Tuesday March 8, 2005Coach Meyer Pre Spring Football Press Conference
"Weíre at the end of quarter one, the way we break down our season. The entire year we break it down into four quarters. It doesnít take rocket science to figure that out, but the first quarter is the off season, the second quarter is the spring practice, third is summer, fourth is season. We grade on champions for each quarter, we have a banquet for the champions at the conclusion of each quarter. For this quarter you live your life the right way off the field, you go to class, you have no discipline or academic issues, you make the proper gains recommended by your coaches then you are a champion. Champions get treated pretty good around here and non champions get treated very poorly. We have a champion banquet that will be held in a few weeks to reward the champions and to encourage the non-champions. That is at the end of quarter one.
One way to evaluate the attitude of a football team and evaluate a group of people who have just gone through a significant change is to see the level of resistance that you have and we have very little and Iím proud to say that. I think its well documented, sometimes too far documented and blown out of proportion at other schools like Bowling Green and Utah there has been a lot of issues that weíve had to deal with and there has been very little of that around here and thatís positive. We need to continue that trend and Iím very proud of our guys, I usually donít say that at the end of the first quarter but I am and thatís unique for what theyíve been through. Whether we are or not, we take great pride in thinking that our kids are the hardest working group in the country. How do you measure that? You really canít other than the attitude of the players. I think our strength and conditioning staff have done a phenomenal job. Thatís coach (Mickey) Marotti, (Matt) Balis, and Mark Campbell and they have done a great job. Again on how do you measure the success of your football team, one of the first ways of measuring it is to put the most emphasis on the month of February. With a football team, if you wait until August it is a major problem. We do a lot of team building activities. We do a lot of putting them in situations to see if it is really worthwhile to go through what theyíre asked to do in February. In years past we have found that a few guys have found that it is really not worth it but its better to find out in February than in October when the bullets are flying.
Phase two or second quarter begins in eight days and four hours, not that weíre counting. I canít begin to tell you how excited, you can only imagine our staff, and I've never been so excited to get around a group of guys and coach football. A lot of speculation out there on, people have told me about all our great players we have but now we get to find out for ourselves in around eight days and a few hours.
With that said just a little bit about our team. On offense what is going to be intriguing is that there is some carry over starting with our center and quarterback. I remember starting with a new team in other places when they didnít operate out of the shotgun. During the first six or seven days the athletic director would call me over and ask if we were running the right offense. Balls were all over the place, but we wonít have that problem here because Mike Degory is the returning center who has operated out of the shotgun as well as Chris Leak as quarterback. So the growing pains for the first few days shouldnít be there, as soon as I say that the ball will be all over the place, but it shouldnít be. Thatís where it starts. Iím anxious to see the group of receivers we have, when you talk about a little resistance itís been none. Dallas Baker, Chad Jackson, Andre Caldwell, Jemalle Cornelius, Mike McIntosh the guys have been fantastic. I point out that position, because thatís usually the position that weíre most hurt on. IĎve coached those guys for sixteen years so I know some of the issues they deal with but theyíve been fantastic and Iím anxious to see the athleticism and let them play a little bit.
I think Chris Leak has had a great off-season and heís anxious, heís a guy that its well documented how well he wants to prepare himself. Josh Portis is on campus, heís had a terrific off season. Obviously, Cornelius Ingram is playing basketball so we are limited, but weíve seen that he is a tremendous athlete and a great young man. Gavin Dickey is playing baseball so weíve had limited time with him but we are anxious to see him as well. Offensive line has done a nice job. The number one concern is tailback, we do not have a guy that we can count on. Thatís just the way it is. We can kind of paint it and say well this guy has potential, this guy has potential, well potential isnít a great word to use around our staff, itís what have you done. And there isnít a tailback thatís done a thing around here other than I think Skyler (Thornton) has done a nice job on the off season. I keep hearing about DeShawn (Wynn), Iíll tell you about him in another two weeks and Markus Mansonís a nice guy other than that I canít tell you much about them except that that is the position that is the number one concern. And we are balanced offense, there is a perception versus reality situation about our offense, it starts with the running game it starts with being physical and right now we are in a little panic situation with three scholarships tailbacks that havenít done a thing around here. So thatís the position that will receive a lot of scrutiny and they have and will continue too until we get someone in that area.
