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January 7, 2007
COACH MEYER: I just visited with Coach Tressel. We are both ready to go play a football game, and enough press conferences, with all due respect. I know our players are ready to play. It has been a long time.
We are kind of the new kid on the block as far as Ohio State and Florida playing in the championship game where it is removed from the other Bowls.
It has been a long time. I think we managed very well as far as keeping our kids fresh, yet focused. We have a lot of preparation left. Our saying is the preparation ends when the foot hits the ball tomorrow night at 6:30. We're anxious to get back and have our Friday. Today is our Friday. With that, I will take questions.
Q. Can you talk about during the time off what you have done to -- particularly in the last week to keep your guys mentally focused? Because it has been a long grind in between ball games.
COACH MEYER: I really like the way we did it. We broke it down -- dealing with young guys, attention span issues show up quite often. If you stand in front of our team and say, okay, by the way, we have 20 practices, they will look at you that you have seven heads and they are not really into 20 practices. If you say you have three game weeks and we get into the game routine, we believe very much in routine and we went through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday routine. The only thing we didn't do was play the game. We had three of those phases, we called them.
I think it worked well. We never lost their focus or attention. We game them enough time off. They got to see their families over Christmas. We gave them New Year's off. It has been really good.
Q. Urban, from what you have seen of Troy Smith on film, is there any comparisons that you may have drawn from -- between Troy and Alex Smith?
COACH MEYER: There certainly is. We judge quarterbacks, when we recruit quarterbacks, we don't -- the quarterback that can stand there and throw a ball through that wall, when the pocket opens and the guy is wide open, there is a lot of guys that can do that. It is the one when the pocket is not open, he had to take three steps, steps up in the pocket and put either the touch pass like Troy did against Penn State where he scrambled back and made plays.
Alex Smiths, Chris Leaks, Troy Smiths, Tim Tebows, those are the kind of quarterbacks that are difference makers. Like I said, there are a lot of guys that can stand there and throw the ball, but there are few that can create plays out of a bad situation.
Troy Smith is obviously a Heisman Trophy winner. He won that Heisman because he has good personnel around him but he is a play maker when the plays aren't there.
Q. Coach, at what point in the season did you realize just how special this team was?
COACH MEYER: When we played very well at home against LSU. In my opinion, obviously you saw what they did in the Bowl game. LSU is a talented team. They have been the last two years. After that game, I remember thinking to myself -- I think it was 23-10. And going into that game, we knew exactly what we were getting into. And we had some injuries issues, we had other issues we were dealing with. To see a team reorganize and come out and play as hard as they did this with, I thought this could be a good outfit if we don't screw it up as coaches.
Q. Coach, could you talk about your relationship with Billy Donovan, his importance in bringing you to Florida, maybe similarities in how you run your program and what you may have learned from his championship run?
COACH MEYER: The best form of education is to witness, to experience, to watch videos, to listen to people, to have it happen firsthand. I can sit and talk about the -- even the '96 football team, that's old news for our players. Try to bring as many of those guys back as well.
But our players witnessed, they know those players. I had the basketball players come. We have a three-on-three basketball player. Dunk contest. The basketball players were the judges. In the summer, I learned -- I almost did not go to the championship game. They were pushing me, Billy invited me. And we decided to go.
I didn't win it, but I sat in that locker room after the game, and that reenergized, refocused, re-everything the passion you had for coaching and trying to reach the pinnacle of college football.
And Billy is a close friend. He lives two houses down. He recruited me and more importantly Christine recruited my wife and -- about all the important things, not size of stadiums but schools and about what it is like to live in Gainesville with the children. Our kids are the same ages.
He is the best. He as good a person as there is.
Q. Urban, how much has the increasing popularity of freshmen enrolling early changed college football? When you determine what guys those are in your program, what goes into that?
COACH MEYER: Their value skyrockets. We very a big board, like all college programs do. It is basically a draft board, recruiting board in each position and the value increases.
