|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
December 5, 2008
COACH URBAN MEYER: It's an honor to be here again, second time in three years, and our goal every year is to somehow find a way to make it to Atlanta. We're also very honored to represent the eastern side of the Southeastern Conference, one of the most competitive conferences and one of the most competitive divisions in any conference in college football, so with that I'll answer any questions.
Q. Earlier in the week the Alabama players were marveling at their own coach's ability to adjust defensively during a game. As you've watched film, are you marveling at that, as well?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I don't marvel a lot. I respect -- have great respect for the adjustments, and I make this comment very often. If you truly love football, and not all the stuff but truly love the game of football, blocking, tackling, efficiency, ball security, all the ways to win a game, these two teams are very similar. Obviously I've watched them afar during the course of the year. We didn't play Alabama, but at the end of the year that's something I really enjoy doing is analyzing statistical evaluation of each team and where we're at. And they're fantastic, but so are the Gators. All the power stats, these top two teams are right there, and power stats being passing efficiency, turnover ratio, red zone production, red zone defense, rush defense, rush offense. Those are all very similar.
Q. As a competitor, when you face this type of a defense on a team, is this something that you really enjoy and your staff really enjoys, the competition of facing a defense that as you said is in the top five in pretty much every defensive category?
COACH URBAN MEYER: No, I really enjoy the ones that are awful, and in the third quarter you're thinking about something other than the game (laughter). You think I'm kidding? I'm serious (laughter).
No, do I enjoy the challenge and the fact that -- we study coaches' defense. I mean, we put a lot of time, a lot of effort into this. All you want as a coach is to put your players in a position to win that game. It's not coach versus coach, it's not all the chess match stuff, it's just get your guys into position to somehow make a play and win the game, and I think we've done that. We've had a good week of preparation. Now it's going to be the management.
To answer your question, this will be one of the more intriguing as far as the first two, three series of a game you get to find out how a team plays you. We're going to do a lot of formations early like we always do, and here's what we do, and we have packages to go to after that. The first three series will be really intriguing as far as our offense versus their defense.
Q. You guys are averaging more yards rushing than passing, but sometimes the perception of the spread offense is you're just flinging it around all over the place. Why is that? Is that just a factor of having Tim back there?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, we've always been -- I wish I had that stat in front of me. We've always been a team that has great balance. When we're not together we're not very good; we don't have balance. But we're a good football team, and our best is when we rush inside for over 400 yards.
It's almost an insult when you hear someone say, well, your offense is a gimmick offense. No, it's not. Go ahead and tackle and try and knock the heck out of you and hand the ball off, maybe do some window dressing. And maybe it looks a little different, but our focus is on the front five blocking people and running as hard as we can. We happen to have a 235-pound quarterback that runs very well, so we utilize him. It's also a single way to approach and get a guy out of the box.
It might look a little different, but fundamentally it's the same stuff.
Q. Is Percy Harvin going to play?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I have not seen him yet today. They're going to be in here a little bit later. We're going to hold him until everyone leaves, and then I'm going to make that evaluation after that.
Q. You were a guy that grew up throwing pass plays up and stuff like that and learned to throw the ball around. When did you fall in love with the single wing?
COACH URBAN MEYER: When I became a head coach at Bowling Green, we had to find a way to move the ball, and we had a terrific tailback/quarterback named Josh Harris, and we kind of put a little package together. We were young coaches at the time and said, you know what, you can also throw very efficiently, and we found out that that's a great way to get people out of the box. You can run a quarterback and still be a good throwing team, and that's very difficult to defend.
Q. Would you talk about your defensive transformation from the Bowl game last year until now, specifically your defensive line? I don't see Marcus Thomas or Harris or a few guys that have done pretty well up there.
COACH URBAN MEYER: Yeah, that was probably the low point of our tenure at Florida, the Bowl game, the way we played on defense. Very disappointed. We had two coaches -- we had a little transition, we had two coaches come in. Charlie Strong I think has done a brilliant job. It starts with personnel, and what happened is we stole a couple, or we recruited the two true freshmen playing for us now. We made some changes. But you think of the National Championship, you would think four juniors should have been coming back. They left.
