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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

For the UF football team, a little rest and relaxation is just what the doctor ordered.

After back-to-back losses, the No. 13 Gators are using their bye week to prepare for four-straight games against conference opponents.

UF (4-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) slipped to second place in the SEC East behind South Carolina, but it will have ample opportunity to reclaim the top spot.

The Gators will face No. 17 Kentucky, No. 24 Georgia, Vanderbilt and the No. 7 Gamecocks throughout the next month, and the week off will allow them to prepare for the crucial stretch.

"You never know when you head into an off week whether it's the right time or not," Coach Urban Meyer said. "The last two weeks we have struggled and not closed the deal. We're going to practice this week and get a jumpstart on a very good Kentucky team."

Aside from game planning for the Wildcats, the Gators will use the time to get healthy and increase their depth.

Cornerback Markihe Anderson, who has yet to start a game because of a knee injury, could return for the Kentucky match.

Meyer is looking for a few other corners to step up before his team faces the Wildcats and Andre' Woodson, one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

Jacques Rickerson, Ahmad Black and Moses Jenkins are being pushed to perform and provide relief for starters Joe Haden and Wondy Pierre-Louis.

"We need help at corner, but they aren't ready to play," Meyer said Tuesday. "These next three days we're going to really utilize that."

Meyer is also trying to shore up his team at defensive tackle, where Javier Estopinan and Clint McMillan have shouldered most of the workload.

The starters are the only defensive tackles with double-digit tackles on the season.

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"I think we travel with 12 defensive linemen, but they're not playing," Meyer said. "They're occupying space, and they need to get better."

Few coaches have been better than Meyer after a bye week. He is 5-0 with a week off since arriving in Gainesville and compiled a 5-0 record during his stint at Utah as well.

Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer can also attest to the luxury of playing after a bye week. On Saturday, his squad followed a break by pounding then-No. 12 Georgia 35-14.

"We were able to rest some guys," Fulmer said. "It gave us a lot of time for fundamentals, which we took advantage of."

Meyer will look for a similar result to reverse his team's ugly trend. The Gators have suffered through two straight poor fourth quarters that led to last-minute losses.

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