Advertisement
  1. Archive

Promising preview for Gator fans

Imagine seeing the Fiesta Bowl through the eyes of Jeremy Foley, Florida's athletic director. Maybe he shouldn't wait. Maybe he should give Urban Meyer a contract extension now.

Yes, it was only a preview. Yes, even The Stepford Wives looked fun from the coming attractions. Yes, it is a higher mountain that awaits Meyer in his next job. That said, Saturday night was a nice slice of tomorrow for Florida fans, wasn't it?

To the rest of the nation, the Utah team on the field might have looked like Cinderella in shoulder pads. There is considerable pluck to this bunch, the-best-team-Utah-ever-had, and it was nice to see the Utes prove, again, they deserved their ranking.

To Florida fans _ and, perhaps, to Meyer himself _ this was only partially about Utah. To them, this game was a wink and a promise of things to come. Florida fans haven't pulled so hard for guys dressed in red since the rumors began Georgia was thinking about hiring Ray Goff.

What, then, did we learn about Meyer during Utah's easy 35-7 victory?

For one thing, we learned that on his biggest stage, he didn't fall on his nose. That's something.

Also, we learned his offense is ambitious and aggressive. We learned his defense tackles well and plays smart. We learned that his quarterback has not yet perfected the 2-yards-short-of- the-first-down slide. We learned that second and 1 is a whole gaggle of giggles.

Okay, okay. It bears repeating that Meyer is not the first whiz kid to light it up at a smaller school, and not all of those guys have worked out. No, no one knows if Meyer will be the real deal. Still, judging by the coming attractions, it could be a lot of fun finding out.

Imagine seeing the Fiesta Bowl through Chris Leak's eyes. Maybe it's time for him to refocus. For Leak, the last few days should smell like coffee brewing. Before Leak is ready to do what is asked of him in Meyer's offense, he has some work to do.

Yeah, Leak was a high-level recruit, and he's thought of as a great leader at Florida. On the other hand, when Meyer arrived at Utah, there were two quarterbacks ahead of Alex Smith. These days, no one seems to remember their names.

Halfway through this season, Leak looked ready to become the best quarterback ever to play for the Gators. Since then, he has regressed badly.

Now consider what Meyer has asked of Smith, who threw 37 times and ran 15 more against Pitt. True, Meyer says his offense is adaptable to his athletes. On the other hand, he says he believes strongly in the option play.

Is it possible Meyer's next quarterback is someone other than Leak? If I were Leak, I would start running some wind sprints, just to be certain.

Imagine seeing the Fiesta Bowl through the eyes of Steve Spurrier. Maybe he wants to cancel that tee time and spend another late afternoon in the office.

There are a lot of good coaches in the SEC, Tuberville and Richt, Fulmer and Spurrier. Most of them know the advantages of an elbow to a jaw. It is a rough-and-tumble, third-and-1 league.

Then there is Meyer's offense, which looks kind of, well, gimmicky. Don't worry. Utah does have tight ends. Halfway through the game, I looked it up.

That said, Meyer sure looks like he has the capability to annoy another coach into an ulcer.

Did you see the way his formations spread across the field, forcing the defense to guard every yard wide and long? Did you see the double-reverse on second and 1? Did you see the way his line staggered across the field on a punt, leaving so much space between each lineman the formation looked like Leon Spinks' smile?

How about the option-shovel pass? How about the bubble-screen lateral?

Ah, you say. But Utah's success was "only" against Pitt. Then again, Pitt came in ranked one spot ahead of Florida in the Associated Press Top 25, so the neighborhood looked familiar.

Imagine seeing the Fiesta Bowl through the eyes of, say, Antone Smith, potential recruit. Maybe this was enough to help Smith, a high school running back from Pahokee, make a decision. Maybe it was enough to help him find a pen.

From now on, Meyer should carry tapes of this game on all his recruiting trips. Not because Utah looked so powerful. Because Utah looked like so much fun. If you were a high school player, wouldn't you love to play in an offense such as this one?

Imagine seeing the Fiesta Bowl through the eyes of the rest of the Florida team. What else were they going to watch Saturday night? Peach Bowl highlights?

For the Florida Gators, the images flashing across the screen had to result in a mixture of curiosity and excitement. There is nothing quite like a high-octane offense to excite a team, particularly its receivers and running backs.

Be warned, however. All week, Utah players told stories of how hard, how relentless Meyer was in that first offseason. Listen, and you half expect them to talk of scrimmaging across broken glass and old hubcaps.

For Florida fans who watched the Miami game, maybe that isn't bad. Maybe the Gators could use some old hubcaps on the practice field.

Imagine seeing this through the eyes of Meyer. At the end, maybe he was looking forward to his next team. Maybe he was looking back at his last one.

Once, the Utes were a lost, underachieving team. Once, they had to be convinced the new guy with the odd name was the right guy to lead them.

Now, he rides their success, high above the ground, caught up in the thin air of success.

From there, he can almost see Florida.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement