Wednesday Report

Believe it or not, Florida freshman spent some games in high school facing the dirt. As a result, he isn't easy to rattle -- and his opponents are starting to realize it....

You've seen him take a number of hard hits. And he's certainly thrown his share of interceptions. But don't think QB Chris Leak hasn't faced tough situations before.

Even as the nation's most heralded high school quarterback last year, Leak said he wasn't immune to making mistakes. As a result, he isn't concerned about being branded by the college game early in his career.

Remember those six sacks against LSU? Been there, done that. And those three interceptions against Ole Miss? Nothing new, either.

"I've been sacked six times before in high school," Leak said. "I had four interceptions in one quarter [during his sophomore year]."

But when he was asked if the errors caused him to be benched, Leak responded: "No. We won the game 21-0."

Recently, Leak has bounced back from the slip-ups, remaining cooler and more composed under pressure. His unbreakable focus has earned the praise of one of the Gators' most experience offensive lineman.

"Chris is a tough kid and a smart kid, and he doesn't lose his poise after being hit like that," OT Max Starks said. "He still goes out and executes his assignment. That's one of the things you want at quarterback. Chris is as tough as [former quarterback] Rex [Grossman]. Rex was one tough son-of-a-gun. For his age, Chris is probably tougher."

As Georgia coach Mark Richt prepares for the true freshman quarterback, the Bulldogs don't expect to easily rattle Leak – no matter how many times they knock him down. Richt said he saw as Leak remained unfazed following three late-hit penalties called against Arkansas.

"I see him as a guy who doesn't get rattled very often at all," Richt said. "I didn't see him carry anything over to the next play or the next series. I think that's why he's the starting quarterback right now. He's done a great job of staying under control and poised."

A STRONG GRASP

No doubt about it. Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong knows the Southeastern Conference. And considering he held the same position at South Carolina from 1999-2002, he certainly knows plenty about the SEC East.

As a result, several Gators said the coach has an edge when it comes to game-planning for teams like Georgia. After all, he knows the drill.

"I think the fact that he has been in the SEC, and specifically in the Eastern Division, it helps a great deal that you can be familiar with what a team is trying to do," Florida coach Ron Zook said. "Any time you're familiar with a team, it's going to help. The fact he's played Georgia all of coach Richt's years is a plus.

"It still comes down to you have to block, tackle and run. It's going to come down to playing out there for 60 minutes."

But DT Kenny Parker said it isn't just Strong's familiarity with the Bulldogs that will help him Saturday. It's his familiarity of his own team. Since the season's start, Parker said he has noticed an increased level of confidence in the way Strong runs the unit.

"Early in the year we started off really slow and didn't really know how to finish off games," Parker said. "Now we're more comfortable and relaxed come game day, instead of being so uptight. Now coming to the games we are more focused. Going into game day we know what we need to do on the field instead of just thinking about it."

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

In attempt to give his players a chance to recover from a rash of injuries, Richt eliminated all full-speed drills from practice this week. The team's Web site reported the Bulldogs practiced Tuesday and Wednesday in jerseys, helmets and shorts.

"I'm a little bit concerned about the team right now," Richt said. "I think we're still a little beat up and tired. I'm trying to find ways to get their legs back under them. Hopefully, by the end of the week, we'll have them back."

The Bulldogs have already lost seven players for the season, while 22 players have missed at least one game. Georgia expects only two Bulldogs – Decory Bryant (neck) and DE Ray Gant (leg) – to miss the game for certain. Several others, including F Fred Gibson (bruised knee), remain questionable.


Fightin Gators Top Stories