UF offense improves but still needs more

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St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

St. Petersburg Times Writer

Despite all the criticism being heaped upon the offense, Florida’s head coach and quarterback said Monday that they are just fine with where they are – for now.

Florida hosts Kentucky on Saturday night, then comes its much-anticipated showdown at Alabama on Oct. 2, which will be at 8 p.m. on Ch. 10.

If in that span the Gators don’t vastly improve, Urban Meyer said, they might have problems.

“There’s one way that we evaluate quarterbacks here, and he’s 3-0 as a starter at Florida, so that’s pretty good,” Meyer said when asked about how John Brantley is progressing. “We went on the road (to Tennessee) and won the game. To say we’re thrilled with where we are offensively, that would be a false statement. To say that he’s handled himself very well, to say he’s managing the team, to say that he does throw a very nice pass – he hit five third and longs against Tennessee – those are all very good. We just need to keep improving some.

“We’re pleased with where we’re at; we just need to improve. If we’re where we’re at right now in a couple of weeks, the answer is no.”

Florida is ranked 103rd out of 120 Division I-A teams in passing offense (150.67), 61st in passing efficiency (130.95) and 92nd in total offense (319.0).

But Brantley insisted the Gators are better now than when the season began.

“I think we’re really developing as a team,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of great things. We’ve got a couple of things to fix up, but there’s some really promising stuff in there. And we all know that.”

Threat of speed: When he began to study video of Florida this week, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips noticed one big thing: the Gators’ speed.

And that, Phillips said, is one of the biggest challenges the Wildcats will face Saturday night.

“We’ve got a huge challenge this week,” Phillips said. “The speed of the game will change drastically, and we’ve got to be ready to match it. And also match the intensity.”

“Urban’s comment when he took the job was he wanted to recruit the fastest team in the country, and if they’re not, they are one of the fastest teams in the country,” Phillips said.

Jenkins honored: LB Jelani Jenkins was named SEC freshman of the week. He had a career-high six tackles (two solo) in Saturday’s win over Tennessee, including his first career sack. Jenkins’ 15 total tackles ranks third among SEC freshmen and third on the team in total tackles.

Coach’s concern: When Meyer heard about Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio’s heart attack early Sunday after the Spartans’ overtime win over Notre Dame, his immediate thoughts went to the coach and his family. Dantonio, 54, had surgery to put a stent in a blocked blood vessel leading to his heart, hours after he called a fake field goal that led to the win.

“I know him. I know him very well,” Meyer said. “He’s a great man, a great family man. I just want everybody to take care of themselves. … The minute I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ And I made some calls and found out he’s going to be okay. He’s a classy guy.”

Meyer abruptly quit Dec. 26 citing health problems, including severe chest pains he thought were an indication of heart trouble.

And Meyer’s thoughts on the MSU play?

“Great freakin’ call, too, man,” Meyer said. “That’s the call. Have you ever seen that? I’ve never seen that before. I got nervous when I saw it.”

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