Meyer: 'Championship Week in Gainesville'

In the middle of a three-game losing streak, playing for a spot in the SEC Championship didn't seem possible to the Gators. The team was injured and lacked a spark on offense. After two-straight conference wins, this weekend's matchup with South Carolina provides a chance for the Gators to make it to Atlanta.

"It's championship week in Gainesville," Florida head coach Urban Meyer said at his Monday morning press conference. "I like where our team is at now. I'm not talking about execution-wise, I'm talking about development. You're either heading one way or another, and we're heading in the right direction. That's coming through some adversity and injuries."

The importance of the game yields an opportunity for an electric environment. It will be the first home game since October 16 when Florida lost its homecoming game to Mississippi State.

Saturday's game will be the SEC finale, with all four coming as night games. However, Meyer wants this one to be different.

"I'd like to make this one go down in the books," Meyer said. "Obviously the football team has to do their part, but I want to see this stadium absolutely out of control. We have the best home field advantage in America. Let's use it to the maximum. Unless people have something else to do, I'd like to see a couple hundred thousand people packed outside, inside, wherever it is. Have a lot of fun with this one, because our guys are going to play really hard."

CHAMPIONS: Defensive champions were Terron Sanders, Lerentee McCray, Jelani Jenkins, A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks. The defensive player of the game was Sharrif Floyd.

Offensive champions were Marcus Gilbert, Maurice Hurt, Steve Wilks, Carl Moore, Michael Pouncey, Mike Gillislee, Trey Burton, Frankie Hammond, Jonotthan Harrison, Chris Rainey, Gerald Christian and Deonte Thompson. The offensive player of the game was Jordan Reed.

INJURY REPORT: Jaye Howard is "looking promising" to play Saturday. Jeff Demps will play. Kicker Caleb Sturgis is out.

Matt Patchan is seeing a specialist about his wrist injury.

"It doesn't look like it'll get fixed," Meyer said. "His career will be fine, but for the remainder of the year, it's up in the air."

CAROLINA CHALLENGES: The Gamecocks come to town banged up, but they have the offensive playmakers capable of winning the game.

"They've really expanded their offense with that back they have and a mobile quarterback," Meyer said. "He's running a lot of spread runs, which is a pain. They've got a couple dynamic, big receivers."

Stephen Garcia has been unpredictable throughout his career, and this season isn't much different. However, it is the season that has been the most consistent. Garcia's scrambling ability makes him difficult to prepare for.

"Their quarterback is playing really well," Meyer said. "Their number one play is the read play, and that forces you to show your hand. His completion percentage is real high because of the vanilla defenses he sees from the threat of the run. That freshman tailback is dynamic."

HAMMOND MAKES IMPACT: Frankie Hammond collected three catches for 49 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown catch from Brantley. Hammond caught the ball in the middle of the field, made a quick cut outside and scored easily.

"He's a crisp route runner," Meyer said. "He's not the fastest or biggest guy in the world but very accountable. He's our best blocker on the edge. He's a soldier for us right now. He's doing everything we asked him."

Hammond is listed at 5-11, 178 pounds, which doesn't give him the biggest frame for blocking. However, it's his effort that makes him the best on the team.

"It's all leverage, technique and want to," Meyer said. "He's got all of the above. We've had big guys who can't block me."

EASLEY SITUATION STAGNANT: Dominique Easley didn't travel with the team to Nashville, one week after playing against Georgia. His situation has been up and down throughout the year, and it looks like that will continue.

"He's still with the team," Meyer said. "He's got to do things we ask of him to be involved."

There has been speculation that Easley could transfer, but Meyer believes things can get corrected.

"I think we can work it out," Meyer said.

MCCRAY EMERGES: Lerentee McCray is beginning to emerge as a legitimate threat as a pass rusher. He recorded two quarterback hurries and forced one fumble, which was returned by Terron Sanders for a touchdown.

"He just does things right," Meyer said. "He's dealt with back and ankle issues. His attitude is really good right now. I told our staff, "If you don't capitalize on this great push by a young guy, then you failed as a coach." We have to capitalize on the momentum of this player."

THREE QUARTERBACKS: The Gators have moved to an offense with three quarterbacks, something Meyer claims he has never done before. Each quarterback has a special strength that the coaches want to use.

"(Reed) is a single wing quarterback that can throw," Meyer said. "(Burton) is an option quarterback. (Brantley) is a drop-back quarterback, and the quarterback."

The issue comes on the practice field. The coaches didn't expect all three quarterbacks to have such a large impact going into the season, so they didn't have the necessary reps in practice to perform on the field. Putting the offense in now makes it harder to execute.

"The problem we have at this time of year is we don't want to go practice for 24, 26 or 28 periods, or you'll grind your team to death," Meyer said. "Our issue is keeping this in succinct, tight packages. Get into the game without beating up the offensive line. That's the issue now."

Reed saw the increase in his role after the bye week. Without that, Meyer doesn't think he would have this big of an impact. That time on the practice field in the bye week was important.

"I hear people say, "just let him do that." Okay, you've got ten minutes in practice to let him do that, and the next time he'll do it will be in front of millions of people on TV," Meyer said. "You can't do that to a kid, especially young players."

As Reed and Burton see their roles expand, Brantley's seems to decline. He continues to say the right things that he doesn't care about stats as long as his team wins.

"He saw we were struggling," Meyer said. "It'd be different if we had that 240-pound running back who was a Heisman candidate. It'd be different if some other things were going on and we could be more manageable for what he is perfect at doing. His objective is to help Florida win."

BLITZ PICKUP MUST IMPROVE: The offense got off to another slow start at Vanderbilt, likely coming from the offensive line struggles.

"It was very costly mistakes," Meyer said. "We started the Georgia game like that, and we started the Vanderbilt game like that. Twice we blew protections (against Vanderbilt), but after that it was fine. We had the same thing happen at Georgia. We have to fix it. The quarterback can't have a free shot on him."

TIGHT END OPTIONS: While Reed gets more snaps at quarterback, the lack of tight end production is an issue. Meyer sees Gerald Christian becoming a bigger part of the offense, and that started against the Commodores. Christian played 54 snaps and graded out as a champion in Nashville.

"He'll be in the mix more," Meyer said. "We can say, "let's go run some I-formation. By the way, you don't have a tight end or a big tailback." We've got these little backs with speed. We've set the pace in the country with getting fast guys in space."

JENKINS CONSITENT: After covering Julio Jones and A.J. Jones earlier this year, Janoris Jenkins will be on Alshon Jeffery this weekend. His production this season has Meyer believing he will able to play up to the challenge.

Meyer saw a lack of effort from Jenkins at some points during the 2009 season, but this year has been different.

"That's the history around here and other big time programs," Meyer said. "There's nothing worse than on Saturday sitting in the hotel and seeing the draft board on the TV. What in the world?"

Meyer said Jenkins had one of his best practices on Sunday night. Despite the cold weather, he hasn't taken a practice off this year.

"I'm impressed with what Coach Austin has done, but more impressed with Janoris," Meyer said. "He's extremely consistent and a good practice player. He's a much improved player than he was a year ago."
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