A clear case in point is Kyle Jackson, Florida's ultra-talented sophomore safety. After three days of uneventful days on the practice field, Jackson was removed form the first unit. Today, Jackson responded to the demotion with his best day of practice as a Gator. Still, after practice Meyer said Deshawn Carter, not Jackson would start if the Wyoming game were today. Carter is not a better player than Jackson is, but he has practiced closer to his potential than Jackson has. So Carter gets praised and Jackson gets challenged. Jackson was a beast Tuesday morning, but it apparently will take more than one strong practice for him to re-claim his starter status.
Making Use Of The Bench
Whether you are trying to get veterans to work harder or looking to punish unacceptable behavior, the bench is the greatest tool a coach has at his/her disposal. Nothing gets a player's attention better than denying him the chance to perform. Poor performances on game days? Sit him. Saturday night arrest? Sit him. Lazy practice habits? Sit him. Players who know their likelihood of getting to play is directly tied to those issues are far more likely to perform/behave as expected. I have written many times in this space, running stadium steps is not punishment; being forced to sit and watch is.
We don't yet know if Meyer is inclined to go from daily adjustments in the depth chart to using playing time and starting opportunities during the season, but I suspect he will. The Gator coach seems to be a very consistent guy. He believes in right and wrong and doesn't change it to suit particular circumstances. Florida's most talented players better have been taking notes.
The Circle of Life is very competitive
Marcus Thomas Says It's Different
Junior defensive tackle Marcus Thomas told GatorCountry.com that the idea of losing your position with inadequate effort on the practice field was not a possibility last year. "We were kind of set in stone," Thomas says. "I admit I know I was. I figured nobody was going to take my spot so I just kind of did what I wanted to. With this new coach (Greg Mattison) he came in and said if you play lazy you're going to come off the field."
Thomas says Coach Mattison made it clear to the defensive linemen they have to be a lot more productive. "We had 26 sacks last year and I thought that was pretty good," Thomas said. "He told us he had never heard a number that low. He wants us to have 40 or 50 sacks this year. He also is making us be more of a unit. Now I know I'm not going to get a sack unless everyone else does his job."
Of course if you are going to demand full speed on every play, you have to have more than four or five linemen ready to play. "We're going to have a second unit of defensive linemen to come in," Thomas said. "Last year after 60 or 70 plays we would get tired in the fourth quarter."
Perhaps my biggest criticism of the Gator coaching staff last year was inadequate substituting in most games. That failure to get rest for veterans (and experience for young players) throughout the game cost the Gators dearly in fourth quarter losses to Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State. So no matter who starts, Florida's defensive line has to play eight-to-ten guys every week to be the kind of defense Florida fans are hoping to see.
Right now -- if Thomas is healthy --- it appears Thomas, Steve Harris, Ray McDonald and Jeremy Mincey will give Florida an effective and potentially dominant front four. Derrick Harvey, Joe Cohen and Clint McMillan are clearly in the mix. Lutrell Alford, Branden Daniel and MacKenzie Pierre will try and prove they deserve snaps as well.
Ron Zook and his staff did a fine job building depth along the defensive line over the last three years. Urban Meyer and his staff seem determined to make better use of it.
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