Opportunities Abound

Urban Meyer's numbers after a long rest are impressive. Throughout his career, he's 22-2 when having more than one week to prepare for an opponent. At Florida alone, the Gators are 5-0, including two bowl wins.

But during this off-week, Urban Meyer and the Gators had the chance to watch one of the best football games of the season when Kentucky, the Gators' next opponent, upset No. 1 LSU in triple overtime. Meyer was glad that his players got a chance to watch the game during the off-weekend, so they could witness the parity in college football for themselves. But then again they watched an up-and-coming Kentucky program that is currently ranked ahead of the Gators - No. 8 in the AP poll.

"I have never really experienced anything like this before," Meyer said during his Monday press conference. "I think it's great for college football but it's also important that you have to show up and you better come to play each week."

With a big home win, the Wildcats may be primed for a letdown, but UK is a veteran-laden team with several players that have been waiting four years to face an opportunity like the one ahead of them.

"It all comes down to the players and to see a veteran quarterback who I think this is a third year starter, and veteran players on the field," Meyer said. "We watched the film two years ago and a bunch of those players are still on the team."

Kentucky is led by senior quarterback Andre Woodson who is well on his way to having an All-SEC season. Woodson is completing more than 63 percent of his passes while throwing for more than 255 yards a game. He's thrown 21 touchdowns against only four interceptions.

"He is a veteran player and you can spot a veteran a mile away," Meyer said. "Inexperienced quarterbacks have a tendency to wait until guys are open to let it go. But I think they do a very good job of checking the ball at the line of scrimmage. They run versus certain looks and pass during certain looks. He is a very veteran player, but you could see him coming on the last couple of years."

The Gator secondary will have their hands full with Woodson under center since Florida boasts the SEC's second worst pass defense, allowing 230.2 yards per game.

"You want to keep the ball in front of you in this league and certainly with young players," Meyer said. "Against Ole Miss, we did not keep it in front of us and those were touchdowns. It is live to see another day right now with our young corners. They just need to keep the ball in front, just keep tackling and keep playing."

Meyer acknowledged that the Gators inability to have an effective pass rush has hurt the young secondary.

Big Opportunity

The Gators are coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in the Meyer-era, but because of Kentucky's upset over LSU, have a chance to make a statement on Saturday. With the game being picked up by CBS, Florida and Kentucky will be center stage for another SEC battle.

"I called a lot of our players at the end of the night on Saturday after watching the Kentucky game and you just sit there and all that goes through your mind is opportunity, opportunity, opportunity," Meyer said. "It is right there for you. The SEC East is wide open and college football has never been like this as far as opportunities for so many teams."

But Meyer knows the Gators can't grab the opportunity without improvements on both offense and defense. The focus defensively is to improve the pass rush and develop depth across the line.

"You have to get depth at the defensive line," he said. "You have to get a rotation and so on. So there is a big focus this week, but how do you lighten up? That is one way, to make sure and understanding that there can be many great things to still happen to this team."

The good news defensively is that two first year starters are emerging into possible super stars.

"Brandon Spikes and Major Wright are playmakers," Meyer said. "We are starting to see some develop. Those are first year starters. To win a game you have to make a stop and have to go make a play. It is time, but I understand the evolution of what's going on and that's why we have to go practice as hard as we can this week."

Notes

  • Meyer expects cornerback Markihe Anderson to practice this week, but his status for the weekend is still up in the air. The sophomore came out of spring practice as the lead corner, but has been slowed by a knee sprain throughout the fall. Said Meyer, "He is getting pretty close to being game ready. He practiced last week and was still a little limp, but we need to get him back. I say that every week, we would like to have him back as soon as we can."
  • Meyer brought in Cris Carter to talk to the team about the untimely passing of walk-on Michael Guilford. Said Meyer, "I want to respect all of the families involved here. Cris came in for one reason only, he is my great friend, and he has experienced this sort of thing twice as a player. With that said, there is not much more to say about that. It is obviously a very, very difficult situation."
  • When Meyer took Utah to a BCS bowl, it was just the beginning of second tier teams becoming bigger players in college football. This week, South Florida finds themselves ranked second in the BCS standings. Said Meyer, "I think the emphasis on college football in the past years, like in Utah, are put on the facilities and the amount of support that college athletics generate right now. I do not know South Florida that well, but they have an excellent coach and some very, very good players."

    Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


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