Meyer Wants 2nd Year Production In Year One

With less than a month until the season opening game in The Swamp against Wyoming, Urban Meyer knows that time is precious, particularly on the offensive side of the football. The installation process of his spread option offense that began in the spring is priority one now, particularly with only one more day of practice before the pads go on and full contact is allowed.

"The saying around our offensive staff is that we need second year production out of a first year offense," said Meyer after Wednesday's second practice. "Second year production means they know what the heck's going on inside and out."

Meyer knows what a second year offense can do. Utah was good in his first year there, going 10-2 with "a below average offensive line," but in year two, with Coach John Hevesy taking over as the sole offensive line coach, production increased to the point the Utes were putting up Star Wars numbers, scoring 544 points and winning games by ridiculous margins. Meyer doesn't want to wait around for the second year for this offense to explode. He thinks that with Hevesy developing the offensive line, good things can happen.

"He [Hevesy] took over the whole offensive line [at Utah] and we went 12-0 because of what he did," said Meyer. "You win up front. Alex Smith got a lot of credit but that offensive line was tremendous."

Hevesy has an offensive line with four seniors headed by center Mike Degory, who is a consensus preseason choice as the best in the Southeastern Conference. There are veterans at the tackles in Randy Hand and Lance Butler and although he has seen only 65 plays on the field since transferring from junior college, Tavares Washington is a senior who plays like a skilled veteran at left guard. Redshirt freshman Jim Tartt is battling back from shoulder surgery and if he's not ready to go, junior Steve Rissler will probably be the right guard.

Meyer said Hevesy is a tremendous leader at his position and he creates the right kind of atmosphere for success.

"You have one guy with a personality like his and they all care about each other," said Meyer. "The offensive line is a different bunch of guys. It's got to be an spirit de corps … it's gotta be guys that are all tied to that center. Last year was as good as I've seen."

Meyer is confident that the offensive line will take on the same characteristics as that Utah line, but right now the focus is on getting the timing down on offense, finding both a fifth wide receiver, a backup quarterback and a number one tailback. Although the offense hasn't looked particularly sharp in the first three days of practice, Meyer didn't seem the least bit worried.

"I always feel that we're a little bit behind on offense," he said. "I just left a pretty good offense that felt that they knew the whole system in and out. I think it's coming."

Having Degory to lead on the offensive line and third year starter Chris Leak at quarterback is helping the transition.

"We have some veteran players and with the talent at receiver you should get second year production and it's close," he said.

The backup quarterback could be Gavin Dickey, but right now the fourth-year junior from Tallahassee is spending his time learning the wide receiver position.

Meyer said that Dickey is still getting physically accustomed to the wide receiver position.

"His body is not used to it," he said, "so he's a little bit behind right now. He'll be fine there. I think he's going to be an inside receiver. We're going to get him back with some shots at quarterback in the near future so he will help us. He can help us at receiver. Baseball players and quarterbacks don't run as much as receivers so he's been doing a lot of running and his body is still getting used to it."

Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said that he's confident that Dickey can play quarterback so wide receiver is where he needs to be right now.

"He hasn't played a lot of receiver so he's out there right now because that's where he needs to be to make up ground if he's going to be a slash guy to play both quarterback and receiver for us," said Mullen. "We can throw Gavin back at quarterback and he's not going to be nervous and not know how to take a snap or take a cadence. He's played a lot of quarterback here in his career so it's easier to come back to that position so we're really focusing on getting him to learn the fundamentals of receiver."

Meanwhile the backup quarterback looks more and more like it will be true freshman Josh Portis. Portis rebounded Wednesday from a so-so Tuesday practice.

"I feel better about him today," said Meyer. "If you'd asked me yesterday I would have said some bad things about him but the one thing about Josh Portis is he loves what he's doing and he cares. He really had a good day today."

LINEBACKERS: Meyer continued to heap praise upon junior Earl Everett. In the spring and throughout the tour of Gator clubs, Meyer continually called Everett the best football player on the team. Wednesday morning Everett turned in another spectacular performance that included another pass interception.

"He's terrific," said Meyer. "He's picking up where he left off at spring practice. I made a comment that he might be the best player. The way he's practicing … he's athletic … he's a great kid and a great player."

Meyer likes the five linebackers who finished the spring so well --- Everett, Brandon Siler, Todd McCullough, Brian Crum and Billy Latsko --- but he knows that five linebackers is just not enough in the SEC. He's looking to find some production from one of his freshman linebackers.

"I wish some of our freshmen would step up," he said, mentioning Daryl Gresham, Ryan Stamper and Jon Demps. "I was hoping that one of those guys would step up and look like they could play this year. I haven't seen that yet. I feel decent about the five but you're going to need more than five."

PRACTICING ON FIELD TURF: Because of the heavy rains Wednesday's second session was moved to the new artificial Field Turf field that has been installed at the practice complex. The field is 80 yards long and it served its purpose for the afternoon session.

"I wish we had about another 30 yards, but someone said 18 of the NFL teams have that turf now and a lot of colleagues in the profession say at times its' better than grass because you don't have the divots," said Meyer. "It rained pretty hard and we were under water at the other one [practice field] so it was great. This facility is going to be tremendous … we'll have two and a half fields."

CHAMPION'S CLUB: Meyer said he didn't have the exact numbers but he was very impressed with the number of players who made Champion's Club after the summer session.

"Everyone who steps on the field is Champion's Club," he said. There's a handful … two or three guys that didn't make it, but it was very impressive. I think the first one is the hardest because the first one they don't know and you check every little thing in January, February and March. Then in the summer all they have to do is make strength gains and stay out of trouble and they did that."

TATE CASEY: Casey, the sophomore tight end from Longview, Texas is sporting a Mohawk hair cut. Of course given the recent ruling by the NCAA regarding mascots and what is offensive, Casey's do might be considered offensive by the PC crowd at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

"I take it from Brian Bosworth who has a little bit of attitude," said Bosworth, describing the motivation for the hair cut. "I'm just trying to have a little fun for two a days. It's not much fun out there in the sun and I'm not impressing the ladies this week so I think I'm all right."

Casey gained about 22 pounds since last season bringing him to a very respectable tight end size of 6-6, 242. He says the extra weight hasn't hurt his mobility.

"Speed and mobility, that's my game," he said. "Instead of being the big blocking type tight end, I want to be the type that can move and block at the same time."

The new offense spreads receivers all over the field and then puts them into a variety of situations. For a tight end, one play is strictly like a wide receiver, the next he's like an H-back and on other plays, he may be like a running back.

"The wideouts are like tight ends, running backs, wide receivers," he said. "I think the tight end or "P" as we call it, is more of offensive lineman that the other receivers."

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