And then also there was a coaching change and then also the coaching staff that came in, our staff, had a just terrible recruiting class that first year, and as a result we dipped. It was bad. I mean, we just weren't playing very well, no confidence. The maturity level was none; there was nothing there.
And then you saw the evolution of it throughout the spring, and I think we're hitting on all cylinders right now on defense. We've got some injuries on the defensive line, but Coach McCarney has found a way to make Terron Sanders and Lawrence Marsh -- they're SEC D-linemen. Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, Justin Trattou, we have some names and some guys that can play.
It starts with personnel, but I think also Dan McCarney has done a really good job with them.
Q. A lot had been written about the comments Tim Tebow made after the Ole Miss loss. What was your reaction to that and what effect do you think it had on the team?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I'm always very protective. I cringed when I first heard it because I knew you put yourself out there -- Tim Tebow didn't all of a sudden start working a little harder and start leading a little more. He's such an emotional guy. He takes everything upon himself, which is the sign of a great leader. If something doesn't work, he puts it on himself. It's the sign of an unselfish player.
But Tim Tebow is not the lone wolf. There's an offensive line that played their best football after that game. There's a secondary that gave up three big plays in that game and didn't tackle very well, and now they're playing very well. To be honest with you, I cringed when he said it. It's Tim, but Tim Tebow didn't all of a sudden say I'm going to get refocused and go real hard. He has done nothing but gone real hard since he's been here. He might have raised the level of play of some guys around him.
Q. I've got a follow-up. (Question about Dan McCarney going to Kansas City.)
COACH URBAN MEYER: I'm glad you told me (laughter).
Q. It's out there.
COACH URBAN MEYER: It's not out here. I'm usually the last one to hear a lot of stuff that's out there. I wouldn't say he's not going to Kansas City unless something ugly is going on behind my back.
Q. What was there specifically for Brandon Spikes to get? Obviously he wasn't playing as well as he needed to.
COACH URBAN MEYER: Brandon Spikes was a guy that got away from being -- he's typical of a lot of young players that are really good when they come out of high school, and they don't have to train, they don't have to lift weights at the same level, and then they come to the Southeastern Conference, and we win a National Championship, you play behind Brandon Siler, you play a little bit, have some success and everybody tells you how good you are.
Then all of a sudden you're the guy, you're the point man, you're the leader, you're the trigger, the one that makes it go, and you're not prepared for that.
Brandon Siler he was supposed to come back for one more year. That would have been a perfect learning curve for Brandon, and Brandon Spikes didn't have that opportunity. He was thrust into a position he was very uncomfortable with.
He not only has grown with that position, he's taken it almost to a new level. His leadership, his ability to raise the level of play of everyone around him, it's one of the greatest transformations I've ever seen. He's a man's man now, and he loves the game of football. He's contagious.
The center of our defense is Spikes and Major Wright. The center of our offense is Maurkice Pouncey and Tim Tebow. I'm good; I've got mine. They love the game, and it permeates through the whole team.
Q. Obviously I know you're not going to look too far past tomorrow, but National Championship implications here. The winner is still in the picture but obviously you could lose the National Championship tomorrow. Can you talk about how it's every player's dream to win a national title and trying to keep this team focused and don't put too much pressure on them looking past this game?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Too much pressure? It's there. We never, not one time throughout the course of two-a-days, we're not a team that has a pyramid of goals that lines up, and I just never believed in that. Not one time did we ever talk about a series of goals, and I know that a lot of people do.
However, the one thing we did discuss was in late November was we wanted to compete and get to Atlanta. We had to get to Atlanta somehow. I think the SEC has proven itself. I think everyone knows my feelings about the Southeastern Conference. The winner of this game should be in that game.
Obviously we certainly don't need to worry about the National Championship. It's get to Atlanta and try to find a way to win in Atlanta.
Q. I understand you made a point to try to control the wear and tear on Tebow physically a little bit more this year than last year. Can you walk us through that decision and how it's played out for you?
