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July 23, 2009

Urban Meyer


THE MODERATOR: We will continue with our final coach of the day, Florida head coach Urban Meyer. Coach, welcome.
COACH MEYER: Thank you all for coming. Honored to be here and represent the SEC and the University of Florida. Also here to clear up that mystery that I'm the guy that didn't vote for Tebow.
Good to be here. Have a very good football team. Very appreciative of the leadership of our program. It's as good a summer as I've been around in coaching as far as dealing with our guys and watching our strength staff work, talking to them about the professionalism. That was the key word throughout the month of January as we prepared for the championship game and December preparing for the SEC game. That has continued through spring practice and the summer.
The key is let's get to August 6th. I've never been more anxious to coach a football team.
With that said, I'll open it up for questions.

Q. There's a lot of expectations for your team. What are your expectations for this team?
COACH MEYER: Well, I want to get through these next two weeks. We go real hard for a week, then they have a week off and we start camp. I don't look much past that.
This time last year, we had some real tough injuries. So we've given a lot of thought to how we're going to practice to keep that edge, to make it a very difficult training camp, yet safe, make sure we can get to the show, and that's our first game.
Expectation as far as the season, our goals are always the same as it was in 2005, as it is in 2009, and that is we want to do everything we can to get to Atlanta. That's our whole -- we wake up every morning to try to achieve that goal.

Q. Would you talk about during this off-season, I know you intended to make it the most difficult that Florida has ever had. Are you satisfied they did have that?
COACH MEYER: Well, I'll find out when we get 'em. We get them -- Coach Marotti turns over the team to me on August 6th. According to our players, who I have great confidence in, when they communicate to me, it has, we're not finished with it. You can usually tell once we get started in training camp what kind of off-season they've had. We've had good ones, not so good ones. According to our players and strength coach, this has been one of the best, if not the best.

Q. With so much depth, how have you kept everyone happy so far?
COACH MEYER: I think we've really promoted the competition and we've promoted team first. Great things happen when you have an unselfish team. Last year's was arguably the most unselfish I've been a part of. They got to wear a championship ring, compete in the SEC championship game. That's what we have going for us right now. I really believe our guys love it at Florida. More importantly, I really believe they care for each other. It's a good situation right now in that locker room, in the weight room, and when they're together. That's not easy.
You have 105, 120, 18 to 22-year-olds from every stretch, some overrecruited, some underrecruited, some overrated, some underrated. And to keep those guys happy and motivated, that certainly a difficult task. The only way to get it done is with great leadership on our team and our staff does a heck of a job.

Q. Is Riley Cooper returning?
COACH MEYER: I'll know that today. Is today Wednesday?

Q. Thursday.
COACH MEYER: I'm going to know it by the end of the week, or the weekend, is what I'm hearing.

Q. Everybody knows you grew up idolizing Woody Hayes. In the heart of Alabama, did you ever study Bear Bryant, read anything about him, take anything from his coaching philosophy?
COACH MEYER: Well, a great story, my first season as coach of Florida, walking in that stadium, I'm standing near the goalpost. They flip that scoreboard on. Bear Bryant is right there talking to me. I'll never forget that. That guy is not supposed to be here any more.
Up north it was Woody Hayes. Had great appreciation. Read the Junction Boys. Obviously followed Bear Bryant. However, Earle Bruce would often talk about Coach Bryant. That was one of his sources of information and sources of expertise. He would often talk about Coach Bryant. Of course, I have. Not to the same degree of Woody Hayes.

Q. You joked about Tebow and the All-SEC team. What do you think of the story that's become this week?
COACH MEYER: First of all, Pat Dooley told me to do that. Second of all, no one laughed, so it wasn't a very funny joke. Someone asked me if that's going to motivate Tim. Whoever asks those questions, don't know Tim. Tim has a lot of things to motivate him. That's not one.
Didn't mean much by it.

