Gators Battling Injuries, Fatigue and LSU

Coach Urban Meyer made it a point to discuss the health situation for his Florida Gators football team on Monday. The Gators have played six games in a row and are battered and bruised after a tough four game SEC stretch. Unfortunately for the Gators, a road game at LSU looms ahead and the top ten ranked Bengal Tigers are always a tough match for anyone. Meyer is having tom deal with that fine line between practicing enough and resting enough.

"This week we need to start to back off," Meyer said. Last week we did the right thing, we missed a bunch of tackles against Alabama and we came out Monday in full pads and tackled. And we didn't miss as many tackles. We are going to go out in shorts and some of the better performers aren't going to go today. We are going to stretch and loosen them up and they are done. Some of the younger guys will practice, we are still trying to develop some depth and get some confidence inn the younger players. There is no other way to get them ready than to go after it on Tuesdays, but this will be a completely different Monday than last week."

According to Meyer the injuries while mounting in number seem to be a little better off this week than last. He expects many of the players that were injured going into the contest against Mississippi State to be in a little better shape for the LSU game than they were for MSU.

"Mike Degory has an ankle and an MCL strain but they are saying he is better than he was last week," Meyer said. "They saw me about Chad in the third quarter and they said it was a meniscus and cartilage issue, and (thankfully) it's not that. We are going to rest him today as well.

"Chris Leak is better than he was last week, but he will not throw today. I was told he will go tomorrow. I am very concerned about the lingering effects on the rest of the season. He won't go today."

Meyer indicated that last week he was surprised to find out Jemalle Cornelius was hurt so badly in the Alabama game. He expects to see Cornelius on Saturday.

"This time last week it kind of shocked me when I saw him limping around because I thought he would be fine," he said. "It got worse as the week went on. They are telling me we should have Jemalle this week, but he won't go today."

Building Depth and Finding Players…

With so many issues and injuries Meyer will need some new faces to step up. It looks like the offensive side of the ball has been hit hardest and at times on Saturday, it seemed Meyer and company were pushed to line linebacker turned fullback Billy Latsko out wide. According to Meyer, that wasn't exactly the case, but some new guys are going to have to step up.

"Mississippi State was calling a tiger grouping and we knew what coverage they would play," Meyer said. "We put (Latsko) out there and they would cover him and we knew the coverage. The reason we did it is because we could dictate to him. I'm hoping we get Jemalle back, but I think Nyan Boateng is really coming along. He is talented.

With quarterback Chris Leak nursing a soar shoulder, the Gators had to turn to true freshman Josh Portis early in the contest against Mississippi State. Meyer knows there will be growing pains, but he likes the progress of his young gun.

"I am more comfortable than I have been," Meyer said about Portis. "I wish he had just thrown the ball better on that smash route (Portis' lone interception). He was operating very well when he was in there. If you turn the ball over in a game like this (LSU), that's the only concern I have with Josh Portis. I feel more comfortable than I ever have with Josh."

Other backups have seen some increased time while some have not had the chance to get on the field much. Tight end Tate Casey is one who has seen his role increase with the injuries to the wide receivers, while back up freshman wide receiver Mike McIntosh has been virtually non existent.

"Tate Casey is playing a lot of football," Meyer said. "He just has to improve a little bit and will be involved a little bit more in the offense. Mike McIntosh has some talent and just needs to improve as a football player. He is a very nice young man and no one wants him to get better more than our coaching staff."

One of the true performers this season, off the bench, is cornerback Reggie Nelson. Nelson was actually the first nickel back on defense against Mississippi State last week, and has become a weekly star by continually making dynamic plays on the football field. Meyer is not shy about talking about Reggie Nelson.

"Reggie Nelson is a great football player," Meyer said. "I heard that from Charlie Strong (before Nelson arrived) and I told the AD that this Reggie Nelson must be some great guy. It is not by accident when he is the guy downing the ball inside the one yard line, it's not by accident when he recovered the fumble, and it's not by accident when he is always around the ball and sacking the quarterback. He has a nose for the ball, he's tough, and he loves the game. There are three guys that stand out as far as when they smack you they get up with a smile on their face, that's Brandon Siler, Jeremy Mincey, and Reggie Nelson. They just stood out in that game and really enjoyed the contact part of it."

Jarvis Moss may be the biggest positive surprise on the entire team this year. Moss, who had all but given up football in the middle of spring, was fighting a serious injury to his pelvis. The ailing Moss was finally diagnosed correctly after suffering for more than two years with the infection. Now he is 30 pounds heavier and becoming a force on the football field, showing flashes of what he was able to do as a high school junior in Texas. Meyer talked about finding the cure to Moss' ills.

"I am glad we did that," Meyer said. "Our medical staff and strength coaches did a terrific job. We went hard after Jarvis because he was supposed to be a great player. He looked awful, at one point he was 215 pounds. He came to me crying and said something was wrong with him. He was not a good looking guy. He looked like he had some major problems. Everyone kept saying he was ok, but the medical staff kept pushing and finally we found it. He (now) looks terrific."

A huge question on the minds of Gator fans has been the lack of playing time for Markus Manson at tailback. It seems every time Manson steps onto the field he plays as hard as anyone and played very well against Mississippi State. Meyer sees Manson starting to get more carries.

"Markus Manson will get more time this week," Meyer said. "He is earning it. A lot of it is how he does in practice. Kestahn Moore is a great practice player, but obviously we are very upset about him putting the ball on the ground and that's why he came out of the game. Markus Manson is earning his time and had a great week last week, if he has a great week this week, he will play more."

Reviewing the Mississippi State Game

Meyer started off the press conference on Monday like he does every week with a recap of the previous game. Here is the introduction and most of the highlights.

"I made a comment after the game, that it was by far the best team win this year and that was one of the better team wins I have been a part of," he said. "I really like the way the side line is working. The biggest issue with the Gators right now is it seems like a few players are doing it all. A couple of names off of the top of my head are Reggie Nelson and Vernell Brown. They do so many things that maybe you aren't aware of while just watching the game. That's important, especially with the game coming up with LSU. We have to make sure those guys are fresh. They are our fastest players and most productive players."

Meyer then went into his "Plan to Win". The goals his team sets to achieve a win in every game.

Play Great Defense: "Mississippi State had 243 total yards and two big plays gave up 131," Meyer said. "Obviously those two plays are part of the game, but if you take them out that is consistent great defense. Third downs we held them to 23%. Ten total first downs, nine of 15 possessions were three and out and we had a sudden change and got the ball right back to the offense.

Turnovers: "We did not win turnovers. We had (four). For the season we are plus eight, and top ten in the country, but for the game it's not acceptable."

Red Zone: "We were three of four and the last one, the clock ran out."

Special Teams: "The kicking game was one of our most productive days. We created four scores and that's not a good day, that's a great day. We downed the ball inside the one yard line twice and recovered a fumble in the red zone. After punts, the average start was the 11 yard line for Mississippi State and ours was the 38 yard line."

Meyer pointed out his unhappiness with the penalties the Gators are accruing. "A couple of negatives were the penalties and a couple of them were complete nonsense," he said. "They send you back and get you out of rhythm."

Champions Club for the MSU Game

Defense: Jeremy Mincey, Steven Harris, Marcus Thomas (four hits on the quarterback), Vernell Brown (had 8 opportunities and made 6), Dee Webb, Earl Everett, Todd McCullough, and Jarvis Herring.

Defensive Players of the Game: Brandon Siler and Reggie Nelson.

Offense: Randy Hand, Mike Degory

Offensive Player of the Game: Dallas Baker


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