“We had a meeting today with the leaders,” Urban Meyer said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s about not messing up the routine. People’s families will show up at the hotel, and we can’t mess up the routine. All great players and all great teams have routines. When they’re disrupted, that’s usually when you get a lack of concentration on the job.”
When the young Gators step into Neyland Stadium Saturday, it will be packed with over 107,000 fans wearing Tennessee orange. It’s a drastic change from the two environments the Gators have seen over the past two weekends.
“That’s a concern,” Meyer said. “All you can do is what you can do. You can’t worry about it. We have a routine and we do stuff here before we get on the plane and go. Our meetings are all done and our preparation is all done before we get on the plane.
“There’s probably going to be some wide eyes. Just get through those first few minutes of that game, and we’ll be fine.”
The crowd noise could create problems for an offense with a new starting quarterback and many young playmakers. The veteran offensive line will run on silent cadence, which they have been practicing throughout the week.
Florida spent the week practicing with artificial noise being pumped in, trying to prepare for what they will see Saturday.
“We go down at the five yard line with big speakers behind us and playing that song we’re going to hear constantly up there,” Meyer said. “We do that for every away game.”
Even though it will be John Brantley’s first road start, his time around the Florida program will help prepare him. Brantley watched as Tim Tebow prepared for games on the road, plus he has been around the road game routine long enough that he will know what to expect.
“Johnny is used to it,” Meyer said. “This may be the keys to his offense now, but he’s been preparing for three years. It’s not an issue with Johnny. Jordan Reed, Omarius Hines… there are some other guys that just don’t have game reps yet.”
This isn’t just another road game for the Gators. It’s against one of their biggest rivals, a young team that would love to make a statement. The Florida staff has been working since the summer to prepare the team for what they will see on Saturday.
“The intensity is a little different,” Meyer said. “All summer we talk about (the rivalries). We have something called the Gator experience where we talk about this great rivalry. This was a rivalry years ago. It’s the first SEC game and third game of the year. Our players enjoy it. We love the pageantry of college football.”
ARRESTS ISSUE: Chris Rainey’s arrest on Tuesday was the 30th since Meyer took over as the Florida head coach. The coaches preach representing Florida when away from the football field, but Meyer said they are constantly evaluating ways to keep players out of trouble.
“I try to evaluate everything about our program,” Meyer said. “I’m real upset about that. After a while, enough is enough. If there’s something we can improve on, we’re certainly looking into that.”
Meyer isn’t concerned with the way the program is viewed to the media and outsiders. He is concerned about what happens with his players.
“I don’t care,” Meyer said. “We’re doing our best to win games. This is not a dirty program. We follow the rules. We do it the right way at Florida. We have to do a better job of correcting some of the people making mistakes.”
WILL HILL STATUS: Junior safety Will Hill is expected to travel with the team to Knoxville, and the head coach thinks he will play in his first game of the season.
“Hill is going to play,” Meyer said. “I’m not sure (if he’ll start). I think he will.”
Hill caught Meyer’s eye on special teams throughout this week of practice. If there is a way to prove to the head coach that you’re ready to play, special teams is how to do it.
“Will Hill is doing the things he did today on special teams,” Meyer said. I’m expecting a big game out of him.”
INJURY UPDATE: Defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh will miss Saturday’s game after a “freak accident” on the practice field yesterday. Meyer said Marsh went into the practice field bathroom and came out with a gash on his forearm that required 15-20 stitches.
“The sink broke, and he leaned on the sink,” Meyer said, adding even he was a little confused about how it happened.
Marsh also pulled his hamstring slightly last week near the end of the game against USF.
Chris Dunkley will also be held out after reinjuring his hamstring recently. Meyer said he did run around at practice Thursday, but they won’t allow him to play yet.
“He has had this since November in his senior year of high school,” Meyer said. “Hamstrings are serous injuries. We thought we had him because we shut him down for a while. He was good the last two weeks. He was getting ready to play. He was out there practicing today a little bit.”
CHRIS RAINEY STATUS: Meyer said he isn’t sure what it will take for Chris Rainey to get back on the team. He has been proud of how the Florida team has handled it this week. He’s starting to see the team use it as a rallying point.
“I see that,” Meyer said. “We consider this a family. Family members make terrible mistakes sometimes and they pay for it, but you’ve got to move on. I see that, especially with the guys that have been here for a long time and have an issue.”
Hines will see time in the slot, along with Robert Clark. Meyer also said they will utilize formations with Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moody on the field at the same time.
WIDE RECEIVER MOVES: Meyer said that Andre Debose would remain as an outside receiver for the team.
“He’s more of an outside guy,” Meyer said. “When we recruited him, we thought he could be that inside (guy). It’s a unique position that’s more of a runner type thing. Debose is a receiver. He’s going to stay outside.
“He’s just got to learn to play at that same speed he’s capable of playing at.”
There could be another freshman that sees the field this Saturday at wide receiver.
“The guy who is really coming on is Quinton Dunbar,” Meyer said. “He’s got a lot of speed, more speed than I thought.”
SIGNS OF MATURATION: Meyer has a specific formula for checking the maturity of his team. He flips in the special teams film.
“You see it on special teams,” Meyer said. “It was encouraging to watch our video today. I made a comment today and held some players afterwards saying, “Can you imagine what this looks like now compared to three weeks ago?” Because it was garbage three weeks ago. Now it’s starting to look like a punt team running down the field covering.
“That’s the sign. It’s always been that way. I can see the development. When Matt Elam starts to play really well on special teams, he’s starting to play really well.”
This team wouldn’t have been able to go through schedules of the past. Meyer singled out the 2008 team that played Miami in the second week and then went to play in Knoxville during week three, saying he wouldn’t like to force this team into doing that.
They got the perfect challenge at home last weekend from USF.
“We played a really good team in South Florida, but we needed that,” Meyer said. “We needed that real bad. Matter of fact, we needed it that close at halftime and find a way to grind it out to get a win against a good team. We learned something about our team last week.”
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