Meyer Thinks Gators are Better Prepared

After being surprised with what happened on the field last weekend, Urban Meyer thinks he has a better feel for his team going into this Saturday's matchup with USF. Young players for the Gators experienced their first test in an intense environment, and an improved week of practice has the confidence high again.

"I didn't anticipate what happened. In the locker room before the game, I thought they were really ready to play," Urban Meyer said after Thursday's practice. "I think they were ready to play. There were some disastrous mistakes, but obviously we won and our defense played fairly well. There's a lot of urgency this week. That was the word of the week."

Meyer said the team "cleaned a lot of stuff up" in the last few practices before taking on the Bulls.

Fair or not, Saturday's offensive debacle was thrown on the shoulders of quarterback John Brantley because it was his first game as the starter. Meyer thought that was unfair but knows it comes with the position.

"I don't think it was Johnny," Meyer said. "There were so many new faces out there. That didn't look like us. Obviously the quarterback is going to take the heat, and he should. That's why you play quarterback. Hopefully we get ten guys around him playing at a high level, too."

INJURY REPORT: Meyer "got the thumbs up" on left tackle Xavier Nixon, who will play Saturday. The Gators don't know if he will start the game, and offensive line coach Steve Addazio will make that decision.

Defensive tackles Terron Sanders and Lawrence Marsh were also cleared to play. Jordan Reed is still limited by a bruised knee, but he will play this weekend.

B.J. DANIELS PREPARATION: Defensive preparations have been made harder because of an athletic USF quarterback in B.J. Daniels. He can beat teams on the ground or through the air, and Meyer has been reminded of the heavy practice time the Gators put in preparing for Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006.

"We worked really hard on that," Meyer said of stopping Daniels. "Matter of fact, Tyler Murphy really helped a lot. We told him a few times to tuck it and run it. That's where a lot of his big plays are made. He's their guy."

RECEIVER ROTATION: Meyer said Monday that creating depth at wide receiver was important after Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore played almost every snap last weekend. This week of practice has been focused on adding players at wide receiver.

"The guys got a little better in practice, so we can get them in the game," Meyer said. "There will be a little bit of a rotation this week."

A welcomed addition to the receivers would be Chris Dunkley, but Meyer still isn't sure when he will return.

"He's getting closer," Meyer said. "He had a good day today. I don't know if he'll get in this week, but he's had that hamstring forever. I wouldn't say he was 100% until about last week."

It's not a lack of talent for Dunkley. He opened eyes during the summer at less than full strength. However, he is still limited.

"It's just learning," Meyer said. "He missed all of training camp. We're in the season now, and it's hard to learn. We're game planning now."

STILL SEARCHING AT TIGHT END: The Gators tried multiple players at tight end last weekend. This week, they could force a freshman into the mix. Gerald Christian didn't see the field much in the opener, but he has the talent to produce.

"We're trying," Meyer said. "I don't know about this week, but we're trying to accelerate his growth as fast as we can. Last week, we put a freshman offensive tackle there (Ian Silberman), but that didn't work great. He tried his butt off."

If the production doesn't come this season, it shouldn't take much longer for Christian to catch on.

"He works his butt off, but just a little young," Meyer said. "He's a little overwhelmed now, not because of effort. He's an unbelievable guy."

CENTER DIFFERENCES: Meyer says there are no major differences between the center position in the Florida offense and those of more tradition sets.

The key issue has come in the center pulling shortly after the snap. Florida started to do that when Maurkice Pouncey took over at the position, and the calls are still there for his brother, Mike.

"That's unusual to do," Meyer said. "Normally, your center can't do what those kids do. Those happen to be two fantastic centers. We do ask them to pull a little bit more than normal."

BURTON IS SPECIAL: The Gators always liked Trey Burton during the recruiting process, as he was one of the first commitments in the 2010 class. Since showing up on campus, he has shown multiple skills they didn't know he had.

Burton's ability to play as many as four positions on offense gives the Gators a special weapon.

"Rare," Meyer said of his talents. "It does not exist. Somehow, we just hit a home run on that one."

The names mentioned in the same sentence with Burton set the bar high. The Florida offense has seen a few players line up at multiple positions, and they all wound up having excellent college careers.

"Hernandez was one of those cats, but it took a little longer," Meyer said. "Aaron didn't do what Aaron did until the end of his first year. Percy is probably the only other one that was so multiple."

The multiplicity is a benefit early in Burton's career, but the head coach knows that it isn't likely to last for long.

"We'll probably have to pick (one)," Meyer said.

BACKUP QUARTERBACK BATTLE: Meyer doesn't have complete confidence in the backup quarterbacks on the team, but they are improving. Two of the three candidates to play quarterback can also play other positions, giving the Florida offense some options.

"By week five, I hope we're real comfortable," Meyer said. "Trey is ahead of Tyler right now. Tyler is coming on pretty strong. The other guy who is throwing the ball pretty decent is Jordan Reed. We've got to start narrowing it down."

KORAN BURNING CALLED OFF: The Florida players made Meyer aware of the Koran burning that was scheduled to take place on Saturday. While the Gators were on the practice field Thursday, it was canceled.

"I am relieved," Meyer said. "The ramifications of that… Oh my gosh."

Florida officials said increased security will remain in place for Saturday's game.
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