Meyer on new players and protecting Jeff Demps
Florida coach Urban Meyer said he's as eager as Gator fans to see many of the newcomers take the field Saturday. With two-thirds of the team comprised of freshman and sophomores - and a group of older players who will be seeing their first significant playing time - Meyer said anticipation to see what all can do is high.
"I have thought about that, the first time we get to see some of those freshman run around out there, and I think we're going to be pretty pleased,'' Meyer said. "I'm glad it's home. I'm glad it's an opportunity for even the ones who aren't starting to settle down. Because I've seen their faces in that stadium for the first time so it's go settle down and go play a little bit.''
Two weeks ago, Meyer said he was pushing the "panic button'' a little bit, having hoped some of the young stars would develop more quickly than they had. On Wednesday, he was feeling much better.
"I'm excited,'' he said. "I can't say I was excited several months ago because I was more concerned than excited. But now I've seen what Jon Bostic has done in practice, I've seen what Jelani (Jenkins) has done in practice, and an important thing I've seen what Johnny Brantley has done in practice. Not so much throwing the ball, but his leadership, his direction and the way these players are playing for him right now.''
PROTECTING DEMPS: With his star running back Jeff Demps also set to return kicks, Meyer said the coaching staff is walking a fine line between getting Demps the reps he need, yet keeping him fresh enough to be game-ready.
"We're very cautious, hopefully he won't return many kicks,'' Meyer said. "In practice, I'm very cautious because he only knows one speed. And part of his rundown isn't the game, it's the darn practices, because he just goes 40 yards every time he touches it at warped speed. So we've really backed down on him. And certain practice things, if it's not essential running, we've really backed off of him. And he feels the best he's ever felt going into a game. So today and tomorrow are critical for that, because that's usually when all the skill guys get run down, just running and running, not even the contact. So that's probably No. 1 or No. 2 on our list to make sure that does not happen.''