We've had -- I want to say my first year, two or three. Second year, four or five. They are all three-point students. They get acclimated. The more you think about it, a young person playing at the University of Florida in front of that people, the pressure on you and some of the premier players you get, you are playing right now (snapping fingers). They tend to struggle in school a little bit. Especially at a school like Florida where you are dealing with 1,400s in the classroom S.A.T. So the competitiveness in the classroom is significant.
I see a much more balanced -- we have bunch coming in now, I have to have the most in the country coming in here. We start school -- what is today, Sunday? We start school tomorrow. And as a matter of fact they are on campus today starting school tomorrow. They get to go through spring practice. Tim Tebow is a good example. Tim would have played early in the year if he didn't go through spring practice. Not in a position like that.
It is certainly changing. I know across the country, I never heard of this three years ago and all of a sudden now we are talking about nine, ten -- ten of them coming here and doing that.
Q. Coach, everybody looked at your schedule at the beginning of this season. It was one of the reasons why nobody thought -- or not a lot of people thought you would be here now that you have gone through this schedule and handled the way you and your team have. How much is that going to be a positive for you going into the game tomorrow night?
COACH MEYER: As much as you would like to play all IAAs, I enjoy -- I tell you I love a 65-0 game. That's a lot of fun. That's a lot of fun. The 17-16s, and we were hanging on at the end of the game, that causes gray hairs and ulcers and everything else. But it also strengthens and toughens your outfit and gets them in situations that you try to create in practice. We try to put them in tough situations, but you can't do that.
You learn a lot about people. You learn a lot about your football team when you get hit right in the mouth and you respond to that. We were hit in the mouth quite often this year against some very good opponents. We toughed it out and won 12 games. You don't hear me say this very often. I admire our guys. I really do. They have earned that admiration because they got hit right in the sock a few times and came through it. That was a tough schedule.
Q. Coach, you talked about how your preparation will end at 6:30 tomorrow when the ball is kicked off. What does that mean for the last 36 hours before a game?
COACH MEYER: We have a saying and our captain says it, you know, Cornelius, workweek is done, which means the physical work is done, now it is -- the old Don James' theory is the 48-hour rule; in 48 hours nothing bad goes in your body, you get your rest, you prepare to go to battle. And we believe that. We live it. Our guys really believe -- today, Friday is a big day for us. It is a big day of preparation. It is also a big day of getting them to relax a little bit, too. We do some things with our team, we have a routine our team loves, our coaches love. We don't kill them. When it is time to be intense, it is extremely intense. When it is time to relax, it is very relaxed.
We really enjoy -- our players look forward to today. Today is our Friday. We call them the best Fridays in football. I hear them talk about it. I hear our former players come back, a bunch of them are here, and talk about the best Fridays in football. It is one of the great days we have for preparation.
Q. Coach, I imagine being a head coach at Florida and Ohio State, best coaching jobs in the country, what goes into making those jobs the best in the country and are there others?
COACH MEYER: I tell you what, it is hard to say there are better ones than that. That's all I know because I have worked at both of the places.
I think -- the first thing, I think the thing that makes a place great if you are at a real academic school -- if you are at a school that says you are academic and you're not, and you are dealing with just issue after issue after issue, we are clear when we go out and recruit young people that you are going to go to class and our job is not to baby-sit you. And we make that clear. If you are one of those guys that are interested in something other than that, there are plenty of places to go.
I remember it was the same way when I was at Ohio State, when Coach Bruce was the coach. It was very clear, the program, the University, it is very clear. Some people want to be a part of that, some don't.
That's what I think. When I was looking and when I was offered the job at Florida, a lot of people thought I looked at the stadium size, I didn't. I looked at the resource available to make sure the kids would graduate. I knew it was competitive in the classroom. That was very high on our list. That's what I think makes the Floridas and the Ohio States premiere places, is because you are getting real student athletes playing the game of football.
I think it is great for the country to see these two schools playing for a national championship because they do it the right way.
Q. Urban, both you coaches have had so much time to prepare and you talk about preparedness. But once the game starts, how important is it to make adjustments? Both teams will probably show things that the other guy hasn't seen?
