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January 7, 2009

Urban Meyer


Q. Given the tough, physical nature of the last two games you played in the regular season, Florida State and Alabama, was it good for you or bad for you in terms of the competition? And how is the injury situation with Percy?
COACH URBAN MEYER: It's always good to play top-flight competition, especially when you're on a roll, and I felt our team at the end of the year in that fourth quarter, really the game against FSU and then that Alabama game, that's as fine a football as I've been around. I was very proud of our team and our preparation and the way they played.
With it comes risk, and the risk is if we had to play this game any earlier than January 8th, I don't think we've had a chance to win just because of our injury situation. We lost four players in that Alabama game and then Percy Harvin did not play and Brandon Antwine didn't play.
The good thing is January 8th we should be fairly healthy. We should -- I like the way Percy Harvin had limited practice yesterday, went full practice the day before, today he'll do some stuff, but we are expecting him to be close to full speed, and Carl Johnson is going to be ready to go, Louis Murphy and Kestahn Moore, who actually had cartilage surgery right after the Alabama game will be ready to go, as well.

Q. Could you talk about the intangibles with your quarterback in Tim Tebow and maybe what you see in preparing for Sam Bradford, some either similarities or things that separate the two?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, quarterback is a unique position, and it's -- all eyes are on the quarterback, not so much to the country, but all eyes -- when a guy calls a play, when a guy on 4th down and 1, he's the guy that has to make it go. So the ability of a quarterback to get those around him playing at high levels.
I'll hear something about Tim's throwing motion or the NFL is looking for -- I sometimes get confused. Do they want a guy that's going to lead a team to win games? I don't know if there's any better than Tim. Coach Stoops and I are friends, and he's often told me about Sam, and you can see that on film. The one play that sticks out in my mind with the quarterback we're playing is not the throwing, it's the play on the 4-yard line where he laid out to go try to score a touchdown. You have to be a leader, you have to show toughness, and you have to have the ability to raise the level of play of people around you.
Our quarterback, I can't imagine there's a better one in America doing that.

Q. When you started your coaching career, did you set goals for yourself in terms of I want to be an assistant, a coordinator, a head coach at a certain time? As a little of a follow-up, could you see yourself doing this job into your 70s like a Paterno or a Bowden?
COACH URBAN MEYER: You know, when I was very young my father and I went to a game, University of Cincinnati versus Wichita State. I want to say I was eight, nine years old, at Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati. We were walking by the sideline, and I still to this day remember and saying, I want to be a coach, watching what was going on on the sideline.
To answer your question, I did not have goals set out, by this time I want to do this, this, this and this. I wanted to coach football, and I knew that at a very early age, even when I was tacking a baseball route for a while. I knew at some point I would want to be involved in football.
There will be no chance I'll be doing this in my 70s or 80s.

Q. Can you talk about your offensive line this year. When you started the season you really had four guys who weren't playing -- starting on offensive line the year before and how they've been able to mesh together?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I think this is a great story line for young coaches and people who admire football. You keep hearing about Bradford and Tebow, and what you're really going to see is probably the two best offensive lines in America going against each other. There's the reason for the success those quarterbacks have. It's not the scheme. Oklahoma runs a very up-tempo offense that's hard to defend, but it's hard to defend because they have very good players and it starts up front. The quarterback has a very good ability to go from the first read to the second read to the third read probably as good as any quarterback I've ever seen do. However, if you have a bad offensive line, by the time he looks at the second read he's getting hit.
Same thing with Tim Tebow. He has an excellent cast around him. This is the best offensive line I've been around, and I've been around some really good ones. They're great people, they love the game of football, there's energy in practice, they're motivated, and it's just a great study. If you really study the game of football, all the quarterback stuff is real interesting and the receivers and everybody else, but it all starts with the offensive line, and we have our best offensive line. I haven't been at Florida more than four years, but it blows every other offensive line away.