Q. There's been some concern about Tebow not getting under center enough in the past, especially concerning his future in the NFL. Do you see he'll get under center a little bit?
COACH MEYER: There's a lot made of that. The concern is not from the professional coaches that I have a lot of conversation with. That never comes up. Tim Tebow, we can't make this more complicated than what it is. If you want Tim Tebow under center, teach him to get under center, he'll probably do it better than anybody else.
Are we going to place him under center? A lot of it depends on the quality of our tailback. To play an under-center offense, you better have a monster back there at tailback that can take the pounding involved in that style of offense. I was involved in an offense I think 15 years. So we know that offense. Coach Addazio was very familiar. A great offense.
It's very personnel based on your fullback, on your tailback, your tight end. We've not had that luxury. This year, if T.J. Pridemore comes back, is a good fullback, we have three quality tailbacks. If they develop, it helps us win a game, we'll do that.
We are certainly not trying to, because someone said Tim needs to be under center to enhance his draft status. I assure you, him playing under center has nothing to do with his draft status with the programs we talked to. If it did, we would help him because he earned that. It's not that different.
To answer your question, he will be under center if it helps us win a game.

Q. What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge for Dan Mullen to successfully install that offense at MSU?
COACH MEYER: It takes a minute. It's a complicated offense, thrown around a little bit our first season in 2005. However, it's all when you say 'that offense,' people get tired of you saying it, it's all based on personnel. I'm not familiar with his personnel. You're going to see whatever variation, whether it be a Chris Leak style of offense, whether it be a Tim Tebow, Alex Smith, or Josh Harris style of offense.
A lot of it now has to do with your tight end and fullback. We happen to have an excellent tight end. That's the component that a lot of teams, do we play a spread with a tight end or fullback? We learned, we were very fortunate to have Billy Latsko, so we went that direction. It really helped us. It's just the installation and the complexity of it.
But it's all personnel based. If you have very good players, it's going to be a good offense. If his players aren't very good, it will struggle.

Q. Talk about the experience last week. You were in the state of Alabama visiting with the state high school football coaches. Talk about that experience.
COACH MEYER: It was a great experience. I'm always impressed. I didn't recruit Alabama until I was coaching down here at Florida. It was what you expect. Full house. All the good majority of the state high school coaches were there. Just a tremendous experience. I'm glad we went and did that.

Q. Could you review the play calling process, offense, the impact that Dan Mullen's departure will have on that?
COACH MEYER: Have I reviewed it?

Q. Would you review it.
COACH MEYER: Sure. There's a little transition there. Steve Addazio will be on the sideline. We have two new coaches that will be in the press box. I have a graduate assistant very close to me, he'll assist, as well.
There's a little bit of a concern there. However, we've all been together. Not one guy calls a play at Florida. There's a play caller, however that's done between series and there's very good involvement. So I am concerned because Dan was very good at what he did obviously. However, I'm very, very excited about the transition and the guys we have doing it.
So the biggest issue I have is Steve Addazio will be on the field, and we were still working through that. But I have a lot of confidence we'll be fine.

Q. With or without Riley Cooper, what is your assessment of the wide receivers right now? How big a concern is that, since you lost a couple of good guys?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, that is. I think Louis Murphy was one of the most undervalued players in America last year. He happened to be on the same offense with Tebow and Harvin. You evaluate his play-making ability in the big games, Georgia made a huge play, LSU made a couple big plays. Big-time games against great players, when you get single cover, you need to have a guy to go do it. That's No. 1 on the hit parade, as far as who is going to occupy that position. No. 2 will be who will occupy Percy's position.
I think we're okay at the offensive line. Those are two good players. We recruited well there. Deonte Thompson, Carl Moore, David Nelson, Andre Debose, I could go on., there's a group of players, Frankie Hammond. I just don't know. I won't know until August 6th.
We did not answer it in the spring. We didn't walk out of there in spring saying you're the guy. These next 29 practices starting August 6, that's concern number one for the Florida Gators.