COACH MEYER: It's played out pretty good because we have some good tailbacks, and we are committed to running the ball. Last year we were limited. You take Rainey, Demps and Moody out of the equation, and we're a little thin. So now we have Rainey, Demps, Moody and Kestahn Moore, and we have some very functional players. We were somewhat non-functional last year at tailback position, so we had no choice. We were playing catch-up and we were in a shootout half the time. Our defense was not very good a year ago. All of a sudden we're playing a game against Georgia and every time you get the ball, you don't even think about wear and tear. Now we're at the point where we're playing solid defense, we have good tailbacks.
I remember a game last year where we had Tim I believe 28 direct snap runs against Ole Miss, or we would have lost that game. Our defense couldn't stop them, and we were unable to run the ball out. It was my decision, run right, run left, and we come out of that game with a win.
If we had to do that this year, I don't think we'd be sitting where we are right now. As a matter of fact, I know we wouldn't. Now we have some guys to hand that ball to. We have a tight end that's very functional, we have good receivers, so it's not just the Tim Tebow show.
Q. Some coaches don't want to connect the dots. Coach Saban said what happened last time he was here has nothing to do with what he'll do this time. You on the other hand played here in 2006. Talk to me about that game and specifically the one play with the fake punt and how you arrived at it.
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, momentum is a 14-point swing in college football in our estimation. I've talked to our staff about it, I talked to the players about it. Momentum is a sack, momentum is a punt return, a blocked punt, a big play on offense. And last time we were here, our offense had a reverse in that second half. We were in the noisy part of the stadium. The quarterback lost a little bit of confidence, he threw two picks, one for a touchdown, and we had to make a play.
I felt that if we didn't switch the momentum we were going to lose anyways, so let's take that shot and let's get the momentum back. We have an excellent defense so let's go play, and we tried to do that.
Big game, and we've done that -- it might not be a fake punt, but it might be a trick play, it might be a shot down the field. We put a value on momentum, and what that means is on defense, momentum will be plus nine, plus eight, and let's try to get a sack. Is that risky? It sure is because you're leaving single coverage on the outside.
Our staff is well aware of it, our players are well aware of it, and if we have to do something to get momentum back, there's a bunch of creative ways to try to do it, and yet it's risky.
Q. As a follow-up to that, how much does that relate to what Tim said after the loss to Ole Miss, and have you ever been around a team who's played at such a high level?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Our '04 team at Utah played at an extremely high level, our '06 team at Florida. We were up-and-down, we had a lot of personnel issues going on during the year. At the end of the season we were playing very well, the SEC Championship game and the National Championship game. But this team is playing as well as any team I've ever been around.
How much of it has to do with Tim's comments, I don't want to take anything away from Tim because everybody knows how I feel about it, but I think it was a group of players that were very immature that grew up throughout the off-season, and Ole Miss is a hell of a football team. They beat us that day. It wasn't because of lack of effort, a lack that we weren't focused or that we didn't tackle very well, and we had a couple turnovers on offense. We were not characteristic of our program. But that was a good team that beat Florida that day.
Afterwards, Tim, when I heard him do it, I don't think that was the changer of the season.
Q. What are you looking for to see that Percy is ready to play? Does it help that he's had to do this before, where he hasn't got a lot of practice time and played and played successfully?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Yeah, it does help him. It helps that Dallas Baker do this when they locked him down with sprained ankle. They lock it down and you don't move it. He's actually wearing a protective boot. We'll find out today. I have not seen him, though, and he was instructed not to do a thing today until we get here.
Q. The other question on the defensive line, injury to Antoine Patchan, is that going to require you to find anybody else on the inside on the two-deep?
COACH URBAN MEYER: It's Antoine Patchan, it's Troy Epps, it's Omar Hunter. There's four out of position that wasn't real good to begin with. Our guys, Jaye Howard has been able to step up. We took James Wilson and looked at him in goal line and short yardage, and there's a chance you might see him.
And we talked about Carlos Dunlap potentially having him involved, but we're hoping the four guys can hang in there that we have. We have very physical offensive linemen.
