As the No. 12 Florida Gators prepare for their biggest game of the 2011 season thus far on Oct. 1 the No. 2/3 Alabama Crimson Tide, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s victory and the upcoming contest.
GETTING DEMPS AND RAINEY TOUCHES IN THE OPEN
Ensuring that running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey not only touch the ball but have space to make plays after doing so has been relatively easy for Weis early in the season. The duo shredded three opponents and played quite well against Tennessee, too. With a stout Alabama defense coming to town featuring the best run defense in the Southeastern Conference, Weis knows he will have to get creative.
“You have to wait and see how they play the game. You have to have multiple ways of being able to do that. You can’t just do the same thing each week,” he said. “You have to have a plan where, if they stop this, you have another way of getting to the same means to an end. You just have to wait and see how it goes. You go into the game with a plan and then you have some tweaks in the plan ready to go depending what they end up doing.”
One thing that could work to Florida’s advantage is the number of eyes that will be on Rainey every time he touches the ball. Weis explained, “When we call plays, it’s not designed that we’re throwing the ball to [one player]. The first curl that they threw to Frankie [Hammond], [the defense] had Rainey fever, so Rainey’s running to the flat and so is everybody else runs to the flat. There’s a big hole, Frankie on the curl got us an extra 10 yards after the catch. That’s the type of thing we’re looking for.”
IT ALL STARTS UP FRONT FOR FLORIDA
Probably the biggest surprise this season for the Gators has been the success their young offensive line has had game-in and game-out. Weis believes the momentum comes from how tough and rugged the unit has been every time it takes the field.
“I like to think that we’re establishing somewhat of an identity of being fairly physical up front. You don’t run the ball that efficiently, you don’t protect the quarterback that well without being physical,” he said. “On top of everything else, I think our receivers have done a wonderful job being physical down the field, making some of those runs be longer runs. You’ve got to go toe-to-toe. They’re good but you got to be ready for a slugfest. You got to be ready to go toe-to-toe.”
One characteristic about the offensive line in particular has caught Weis’s eye, and it is something that has been discussed quite often already this season. “The reason why we have a chance every week is because those offensive linemen are very close knit. That’s not a façade. When you have cohesiveness on and off the field with your offensive linemen, you usually have a fighting chance,” he said.
“Psychologically, offensive linemen realize that the only time they ever get noticed is when something bad happens. When things are going good, no one ever talks about the offensive line. They understand that’s just the way football is. The only time they really get any notoriety is when bad things happen. Their quarterback’s getting under siege or else you can’t run the ball very well. They kind of bond together.
“The communication that takes place between five guys – it’s the only position there’s that many guys playing at one time. Communication is one of those critical factors to the offensive line. Usually the standard is the less they’re noticed, the better they’re playing. It’s sad but true, but that’s the way it is.”
PLAYER EVALUATIONS AND UPDATES
Redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian (and moving him back-and-forth from linebacker): “I knew Gerald from the first few days of training camp was a big, physical presence. We didn’t have a bunch of big, physical presence on the offensive skill position. […] We were quite banged up at the tight end position. For him to go back-and-forth from outside linebacker to tight end, I think one thing that shows is his big, physical presence. When you can go out there and make a couple big plays in the game. […] When you have a guy who can play offense and defense, what you have to do is figure out what gets him on the field the fastest. It really, really was a position of need. We needed him on offense; not that he wouldn’t play on defense, but we needed him more on offense than they needed him on defense. The kid’s unselfish. He didn’t care. Anywhere he had the best opportunity to help the team is where he wanted to go. I think it’s worked out.”
Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Chaz Green (and his progress): “Chaz is a tackle that’s also very athletic. He has really good feet. Not only has good size but Chaz has just gotten better as the year’s gone on. He’s just gotten better and better. Remember, he’s a young pup. Everyone thinks that he’s been there for five years already. The kid’s relatively inexperienced.”
Freshman QB Jeff Driskel (and if he’s coming along): “He better because he’s second. It would be nice if he got a little bit more help in that game the other day. He’s got to take care of the ball. He can’t let 22 come in there and take the ball out of his hands. He was so worried about the pressure coming from outside off the right edge there that he got a little careless with the ball. The interception, that’s a bang-bang play. You can’t throw the ball much better than he threw the ball. I just don’t like strip-sack fumbles that lead to the only touchdown that the other team scores because ultimately we feel like we are the ones that gave them their one touchdown in the game. He runs our team well. The team’s not afraid when he’s in there. He can make every throw. Just gaining experience, that’s what he’s doing. Every time he’s out there it’s a good thing regardless of what happens because he’s just gaining experience.”
Redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.: “Frankie has been very consistent for us. He’s been very consistent for us the whole time. He also has versatility for us because he’s one of the few guys at the receiver position that can play every position. He can line up at what we call the X, the Z, the F – he can line up at all those positions. Any time you have a player that has some position flexibility, it really helps you in this offense.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On if he is “happier” about the offense than he was last week: “I’m glad that we got on the road, got that kind of out of the way. It’s really tough. You got to give a lot of credit to Coach [Will] Muschamp and then the players, too. They knew what was on the horizon. We could sit there and talk ‘till we’re blue in the face. They’re going on the road for the first SEC game with a bunch of young guys that had never done it before. Everyone wants to talk about Alabama, nobody wanted to talk about Kentucky. I’m talking about outside our locker room. Will did a great job and our team showed an unusual amount of maturity for a team to not look past the opponent that they played last Saturday. For that, kudos. We ran the ball for over 400 yards. That doesn’t happen too often now. I was genuinely pleased that they didn’t go in there and look past that opponent to the one we’re playing this week.”
» On how the offense responded after not starting well against Kentucky: “We made a mistake on the third play of the first drive. We got that ironed out. We figured that one out. The second drive – they did a couple things early in the game that were a little different than they [had] been doing. Sometimes that happens, but it didn’t take long. The sign of a fairly good team on offense is when things don’t go too well right in the beginning, you figure out what the problems are and go fix them. Too many times teams wait to make halftime adjustments. Well you still had a lot of time left after those first two drives. We had a bunch of points on the board by the time we went in to halftime.”
» On if the offense has seen enough adversity up to this point: “We coach them hard. We coach them hard. We coach them hard every day. You’d hope that by the time you get to the games that the games are actually easier than the practices. Even if the scores of the game weren’t that close, you can still create a lot of situations to get your team better. That’s all behind us now. This is going to be a tough challenge for us and we’re really excited and we’re really looking forward to it.”
» On if he sees any of Bill Belichick’s methods within Alabama’s defense: “One of the first things I did this week was [say to Muschamp], “Tell me about Nick [Saban], tell me about Kirby [Smart]’ because these are his boys. I know that Nick worked for Bill back in the Cleveland [Browns] days before he moved on to Michigan State. A lot of the terminology is the same. There are a lot of things that are consistent. They have a good, sound system that I have familiarity with, but they also got really good players. Sometimes you wish that weren’t the case, but that is the case. We have to be ready to make sure that we don’t create any mismatches in the opposite direction.”