Working through Hump Day

ORLANDO, Fla. --- Friday may be at the end of the week, but it was hump day for Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators as they continue their preparations for Tuesday's matchup with the Michigan Wolverines.

The Gators have a weekend filled with media events and pep rallies, so after a long, hard practice on Thursday, Friday's workout lacked some of the energy from their first two Orlando practices. But that didn't surprise head coach Urban Meyer.

"Today was a little bit of a hump day because it's like a Tuesday for them and we've already had two good practices," Meyer said. "I'm thinking that two days from now they'll be great. They're a little bit beat up because yesterday was a real hard practice, but a good one."

Only LSU with the support of an energized home crowd has really been able to slow the Florida offense, and in the last six games, no one has been able to derail the Gators. But the UF defense has been suspect all season long, and a healthy Michigan team is causing some concerns at the Gator camp.

Senior running back Mike Hart missed three of Michigan's last five games, but should be back to form for the Capital One Bowl. Hart rushed for 1,232 yards with 12 touchdowns during the regular season, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

"He's going to be a great NFL back," Meyer said. "He's not very tall, but he's a slasher and real strong and compact. He's a tough nut. We compare him to the kid from Georgia. He just keeps going and going."

The Bulldogs Knowshon Moreno carried 33 times for 188 yards against the Gators in October. The offensive line that will be leading the way for Michigan also reminds Meyer of Georgia.

"Offensively, I'd have to compare them to Georgia," Meyer said. "They have a young offensive line, but they are going to be good. Defensively, I'd compare them to Auburn. Like Auburn they have big, thick guys on the line who are hard to move."

Hot one in O-town

Although temperatures are supposed to be more seasonal on Tuesday, the mercury reached the mid-80s for the second straight day in Orlando. Meyer doesn't believe the warmer temperatures will present any advantages for Florida over Michigan.

"I think maybe for a moment," Meyer said. "It would be a different thing if they just came in and out. It's a home game when you've been practicing here for a week. All the storylines are gone once the game starts."

On the flip side, Michigan may have a slight emotional advantage since Tuesday will mark Lloyd Carr's last game with the Wolverines. Carr is wrapping up his 13th season with Big Blue after announcing his retirement earlier in the season.

"I think all that stops when the foot hits the ball to start the game," Meyer said. "But I do think it will be a storm out there for the first five minutes because they love their coach. He's a great coach and won a national championship. I think we're going to have a home crowd which might negate some of that, but all that ends a few minutes into the game."

A season opener

Tuesday may be a statement game for the Gators heading into next season, but Meyer also compares it to a season opener. After all, Florida hasn't played in 35 days, so some of the mental aspects may play a key role when they take the field early next week.

"Bowl games are like the first game of the season," Meyer said. "I turned on the game yesterday and the quarterback had four turnovers even though they still won. And then the silly penalties, the guy moves – you can't have that on offense."

Meyer also pointed to UF's defensive effort as being a key on Tuesday.

"We have to tackle the running back, we have to keep [Mario Manningham] in front of us and we have to take care of the ball," he said.

Manningham caught 67 passes for 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season for the Wolverines.

Notes

  • Former Gator defensive tackle Joe Cohen was at the Gators' practice on Friday.
  • Meyer is planning to talk with Percy Harvin about his Heisman chances for next season. Said Meyer, "I really think those two kids will be Heisman candidates. That's how much respect I have for No. 1 as a player. If we can keep him healthy and keep him grinding, and I think Tim is going to be right there, too."
  • Although, Meyer believes Tebow's numbers will be more mortal next season. Said Meyer, "I don't think Tim will have those ridiculous numbers. I'm hoping to get a little more production out of our backfield. I don't think he can handle three years of that pounding either."
  • Freshman linebacker Jerimy Finch is on pace with his recovery after breaking his leg earlier in the season. Meyer said he expects him to play in April's Orange and Blue Game.
  • With just one game left in year No. 3 for Meyer, he likes where his Florida program is at. Said Meyer, "This year was a little disappointing. We want to be competing for championships in November, but we knew going in. I heard some of the expectations at the beginning of the year, but some of the losses we had up front and then Phil Trautwein goes down. I think we're pleased. I think if we can have a good recruiting class this year, then it's solid. I knew two years ago coming in there's going to be big bump in the road. We saw that coming. I could have gone out and signed six or seven junior college guys, but that's not what Florida is all about."

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


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