Q. When you watch Oklahoma's offense on tape, how different is what they do from what you guys have seen this year?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, on videotape it isn't as different because you don't see the TV copy and you don't see -- when you're involved in the tempo. What you see is a good group of players executing at a high level. You don't understand you have substitution limitations because of tempo, you have the fatigue factor and you have the chaos factor where you like to line up. The positive is we've had three weeks to prepare and we've been operating at a very high level of chaos on defense trying to get lined up and be ready to go. They create a lot of plays because teams are misaligned.
TCU is a perfect example. They were playing their tails off and even the coach Gary Patterson made a comment he screwed them up because he was talking when the play was snapped. We have to get lined up and get ready to go. That's a problem.
The personnel is a problem. I'd like to play a team that does this with really bad players, and it's not a problem. It's the fact that they're really good.

Q. Coaches from USC, Utah and Texas are claiming that they should be -- they're going to vote themselves No. 1, the coaches are, in the National Championship, in that poll. What are your thoughts on that and their arguments for a National Championship?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, that's absolutely what they should do. I've got news; I'm representing University of Florida, and I'm an employee of the University of Florida and I represent my players, most of all I'm going to fight like a dog to take care of them.
I made a comment two years ago that the University of Florida belonged in the National Championship game, and then all of a sudden, boom, it is Coach Meyer is out there -- what was the term?

Q. "Lobbying".
COACH URBAN MEYER: I love that term. I was lobbying. I simply said that we belonged in the game. But I'm an employee of the University of Florida. More importantly I love my players and represent my players. You don't really understand the whole mechanics, investment and passion that these coaches have. If a coach would win a game with 13-1 or Utah team and not fight for their players, that's not a good coach. Of course they should do that.

Q. Can you talk about Scot Loeffler. He has a previous relationship with Tim. How important was that in the hiring process?
COACH URBAN MEYER: It wasn't that important. The quality of coach is the No. 1 thing. I would imagine that Tim is very comfortable with him. But I talked to quite a few coaches at the NFL level and college level. The University of Florida job, it's not hard to find people that want it. I wanted to wait until after the game, but what happens is a guy like Scot starts getting a lot of job offers and we've got to get going, and I certainly don't want to distract -- that has nothing to do with this game. That's why we released it afterwards. Very happy to have him part of our staff, and I'll address that more after the game.

Q. If you could address, again, you mentioned there's no way you're going to be coaching in your 70s and 80s. Is it the rigors of the game? Obviously you guys are very competitive. Is it just the nature of the beast now that maybe you don't want to do the Paterno thing?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, I don't know if you'll ever see that again. You certainly won't see it at the same institution. People get tired of you and they want to run you out of town; you see that all the time. You're a missed field goal away from being a bum with everybody else; that's just part of the deal (laughter). All coaches know that now. It's not like quite what happened to this guy. You know what happened. You have about two, three years to get your program going. So I don't see doing that.
The wear and tear on coaching is -- I imagine it's like it's never been with recruiting 24/7, 12 months a year, it's a tough lifestyle.

Q. Whoever wins this game will have the first head coach to win two BCS National Championships. What does that mean to you?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, it's very humbling when you start thinking of all the great head coaches out there and great coaching staffs. Other than that, I just worry about 3rd down and 6 and make sure our punting is ready to go (laughter).

Q. Talk about the difficulties in dealing with Oklahoma's up-tempo offense, no-huddle. And what have you done in practice to try to get ready for that?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, everything we've done is no-huddle and up-tempo, so we're getting a multitude of plays. They average over 80 plays a game compared to we average I think in the 50s or 60s. But their intent was to run as many plays as they can.
The biggest thing I think that's going to happen in this game is all great offensive, when we consider them a great offense, we consider the Gators a great offense. If you allow them to start anywhere other than deep into our territory, we can't have that happen. It's turnovers and coverage units. So we start talking about their great offense, if you keep them pinned back and on a long field as I'm sure that's the feeling that's really -- what this game is all about is making a team drive the length of the field and not giving them short ones, I think that's what's going to be the difference in this game.

