Meyer, Nutt concerned about special teams

Friday, December 1st 2006, 6:39 pm
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) Florida coach Urban Meyer drew a laugh when he was asked what's more important, a good offense or a good defense.

"I think great special teams," Meyer said at a luncheon Friday, a day before the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Meyer wasn't just joking around. Both he and Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said special teams could be crucial in Saturday night's matchup between fourth-ranked Florida and the eighth-ranked Razorbacks.

"We've been really good on special teams all year long," Nutt said. "I think that's the key."

Arkansas uses both its star tailbacks, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, on kickoff returns. Each has returned one for a touchdown this season.

Last week, however, the Razorbacks were burned by LSU's Trindon Holliday, who ran a kickoff back 92 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Tigers' 31-26 win.

"That's what hurt us last week," Nutt said. "We had a kickoff, had the momentum, had the crowd, had everything in our favor and they take a kickoff back."

Each team's kicker has struggled lately. Florida's Chris Hetland is 3-12 this year on field goals, and Arkansas' Jeremy Davis is 6-11.

Davis missed an extra point last week. The previous weekend, he missed a field goal and had another blocked in a win at Mississippi State.

Of course, both Florida and Arkansas have benefited from unsuccessful kicks as well.

Arkansas beat Vanderbilt 21-19 in September when Bryant Hahnfeldt's 48-yard attempt late in the fourth quarter fell short. The following week, the Razorbacks edged Alabama 24-23 in double overtime. The Crimson Tide's Leigh Tiffin missed three field goals and an extra point.

Florida beat South Carolina 17-16 last month when Jarvis Moss blocked a 48-yard field goal as time expired. The Gators blocked 3 kicks in the game.


STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: Former Georgia star Garrison Hearst was also at Friday's luncheon. Hearst rushed for 1,547 yards in the 1992 season, the 9th-highest total in SEC history.

Right behind Hearst on that list is McFadden, who has 1,485 yards this year. McFadden wears the same jersey number Hearst wore at Georgia.

"He wears that Number Five real well," said Hearst, who went on to a successful NFL career.

"The sky's the limit for him. He's got some great ability."


TOPPING ROCKY TOP: Nutt and Meyer were both asked to talk about high points in their seasons, and each mentioned a win over Tennessee.

Florida beat the Volunteers 21-20 in September, and Arkansas beat them 31-14 last month.

The Gators rallied from a 17-7 2nd-half deficit at Tennessee.

"I saw the confidence in the team," Meyer said. "To see a team be down in a tough environment, and there wasn't one person on that sideline that did not believe at some point, somehow we were going to find a way to win."

Arkansas' win over the Vols came after the Razorbacks hosted ESPN College Gameday for the first time.

"Our fans were there from 7 o'clock in the morning all the way to midnight," Nutt said. "Just to beat Tennessee on national TV, that was a good day."


READY TO RETURN: Florida is making a record eighth appearance in the SEC title game, but this is the Gators' first since 2000.

"Florida has been to this game many, many times in the '90s," Meyer said. "I think it's a statement and I think it's a staple for our seniors. To think a senior class can go all the way through and not have an opportunity to win an SEC championship is something they never imagined when they signed a scholarship with Florida."

Florida won four straight SEC championship games from 1993-96, then again in 2000.

Arkansas is in the title game for the third time. The Razorbacks lost in 1995 and 2002.