Gators Getting Back to Work

The Florida Gators are in pretty good shape right now coming off a bye week where they were able to get healthy combined with the big win against LSU. But head coach Urban Meyer won't let the Gators rest on their laurels, and he's definitely not taking Kentucky for granted.

The Wildcats may be 1-2 in the SEC East, but they lead the conference in scoring defense and pass defense efficiency. And their two conference losses are by a touchdown or less.

"They're as well coached on defense as any team in the SEC," Meyer said during his Monday press conference. "They don't do a lot. They don't throw the kitchen sink at you. They play very fundamentally sound, they don't give you the deep ball. They force you to work the ball down the field. This is a heck of a challenge."

Adding to the challenge are some of the distractions of Homecoming Week. As gameday approaches, the Gators won't have their normal routine, and Saturday's kickoff is an early one set for 12:30.

"We're just trying to get through practice," Meyer said. "We have the captain's dinner and the pep rally on Friday night and then it's an early game. Our focus and attention to detail has to be right on. We'll have our hands full."

The team also hasn't been together since last week. With the bye week, the team took the weekend off and many players went home. Getting back into the flow of the week may be a challenge as well.

"We haven't seen them for a few days," Meyer said. "I ask them to act professionally, and so far they haven't let me down yet. I'll be very disappointed if they don't show up with their professional attitude."

A few players who have been nursing injuries will return this week, most noticeable in the backfield.

"The problem is at one point last week we were down to one tailback," Meyer said. "Kestahn Moore was out, Moody was out and Rainey had a sore shoulder. We should have everyone back today. Kestahn's doing much better, and Moody is going to go, not the whole practice, but some today."

The tandem of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps was huge against LSU two weeks ago, and Meyer took a look at the impact that big plays have on the Gator offense.

"Every time we have a big play of over 15 yards we've scored except for twice," Meyer said. "Those two guys are special players. Moody should be back this week, and he was ahead of them for Tennessee and early against Ole Miss, so we have some talented players back there."

The Gator offense has taken off, especially since the second half against Arkansas. The main difference has been in the expanding roles of both Rainey and Demps. Meyer said the adjustments made to include them are a credit to the offensive coaching staff.

"We have a staff that loves diversity," he said. "What that means is that there're guys that have coached in the wishbone, the west coast and the spread, so there are a lot of ideas. We encourage ideas. We don't fit our personnel to our scheme, we fit our scheme to our personnel. If you have a lot of confidence in what you do and it's fundamentally sound, we'll take a shot at it."

"I always talk about checkers. If those checkers keep healthy and we can keep the attitudes right and it all starts with the offensive line. If you have an offensive line that plays the way they did against LSU, you can pretty much do whatever you want."

Meyer also gave credit to tight end Aaron Hernandez for his effort against LSU even though he didn't catch a pass.

"Every one of those big plays against LSU is because of Aaron Hernandez and what he does on the edge," Meyer said. "He's doing very well. I think he's all-SEC caliber tight end."

The defense has also played well and a lot of it is because of a pair of true freshmen. Up front, Matt Patchan has brought energy and enthusiasm to the defensive line. At first glance in the spring, it appeared as though Patchan might bring depth to the offensive line, but he's one of those rare players that can play on both sides of the line.

"There are certain offensive players that can't play defense," Meyer said. "They just don't have that mentality. Our line coach tries to develop that mentality. Aggressive, play hard, but there's a passive mentality on the offensive line. Not here. Patchan from the first day we met him has had a defensive set of mind. I don't know what his future holds. I have not discussed that with him or his family, but he's a guy that could play defense for a long, long time."

Getting most of the attention is cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins took a starting role in the Gator secondary and isn't letting up at all.

"He's a heck of a player," Meyer said. "The thing that makes Janoris what he is is that he goes to class, he's a high character guy, he comes from a great family. He appreciates everything because he busts his tail and he's a playmaker. Were we concerned, yes because he's a true freshman and people say that's not fair and we've seen guys get toasted. But I think what's helped Janoris is that Joe Haden is a veteran and Major Wright is a veteran. We have some veterans back there when we didn't last year."

"He's very level-headed. I think you have to thank his mom and where he comes from. There are certain guys that if you give them a t-shirt they say it doesn't fit well. You give him a t-shirt and he says, ‘thanks a lot coach.'"

One area Meyer hopes to improve on is kickoff coverage. The Gators rank No. 8 in the SEC.

"First off, it's coaching," he said. "I don't think we've done a great job of it. Number two, I think there are some personnel issues. I hate to have to say this, but I think there are some guys in the program that it's time for them to contribute or it's time to move on. The Reggie Nelsons, Louis Murphys, Dorian Munroes, Riley Coopers, that's where they started. That was their contribution to the team. My best guy running down is also the same guy that ran for 140 yards against LSU. It doesn't equate."

Meyer said that placekicker Caleb Sturgis suffered a hyper-extended knee trying to make a tackle against LSU, but he should be fine for Kentucky.

Notes

  • Meyer has taken a different approach with respect to Cornelius Ingram over recent weeks. Instead of looking at what CI is missing, he's looking at what he's accomplished and what the future holds for the Gator tight end.

    "The pro scouts love him," Meyer said. "He's going to graduate from the University of Florida. He has a lot of positive energy. He's going to leave Florida with a degree and a national championship. He's a good-looking guy who is the first guy from his family to graduate from college. He's got his whole life in front of him and the scouts love him. He's not doing good, he's doing great."

  • Meyer said returner Brandon James is not the kind of kick returner who just grabs the ball and runs. He said there's a lot more that goes into it.

    "He reads blocks very well. He understands the concepts. He even comes up to me and asks me to do something. He likes the vertical return because he really trusts the guys that block in front of him. He's not let's run as fast as I can. He's very educated."

  • Meyer was obviously excited after the Tampa Bay Rays advanced to the World Series last night. "[Joe Maddon] is a Gator fan. At this time last year he came to a couple games. He's a little busy right now, but I wish him all the best."


  • Fightin Gators Top Stories