Q. Could you just talk about any hard and fast rules you might have in terms of advice that you give to underclassmen who want to come out. And if you get definitive feedback from the NFL that Tim Tebow will not be a first-round draft choice, would you use that to convince him to stay?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, I use that myself, and when I'm asked that advice -- when I first got to Florida there were people that made decisions, I'm never going to force my opinion on someone. Now I have to -- I have the kind of team that players and coaches are real close. When we first got there the coaches were the bad guys. Now I have -- starting with guys like Reggie Nelson and those guys are open, this guy is calling me, "What do I do, Coach?" You're like a father.
It's really tremendous. The guys that will make decisions at Florida from here on out will make very fine decisions. When I say fine, I don't know if it's the right one. It's going to be a decision based on education, that they've talked to the right people, they've done their homework, they've done their research. It's not with some agent, not what some third uncle is going to tell them. He'll be on the phone with Bill Belichick, John Grudens of the world, general managers, Jack Del Rios, guys that I have good relationships with. If they want to talk to those people, talk to them, but make the right decision. That's a family decision.
I know the guys that we have will make the right decision.

Q. Will you convince Tim to stay?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Will I convince him? Absolutely not. I'd put him on the phone with the right people and lay it all on the table and have his mother, his father, and if he wants a brother there, but no one else. I don't want -- if someone wants to put their advisor in there, then they're in the wrong place.

Q. Last year you talked about how you had some tough guys but you didn't have a tough team. Could you talk about how this has evolved from last year into what you have called a tough team?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Personnel, maturity, and I think our assistant coaches have done a great job, starting with Mickey Marotti, developing toughness. We've recruited toughness. Last year's team was not a tough team. Last year's team was just not very tough.
Our team two years ago really turned out to be -- 4th down and 1 against Ohio State on the 25-yard line, that showed its toughness. This team showed its toughness. This is a very -- this is one of the toughest teams I've been around.

Q. What are your thoughts on an early signing day?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Early signing day? Ooh, 3rd down and 6 against Oklahoma here. I need some time to regroup on that one (laughter).

Q. For your kids who were there two years ago and experiencing this again, do you rely on them to tell the younger kids what this is all about, what it means, and not to get too caught up in it and just to play your game?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Not really, because I would draw upon it if we had a bunch of guys who played in that game. Our left tackle Phil Trautwein I believe is our only starter. Tim Tebow played and Percy Harvin but they weren't starters. If I had to do that because of immaturity and a team walking around -- the hotel we're staying at is doing a tremendous job, we're not seeing a lot of problems in that hotel.
No, we're talking about the plan to win, we're talking about how we're going to execute and how we're going to win this game. I would if I had to, but I don't feel like I have to.

Q. Could you talk about this game from a special teams standpoint, the return game, the kicking game and things, and how the impact and how you feel like you may be able to use those things to your advantage?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, we're facing great athletes and the minute you face great athletes and miss a tackle you have a problem. We have worked as hard at the kicking game the last three weeks as we have for a Bowl game. I don't know how to say this other than I really believe for us to win this game or have a chance to win this game we have to be dominant as far as field position and return yards, and if we don't do that, then I don't know if Florida can win this game.

Q. I have a question on transfers: When a player decides to transfer from Florida what type of restrictions do you put on that player in terms of what school he can attend?
COACH URBAN MEYER: We normally put the -- normally, I've made exceptions if there's family issues so they can do what they have to do. But if it's because of playing time or because of something that is the player's issue, not a family issue, then they're not allowed to go to someone we play against. That's about it.

Q. What do you think of the possibility in the future of a real playoff system in college football?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Playoff system? I think at some point in time it might happen. I didn't believe that a few years ago, but I feel now the discussion is out of control. I can't imagine any guy that enjoys football not discussing that wherever he's at. So I imagine at some point that might happen now.