Q. How amused are you when you see reports that say, He'll leave eventually? Is that the nature of the business now when someone is perfectly happy that people think it can't last?
COACH MEYER: This relates to whether coaches leave?

Q. Yes.
COACH MEYER: Well, it's disturbing. I'd lie to you if I said it wasn't. It's disturbing. I care about my family. I care about our football players, our staff and recruiting. If it affects that, then it bothers me. If it's something else, then that's good watercooler discussion. That's what makes the SEC such a valuable commodity right now, is the intense scrutiny and fan support.
I've been on the other side now. I've had a couple press conferences where there was no one out there. So I certainly understand it.
When it starts affecting your livelihood, that bothers you. Then you go into defense mechanism, attack it. You have to. We have to do that. It bothers you, but I also understand it.

Q. Are there any suspensions for Janoris or Dustin?
COACH MEYER: I don't usually release that. You'll know that after we play the game.

Q. Why would Janoris be wearing the No. 1 this season?
COACH MEYER: Because he asked me for it and he played very well, and he's a great football player and a great kid.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about the SEC beefing up its schedule a little bit. Georgia and Alabama played out of conference last couple years. You talked about the SEC being hard enough. Is there maybe a little itch to play a big-time team outside the SEC?
COACH MEYER: We play FSU every year. We have a built-in big one. Last year, I think we had the most difficult schedule. We have Miami and FSU at the same time. So is our goal that? Do we wake up and say, Jeremy and I sit down, let's put together the most difficult schedule in college football? Absolutely not.
We have some great rivalries within the state. We're going to do that. There's not a whole lot of discussion about going out. Once again, our scheduling philosophy is we want to play at least one big-time program. That's built in our schedule every year. Sometimes when you see USC play Ohio State, that's their big one. We already have FSU. Then we'll try every couple years to get another one in there. That's kind of what we've done.

Q. When you lost 31-3 at Alabama in '05, there was ridicule about your offense. Now more teams in this conference are getting toward that style. Gratified to see you weren't going to get hammered?
COACH MEYER: I was very concerned. I started believing what I was hearing. Certainly our players had that look in their eye. Then you evaluate, it's all personnel based. We went into a landslide. Offense is probably the worst since I've been a head coach was about a four-week period, it just so happened we lost Bubba Caldwell against Tennessee, lost Cornelius. We weren't very well personneled. Then the personnel started to come back. Chris Leak started to develop comfort. We did a good job of adapting the offense.
To answer your question, there certainly is a little gratification on that. However, we are very well aware it has nothing to do with the play calls. It's all personnel based. How do you evaluate if a staff recruits well? I hit our staff with this today. We lost some coaches on our staff the last years to head coaching jobs. How do you evaluate if those coaches did a good job. You look at the records, see how they've done. That's my biggest concern, make sure we keep replenishing the Louis Murphys of the world, not so much the style of offense.

Q. I asked Nick Saban earlier regarding last year's SEC championship game. The momentum shifted in the fourth quarter. Alabama dominated you throughout the third quarter. You were able to flip it. Saban's answer was that Tim did a fantastic job. Talk about that momentum shift, what happened there, how that carried you forward not just the fourth quarter by Miami and Oklahoma.
COACH MEYER: And through our off-season and through the summer. I made this comment, I've been involved in football for quite a while, that was arguably the finest football game. You evaluate -- the way I do, you evaluate football and how hard the teams are playing, not how many yards a kid passes for or how many rushing yards. Are both teams absolutely spilling it? It's easy to evaluate. Watch the punt team, kickoff return team. Two football teams that were very well prepared. It was an unbelievable football game.
Tim made some throws in there where guys were fairly well covered. He stuck it in there. That's how you win championships. They took the momentum very clear to this day. We punted a ball down, I believe, on the four yard line. They take it, drive it right down on the field 96 yards, take the lead. It didn't look good for Florida football or the Gators that day.
Then Tim and our defense worked together, and the offense. It wasn't Tim. We held Alabama to one yard in that fourth quarter. You can say it was Tim, but there's a lot of guys on defense that had something to do with that, as well.

