This week, Gators look inward

With LSU two weeks away, Florida will focus on correcting its own mistakes first

Updated: September 23, 2012, 7:50 PM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has two weeks to prepare for its Oct. 6 showdown with LSU, but the Gators aren't going to be thinking about the Tigers for three more days.

Instead, they'll spend the first part of their bye week concentrating on themselves. The players will be off Monday, but practices on Tuesday and Wednesday will be devoted to fixing some nagging issues from the first four games of the season.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
John Sommers II/Getty ImagesThough his team is 4-0, Will Muschamp knows the Gators need to keep getting better.
"We haven't played our best game yet, so we've got a bye week, and we're going to take advantage of it," receiver Frankie Hammond said. "Time to clean up things, penalties, wherever it may be, pass protection, just making reads, anything. We'll go back and look at the film and just make improvements.

"We've got a week to get better ourselves. There's still room to improve, and that's what we're going to do: Focus on ourselves and get better this week."

The 11th-ranked Gators (4-0, 3-0 SEC) are specifically going to work on short-yardage plays, third-down conversions, red zone offense, and defending teams that use a two-back set on offense. UF has struggled in short yardage, and until Saturday's 38-0 victory over Kentucky was one of the nation's worst teams on third down. The Gators were converting just 27 percent of their third downs (11-for-41) but converted 12 of 17 opportunities against the Wildcats.

Florida has scored on 13 of its 14 trips into the red zone, but only eight of those have been touchdowns.

The Gators have yet to face a team that consistently uses a two-back set, although Tennessee did line up with two backs several times two weeks ago. The Gators have been pretty much playing entirely nickel defenses the first four weeks, because Bowling Green, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky were pass-first offenses. Playing a two-back set would mean the Gators will be able to play in base defense more.

"There's things we need to continue to hone in on," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "There's some things we need to clean up. ... Just situational football things we need to have cleaned up as we move forward."

Florida also will use Tuesday's practice to get a good look at the younger players, such as receivers Raphael Andrades and Latroy Pittman, offensive linemen D.J. Humphries and Jessamen Dunker, and defensive backs Willie Bailey and Brian Poole.

"We're going to let our young guys scrimmage Tuesday night that haven't been playing as much and get those guys turns and reps and continue to develop our young team," Muschamp said. "On Monday practices we work with those guys 15, 20 minutes after every practice to make sure they're getting coached. That's how you develop your team and develop your roster."

Muschamp said Florida will begin game-planning for LSU on Thursday, have a team weightlifting session on Friday, and take Saturday off before regrouping on Sunday for meetings and walkthroughs.

He's hoping the bye week will give several injured players the chance to heal, too. DE Dominique Easley (knee), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), RB/FB Trey Burton (back), RT Chaz Green (ankle), DT Sharrif Floyd (shoulder), DB Cody Riggs (foot) and LB Jelani Jenkins (thumb) missed all or parts of Saturday's game against Kentucky. Jenkins is getting the pin taken out of his thumb this week and could play against LSU with a cast, and Reed, Burton, Green and Easley are expected back for the LSU game.

Floyd's status is still unclear, and Riggs was supposed to miss four weeks, which would take him through the LSU game.

"We have some nicks and bruises and such," Muschamp said. "We've got to get those guys back."

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter