Meyer Sees the Look

Two years ago in front of a hostile crowd in Knoxville, Tennessee, Florida coach Urban Meyer turned to true freshman Tim Tebow and decided he would put his trust in Tebow to get a first down on 4th-and-1. The Gators had to have the first down, would go on to score on the drive and win the game by a point. Meyer saw a look from Tebow that night that he sees from a lot on his team right now.

It was the first time Tebow was asked to go "win a game" for the Gators and Meyer had all the confidence in the world in his young quarterback. Meyer looks around the practice field these days and he sees confidence in a lot of his team that hasn't been there in some of his previous seasons.

"Percy (Harvin) has that same look, so does Jim Tartt," Meyer said. "That look is the kind of look a coach likes to see in the huddle when you can't hear yourself think and its 4th-and-1 and you look up at the clock and you realize if you don't get this you lost the game. It's that look and is also the same one we have on other guys on the team. I see that look. That's why we gave it to him."

That look transcends normal position players and even a position of little experience, place kicker, Meyer seems to have the utmost confidence. Jonathan Phillips is in his senior season and returned to the Gators to finish his career after actually graduating with a four year degree and starting the preliminary work for law school. Meyer hasn't made it easy on his senior kicker.

"He has that look a little bit, but it's a little different," Meyer said of Phillips. "I'm proud of my guy (Jonathan). He has done a nice job. I just like his approach. He is a grown man now and I like to think this (the Florida football experience) helped him. Walking out in practice and kicking field goals when we do it is pretty intense stuff now. He is a weathered guy and I kind of like what he's doing now."

One player Meyer has had little trouble relying on since his freshman year is kick and punt returner Brandon James. James may be the most explosive and feared punt returner in college football and Meyer says that he also has that look about him.

"Boy he's a good player," Meyer said of James on Monday. "I think the best first step in college football is Percy Harvin. The guy right behind him is Brandon James. He's reckless, he's a north and south guy and that is what makes him such a dynamic returner."

Meyer talked about the first time he felt good about James and handling the big game.

"We were going to Knoxville, Tennessee and at game time I still haven't decided who was going to be our punt returner," Meyer said. "Was I really going to put a true freshman out there? He was hurt the first couple of games and it was his first game. I made a decision after I jogged out of the tunnel after him. I look at this nut, the kid is this big (holding his hand out waist high), and he starts doing the Gator chomp. That kid was not intimidated, so I grabbed him and told him he would be the punt returner. That's when the decision was made. He is such a guy that enjoys the game."

Percy Harvin told the media Monday he is as healthy as he has been since the 10th grade. That has to be something that Meyer is excited about as the SEC part of the schedule gets going. Meyer has been watching intently to make sure Harvin looks good to go and intimated that he should be a bigger part of the offense that only saw him touch the ball six times in their last game against Miami.

"I saw it last week in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday practices," Meyer started. "He looks like he is ready."

"We are getting closer. We don't believe in gamers around here, but I have seen him do it in practice. He is someone we need to get the ball to. That is a hell of a toy and a talented guy."

Meyer is also starting to see the look from his defensive personnel. That side of the ball was a huge issue last season but seems to be vastly improved this year.

"I am starting to see piles getting knocked back," Meyer said about his defense. "I feel much better about our defense, but this will be the biggest challenge so far. You look outside and see our guys are going to be ready.

One player on the back end of the defense that Meyer has really liked the progress of is sophomore safety Ahmad Black. A converted cornerback from his freshman year, Black has started both games this season and shown he may be the best pure tackler on the defense.

"Boy he has turned out to be a pretty good player for us," Meyer said of Black. "He is too short, too slow…but comes from a great high school program. He and A.J. Jones will kind of (swap), one will play in the box one on the tight end (against Tennessee). He is very important for us.

"He is a great tackler. He's always in football position…that's why we have confidence in him. He is built from the right stuff. I am one of those people that you develop trust in people when you know what they've done…what their background is and their family. Ahmad Black is all of the above. It's all good. Every day he is there."

The task at hand this week is of course the Tennessee game and Meyer is expecting the same as he has seen from Tennessee on offense this year despite having a new offensive coordinator.

"Really they aren't much different," Meyer said of the Volunteers offense. "The (Gators') defensive coaches feel like their running back is one of the best we have seen. The offensive line is going to be their strength and they take shots down the field. They are very good on offense, they want to establish the run and pound it on us and it has been that way for a while.

"One thing about this video age we are in, all you have to do is watch the tape and see how good they are If they run the ball on us, we won't win, that is very clear.

"They are as talented a team as I ever coached against. That is from my first team to this team. My first SEC game was against them and I thought my goodness. You are ready to play them and then you see how big, thick, and fast (they are)."

In the SEC and on the road all kinds of negatives can arise. Meyer knows the importance to follow the Plan to Win when on the road, which means playing good defense, protect the ball, score in the red-zone, etc.

"Do I like going on the road in the SEC?" he asked rhetorically. "Yeah, I think it's challenging. Our first year we were not a good team, we had some good players, but a poor team. We were okay on defense, but that was just one phase. Our team knows this…we have to play great defense…we have to play tough and secure the ball. Last year we were not a good football team, we did not play great defense. We did not take care of the ball. The games we lost on the road the ball was on the ground and we got out-toughed. We had some decisions to make at certain positions in order to be a tough football team. In order to win this game against Tennessee, we better play great defense, better have toughness, and better take care of the ball or there is no chance of winning the football game."

Meyer enters game week with his team in relatively good health. Outside of the season ending injuries before the season started, three players that missed all or part of the Miami game should be ready to play on Saturday. Senior left guard is the big addition to the team this week, while junior wide receiver Carl Moore and junior linebacker Dustin Doe were hurt last week and should play also.

"Jim Tartt is great news," Meyer said. "He wasn't quite ready last week, but now he is ready to go play. (Offensive Line) Coach Addazio is all excited about it. We have been very smart with him and I need to thank our doctors and trainers. He is a leader and a good person. Carl Moore is no contact but is running full speed today. Dustin Doe is still (dinged up), I put him as probable and the other two will play."


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