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November 30, 2008

Urban Meyer

THE MODERATOR: The 2008 SEC Championship game will be Saturday December 6 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta at 4:00 eastern time on CBS Sports. The No. 1 and 2 teams in the country, which is a first in the SEC Championship game. We'll begin, Coach Meyer, do we have you on the line? Good afternoon. Give us your opening thoughts on facing Alabama in the championship game.
COACH MEYER: Well, obviously, our goal is really clear at the University of Florida, and once we get to Atlanta. There's been a lot of history since I've been here, and did a lot of studying. And Alabama and Florida have a great tradition from Birmingham, the original SEC Championship game through Atlanta.
And I had a chance to watch Alabama on film. I know they're well-coached and they have great players. The University of Florida is very excited to represent the East.

Q. Both yourself and Alabama have done a good job jumping on teams and getting an early lead. With that in mind, how important is it going to be to get off to a fast start? How important is that quarter going to be Saturday?
COACH MEYER: I think both teams, if you ask them and you ask us, momentum, I put at about a 14-point. It's an unbelievable, you know, the thing we have to keep in mind is that two years ago we played Arkansas and we jumped all over it in the first half, and then they came back and took the lead in the second half.
It's a 60-minute game, however, momentum shifts occur, I think a fast start is going to be a critical part, but it's not the only part. Like I said, there's 60 minutes of football, and it's a marathon, it's not a sprint.

Q. I know the way your defense was beat up at the end of last season, and didn't end up the way you wanted it to. Could you have imagined it playing as well as it has this season? What's been the key to that?
COACH MEYER: I have imagined it, and I think our staff has done a great job. But I also think you look at the guys playing last year, and true freshmen should be playing at places like Florida. And it happens, and we happen to have one of our corners who is a true freshman.
Last year we had our defensive lineman, Justin Trattou, who was not ready to play. You had Wright, Joe Haden, you had some true freshmen that were playing football that shouldn't have been back there and they were involved. So there was a void.
Our first recruiting class was very poor. During the transition process of coaching changes, there was a void in recruiting. That was never more obvious than on the defensive side of the ball when we lost those four juniors to the NFL draft.
Did I imagine it? Yeah, I did imagine it. And I'm very pleased with the development of the players and coaches.

Q. Switching to the special teams, you guys have been fantastic in special teams and have dominated some opponents. But so has Alabama. Watching them on film, do you see that being a pretty tight match-up as well with what both teams have been able to do special teams wise?
COACH MEYER: I made the comment I think Alabama is very well coached. You'll flip on the return schemes and special team schemes. It all starts at personnel. But a lot of teams with a lot of good players out there. I think a lot of it is motivation and staff that they believe in it.
Obviously, this team that we're playing, they're playing to win as well. So I think that's going to be one of the key elements of this game.

Q. I was wondering working on film what you think of the offensive line, and how physical are they? Have you faced a team that's physical like they are up front?
COACH MEYER: Well, we've faced Alabama, we've faced LSU, Georgia had a young offensive line, so they're very physical, but we've had LSU very physical. But we think this is the most physical offensive line we've faced in the last few years. It says a lot, because last year's LSU team was very physical as well.
So very physical offensive line, and how we match up, especially being banged up on the defensive line right now.

Q. What is the status of Percy Harvin? What is the latest?
COACH MEYER: He's questionable for this game. It's going to be day-to-day. He certainly won't practice the first couple of days. But he's here today and moving around a little bit, so we'll see what happens.

Q. Can you talk about just the contrasting styles offensively of these two teams? You guys are spread more of a pro style?
COACH MEYER: I think at the end of the day it's contrasting, but it's very similar. We believe in running the football. You'll hear people say grass, and you'll never hear that about our offense, and I'd be disappointed if they did. We believe in the development of the offensive line, and running off the ball, and the pass protection, and running the football, and our line has done well.
It looks a lot different, but we're not -- I think we throw the ball probably about the same amount of times per game. We're not a 50, 60 times per game thrower.

Q. Is your worst fear that their offensive line, because of the defensive line, is able to handle you?
COACH MEYER: Well, I think the offensive line is very good. But we're going to have to find a way to get an extra defender in a box like most people do defending the run. We're going to have to have a little movement up front, so they can't just tee off on you with their size. That's my worst fear. That's a big part of it.