COACH MEYER: I think that's -- because we both -- you know, they talk about our spread offense. Make no mistake about it, Ohio State runs a spread offense. The very different game plans, and you look at the Texas and the Michigan, and that was a very spread offense to get their athletes space and create matchup issues.
So I think any time you face that type of offense, I can just speak for us, that's very -- the first two series is going to set the game plan for the rest of the day because there is really not that many different ways to play it. You either decide to pack them in or spread them out or -- I don't want to get too much into it. The first two series are very critical to find out how they will play you.
It is much different when you are in a closed formation because there is just way too much. When you are spread, there is very few -- the defensive coaches need to make -- have a plan and usually can see it a lot quicker when you are in a spread set.
Q. Yesterday President Machen took issue with Nick Saban's contract at Alabama. Have you a fairly lucrative contract and getting substantial bonuses for being in this game. Given the amount of money coaches are making, is it time to talk about players sharing in that wealth somewhat?
COACH MEYER: Wow, I don't know. I rather talk about Chris Leak. I don't have any idea. I don't have any thought.
Q. Speaking of Chris Leak, Urban, I was just wondering, if you took his stats from the outside and you looked at a guy that led his team to the national championship game, you think he lived a pretty carefree life. He has been skewered a lot. I am wondering if that's the focus of today's message board society where guys get killed during the season and they have to deal with that? Or do you think some of the scrutiny is warranted?
COACH MEYER: I don't know. I don't really care about that stuff. I do remember there was a basketball coach that I come home and picked up the newspaper and listened and driving to work because I -- I was just driving to work and he talked about what a lousy basketball coach and he can't win the big game and maybe it's time and all this. And they are talking about some guy named Billy Donovan who lost three games in a row, and then I flipped on Jimmy Buffett and said I'm good, worry about my kids and players and go.
The unique thing about Chris Leak and Tim Tebow, people make a big deal about it, they are focused on winning games. If they are focused on other things that I know young people sometimes do, I think that disrupts their attack mode.
Chris Leak had a very fine year against the top defenses in America. If he is getting killed, I will tell you what, if he wins this game he will be one of the two top quarterbacks to play at Florida. You are measured by wins and championships. He won the SEC championship. And now he will be measured if he can compete for the national championship.
Q. Urban, two questions for you. First of all, in regards to Troy Smith, he obviously is a player who has played his best in big games. In your experience why is that? Obviously a guy has to prepare and be talented. But do you see a common thread in guys who do that?
COACH MEYER: I think that. I think they let him play now. That's like -- I know -- they are going to be very aggressive in letting him play. Some of the games where they didn't have the statistics, it was more of a closed game plan. And I would imagine against Florida we are going to see the whole kitchen sink like Michigan. In that game plan against Michigan they did a great job. Same thing against Texas where the checkers were fairly even. Those are very talented teams.
So he plays best his big game for a lot of reasons, mostly him. He is one of those kind of guys. He is an experienced guy. I know Troy Smith. I have known him as a young player. I think great players play their best in those type of games.
Q. What else is in the CD player? Just Buffett?
COACH MEYER: That's it.
Q. Coach, with you and Coach Tressel being born in Ohio, what similarities do you follow with him or what things do you have in common with him at all?
COACH MEYER: I know Jim. I can't say I know him that way. He left Ohio State the year before Coach Bruce brought me in as his graduate assistant. I can't tell you I followed him my first spring practice as a new head coach, I was 36 years old and I went and visited Bill Snyder. Went and visited some other people. I made sure Jim Tressel was one of the guys I visited.
I drove down from Bowling Green to watch his whole operation and watch a head coach who I respect go to work.
Other than that, I can't say we are real close because we're not. We talk maybe once or twice a year and it is strictly business and staff issues or off-season program issues. Other than that, the common theme is we both worked for a great coach in Earl Bruce. That's about it.
Q. Urban, you may have something more in common with Jim if you win the championship on Monday night, your second year you take over, you could win the title. Jim did that. Why has this team come together so quickly with you taking over and are you surprised by it?
COACH MEYER: I was asked that question many times. If you were to ask me a year ago, no chance, no chance. If you ask me now, I think we probably should have done that because we have 21 seniors that played their best year of football.
