VETTEL: Trying To Stop The Cock-and Fire

The good news for the Gator defense is that the South Carolina Gamecocks cannot run the football with any level of consistency. Carolina averages just less than 80 yards a game on the ground and fewer than three yards per carry. The most dangerous runner, multi-talented Syvelle Newton is out for the season. The offensive line is adequate, at best.


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The bad news for the Orange and Blue is that they are facing the finest downfield passing game designer in college football history. No matter whether or not you wanted Steve Spurrier back at the helm of the Gator program, you have to admit the man can get the ball downfield like no other coach out there. Add in the absence of Vernell Brown and concerns about free safety play and you have a huge challenge Saturday afternoon in Columbia.

With that in mind, I chatted briefly with Florida secondary coach Chuck Heater and got his thoughts about the matchup.

LV: From the standpoint of a defensive back field coach, what is it like getting ready to face Steve Spurrier's passing attack?

CH: He has a great idea about how to attack defenses and what he's looking for. I think what's unique about what he does is that they do a lot of communication from the sidelines. He lets the quarterback know what the look is before he snaps the ball and tries to get him into a high percentage type of play. He's about attacking your coverages and has a good concept about how to do it; so that makes it a great challenge.

LV: He's not bashful about going downfield either.

CH: No, he's got all the artillery that you have to have in the throwing game and does a great job with all of it.

LV: Urban has talked a lot about how he was a fan of Florida Football during the 90's. In your stops along the way, how much were you aware of Steve Spurrier and what he was doing?

CH: A little bit. I knew he had outstanding wide receivers and they were launching the deep ball a lot and scoring a lot of points. I wasn't aware of all they were doing to spread the field. He was doing some great things, and now I get a chance to see it first hand.

LV: Talk to me about Sidney Rice and just how talented that freshman receiver is.

CH: He's a talented kid. He's big. He's tall and he jumps up high. In a situation like that you're always a little overmatched at corner. They're going to throw the ball up and he'll go up and half the time you're hoping to get the rebound. So I think they'll do a little bit of that and the other freshman (Kenny McKinley) kid is playing well for them as well. Those are the guys they are getting the ball to a lot and you have to know where they are and get ‘em covered.

LV: Life without Vernell, how do you feel about your ability to play corner and have enough guys ready to play.

CH: I like how the guys are working. It's like so many things in this game you have to deal with it, get up and go. Losing Vernell hurts for a lot of reasons. He's a spectacular kid and was playing very well for us. So his loss is of great magnitude, but the game is to be played and he's helping me coach and get the young guys ready to go.

LV: How much did it help Reggie (Lewis) to make that play at the end of the game and end the night on such a positive note?

CH: Well it was great for him and for the team. And he almost made a couple of other plays. We put him in some tough situations and had some guys playing in positions they had not trained much the previous week and that's difficult. So we were scrambling, for sure and to find a way to win that game was huge. Now hopefully this week we can fix the issues we had and give kids the training they need at the spots they may have to play. That way coaching-wise you feel you got them ready to go.

LV: Should you need another corner Saturday, whom will you call on?

CH: Well, Avery Atkins is the next guy up in a corner pool of people. He's a talented guy who has really only played on special teams but he's going to be a really good player here in the future. The future might be sooner than we think, so he's got to be ready to play.

***

Carolina gets almost 75 percent of its offense from the passing game and there's no doubt they will try everything they can to get the ball to Sidney Rice as often as they can. Historically Steve Spurrier has not tried to "pick on" a particular guy on a defense, but that could well change until/unless Reggie Lewis shows he is up to the task.

At the end of spring practice, I was convinced Reggie would take the job from Vernell by opening day, so I'm convinced the ability is there. It's just as tough a first starting assignment you could possibly give a young corner. The nation's best passing game coach and as talented a freshman receiver as the SEC has seen in the last 20 years.


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