Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Stopping Alabama's Javier Arenas on returns a challenge for Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE — Javier Arenas would like to tell you that his success as a return specialist at Alabama is something tangible, something learned. He'd like to be able to explain how he has managed to set multiple school and SEC records and what has made him one of the most feared return men in the SEC.

But the reality is, he can't. It's just not something that's easily explained.

"I can't really tell you," Arenas said. "I guess being a return man is more of a natural ability as opposed to something being taught. I just go out there and I do what I've been blessed with. I guess you could say I'm quick. And I've got great blockers, and as a punt return unit, we try to excel, and we try to execute each assignment in order to put ourselves in a position to be successful. So it's a unit. It's a unit thing, and it's all 11 of us working together. But me, individually, when you ask that question, I think it's just my natural ability."

When No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama meet Saturday in the SEC Championship Game, the Gators will have a keen eye out for Arenas and the Crimson Tide special teams unit, which ranks second in the league in punt return average — led by Arenas.

"Arenas is as good as there is," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "He'll be a great returner at the next level, too."

He has already been a record-setting one in the SEC. In his four-year career, the former Tampa Robinson standout has broken all of Alabama's punt return records. In last week's win over Auburn, Arenas became the SEC's career punt return yardage leader. His 1,725 yards surpassed Vanderbilt's Lee Nalley (1,695 in 1947-49). He owns the SEC record for career punt returns for touchdowns (seven), needs just 37 yards to become the NCAA leader in career punt return yards and is one touchdown shy of the NCAA mark.

"He's a great competitor, first of all," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "And he's got a real good feel for picking lanes, and he's got a great quickness, can make the first guy miss and has good acceleration. But he's just a natural return guy. He's done a fantastic job of that his entire career. And he certainly has made some big plays for us through the course of this season and last season. And we just keep trying to work to find ways that we can help him make plays."

Arenas has honed his skills as a standout defensive back and one of the most valuable players on a defense that ranks among the top five in nearly every national statistical category. Arenas is tied for the team lead with 12 tackles for loss and has five sacks. And it's that improvement he's most proud of.

"First and foremost, I think people used to know me and recognize me off my return game; I think they recognize me now as a cornerback," Arenas said. "And the stuff that they see and the stuff I'm about to say, I think a lot of people would agree with: With the things Coach Saban implemented, I think it's put me in a position to be successful off blitzes, the techniques and the type of coverage that we play. I think it helps a lot. And as a team unit and just my mentality, I think all that plays a vital role in me becoming a better defensive back."

He has become the kind of all-around player Florida knows can be dangerous this Saturday.

"I think he's a great player," Florida quarterback Tim Tebow said. "I think he does a lot for their team on defense, special teams, all the stuff that he does. So I think you have to be aware of him."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3389.

Stopping Alabama's Javier Arenas on returns a challenge for Florida Gators 11/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 30, 2009 10:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Plenty of unfinished business for Mitchell volleyball

    Volleyball Preps

    TRINITY — Their previous trip to New Smyrna Beach turned out to be a joyride, resulting in the Mitchell Mustangs' first spot in the state volleyball semifinals.

    Mitchell High school’s Jessie Mooney serves the ball during the 6A State High School Championship volleyball finals game against  Jensen Beach High School at the Venue on the UCF campus in Orlando.
(11/14/2015  WILLIE J. ALLEN JR.]
  2. Charles Bottoms, right, with his wife, Annie, wore the Tim Tebow Broncos jersey to Steinbrenner Field "only because I didn't want to wear my good (signed Gators) Tebow one." [RYAN ROMANO | Times]
  3. Rays morning after: 5 mistakes that led to loss to Blue Jays

    Blogs

    We've already documented elsewhere what the Rays didn't do, how they failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to win Wednesday's game, getting just one run after loading the bases in the seventh with one out and three of …

    Jake Faria make too many mistakes, the failure to execute costing him repeatedly.
  4. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    You wonder if the scouting reports and/or workload are catching up to rookie RHP Jake Faria. The bottom line wasn't bad again, three runs in 51/3 innings, but he's having to work harder to get there.