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Friday, October 30, 2009

Behind Enemy Lines: Florida Gators

It's the biggest game of the season for Georgia, but this year seems to have a bit different feel to it. Normally, this is the battle for control of the SEC East. While a win would keep Georgia's faint title hopes alive, this year is more about salvaging a season and erasing some bad memories more than it is about getting to Atlanta.

Vegas has Georgia as a 16-point underdog, so a win will be an uphill challenge. But the Gators have some troubles of their own, too. To find out more about what's going on with Florida, we checked in with Jeremy Fowler, the Gators beat writer for the Orlando Sentinel. Here's what he had to say...

David Hale: So Florida's passing game looks dismal, and Tim Tebow wouldn't talk to the press after last week's game. What gives?

Jeremy Fowler:
Tebow said he had other obligations after the game, including visiting with former Gators OC Dan Mullen and attending a team meeting. The speculation, of course, is that he was just frustrated. Who really knows. It is curious he dodged the media since he's never done that before.

The struggling passing game is a combination of lack of depth at wide receiver, Tebow's suddenly poor decision-making and Florida's insistence to run with Tebow in the red zone. Ten of the 17 red-zone snaps last week either resulted in a Tebow rush or a Tebow sack. Absolutely no predictability. Tebow just doesn't seem to have a chemistry with any receiver save TE Aaron Hernandez and WR Riley Cooper. If he can just get it going with maybe two other receivers -- primarily Deonte Thompson and David Nelson -- that will take pressure off everybody.

DH: Obviously the struggles in Florida's passing attack began before the concussion occurred, but what's Tebow's status right now? Is he still rounding into form following the injury, is he being exposed a bit or is it simply a matter of fixing the problems will take more than one man -- even if that one man is Tebow?

JF:
Doctors wouldn't have let Tebow back onto the field unless he was 100 percent healed from the concussion, but it's possible he's just hesitant. Maybe the hit against Kentucky mentally affected him more than we all thought. He's either taking off in the pocket too quickly or he's staying in there too long. Tebow's a rhythm quarterback, so he just needs to find it. His running game always helped him because he could just barrel over people, but defenses are sitting on his run and he's getting nowhere.

DH: Florida's pass defense ranks second in the nation, allowing just 135 yards per game. Of course, the Gators have yet to face someone of the caliber of A.J. Green. What's the game plan for stopping Georgia's star wide receiver?

JF:
Florida will likely push one of their safeties to Green's side for most of the game, but Florida likes to play receivers one-on-one with either CB Joe Haden or Janoris Jenkins. Coaches feel those guys are good enough to do that every week, and they both shut down LSU's receivers. Jenkins handled Green pretty well last year. But that was last year. Florida safeties will be huge in containing Green because he can go over the top of either corner. They will need help.

DH: Brandon Spikes has missed the past couple of games and has really been dogged by numerous injuries so far this season. He's always a burr in Georgia's side, so what's his status for this week's game?

JF:
Spikes is listed as probable. Coach Urban Meyer seems to think he'll play. The only tricky part is the groin injury. Those can linger. So he might be a game-time decision. But I think they didn't play him last week to save him for Georgia. Expect him out there.

DH: In Bulldogs Country, a lot has been made of Georgia's bye week coming into this game. The last time the Dawgs had an extra week to prepare, they looked pretty dominant in 2007. Florida had the bye-week advantage for years and looked just as dominant. So from the Gators' side of things, how big of a deal is the week off? Does Urban Meyer & Co. really think it's a significant advantage for Georgia? Are they expecting a few new looks that the Dawgs haven't shown so far?

JF:
Absolutely it's a Georgia advantage, because the track records of Meyer and Richt performing after bye weeks are pretty stellar. These are smart guys, so they game plan well with the extra week. Georgia's got to show Florida something new since the Gators' front seven should be able to stop Georgia's running game at face value. That bye week was perfect timing for Georgia, too, because they had all week to think about how much they hate Florida.

DH: Two-part question: Motivation isn't usually a problem in this game to begin with, but how much have the 2007 celebration and last year's timeouts been a topic of conversation again this season? Secondly, might all the questions about Tebow and Florida's vulnerability this week be all the motivation the Gators need? What are the odds Urban Meyer is secretly loving (and maybe even fueling) all the criticism? (Sorry, I guess that was a three-part question.)

JF:
First part: Florida is still fuming over the end-zone stuff. Georgia will never live that down, at least to the players who were on the field that day. They have no problems talking about it two years later.

Secondly: Yes, I think there's something to that. There's not a more motivated guy than Tebow, so you know he's frustrated beyond comprehension that he's not getting it done. Every time he's been questioned in his career, he's responded. And the Gators, especially the defense, keeps track of every little thing said about them on message boards and in the media. It's like the instant coffee of motivation for them -- just pop in the microwave for a minute and stir.

Big thanks to Jeremy for his help. You can check out his Florida coverage for the Sentinel HERE or read his excellent Gators blog HERE.

5 comments:

FL DAWG said...

The Dawgs really need Mikey Moore to have some catches down the middle. Throw some to White and Charles. Get the Gators keyed on Green and you'll see a bomb to T King.

Anonymous said...

Got to get the ball to Carlton Thomas hope he gets his chance tomorrow.

Gemstones4u said...

Win or lose I'd like to see 60 minutes of effort from the Dawgs. That would be a victory in and of itself--regardless of what the scoreboard reads at the end of the game.

Brad said...

They will iron out their issues and Tebow will make some kind of pre-game speach that will be put on a wall in their locker room nd they will kill us. One more year of this dude.
I love the Dawgs but we don't have the ponies to stay in this race until the end.

Anonymous said...

Dawgs are going to play nasty with a chip on their shoulder and hit them gators in the mouth for four quarters and well see what happens.