Meyer: Gators Can Rely on the Secondary

The Florida Gators' secondary is not surprising anybody this season. Last year, the unit was coming off a horrendous 2007 season and was considered a weak link for the team. After finishing the 2008 season tied for first in the nation in interceptions with 26, it returns as one of the most proven secondaries in the nation, and cornerback Joe Haden is the face of that group.

Joe Haden has been starting at cornerback for the Florida Gators since his freshman season, but he wasn't the All-SEC corner when he first started.

"His first year he wasn't a good corner; he was an athlete, tough guy," Florida head coach Urban Meyer said. "Corner takes a lot of confidence, and first of all, it takes a lot of God-given ability — that is one of the hardest job descriptions there is. He also studies the game. Joe understands to split the receivers, he understands pattern concepts. For example, number two goes to the flat, one is probably coming in. It takes a lot of guys a long time to learn that, but Joe learned it fairly quickly."

Haden benefited from Janoris Jenkins emerging as another star corner to play opposite him last season. Like Haden, Jenkins was starting as a freshman.

With the two of them locking down receivers, it has allowed the defense to play the run better as well.

"You can stick another guy in the box against the run," Meyer said. "One year we knew we were outmatched, and we started playing a lot of zone coverage, and just got greased with people running the ball against us."

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DT Lawrence Marsh and LB Jelani Jenkins are still being hampered by sprained ankles. "(Marsh) is still not ready. He didn't do much today. We are going to have another guy look at it. Lawrence is a good guy, and it's not like he doesn't want to play." If Jenkins cannot play the rest of the season, Meyer said they will try to redshirt him. ..............................

With Marsh still limited, the Gators needed Omar Hunter to fill the void against LSU. "Omar actually did good. We were in a lot of three-down, but when he was in four-down, he actually did real well. He's getting a lot better."

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Safety Moses Jenkins still has not returned to practice from the concussion he suffered at Kentucky on a kickoff. Meyer said he is 50-50 to play in the game Saturday.

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Meyer expressed his concern with his offensive line after practice Tuesday. "It is the James Wilson, Maurice Hurt. They are trying hard, but they just need a little more experience. Carl Johnson needs to play a little better," Meyer said. "We have (Mike) Pouncey, (Maurkice) Pouncey, (Marcus) Gilbert playing well. If we had all five playing at that level, then you're in unbelievable shape."

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Another concern for Meyer was the lack of production so far from the Gators' passing game. "A lot of concern. We worked awfully hard on it today in practice." Although he is worried about the passing game developing, he isn't concerned about UF's offense being unbalanced. "It's all personnel based. It's really important to just win the game. That's the number one thing, so game management is determined by how your defense is playing, how your offense is playing, who's hot, who's not, are you blocking them, are you on the road. There is all kinds of things. In a perfect world, and we have had some years like that where we were 250 running and 250 passing. Right now we are imbalanced, but we are still number one, I think, in the SEC."

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To get the offense to become more productive, there are certain players he needs to get going. "There's a bunch of guys I'm trying to get involved in the offense. David Nelson is a guy who needs to be involved in the offense, Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper. (Moody's) job is running really hard, take care of the football and protect the quarterback."

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Meyer spoke highly about Arkansas' high-powered offense behind QB Ryan Mallet. "They were kind of a run oriented — we played them in the SEC Championship Game (in 2006), and they were not really much of a throwing game at all. Now they are on the other end, and a lot of it has to do with the coach and a lot has to do with that quarterback. He's a very good thrower. They have some good receivers; I did not realize how well they did recruiting receivers."

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It wasn't just the Razorbacks' offense he praised. He also had kind words for their defense. "I see a team that is going to compete for the western side. I don't know what the records are off the top of my head, but I just watched them play, and I don't know if they've got better players, but they are playing better than LSU, certainly on offense statistically. A year ago I didn't think they were really good on defense, this year I think they are really good."

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The Gators have lost a couple players for the season this year, and a couple others for extended periods, but Meyer and the rest of the coaching staff are making sure those players stay ready. "It's on the individual. They can get lost. We make them come to meetings. When we first got here, we made the mistake — that I did not realize what was going on — that some guys weren't going to meetings. The worst thing that could happen to a football player is you get lost, he sits at home and watches TV or Spongebob, or whatever the heck they watch. And they are not around the football team, so Debose we are making him come in Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. We are making all those guys, Jeremy Brown, so when it's time to say go play, they can go play."

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One of those players is freshman WR Andre Debose who suffered a torn tendon in his hamstring. "(Debose) is fine. I talked to him today about it for a little bit. He's a great kid. He has to remain focused, he's not the most focused guy."

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