Hostile Environment Awaits the Gators

It hasn't been since 2003 that the Florida State Seminoles were able to knock off the Florida Gators. Florida has dominated the series since Urban Meyer's arrival in Gainesville, and the Gator head coach looks to go another season with victories against all three rivals.

This may be the best Seminole team in recent years, but no one will know how much better they are until the two teams take the field at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Meyer has the utmost respect for the "School out West", though.

"We're not surprised at all," he said during his Monday press conference. "On defense, they're schematically similar to what they've been in the past. Talent-wise, they're very similar. They're very well coached. On offense, it's completely different. It's a single-wing style, direct-snap runs. It's option football and then obviously traditional football. It's a little bit like what we do. We have to make sure we're very sound on defense."

The Gators have been more than just sound on defense in recent weeks. Florida's defense ranks ninth nationally, but FSU's ranks No. 7, so the offense is going to have to continue to play well. Plus, this will be the most hostile environment the Gators have had to play in all season.

"Knoxville is the only other one this season," Meyer said. "You can throw as many loud speakers onto the practice field as you want. It's nothing compared to Tallahassee. Two years ago, it took the field over. On the list of concerns, it's the personnel we're playing against and the environment. Those would be the two most important things. We're going to try to prepare them, but you have to bring your toughness and you have to bring your defense on the road."

Many Gators are of course recruited by the Noles, and many grew up watching the two teams battle. But all that is behind them, and this week's focus is finishing the regular season with a win and keeping their BCS hopes alive.

"They made a decision seven weeks ago to get busy about what's happening this year," Meyer said. "The Citadel became a huge game for Florida; USC became a huge game for us. For coaches, every game is a huge game. It's our job and how we feed our families. But this group of players made a decision to make every week a big week, to the point that it's almost overwhelming. Was there an extra jump in their step yesterday, absolutely. They have a very clear vision at what the task at hand is, and I'm proud of their approach right now."

Meyer said one of the big keys for this week's preparations will be to keep the routine the same. It may be a little harder to do, though, with the holiday on Thursday.

"Every great team and every great player I've ever been around has a routine," he said. "The only thing that messes it up is the coaches. You want to make changes here or there, but why? We ask ourselves that as coaches. We have to keep this thing going and to keep it going, we can't break the routine. We have excellent coaches and we'll get the scheme right without altering the routine of our players."

On the field, there are still some things the Gators need to work on. They gave up and uncharacteristic 23.2 kick return yards to The Citadel on Saturday. But Meyer's focus this week will be to work on stopping the things that FSU does well.

"It's all who you face," Meyer said. "It's not about making improvements this week. Here we're relatively even as far as personnel. We have our hands full with their offense and quarterback. Right now our focus is on stopping what they do well. I had a heart-to-heart with the team last night and we talked about how we have not really had a two-minute drill. On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, we're going to finish practice with a hard real-game situation and we're going to give it to them. It's going to be no-huddle at the end of the game to go win it."

Meyer said that Chas Henry and Percy Harvin will be considered on the quarterback depth chart now that Cameron Newton is suspended indefinitely. Henry has the respect of Meyer and played some in high school, and Harvin can do pretty much anything.

"Percy we've done some stuff with the direct snaps and we've worked on some stuff with him on the throw game," Meyer said.

With such talented quarterbacks in the Big 12, it's likely that Harvin won't get the Heisman consideration that he maybe deserves this season. But according to Meyer, maybe no other player impacts an offense the way he does.

"There's not many like Percy," Meyer said. "The thing about Percy is his ball skill level. He has the ability catch pitches, to take the direct snap. People take that for granted. You see that every week in college football. Dan (Mullen) has done a tremendous job. But he has the ability to take a snap, take a pitch and catch a ball 50 yards down the field. There are not many guys that can do that."

Harvin is a great player, but Meyer also pointed to his teammates that help make him great.

"He's somewhat of a freak of nature with his ability level," Meyer said. "It's also the guys that block for him, Kestahn Moore and Aaron Hernandez and then the perimeter guys in Riley Cooper, Louis Murphy, Carl Moore, and David Nelson. On the jet sweep plays, he's untouched for the first 5-10 yards and then after that, it's his God-given ability. He's one of the best in the country at that, but he wouldn't have that success without the guys blocking for him. I'm not sure Kestahn Moore has missed a block yet and Demps had a good cut last week. Our whole goal is to get those guys to the second level. If we can do that, good things happen."

Still, the offensive success all comes back to the play of the offensive line.

"The center of your offense is your offensive line and your quarterback and they're both very productive right now," Meyer said. "Tim puts us in a lot of good plays. A lot of times defenses will have a play taken away and Tim has the ability to get us to another one because of his knowledge. It's much more difficult to do on the road because of noise issues. The efficiency of the quarterback position and the offensive line are the reasons we're having the success we are."

In last year's game against Florida State, Tebow made his finally statement en route the winning the Heisman Trophy. Tebow rushed for 89 yards and threw for 262 more, accounting for five touchdowns. His stats are not as impressive this season, but Meyer cautions not to judge him too much on the numbers.

"What he did last year is forever ‘Tim Tebow'," Meyer said. "Unfortunately the quarterback position is going to be evaluated on that. In 1996 a guy did it too – Danny Wuerffel. It's the same thing with Tim Tebow in 2007. I don't know if that will ever happen again. It's part of the business. But all that matters is this team. The appreciation for what he does with this offense, managing these players, the efficiency of the offense is probably as good as I've been around."


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