Leak the Leader

True freshman Chris Leak continues to overlook his age as he leads the Gators in the game-winning drive against Georgia....

JACKSONVILLEStanding in the huddle with 83 yards of field ahead, Florida quarterback Chris Leak glared at his teammates without any special words in mind. He knew what he had to do, and he knew all he needed to say.

"Trying to get words out of Chris is like finding a needle in a haystack," offensive guard Shannon Snell said. "He never says a word in the huddle, so when he spoke we listened. He just looked up at us and said, 'Let's go.' We knew there was nothing to worry about."

Quiet kid, loud actions. Sparked by three passes for 44 yards, the true freshman drove his Gators 66 yards in 3:16 to set up Saturday's game-winning field.

So as the story of Leak remains mostly untold, each performance forces scarier thoughts of what could come next. But there was more to be recognized than his glaring final drive Saturday.

Leak didn't just become the first Florida quarterback of any age to lead the Gators to wins against three consecutive ranked opponents. He also continues to show he'll continue to improve.

Since throwing three interceptions in one quarter against Ole Miss, Leak has thrown 87 passes without an interception.

"We don't think of him as a freshman anymore," said tight end Ben Troupe, who caught two of Leak's passes for 37 and 21 yards. "He just continues to prove how well he is learning this offense."

Against Georgia, Leak finished 13 for 23 with 235 yards and one touchdown - all against the nation's leading defense. The performance moves him to 4-1 as a starter, the best record of any freshman in the country this season.

Unlike during his only loss to Ole Miss, Leak appears to be taking his time rather than attempting to force passes to his receivers. He's not afraid to heave the ball out of bounds, and he isn't creating unnecessary mistakes.

And as a result, opponents are creating less sacks and no interceptions. The only time the Bulldogs managed to sack Leak, he slipped trying to evade a defender.

"He's one of those players you just can't understand," cornerback Keiwan Ratliff said. "He's a true freshman coming into a game like this. All the pressure is on him to drive down and win the game. You try not to put it solely on a quarterback, especially when he's a true freshman. And look what he does. That just shows you what kind of player he is."

As a result of his patience - a characteristic rarely seen in an 18-year-old in a game of this magnitude, coaches have started placing more responsibility on him. And the more he succeeds, the more freedom he will be given.

"Our football team had continued to become more confident in Chris," coach Ron Zook said. "He's improving. He made some major strides today."

So as of now, Leak has yet to use all of Florida's offensive game plan.
But if the Gators continue to execute in clutch situations as Leak did
Saturday, there's something other opponents may have a difficult time swallowing.

The best is yet to come.

"When he steps up and makes plays like he's been doing, you've got to
give him more opportunity to make those plays," tailback Ran Carthon said. "But
nothing Chris does surprises me. When you really think about it, though, it's
crazy to think about how much someone so young has already achieved."


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