Q. How's Antwine?
COACH MEYER: Antwine is I would probably say doubtful. He's here, but not moving around at all. So I'll know more probably by tomorrow.

Q. Can you talk about your offense struggled somewhat? And after all the game seemed to take off and it seemed that the ball was being spread around, all the weapons are being used. Can you talk about what happens with that Ole Miss game?
COACH MEYER: I think our offensive line, we thought it would be one of our strengths, it certainly is. Up to that point, I think they're okay. But I think from that point on, we've developed a legitimate run game where it wasn't just turn right, turn left. It was getting our running backs involved. And the maturity of true running backs that were weren't here last year began to show between Rainey and Demps. I think that's what happens. The typical maturation process that goes through with players.

Q. Did Tim change at all the way he played toward the latter part of the year? Do you feel he felt pressure during the year to carry by himself?
COACH MEYER: I didn't. I never thought that would happen to Tim. He's just one of a few unique, strong-minded, strong-willed players that can handle as much as you give him. But I did feel that.
As a matter of fact, I felt that up through the Arkansas game. The Arkansas game, fourth quarter is when I really saw. The one thing that makes Tim one of our best players in college football is his energy, passion, and playing around the field. There is no question he's doing it now.

Q. What are your contingency plans Thursday night?
COACH MEYER: Well, we've got Brandon James, also Lewis Murphy, David Nelson is playing well for us. Had a good game against FSU. So if we moved Murphy inside, you'd have carl Moore on the outside. And Deonte Thompson is another weapon that we have.
So there is obviously we've thought about this and had to play through it a couple of times before. Also in the perimeter run game, we have Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. So we have a plan, I just hope he's ready.

Q. Can you compare Alabama's running game to anything you've faced so far this season?
COACH MEYER: This season? No. In the past, we just feel like they're not really secretive about what they're trying to do. They're going to try to pound you and they have the personnel to do it. It's not so much the running game, it's the personnel behind that run game. No, we've not faced anything like that this year.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER: I'm sorry? Torrey Davis?

Q. Yeah, Torrey, do you expect him to play a big role on Saturday?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, Lawrence Marsh was about 70% this past week, he'll be 100% this week, and Torrey Davis will be certainly in the rotation.

Q. Does Alabama have a consistent game as far as priorities go with opposing defenses against you guys?
COACH MEYER: Say the beginning?

Q. Has there been a consistent team among opposing defenses as to what their priorities are in trying to stop you guys?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, there's a lot of focus on Harvin, there has been. For example, Florida State comes up, and they try to rotate down the side he was. Then other teams. So a lot of it had to do with Percy. Other than that, I don't see a whole lot. Off the top of my head, I can't say they all had a common theme.

Q. Given Nick Saban's reputation as a defensive tactician, are you anticipating maybe something a little unusual in this game from them defensively?
COACH MEYER: Well, they've had two weeks to prepare for Auburn, and it was a little different game plan, and more aggressive game plan than they've run in the past. We just anticipate that they'll be -- one thing about their defense, guys in the right place, and they're strong fundamentally. We expect to see the same.

Q. Is Patchan out of the game, and what are some of the other options at tackle, if Antwine can't go?
COACH MEYER: Well, you have four guys. You have Marsh and Sanders. You have Torrey Davis and Jay Howard, and then the possibility of Carlos Dunlap moving inside as well.

Q. Also, when you were recruiting Tim tee bow, he really, seriously considered Alabama. I know Coach Shula was there the day before his announcement. How nervous were you through that whole thing with Tim making his decision?
COACH MEYER: Well, the one thing that Coach Shula did, he had a great relationship in terms of a relationship type person. He had his mindset for a while there to go to Alabama. I thought our guys did a good job in trying to pull that one back, because he's a Florida guy. But I was very concerned.

Q. Was there a time when you thought he was going to Alabama?
COACH MEYER: Sure, most of the process.

Q. Can you talk about Percy Harvin a little more, as far as if you didn't have him or when you haven't had him? Does that impact you more in the running game or in the passing game?
COACH MEYER: That's a great question. I think it's 50-50. I think he's a guy that demands respect. He's one of our best receivers. It's hard to just say in the spread offense we have multiple choices. It's hard to say throw the ball here. Usually you throw the ball where the defense tells you to throw it.
In the running game, you can handle the ball, flip on the ball, and make sure he gets the ball in his hands. So I would probably, it's 50-50. I can't say which one we'll miss more.

Q. Also, your thoughts on Terrence Cody, and what challenges he brings in your scheme?
COACH MEYER: Well, we talked more on that today, and watched two games together. He's just a mass. He's a guy that's going to eat up two gaps, and he just controls the defense. And it's probably just lack of movement last week against FSU. We ran for 300 yards and our two inside players our guards in center, they really controlled the line of scrimmage. It's going to be difficult to do with that guy.

Q. Hi, coach, I know you watched college football, and you can't help but listen to ESPN and things like that. Your team has been getting a lot of hype lately. People are kind of putting you in the Championship game. What's it like? You're playing Alabama who is number one and undefeated. But it's you guys who are getting most of the hype and you guys are going to be favored. What's it like being in this situation?
COACH MEYER: The good thing is our players, we try to operate with the understanding that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are so difficult. It's not the first time we've faced them.
For Alabama it's the same thing. The fan base, the expectation level is unrealistic and out of control. So let it be that way. We need to worry about having a great Tuesday and Wednesday. And the best thing that helps all of that is when you flip on the video, all the other stuff has no bearing on the outcome of the game.

Q. Do you and Nick Saban have any sort of relationship? Have you guys crossed paths in the past? Different coaching jobs, run into each other, anything like that?
COACH MEYER: No. No, we see each other every year at the meetings, and get along very well.

Q. How well do you know Bill Belichick, and what is the extent of your relationship with him?
COACH MEYER: We met about four years ago when I was hired at Florida. I know him very well now. We visit every year, he makes a trip down here, I make a trip up there. We talk during the season, not very much, but obviously, we talk a little bit.

Q. Is there anything that you've learned from him, or anything that he says that's rubbed off on you as a coach?
COACH MEYER: Numerous things. The thing that reminds me the most about Coach Belichick is I think they're the most professional organization in all sports. You don't hear about selfish, a lot of the selfish issues that are going on, and the chemistry of his team, and what he demands, the way they draft players, the way they keep players. It's the ultimate team concept.
When I went up there to see Mike Vrabel running down as a scout kickoff performer, that's what this is all about. It's not about how many catches you have, or your contract, it's about what you're doing to help your team win, and that comes from the head coach. So that's the number one thing I've learned from him.

Q. Can you talk about what the pounding the team went through last weekend, and you talked about Cody and how big this week is for them?
COACH MEYER: It will be the marquis match-up. It will be the big match-up, having those two guys ready to go. And they're fine, they're here today. We're going to have a workout today. They're here. They're a little banged up, that was a physical game last week. But their attitude's right, and they're ready to go.

Q. How do you think the set offense works in the NFL?
COACH MEYER: I have no idea. I don't know much about the NFL.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER: The spread offense, the throw game, a lot of teams do do that. I know the New England Patriots are very much involved with five wide, five-man row text, which is, I guess what's what the spread offense is. Even though we've adapted more of the six-man protection from it.
The running game, I know some people try to do it. Miami, the issue always comes up are you willing to run your quarterback, because it involves the running of the quarterback. And I haven't researched it, but it's something to be concerned about. You know, the quarterback taking shots like that.

Q. Do you think NFL teams will try to adapt, turn to their on offense or try to align the run once it gets in the NFL either this year or next year?
COACH MEYER: I don't know. We play Alabama here in a few days. I don't know all that stuff. I could care less.

Q. Your team speed is well documented. Are you eager to see what you can do in a dome atmosphere on that turf?
COACH MEYER: Am I anxious? Is that what the question was?

Q. Yeah, are you eager or anxious to see what you guys can do on that turf?
COACH MEYER: It's not just guys running fast, it's guys blocking and the team you're playing. So we're in the early stages of our game planning, and trying to figure out what Alabama are doing. So, yes, I am very eager to have those guys get up there. And that's going to be a fast track, but the team we're playing is going to be fast as well. So, yeah, we are very eager to see what we can do.

