Gators Maturing in Time for Second Road Game

Florida head coach Urban Meyer remembers the stress of preparing his young team to play at Tennessee two weeks ago. The young team's progress has been rapid enough that the off-the-field distractions of a road game aren't a concern to Meyer as the Gators head to a hostile road game Saturday at Alabama.

"We're beyond all that now," Urban Meyer said after Thursday's practice. "I was really concerned because I get paranoid about everything. I get paranoid about someone walking in seven minutes late to a meeting and it ruins a Wednesday. We're beyond that."

The maturity isn't just off the field. Meyer has also seen it on the practice field this week. He senses focus out of his team. However, it was made a lot easier now that his young team is getting into a rhythm and understanding what the coaches expect in preparation.

"It was a really good week of practice, like you would imagine," Meyer said. "I think we're over the hump of teaching guys how to practice, thank God. That was a learning curve for a while."

Meyer said the week of practice has been "up and down," referring to the pumped in crowd noise as creating some issues for the offense. The defense played "very good."

As hard as the focus and preparation have been this week, Meyer sometimes wants his players to step back and soak it in.

"I'm trying to make sure the young guys really appreciate what's going on," Meyer said. "You get caught up in who we're playing, and forget it's a great day here in Gainesville and we're getting ready to play on national TV in primetime."

INJURY REPORT: Running back Jeff Demps participated fully in practice but not at full speed. Meyer continues to list him as probable, and they will try to practice Demps on Friday.

If he isn't ready to go, the Gators will use Emmanuel Moody, Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown in the backfield. Moody is at full health this week.

Defensive tackles Brandon Antwine and Lawrence Marsh will play in Saturday's game. Dominique Easley has been slowed during practice by a continued foot injury, but he will travel with the team.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis continues to deal with a back injury, but Meyer listed him as probable.

SCOUTING ALABAMA: As he does every Sunday, Meyer flipped the Alabama special teams tape on to begin preparations. What he saw impressed him. The Crimson Tide use two important playmakers in the return game.

"Watch their return game… It's Julio Jones and Trent (Richardson)," Meyer said. "You can always tell a team that puts a premium on special teams. Obviously, we do, and the team we're playing does."

Jones will be a focus for the Florida secondary. His statistics haven't been eye-popping in recent years, but his physical attributes alone demand respect.

"The size is ridiculous," Meyer said. "It's freakish. Whenever God makes guys that big and that fast, it's kind of a scary deal. It's his go-hard. A lot of times those premier players don't go hard. He goes hard."

FIVE-MAN FRONTS: The Florida defense will use their five-man defensive front that saw plenty of action against Tennessee.

"It's simply taking Duke Lemmens and putting him at outside linebacker," Meyer said. "That's really the body type he is. He's a little heavier than A.J. Jones, so it's not a big difference."

The defense also puts bigger bodies on the outside of the defensive line. Where their defensive ends may be slightly undersized against a big Alabama offensive line, this allows big bodies to face the Alabama tackles.

"What I like about it is getting a 300-pound guy at the five-technique, which is playing over the tight end and tackle," Meyer said. "It's just size of people."

DEBOSE CONTINUES TO IMPROVE: Andre Debose made his debut with four catches last week, all coming in the first quarter. When Kentucky made adjusts to stop him from getting the ball, he didn't touch it again.

Debose's performance in practice this week has the head coach thinking he will see more playing time this weekend.

"He had a good week," Meyer said. "He's still very much involved. I made the comment last week that if he didn't practice very well, (he wouldn't play). He's really coming on, and it's really good to see that, too."

What hurt Debose from seeing the field more against Kentucky is his limited knowledge of the playbook. Meyer said that has improved this week.

"A little bit more," Meyer said. "He just can't handle it right now. That's where a guy like Trey does. It's amazing Trey's just got it and goes. It's not uncommon, though. It took Deonte (Thompson) a while."

REMEMBERING LAST YEAR: While the game is being billed as revenge for Florida, the Gators haven't spoken much this week about what happened in last year's SEC Championship Game.

However, they will have some of those conversations as kickoff approaches.

"We don't even mention that," Meyer said. "As it gets closer to game time our history is we start talking on Fridays because the work week is done. Now it's all mental preparation. It's not even brought up on Tuesday and Wednesday, but we'll have some good discussions. Plus it's a night game, so you get to sit with them at the hotel all day long and stare at each other. It's a big game, but it's why those kids came here."
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