Gators get final tuneup before SEC season begins
No. 18 Florida returns to the field tonight against a team that is expected to be a more difficult challenge than last week’s Florida Atlantic squad.
UAB comes to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium tonight with a veteran team, including 16 returning starters, and starting running back Pat Shed who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last season. Granted the Blazers only won four games last season, but Florida coach Will Muschamp said the Blazers' experience is evident when you watch them on tape,
"With their offensive line they have 118 starts,'' Muschamp said. "All five are back this year. Bryan Ellis, their quarterback threw for almost 3,000 yards last year. They moved the ball on everybody they played last year and have had a lot of success offensively.'' As for the UAB staff, Muschamp said it's stellar. and he has a great respect for the UAB coaching staff.
"I have a lot of respect for (head coach) Neil Callaway,'' Muschamp said. "He was the former offensive line coach at Georgia, Alabama and Auburn. He understands toughness and a little bit about this league. Offensive coordinator Kim Helton, who is a UF graduate, he does a good job with their offense. They’re more of a one-back attack offense. If you look at last year’s tape they had five games with over 500 yards. They have good skill people. Pat Shed, they’re running back, is really impressive on tape. I have a lot of respect for Tommy West defensively. When you look at his background it’s impressive. We’re piecing things about what they might do defensively. They’re more of a rugby style punt team, which we’ll have to prepare for, because they’ll go both to the right and left."
Because this is the final tuneup for the Gators before the SEC season begins, look for Florida to fine-tune some things, particularly on defense, and try and correct some of the mistakes of last week. Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said the Gators won’t hold back anything offensively in hopes of catching Tennessee off guard next week, so expect to see more from others beside the running back duo of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. This is the season opener for UAB, which will play three of its first four on the road. Weis said this week’s preparations were a little more complicated without current game film of UAB, yet Callaway thinks the advantage may go to the Gators because they have played.
“I do think the fact they have a game under their belt is going to give them a little advantage, but at the same time they haven’t seen us yet,’’ Callaway said. “The bottom line is that we have to go down there and play, and they do too.’’
The game will be televised live tonight at 7 on FSN.