First of all, I never thought UF's offense was as pedestrian as everyone else after the Tennessee game. The Vols are good on defense and I thought because of some offensive line issues, Meyer coached to win and was a bit conservative. Chris Leak is now at the next level and I said before the season he will never be the best runner Meyer has coached in his five years but he is already the best passer. That statement includes the number one overall pick in last year's draft, Alex Smith. This was the first time UF came out and let Chris Leak loose. He finally attempted 30 passes in a game and he played barely more than a half. Leak also is now 6-0 when he hits the 300 yard mark. This was a mature performance by the offense and they came out and sent a message early. Jim Tartt looked comfortable at guard and UF's pass protection was solid versus the Wildcats.
Ack: Chris Leak ran the option some this week. Is he getting better at it?
I do think he was more committed to the option this week. It takes time to learn the nuances of the play and the reads. He is not where he wants to be right now but he is much better than four weeks ago. I thought he did a nice job of attacking the defense and if he can do that a couple of times a game he can force them to play assignment football and stay honest. It only took UF 32 seconds to run the first option and even though Kentucky defended it well he made the right read.
Brady: What can you learn about your defense after a game like this?
The starters are very good and the backups need some work. I do think the starters could improve in some areas. One is after a turnover. They must come out focused and get a three and out. If they are in the red zone they must force a field goal. There has not been a team that really has driven the ball on UF with any consistency but there could come a game like Tennessee where maybe the field position is switched and they need a stop. The secondary continues to impress and Vernell Brown has definitely won me over. Stephen Harris is quietly reaching all-conference level. Kentucky is not very good but it is a defense's job to keep the gas pedal down and holding the Wildcats to four first downs in the first half was big.
Brady: What do you think about the developments of the second half?
I think it is tough for a coach to decide when to call off the dogs and avoid injuries and when to keep getting your guys some work. I thought Meyer pulled the guys because he is not the type of guy who wants to score 70 with his starters and embarrass someone. But after hearing his post game thoughts, it was obvious that he did not want to lose another Caldwell or McDonald. The two's just did not make enough plays. They gave good effort and had a chance to score but the turnover hurt. Kentucky played keep away in the fourth quarter and made Meyer do something no coach likes to do which is put the starters back in the game. I remember a game where UF ended up tying Rutgers (1985) when the Gators put in their backup quarterback early and never put the starter back in the game. I do think if Meyer is in this situation again he may go halfway through the third then go to the backups. It was good experience for the young players.
Ack: Did you see any young players you liked?
Jarvis Moss has a chance to be a good pass rusher. He has natural instincts and made a veteran move one time by setting the tackle high and coming in on the sack. I liked Reggie Nelson and think he will get better and better each week. Josh Portis is fun to watch and he will be a player in the future. He needs to get thick skin and take his medicine from Meyer when he messes up because it is part of the game. Nyan Boateng can help this team this season and once again, I like Jim Tartt in his first real action.
Brady: I live in Alabama and all the talk on the radio shows around here is Florida doesn't stand a chance, Tennessee is awful and Alabama is going to go undefeated and win a national championship. I asked a couple of my friends if they wanted me to go ahead and order them a national championship banner I know that we have much more talent and depth than Bama. What do you think the main keys to winning that game will be? I personally think if we can shut down the run we could win by two touchdowns. GO GATORS!
I think Florida is better than Alabama and probably has more talent. But Bama has a veteran quarterback, a good defense and balance on offense. This will be the biggest game in Tuscaloosa (other than Auburn) in a long time. With a win Bama validates itself as an SEC contender and possibly in the hunt in the national championship race. I like Florida because Leak has won some big games away from home including last year in Tallahassee. Leak knows how to play on the road and that will help the Gators this week. I think some of the keys will be the same as every week. First UF must make Bama throw the football and stop Kenneth Darby. I think Leak needs to get the passing game going early to set up the run. Finally, I think UF must continue to protect the football and be solid on special teams.
Ack: What, in your opinion, will be the position breakdown of the upcoming recruiting class as far as need is concerned? Thanks.
Thanks for the question, but our recruiting experts at Gator Country could handle this one better than I could. I will say lines of scrimmage are very important, plus another running back and receiver will be important to the class. UF already has two big time offensive linemen and a terrific quarterback on board for 2006.
Brady: What is going on at the running back position?
It appears to still be work in progress or by committee. I think DeShawn Wynn is the guy but he has to be able to make some big plays for this offense to be even better. Kestahn Moore should be getting better and he ran hard the other day. This was a game in which Leak was so good that not much can be determined from the running game. Alabama is good on defense so let's see if Wynn emerges with a big game against a quality opponent.
Ack: Are you concerned about the special teams?
Not really. UF could cover kicks better but Kentucky gets a lot of practice at returning them. I am sure Meyer will focus on that and punt protection this week. The punt formation is one a lot of teams are using but I am not sure I am a big fan of it. If you whiff on the front line in a conventional formation, maybe an athlete like Wilbur can make the guy miss or get it away. Shayne Edge was real good at this in his career at Florida. With this formation and having three guys in the back you cannot afford any mistakes or it is definitely blocked.
Brady: Any stats stand out to you on Saturday besides the score?
Third down conversions. Converting ten in row and 12 of 16 will win you a lot of football games. Chris Leak once again is very good on third down.
Ack: How did the "plan to win" work out?
The defense gave up 64 yards in the first half. Had they played to whole game they would be number one in the country. UF's defense has not allowed a play over 31 yards this season. Turnovers were better with UF winning that margin once again, led by Earl Everett and his two interceptions. The red zone was basically 7-7 and the only miss was the turnover by the backups. Time of possession was won in the first quarter with UF taking the steam out of Kentucky by having the ball for 11 plus minutes. Special teams were not great and do need to improve.