Backfield Key to Offensive Success

To say the Florida Gators have played inconsistent so far this season would be an understatement. But with LSU coming to Gainesville on Saturday, Florida needs to have all cylinders clicking heading into the weekend.

The Gators win against Arkansas epitomized their first five games. There was big point production with an inconsistent offense that relied on big plays, solid special teams and a giving defense that made plays when they had to.

One thing that will definitely help out the Gators as they prepare to face the Tigers on Saturday night is getting some key players back from injury.

"It's a big time ballgame this weekend," Urban Meyer said during his Monday press conference. "We get some personnel back. Ryan Stamper is a very integral part of this team and he's back. Kestahn Moore, Will Hill and Marcus Gilbert are all back."

Without Stamper or Dustin Doe against Arkansas, the Gator defense gave up some plays to the Hogs, but most importantly kept them out of the end zone for most of the game.

"I was very pleased that our defense kept them out of the end zone, but they did not play their best game," Meyer said. "I thought the offense and special teams did a great job of keeping them pinned down there. But so many times they'd get 3-4 completions and all of sudden they're at midfield. We'll have to play much better this week."

Cornerback Joe Haden was selected as the defensive player of the game after his performance against the Hogs. Ahmad Black, Major Wright and Matt Patchan who played 36 plays were also named as champions.

"Ahmad Black is playing very well for us," Meyer said. "He graded out at 90 percent and was 6-for-6 on plays. He had a big play on that fourth down. How do you evaluate a secondary player? He had six opportunities to make a play and made it every time. Major Wright had a very active game 10-of-13 on play making opportunities."

On offense, Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, Deonte Thompson, Phil Trautwein and both Pounceys graded out as champions, but the player of the game belonged to the "short" group of tailbacks.

"We gave it to a position for one of the first times," Meyer said. "Our tailback position was dynamic. We had 19 rushes for 210 yards, 11.1 yards per carry, four catches for 31 yards and four total touchdowns. That includes Rainey, Demps and James. Obviously, height is not something we take into consideration with the tailbacks."

Meyer said at times he became a fan watching the three tailbacks do their thing on Saturday.

"I turn into a fan when those guys hit the second level," he said. "They are so young, but they have that ability. Percy Harvin gave us that in the SEC Championship Game. You look at the great rushing teams and it's not the four-yard gains, it's a four-yard, five-yard and then a 75-yard gain. Those two cats can do that for us. You think about who scored a touchdown for us – Percy Harvin, Brandon James and the two freshman tailbacks and those are some fast guys."

A lot of the credit for the tailbacks, especially getting past the defensive line, which then allows them to use their speed was given to the offensive line.

"Our offensive line is pretty good," Meyer said. "If you take away the penalties I thought they played one of the more physical games here at Florida. Our goal with our offensive line is that you have to get that run game to the second level. When your speed gets to that second level good things are going to happen."

Penalties plagued the Gators in the first half, but they cleaned up most of it for the second half. Meyer agreed with some of the calls, but also challenged a few. Regardless, the penalties were the glaring mistakes from Saturday's win.

"If you take away the penalties it was the best offensive game we've had yet," Meyer said. "We had one three-and-out and it was a misread. Everything else was methodically moving the ball down the field. We took some shots. I thought Carl Moore made a nice play. He's more involved. Riley Cooper I thought his was the play of the day. Anytime you spread the wealth a little bit you're going to have a better offense."

Percy Harvin hurt his ankle against Arkansas and was put in a boot yesterday, but Meyer said he should be fine for Saturday's matchup with LSU. Harvin is having a great season even though Meyer thinks opponents are focusing in on the Gators' star offensive weapon.

"He's a much stronger player than he was a year ago," Meyer said. "A lot of these defenses are very focused on number 1. I've said this before, I think he has the best first step in college football and he's so powerful. You don't usually see that strength with a scat back type."

Opposing defenses aren't just focusing on Harvin, though. Meyer said he's also noticed them focusing on Tim Tebow more.

"We're seeing a lot of two high structures," Meyer said. "They're saying let them hand the ball off and don't let numbers 1 and 15 beat you. I think a lot of that will change this weekend because LSU is a man team. But with Tennessee and Miami who are traditionally man teams, they didn't play man. They said let's keep the ball in front and try to control the game. Having the ability to hand the ball off to a tailback that can break a tackle for a long one really helps us in that regard."

LSU has a strong running game as well with SEC leading rusher Charles Scott in the backfield. His presence will dictate some of the strategy that plays into Saturday's game.

"The whole idea of stopping the run is that you add a guy to the box," Meyer said. "The problem this week is that you're singled out with some dynamic receivers. That's the chess match that will be played throughout the game. You can't stop these guys with a base defense, so we'll have to be creative."

LSU also brings in a great kick returner in Trindon Holliday. Like James, Holliday is fast, powerful and elusive.

"There's a chance I'm going to substitute some personnel on the kickoff team," Meyer said. "Their return team concerns me. Caleb Sturgis kicked three through the end zone so if he can do that we have no problems. We're going to work a lot on kickoff this week. Some people think he's the fastest player in the country. He's a very good player."

The last time the Tigers came to The Swamp, it provided some good memories for Meyer. He believes the win played a big role in Florida winning the national championship that season.

"It was one of the great college football games I've been associated with," Meyer said. "What makes this such a big game is the quality of the personnel on both sides and the last two years, but that's history. That game two years ago was classic great defense and special teams. With special teams, when we're hitting it right, we're pretty good and they're very good, so it's going to be a key element of this game."

And with another new quarterback starting in The Swamp, Meyer said the crowd will play an important role just like LSU's crowd played a big role during last year's loss.

"Every big win we've had we need to present a game ball to the fans," Meyer said. "They have a first time starter coming in and we know how important communication is, so we have to get it going."

Florida is taking Monday off. They practiced last night and it may become part of their regular routine. Meyer talked to a couple of the team's leaders who thought it would be best.

"Game planning wise I never believed in [Sunday practices]," Meyer said. "I like to give them a day off on Sunday, but it's also not bad to be a student on Monday. I've heard some positive feedback from our players. Other than coming in and getting some treatment they're off today. They say they'll be much more crisp at Tuesday's practice."


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