OL Nick Alajajian likes to sing rap music while he's warming up. Very tacky.

14. LB Brandon Spikes would not confirm rumors that he choked Alajajian during workouts for not giving enough effort. He also didn't deny it.

15. SS Dee Finley looks pretty athletic. My early vote for special teams dynamo of the 2010 season.

16. Brandon James (foot surgery) was on crutches.

17. Omar Hunter finally appears to be getting into shape. He looked pretty good today. A lot of fight in that kid.

18. DE Carlos Dunlap (abdomen strain) was in street clothes.

19. LBs Ryan Stamper, Brandon Spikes and A.J. Jones worked with the first team. Dustin Doe, Lerentee McCray and Lorenzo Edwards were the second-string linebackers.

20. Plenty of drops from the receivers on Wednesday. Deonte Thompson appears to be the early leader as Tebow's go-to target.



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