Q. You always use the term "professionalism" when talking about your team. What exactly does that mean? And how do you get a bunch of college kids to act like professionals?
COACH URBAN MEYER: It's hard. What I mean by that is there's some people their profession is to write articles, and there's other professions that you build buildings, you're an architect, you're a classroom teacher. If you let something get in the way of that, then you're not very good at your job. Our job for some reason these kids are all blessed enough to play at University of Florida. Make no mistake about it, that's their job, to get an education and play football. If there's a lot of other things that get in the way of that, then they're usually pretty lousy at what they do, they're a lousy football player and a lousy student and lousy at both because other things get in the way.
I admire guys that -- when I say "professionalism," if a young person, his body doesn't feel like because his hamstring is tight and he ignores it, then he's not a professional, he's just playing football and he'll get beat out. If his whole waking life is spent on being a good student and a great football player, there's a good chance that hamstring is going to get healthy because he'll play well.
There's a great chance he won't make a mistake during the course of a game because he's studied it and worked it. That's his profession. That's why he's here. This is as professional a team as I've ever been around as far as taking care of their business and focused on what's important.

Q. Would you agree or disagree that in a game this big, this important to these young men, it can sometimes come out too fired up, too emotional and do you address that?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Sure, I have to watch what I say. Coach Holtz gave me one of the greatest pieces of advice, and the way he said it was -- he said it about three times, because I kept asking him the question, he said, Play the game January 8th at 8:30. Do not play it early January, do not play it on Thursday before the game. Play it on January 8th.
We have not used -- we're pretty well known as far as we do a lot of motivational things as it gets closer to game time. Whether it be speeches, whether it be hitting tables, whether it is to get guys going, there won't be a lot of that. Take the right step, focus on your job and your responsibility. This year will not be when you walk in that arena and the flashbulbs, that is a very critical element, especially guys who have not played in this. How we start the game I think is going to be critical because momentum is very important. You don't want to put Tim in a bad situation. You want to let him get into this game.
All those things you just said, that's a great question, and that's something that we have -- whatever we do, it's going to be well thought out. I'm not sure it's going to work, but it's going to be at least well thought out.

Q. There's been a lot of speculation about the quality of Big 12 defenses, and I'm wondering what you've seen watching film if you can tell anything from that?
COACH URBAN MEYER: We had to change our whole breakdown on Oklahoma, and we call it competitive snaps. What happens is you get 670 snaps that you try to break down or whatever, 12 games time 800, 900 snaps of football. You take that and probably cut it right in half because they're just beating the mess out of teams and you get to the third and fourth quarter, and you can take all the statistical analysis out of it from there.
I think what's happened -- I don't think, I know what's happened to Oklahoma, a little bit of what happened to us in the second half of the year, your backups are in there, you're way ahead, you start throwing the ball all over the place, you take a hit statistically. So I see a fine defense, I see an excellent defense that we're getting ready to face, especially when you look at the competitive snaps.
Some competitive snaps are over in the first quarter. So basically you've got three quarters of non-competitive snaps. But the competitive snaps we've evaluated, they play at a very high level on defense.

Q. I wish you would discuss your relationship with Coach Stoops when it began, your friendship, whatever, and then just your impressions of him as a head coach.
COACH URBAN MEYER: I think we've run very similar programs. He's a guy that started a little earlier than I did, and I've always believed in family involvement. I can't imagine going to work and not having your children come by the office or having them come by practice every Thursday like we do. I'm finally at that point in my life where I know that will never happen again. I've been places like that where it's kind of a bad word to have your wife come by and have lunch with her or your children come up and hang around the players, and Coach Stoops is one of those guys a lot like us -- you look at Oklahoma and Florida, the families are there and the families are around, and when I hire a coach I'll make sure that I interview the spouse to make sure that -- I won't hire guys, "that's my family time." Well, your family time involves our players, so go look elsewhere. I think that's probably why I admire him and what I've taken from him as a defensive coach.
I'm kind of an offensive coach, we're kind of from the same area. But everything I've heard about Bob Stoops is why I kind of entrusted a phone call to him four or five years ago, not because the relationship was that tight, it was just because I kind of admired what he did.

