Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coaches Not Afraid to Gamble; UF's Meyer Is Perfect on Fake Punts; LSU's Miles Turns Trickery into TDs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coaches Not Afraid to Gamble; UF's Meyer Is Perfect on Fake Punts; LSU's Miles Turns Trickery into TDs

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

GAINESVILLE -- Coaching against Florida's Urban Meyer and LSU's Les Miles is a lot like opening a Christmas gift from an elderly aunt.

You're not sure what you're getting -- and chances are you won't like it, either.

Meyer and Miles each are in their fourth season in the Southeastern Conference, but that's long enough to establish a reputation as coaches who are willing to take some chances. Whether it's calling seven fake punts overall or going for it on fourth down five times in one game, Meyer and Miles have become this era's Bobby Bowden: A gambler with a headset and a playbook.

"You better cover your bases [in preparation for Miles]," said Meyer, who'll match wits with the LSU coach in Saturday night's game at Florida Field. "I like that people say the same thing about us a little bit, that we like to roll the bones a little bit and be aggressive in big games."

Meyer has embraced the gambler role since he arrived in Gainesville in 2005. He has called seven fake punts in 44 games at UF -- the Gators have successfully converted all seven -- and gone for it on fourth down 62 times, more than all but two SEC schools (Vanderbilt 65, Ole Miss 63).

The latest fake punt was a 10-yard run by Brandon James against Arkansas last Saturday. All but one of the fakes have been runs, including a 17-yarder by Jemalle Cornelius on fourth-and-10 from the UF 15 against Arkansas in the 2006 SEC championship game.

Meyer admitted that was a "reckless" call but said the others were much more calculated and more certain to succeed.

"If you execute it in practice, and you have belief in the personnel, [it's not too risky]," Meyer said. "If you look at the personnel doing it, you don't get nervous. You just get excited about those kids having an opportunity to make a play."

UF's players are so confident the plays will work, they don't even think twice when Meyer makes a call and have never doubted him.

"If he's calling it, I know he's thought about it enough," said punter Chas Henry, who ran for 17 yards on a fake punt against Hawaii this season. "He's not going to take a stupid chance. If he knows that if he can't get it, he's not going to run it at all. If he knows he can get it, he's going to do it.

"Every time he's called it, I thought, 'That's a great call. We should do it.'"

Miles' gambles haven't been as numerous as Meyer's, but they certainly have been prominent -- an unusual fake field goal against South Carolina in 2007 and twice eschewing field-goal attempts for touchdown passes in back-to-back victories over Auburn in '07 and '08.

Miles arrived in Baton Rouge in 2005, and since then, no SEC team has converted more fourth downs than LSU (36, tied with Auburn). LSU's fourth-down conversion rate is an astounding 76.6 percent (36 of 47), compared to UF's 54. …

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