MEYER: Gators Must Use Chris Leak Better

Coach Urban Meyer spent his Saturday watching football, a rare opportunity since he's normally coaching on Saturdays, but this one was a little different. There weren't nearly the questions about his offense in the past four years at outposts like Utah and Bowling Green, so having the time to watch some other teams playing was like a tonic for the Florida football coach.

Saturday he saw teams like Texas, Northwestern and Missouri run roughshod over their opponents using a spread offense that isn't entirely different from the spread-option offense he's been installing at Florida this season. If his confidence was even the slightest bit shaken in his offense in two of the previous three game weeks, then it got a necessary boost watching these games on television. Watching Texas, he saw what Vince Young can do in the offense and with Missouri, he saw the dynamic Brad Smith at his best, running for 236 yards, passing for 244.

Seeing what he saw on television only re-emphasized that he's got the Gators in the right offense, although in Sunday's teleconference he did admit that the Florida coaching staff has to do a much better job of protecting quarterback Chris Leak, play calling and using the personnel better. The Gators have lost two of their last three games, scoring a grand total of 20 points in those losses and in a 16-7 win over Tennessee earlier, Florida managed just one touchdown.

That's a far cry from the offensive production that Meyer saw with regularity when he was at Utah and at Bowling Green. Of course, it must be noted that the defenses in the Southeastern Conference are far better than those he saw in the Mountain West or Mid-American conferences.

"When everyone's healthy I think it [the offense] fits," he said. "It's a completely different offense than we ran last year at Utah and that was completely different than at Bowling Green. I think the biggest difference is the defenses that we are facing."

Alabama held the Gators to just three points and followed that up by holding Ole Miss to 10 and Tennessee to just three.

"Alabama is 7-0 and they've scored 16 points in the last two games," said Meyer, who mentioned that the defenses of Tennessee and LSU are quite similar to Alabama in that they are fast, aggressive teams that blitz a lot and have the ability to neutralize their opponents' personnel.

During the past week, the Gators re-evaluated the offense, breaking down every play the Gators have run. He concluded that "there is going to be the spread option element because that's what we practice, that's who we are and I do believe we can run it because at times we have run it very well. We have to utilize the strengths of our personnel and maybe a couple of additions to the offense."

The common denominator in games against Tennessee, Alabama and LSU was fast, blitzing defenses that created problems for Leak. Meyer pointed out that while Leak is the most visible player who has had problems, he's not the only one.

"Everybody wants to put everything on Chris," said Meyer. "Well, Chris has to improve but we have to block people better for him and we have to get people open."

Meyer added that "The coaches are the ones responsible to do a better job of utilizing Chris's talents."

The Florida coach said that he and his staff have not gotten the best out of Leak or out of the offense. For the Gators to find the answers to the offensive questions requires matching Leak's talents to the personnel in a much more efficient way.

"I don't believe we've done a good job," he said. "The responsibility of this staff is to build the offense around the personnel. So what is the offense? So if it is Vince Young it's a little different, if it's shockly it's a little bit different. We have a very good quarterback in Chris Leak who's had some success in the SEC so we have to do a better job.

"Now there are going to be elements that have to be a part of this offense, which will be. It's just a question of how much and have we done the right things to let him get comfortable and successful? The coaching staff has to do a better job of utilizing Chris Leak's talents."

The Gators will have the advantage of three healthy wide receivers against Georgia and it's been since the first half of the Alabama game since that happened. Jemalle Cornelius, who sprained his ankle on the opening kickoff of the second half against Alabama, appears to be recovered now and that will alleviate some of the pressure on Dallas Baker and Chad Jackson. As for Leak, Meyer said "his practice last week was tremendous and he will be ready to go."

Meyer said that during the week off the Gators evaluated their red zone production, breaking down every play that has been run in those situations to make certain that the right plays are being called. Throughout the week, the offense was re-evaluated as well.

"We're going to continue as is," he said. "We've added a few new things and we'll try to utilize our personnel better. We reached a point where injury-wise we had a hard time getting playmakers on the field. I think we're getting healthy now. We've got to get the playmakers in position to make plays. That was the whole intent of the past week."

PLANNING FOR SHOCKLEY: Meyer said that the Gators will prepare this week as if D.J. Shockley will be Georgia's starter. Shockely sprained a medial collateral ligament (MCL) against Arkansas Saturday and he is considered doubtful for the game in Jacksonville.

"We have too prepare as if DJ is going to play so that's where we're at right now," said Meyer, who added that the Gators will study plenty of film on Shockley's backup, Joe Tereshinski during the week.

While Tereshinski showed immediately that he could throw the football quite well when he hit a deep fade route, Meyer said "the one thing you miss with Shockley is when he's going with the quarterback draws and quarterback sweeps. He's a dynamic football player and he's turned into an excellent thrower."

After watching the highlights of Brad Smith and his 480-yard game that was just the fifth 200-200 game ever recorded in the NCAA, Meyer said, "I think Shockley gives you the same thing, the threat of the eleventh guy which is the threat of the quarterback running the ball. That is an added element to the spread offense."

Florida's game plan on defense may have to be altered for Tereshinski, who is definitely not as mobile as Shockley, but Meyer said at this point the game plan will be to prepare for Shockley.

"We're going to plan on the go," said Meyer. "He [Shockley] is as fine a quarterback as there is in the country at this point. You watch the way he improved throwing the ball and obviously the threat of him running. I haven't studied Vince Young and Brad Smith but the way he throws the ball in combination with the threat makes him as fine a quarterback as there is in the country."

A BIT MORE CONSERVATIVE: At Utah and Bowling Green, Meyer was known as a fourth down gambler who would defy the odds and go for the first down rather than punt the football. That gung-ho approach has been tempered by what he's seen of SEC defenses.

"I've had a tendency in the past to go for it on fourth down more than I have here," he said, noting that in the SEC "every point is extremely valuable because of the quality of defenses in this league. We've kicked far too many field goals but our field goal kicker is doing a nice job and it is the nature of the beast in this conference especially with the great defenses we're facing."

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