Q. Players and coaches listen to what the media says sometimes, whether you admit it or not, I believe, and it's almost unanimous that people believe Florida is going to win. Do you think your coaches and your players see that as a confidence and a positive thing, or is there added pressure because of that?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, if I had my druthers I'd rather coach a very mean, angry, nasty upset team, and somehow asked if that's the way I'm going to be here the next two days, I have to get that to that point. I feel the team -- I don't know if they've really had a chance to -- maybe I'll give them too much time in the next day or two that they'll start reading that. They haven't had time. I don't get the sense that this is an entitled team walking around like we're going to win this game. They have a very clear understanding.
The best thing our team does, they watch film. They spend more time watching film than someone's blog or someone's reports that Florida is going to win. We have to defeat that team we're playing, and they're really good.

Q. 33 days since you've participated in watching your team play, as well as you've probably ever had a team play for you. Is there a best thing about having a month off to get ready for this?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Well, we were in a unique situation. We had injuries and we were done. If we had to play a January 1st Bowl game, we would not have won that game. Really no chance of winning that game. January 8th gives us another chance, that game. You have the three knees and you have the high ankle sprain, you're right at the -- thank God it was just those. That's No. 1.
No. 2 is it's just great for our university and great for recruiting. We were in the first game and they separated from the other Bowls two years ago, and it was tremendous. You know, every night you walk home, you flip it on, there's a commercial for the Gators and a commercial for our players, which is all very -- I love the system the way they have it set up right now. I think it's tremendous.

Q. One of the themes of the week has been speed, particularly your speed. How does speed manifest in a football game? A fast team, where exactly does it take advantage of a speed advantage?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I think every element. But also, we've coached against teams with great speed that the speed is not utilized. Speed running into a big pile of people and getting tackled is not utilizing speed, so we run a style of play, I'm speaking offensively, where we try to match that speed against some inferior speed and let them go to work in the open field. That's how we utilize or manifest, your term, that's how we try to utilize that speed.
But also, it's much deeper than that on our punt block unit or punt return unit, we have a lot of tremendous amount of athleticism in that group, and when you recruit you can start utilizing it in other areas.
And also it's unselfish speed. I use Jeff Demps. Jeff Demps is the fastest player out there, 10 flat 100 meters. Someone told me he's the fastest running back to ever play the game. If that's true, then he's also the fastest left missile on kickoff and our fastest No. 7 on punt block unit, and he understands he's as important in those units as carrying the ball. That's how we utilize the speed.

Q. An article came out with SAT scores of football players being so much lower than the rest of the student bodies, but yet you've got a graduation rate, for example, 13 for 13 this year. Could you talk about your commitment to academics and how things have improved at Florida since you've been there?
COACH URBAN MEYER: Sure, I can do that for an hour. It's good recruiting time here. I heard that, something about the SATs were lower, and I think one of the great things about college football, it's given people opportunities that wouldn't go to Florida -- some people say they shouldn't have that right. I think SATs are just a small component of what makes a person successful, in my opinion very small. I think a guy that's a captain of a football team, a captain of some extracurricular activity, the ability to get around and meet ability, the ability to perform in front of 25 million people on national television, if you had to say what's more important, SAT score or that, I know exactly what I want to be around, those kind of people that can perform in an arena and handle the media like this and have the ability to communicate and I think that's what college football teaches those guys. I'm real proud of what our program has done.
If we have a little lower SATs, then I have no problem with that. If our graduation rate dips and we start acting not the right way, I have a real problem with that. Your head coach at Florida, I can't remember what it was, I don't think your head coach at Florida had a real high SAT, but he's okay at the other stuff he does.

