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College football

Leak low-key as usual

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published September 25, 2003

GAINESVILLE - While Florida quarterback Ingle Martin seemingly has accepted his demotion with class, his replacement is reacting ... well, the way he always does: with little emotion.

One day after the announcement came that Chris Leak would take over the starting job, Leak spoke about the decision in the same low-key manner he has carried since he arrived on campus.

It didn't surprise teammates.

"He does get excited but never really shows it," running back DeShawn Wynn said. "Sometimes you can tell that he is excited when he completes a pass and sort of jumps back on one foot, but that's about it."

Wynn said he never has met anyone more solely focused on football.

"Chris will do anything football related," Wynn said. "You could wake him up at 2 a.m. and ask him to go throw and he would wash his face off and go get the balls. But he won't go out. Everyone likes to have fun every once in awhile but I have never met anybody that focused."

BELIEVING, FINALLY: Kentucky hasn't defeated Florida at Commonwealth Stadium since 1986, but with a new coach and the chance to catch the Gators while they're down, the Wildcats are entering Saturday's game with more confidence than usual.

"As I get older, I know the worst thing you can do is go into a game and think we don't have a chance," receiver/punt returner Derek Abney said. "I think the mentality has changed around here. We're in control of the game and if we put forth the effort and capitalize on our play, we can win this game or any game."

That doesn't mean Kentucky is taking Florida lightly. The Wildcats don't want confidence to be confused with cockiness.

"I still look at Florida as Florida," right guard Sylvester Miller said. "Speed, quickness, a team that can run, throw and come after you for four quarters. ... Florida players walk around knowing they're from Florida. They know they've got a rich tradition. It's like anybody else at Nebraska or Michigan, they know they've got tradition there and they want to keep it going."

SURVIVING THE STORM: The more Florida's offense faltered Saturday against Tennessee, the louder the boos got and the more fans poured out of the stadium early. Coach Ron Zook said he and the coaching staff realize the negative fan and media reaction is part of the job, but he worries about their family members.

"For the coaches, you understand it's part of it," he said. "The families, wives, our players, I worry about them because they are not insulated like we are. We work and understand that's the nature of the business. Do I like the booing? Absolutely not, but the University of Florida is a very special place. ... It goes back to the expectations and our players understand the expectations are."

HEARD THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE: Zook took special care to meet with Martin and Leak before announcing his decision to make a change at quarterback, but the rest of the players got left out.

Asked how Martin was handling the situation, kicker Matt Leach said: "I didn't even know until (Wednesday) morning, so I haven't seen either of them."

KICKING WELL: After struggling much of last season, Leach has gotten off to a strong start. The junior leads SEC kickers in scoring with 39 points: he's 6-of-7 in field goals and 21-for-21 in PATs. Leach was 30-of-35 in PATs last year and 9-of-14 in field goals, having lost his starting job, then later regaining it. He credits stability in his supporting cast as the key to his turnaround.

"I've said it a million times, but the center and holder, having them back and getting a lot of reps over the summer and going out there on our own has been the difference," Leach said. "I've just been working hard and getting it together this year."

RISING GATORS: The soccer team holds a top-five position in all four major women's polls. Florida is No.5 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and SoccerBuzz polls; No.3 in Soccer Times and No.2 in the Soccer America poll. Florida has opened 7-0 for the first time since 1999.

- Antonya English covers Florida athletics. She can be reached at 813 226-3389 or english@sptimes.com

[Last modified September 25, 2003, 01:34:29]


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