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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Four weeks into the season, the UF football team is still working out its starting free safety.

Senior Kyle Jackson - who has struggled for much of the season and has been pulled from games due to poor play - is still the starter but continues to lose ground to freshman Major Wright.

Whoever is back there, the job comes with lots of pressure.

"That's the quarterback (of the defense), regardless of if it's fair or not," UF coach Urban Meyer said during his Sunday teleconference. "If you miss a tackle and you're a defensive end, the tackle or someone else helps you. That's part of the position you play. You miss a tackle in the backend, and that's a home run. Our free safety position has to be much better than it is right now."

After watching Reggie Nelson patrol the backfield last season and lay punishing hits, fans want to see Wright, who is also known for his hitting ability. But Meyer won't increase the freshman's role until the coach feels he's ready.

"There's a lot of people that say throw them out there and see how they do," Meyer said. "That's absolutely not the case. It's simply week-to-week. See how Major and Kyle played and compare the two."

In defense of the secondary, the defensive line has struggled all season to get any pressure on the opponent's quarterback. The Gators have seven sacks through four games.

"They're tied together," said Meyer of the coverage and pass rush struggles. "When your defensive backs are playing well, it's usually correlating with a great pass rush. I think it's somewhat tied, but you can't use that as an excuse."

SHARE THE LOVE: Standout sophomore Percy Harvin stole the show Saturday with 121 receiving yards and a touchdown - and he had several runs called back due to penalties - but Meyer knows he has more than just Harvin at his disposal.

"[Jarred] Fayson was wide open and we didn't get him the ball," Meyer said. "[Cornelius Ingram] is very involved in our offense and had a couple catches. I think we went a little conservative. We had to move the chains to keep the defense off the field, so we played a little conservative."

GAME TIME: It was announced that this weekend's home game against Auburn will start at 8 p.m. and be televised on ESPN.

ETC: Meyer said running back Kestahn Moore's shoulder was a little "dinged up," but that he would be fine for this weekend… He also said wideout Riley Cooper should return, and he hopes to have team captain Andre Caldwell back as well.

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