Spikes probable, Trattou doubtful for Miss. State

Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes has had a rough start to his final season with the Florida Gators. Diagnosed with Achilles tendonitis, Spikes has been taking pain injections and limping – both literally and figuratively – through practices and games all year. He seemed to have overcome his injury two Saturdays ago, tallying 11 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble against the then-No. 4 LSU Tigers.

That performance earned Spikes an SEC Defensive Player of the Week honor as well as nominations to the 2009 Rotary Lombardi Award and Butkus Award watch lists. He was looking to follow it up with a strong game this past weekend against the Arkansas Razorbacks on homecoming weekend in The Swamp.

Instead, Spikes aggravated a groin injury that some believe he first suffered during practice on Wednesday. He came out of the game immediately and was in street clothes when the second half began. Even so, head coach Urban Meyer, during his weekly Monday afternoon press conference, has declared Spikes probable for Saturday’s game at the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

[UPDATE:] Meyer also spoke about defensive end Justin Trattou, who injured his biceps tendon during the Arkansas game. Trattou is listed as doubtful for Saturday.

OGGOA will keep you updated on Spikes’ health and status throughout the week.

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Grading the Florida Gators vs. Arkansas game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will grade the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Arkansas Razorbacks in The Swamp.

It is tough to evaluate Tim Tebow week-in and week-out, because you feel tempted to grade him an A every time. In looking at Saturday’s game, you see Tebow led the Gators on a 14-play, 69-yard drive at the end of the fourth quarter that resulted in a 27-yard, game-winning field goal by Caleb Sturgis. You also see that he went 17-for-26 for 255 yards passing, one touchdown (the longest of his career) and added 69 more yards on the ground. But that would be looking over the two fumbles he had in the first half, the fact that it took him 27 carries to get those 69 yards and the six sacks he suffered – a handful of which he could have avoided by throwing the ball out of bounds when he was outside the pocket.

For most of the game, the entire Florida rushing attack was averaging 1.2 yards per carry. For a unit that led the nation most of the year in rushing, that is simply unacceptable. Arkansas game-planned for the dive play, and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio kept calling it – so it is hard to put all the fault on the backs. Even so, 3.5 yards per carry on 19 attempts is just not acceptable. Jeff Demps saved the unit from complete failure with his run and touchdown in the fourth quarter.

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SIX BITS: Wrapping up Florida vs. Arkansas

1 » There is plenty to look at following the No. 1 Florida Gators 23-20 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday afternoon. Perhaps most important are the injuries that occurred throughout the game and how they will impact the team in the future. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes injured his groin and limped off the field in the first quarter. He would never return, coming out for the second half in street clothes and standing alongside defensive coordinator Charlie Strong for the remainder of the game. Cornerback Joe Haden left the game in the beginning of the third quarter after playing in coverage on special teams, but returned just a few plays later. There is no update on his specific injury. Wide receiver Riley Cooper suffered a hip pointer early in the game, came out late from the locker room and was able to contribute down the stretch with some clutch catches and first downs. Finally, defensive end Justin Trattou, who abused Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett all day, injured his shoulder Saturday. No information was given on his status after the game, either. Starting defensive tackles Jaye Howard (knee) and Lawrence Marsh (ankle) never even dressed for the game as both are still recovering and hoping to return sooner than later.

2 » You will probably never see this one immortalized outside of the stadium, but senior quarterback Tim Tebow gave a rousing speech to his teammates at halftime of the game. You may call it “The Promise II,” but that would only be because he used the word. “It wasn’t like a fiery speech. His face wasn’t red,” wide receiver David Nelson said. “He was just like, ‘I promise you, we’re going to do our thing. I trust you, you’re my brothers.’ It was more like he was reiterating his confidence in us. Don’t get too nervous about the situation, don’t start thinking we’re going to lose. Just believe in yourself, believe in each other and we’ll come out victorious.”

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Week 7: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. Ark. Razorbacks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 68°F – Partly sunny

Online: Live for FREE at CBSSports.com.
Sirius: 217; XM: 201

Florida Gators Arkansas Razorbacks
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Record: 5-0 (3-0) Record: 3-2 (1-2)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -24.5, O/U 58
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow…who is currently second all-time to former Georgia Bulldogs running back Herschel Walker in Southeastern Conference rushing touchdowns with 48. He needs one more to tie Walker’s record.
– The UF secondary…which has an interception in 17 straight games back to 2008.
Arkansas Razorbacks running back Michael Smith…who torched the Gators for 133 yards on 20 carries and 43 more on six receptions in 2008. Smith will be a game-time decision to play with a hamstring injury.
– Linebacker Brandon Hicks…who was shoved by Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett after making a hard tackle along the Arkansas sideline in 2008. Revenge?

– The Gators have won seven consecutive games against the Razorbacks, never scoring less than 33 points in each victory. Florida is 7-1 all-time against Arkansas.
– Saturday’s game pits the top rushing offense in the SEC, Florida at 284.6 yards per game, against the top passing offense in the conference, Arkansas with 318.2 yards per game. The Gators also lead the nation in total defense (202.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (6.4 yards per game).
– Last time the Razorbacks played a No. 1-ranked team, they defeated the LSU Tigers 50-48 in three overtimes in 2007. Arkansas is 4-11 all-time in games against the No. 1-ranked AP team.
– The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 15 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and are tied with the Auburn Tigers for the longest winning streak in SEC history.
– Scoring at least 41 points in four of their first five games, Arkansas has already beaten a ranked team this season, the then-No. 17 Auburn Tigers 44-23 last week.
– On Saturday, Florida looks to win its 21st consecutive homecoming game.

