Work starts on building 'great' UF football team

Published March 29, 2006

GAINESVILLE - Although underclassmen Chad Jackson and Dee Webb left Florida early for NFL riches, coach Urban Meyer attributed last year's limited success to three departed senior leaders.

With his second spring football session at UF starting today, Meyer will work to replace Jeremy Mincey, Jarvis Herring and Vernell Brown.

"Why did we have a successful season and have some positive things occur?" Meyer said. "The answer is those three guys. They did a great job of holding this team together and finishing strong."

All three were captains in 2005, along with Mike Degory, who also departed, and Chris Leak.

Meyer has named this season's leadership committee, but all the captains have not been officially named.

He said two seniors who will be captains are halfback Billy Latsko and receiver Dallas Baker.

"Dallas Baker will be a team captain," Meyer said. "The team is in charge of voting for captains, but Dallas will be a captain as long as he keeps doing what he's doing. He's come a long way. This time last year he could tell a good joke but not much else. I'm proud of Dallas Baker. He comes from a great family, and he'll be a great leader."

Meyer also said junior linebacker Brandon Siler and senior receiver Jemalle Cornelius are becoming leaders. He said quarterback Leak and those two need to step up.

"We did not achieve our goal of a championship, but there were some very positive things that occurred last year," Meyer said. "The way we finished has really springboarded us into an excellent recruiting season and offseason."

The Gators (9-3) used last season as a learning tool for the team and the staff, Meyer said.

"Year one was an educational experience for everyone involved with our program, most importantly our coaches," Meyer said. "We're really anxious to get going and are reallyexcited about our offseason. The way we're attacking it has got us really excited."

Spring practice will give Meyer a look at many players who will have increased roles this year. Also, four freshmen recruits already are on campus and will participate: offensive linemen Maurice Hurt and Carl Johnson, running back Chevon Walker and highly touted quarterback Tim Tebow, who Meyer said would play a little this year.

Meyer was quick to reiterate that last year's team wasn't up to his expectations.

"We were not a very good football team last year," he said. "We had some great players, but we were not a great team. I wouldn't even say that we were a good team. Over the last two games of the year, we were a very good team, but I wouldn't call us a great team."

The possible making of a great team starts today.