Florida Begins Practice in Miami

MIAMI -- With practices resuming for the Florida Gators in South Florida as they prepare for their BCS Championship game with Oklahoma, the Gators started off slow today before apparently improving. In all, Florida head coach Urban Meyer seems to feel like his team is ready to take on the Sooners.

The Gators had their practice facility changed to a new location to be able to prepare in a better environment and Meyer and company seemed to take to the facilities very well. A slow start didn't hinder the Gators from apparently having a good practice.

"Phase three (started) today, it started out a little sluggish," Meyer said. "I am really thankful for FAU to let us use their place. Coach Schnellenberger and his staff have been great to let us come in and use this. The biggest fear is getting interrupted in our routine and we won't get interrupted. It's a great complex and we appreciate them letting us use it."

The biggest question on the Florida team is the health of star offensive athlete Percy Harvin. Harvin has missed the last six quarters-plus of the season and is still a little slow to go. Meyer said he expects Harvin to be ready by game time.

"He did great today," Meyer said of his star. "He didn't finish practice but he is probably a little ahead of schedule and will play on Saturday unless there is a setback."

Of particular concern for Meyer is the Oklahoma offense. Led by the newest Heisman Trophy winner in Sam Bradford, the Sooners have a spectacular passing game and have broken many NCAA offensive records this year.

Only a year ago Meyer wouldn't have wanted this matchup for anything. Florida's secondary struggled mightily in 2007 where now they are definitely a team strength. The matchup on defense and in particular the secondary would have been ugly.

"No chance," Meyer said. "I think they are that good, and I think we were that bad."

The Capital One Bowl matchup with Michigan put a real damper on the end of the season and the secondary was just not very good in the game. Meyer understands that there are painful lessons with youth sometimes.

"I was very disturbed like most people when they watched that game," Meyer said about the tussle with the Wolverines. "However, I need to recognize that Joe Haden was a true freshman (along with) Major Wright. We couldn't count on Janoris (Jenkins) because he was just finishing his (high school) all-star game in Orlando this time last year. Ahmad BlackDorian Munroe was a guy we were counting on to come in here and step in and play and he got hurt. Major and Joe are guys that really improved their play."

Meyer likes the excitement the secondary coaches bring to the unit. Vance Bedford coaches the corner backs and Chuck Heater coaches the safeties. Their level of enthusiasm has been contagious with the players.

"It's tremendous. I think Bedford has changed them a lot and Coach Heater …every year it seems Coach Heater pulls a guy out of his hat and makes him a player. To think that Ahmad Black is one of the best players statistically in America, think about that for a minute. There is some great coaching going on there but also some great play in there as well.

"You should have terrific coaches here. Going out and asking someone if they want to work at Florida is not a bad deal. They also have to come for the right reasons. Hiring someone that wants this as a stepping stone to take another position or an ulterior motive? That's not going to make it. Very rarely am I going to hire someone that I don't know. Kenny Carter is a guy that I didn't know, but he came very strongly recommended. Dan McCarney and I coached together 20 years ago."

There will be another new coach in Gainesville soon as they need to replace Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen who also coached quarterbacks. Steve Addazio was recently promoted to offensive coordinator, but the Gators still need a quarterback coach for next year. Meyer said there should be news soon.

"We've done a very thorough search and it is getting very narrowed down," the head coach said. "You might hear something in the next few days."

Preparation for the big game this week is underway and rumors have been buzzing about possible suspensions for the game. Evidently a misunderstanding from something Meyer said on Friday started the buzz. Meyer put the subject to rest.

"Suspended players?" Meyer asked in disbelief. "For us? No."

A couple of months ago, Meyer and the football staff doubted whether the Gators could be at the point they are in and play for all the marbles. The Gators had the physical make up, but could they get themselves mentally focused to go?

"There were glimpses of it and Coach Marotti sees it more than anyone," Meyer said about the mindset he knew these Gators would need to make it to Miami. "He spends so much time with them in the off-season. He wasn't sold on them until the middle of the season this year. It's so fragile…the winning and losing. The selfishness and guys making a mistake and hurting the team, it's very fragile. We weren't sold until the middle of the year."

Meyer believes he has a team that can make its mark now.

"I am ready to go (now)," Meyer said. "I have my corners, I have my quarterback. I have my offensive line. I love this team and I love the way they handle themselves."


Meyer says the offensive line is a huge part of a team's success and it is no wonder these two teams are playing for it all with their experience and ability among the offensive front.

"They have four seniors, we have two and Jim Tartt is the third," Meyer said. "Jim Tartt provides some great senior leadership. We also have some very good underclassmen. The very good teams are the ones with upperclassmen offensive lines. It isn't a coincidence that the two best teams in America are the two with mature offensive lines."


Meyer's take on special teams…

"It is one area we have to win," Meyer said. "I am not saying we are going to win it, but we have to or we won't win the game. To give that offense the ball at midfield is not fair to our defense. It will be a big challenge for us."


Meyer has a couple of players that have really improved on and off the field since their time at Florida. Junior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and senior wide receiver Louis Murphy have made great strides as Gators.

"He got away with things because he is a very instinctive player and he just played his own game and didn't worry about other people," Meyer aid of Spikes play. "He is playing at a high level and more important than all of that he is getting everyone else to play. I credit Terron Sanders, Lawrence Marsh, Brandon Hicks and those type of players to Brandon Spikes."

"He's come about as far as any guy that I have ever coached," Meyer said about Murphy. "He's a graduate a champion and is going on to play in the NFL."

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