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December 1, 2009TUSCALOOSA _ When Urban Meyer first talked to reporters this week about Saturday's game against the University of Alabama for the SEC championship, senior Javier Arenas was on his mind.
"They hurt us really bad on a punt return earlier in the game and later a kickoff return in midfield," the Florida coach said in relation to last year's meeting. "I just got done watching the Auburn special teams with our guys and he nailed a 50-yarder, came right through and has great speed. He's tough, two hundred pounds, low center of gravity and he's aggressive.
"I think Brandon James has a lot of the same characteristics that great returners do, but I think he's obviously one of the best returners in America."
Considering the quality of overall talent on both rosters no one involved would be surprised to see a special-teams play have a huge impact on Saturday's outcome.
Arenas set the SEC record earlier this season with his seventh punt return for a touchdown, and last week became the conference's all-time leader in punt-return yards with 1,725. He needs just 37 more to break the NCAA career record of 1,761 set by Wes Welker of Texas Tech from 2000-03.
James, who doubles as a running back/receiver, has four career punt returns for touchdowns to go with a kick return for a touchdown in the season opener against Charleston Southern, but his numbers are down a little this season.
Arenas leads the league in kick-return average at 29.5 yards, while James is at 26.1.
On punts, Arenas was caught late in the season by LSU speedster Trindon Holliday for the league lead, but Arenas still averaged 16.6 yards with one touchdown, while James averaged 7.2 yards.
Last week the Tigers repeatedly kicked out-of-bounds, but on his three opportunities Arenas broke two for big gains.
"It's very hard, especially when you're someone like me," Arenas said. "You're very eager to get things done. I've always got to have people on the sidelines telling me relax, calm down, it's going to come to you, be patient. I'm like: 'You're right.' I need somebody in my corner to help me out with things like that. I want to get back and make the play.
"I know at the same time trying to do too much, I have experience from trying to do too much and fumbling the ball or muffing the ball, all the worst that you can expect. I had experience from that and I think it's helped me grow as a return man back there."
On kick returns, Florida ranks second in kickoff coverage while Alabama is second in kick returns, and the Gators are first in kick returns while the Tide is tenth in kickoff coverage - a sore spot at times this season.
However, Florida has allowed just 13 punt-return yards this season.
"Nothing else matters," Arenas said. "We're not thinking about what can happen if the game is won or lost. We're thinking about going out there and playing to the best of our ability, executing the game plan, executing our assignments and doing what we have to do to put ourselves in the best position to be successful. I'm pretty sure they're doing the same thing. Both sides are thinking the same way. It's a one-game season."
The Crimson Tide worked inside the Hank Crisp Facility again Tuesday.
Junior running back Terry Grant (abdominal strain) was in uniform, but similar to Monday didn't appear to be doing much.
Senior linebacker Cory Reamer (hamstring) appeared to be back at his usual spot for some of the pass-defense drills reporters were allowed to watch, something he wasn't able to do this time last week.
Walk-on quarterback Thomas Darrah continued to wear Tim Tebow's No. 15 jersey during workouts. Freshman wide receiver Michael Bowman was sporting a No. 81 bib (which he could remove for parts of practice) to simulate Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Finalists for the Walter Camp Award for player of the year will be announced Wednesday. It's the last award other than the Hesiman Trophy to announce its finalists, with most winners to be revealed next week.
Here's the Alabama rundown:
Heisman Trophy: Finalists announced Dec. 9.
Maxwell Award (outstanding player): Mark Ingram, finalist along with Tim Tebow (Florida) and Colt McCoy (Texas): Winner announced Dec. 10.
Walter Camp Award (Player of the year): Ingram, Rolando McClain semifinalists. Finalists announced Wednesday.
Butkus Award (linebacker): Rolando McClain, finalist along with Sam Kindle (Texas), Eric Norwood (South Carolina), Brandon Spikes (Florida) and Sean Witherspoon (Missouri). Winner announced Dec. 8.
Bednarik Award (defensive player): Terrence Cody, finalist along with Spikes and Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska). Winner announced Dec. 10.
Doak Walker Award (running back): Ingram, finalist along with Toby Gerhart (Stanford) and C.J. Spiller (Clemson). Winner named Dec. 10.
Lou Groza Award (kicker): Leigh Tiffin, finalist along with Kai Forbath (UCLA) and Blair Walsh (Georgia). Winner named Dec. 10.
Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player): Cody, finalist along with Pat Angerer (Iowa), Eric Berry (Tennessee), Jerry Hughes (TCU) and Suh. Winner announced Dec. 7.
Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman): Cody, finalist along with Hughes, Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) and Suh. Winner announced Dec. 9.
Lott Trophy (defensive impact player): McClain, finalist along with Hughes, Berry and Suh.
Rimington Trophy (center): Finalists were scheduled to be announced last week.
Eddie Robinson Award (coach): Finalists announced Dec. 9.
Broyles Award (assistant coach): Kirby Smart, finalist along with Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn, Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, and TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas. Winner announced Dec. 8.
No longer in the running: Davey O'Brien Award (quarterback); Unitas Golden Arm (senior quarterback); Fred Biletnikoff Award (wide receiver); John Mackey Award (tight end); Ray Guy Award (punter); Walter Campbell Trophy (scholar-athlete, formerly known as the Draddy Trophy); Outland Trophy (interior lineman); Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back); George Munger Award (coach); Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end).
Senior defensive end Lorenzo Washington was surprised as anyone at the DUI charge against Florida defensive end Charles Dunlap, who was subsequently suspended for Saturday's game. "It looks like he has bad character, but it's a mistake," he said. "Drinking and driving still isn't good, but that sucks. I know it's going to hurt their defense but they still have a lot of great playmakers and their coaches will do a good job." Dunlap was charged early Tuesday morning after being found passed out in an idling car. "It's crazy," Washington added. "I know I was in bed at 3:30."
Things have pretty quiet for senior running back Roy Upchurch even though he caught the game-winning touchdown against Auburn on Friday. "I was low key this weekend, really just taking it easy for this week," he said. As for Florida, "All out week. I really want to play against them because I didn't get to last year."
CBS announced that will provide live webcast of Saturday's game. Mobile customers subscribing to the MediaFLO service can watch it for free on CBS Sports Mobile, or on their iPhone or iPod Touch by downloading the "CBS Sports: Live College Games" app from the Apple iTunes App Store for $4.99.