With back-up offensive lineman, we are dealing with a number of issues - which a lot of people are - but our first group, we are six or seven deep in guys that I think can help us. Tight ends, Tate Casey is playing baseball but heís going to devote more time to football. Dane Guthrie has done a terrific job - heís an excellent athlete that has grown up quite a bit. Heís a true freshman that has four years left and Markell Thompson has done everything weíve asked. First off Tate Casey did do something that the other guys really havenít been positioned to, so weíre excited about that. On defense, the good news is that there will be a lot of carry over. I anticipate a lot of people have (want) our defense to be more aggressive. We are going to do what we can do and we anticipate that they will be more aggressive. Weíve adjusted some of the terminology that Coach Mattison has brought in and adjusted it to what Florida has done in the past. I rather the coaches learn some change in verbiage than the players so weíve had a lot of carry over with Coach Strong and Coach Mattison.
The D-line, we have three injuries (Michael) Brown has a shoulder, Javier (Estopinan) had a ACL heíll miss spring and Marcus Thomas will miss spring as well. Those are three good players Javier was a linebacker last year but they will all be healthy for the summer as we get ready for the season. Linebacker, a lot like our tailback spot we have two guys that have earned their keep around here but thatís about it. If I had to pick a guy that was a Florida Gator it would be Brandon Siler, he does it right off the field, he does it right on the field, he's a great recruiter, a great leader. I shouldnít say this but heís my favorite guy. Earl Everett has done a terrific job heís a excellent football player and proven. Todd McCullough is a great guy but once again he falls into that great guy category. The great guy category is one that canít play or canít play because of injury. The great guy can only get you so far. (Eric) Rutledge, (Brian Crum, and (Billy) Latsko are the three that have to step up at linebacker and then weíve signed five freshmen that will be here this summer. Dee Webb is running track but heís done everything weíve asked, weíre anxious to get him full time. Vernell Brown has done a terrific job. Weíve moved Reggie Lewis over to the corner to give us some coverage. We have those four or five guys we need to find two or three that are going to cover full time.
Safeties as a group is as good a looking group as Iíve been around with (Terrence) Holmes, (Jarvis) Herring, Kyle Jackson, and (Tony) Joiner once again we need to see how that is going to shake out during spring practice. Iím not usually very positive this time of year but weíve had very little resistance that was not anticipated but through not being naive you would expect some resistance weíve had very little and thatís positive. I think they are as excited as we are to get away from the strength coaches for a little while and play some football.
On DeShawn Wynn and the tailback position:
"Heís in their working, and (tailback) is a major concern. I hate to put the whole season on the tailback position, but Iím putting the whole season on the tailback position. You cannot function without the tailback position, and Dane Guthrie might carry the ball a little bit. We will not jeopardize 21 other positions for one. They need to know that, theyíre going to know that, and itís going to be a tough go. Running Backs Coach Stan Drayton and crew are going to be scrutinized every day in practice. Florida shouldnít have three running backs and two linebackers. The other positions are solid, but those two are completely unacceptable. There will be a lot of pressure put on the guys (at those positions).
On mat drills:
"Itís a combination of intensity, discipline and accountability. For example, the first group of guys is the seniors, then the juniors, sophomores and freshmen. If they make a mistake, they have to go back and do it again. For the first couple mat drills, the freshmen didnít go through them because the seniors had to keep going back and doing them again. They learn that when we ask them to put their foot behind the white line itís not a request, you do it; or you do it over again until you do it the right way. They responded as good as any (team) that Iíve been around. The first day was tough, but the next four were terrific and they did a good job."
On Marcus Thomas:
"Heís got a disc issue and had surgery on his back. Everything is positive, heís moving well and heíll be fine. We anticipate heíll be at full speed in June."
On position changes and attrition:
"They are all back, as far as I know. We had a meeting yesterday at 7 a.m., and everyone was on time and ready to go. Reggie Lewis was moved. Thereís a chance we will move a defensive linemen over to offensive line because we have some depth issues there. I think itís been status quo as far as position changes go."
On being excited for spring practice to start:
"If I didnít give up bad language for lent, Iíd use some bad language in there and let you know how excited I am. I am real excited. Iím on the speaking circuit right now, and people ask me if Iím amazed at the passion and interest level. Iím not Ė this is Florida Football, itís supposed to be like this. I anticipate a bunch of people will come out and watch practice on a beautiful sunny day in Gainesville, and I canít wait. I wish it was tomorrow. More importantly, who cares what I think, our players canít wait. I see some of these teams start early, but I think you rob the players of that anxiety to get going. I will never start in February because the off season gives us a chance to do some of the things weíve done. I love the way we do it and everybodyís anxious to go."