Q. I know you said you want to keep the Florida/Georgia game in Jacksonville. Is a deal close to being done?
COACH MEYER: I don't know that. I've been asked that. I don't know that. I just love that game. I love the atmosphere. It's one of the unique ones in college football. I don't have any idea.

Q. Jevan Snead said you and him talked today for the first time since he decommitted. What have you thought of him so far and what was that conversation like?
COACH MEYER: I think he's going to be a great pro player. He's a great college player. We started recruiting him when he was at Utah. I think he was committed -- started in that direction. Him and Dan have a great relationship.
Jevan made that decision, and I certainly understand why. The comment I made to him is, You look great. Tell your mom and dad hello. I look at Steve MacLean. I said, Wow, is that a good-looking sucker right there?
He is. He's a tremendous player. Great release. One of the best releases in college football.

Q. As you know, both Janoris Jenkins incident and some other legal incident have given you a lot of negative attention this summer. Since then, your players have been pretty quiet. Do you think maybe those incidents served as a wake-up call that they need to keep it easy to maintain this championship run here?
COACH MEYER: I think so. I think they realized, whether I don't publicize it or not, there's always action taken, sometimes rather severe, sometimes not. It depends on the offense. It's case by case. The message is real clear that are you really willing to be without this guy or this guy.
The biggest enemy right now is not the media. It's Florida, it's the team. Take care of each other. The biggest thing that bothered me in that instance, that could have been avoided, if some guys had come together as a team, not been typical 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds that created an issue that was not an issue. It's never over. Did it serve as a wake-up call? Probably. I don't know that. It's non-stop, staying on top.

Q. You've had some great defenses at Florida, obviously in 2006, arguably the best defense the school ever had. Last year, they were also very good. Now you're bringing back everybody on the two-deep. Talk about how special that unit could be and maybe a historically great defense this season.
COACH MEYER: It really could. I'm real excited about that. More important, our defensive players are real excited. Last year, we gave some yards, but our guys would stop them. The national championship game was a perfect situation, a perfect example about not letting them in. Our red zone defense was phenomenal a year ago. We can certainly improve in a lot of other areas.
The best thing we have going is rotation and depth. One of the popular things in college football in and out is to go from a four-down to a three-down. That's not easy. First of all, you have to have the coaches that can do it. Then you have to have the players that have that kind of athleticism to stand up. You look at Trattou, Duke Lemmens, Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes, have all those body types, that (snapping fingers), they could be a defensive end or linebacker. That's a problem for the offense.
Our package has grown. Right now we're very comfortable with having those kind of athletes that can play a defensive down position, stand up, play a walk-around guy. You're going to see a lot of that in college football. You already do. I would think that's the next cycle of defensive football, is the ability to go three-down, four-down quite often.

Q. You've talked in the past, using the baseball analogy, of your team being strong down the middle. Is this team typical of that again this year?
COACH MEYER: Oh, yeah. '06, was the first time. I would always hear that. Was a firm believer. When you call the huddle, when the secondary calls the defensive alignment or makes adjustments, it's all done from the middle of the defense. You had Reggie Nelson and Brandon Siler, two of the greatest players in Florida history, you replaced them with a true freshman and true sophomore that weren't ready for that, and our defense didn't play very well. Last year we had one of the best middle linebackers in America in Major Wright, Ahmad Black, the safeties of Will Hill. I would definitely agree with that.
We're very confident, very comfortable with who we have in the middle of our defense right now. That's big. I don't hear people talk about that much, but that's like having a center and quarterback issue in the offense. The offensive line are five guys working together. The apex is the center. The quarterback is managing the back six of the offense. That's the quarterback. So real strong proponent of that. We work real hard at it and our guys understand it.

