Gators Look to Get Offense Straightened Out

The Florida coaches and players have no trouble admitting the improvement necessary after Saturday's struggles against Miami. They didn't waste time correcting the problems, either. The team returned to practice Sunday night with energy and focus that head coach Urban Meyer expected.

"Coaching a team that has urgency is a positive thing," Urban Meyer said at his press conference Monday morning. "Mistakes are a part of football. It's much easier to coach a team that's urgent and staff that's urgent, as opposed to complacency and disinterest. Now, the bottom line is to get it fixed."

The list of things to fix comes mostly on the offensive side. A patchwork offensive line struggled to open running holes. Wide receivers couldn't hold their blocks to allow the playmakers to get loose. The eight fumbles were enough to make any head coach squirm.

The Florida defense played well, but that was the only part of Meyer's plan to win that went as expected.

"I'm going to go through the plan to win extremely quickly because it didn't work," Meyer said. "Our defense did play well. Other than that, the film looked the same way that it did in person. Our defense made some good plays."

CHAMPIONS: The only offensive player to grade out as a champion was Marcus Gilbert. The defensive players to grade out as a champion were Jeremy Brown, Ahmad Black, Jaye Howard, Justin Trattou, Jon Bostic and A.J. Jones. The defensive player of the game was Janoris Jenkins.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Moses Jenkins will be out a minimum of six weeks after hyper extending his elbow on Saturday. James Wilson was injured during Saturday's game, but Meyer said he is fine.

The big news on the injury front is that Meyer thinks the Gators will have left tackle Xavier Nixon in the lineup Saturday. Matt Patchan is still out. Jordan Reed will also return after missing the first game with a knee injury.

Terron Sanders will return to provide more depth at defensive tackle, and Lawrence Marsh will be at full strength after being slowed with a hamstring injury during Saturday's game.

After missing the first game because of suspension, safety Will Hill and left guard Carl Johnson will play this Saturday "if everything goes as planned."

After serving a one-game suspension and losing his scholarship because of an offseason DUI, Frankie Hammond will play this weekend "if he does what he's supposed to do the rest of the week."

RECEIVERS LACKING PRODUCTION: The wide receivers didn't put up huge numbers because of few passing attempts. Fatigue also could have played a role.

Florida's top two receivers spent more time on the field than any receivers Meyer can remember.

"The other thing we're working hard at is having a rotation," Meyer said. "I did not realize at the time that Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore played every snap. That's the first time that has ever happened here at Florida. We've got to get a rotation in there. That's not fair to the starters. We have to get that fixed."

The depth will come this weekend. Stephen Alli should be fully healthy and able to play. Andre Debose is also expected to get on the field if he has a good week of practice.

"He's not hurt and certainly not suspended," Meyer said of Debose. "We're going to work extremely hard to get him ready. We want to get him on the field."

The production of the running backs was also affected by the wide receivers. When the Gators ran Jeff Demps or Chris Rainey on plays to the edge of the field, receivers couldn't hold their blocks long enough to allow the playmakers to break one.

"Our perimeter blocking was inadequate, too," Meyer said. "Our edge blocking is something we take great pride in around here, and our receivers have to improve that.

"The number one disappointment was ball security. Number two was blocking on the edge."

QUARTERBACK-CENTER EXCHANGE: The offense struggled right off the bat because of errant snaps from center Mike Pouncey. The Gators couldn't get into a rhythm, which also affected the timeliness of Brantley's drops on passing plays.

"Obviously the snap issue, we're working hard at it," Meyer said. "We have two very accountable people that are working hard at getting that thing right. It obviously disrupts the flow of the game."

Pouncey and Brantley were in Sunday morning beginning to work on improving snaps. A large reason for the struggles came from the sweat on Pouncey's hand. The coaches know that will always be an issue, and Meyer said they are "looking at some different things" to help Pouncey deal with it.

They also found mechanical issues that hurt the snap.

"You like to lock your wrist when you snap," Meyer said. "At times, we weren't and the ball was coming back awkward. Johnny Brantley at times wasn't focused on the ball. The quarterback is asked to catch the passes and identify the defense. It's all got to be done in about 2.5 seconds."

The bad snaps did force Florida out of some shotgun sets on Saturday. Meyer said they haven't finalized the game plan for Saturday's game against USF, but the shotgun is still a vital part of the offense.

"We still are a shotgun team," Meyer said. "The reason we like shotgun is to get away from the rush, and some other reasons why. We have to get that fixed."

RUN GAME MISTAKES: The Florida rushing attack lacked the home run threat until Jeff Demps broke a 72-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The lack of continuity on the offensive line didn't allow Demps or Emmanuel Moody to hit many big plays.

"Inefficient with guys making mistakes," Meyer said of the run game. "I saw an offensive line that was disheveled. We had a lot of guys playing new positions. Obviously Jeff Demps outruns everybody for 72 yards and that's a huge deal, but we know what's coming, especially this week. He's not going to be able to hit overdrive and run by everybody."

Mike Gillislee continued to impress and earn more playing time. He had a big kickoff return and showed toughness. He is also a key part of Florida's special teams units.

"He got special teams player of the week," Meyer said. "He's earned more playing time. He's our gunner on punt and our number one guy down on kickoff. You give us a bunch of Mike Gillislees as this is a pretty good-looking team."

JAYE HOWARD IMPRESSES: Howard was named SEC defensive lineman of the week after his two-sack performance. It didn't shock many people around the Florida football offices. Howard has been turning heads throughout the offseason.

He was on the field for 47 plays Saturday, and the coaches would like to keep it between 35-40.

"There are two things," Meyer said of Howard's improvement. "The first and foremost is that the young guy has finally had enough. He's a talented guy that is letting it rip right now. The other thing is that there's good competition. Now we have a rotation. At Florida, we've played our best defense when we've been able to roll guys through there."

CONTROLLING BRANTLEY'S EMOTIONS: The frustrations of the Florida offense are being dealt with, but one of the most important issues is keeping Brantley's confidence. Meyer tried to help that by sitting on the bench with Brantley multiple times during the game to keep his confidence as high as possible.

"John is a competitor and wants to do well," Meyer said. "I've had a few of those talks with Tim (Tebow), Chris Leak, and Josh Harris. It's about settling down. Don't worry about the last play and what just happened. Worry about the next play."

Brantley learned on the first game of his career as a starter to deal with adversity. It's not a lesson many people expected him to deal with during the first game of the year, but it could help down the road.

"Whenever you hit a storm, and that was a storm, there's only one thing to do," Meyer said. "That's get right back to the fundamentals. Watch the ball in and throw the ball. You can't worry about what else is going on. That's why a guy like Tim was so valuable. John will have the same gift."

USF REPORT: Meyer maintains a close relationship with USF head coach Skip Holtz after starting it in 1996.

Meyer won't think about that on Saturday. He sees a team coming to town with multiple athletes that is capable of giving the Gators trouble.

"Probably a top 25, top 15 team with talent," Meyer said of the Bulls. "An athletic quarterback that provides a dual threat. They have very skilled wide receivers. They didn't show us anything on defense because they played a very vanilla, basic defense."

The Gators are limited on game film on the Bulls, who played vanilla in an easy victory over Stony Brook. USF defensive coordinator Mark Snyder came from Marshall, but he also served as the defensive coordinator for Ohio State previously. Florida will be forced to watch tape of the defensive schemes he used at other schools.

"If you go back to their defensive coordinator's time at Ohio State, they're a heavy zone blitz team," Meyer said. "This is an SEC caliber team we're playing."
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