The lack of a big time atmosphere hasn't prevented Coach Urban Meyer and the Florida coaching staff from making this a productive work week. Meyer said Thursday afternoon that if anything, the Gators might have had an even better week of practice.
"I don't think you have the same electricity around here because it's not a home game and all the Gator Nation is not everywhere you look but as far as the only thing that counts that's work ethic and attention to detail I actually think this week might have been a little better," said Meyer. "Especially the offensive line … there's a sense of urgency there. That's what you want as a coach. You want to see guys that are 'we gotta get better, we gotta get better' and I feel that way with the offensive line and overall as well."
The stuggles on the offensive line were magnified last week against Tennessee when the Gators went toe to toe with perhaps the best defensive front four in all of college football. Florida struggled in both the running game and in pass protection but still, the Gators came out with a 16-7 victory. Emphasis in practice this week was on getting some issues with fundamentals resolved and raising the level of play from the guard position.
Meyer thought there were signs of improvement in the line play. "I think they got a lot better," he said. "I think we'll find out Saturday."
With Tavares Washington nursing a sprained elbow, redshirt freshman Jim Tartt will likely get the start at left guard. Drew Miller will be starting at the right guard position with Steven Rissler ready to step in. Washington's elbow should be improved enough by Saturday that he could see some action.
On defense, there are no injury problems except for Ray McDonald, who had knee surgery Monday. McDonald is walking in a knee brace and he says he will be back, ready to go by the Georgia game (October 29).
"He [McDonald] says he's going to be ready before the Georgia game, which we'll see," said Meyer.
Asked what Dr. Pete Indelicato, McDonald's surgeon, had to say about that prognosis, Meyer teased back, "Who cares what Dr. Pete says? I'm more of a Ray fan here!" Meyer made it a point that he was only joking and then added that Dr. Indelicato is saying that if things go right with McDonald's rehabilitation from the partial tear of his ACL and two torn meniscus, the Georgia game is not out of the question.
BROOKS ON THE HOT SEAT: At Kentucky, there are fans who claim Coach Rich Brooks is dead man walking, just playing out the string until the end of the season when he is canned like so many Kentucky coaches before him. Meyer feels badly for the Wildcats coach, whose team he faced back in 1990 when Meyer was the receivers coach at Colorado State and Brooks was Oregon's head coach.
Meyer feels for any coach who has to go through the media hell and flack from fans because the team isn't doing well, but he knows that taking the heat is part of the job description for a coach who isn't winning.
"It's horrible when they did that thing at Notre Dame [fired Coach Ty Willingham]," said Meyer. "They fired the guy at Indiana last year … East Carolina too. I know more of those guys. It's tough … for head coaches it's tough but you've got nine assistants with families too, but what the heck, that's when you were 20 and you said you wanted to be a coach, it's part of the deal.
"How does it make you feel? You worry about the families because I had it happen to me twice but it's a bad deal, a really bad deal."
Meyer said that coaches know they've got a very small window in which to produce a winner or else they face the axe.
"You've got this many," he said, holding up three fingers. "In my world that's what you get. Any coach who doesn't believe you got three years to get things going … I'm not sure what color the sky is in your world but that's what it is.
"It used to be three years at the premiers [top tier football programs] but now you have three years wherever it is."
THE UGLY BOWL: When Meyer and Brooks coached against each other, it could have been dubbed The Ugly Bowl. Colorado State's colors are Kelly green and gold while Oregon wears a funky green and an electric yellow in its color scheme. At the Freedom Bowl in 1990, the uniforms for both teams were different hues than normal.
"That was the ugliest football game," said Meyer. "I mean ugly. I walked out of my coaches locker and they gave me this awful shirt to wear … I said this looks like … I come walking out and I see the players because they kept it a secret. I see our players uniforms and I say 'oh my God they look awful' and then I go walking out and I see Oregon and it's just the opposite of what we're wearing." ugliest football game… I mean ugly … I walked out of my coaches locker and they gave me this awful shirt to wear… I said this looks like … I come walking out and I see the players because they kept it a secret … I see our players uniforms [green top, gold pants]and I say Oh My God they look awful and I go walking out and I see Oregon and it's just the opposite [yellow tops, green pants]."
Colorado State won the game 32-31 when Oregon couldn't convert a two-point conversion that would have given the Ducks the win.
MATTISON ON TEACHING TAPES: Meyer said earlier in the week that co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has a library of teaching tapes that he uses for instructional purposes with the defensive line. Mattison says the tapes are helpful, but what helps the most is the individual instruction his unit is getting on a day to day basis.
"What we do every play of every practice is we evaluate it," said Mattison, "and it's coached every practice. There is not a practice that we have that one of our kids won't have all of us critique it. That started with last year's film and it starts with every team we play.
"We make a statement that wherever our film is, we want the opposing coaches to say 'wow, look at that technique!' When we watch opposing players on other teams we always comment, 'is that good technique' and one or two of the guys will say, 'no that's not good technique.' We say no, we don't ever want to look like that … we want to have unbelievable pride in our technique. We want to make sure that we're doing things the way they need to be done."
Last week prior to the Tennessee game, the Gators did watch a lot of film of Notre Dame's win over the Vols in Knoxville in 2004. Mattison coached Notre Dame's defensive line last year.
"We watched the Notre Dame game of last year," said Mattison. "The nose guard Derek Landry played great against the center there last year and really the front had a great game against them. They [Florida defensive linemen] could relate to that because it was the same exact teaching we were doing."
PREGAME NOTES: Jemalle Cornelius will step in to Bubba Caldwell's role with the kickoff return team. Tremaine McCullom will team with Cornelius … True freshman wide receiver Louis Murphy will see his first action of the season on special teams … Meyer said that another true freshman, receiver Nyan Boateng is close to being ready to play.