Q. Following up on that, Dr. Machen has apparently set out a mandate to his students that school is to happen on Friday as if no game were being played Thursday night. Do you have something in place for your athletes to be able to get through their work, as well? And for some of the guys like Antwine who played a good part of the season and contributed and who are now out, can you talk about how you kind of feel for your guys?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I don't want to beat that up too bad, but I've got my mind thinking right now about this SAT question, and you mentioned a guy like Brandon Antwine. Brandon Antwine a year ago had an issue with his back where the muscles in the lower back actually died and he was in a wheelchair for two months and in the hospital for three weeks, and he battled through that. He also finished the semester with a decent GPA. He came out this year and was told he'd never play football again yet alone have trouble walking, and he fought through that. I don't think he had a high enough SAT to go some places but he fought through that.
This year he came out against all medical experts who said there's no chance he could do what he did, and by the end of the year he's one of our best players. You're talking about Brandon Antwine. He goes out and earned a starting spot, was playing at the highest level of football he's ever played, tears his knee apart in the FSU game or it might have been before the FSU game, just a devastating injury. And Brandon Antwine has learned how to fight, he's learned how to do quite a few things that present because of his experience in college.
To answer your question about the week, very concerned about that, especially at a high level institution like Florida because they are going to be behind. We've asked our players to focus on the task at hand, to win this game, and then everything is in place once we get back to catch up. It's not like we're having -- we just don't have time with all the functions and practice going on. We've discussed that, but we've made the decision that we accelerate the process once we get back.

Q. In a non-religious way, how important is faith on this team, just faith in each other? Have you seen it grow since the beginning of the season?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I'm going to tell you in a religious way, it's deeper than any program I've been a part of. There's a multitude of reasons. We have a team passion that's off the charts. We had a service last night, and it's not like I'm making them do this. The players want to do it. When you have a chapel service and two or three people show up, you know there's a little issue -- not an issue, you just know it's not very important to them. When you have one and 80, 90 percent of your team are showing up, that's important.
The ability to have faith in your teammates and count on your team, that's the foundation of our program and our team. That's it. Can I count on this guy to do his job. If not -- if you're a quarterback and can't count on your left guard, you're concerned you're going to get hit because this guy is not doing his job.
We had a real issue with special teams when we arrived at Florida Jamelle Cornelius, for example, against Alabama. When I grabbed the kid, and he looked at me, you've got a guy hurt, because he didn't go very hard. He goes, Coach, I don't care, I don't want to be on kickoff return. Those issues are nonexistent at Florida anymore. They have faith in each other, they care about each other, and this is as close a group of kids as I've ever been around.

Q. You talked about Cornelius Ingram this week a little bit. Can you tell us what your plans are for CI, and talk about what you like about him so much?
COACH URBAN MEYER: CI is another guy with an SAT that I'm not sure was extremely high. He graduated from Florida about a month ago, from Hawthorne. He's about as unselfish, probably more unselfish than some of the guys with real high SATs, but he made a decision to come back and be the first guy to graduate in his family from an institution like Florida. He had a chance to leave for the NFL a year ago and he came back because his mother wanted him to graduate from the University of Florida and he did it. He spoke at our senior tackle last night, there wasn't a dry eye in the group, and he told us and Coach Strong and everybody involved in his life if he had to do it again he wouldn't change one thing. He would make a decision to come back and get a degree from the University of Florida. That's powerful stuff.
What's our plans? I'd play him a lot if it was the right thing to do. He's not going to play because he's three months out from ACL surgery, and that wouldn't be the right thing to do.

Q. I wonder if you could expand, I wonder why you think maybe a playoff is more imminent now?
COACH URBAN MEYER: I haven't given it any thought. Someone threw a microphone in my face and asked if there would be a playoff. I think it will. I don't have any idea. It's not my job to figure that out. I think it would be hard. I don't know how you do it. If we had to play another game after Alabama, we're blown completely out of the water. We are not playing in this game.
JOHN HUMENIK: Thank you very much for your time. That wraps up today.

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