Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey seeks to snap back from Saturday's bumblings

GAINESVILLE

In the hours then days after the worst performance of his career, Florida center Mike Pouncey was harder on himself than any of the harsh public criticism thrown his way. In Saturday's season opener, the veteran lineman had four errant snaps from the shotgun formation that led to fumbles and many others that were out of position and altered plays. In his search for answers, Pouncey, in his first season starting at center, turned to his twin brother, Maurkice, an All-America center at Florida now starting as a rookie for the Steelers. "He told me when he first started at center two years ago, he did the same thing," Mike Pouncey said. "His wasn't as bad, but he had high snaps. Snaps were everywhere. He said, 'Just get back to work.' And that's what I'm doing."

In fact, he started the very next day. He and quarterback John Brantley met early Sunday morning for an individual workout.

It was back to the basics for the most critical of plays.

"It's the most important part of the play; every play because you have no chance of execution on offense if you can't execute the snap," said Jesse Palmer, a former Florida quarterback and current ESPN analyst. "It's, obviously, the very first thing. It's what starts the play. And it's something oftentimes that probably gets overlooked in terms of the fundamentals.

"I think a lot of times it's just expected that a quarterback understands how to take snaps, and it's expected that centers understand how to properly snap the football."

Pouncey and Brantley had taken countless snap exchanges since both took over in the spring, and Brantley said there was never an issue.

But when Pouncey and his coaches reviewed Saturday's mistakes, they found mechanical and mental errors.

"You like to lock your wrist when you snap. At times, we weren't," coach Urban Meyer said. "The ball was coming back awkward. Johnny Brantley, at times, wasn't focused on the ball. Our quarterback has to do a lot of things: catch the (snap), identify the defense and the rotation of the safeties, which is a real key where you throw the ball. That all has to be done in about 2.5 seconds.

"And all the sweat, which if you're here at Florida you're going to have to deal with that. So the three things we ID'd were just the actual snap, being able to grip the football and then Johnny's focus on the ball."

Florida wasn't the only team to have problems with snaps during the season's first week. North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Oregon State had critical plays in which botched snaps played a factor.

Palmer said a major culprit is the shotgun.

"With the evolution of the spread offense in football, we see so many offenses today using shotgun formations, and the communication is so critical," he said. "With shotgun snaps, I feel like sometimes it can be double trouble because you're not just risking a poor snap fundamentally or mechanically.

"But there also has to be a lot of communication. The quarterback and center have to be on the exact same page in terms of the timing — when the snap is expected to happen — so they can get the play started and try to avoid disaster."

To help alleviate the problems, Pouncey altered his mechanics.

"I moved my hand up the ball, and I have a different grip," said the senior from Lakeland. "I'm at the very top of the ball now."

Florida offensive line coach Steve Addazio said he will enter Saturday's game against USF with the utmost confidence in Pouncey's ability.

"He was the backup center … last year. He played in the Sugar Bowl and had no issues and had no issues through camp," Addazio said. "That surfaced (last week).

"And when something surfaces, you address it. How do you address it? You work harder, and you practice harder. And no one's got more focus on that than Mike Pouncey."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com. Check out her blog at tampabay.com/blogs/gators.

Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey seeks to snap back from Saturday's bumblings 09/09/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 8:43am]

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