It is a great little thing we do all the time, I do all the time and I talk to the team about it all the time. When you look at a championship team and you look across that front row with a team picture, every one of those kids played the best year of their football and they did it the right way, you are probably a champion. The front row is always your seniors. Reggie Lewis and Tremaine McCollum and all these guys, Brian Crum, never played a down and they are playing their best year of football. That's why we are where we are at. Ray McDonald, two ACL surgeries, probably 5, 10% chance of him coming back the way he did. He is the guy that made up that 90% with will, attitude and great effort. That's why we won. I would have said absolutely not.
After watching our little deal we did last night, I know why we are here, it is because of those 21 seniors.
Q. Urban, with so many prominent players and recruits on your team, what does it mean to have a player like Tim Higgins on your squad and what satisfaction do you get in finally getting him into a game?
COACH MEYER: Tim Higgins. Good question. We had 90,000 people screaming at me to put him in the game and I did. He is our Rudy. He spoke last night at our little deal we do with the seniors. Had trouble speaking, that's how emotional he was. He came to Florida because he sat and watched the Army All-American game he could go. He could go to Ivy league or go to a smaller school and play. Chris Leak said I am going to Florida and come with me and win the national championship. He did that at the All-American Bowl.
Tim Higgins watched and said I will go to Florida to help them win a national championship and he helped get us where we are at because he is a great worker.
Q. Urban, I talked to your dad before that Missouri game, your first game as Bowling Green's head coach. I said, Hey, are you proud of your son, he is a D1 head coach now. He said to me, He hasn't done anything yet. What has it been like -- what's been the most important thing over those five or six years to get from you that first game as Bowling Green's head coach to where you are now?
COACH MEYER: I have said this many times, too. Everybody is asking that question. I think I am really good at a couple things and that's surrounding myself with unbelievable people. I have the best staff in college football, and I got some really good players. You take Alex Smith out of that equation at Utah, and I'm not the head coach at Florida. I am the first one to recognize that. And our staff is the first one to recognize that.
You take Chris Leak and Tim Tebow out or Percy Harvin out or Ray McDonald at and we are at some other Bowl and I am already home and jogging and getting back in shape and those type of things. We have had a real tendency to attract and motivate really good players. That's what's happened.
You saw it at Bowling Green with Josh Harrison and some other phenomenal football players.
Q. Coach, all season long you have said this is a good football team, not a great football team. You have been hesitant to call it a great football team. Is tomorrow the day that you finally decide whether or not this is a good or great football team?
COACH MEYER: Well, to show you how elite the greatness is, is Florida football has been around for 100 years and there has been one great team -- has been a bunch of really good teams. And I would put us in the really good category. If you find a way to play well tomorrow night and win a game, then I would put us as a great football team.
Q. Urban, since the season ended, have you looked back and analyzed what you did this year, what did you pinpoint that left you 118th in the country in penalties, is a pinch of that good because some are predicated on aggression?
COACH MEYER: Pete, you brought up the penalty thing, huh? I will remember that, Pete. No, I don't buy that. I have heard coaches and I heard people say that's okay. We are very disappointed in that. That's not something we are proud of. No, I don't buy that at all. Those are aggressive mistakes, it's okay. No, a penalty is a penalty and it usually takes you off schedule, certainly in offense and keeps drives alive on defense.
I can't answer why. I know I am disappointed and they catch it every Monday when I see it. I am in charge of special teams. We had two punt returns called back, long ones. It just so happens I get the call-back on Monday or Tuesday and saying that probably shouldn't have been a penalty but I am still dealing with that. I don't buy that fact at all, Pete, that aggressive teams still make penalties. Undisciplined teams make penalties. That's not something we are very proud of.
Q. Coach, in the SEC championship game, McFadden, 73 yards rushing on 21 carries, 50 yards under his season average. With respect to Troy Smith and Chris Leak, do you think the battle in this game will be decided against the line of scrimmage against the Ohio State's heralded running offense, also your guys' talented running game as well?
COACH MEYER: Every game is dictated by that. I can't say that about Texas Tech, because I don't know. The teams that throw 70 times, Hawaii something like that, I don't know if that's true.
