ACK: Urban Renewal Begins Tonight In The Swamp

Let the Urban Renewal begin Saturday night at the Swamp. Urban Meyer and his Florida Gators will play Wyoming of the Mountain West conference in one of the most anticipated openers in Orange and Blue history. Coming into the game, the Gators have never lost a game on September 3 in school history; haven't lost a season opener since Ole Miss in 1989; and the last time Urban Meyer was on the losing side of the scoreboard was in October of 2003 when he was at Utah.

There are a lot of comparisons being made of Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. When Spurrier took over the Gators in 1990 there was an immediate change in attitude, not only among the players but among fans. I was on the 1990 team and we had talent but Spurrier convinced us that we were supposed to win. The fans bought into it, too. Meyer has this team believing this is the way it's suppose to be done at UF and that may be his biggest asset. Everyone wants to see Meyer's offense and the new aggressive style defense but if there is one thing that can bring the swagger back to The Swamp it is Urban Meyer's confidence. He has a strong will to win and he demands a lot from his players. This week will be the first step to the team seeing the benefits of the Urban Renewal.

OFFENSE: Wyoming is small on the defensive front but they are athletic in the secondary. Joe Glenn believes his linebackers are better and tackling will be the key for the Cowboys. Chris Leak will have time to throw but look for Wyoming to try and make sure tackles to force short throws and not allow a big play. I am sure Leak will have some nerves … what great player doesn't before any battle? Leak's command of the offense will interesting to watch as will his ability to read man vs. zone coverage. Keep an eye on motion receivers to see if Wyoming defenders run with them. That is the first tip to Leak that he may be seeing man coverage of some sort.

Leak's improved passing is a credit to his decisions to get the ball out on time. I don't anticipate Leak dropping as deep as he did last year in the shotgun which will help the timing of some throws. Leak will try to get the ball off before the receiver gets out of his break. Expect Bubba Caldwell and Chad Jackson to get a lot of balls. One thing about Meyer is he rewards the great workers and players by feeding them the ball. I will have my eye on Dallas Baker and to see if his hard work pays off down the field with some big plays.

The offensive line should handle the Cowboy front although Mike Degory will face a tough scrappy nose tackle in Dusty Hoffschneider. He is not big but plays low the ground and will be a quick set for Degory.

I think the backups get to play in this game which will help their development and the depth. Running back remains the big question and who wants to be the guy? For this week I will pick Marcus Manson who I think may be the "gamer" type. Kestahn Moore is built like a tough running back and the veterans will get an opportunity.

DEFENSE: Florida will face a one dimensional attack Saturday night in The Swamp. Joe Glenn would like to run the ball but with a redshirt freshman running back getting the start he will rely on the arm of his senior quarterback Corey Bramlett. The Cowboy signal caller really came into his own last year and does make quick decisions in the passing game. The passing attack was ranked 36 in the country. The Cowboys offer a tough matchup in receiver Javon Bouknight. He's averaged more than almost five receptions per game (173 total catches) for his career and he's caught a pass in 36 consecutive games. Expect them to move him around a bit to get a matchup they like.

The offense is experienced and it will be important for the Gator front seven to make sure the Cowboys don't get any running room. I will definitely be looking forward to the move of Ray McDonald to the end spot. McDonald who is great with his first step could be the next Alex Brown at UF. The Gator defensive front should be able to get after Wyoming and start building sack numbers in this game. UF should be in nickel and even some dime a lot in this game from a personnel standpoint.

Expect Brandon Siler and Earl Everett to see plenty of time at linebacker but the Gators could play as many as seven defensive backs during the game for significant snaps. UF will play the starters plus Avery Atkins, Reggie Nelson and at least one of the backups at safety. UF will blitz more and a popular blitz could come from the defensive back who is in the slot on a receiver especially on second and third downs with long yardage situations.

FINAL THOUGHTS: At first I thought this might be a tight opener for UF but it's hard to beat a team when your one dimensional and undersized. I think the Gators will have the game in the fourth quarter and maybe Wyoming keeps plugging away to get some points. I think UF will play a lot of players, not just at mop up time but in the first half as well. I think you may see some trickeration from Dan Mullen and Gavin Dickey running the option as well. The goal of the offense is to be balanced and get in the 200-200 range passing and rushing. I think they will get to their goals this week. Gators 45-23.

KEY GUYS TO WATCH: Ray McDonald, Chris Leak, Mike Degory, Vernell Brown, and whoever is lining up at running back and kicker.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Dusty Hoffschneider is small for a division one nose tackle at 257 pounds. He packs a powerful punch though, bench pressing 225, 39 times. It should be a good battle in the middle of the offensive line.

WHERE ARE THEY?: Jerry Odom, who coached under Ron Zook and Steve Spurrier, played for UF in 1987-1990. He led the Gators in tackleS and though undersized, was pound for pound one of the best linebackers in the SEC. After spending two years as the defensive coordinator at East Carolina, he is now taken over at Coffee County High School in Douglas, Georgia. His team is off to a 1-1 start and play in the same region as legendary powers Colquitt, Lowndes and Valdosta. One of Jerry's assistant coaches is his dad Gerald, one of the winningest head coaches in Florida high school history.

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