GAINESVILLE - One of the members of coach Ron Zook's highly regarded 2004 signing class has decided Florida football is not for him.
Freshman defensive end/linebacker Mike Mangold, a former Merritt Island standout, has withdrawn from classes and left the team. Zook, who convinced Mangold to rescind his commitment to Virginia Tech, said he did not know why Mangold decided to leave.
"The first time he said he was going to leave we talked him into staying around here," Zook said. "Now this second time, he withdrew (from classes). It was something he decided."
There were concerns during the summer that Mangold would not meet Florida's academic requirements, but he petitioned the NCAA for a waiver and was cleared to enroll. If academics did not play into his decision, desire might have.
"Some guys go through it, when football isn't important anymore," Zook said. "When he told me that the first time, we tried to keep him here. A lot of guys say that, but you want to make sure. He'll settle down and he'll realize that it is important to him."
INJURIES: Wide receiver O.J. Small left practice early as a precaution after a teammate stepped on him. Zook said Small is fine and that team doctors wanted to control the swelling.
Zook said that while tight end David Kenner (ankle) was able to do more on Thursday than he had all week, the team must wait to decide how he responds to treatment today and Saturday. Fellow tight end Darrell Carpenter has made strides from a surgically repaired knee and could dress Saturday against LSU. Junior Markell Thompson will enter the game as the Gators' No. 1 tight end.
LSU REPORT: Injured cornerback Corey Webster continues to be held out of practice and coach Nick Saban told the New Orleans Times-Picayune he considers Webster "very questionable." Injured wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis rejoined practice.
- BRIAN SHAFFER, Times correspondentFSU: Dome din is focus
TALLAHASSEE - As it does before most road games, the offense practiced with artificial crowd noise blaring through Doak Campbell Stadium. But it doesn't accurately mimic what quarterback Wyatt Sexton can expect for his first road start Saturday at Syracuse's Carrier Dome.
The Seminoles have not played in a dome since the 2003 Sugar Bowl, a game Sexton watched from the sideline as a redshirt, but the environment is not wholly unfamiliar to the third-year sophomore. He was MVP in the Florida-Georgia All-Star Game during his senior year at Tallahassee's Leon High. That game was in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
"The game seems not as intense for some reason to me," Sexton said of the dome atmosphere. "The speed is a little bit quicker, but besides that, it's just football."
Sexton, of course, expects things to be a little different in front of a partisan crowd.
"That's the thing. In the Florida-Georgia All-Star Game there weren't 50,000 fans roaring against me," he said.
RIX RETURNS: Quarterback Chris Rix practiced for the first time since spraining his right ankle Sept. 25 against Clemson.
Freshman Drew Weatherford, a former Land O'Lakes star, also took snaps during the light workout. He suffered a high ankle sprain last weekend against North Carolina.
Still, it made it no more clear who will be Sexton's backup.
"Hopefully it won't come down to it, but if it does, we've got some decisions to make and it'll go right up to game time," quarterbacks coach Daryl Dickey said.
Freshman Xavier Lee and walk-on Tommy Keane are options, Dickey said.
Rix said he expects to play only in an emergency situation.
INJURY REPORT: Safeties Kyler Hall (neck) and B.J. Ward (sprained ankle) won't play for a second straight week. Receiver Willie Reid (strained hamstring) and starting defensive end Eric Moore (sprained ankle) are questionable. Chamberlain grad Brodrick Bunkley, the starter at nose guard, is probable despite spraining his left ankle against UNC.
- ZACHARY SPAIN, Times correspondentUSF: Now, some R&R
TAMPA - Players have three days off after a light practice Thursday, so the Bulls now focus on a little R&R: rest and recruiting.
Coach Jim Leavitt had much of his staff on the road already Thursday, but he stuck around for the practice, which concluded with a "Bull Bowl" for the team's redshirting freshmen and reserves.
"The older guys did a good job today," Leavitt said. "They did some individual work, some seven-on-seven work, some blitz pickup and a little conditioning. They were very focused today."
Quarterback Courtney Denson, who is sitting out this season after transferring from Auburn, ended the scrimmage on a strong note, breaking loose for a 50-yard touchdown scramble.
- GREG AUMAN, Times staff writer