Q. Nick Saban's having tremendous success in the second season, similar to what you did. Is there something to taking over and then what happens in the second season in terms of the success that he's having and like you had?
COACH MEYER: I think there's a lot to that. I think the first year people are looking at you. I know I've been in Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. But the whole culture, players need to get used to you, you need to get an understanding of the players. There are usually schematic changes that take a little while to get used to. Absolutely, that's truth, that's real.
You know, that one-year period where you have to get everybody on the same page, but you also have to have the players to do it, and obviously, Alabama does.

Q. When you started looking at Alabama, did you start a couple weeks ago just trying to get a peek at it? And the thing that jumps off the film about Alabama is what?
COACH MEYER: I spent most of my time looking at their defense and kicking game. And I have not watched until today, and I have not watched a lot of the defense yet. We're going to go work on that tomorrow. I have had some approaches during the sit Adele week. I had two guys make sure it was all entered in the computer the right way, and give us a deal of what we're going to face once we play Alabama.
I just think that one thing is their personal dynamic. Their free safety is very similar. The free safety we had a couple of years ago is a guy that makes every play at that position, and he does. We feel they're physical up front, and they're always in the right place.
Other than Auburn, they're very multiple. They're very sound in what they do. You'd expect from Coach Saban's defense. I know we've got our hands full.

Q. With all the emphasis you put on winning the kicking game, how are you with the kickoff game and what are you going to do to improve that against Bama?
COACH MEYER: That was awful. That was a pathetic display of kickoff cover, from actually where the ball was placed. I guess guys, you know, you watch and guys are slipping and sliding. You know, I'm very disappointed. So I'm looking at making some personnel changes.
Unfortunately we've had some injury issues. But there's not a whole lot of options available right now. Up to that point, I felt like the last four or five weeks our kickoff team has improved to be the best since we've been here, so I don't want to talk panic. But I also understand the guy catching the ball for Alabama is a dynamic returner. So we need to get that right and start that today.

Q. How much of the performance against FSU is due to the weather?
COACH MEYER: On kickoff?

Q. Yes, on kickoff.
COACH MEYER: I think it has something to do with it. But it's not like they had a dry field and we had a wet field. So I think I had some young players in there that just didn't perform very well. We just have to make sure we get that fixed.

Q. You've had some players live with each other before with T.J., Joyner and Tim. Why do you think it's important that dorm atmosphere for players to get close to each other in their living conditions?
COACH MEYER: Well, I used to make that a huge deal. I kind of recommend it, and I watch closely. I just think I coach a lot better if I care for that player. And I think guys play a lot harder if they care for each other.
Having a great chemistry on on your team is something every coach wants. The reality is I don't think that happens very often. I know I've been a head coach eight years and I've not had great chemistry on my teams a lot of times. That's hard to get.
I've had 119, 117 division ranked teams. I mean really, not just coach speak, have great chemistry where they truly care about each other, and they won't make a stupid mistake, or they will prepare the right way because they feel accountable to one another. I think that is the secret to winning. That's what this team has right now.

Q. Have you been able to be more relaxed on that front because this team has started to get that, to understand that aspect of it?
COACH MEYER: I don't know about relaxed. I don't think I relaxed on them. I just enjoyed being around them. They make it very clear to me, and you can see it on film the way they handle each other today when they come in on a Sunday. I wouldn't say relaxed, but this is the way it's supposed to be.

Q. I know you have a vote in the coaches' poll, and the BCS rankings were released a little earlier. Over on the other side of the country Oklahoma edged out Texas for that spot in the Big 12 Championship game. Wondering if you could share any thoughts on how you voted and your thoughts on the process of how that got selected and everything?
COACH MEYER: That's the first I've heard of it. I'm disappointed that that was -- I guess that's what I say because it's not my conference. But I hope the SEC will never have the voters determine who goes to the Championship game.
I think there are three big football teams, and I know anybody wants to attack the system, it's a system we have. But if there's a flaw, we've got to continue to work through it to get it right.

End of FastScripts

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