On the athleticism at Florida opening new doors for the offense:
"The athleticism Iíve seen running around cones is maybe a little different than with a ball in your hands. Iím anxious, I can answer that better in about ten days. I want to evaluate it and put in our base plays, some of which will not change. The beauty of the offense is that, if you flip on the Bowling Green or Utah tapes, youíll see similar concepts, but yet they are very different, according to what the center and quarterback can do and the speed around them. The most impressive part about University of Florida Football right now is the athleticism at the skill positions on offense. We donít have enough, because we often operate four or five wide, but the athleticism at receiver Ė I canít wait to see Andre Caldwell catch that shovel pass and see where he takes it. The first day Iím looking forward to seeing the speed and athleticism from the offensive skill positions."
On the tight end position:
"Iíll give you my recruiting speech when we recruit tight ends. Our tight ends are expected to catch 50 to 60 passes, and the recruitsí eyes light up when they hear that. You need to be athletic, be able to do a lot of things, be tough Ė the old, traditional slow plodder at tight end has no purpose here. The good news is Tate Casey is not like that and neither is Dane (Guthrie) or Markell Thompson. Catching the football and being able to move in space is a prerequisite of playing tight end, and weíll utilize (the position)."
On the players learning the offense:
"Iíve talked to Chris (Leak), and weíre going to meet daily to get a quick shot (of the offense). I watched most of the offensive tapes from last year, and there is some carry over from (last seasonís offense). I think the mechanics of the snap Ė if the center canít put the ball between the numbers 100 percent of the time, there is no offense. Thatís where you start. I wouldnít say itís a difficult offense. There are a lot of moving parts and people that take things for granted, like a shovel pass. Chris has done some of those things, and there will be some carry over, but we have a lot of work to do."
On two of the four quarterbacks being involved with other sports:
"Iíve never had to deal with that. I respect guys doing other things. Thatís why it was our decision to let Dee Webb to (run track). Quarterback is a unique position, so (Gavin Dickey and Cornelius Ingram) will be behind a little bit. I donít know them very well, but they seem to be good guys. I havenít seen Gavin perform much athletically. But I have seen Cornelius on the basketball court. He doesnít play a lot, but Iíve seen him a little bit. I think they can catch up. A lot of it is on them, they can come in early in the morning and spend time with us. There are some things we canít make them do, but they can come in on their own. This is not a 20 hour-a-week offense, itís more of a 30 hour-a-week offense. Our team knows that. You can finish 85th in offense if you like, but if youíd like to finish in the top-5, we expect you to do this, this and this throughout the summer and off-season. But itís on them, because the NCAA says we canít have them there at 7 a.m. Guys like Chris Leak and the Alex Smithís of the world understand that. They want to be great."
On moving players along the offensive line:
"We did that a lot last year. Weíd rather not, but I anticipate weíll let them settle in. The guys that just knock people off the ball, the tackles, are tall, angular, athletic guys. Itís a variety of things, and the positions arenít interchangeable, so I donít anticipate much movement."
On Chris Leak:
"Heís a unique guy. I knew his brother when I was at Notre Dame and know his family a little bit. Chris doesnít talk. Heíll sit in his seat and leads by example. Heís a rep guy and isnít really vocal. The quarterbacks Iíve been around are like your general. We did a variety of competitive drills the last few weeks, and you can see the way Chris leads the team. Heís a junior now, heís no longer a freshman or sophomore, and it is time for him to become that (vocal) guy, even if heís uncomfortable with it. His leadership, as far as the way to do things and the amount of effort he gives, Iíd give him an A+. Thereís a notion that heís not athletic; heís very athletic. He can do everything weíll ask him to do."
On defensive end:
"I had a discussion down in Orlando yesterday about this whole recruiting process, where someone has a recruit ranked number six. Well, the person thatís ranking him number six is trying to make money off of people reading that heís ranked number six. They arenít studying film. I think coaches at places like Ohio State, Notre Dame and Florida, start reading those rankings instead of doing the film evaluation. I just coached a quarterback that wasnít on any of those top-100 lists, but heíll probably be the number one or number two draft pick for the NFL. Weíll be really careful from here on out not to read the list and do a good job analyzing (film). There are a couple defensive ends that have the word Parade in front of them, or they are 5-star, 9-star, or 27-star, whatever that means, and havenít played a down. Thereís a bunch of these other cats that have a bunch of stars after their name and they are doing well. There will be some pressure put on those guys. Itís time to put up or shut up as they say."
On a number one concern on defense:
"Linebacker-we have two. At Florida we should have seven or eight. We moved over two fullbacks to give us a little depth. Thereís a guy named (Brian) Crum who fits in that nice guy category, (Billy) Latsko is a tough nut and Iím anxious to watch him, (Eric) Rutledge is a lot like Latsko, and Iím hoping they find a home. Todd McCullough is a nice guy, and itís not his fault that heís been hurt, but itís time for him to not get hurt and help our football team."