Meyer: Gators Flexing Their Depth

There were a few miscues in the Gators' 62-3 blowout victory over the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, but Urban Meyer was pleased with the overall performance of his troops. The Gators flexed their depth muscle on Saturday and played a lot of young players after getting off to a commanding first half lead. Meyer was happy and glad to be getting on with the rest of the schedule.

The opening kickoff wasn't one to remember and a number of penalties bogged things down at times, but the Gators scored nine offensive touchdowns with big play ease and a defense that played all of two plays on the night held their opponent to three points.

"I was very pleased and now it's time to get going a little bit," Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer said after the game. "Now it's time to get going….It was good to see some of those young players make some plays."

Youth was served Saturday as a lot of the starters on defense were pulled after the second series of the game.

"Our whole focus wasn't about who we were playing," Meyer said. "It was about game week preparation and playing the best we can. If we didn't play the best we can, it was a good chance they would be replaced….Who knows? The depth chart might change on Monday. There are some good young players making plays out there. Adrian Bushell, our coaches pointed him out. You better be careful and practice real hard or a guy like that steps in and takes your spot. When you get to that point, you have a pretty good thing going and our guys practice like that because they want to play.

This was a big step for a lot of young players and he understands that it is just impossible to duplicate game experience like some of them had on Saturday.

"It's our fifth year now and you kind of start taking some things for granted," Meyer said. "Like the stadium, the fans, the people, and the atmosphere. You are out there and people are still cheering when the game is out of hand. That is priceless as far as getting young players in the game. I have coached at places before where it was 4th-and-2 before they got in and that isn't fair to a young player. The positive is that there are a lot of young players that got game reps in front of the lights. The negative is we weren't really challenged."

One veteran that made the most of the night was receiver Riley Cooper. Cooper caught five pass for 105 yards and was the go to guy early in the game for quarterback Tim Tebow.

"Riley Cooper played like he's practiced," Meyer said. "He had over 100 yards receiving and he hasn't missed a practice. He's played as good as he has ever played. It's just one game, but the way he has been practicing you could tell he was going to have a breakout game."

On the other side of the formation, sophomore Deonte Thompson didn't have a good night. Held to no catches, Thompson dropped a wide open bomb that would have resulted in a 70 plus yard touchdown. This was moments after he committed a penalty. The two plays eventually led to the Gators first punt of the night.

"Deonte, I am a little upset about that one," Meyer said. "That position has been manned by some very good players over the last four years. The style of offense we play, if the guy gets covered or can't make a play, we are going to fail. He makes that play. He ran right by the guy and has a lot of speed. There is no excuse for that."

One positive note among veteran receivers was senior Cade Holliday. A former walk-on and son of former assistant John "Doc" Holliday, Holliday caught his first touchdown pass as a Gator Saturday night.

"Our players love Cade, we called him up to the center, "Meyer said. "He does a lot for us. He starts on three or four special teams for us. To see him score a touchdown, that is what this is all about."

Meyer was extremely pleased with his four scholarship tailbacks. The four combined for 21 carries and 292 yards on the night. The only thing Meyer wishes he had done is allow sophomore Chris Rainey to have a few more touches. Rainey has a 76 yard per carry average right now after rushing one time for a 76 yard touchdown.

"When I found out that Chris only had one carry I almost put him back in," Meyer said. "But, if something would have happened to him, it would have ripped our hearts out. Young Mike Gillislee played hard and Emmanuel Moody ran real hard. We have three tailbacks right now that are almost equal Moody is going to get a lot more (carries).

On defense there were four starters missing from a year ago. Defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh was not dressed and on the sideline. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was dressed but did not play. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins missed the game apparently because of suspension. Safety Ahmad Black was replaced in the starting lineup with sophomore Will Hill. All of this might have caused a little bit of uncertainty out there as the Gators gave up 323 total yards.

"Jermaine Cunningham wasn't ready to play in our opinion," Meyer said. "Will Hill played safety because he was ready to play safety."

The play of the offensive line was very good most of the night. Huge holes were opened up in the running game and pass protection resulted in only one sack on backup John Brantley who sprinted out of the pocket to get sacked. Junior Carl Johnson had a scare and the combo guard/tackle left the game with an injury that Meyer believes isn't too bad.

"Carl Johnson, we are hoping it's a bruise and right now the assessment is he is probable for next week," Meyer said. "I think (Coach Addazio) started James Wilson, but we have three guys that will rotate for those two spots. Carl Johnson out of the game forced us to play James Wilson and Patchan (together). I think they played well. I liked their preparation."

The execution was great even when the younger linemen stepped up and even when the Gators were in a hurry up mode on offense. The Gators played three true freshmen along the offensive line on Saturday.

"We wanted to get some two minute done and some no huddle down," Meyer said. "We had some young offensive linemen step in with Nick Alajajian, Xavier Nixon, and Jon Halapio. We are getting a little depth there finally."

The Gators had their star on special teams as well. Senior return man Brandon James finally logged a kick off return for a touchdown after having five of them erased from the record by penalty in seasons past. Meyer can't say enough about his special team's dynamo.

"I love Brandon and I am so proud of that guy," Meyer said. "He had a tough road when he first got here. He made a couple of bad decisions. Now he's a captain, he's going to be a graduate at the University of Florida, and he will have a chance to go to the NFL. He works very hard at his job and he inspires the guys and they all root for him. He had three or four (kickoff returns) called back, so it was good to see one that counts."

Staying healthy was a major goal for this game and the Gators did pretty much that. They also wanted to try out a couple of things including a constant hurry up offense and working a bit from under center. One of two was accomplished Saturday night.

"We had some things planned that we didn't use, because we want to wait," Meyer said. "The thing we did want to see was what we call the Bonsai, the real fast offense where we get lined up that we took from Oklahoma. That is to put a lot of pressure on the defense and it's something you just can't practice. You are going to see more than that."

Tebow and John Brantley didn't take snaps under center, but Meyer had planned on showing a bit of that on Saturday.

"We almost did in the second quarter," he said. "The issue we had is that we feel better if there is a tight end attached. We wanted to get Aaron Hernandez out of the game. When we took him out of the game it kind of eliminated the under center package we had for tonight."


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