Coach Meyer, just off of another “great” practice, talked about the guys that will be ready for the opening game against Southern Mississippi a week from today. He didn’t name any specifics on who might not be ready, but did say the staff would be able separate the men from the boys when the time comes to play in The Swamp.
With 26 green freshmen on the roster and a big portion of last year’s recruiting class that have never played in a Gator game, Meyer and company are anxious to see who wants it early next week.
“You learn a lot about players this next week coming up,” Meyer said. “You can look right in their eyes, all the Percy Harvins and the hot shot guys. You find out on Tuesday’s practice who is going to play in the game. Certainly, on Thursday if they start to drop balls and not lock in, that means they are not ready to play. As a staff that is what we have to look for.”
Game week is just different. The level of excitement can get to some, while others relish it.
“For the non-player it does change on game week,” Meyer said. “It’s kind of harsh, but for the first team all-American in the weight room and the track it changes because they are stepping into the arena. I love the guys that practice their best football next week.”
“I have a feeling that Jarvis Moss will. He has had a great camp. Chris Leak and others will perform very well. Dallas Baker, I know exactly what he is going to do next week, he’s going to be on fire. If we have a lot of guys like that we will have a good team.”
Around 150 former players attended a cookout and practice on Saturday. Meyer was very pleased with the turnout of the second annual player’s alumni cookout. It is just part of his campaign to bring the Gator Nation together as one big family.
“It was great,” said Meyer. “We had about 100 last year and about 150 this year. Alecia (Pynn) in our office does a great job. She is the one that makes it work.”
Meyer has made it a point since his arrival to get the university, its fans, students, and alumni all on the same page when it comes to generating spirit and camaraderie for the Florida Gators.
“We have done five things and I talked to the former players about this,” Meyer said. “We have two target groups that we have gone after since our staff has arrived that we think are very important, the staff and the student body. We do a cookout every year before the first game. We do a newsletter that they get. We do the former player tunnel before the first game. Then we do a former captains breakfast and invite all the old captains back for homecoming and let them spend a day with the team.”
The team had another good practice on Saturday in front of the watchful eyes of the former players despite several players out due to a rash of high fevers.
“Practice was great,” Meyer said. “Tim Tebow wasn’t here and he was screaming at me when we wouldn’t let him go. He had 103 degree temperature and was real sick in the locker room. We just have to get those guys away form our players and let it run its course. We have had some guys Kenneth Tookes, Reggie Lewis, Dallas Baker, Jon Demps, Simon Codrington, Tim Tebow, A. J. Jones, and Jim Tartt. They told me that it is going around campus right now.”
The Gators are getting better physically. One more player is about ready to contribute. “Bryan Thomas is getting close,” Meyer said. “He is about a week away. He’s a great athlete and his attitude is terrific.”
The starting receivers this year will be familiar to Gator fans. Some of the top backups are new and Meyer has three true freshmen ready to step in and contribute early in the season.
“Jared Fayson is going hard and will play,” Meyer said. “Riley Cooper was held out today. He got dinged a little bit and dehydrated. Cooper, Fayson and Percy Harvin are the three guys I anticipate playing. Cooper is a big guy, tough, and real fast for his size. He provides a bit of toughness that we need at the position. Louis Murphy has a slight hamstring pull, so he will be a game time decision.”
Meyer will be watching sophomore receiver/tight end Cornelius Ingram’s demeanor closely during game week. Ingram is a defensive coordinator’s night mare when it comes to match ups. It is his kind of freakish athletic ability that could make this offense very special.
“He is a guy that we will play him closed and open meaning we will play him at the closed tight end,” Meyer said of Ingram. “That means the Sam linebacker will have to cover him (in man coverage). That is a good match up for us, because he can really run. He just has to become a better blocker.”
“The only thing I worry about is he hasn’t played in a game. He didn’t have a good day yesterday, but had a very good day today. Hopefully as it gets closer to game time he doesn’t start thinking about the game, but just improving.”
Meyer was asked about drives that define his style of offense. In particular, the lone touchdown drive against Tennessee that was punctuated with an Andre Caldwell reverse for a touchdown. Meyer isn’t about defining his offense. He is about putting the points on the board.
“I really remember the one near the end when Chris hit the third and long and the offense did a good job of mixing up the run and the pass,” Meyer said. “If it worked and scored a touchdown against Tennessee, then it was a good drive.”
“Do we want to have big plays in our offense and do we need the personnel to do it and do we have it right now? I believe we have it. We had a string last year where however you paint the picture and put that thing together, we didn’t have the big play potential on the field. If that happens again, I think we are really going to struggle. If it doesn’t happen I think we will be alright. “
One obstacle he is confident they will avoid is the lack of personnel available to do just what he wants to do. Last year a few injuries really crippled the offense. This year, there are some backups that can step in and make a difference.
“I think there are a lot more options,” he said. “We lost one and added three. We lost Chad Jackson and I think our tailback position is going to be better. There was no big play opportunity at tailback. I think that will change this year. At receiver we added some speed.”
Finally, Meyer was asked about the Gators first opponent next week. Southern Miss has a great reputation among southern schools to be able to show up and beat anyone. While not a traditional power it is certainly not a team that the Gators can overlook. Meyer isn’t scared of them coming in and catching the Gators off guard.
“Scare me? No,” he said of the game. “But, it has our attention. I know that team real well and that coach real well because we coached against them in a bowl game.”
“Am I scared they are overlooked? If they were awful on film, I would have to give (the Gator players) the ‘Win one for the Gipper speech’. All you have to do is watch their film. They are an excellent team with a lot of good talent. Some say they are down, but they had a lot of distractions last year with the hurricanes. We are very aware of what they can do.”