Carter Returns to Vanderbilt with his Troops

Although the Florida Gators are still a young team and many do not know much about the confines of Vanderbilt stadium where they will play this weekend, Running Back Coach Kenny Carter should be able to share a lot with them. Carter was the running back coach at Vanderbilt last season and made the move to Florida in the spring. With great respect for Vanderbilt, he still knows he has a job to do.

Carter has talked frequently about his time in Nashville and his relationship with coaching staff there. He has nothing but admiration for what Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson and the staff has accomplished. Still, Saturday the two are in opposition and Carter knows he has to put all of that friendship and admiration aside until after the game.

"Everything is great, I have tremendously strong friendships with many people there," Carter said Wednesday. "At the same time, we get to go back and if we do what we are supposed to do and execute, we can solidify an opportunity to play for a conference championship. It will be a two-fold thing. Football is football, when you do this job for 18 years and are at school number seven, you adjust to that. One thing you try and think about is it is never personal in this business."

Carter coached in front of sellout crowds approaching 40,000 while in Nashville while is experience at Florida is a bit different with the Gator faithful filling The Swamp every week with over 90,000 fans. Carter expects the fans to be rowdy as any SEC stadium on Saturday night when the two square off in prime time and in front of a national television audience.

"This is one of the greatest venues in college athletics, it is a tremendous place to play," Carter said of The Swamp and playing in Gainesville this season. "Vanderbilt...the people there are tremendous. They are doing a terrific job of getting around their kids and support them. Obviously it is smaller stadium and is very quaint, but they are going to be excited with a chance to play for the East. They are going to be fired up and have people there and it will be a great time for both teams. The bottom line, once that ball is snapped...it's the SEC."

Carter has enjoyed his road in coaching where he has been to places like Furman, The Citadel, LSU, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Vanderbilt, and now Florida. It has been a rewarding career for him so far and has paid off with relationships he has established along the way.

"It's fun until momma's not happy or daughter's not happy or you are paying tuition, those are the kind of things that are the reality of life outside of football," he said about going from place to place like he has. "The experiences and friendships you develop when you travel from school to school is priceless, there is nothing like it. I have players that I have coached doing well and you see them on TV playing on Sundays. Then you have friends that go different places and they have success, it's nothing but good."

Carter seems to have made an impact at Florida this year. Through eight games, the running back position has accounted for 999 yards on 148 carries. Through the entire 2007 season (13 games) the running back position at Florida accounted for 761 yards on 136 carries. The average yards per carry are also up from 5.6 yards to 6.8 yards per carry.

The play of the backs has gotten to be so noticeable that even in big ins when some may not break a big gain or average as much as they have been, the questions arrive. In Saturday's blowout win over Georgia, the Gators two leading rushers Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey totaled 30 yards on 13 carries (2.6 yard average). Carter doesn't think it is fair to lump those two only in the big scheme of things and how they turned out in any one game.

"I wouldn't say they struggled, they averaged about five yards a carry when you look at the totality of the deal.," Carter said. "The things we did were exactly what we needed to do to get through our plan. When you have the potential to break a long run and don't break one, people say you struggled. When you take a five yard run and then have a one-yard run, it takes your average down. They were fine and did what we wanted them to do."

One impressive performance came at the end of the game when sophomore Emmanuel Moody really ran hard and looked impressive breaking tackles, showing elusiveness, and really making a statement coming back from injury. Carter wasn't surprise by Moody's play Saturday even though he has missed a few games with his ankle injury.

"I wasn't surprised at all," Carter said. "We felt like those were the kind of things that he was going to be able to do. As we got into the game plan there were certain things we wanted to regardless of who the back was. We knew we were going to use Percy (Harvin) and do some things with him to put us in that situation and obviously that worked. As we got towards the end of the game when we got to wear them down a little bit, we wanted (Moody) to get a chance to get in the flow and running the ball, so we kept him in there."

Moody is a nice compliment to the smaller blazingly fast backs that Demps, Rainey, and even Harvin represent when he is at the position. It looked like he over matched the Georgia defense at the end of the game and they were left grabbing at air or bumping off of him as he ran.

"He's obviously bigger, so he runs with a different kind of power and body lean," Carter said of Moody. "He breaks tackles because people don't realize how fast he is and when they get on him, they don't realize how big he is. He is probably pound for pound one of the stronger people on our team and that brings another dimension to it. When you get to the end of the game, he is perfect for what you want for a team to run out the clock and manage some situations."

The Gator running backs have also had a good year holding on to the ball so far this year. The Gators only have four fumbles on the season and lead the nation in turnover margin. Carter says that his guys know the penalties for fumbling the ball and they work very hard to make sure that doesn't happen.

"I think they have bought into it tremendously well because it is non-negotiable," Carter said about the thought of not fumbling the ball. "They understand if that happens there is going to be a price to pay and for the most part it is a price they aren't willing to pay...losing playing time and going through punishments we have on the practice field. We go through those things and it counts as much in practice as it does in the game because we always talk about competitive excellence. You have to take every play (in practice) and execute like you do on the playing field. Really it is important for our plan to win."

The physical punishment of fumbling the ball may be worse than the mental anguish of letting your teammates down or not starting. The Gators have a system that addresses the physical nature of a fumble and use drills designed to keep it from happening again.

"You can get rolled, you can do up-downs," carter said when listing punishments. "If it's a scrimmage situation, we have a drill and with a ball in each arm and for every five yards for 200 yards, you have to jump on the ground and land on your forearms and not brace yourself. You do it for 200 yards over and over and over. Believe me, you learn to hold on to the ball if you do that one time. That is horrible, absolutely horrible. If you do that one time, you get it."

The game against Vanderbilt will pit two teams that are big on the fundamentals of the game. Kenny Carter was brought in to the University of Florida to really stress fundamentals to a talented group of running backs that have been steady with the way they have played and dynamic when given the chance to be. There is no reason for that pattern not to continue this Saturday.


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