Florida Turns its Attention to the OBC

In Florida's win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, they continued to do everything that they've done well over the last four games. The Gators had success in the red zone, played great on special teams and spread the ball around on offense.

Quarterback Tim Tebow's numbers are starting to look like the gaudy numbers he had during his Heisman campaign from a year ago. Against the ‘Dores, Tebow rushed for 88 yards on 11 carries and completed 12-of-17 passes for 171 yards, but he also accounted for five touchdowns. Even though Percy Harvin fumbled inside the red zone on Saturday, the Gators continue to get the job done inside the 20, scoring every time but twice all season long.

"Tim manages the game very well in the red zone and that's the money area," head coach Urban Meyer said during his Monday press conference. "We try not to kick field goals."

The Gators also dominated the battle of field position early thanks to some turnovers and a few blocked punts.

"The first four times the Gators touched the ball the average starting field position was a plus-40," Meyer said. "That's where you get your fast starts. The first six drives of the game, we scored touchdowns on five and obviously you look to the field position for that."

The Gators have blocked five punts this season, but that's not the only special teams unit that is playing well. The battle of field position begins with the kickoff coverage team, and Meyer is pleased with the way they are playing.

"It's the first kickoff team since 2006 that I've been excited to call on," he said. "They're a high-energy group with guys that like to run down there. Last year, we didn't have a kickoff team, we had a bunch of guys running. We have a kickoff team here at Florida now."

But it's still the job of the punt team that's gaining all the attention. At most schools, players don't like getting delegated to punt team duty, but at Florida, guys are fighting to get the chance to get out on the field. And Meyer said he spends 7-8 hours a week drawing up punt block schemes.

"You have two seconds to get a hand on a ball," Meyer said. "That takes a lot of work. It all starts with personnel. If you have good people you can draw all the circles anyway you want. The best thing we have is that our guys are like sharks in the water. Emmanuel Moody just asked me if he can get back on punt block."

After Saturday's win, several Gators graded out as champions. On offense, Louis Murphy, Deonte Thompson, Aaron Hernandez, Phil Trautwein, Carl Johnson and Jason Watkins were all champions. Tebow was named the offensive player of the game, and Meyer said he thinks he's looking more comfortable on the field.

"I think the Heisman Trophy, the Star Wars numbers and the Florida nonsense put pressure on him," Meyer said. "You'd like to think he's immune to it, but you see it and hear it and it must feel like the weight of the world."

Defensively, Joe Haden and Ryan Stamper graded out as champions and William Green was the player of the game. Stamper's name wasn't even mentioned at the beginning of the season, but he's fighting to keep a starting role and provides leadership for the defense. Four years ago, Stamper was a late addition to Meyer's first recruiting class, and he almost didn't come to Florida.

"I saw a ten-play internet tape and people tell me that he's going to Auburn," Meyer said. "Coach Strong told me we had a little issue at linebacker depth-wise. I flipped it on. I saw a guy that ran around and I said let's go talk to him. I met his mom and I found out what kind of guy he is. I didn't need to see anymore than ten plays. They weren't great plays but they were good plays."

The Gators now turn their sights on a South Carolina team that has won seven games. Meyer considers the game a rivalry game because of the talent South Carolina has and the connection with Steve Spurrier.

"He's one of the great coaches in college football history," Meyer said. "I admire Bo Schembechler. I admire Woody Hayes. I admire winners that do it the right way, however, he's the head football coach of the next opponent."

When Spurrier was leading the Gators to SEC Championships and the 1996 national title, many of today's Gators were too little to remember. Meyer doesn't think the impact Spurrier had on Florida is all that important to the players.

"We built a brand new facility and you see the crystal balls," Meyer said. "I think they're very aware of it. I'm not sure how much our guys are into history. I kind of like history, but I don't think it's a big deal for our players at all."

South Carolina brings in a very good defense. The Gamecocks have the SEC's best defense, holding opponents to 256 yards per game. They also rank third in scoring defense allowing just 15 points per game.

"They have personnel," Meyer said. "They made a change at coordinator. The guy they have in is much more versatile. We have not faced this kind of multiplicity. I'm very concerned about it, but we're going to tighten up our package."

The last two meetings between the two teams have been very memorable. Two years ago, it was Jarvis Moss' blocked field goal as time expired that helped propel Florida into the national championship game.

"If I had a vote, I'd think it was the greatest play in Florida football history," Meyer said. "It was a monumental play and moment in my life and this program. It happened to a guy that worked extremely hard for us all year."

Then last year, Tebow was responsible for seven touchdowns launching him to the top of the Heisman ballot.

"I had no idea," Meyer said. "I think it was one of the greatest single performances I've ever seen. A couple of those runs and plays he had made were phenomenal."

There's nothing left on the line for the conference for Florida, but everything is on the line in the race for the national championship. Meyer addressed his team last night about the position the Gators are in.

"We've had that every year, every week, the only difference is that we talk about the SEC East, so it was the first time we addressed it," Meyer said. "I think we addressed it for about six minutes. It is what it is. I told them here's the plan, here's your schedule for the next four weeks and let's move on. Then we flip on the South Carolina film. Our focus is very clear."

Whether Florida gets to the national title game or not, this team has made an impression on Meyer this season.

"I was a big fan of Florida football in the ‘90s, and I'm a big fan of our team now," he said. "More important than the scores is that I like the professionalism. I like the way they're handling themselves and it must continue for success."

Notes

  • Carl Johnson left Saturday's game with a sprain and that's exactly what it is. He has an MCL sprain, but should be fine for Saturday's game with South Carolina.

  • Steve Spurrier said he believes Tim Tebow is the hardest working quarterback in the nation, and Meyer agrees – partly because he told him so. Said Meyer, "It's 100 percent true. We've said that since the first day he walked on campus. In the weight room, in the classroom and on the practice field. He spends almost as much time in that office preparing than we do. He is one of the hardest working guys. He is probably the hardest working guy we've ever coached."

  • Meyer expects more carries for Emmanuel Moody in the upcoming weeks. Said Meyer, "If it doesn't happen then it doesn't happen. Emmanuel Moody is good at everything, but there are some things he excels in. That's top of the ‘I' and downhill runs. I can see him getting more carries. He still has a little bit of a hitch in the leg."


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