Every football game is decided on whether you can run the ball or not. If you can run the football, that makes the throw game much easier. I watched Ohio State play, studied them ridiculously for the last 30 days. They will run the football at you, but they are not stubborn enough to run it against all those unblocked people when they start in the box.
For Florida to win the game, we have to run the ball, have to. That means our offense line will have to handle arguably the best defensive front they played all year. For Ohio State to win the game, I'm sure the coach would say the same thing. Pittman has got to get going or you can bracket people, double-team people because you are a single gap defense.
If -- I'm sorry. If you are two-gap defense, which means you are putting more people on the back end, you are very concerned about giving up the run. The two big plays that knocked it over the edge against Michigan were the two-run plays, off tackle -- simple off-tackle power play against a two-gap defense and then a great run from another guy with a defense that was spread out covering people. That's the chess match that goes on during the course of the game.
Q. Everyone knows about what Troy Smith does physically and what he brings to the game. As you have watched them on film, does something innate as his leadership skills, does that come through on film?
COACH MEYER: I think so. I don't know that you have to be around the kid to know that. The way he plays. The biggest thing that comes across on film is his ability to make something out of nothing and that what makes him so dangerous.
Q. You were talking just to follow up -- you were talking about how important players are to a coach's success. Just follow up what you asked earlier, how would you feel about a proposal that would give player a small stipend or something for helping you reach a Bowl game like this. I am not talking about a lot of money, but just something, just a significant stipend?
COACH MEYER: Well, we tried to -- I'm sure most programs do, you get stipends, you get per diems, you get all those types of things for Bowl games. We try to -- we give them every cent they can possibly get. I am a big proponent of that.
I heard the story about Ohio State had the families that were going to get together to raise money. That's nonsense. To think about that and all this money being shuffled around and here is a star player whose mom can't afford to go out there, that's not right. I certainly don't have the answer because the first thing that happens in college football is there is creative coaches out there that try to find ways to do things and then we have to make the NCAA staff double what it is to watch for that.
I certainly don't have the answer to that. I think that is a little out of whack when you start seeing some of this other stuff going. And then the families having a spaghetti dinner so they can watch their son play in the national championship game. That's not right.
Q. Urban, people in charge of this game have said they wanted to make it less like an ordinary Bowl experience and more concentration on the teams -- could concentrate more on the preparation for the game. Is that the way you wanted to do it? Do you feel like that's going to be the tone for this game in the future?
COACH MEYER: I think it is the best I have ever been around. That's a great credit to the Fiesta Bowl staff who I have known for a couple years now. Our hotel, I was very concerned about that. Man, they got that locked down. And the practices were locked down so they have done a great job.
Usually at Bowls it is a cluster for a while trying to get things organized. But they have done -- if that was a trend, they have done a very good job. It has been all football.
Q. Urban, what are your thoughts about the uniqueness of college football with the time lapse between the regular season and the tournament title?
COACH MEYER: I will let you know after the game. Sitting here on Thursday, Friday, the day before a game, I feel great about it. I was very concerned and a lot of time spent on trying to make sure we were organized. I know we played two more games than Ohio State, so I feel a little better maybe than they do. I don't know that. But I was very concerned about it. I think we managed it well.
I kind of like -- it's the Super Bowl of college football and I think college football needed that. I will tell you about the lay-off if that really crushed us more after the game.
Q. Kind of the same thing, Urban. What do you think about playing a championship less than a month before signing day? Is there a logistical problem?
COACH MEYER: We certainly had -- for example, Ohio State, they had two weeks plus on us recruiting because we were preparing for FSU and then preparing for the SEC championship, rather important games, in Gainesville. Those are two really important games.
So we prepared for those. Our coaches weren't on the road. They were simply making phone calls and the other staffs were out recruiting. And then you go and I had to pull guys off the road. Our coordinators did not recruit during the next three weeks because we were getting ready to play. We were behind but we also had a 30-day commercial for recruiting. Everybody watching Chris Leak and our defense. So I am concerned about it, but we are doing just fine in recruiting.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts