Rushing in small steps


Wyoming's Dorsey Golston grabs the facemask of Florida's Kestahn Moore in the fourth quarter Saturday.

ALAN YOUNGBLOOD/Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Tuesday, September 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 6, 2005 at 1:44 a.m.
Live and in color Saturday night, Florida's running game appeared ugly and inept. Blocking and timing were off. Holes closed fast and tailbacks were stuffed.
On one third and one, the Gators couldn't get back to the line of scrimmage.
It was so bad that after the game Urban Meyer lamented the Gators might not win another game this season if production in the running game didn't improve.
But after breaking it down on tape, Meyer said it wasn't quite as bad as he initially thought Saturday night.
"I was overly critical," Meyer said Monday. "On the third and one, I put it all on the offensive line and the tailback (true freshman Kestahn Moore) was late getting going. There is as much timing involved in the running game as the passing game.
"(What went wrong in the running game) is very correctable. There are no flaws, no personnel flaws where you have to start eliminating people, which is key."
Meyer said the Gators don't need to make personnel changes, they need to practice.
Despite timing problems and some poor decisions by the tailbacks and quarterback Chris Leak, the Gators still managed to rush for 176 yards. That total, however, dwindled to 91 because of 85 yards in losses, most coming on four quarterbacks sacks and two bungled shotgun snaps.
Meyer and the Gators seem to think UF has the talent and components to have a very good running game. It's just going to take some time and a concerted effort among the linemen, quarterbacks and tailbacks.
The Gators broke down at times in all three areas in the win over Wyoming.
"It's going to be a lot better this week," senior offensive guard Tavares Washington said. "We were close (to being successful Saturday night). There were some different blocks we didn't stay on long enough and the running backs didn't hit the hole quick enough a few times and it collapsed on them.
"It was our first game (in a new offense) and there was a little confusion. Coach (Meyer) sat us down and explained to us what we should have done. We're going to work on it and put it together this week."
When a running game fails, the blame usually goes straight to the front, to the offensive line. The Gators certainly had some problems on the line, but the play of the tailbacks and quarterbacks - and even the wide receivers, whose blocking plays a key role in the perimeter running game - also contributed to the spotty production on the ground.
"(The line player) was not overall as bad as I thought," Meyer said. "I thought I was going to walk (into the film room) and see five guys didn't block anybody. But they blocked, there was enough there.
"Chris Leak made a couple of bad decisions reading the person. If (the defender) tackles the back (on the option), pull (the ball) out. A few times, he didn't do it. And the running back has to hit (the hole). It's not that far off."
Meyer said the offense is going through a transition phase - and the Gators need to catch up in the running game.
"It's a product of what the offense was (last season)," Meyer said. "They led the SEC in passing last year. They were a shotgun team and threw it up. Guess what, that's what we did pretty good (Saturday night). We threw it up pretty good and guys came down with it.
"The reading part in the running game is different and it looked like it. We just have to get better with repetitions and practice."
The Gators say they're close.
"I think we'll be fine in the running game," offensive tackle Randy Hand said. "We just have to make a couple of adjustments and fix some mental mistakes. We're just one or two blocks away from some big runs. Once we straighten everything out we'll have a running game that will take real well."
Said tight end Tate Casey: "The running game is vital in this offense. A couple of blocking schemes went wrong. Small details. That's one thing Coach Meyer is going to get corrected this week. We're a couple of plays short of busting out a big game in the running game."
The running game should gain a little more firepower this week with the expected return of junior tailback DeShawn Wynn, the leading candidate to be the starter heading into the season. After dressing but not playing in the opener, Wynn can get back in Meyer's good graces and in the lineup with a strong effort in practice the next two days.
"I'm really excited (about Wynn's possible return)," Meyer said. "You earn your right to play at the University of Florida. There is no charity. If he has a good Tuesday and Wednesday (he'll have a chance to play) and I'm going to watch him closely.
"I talked to him last night. You earn your right to play here. If you really want to play, don't give me you're a gamer and I'll be OK on Saturday. He's been doing pretty good."
Wynn's teammates say he's ready to become a factor.
"He's a hard runner. Everyone is good, but he's more powerful and quicker (than the other tailbacks)," Washington said. "We're looking forward to getting him back this week. He's changed a lot. He's more focused now."
Robbie Andreu can be reached at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com

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