Leak is ready for test


Published: Saturday, March 26, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 26, 2005 at 3:00 a.m.
With the exception of one series of plays, Urban Meyer's spread offense has been installed. Now, it's time for the much-anticipated first test drive, which will come today with a scrimmage in The Swamp.
Practice begins at 10:10 a.m.
The learning process has only just begun and it's difficult to project how the offense will fare in its Florida debut. But Meyer and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen do know this: They feel good about the guy at the wheel, junior quarterback Chris Leak.
"I think Chris is really doing a good job," Meyer said Friday. "I was worried a little bit early about arm strength, and you just try to be overly critical. But he's shooting the ball pretty good right now. He's being a better vocal leader. I'm very pleased with him."
Mullen said Leak has put in the time to learn the offense and it's starting to show.
"He's a great student," Mullen said. "He spends a lot of time studying and working on everything. He always wants to know what's going in the next day. He always wants to be ahead of the game.
"I'm happy how he's picked up the offense. He probably knows it better than anyone out here on the field right now, which is exactly what you want from your quarterback. We have to get his decision making sped up, and that's what comes with time and reps. He's been getting better and better every day."
Mullen and Meyer have worked on tightening up Leak's release to create more velocity on his passes, and Leak has started throwing the ball with a little more zip since the start of spring drills 10 days ago.
"I think it's confidence and just letting it rip," Meyer said. "He's like Alex Smith (the Heisman runner-up last season at Utah). You would have questioned his arm strength, too, because unless he knew what was going on, he wouldn't throw it.
"The object of the game is not to turn that damn thing over and (Leak) acts like that, which is good. Now, just let it rip. And he let it rip today. I thought he threw the ball really well today."
Mullen said Leak is on his way to becoming a more complete quarterback.
"You watch him on film and he's got great touch and he's a very accurate passer, but he never seemed to throw the ball with a lot of zip," Mullen said. "That's what we're trying to get out of him. Really let that thing rip.
"It's like being a pitcher with a 90-mile-an-hour fastball. When you start changing to do that, your accuracy is going to be a little off at first, then it will zoom back in. He's starting to do that. You can already see the accuracy starting to come back in throwing the ball harder."
Leak will have a chance to try out his new-found zip - and this new offense - in a game-type situation for the first time today.
"Coach Meyer said he's going to build the offense around my talents and that's a great feeling to have as a quarterback," Leak said. "This will be a good chance to see where we're at right now. It's a good way to learn also. It will give us a good learning tape."
Meyer said he isn't sure what to expect from his offense at this early stage.
"We're starting to execute a little better. You see it coming," he said. "I'm really anxious to see what we've got (today). I'm hoping guys like Chad Jackson, Bubba Caldwell and Chris Leak create some big plays.
"The way our defense is playing us right now in practice, which I think a lot of teams have to do, you've got some one-on-one matchups. Right now, we've got some cornerbacks playing pretty well. It will be a good matchup to see if they can cover and if (the receivers) can get open."
Mullen said the players have made progress learning the offense but still have a long way to go before they truly understand it and it becomes second nature to them.
"I think everyone is kind of picking up what to do," Mullen said. "They can tell you, 'I do this.' But for this offense to be good, they have to know why and how to adjust off of different defensive looks.
"I'm really happy how fast everyone has picked up what do do. We have the foundation in. Now, we have to invest all our time having them learning why we're doing what we're doing and all these different little adjustments and variations off of it. I've seen improvement every single day.
"It's a concept-oriented offense. Everybody has to learn all the concepts first, then we'll peel it down and specialize people afterward."
Mullen said he is more concerned about effort than execution in the first scrimmage.
"I want to see guys playing hard," he said. "If you're confused, play hard. If you don't know what to do, play hard. Coming out of the first scrimmage, it's OK if everyone says, 'Your guys looked confused, but they were flying around that field 100 miles an hour.
"That's the type of offense we want to be. Nasty, tough guys on the offensive line and some skill guys who can run. I'll be happy if we get that out of the offense (today). You can build on it from there. We can coach them up. I want to see guys go fast and go hard."
As for the Gators overall, Meyer said he will be checking out the toughness of his players today.
"I question the team's toughness a little bit, which is maybe harsh, but I do," Meyer said. "One thing you're going to find with our team is there's really not a lot of B.S. It is what it is. I hope they come out (today) and slap each other around a little bit."
  • NOTES: Meyer said converted wide receiver Reggie Lewis is coming on strong at cornerback. "He's in the mix. He's one of the top three corners on the team right now," Meyer said. . . . Probable starting offensive guard Steve Rissler also is being trained at center, where he or true freshman Eddie Haupt likely will be senior Mike Degory's backup. "We always try to have three or four (centers) ready. I think we'll have three with Eddie, Rissler and Mike, and we'll probably get one more guy ready to go," Meyer said. . . . Kevin Higgins, the father of UF walk-on wide receiver Tim Higgins, was hired Thursday as the head football coach at The Citadel.
    You can reach Robbie Andreu at andreur@gvillesun.com or (352) 374-5022.

    AT A GLANCE

  • The Gators office gets its first test drive in a scrimmage today. Practice begins at 10:10 a.m. at Florida Field.
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