Florida by the numbers
Tennessee Stat Book
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida coach Urban Meyer doesn't just try to recruit playmakers. He tries to develop them.
"People think that is a God-given right," Meyer said. "It's something you have to practice."
So Meyer designs many of his drills specifically for that purpose.
"We want to get guys in open space and teach them how to make people miss," he said.
Meyer said those drills have paid off for junior running back Kestahn Moore, who leads the Gators in rushing with 169 yards after two games. Moore is still way down the list of Florida playmakers, but his improvement has at least brought more consistency to the tailback position.
For the previous four years, Florida coaches and fans talked about the potential of tailback DeShawn Wynn. He showed flashes of talent, but his career was marked by up-and-down performances.
Moore is neither as big nor as fast as Wynn. But he might prove to be more reliable.
Moore won't be the only tailback UT has to deal with Saturday in The Swamp. Wide receivers Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson also are expected to take turns at tailback. So might tight end Cornelius Ingram.
Harvin is the biggest big-play threat.
Last season, he averaged 11.4 yards per touch, which included a 10.4-yard-per-carry average on 41 rushing attempts. In two games this season, Harvin has averaged 11.6 yards on seven rushes and 15.8 yards on six catches.
Meyer knows the value of those double-digit averages.
"We're a huge percentage team," Meyer said. "We try to study things and pass them on to players.
"It's a fact that in a typical NFL drive, your chances of scoring are 20 percent without a play over 12 yards."
Meyer said that goes up to 50 percent if you have a play over 12 yards.
Secondary Improvement: Secondary play should be a big factor for UT and Florida, each of which had to replace three starters after last season.
Florida will start a true freshman (Joe Haden) and sophomore (Markihe Anderson) at cornerback. Woody Pierre-Louis, a sophomore, started ahead of Anderson last week. Anderson missed the Troy game with a knee injury.
Meyer was impressed with the play of Haden and Louis, who each graded as a "champion" in the 59-31 victory over Troy.
"Think about that for a minute," Meyer said. "A week ago, they looked like the Bad News Bears out there. Joe Haden is really coming on."
Haden, who played quarterback in high school, enrolled at Florida for the spring semester and won a starting cornerback job in spring practice.
An Instant Hit: Florida lost all three of its starting linebackers from last year, but nobody mentions that as a position of weakness.
Sophomore Brandon Spikes, an imposing 6-3, 240-pound middle linebacker, leads the Gators with 20 tackles and two tackles for loss. He also has a sack.
Florida coaches selected Spikes as the defensive player of the game against Troy.
Like Spikes, sophomore linebacker Dustin Doe played last year as a backup. Meyer now calls him "one of the most improved players on our team."
Doe has 16 tackles, including two for loss, and a fumble recovery in two games.
Redshirt freshman A.J. Jones is Florida's other starter. Jones would have played last season had he not suffered a serious ankle injury in preseason practice.
Recruiting Rival: When Meyer was asked how impressed he was with LSU's victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday night, he said he spent more time watching South Florida's overtime victory over Auburn.
He was asked if that upset at Auburn meant South Florida had arrived as a football program.
"I think they had already arrived," Meyer said. "Every time I recruit in Tampa, I see (USF coach Jim Leavitt).
"I admire people who work hard. They recruit well and they do it the right way."
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.