Q. Are there any annoying or bad habits that Tim Tebow has that you're aware of?
COACH MEYER: That's a great question. Annoying habits Tim Tebow has? You know, I'm sure I could think of some. You kind of caught me off guard here. There are some I can't share with you right now because I'm not sure what they are. I'll keep thinking as we go here.

Q. Won two of the last three national titles. Miami and Florida State had their runs. What is it about the state of Florida that makes it such a great football state? Just the talent pool? What have you done to lock down that talent pool?
COACH MEYER: Well, we haven't locked it down. We've lost our recruiting battles. I think when our staff first got there, there's an energy of newness down there, the intensity. My biggest concern is when we lost our -- you look at every program, 'cause they're all great programs, you name a bad program, there's certainly a chunk of time where that was a very good program. The common denominator a lot of time is staff transition. All of a sudden Mark Richt leaves. I read it all the time. It's true. All of a sudden something happens.
We've lost some good coaches at Florida, and we've brought in some very good coaches. How do you maintain that and keep going? Hire good guys, keep the program going at full speed.
Florida, a big reason why I think Gainesville is the best job in America is because five hours in each direction, north, south, you got as good a football-quality players. I think a lot of it has to do with the transition of population from the north to the south. I grew up in Northeastern Ohio where every year there would be a bunch of players going to Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan. The population base just kind of shrunk down for a variety of reasons.
Florida, the quality of high school football down there is phenomenal. And Georgia and Alabama. I mean, it's all right there, along with Texas. There's a bunch of them. There's still great football everywhere and we recruit everywhere. The population base and the level of importance of football in the south is phenomenal.

Q. How is Emmanuel Moody progressing?
COACH MEYER: We're looking for that all day, everyday tailback. Someone asked us the question about under center. Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey and Demps are going to have a lot to do with it. Scot Loeffler and Tim are not going to be the guys that are going to determine if we go under center. It's going to be the quality of tailback play. We're looking for that. We've not had that quality that we expect at Florida.
Emmanuel looks terrific. He physically looks fabulous. He's a great young person that works hard. I'm anxious. That's an area we're going to really watch the first two weeks of training camp, and they know it. Big year for all those three guys.

Q. You talk about possibly putting in some under center stuff that will help the team win. Something that made your offense so great is the amount of options and looks that a defense has to prepare for. Do you feel going under center, putting in the I, essentially limits what you can do?
COACH MEYER: It certainly does. Just think of under center football. That's the direct runs and it's play-action pass. But that's good stuff. There's some teams that win a lot of games doing that. More than scheme, I'm going to say it again, it's all if you have a tailback, a lot of times when you turn around -- this is just interesting stuff. You turn around, hand the ball off, there's usually going to be an extra defender somewhere in that box.
The shotgun gives you -- we read one of those defenders, we neutralize that one player and now you're running versus on block people. The minute you take a ball, you hand it off without eliminating a player, option football and read football, you eliminate a guy because that's the read. The minute you just take a direct snap and hand it off -- that's why a lot of times the I formation, had the bigger 230-pound backs -- I know it's been done with smaller backs, but there's a good chance there's going to be an unblocked defender somewhere within five yards of that ball carrier.
That's the biggest difference. How do you take care of the unblocked defender in the I formation football? You play-action pass. Like I said, it's not one versus the other, it's all good. If we feel that can help us win -- which it did in '06. National championship game against Ohio State, at least one-third of our players were under center. Why? Because we felt in that game that could help us win the game. That's the way we game plan.

Q. Are you concerned your middle linebacker was too shy to come and meet us today?
COACH MEYER: No. Steve and I talked. When he heard about this room, he heard about the whole deal, heard about all the cameras, he started squiggling his way out of that thing. Then he used the 'ol, Coach, I think Stamper, he's the captain, he should be there, not me.
But Charlie, Coach Strong handled that. It's all good. Nothing is wrong with Brandon Spikes. He's great. He's just shy, I guess.
Thanks, guys.

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