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Saturday April 7, 2012Gators Notebook: Powell Injured, Burton Comes Up Big Late and a Hall of Famer in the Swamp

By CHRIS HARRY and SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Junior linebacker Ronald Powell, who started all but one game last season at the “Buck” pass-rusher position, left the Orange & Blue Debut in the first half with a knee injury. 

The severity of Powell’s injury was not immediately known following Saturday’s game.

“I think it’s a sprain at this point,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. 

Powell, the 6-foot-4, 248-pounder from Moreno Valley, Calif., had 32 tackles in 12 starts last season, but led the defense with six sacks and finished fourth in tackles for loss with nine for 58 yards.

Though Powell was the lone injury that sparked concern among the staff, the Gators chose to hold 13 players out of the spring game, mostly for injury reasons, including linebacker Jon Bostic, who experienced back spasms during the Friday walk-thru, and safety Matt Elam, who practiced for the better part of spring despite recovering from January groin surgery. 

TREY WITH A TRIO OF BIG PLAYS 

Running back/Wide receiver/Do-Anything Trey Burton caught three passes for 102 yards. He didn’t get all those yards on one big play either. His three receptions went for 36, 32 and 34 yards, respectively, the latter a dive-for-the-pylon touchdown from Jacoby Brissett with 23 seconds left to give the Orange squad a chance to win the game.

In his first two seasons, most of Burton’s 51 catches were of the short variety. The downfield plays offered fans a glimpse at another side of Burton’s ability as a receiver.

“He’s just a good football player. He can do a lot of different things for you,” Muschamp said. “We have a lot of different roles for him. He’s bright enough to handle all of them and he’s just a good football player that gets the game.”

While the Gators’ offense has changed under first-year coordinator Brent Pease, Burton’s attitude has not. He remains up for any role that gets him onto the field, including that of downfield receiver.

“It’s whatever Coach Pease wants me to do, wherever he needs me,’’ Burton said. “I feel like we had a great spring as an offense, as a whole. We are a lot better than we were fundamentally.

“The biggest thing I took out of today is that if our offense can gel together what he wants us to do play-wise, we can be really, really good.”

HALL OF FAMER IN THE HOUSE 

Former UF defensive end Alex Brown, a first-team All-American in 1999, was enshrined Friday night in UF’s Sports Hall of Fame and Saturday was invited by Muschamp to speak to the team in the locker room after the game. 

Wearing a shirt that said “Regret Nothing” and flashing his new Hall of Fame ring, Brown told this young group of Gators to enjoy this time of their lives.

“This is what’s promised to you, the NFL is not promised to you,” said Brown, 32, who played in the league nine years, including a Super Bowl appearance with the Chicago Bears (and still looks like he could play a few more). “Make sure you give everything you got.”

WALK-ON STANDS OUT

It’s not too hard to miss receiver Michael McNeely if the Gators are huddled up. At 5-8, 176 pounds, McNeely stands in the shadows of most of his teammates.

He stood out on his own on Saturday, catching a 52-yard pass from Jacoby Brissett to set up a touchdown and throwing a nice block inside the 10-yard line to allow Burton to score on a 34-yard touchdown reception.

Burton and McNeely hang out regularly when McNeely is not at his job at Publix bagging groceries. Burton was glad to see McNeely earn some recognition for his play.

“He’s actually had a really good spring. He has really improved,’’ Burton said. “If I had to pick our five hardest workers, he’d definitely be in there. I’m real proud of him.”

THIS AND THAT

--Brown wasn’t the only former player back at The Swamp on Saturday. Ahmad Black, Chris Leak, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez, Mike Pouncey, Maurkice Pouncey, Shane Mathews, Errict Rhett and Lawrence Wright were just a few of the players who stopped by the Gators’ locker room.

--It’s not at all unusual for players to swap jerseys and play on both teams (especially quarterbacks) during a spring game, but the day’s format may have confused some fans. The first-team offense represented the Blue team while the second-team offense represented the Orange. The starters played mostly against other starters and backups vs. backups, and regardless of the color designation, the offense wore blue jerseys and defense wore orange. 

--Sophomore running back Chris Johnson led all rushers with 40 yards on 13 carries. 

--Sophomore safety Jabari Gorman led the Gators with 10 tackles on the day, with freshman linebacker Antonio Morrison, an early enrollee, next with nine.

--Junior linebacker David Campbell had the game’s lone interception, picking off third-team quarterback Troy Murphy with less than two minutes remaining. Two plays later, Jeff Driskel’s 1-yard quarterback gave the Blue team a 21-14 lead that turned out to be the decisive score. 

--Also on campus Saturday was a baseball showdown against LSU, the Florida Relays at the track stadium (where former UF tailback Jeff Demps won the 100), a women's lacrosse match against Johns Hopkins and softball against Ole Miss. 

--The game’s media guest coaches were Andy Staples (SI.com), Edward Aschoff (ESPN.com), Brady Ackerman (SunSports) and Pat Dooley (Gainesville Sun).

 

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