|Former backup QB Ingram emerging as Florida's go-to receiver|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 11 September 2007 13:15|
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Cornelius Ingram longs for the days when he touched the ball all the time, created plays and had so much control.|
Although he misses playing quarterback, he'll settle for an expanded role in Florida's offense when the fifth-ranked Gators host No. 22 Tennessee on Saturday.
With Andre Caldwell sidelined because of a sprained knee ligament and Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson recovering from minor injuries, Ingram might be Tim Tebow's go-to guy in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
``Whenever you lose a guy like that, you really have to step your game up,'' Ingram said.
Ingram caught seven passes for a career-high 105 yards and a touchdown Saturday against Troy. He has 28 receptions for 383 yards and two scores in the last seven games - impressive numbers considering the path Ingram took to this point.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior from nearby Hawthorne came to Florida as a quarterback - he also played guard for the basketball team - and showed promise in coach Urban Meyer's spread offense with his toughness and athletic ability. But he failed to move up the depth chart and was sitting on the bench behind Chris Leak, Josh Portis and Gavin Dickey in 2005.
He quickly realized his future under center was bleak, especially after the Gators received a commitment from Tebow, a highly touted recruit.
Ingram considered transferring to play quarterback. But Meyer persuaded him to stay and moved him to tight end during bowl preparations.
Even then, Ingram may have been out of place.
Sure, he has the body of a tight end. But he also has better-than-average speed, good body control and really soft hands. So even though he's listed as a tight end, the Gators use him much like any other receiver.
He caught 30 passes for 380 yards and a touchdown last season - and came up big in big games.
He had six receptions for 71 yards in the SEC championship game, then finished with four catches for 58 yards in the national title game. And remember Tennessee?
With Florida trailing 17-7 late in the third quarter and facing a first-and-22 play in Knoxville, Ingram caught a short pass on the left side, juked a defender, broke two tackles, picked up a couple of blocks and ended up with a 38-yard gain. It was Florida's longest play of the game and seemingly changed the momentum.
The Gators scored three plays later and then drove 65 yards on the next possession for the game-winning touchdown.
``He's one of our best players and will continue to be,'' Meyer said.
Meyer named Ingram the ``Face of Florida Football'' this spring, saying he does everything right on and off the field and should be considered a role model. Ingram also earned a spot on the team's leadership committee, which handles team policy issues and academic affairs.
But those things do little to take Ingram's mind off playing quarterback. He misses it dearly. He even plays various games with Caldwell, Harvin and Fayson before practice to see who's the superior passer.
``They think they're the best, but I'm the best,'' Ingram said.
Ingram said he would love to throw a pass in a game and even hinted that there might be something in the playbook for him.
``There's no telling what Coach Meyer is going to do,'' he said.
In the meantime, the only thing Meyer wants him to work at is his blocking skills, which the coach believes will help Ingram succeed in the NFL.
``Coming from the quarterback position, I never really had to put my hands on anybody,'' Ingram said. ``It's different. I'm just trying to go out there and play a little more physical each game. Natural strength and all that kind of stuff is pretty natural, but you really have to move your feet and actually block people. It was definitely different for me at first, but I'm getting the hang of it.''
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