Gators Almost Ready To Put Game Faces On

Game faces aren't quite ready to go on yet, but Coach Urban Meyer sees his Florida Gators as a team ever so close to being pronounced ready for Saturday's showdown SEC game with the Tennessee Vols in The Swamp. The business-like attitude that Meyer has seen from his sixth-ranked Gators showed especially in Thursday's final full scale practice session.

The Gators were in shorts but it was an intense practice as they made their final preparations to take on the fourth-ranked Vols. Meyer saw a focused team, evident in the way they eliminated the mistakes in practice.

"We [the staff] make a big deal about no replays," Meyer said after practice. "On defense they call them bingos and on offense we call them replays. If someone makes a mistake, do it again … do it again until you get it right.

"The first Thursday [before Wyoming] a bunch of bingos and a bunch of replays … the second Thursday [before Louisiana Tech] not as many and this one with the ones I can't think of many at all other than coaching points and not many mistakes. That's a sign."

Knowing when a team is ready is a true art. Teams that are too ready too quickly tend to perform badly, sometimes as badly as teams that are poorly prepped. Meyer has relied in the past on coaches that he admires to get a handle on the right way to get a team ready.

From Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder, he learned about getting a set routine for the players before every game. Always there will be some variance, but for the most part, the game-week routine is the same for every game on the schedule. He's commented the previous two weeks that he has liked the way the players are fitting into the game week routine.

New England Patriots Coach Bill Bellichick is a believer in assignment tests throughout the week. The Patriots have won three of the last four Super Bowls under Bellichick, who is known for making certain even the most remote detail is covered. To ensure his players are ready, Bellichick uses written and oral tests on his teams.

"I was talking to him [Bellichick] one time and I asked him how do you know when a team's ready?" Meyer said. "His comment is a team is ready when everybody knows what they're supposed to do … not when Chris Leak knows what he's supposed to do but everybody.

"When you say a play, you have a video test and everybody knows that they're supposed to do. We'll find out more tomorrow whether or not we're ready to play because we have a full day of testing and walk throughs but we're close."

Meyer said he's seen the team working harder in preparation during the week, studying film more and digging into the playbook to hammer home assignments. The extra work has come with a little bit of prodding from the coaching staff.

"A lot of it's been pushed," he said, "but our guys have treated it like a special week."

TAILBACK STARTER: Meyer grinned when asked if he's got a starting tailback ready for Saturday night's game. Everyone expects that the starter will be junior DeShawn Wynn, who scored three touchdowns last week against Louisiana Tech. Wynn, in his first action of the season, gained 101 rushing yards and he made a spectacular catch of a 24-yard Chris Leak pass for a touchdown.

Even with the big game under his belt, Meyer wouldn't name Wynn the starter, though.

"I'll announce that tomorrow … or Saturday," Meyer said. …What time's the game? Eight o'clock? 7:59 we'll make that announcement when you see him jog out on the field."

LEAK THE RUNNER: Comments from Tennessee have made their way to Florida about the toughness and running ability of Gator quarterback Chris Leak. Leak was a pure pocket passer his first two years at UF, but now he's being asked to run the ball as part of an option package that is part of Meyer's spread offense. A couple of Tennessee defenders have made the statement that they play to hit Leak early and often Saturday as a way to test Leak's toughness and his desire to be a good runner.

Meyer sounded confident when he talked about Leak, whom he said has improved each week as a runner.

"In week one he was not very good," said Meyer. "In week two he was much better. In week three, to beat a team like this, he's going to have to be very good."

SPREAD OFFENSE VS. TENNESSEE DEFENSE: Questioned if his offense was ready for a defense of the caliber of Tennessee, Meyer responded, "this offense… you mean the University of Florida? We're back to the spread thing and all that? I don't know … it's are our players ready to take on the University of Tennessee? There is no offense. I'm going to try to stay positive right now. It's Chris Leak and the offensive line … and we'll be ready."

KICKING GAME: Meyer has had the Gators working hard on the kicking game this week. The Gators have had breakdowns on kickoff coverage in the first two games as well as a couple of kickoffs that sailed out of bounds for penalties against Louisiana Tech. Additionally, Florida is averaging less than three yards per punt return.

Getting those problems fixed has been a priority all week.

"The breakdowns are all fixable," said Meyer. "The one thing about the kicking game … a guy misses his gap, a guy misses this … we've had three opportunities to block punts and no one's gotten a hand on one. We have to get a little better but I'm confident we'll be there."

CLAUSSEN VERSION II: When he was coaching at Notre Dame, Meyer recruited former Vol quarterback Casey Claussen. When Casey came for his on campus visit, he was accompanied by Saturday night starter Rick Claussen.

"Rick was a young guy then," said Meyer. "I knew the family … Rick was a young guy. I knew Casey real well, I know his dad real well. So I know all about that family. They've got another one [Jimmy, a high school quarterback in California] coming up though the ranks. I have great respect for that family. They're all winners."

MOSS WILL PLAY: Defensive end Jarvis Moss will see the field Saturday night against the Vols. He played two plays last week against Louisiana Tech and he could see even more action against Tennessee.

"He's 242 pounds now which a lot better than 219 … I think he'll play in this game a little bit," said Meyer. "We're slowly getting him back… His attitude right now … I'm proud of attitude right now, proud of Jarvis. That was a lost soul about seven months ago. That's not a lost soul anymore."

Meyer said that Moss is not ready for extended time yet, but he will definitely start seeing the field more.

"Coach [Greg] Mattison likes him," said Meyer. "He has a really good relationship with Coach Mattison."


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