Read OGGOA’s complete Florida vs. Arkansas preview after the jump…

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FOUR BITS: Florida Gators defense edition

1 » ESPN’s SEC blogger Chris Low sat down with Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to speak about his career and the 2009 UF defense. “I told Urban Meyer this summer that Charlie’s a better coordinator than he was three years ago,” South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said in an interview. “Not only do they have outstanding athletes, but they’re very well-coached, disguise coverages very well and seem to know what the other team is doing all the time.” Great interview by Low; I highly recommended that you give it a once over.

2 » Expanding on Strong is the Gainesville Sun, who adds more from Spurrier and picked the brain of LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles as well. Spurrier continued, “Charlie, like all good coaches, if there is a better way to do something, he looks for it.” Miles agreed. “The way he attacks you,” Miles said, “he’s constantly stirring the pot looking to be better.” Strong’s defense faces their toughest test of the season Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks. If some Florida fans had their way when Meyer was hired, Strong wouldn’t even be the one coaching the unit. “I got killed [for retaining Strong] … e-mails, phone calls, letters. What are you doing?” Meyer said. “Florida’s defense wasn’t very good. But I did some research. Obviously, it was a great hire. I’m glad he’s part of our staff. I fight to keep him every year. He’s on top of his game right now.”

3 » Defensive end Carlos Dunlap could very well be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Yet you never would have thought that if you were following him throughout last season. Back then, he was just a player with great potential – a guy who had all of the talent and ability in the world but did not work hard enough for Meyer or Strong to make them think he could be a solid contributor to the Gators defense. Now? All of that has changed and something clicked in Dunlap that is fueling him to be the dominant force that was always inside him. “He is much, much improved right now from any time last year,” Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. “He’s working harder. His attitude is better. His practice habits are better. I’m really proud of him.”

4 » The Gators coaching staff’s focus on Saturday’s game against the Razorbacks is not one dimensional. In addition to trying to beat the Arkansas on the gridiron, Florida wants to win over the recruits that will be in the stands. That list of recruits just got bigger as Gators coach McCarney contacted junior defensive tackle Brodrick Lee of Tarpon Springs High School and invited him to take an unofficial visit to Gainesville on Saturday. 6’2″ and 285 pounds, Lee draws double teams in high school and is very athletic. He has already drawn interest from the Auburn Tigers, but the Gators being involved is obviously a coup for the youngster.

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Florida Gators cereal box released Thursday

If you are a resident of the state of Florida, it may be a good idea to head over to a grocery store today – that is, if you are interested in picking up a Florida Gators-themed box of cereal. That’s right, head coach Urban Meyer and the 2008 National Championship trophy are prominently featured on the 2009 edition of what has recently become an annually produced product.

According to friend of the program (see right sidebar) Sarah Talalay of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “this box of frosted corn flakes is the sixth in the limited edition series produced in a partnership between Florida’s Dairy Farmers and Gator Sports Marketing, which handles UF’s sponsorship and advertising.” More than 20,000 have been produced and are currently on sale at Winn-Dixie, Albertsons and Sweetbay. In the past, these cereals have also been available at Publix.

This year, in addition to releasing the Gators-themed cereal box, Florida Dairy Farmers have announced a contest to win a refrigerator and a year’s supply of milk. Visit the link above for more information on the cereal and the contest.

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CB Jenkins still not recovered from concussion

The talk of college football two weeks ago was Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow being knocked out of the Kentucky Wildcats game with a concussion. Barely being mentioned in the same time span was the injury to cornerback and special teams stud Moses Jenkins. Like Tebow, Jenkins suffered a concussion that Saturday in Lexington, KY. Unlike Tebow, Jenkins had whiplash to go along with it and has yet to be cleared to practice, let alone play in a game.

Not all concussions are the same and Jenkins’ slower recovery is not raising any additional concerns – yet. He is undergoing the same baseline tests and taking the same precautions Tebow did, just simply not showing the same progression. Head coach Urban Meyer is calling Jenkins “50-50” for the Arkansas Razorbacks game, but the fact of the matter is that Jenkins will not play Saturday. And maybe not the week after that either.

OGGOA will update Jenkins’ health as more information is made available.

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Gators special teams must stop Hogs’ Johnson

Offense and defense are the most publicized parts of any team, but it is special teams that often wins or loses close football games. Just ask Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who also coaches special teams and has been purposefully dominant in that area throughout his career. “It’s not interesting to people, but that’s how you win,” Meyer said in 2008 about special teams. “If you want to win, that’s how you do it.”

Unlike many of their opponents, the Gators put extra emphasis on the unit, utilizing many of their starters and best players on kick blocking, coverage and, of course, in the return game. Standouts over the past few years have included defensive lineman Jarvis Moss, cornerback Joe Haden and running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. “Special teams are high on [coach Meyer’s] priority list,” punter Chas Henry said. “Starters want to play on special teams.”

Sure they do; they get rewarded for it. “A lot of teams take special teams for granted. Here, it’s a privilege to play on the kickoff team or the punt return team,” said senior quarterback Tim Tebow, who was on the hands team as a true freshman. “[Meyer] rewards guys who do good on special teams. It’s not just overlooked like it is at some places. That’s why they play so hard. “

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