Gators Are In Good Shape For Season Opener

Now that practices have been closed to the fans and the media, the rest of the camp may be the most important in the Urban Meyer era and here is why... If Meyer can get his team through camp healthy and polished with the new offense and defense they will be in a good situation starting the season.

The expectations of fans are so high that a good start would certainly help the beginning of the Meyer reign. The team is in great shape and has a great attitude and this week will mark vast improvement on both sides of the ball. Injuries can really affect a team's morale and depth. While injuries can be overcome, you want to start the season with all your guns loaded. For example LSU has lost a top running back, Tennessee will be without its starting center in the opener and Miami has gotten an offensive lineman hurt. In this age of 85 scholarships, depth is a concern at every program.

OFFENSIVE SCRIMMAGE THOUGHTS: I thought Meyer was very kind in his assessment of the offense and I would not have wanted to be on the offensive staff after that practice. The effort and toughness was good but there were too many turnovers, mistakes and "un-Meyer-like" plays that will have to be corrected. Give the defense credit: they were ready to go, especially the secondary, and the offense only added fuel to the fire with so many mistakes.

I think the offense really focused on a certain number of plays and that was it. They basically ran the same plays over and over and I don't get the impression that Dan Mullen is going to move to point B until everyone gets point A. The running game did not produce any "big" plays, which was disappointing to me. Leak had a big run, but the running backs did not do a great job of making a guy miss or running through a tackle for a big play. Kestahn Moore is ready to contribute this year and he should be able to go barring any bad luck the final week of camp. The offense did not have Mike Degory and with a system that is so balanced and predicated on the run he may be the most valuable player and that includes Chris Leak.

DEFENSIVE SCRIMMAGE THOUGHTS: With three of the top four defensive lineman sitting out the scrimmage the defense showed a lot of heart this past week. Chuck Heater and Doc Holliday may get the "Ack" award for coaches of the fall so far to this point. The secondary really got up in the receivers faces and got them off their routes. This is the best man-to-man coverage team I have seen at UF in some time. Heater really has the guys doing their work at the line of scrimmage and the unit showed some depth. If Vernell Brown is going to be "THE guy" he has to continue to be physical and pester receivers at the line. The safeties came out very physical and Kyle Jackson performed as if the offense was FSU and not his own teammates. If the secondary can disrupt things at the snap then it should help the front in the pressure game. I like what I saw out of reserve linebacker Eric Rutledge although the depth is still, and will be, a major concern. Depth however looked much improved on the D-line and Secondary.

DEPTH CHART REACTION: A lot is being made about the depth chart, such as who is the starting running back and which quarterback leads for the backup spot, etc. The recent trend in college football is to put a depth chart in the media guide that hardly resembles the actual in-house look of a team. In the old days the depth chart was used to motivate and push players to perform or maintain a high performance. I think Meyer is old school in this way and his honesty is refreshing. I don' t think DeShawn Wynn will start the first game but after the scrimmage Coach Meyer was asked if the season was today would #21 start? He said yes. Now that was a good answer and an honest one. The depth chart can be an every day changing event inside a program to motivate and reward players. Many people didn't even notice Kyle Jackson's demotion in the middle of last week, but he sure did. He stepped up in the latest scrimmage. In the past I think coaches basically told you who was going to start and what you wanted to hear but I think Meyer genuinely wants to see who will earn the spot as some positions. For that he is old school and it is quite refreshing.

FUTURE SCHEDULES: I am nitpicking but for the Gator defense I would like to see Florida schedule more "pro style" teams in the future early on the schedule. Wyoming and a perennial offensive power in Louisiana Tech are two teams that spread the field and attack you on the ground and through the air. These teams offer nothing offensively for the defense to get ready for the Volunteers. Both teams are good enough that UF cannot afford to pre-plan for Tennessee or they may be in some trouble. So why schedule them? Well, they will play you is one reason, and you need wins but UF is still scheduling under the 90's formula. I would like to know if Meyer would rather have an open date or play before a power like Tennessee. This twelfth game may make that a mute point but this year's defense can't be judged until September 17. I will say next year's schedule with Jeff Bower and Southern Miss and George O'Leary and UCF should provide a better look for the defense.

LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE AND THE STRIPE: Meyer's use of the "stripe" on the helmets of freshmen and newcomers is not that much different than when I was a freshman at UF. We would have our names on tape on the front of our helmet as freshman until we were good enough for our coaches to remember us. Everyone would eventually get their name off by the end of fall camp. What this does is create a sense of urgency with freshman to go out and make plays. Today's athlete is so much more about going pro and self promotion so it is nice to see Coach Meyer bring back some old school techniques. He and his staff are trying to create an importance of being able to dress on Saturday and count me as one guy that likes it. The old saying goes something like this: "when you put on the silks, the orange helmet and run out that tunnel on Saturday in front of 90,000, it is a privilege to be a Florida Gator."

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Dan Mullen, UF's offensive coordinator, would like to see balance and a 50-50 run-pass ratio. In the last two years at Utah it has been more like 60-40 run-pass ratio. In Florida's scrimmage this past Tuesday, they unofficially ran 83-88 snaps. The breakdown on my chart was 44 passes, 27 runs, 6 shovel passes and 7 sacks or tackle for losses. Even though it is only one scrimmage it tells me that the ratio may be more pass than run. I think Coach Meyer has said all along that he looks to take the strengths of the offense and Chris Leak is a passer. The talent of the receivers will also contribute to this ratio. Last Season at Utah, Meyer's offense only threw more passes than runs in one game all season. In the Fiesta Bowl vs. Pittsburgh, Alex Smith was 29-37 for 4 touchdowns while the Utes only ran the ball 31 times. The only two teams that held the Utes in check at all running the ball last season were the Panthers at 139 yards and Mike Stoops at Arizona, who managed to keep Utah to 158 yards rushing. These aren't exactly anemic numbers considering most team's goals are to hold teams under 100.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: G.A. Mangus was a walk-on quarterback who lettered in 1991. He did carry the ball one time for six yards in the Florida-Georgia game that season. He tutored under Steve Spurrier as a graduate assistant from 1992-1994. He is currently the head coach at Delaware Valley, an NCAA Division III program. His team made it to the quarterfinals last year and they are currently ranked in the preseason top 10 in every poll including Sports Illustrated. He is married to Lauren and they have a daughter Grace. For the record, he does run Steve Spurrier's offense and run it very well.

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