September 24, 2008

Austin: Gators very tough

It didn't take long for Kent Austin to scout Florida's defense.

It also didn't take Ole Miss' offensive coordinator long to figure out that the Rebels will have their hands full with the Gators' defenders Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"They don't play a whole lot of stuff," Austin said. "They just line up and play. I mean, they run enough to keep you guessing and they're not going to be vanilla across the board the entire game. That being said, with the athletes they have, they don't have to do a whole lot.

"They have great athletes and great team speed. They run to the ball well. They tackle well. They're aggressive. They've got great athletes across the board."

Ole Miss is coming off a game in which the Rebels committed six turnovers and failed to score an offensive touchdown. Still, Austin said, the Rebels plan to go on the attack against the fourth-ranked Gators, a team that has shut down Hawaii, Miami and Tennessee en route to a 3-0 record.

"We're one to throw the ball up and stretch the defense," Austin said. "We haven't done a great job of connecting on a lot of throws this year, although we've had receivers open. That's not going to change. That's in our personality offensively. We want to make sure that every part of the field is available to us from an attacking standpoint."

Austin has had double duty this week, getting Ole Miss ready for Florida and getting quarterback Jevan Snead over the frustration of a subpar outing in this past Saturday's 23-17 loss to Vanderbilt, one in which Snead threw four interceptions.

"Jevan's done well," Austin said. "You know, Jevan cares so much and he's competitive that it's hard for him to let go. Jevan needs to learn to forget and understand that the last play has no bearing on the current play. I think he's starting to learn that more and more and he's getting more comfortable. He just needs to continue to work at the things that will make him a good quarterback. It's not just fundamentals and the physical part of the game, but it's making sure he studies properly and he understands from a pre-recognition standpoint what he's looking at offensively."

Snead took the lion's share of the blame for Saturday's outing, and the Texas transfer certainly made some mistakes. However, all of the errors that were attributed to Snead in the box score didn't necessarily belong to the sophomore signal-caller.

"The first pick wasn't fault," Austin said. "The first pick was the receiver's fault. It was a horrible, terrible pattern that he ran. That being said, though, he should have adjusted his read to the other side of the field. But when he decided to take the throw into the boundary, we need the guys around him to play better. Look, I played the position (at Ole Miss) too and so did Coach (Houston) Nutt (at Arkansas and Oklahoma State). We understand uniquely that it's not always the quarterback's fault on some of those mistakes that seem so glaring from a fan perspective.

"You're not going to win every play. You're not going to. Jevan just needs to let the game come to him a little bit more and the players around him need to be a little bit crisper as well."

REBS HAVE SECOND STRAIGHT STRONG PRACTICE: Nutt was pleased with his team's effort and concentration on Wednesday, a day that saw the Rebels work for a little more than two hours in shorts and shells on a perfect north Mississippi day.

"Our ball-handling from the backs has been real good," Nutt said. "We've had two really good days. …We've got to do our job of taking care of the ball, executing and make plays."

On Wednesday, Florida coach Urban Meyer said he expected Ole Miss to be faster than Tennessee, a team the Gators throttled this past Saturday, 30-6.

"There are some spots where we have some speed, absolutely," Nutt said. "Mike Wallace, Dexter McCluster, Shay Hodge, those guys are extremely fast. There's no doubt about it."

DAVIS COULD GET RED-ZONE CHANCES: Nutt had high praise for starting running back Cordera Eason, though he hinted that freshman Enrique Davis could get more chances close to the goal line. Eason failed twice from the Vanderbilt 1 in the third quarter Saturday.

"Hopefully he'll be able to punch that ball in for us," Nutt said. "But they'll all get an opportunity. He is stronger down there in the red zone. He is a little tougher to bring down."

WALLACE NOT INTIMIDATED OF THE SWAMP: Wallace said Wednesday that he's looking forward to the trip to Gainesville, knowing full well that Florida's home stadium is known for being a loud, hostile environment for opposing teams.

"I love the people," Wallace said. "I love it. I know they're not going to give us much of a chance. We like going against adversity and things like that. I just like the crowd.

"We've played in all kind of environments before. We've played in placed just as loud as The Swamp. I guess tomorrow, Coach is going to bring the music out here and the noise and I guess we'll try to get ready for it. All you can do is try to get ready. It's going to be loud regardless. We just have to be ready to go."

GATOR BITES: Florida defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was on crutches following Tuesday's practice, though Meyer told Florida media that the injury isn't as bad as it appears. Cunningham suffered a hyper-extended leg on Saturday and is currently listed as probable.

"We'll know more tomorrow," Meyer told The Tampa Tribune. "We got an MRI and there's no cartilage damage, no ligament damage. It happened early in the game when he attempted a tackle in the open field, so he played most of the game with it. I think he's going to play."

Linebacker Ryan Stamper has a sprained ankle and is also probable. …Freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins is leaving many impressed with his play and maturity. Jenkins played the majority of the game Saturday after starter Wondy Pierre-Louis got beaten on consecutive plays. Jenkins made the most of his opportunity with an interception in the end zone.

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