Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tailback Is Top Priority; Meyer Says Replacing Fason Key to His First Spring Practice at Florida

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tailback Is Top Priority; Meyer Says Replacing Fason Key to His First Spring Practice at Florida

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, The Times-Union

GAINESVILLE -- Florida football coach Urban Meyer has already pinpointed the key to the Gators' success in 2005, and it's not how well quarterback Chris Leak plays.

It's not that somebody, anybody, steps up at linebacker to complement Brandon Siler and Earl Everett, either.

Running back is Meyer's No. 1 concern as the Gators begin spring practice today with DeShawn Wynn, Skyler Thornton and Markus Manson the main competitors.

"I hate to put the whole season on the tailback position, but I'm putting the whole season on the tailback position," Meyer said.

The conception about Meyer's offense is that the running game is an afterthought, but looking at what the offense did at Utah disproves that. The Utes were 13th nationally in rushing (236.1 yards per game), and they were the only school in the nation to have its rushing offense and passing offense (19th, 263.7 yards per game) rank in the top 20.

Meyer has said that offense was the ideal, so there's a huge concern for 2005 when it comes to carrying the ball because the Gators don't have a back with much college experience.

"We do not have a guy that we can count on. That's just the way it is," Meyer said. "We can kind of paint it and say, 'Well, this guy has potential, this guy has potential.'

"Well, potential isn't a great word to use around our staff. It's 'What have you done?' And there isn't a tailback that's done a thing around here."

Meyer praised Thornton's work in the offseason program, but the upcoming junior from LaGrange, Ga., has just 63 carries for 310 yards in his career, including 55 carries last season.

Wynn, a redshirt junior, rushed for 540 yards and seven touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2003, but a groin injury, alleged attitude problem, and the emergence of Ciatrick Fason as the Southeastern Conference's No. 1 rusher limited him to 217 yards last season.

"I keep hearing about DeShawn [Wynn]," Meyer said. "I'll tell you about him in another two weeks. [Redshirt freshman] Markus Manson's a nice guy, but other than that I can't tell you much about them except that [theirs] is the position that is the No. 1 concern.

"We are balanced offense. There is a perception versus reality situation about our offense. It starts with the running game. It starts with being physical, and right now we are in a little panic situation with three scholarships tailbacks that haven't done a thing around here. So that's the position that will receive a lot of scrutiny and they have and will continue to until we get someone in that area."

That isn't just a threat. Meyer is so concerned that he even admitted that it wouldn't be out of the question to see tight end Dane Guthrie -- who redshirted as a freshman last season -- get a few carries.

"You cannot function without the tailback position, and Dane Guthrie might carry the ball a little bit," Meyer said. …

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