fast and deep at receiver," the 42-year-old coach said, "so we're going
to try to get our athletes the ball in space."
How the ball gets
to the playmakers has never mattered to Meyer, whose wideouts scored 39
touchdowns in '04, his final season at Utah. Those weren't all TD passes from
Alex Smith, either. "We hand it, we flip it, we pitch it, we direct-snap
it," said Meyer. And that, it turned out, was only the half of it. Against
Ohio State, Leak--and, at times, Tebow--used the option, misdirection, reverses
and an assortment of empty-back formations. It was this multiplicity of methods
the Gators use to get the ball to their skill guys that Buckeyes defensive
coordinator Jim Heacock listed as his biggest concern four days before the
Added Ohio State
strong safety Brandon Mitchell, "Their speed does create problems. We've
been constantly talking about keeping them inside and in front of us."
wideout Andre (Bubba) Caldwell promised, "We're going to run them up and
down the field, and see if they can keep up with us. If they try to match up
with us man-to-man, it's going to be a long day for them."
It wasn't long
before Bubba was proved prophetic. After the Buckeyes landed what turned out to
be their best shot-- Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a
touchdown--Leak got busy. Using a dazzling array of four- and five-receiver
sets, he calmly marched his team down the field on three consecutive touchdown
drives. For good measure Meyer threw in a handful of direct snaps to Harvin and
Tebow, and four seconds into the second quarter Florida led 21--7. The
Buckeyes' worst nightmare was confirmed: They could not cope with the Gators'
overwhelmed the Ohio State defense--made it look like the outfit a lot of fans
had feared it would be when it began the season with nine new starters--by
simply putting more playmaking receivers on the field than OSU could defend.
According to Florida offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen,
the Gators were helped by Ohio State's bullheaded determination to stay in its
base defense. By not replacing linebackers with extra defensive backs, the
Buckeyes were victimized by one mismatch after another.
Who are these fast
men? Meyer described what differentiates each from the others, beginning with
Dallas Baker (the Touchdown Maker), a senior who on Monday caught his 10th TD
pass of the season and whom the coach described as Florida's "best overall
receiver"--the best blocker, best route-runner. The junior Caldwell is a
blazer with a knack for beating people deep, but Meyer noted that he's also
"very good on the bubble screen," having taken one 66 yards for a
touchdown against Florida State.
Cornelius, Meyer said, "is probably our most consistent receiver; he does a
lot of things very well." Sophomore Cornelius Ingram, a 6'4", 230-pound
wide receiver--tight end, is too swift for most linebackers to cover. "He's
getting better every game," Meyer said of the former quarterback who also
played in 19 games for the 2004--05 Florida basketball team. In the SEC
title-game win over Arkansas last month, Ingram caught a career-high six passes
for 71 yards.
Harvin, a freshman from Virginia Beach of whom Meyer says, "When it's all
said and done, he'll be one of the greatest to ever play at Florida. That's the
kind of talent he has." So blindingly quick is Harvin, so explosive is his
first step, that Meyer seems not to mind the issues he has at running back:
They give him another excuse to put the ball in Harvin's hands. Says the coach,
"I like watching him run away from people"--which is what Harvin did
against Arkansas, taking an inside handoff and running 67 yards for a touchdown
when the Gators were clinging to a three-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Against Ohio State, Harvin caught a team-high nine passes and ran five times
for 22 yards and a touchdown.
After he was
assigned jersey number 8, Harvin was reminded by his mother, Linda, that in the
Bible eight symbolizes resurrection and a new beginning. On Monday the program
that lost 15 games from 2002 through '04 won its second national
championship--a resurrection of sorts.