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Reevaluating the Florida Gators: Five things we learned after Florida 23, Tennessee 13

GAINESVILLE -- OK, so we've had a few days to allow for the proper digestion of UF 23, Tennessee 13. (Here's a link to my follow-up story in today's Miami Herald, CLICK ME!)

What did we learn about the Florida Gators on Saturday and what will UF's coaches focus on this week during practice? Here are five things to consider as you sit at home this week and reevaluate the Gators. Is it time to panic? No. Can UF still go undefeated this season? Yes. Has the script for an undefeated season changed after the first three weeks of the season? Yes.

5. Florida played conservatively during the second half on Saturday for the simple fact that there was no way Tennessee's offense could come from behind. Why give the Vols' a chance by turning the ball over on offense? UF played it safe and won the game. It wasn't pretty, but credit UF's coaching for making the right call.

"We made the decision in that second half to pound the football out and get out of that thing with a win because of health issues at receiver and also the way that thing was going," Meyer said.

That being said, UF quarterback Tim Tebow was asked to do too much on Saturday. He rushed 24 times for 76 yards. One needs to look no further than South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe (torn ACL on Saturday against Charleston Southern, out for the year) for proof that a season's outlook can change with one ill-advised quarterback scramble.

Florida running back Emmanuel Moody rushed for 33 yards on three carries against Tennessee. He's a powerful running back who can take pressure off of Tebow and UF's coaches will likely increase Moody's involvement this week against Kentucky. On Monday, Meyer compared Moody's fumble against Troy to Tebow's fumble against Tennessee. Both were excellent defensive plays, according to Meyer.

4. Linebacker Brandon Spikes has 11 tackles through three games. If Spikes' ailing Achilles tendon continues to be a problem, then UF will likely rest Spikes throughout the week and save him for game day.   

"[Spikes is] going to have a great year for us," Meyer said. "I saw him outside and he's feeling a lot better. We just need to be smart with those things that linger. We just need to take care of him."

3. Kentucky has lost over 20 games in a row to Florida, but Meyer smartly refused to address the statistic on Monday after the distractions caused by the build up for the Tennessee game put a considerable amount of pressure on his team.

"We went through probably the greatest amount of nonsense in the history of college football and we're going to try and win a game here on the road," Meyer said.

2. Florida needs to find some playmakers at receiver. The Gators' offense was limited on Saturday due to injuries and illnesses at the receiver positions. Starting receiver Riley Cooper played injured against Tennessee, Carl Moore (back) was unavailable, freshman Andre Debose (hamstring) is out for the season and tight end Aaron Hernandez was limited by the flu.

"We basically went through that game with David Nelson, but David is playing a little too many plays," Meyer said. "He's involved in special teams and we're really trying to evaluate that."

On Sunday, Florida rested all of its starting receivers -- Deonte Thompson (hamstring), Hernandez (hyper-extended knee), Nelson (sore leg) and Cooper (pinched nerve) -- and focused on developing UF's young receivers: Omarius Hines, Frankie Hammond Jr. and T.J. Lawrence.

"[Sunday] was our development day," Meyer said. "And Omarius Hines, he's got -- they all got talent -- it's just time to go play. One of those guys is going to have to go fill a void this week. We're going with the idea that Deonte is going to play but we've got to get that next guy in the game. And (quarterback) Johnny Brantley is close, we'd like to get him in the game."

(Did I hear that correctly? Get Brantley into the game?)

1. Florida needs to focus on what it does well. UF can win games with its running backs and solid defense. It's beginning to look like a grind-it-out season for the Gators, but nothing is wrong with winning ugly.

"You don't have to be a genius to figure out the strength of our team right now," Meyer said. "It's that big offensive line running off the ball and that free quarterback that just takes the game over. Is it perfect, no it's not perfect, but until we get the full complement of receivers playing at the level we need to play at, we need to do what we've got to do to win."



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