Q. You mentioned your team's strength is down the middle. Can you talk about Alabama's defense down the middle with Cody McClain and then Rashad Johnson?
COACH URBAN MEYER: And then you look at the offense, as well, the center, the quarterback, the tailback. So like I said, if I'm a 22-year-old coach and I have to figure out how to go win a game, I sit in front of the TV or somehow find a tape and watch this thing because this is classic football. The same way you won 70 years ago, 70 years from now, that's how you're going to win again. I like to sit back and certain questions look at it and say I don't have any idea why. You put together a team and you start very strong down the middle. Moving Maurkice Pouncey to center, that was a risky deal. And when Steve Addazio made that decision, he knows our feeling, and Maurkice Pouncey probably wouldn't have done it, but he understood the value of having a guy down there. Obviously Alabama is very talented right down the middle and so is Florida.
Q. Have you made any effort to understand the computer aspect of the BCS formula, or is that something that's just off your radar?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I just don't have time. I think I probably should be more because it has an impact on our futures, and I don't understand -- you know what, in the off-season I am going to do that. I'm going to read something and figure out how this is done and go. I know what happened in the Big 12, and it didn't affect us, but I asked our athletic director to make sure that we have spring meetings in the SEC, which we do. There's a lot of stuff covered that I have no interest in. I think that a tie-breaker -- the BCS is involved in a Southeastern Conference tie-breaker, but I think it's No. 7. In my opinion it shouldn't be No. 7, it should be No. 36 if you get that far.
To answer your question, I will do some research on that, and I think our conference needs to make sure that all coaches are aware that that will have an impact.
Imagine being in the Big 12 right now and that's the reason a certain team is going or not going. The coach is the one that has to walk in front of their team, have a team meeting, and say, now, by the way, you guys played your rear ends off, but let me explain to you something. What's this all about? Yes, I am going to do research on that.
Q. You have won 11 games by 23 points or more. That's a great stat. Looking at it from the other direction, you haven't been in a close game but once. Should that be an issue at all?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Very concerned, and we started at the FSU game, every Tuesday and Wednesday night we do a two-minute drill at the end. That's a very real concern of ours. We're not going to put them in a full scrimmage situation; we're not healthy enough to do that. But to answer your question, it's a concern, and we've done a lot of extra work at the end of practice in two-minute situations.
Q. Going back to just a couple questions ago, you talked about the classic football and both teams are strong up the middle. Can you elaborate on that just because the public perception of the team is these two teams couldn't be any more opposite in the way they play football, but from what you're saying, because of the battle that will be going on in the trenches, I guess, is it's really not that different?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I've got to watch how I say this. I think they're identical. I think it looks a little different, but you watch their team, and maybe Coach Saban doesn't feel that way, but as a football coach we take great pride in the strength of our team, the offensive line on our team. You watch them play, it's the same thing. They have great pride.
Now, we maybe motion a little bit more. We do a few spread sets, but at the end of the day we want to run the ball for 230 yards a game; that's our strength right now. We want to take care of the football. The turnover ratio, the one game we failed at we didn't take care of the ball. Alabama efficiency, you can tell they work on it because they're very good at it. So are the Gators.
I can go on and on and on, but like I said, in this profession I'm going to really study how these two teams -- it's not just our two teams, there's other great teams out there, but this is very traditional, how these two teams got here.
Q. Nick Saban was talking about how he thinks it's time for the coaching profession to address that you need to be able to help guys that have used up their eligibility, they should be able to come back and you should be able to pay for them to go to school. Would you be in favor of that, or do you agree that that's an issue that needs to be addressed?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Not 24 hours before we play Alabama I don't (laughter). I'll hit you next week about that (laughter). I don't want to devalue that, but I'm devaluing that right now. We've got to go play a game. I agree with that. That's all good.
Q. This might be another 24-hour question. Are you surprised that this is the first game between 1 and 2 teams that are both in the SEC?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I am a little surprised about that, I think. All the great teams, I love the history of the Southeastern Conference. When I heard that, I was a little surprised.
End of FastScripts