"I'm excited when I see a quarterback play confident," Meyer said Sunday morning. "After a couple of series I told him it was as well as he has thrown the ball. He wasn't floating them and even the down field throws were thrown with authority. He threw that 36-yard completion to Chad Jackson early in the game, and that thing was whistling. Quarterback's get in a zone sometimes and I thought the game slowed down for him. They (Kentucky) don't do a lot of things on defense. When a quarterback plays like that, regardless of what style offense you run, that's very encouraging.
Meyer also praised Leak's running with the ball. Leak was seen escaping tackles and making the proper reads on the option multiple times during the game. It was something a lot of coaches and fans were waiting to see from the all-conference quarterback.
"I thought he did pretty well," Meyer said. "He executed the offense very well. The shovel pass, we didn't block that correctly a couple of times and that play is still not a down hill play for us like it was last year. The triple option--where he can read, give the ball, pull it or option with the back--I thought he did that the best so far. He ran it a couple of times and also he flipped it to Chad Jackson. That was his best performance in the option game."
True freshman quarterback Josh Portis entered the game and excited the audience with his deft running ability. Still, a couple of plays where the ball got away from Portis stuck out for Meyer, and it is something the young superstar needs to work on.
"He is an electric player and led the game in rushing," Meyer said. "When your backup quarterback is leading rusher, either you aren't running the ball very well or he's a pretty talented dude. I think it is a combination of both. He's fast and electric. The one thing is he needs to secure the ball. The gift of youth is a great gift but is not so good when you are trying to win games, so we are trying to get the youth out of him."
Wynn Needs To Step Up…..
DeShawn Wynn scored four touchdowns on the day but only had 40 yards rushing in doing so. He was hampered with a slight injury that pulled him out at one point only to see him return later. Wynn ran hard, but Meyer is looking for something more than collecting points from his tailback.
"He has played pretty well and scored a lot of touchdowns, but we would like to see more of a dominant back (out of him)," Meyer said. "We say we would like that 1200-1500 yard back out there and we don't have that yet. At times he's good and others just okay, we are just looking for the dominant back."
Offensive Line Improves…
Against Tennessee the previous week, the offensive line was much maligned after the Gators rushed for only 68 yards on the ground. It is something the coaches worked at correcting all week long and Meyer expressed that progress was made this week.
"The first three games, we don't feel like we blocked--at sometimes anybody--and were not pleased with our play," he said. "Yesterday, some guys went in there and did a nice job. We have a freshman playing left guard Jim Tartt and Drew Miller is a true sophomore, but there were some real positives in our offensive line play yesterday."
However, Meyer sees a lot of improvement that can be made from the line, noting that the young linemen still have a lot to learn about playing at the collegiate level.
"We are no where near where we need to be execution wise," Meyer said. "When you are playing young guards, we are still in the early stage of having a complete understanding of what they need to do."
One thing not seen in the preseason or the spring was the use of the fullback in the offensive system. Both scholarship fullbacks were moved to the defense to play linebacker in the spring where both have made improvement and are sitting in the two deep roster. For the last two games, Billy Latsko has been inserted back to fullback and done a pretty good job as a lead blocker.
"He has a lot of experience running at fullback and we're down numbers," Meyer said. "We want to establish a little bit of a run game and take the ball out of Chris Leaks hands and hand the ball off, Billy Latsko did a nice job for us."
Not Happy With the Backups…
Meyer wasn't happy Saturday when he had to reinsert the starting units back into the game at the end to finish the game on Saturday. When the starters left, the Gators were up by 42 points, when they returned it was only a 21 point margin. After the game Meyer said he was "disgusted" to have to send the first team back in. Sunday he reiterated that, but did point out a few bright spots.
The rest of the second string struggled, as far as the head Gator could see. They have a plan they utilize every week to help speed up the maturation process of the second unit, and there is still a lot of work to be done.
"We do some things at the end of practice with our two's, we just force them to stay out later and bang them around and try to get them tougher and more experienced," Meyer said. "With our schedule, all I am worried about is the next one. It will be a hostile environment and quality players we are going against. Jarvis Moss had a sack and some pressures, but he also did some things that an experienced player hopefully wouldn't do. I think guys like that are starting to come along a little bit and will need to play in some of these big time games coming up. I think we are just inadequate right now in our back ups.
Meyer said he would do the same thing in substituting the second unit when he did. He needs the experience for the younger players and maybe more importantly at this stage, he doesn't want to get the starters hurt. "I think we did the right thing," he said. "Game experience is invaluable, especially on the road to teach some of these guys how to play. We are back here healthy and 4-0. I remember when Alabama lost their quarterback last year on an insignificant drive. We put together a two minute drive at the end of the first half because we needed that work. I wanted to see them function under pressure, getting the ball out of bounds and staying in the no huddle.
"It was the fear we have about our lack of depth made me pull the ones, because of the horrifying thought that someone sprains an ankle before playing Alabama. It was all about injury."
With the loss of starting defensive end Ray McDonald for several games, the Gators need a couple of younger, inexperienced back ups to step up on the front. Meyer is starting to see a flashes from the younger linemen and wants to see some consistency. Jarvis Moss stepped up a little bit as did Derrick Harvey, both defensive ends. The lack of depth at defensive tackle is a little more of a concern.
"That's a big concern, but we have the luxury of using Joe Cohen as the number three inside guy," Meyer said. "McMillan is a guy that needs to come on and walk-on Lutrell Alford is the next step. That is a major concern and we are pushing Ray (McDonald) to get back as fast as he can, and from what I hear it's Georgia. Once he gets back that gives you a little more flexibility. A guy like Jarvis Moss, I think he is probably the next step, if he keeps coming, then I think you could put (Jeremy) Mincey at end, Moss at Fox, and that gives you Joe Cohen as your third inside. Our coaches are doing a good job and the players are doing a good job, we just don't have much depth. You can paint the picture any way you want to paint it, but there are a couple of guys that have to get better and Clint McMillan is one of them,"
The Gators suffered the huge losses of Andre Caldwell and Ray McDonald in the Tennessee game, but exited the Kentucky game without any major injuries. DeShawn Wynn limped of the field at one point but came back in the game to score a touchdown. Safety Jarvis herring never re-entered the game with the starters late in the game, but Meyer wasn't concerned about that one either.
"Jarvis Herring had a strain but is fine and everyone else is good to go," he said. .
Redman Reaction: While he isn't pleased with the overall production of the second units, there were the bright spots. He didn't name Moss as one, but twice bought him up as a guy that will contribute on the defensive line in a much more significant manner. Tony Joiner playing well only solidifies the safety position even more. Jon Demps was named again as a linebacker that seemed to step up, and Skyler Thornton got nice reviews for his first significant playing time outside of the season opener.
On offense, the real worry seems to be backups at wide receiver and offensive line. With Tartt getting reps and decent reviews, that will help on the offensive line. Steven Rissler is already something of a proven commodity. That leaves the back up tackles as a liability on the offensive line. At receiver, Kenneth Tookes, Gavin Dickey, Nyan Boateng and Louis Murphy played, but didn't have a chance to produce much. Josh Portis just needs to hold on to the ball, he will be a great one.
On defense the line seems fine to me as Mattison said he is accustomed to using a six man rotation on the line. Joe Cohen and Stephen Harris become very valuable in that they could play inside or outside. The linebackers need some help and depth. I thought Brian Crum was in on a lot of tackles Saturday. I will have to go back and look. Demps would be a huge plus if he can step up. Joiner, Reggie Nelson, and Avery Atkins are playing significant time and add depth to the secondary.
Are they behind the starters in being ready to play? Yes, but there is plenty of capable personnel there to work with.