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September 13, 2011

Tuesday Notebook: The Candy Man

Right guard Jon Halapio protects John Brantley because it's his job.

Gummy bears are an added advantage.

"Over the summer Johnny B would bring some snacks, some gummy bears, some candy for the offensive line," he said. "I'm pretty sure he'll be doing that pretty soon."

It's long been a tradition for quarterbacks to take care of their offensive linemen.

In the National Football League, this can mean five-star dinners and Rolex watches, but at Florida, it seems to be all about the candy. The subsequent results have been positive. After allowing 23 sacks in 2010, Florida's offensive line is the only unit in the Southeastern Conference yet to give up a sack this season.

"Our goal is to not give up a sack this year," Halapio said. "We're trying to be the best offensive line this year."

Halapio said older linemen used to tell stories about former quarterback Tim Tebow taking his linemen on outings to McDonald's, but that Brantley has been too busy for any major field trips.

Meanwhile, center Jonotthan Harrison said while the incentives are fine, he's not too worried about his getting himself motivated.

"O-line is one of those positions," Harrison said. "All work, no credit."

Dunbar fine with lack of vertical shots early: Redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar had a fairly simple explanation for why the Gators haven't gone deep much in their first two games.

"We just haven't really called any plays to go vertical," he said. "We're just waiting for one of those plays to happen."

Dunbar opened Saturday's game against UAB with a 40-yard catch on an under thrown flea-flicker pass. It was Florida's longest offensive play of the young season -- 17 yards longer than the second-biggest passing play.

"I'm fine with it," he said. "As long as the team wins, I'm fine. I'm happy."

Receivers have only accounted for 19 of UF's 38 catches in the opening two games. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps have combined for 13 grabs, at least three more than any two receivers combined, and Brantley's only touchdown pass of the season was caught by Rainey.

Different feeling after two games: After a 2010 season that a number of players have referred to as tight and miserable, Florida's players seem to think they're in much better shape than they were at this time last year.

"I feel like it was just a sense of urgency when we (were) doing bad that we need to rapidly do good after the first two games when we (were) doing poorly," Halapio said. "I feel like this year we started off good, fast start. So we're just having fun, doing it right."

The offensive line seems to be enjoying itself maybe as much as any other group in the Gators locker room. On Tuesday, senior center Dan Wenger credited some of that to the now-viral WWE-themed midnight workout the linemen held over the summer.

"That was my idea to have everyone dress up as wrestlers," he said. "We had a lot of fun with that. I think that was one major point in the summer when we kind of came together, since basically everyone participated in it and kind of went all out for it."

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