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Foot injury lingers for Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps

GAINESVILLE — It has been nearly seven weeks since junior RB Jeff Demps sprained a ligament after one of his offensive linemen stepped on his left foot in the Tennessee game, and he has still not recovered.

He saw his most significant playing time since the injury against Georgia on Saturday — nine carries for 38 yards — but he's nowhere near where he needs to be.

"Right now, I can run straight ahead pretty well, but it's hard for me to change directions," Demps said Monday. "It's (most painful) when I try to make a cut and get up field."

Which is a huge part of his game. Taking a break at halftime is causing his foot to become stiff, which hampers him in the second half, so Demps is ready to try a new approach when the Gators travel to Vanderbilt on Saturday.

He'll keep going while the Gators break.

"The best thing probably for me is to stay active, so I'll probably keep moving, get on the (stationary) bike. I'm going to try that and see what happens."

Demps said he often rode the bike at halftime when he suffered cramps at South Lake High. His theory is that riding the bike will keep his legs warm, the adrenaline going and the foot from getting stiff.

More changes: The up-tempo, no-huddle offense will stay, Demps and Chris Rainey in the backfield will be a constant, switching Trey Burton and John Brantley between quarterback and receiver will continue, and expect to see TE Jordan Reed playing quarterback again.

Coach Urban Meyer said Monday that he's committed to changing the offense in any way to make it more effective. Saturday was just the beginning, he said. Meanwhile, becoming more effective on third down and red zone defense is a priority. The Gators are No. 60 nationally in third-down conversion defense and No. 48 in the red zone. "We're not playing great defense," Meyer said. "That's just the way it is."

Taste of victory: Before Sunday night, the last time the Gators had a "victory meal" was Sept. 26 after their win over Kentucky. So you can imagine it was quite the treat Sunday when they gathered after practice to celebrate the Georgia win.

"We had a victory meal (Sunday) night," Meyer said. "I think it was about 8:30 at night, and I couldn't tell you, no idea what it was, but it was unbelievable."

Senior LB Brandon Hicks said that during the three-game losing streak, his Sunday evenings after practice consisted of eating Golden Grahams cereal at home.

Joking aside, Sunday night was about more than just enjoying pasta and seafood. Florida's 34-31 overtime win against Georgia eased a burden the Gators had been carrying, and the excitement continued Monday afternoon. The Gators practiced Sunday night and said Monday that they were allowing themselves to bask in the victory on their day off before putting it behind them completely. That's how important the win was.

"It definitely boosts everyone's confidence," Brantley said. "Georgia is a great team, and to see us come out with a victory against them boosts everyone's confidence. We just have to carry that over to this week, everyone's going to be ready to keep going, really ready to practice hard this week and carry it over to Saturday. … Just because we beat Georgia doesn't mean we're world beaters."

SEC Honors: P/K Chas Henry was named co-special teams players of the week by the SEC, and Burton shared freshman of the week honors.

dowling Dismissed: Freshman S Jonathan Dowling was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules, Meyer said.

Meyer gave no further explanation. FDLE records show Dowling, from Bradenton Southeast, has no arrests. He was ranked the No. 5 safety in the nation by Scout.com and chose the Gators over FSU, Alabama, Georgia, Miami and USF. He's the second heralded freshman safety the Gators lost this season. Jordan Haden, brother of former Gator Joe Haden, left before the season for personal reasons.

South Carolina set: The kickoff for UF-South Carolina will be 7:15 p.m. Nov. 13, and the game will be on ESPN or ESPN2.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires. Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Foot injury lingers for Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps 11/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 11:24pm]

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