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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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By Times Staff
Published September 1, 2006
Urban Meyer says Chris Leak is "a completely different person than he was a year ago." Fans can't wait to see what they've got in freshman Tim Tebow. Both will play, but this is Leak's team. With no real third-stringer, an injury could throw the season into chaos.
They call Markus Manson "the vampire" because he's afraid to run in daylight. DeShawn Wynn is still living off the glory of one 300-yard game three years ago at Miami. Kestahn Moore has had a few bright spots. But seriously, who's in charge here? Meyer would like to know.
Three words: five new starters. Are you afraid? If you're Leak, you might be. This could be the key to the season. Right guard Ronnie Wilson is out with a broken ankle. The one to watch is converted center Steve Rissler. If he can't be the rock of this rebuilt line, it could be ugly in December in Shreveport, La.
This may be the most skilled and experienced that Florida has been at these positions since the final days of Steve Spurrier. There are very likely three or four future NFL wide receivers in this unit, including Andre Caldwell and Dallas Baker. When is the last time you remember anyone saying that?
Be thankful you don't have to feed these guys. There are four seniors (and several other extremely talented players) who run close to 2,000 pounds among them - including near or above 300 pounds each for Joe Cohen and Marcus Thomas. It may be the best defensive line Florida has had since the Ellis Johnson and Kevin Carter line of 1994.
Brandon Siler and Earl Everett are among the best in the league. Gator coaches have their fingers crossed that senior Brian Crum finally does something to earn his scholarship. But after those three, if there are injuries, it could get scary with a bunch of young players still trying to learn their way.
Reggie Nelson could be the single most important person on the entire defense. If he's not a high-impact player in the secondary, the Gators probably won't have one. At corner as well is dependable Reggie Lewis. Safety Kyle Jackson had tire tracks on his back at times last year. If he's not better, that's not good.
Chris Hetland and Eric Wilbur are about as dependable as any kickers and punters in the league. If there is anything that's puzzling to Meyer, it's why the Gators' special teams don't come up with more big plays on returns and blocks. That'll be something he's emphasizing this year.