Mincey: Gators Still Have Reason To Play Hard

This was going to be the year that Jeremy Mincey got his championship but things haven't quite turned out the way he had planned. But that doesn't dampen the optimism for Florida's senior defensive end from Statesboro, Georgia. He still has incentive to play hard.

A Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title is out of the question now and that means there will not be a chance to win the SEC at the championship game in Atlanta. Saturday's loss to South Carolina in Columbia put those notions to rest but even though the major goals have been eliminated, Mincey still sees a bright side.

"We still have plenty to play for," said Mincey after practice Tuesday afternoon. "We haven't won a bowl game in forever and we haven't beaten Florida State two years back to back since '85-86 so there's still a lot to play for.

"I'm not down. Things didn't go as expected but I'm still proud to be here and I'm happy to be a Gator."

Mincey took the loss to South Carolina particularly hard. To make the championship game, the Gators had to beat South Carolina and get some help from Auburn. He felt the hurt deeply when Florida didn't do its part only to see Auburn take care of business in Athens. Watching Auburn celebrate, he knew what he had missed.

"I watched every snap," said Mincey. "When they [Auburn] won I was kind of hurt because that could have been us in the championship. But, if you think about it like this, Georgia would have probably played a lot harder if they heard we had found out we had won. It could have been the same outcome either way but I'm not going to take it that way."

So it's back to work this week. The Gators have a bye week which is good because the sting of what happened last weekend still hasn't gone away.

"I'm still not quite over it but it's getting there," he said. "You just have to live and learn."

He's not disappointed in the least that he chose to come to the University of Florida and he's particularly happy that he has been coached by Urban Meyer and this coaching staff.

"I still feel good about everything," he said. "Coach Meyer brought a lot of guys a long way. I'm proud of what he did to this system. I'm proud of what he's done. It's only going to continue to get better here. I'm glad I was part of an uprising of a program. We have great coaches and they're going to get everything fixed."

For Meyer, it has been a tough few days. His nature is to take every loss personally and this one has been the hardest yet. Still, like Mincey, he sees the positives and that's his focus this week as the Gators start their preparations for the Thanksgiving weekend encounter with Florida State in The Swamp.

"It's tough," he said, "but we're 7-3 and have an opportunity to get to a decent bowl game and get this thing right."

Getting things right includes winning against Florida State to close the season at 8-3. An 8-3 record would propel the Gators into a better bowl game, perhaps the Outback Bowl in Tampa or the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Winning out in these last two games would also do wonders for a recruiting class that is already shaping up to be among the best in the nation.

Florida recruiting got a nice positive shot in the arm Monday night when Jacksonville Sandalwood's five-star rated (by Scout.com) receiver Jamar Hornsby made his commitment to Florida just one day after taking his official visit to Georgia. But recruiting is just part of the picture. Meyer also has to focus in on developing the talent that he has on hand. The bowl game will help because it will give the Gators a couple of extra practice weeks.

So even though he's down about losing to South Caorlina, Meyer is positive about the future.

"It's where you were, where you are and where you're going," he said. "There's no one more excited about it than Coach Meyer, especially seeing some of these young guys go, and you get to recruit and you're going to get development of these young guys.

"There's a decent team coming back, obviously the second year in the system for both the offense and the defense and there's a lot of positives. We've got a lot of work to do but as long as you see improvement, that's the key, and I've seen improvement. There are some positions where we're paper thin at and corner is one of them and linebacker is one of them. You have to get these guys right, develop the young guys, go out and recruit and fill up some needs. We can make this thing right … we just have to win that game in two weeks."

INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Baker will be in a yellow non-contact jersey this week and probably next. Baker has a broken rib although Meyer said there is no lingering effect of a punctured lung suffered with the rib injury in the Vanderbilt game.

DeShawn Wynn has a groin problem to go with the continuing soreness in his shoulder so he won't see much contact in the next two weeks. Dinged up players like Earl Everett, Jarvis Herring and Brandon Siler all should be at 100 percent by the Florida State game on November 26.

Safety Nick Brooks is back to practicing full speed again, too, which caused Meyer to quip, "Nick Brooks is a guy who's been out seven years or so but there is a chance we'll have him back for some special teams work."

Backup quarterback Josh Portis, a true freshman, is apparently back to full speed as well.

"He tweaked his knee against Vanderbilt a little bit and that set him back but he was making a move," said Meyer.

OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY: Meyer is pleased with the continuing improvement of the offensive line. The Gators rushed for 185 positive yards against South Carolina with Wynn, Markus Manson and Kestahn Moore sharing the load. Although quarterback Chris Leak was sacked five times, not all those sacks belonged to the line.

"We obviously gave up a few sacks but a lot of that was we have to get rid of the ball quicker as well as the backs in protection," said Meyer. "I think the offensive line is playing a little better. They're going to have their hands full in two weeks against a very good defensive line but they're getting better."

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