Gators looking for positive identity
Published: Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 11, 2010 at 1:02 p.m.
When Florida coach Urban Meyer addressed his team following Saturday's 33-29 loss to LSU, he couldn't help but wonder how much effort was truly given.
He looked his players in the eyes and extended his fingers only inches apart, asking they needed that much effort to win Saturday.
Or maybe that was too little.
While addressing the media, Meyer, who delivered two frustrated "Next question" responses to reporters when asked about luck involved with LSU coach Les Miles' coaching, Meyer speculated if maybe his team needed more desire — enough to fill in the two-foot gap he put in between his hands when repositioning himself while recalling his post-game talk with his players.
"There's a bunch of guys that gave everything they had, but there's still a bunch of guys that haven't given everything, yet," Meyer said.
On a team surrounded by youth and adamant it doesn't need more outspoken leaders past teams thrived on, the Gators are struggling to find any sort of positive identity after dropping two straight SEC games.
It would be easy for the Gators to blame their recent shortcomings on youth. Injuries have abolished the plans of using hardly any freshmen receivers. That stud defensive line class has accumulated 15 tackles and one sack.
The Gators have played 17 true freshmen through six games this year and freshman quarterback Trey Burton said he and his classmates were a bit overwhelmed for Alabama's atmosphere and the scene inside The Swamp on Saturday.
While wide-eyed and anxious, the young guys aren't pointing to their age as the main reason for the mistakes being made on the field.
"We're still young, but young is not an excuse now," sophomore linebacker Jon Bostic said. "Everybody's got to grow up. We're playing in the SEC, so being young can't be an excuse. Basically, everybody needs to step up and do what they need to do.
"We still got a lot of stuff to work on."
But where do the Gators begin that work?
Redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins said that with good practices, he didn't think the Gators had been outmatched physically this year. To him, the team works hard physically on the field and doesn't see that as much of a weakness.
Jenkins said it was more execution than anything that continues to hold Florida back.
Florida is barely producing more offensively than opponents, registering 323.7 yards per game to 306.7. The Gators have also fumbled 19 times (seven lost), thrown five interceptions and have committed 46 penalties this season.
So is it mental?
Bostic said he feels the team's mindset is where it needs to be, but "everybody's got to know what they're doing and be sound at it."
For Burton and Jenkins, both responded with perplexed "I don't know" responses when asked if the Gators were being held back for mental reasons.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin hinted at a bit of mental angst from his players.
"As a I coach, I have to do a better job of putting guys in position to make plays, so they can feel good and feel confident in what they're doing," Austin said.
Whatever the true reason for Florida's October free-fall, there's one thing that's certain in Meyer's eyes — this isn't the team he envisioned having back in training camp.
"Right now, we should be better than we are," he said.