Meyer Not Playing With Gators

FAYETTEVILLE – While Arkansas fans still are trying to get over the stupid stink over pink, Florida fans, most of ‘em, anyway, are going ga-ga over their hard-nosed new football coach.

Down in Gainesville, he already has become an Urban legend.

Urban Meyer, the guy who took Utah from obscurity to the national eye last season, has been a huge hit since taking over for the fired Ron Zook.

Last weekend, his team scrimmaged in front of 700 high school coaches who were in Gainesville for Florida's annual clinic. That should be a scary thought for other Southeastern Conference coaches.

An absolutely no-nonsense guy, Meyer's main immediate goal, much like new Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, is to instill toughness and hustle in the always-athletic and skilled Gators.

To help to that end, Meyer toted The Pit with him from Utah.

Gainesville Sun reporter Robbie Andreu described the scene during a scrimmage two weekends back, as Gators beat writers (who get much less access than we, even though Arkansas has closed all but the first 15 minutes of this spring's workouts) got their first look at The Pit.

Andreu described a wad of injured players banished to a corner of The Swamp where they were "lifting small boulders (isn't that an oxymoron?) and working out with sandbags."

After the scrimmage, Meyer talked about The Pit.

"Stay out of The Pit," he told Andreu. "It's an ugly deal. Nothing good comes out of The Pit. That's for injured guys.

"If our Pit coaches are doing a good job, you hear (the players) yelping a little bit and screaming in agony."


That's probably taking it a bit far and Gainesville could soon become Suit City.

Still, you've got to like Urban's intentions.

And folks around here saw red because Herring had loafing defenders wear pink jerseys during workouts?

One of Meyer's targets has been junior defensive tackle Ray McDonald, who, according to Andreu, has a reputation for cruising. Meyer said he had a similar potential big-timer at Utah, so he has an idea how to handle McDonald.

"Ray can decide to continue to not go real hard and go transfer to somewhere else where that's acceptable," Meyer told Andreu. "But it's not acceptable here, and he's starting to learn that."

Because of an ankle sprain, McDonald was slated to miss a recent scrimmage.

But McDonald toughed it out, earning a bit of praise from Meyer.

Don't give McDonald too much credit. That probably should go to The Pit.

Great Expectation

In his Tuesday top-10 column this week,'s Gregg Doyel noted that some 265 basketball teams missed out on the recent NCAA Tournament and described "good news" for roughly four percent of those, suggesting these "sad sacks" should "start packing" for next season's Big Dance.

Topping the list was Ohio State.

Second was Arkansas.

"The freshman-and-sophomore core of Arkansas' 18-12 team ought to be tougher on the road next season, assuming sophomore Ronnie Brewer doesn't get into the NBA's glue," wrote Doyel.

He won't.

The remainder of the list: Indiana, Memphis, California, Maryland, Dayton, Georgetown, Michigan and Miami (Fla.).

Doyel was my predecessor at my first stop with The Tampa Tribune – the bureau in Hernando County. Like a lot of us, he probably did most of his best writing there because of excellent coaching.

He left to cover ACC basketball for a big-time East Coast paper, focusing more on scoops than dazzling lines.

Lot of respect for the guy's ability, but don't get too carried away with his projection just yet.

As Arkansas ran to 13-1 last season, Doyel wrote that the Hogs were a lock to return to the Big Dance.

That was, of course, before all those sour notes in SEC play.

The Thompsons

John Thompson III, brother of Arkansas assistant Ronny and son of John, who led Georgetown to a national championship, coaches his dad's old program.

In his first year, he led the Hoyas to 19 wins and, as Doyel pointed out, he returns seven of his top-eight scorers.

Ronny's name has been kicked about concerning the opening for a head coach at Fresno State.

Spoke to a columnist who covers the program the other day, and while he confirmed Ronny Thompson's name surfaced, he doubts he'll get an interview.

Those started last week.

Interviewees included Pat Knight, son of and longtime assistant to Bob. Apparently, the Fresno folks are awful intrigued with him, or as the columnist said, "With his last name."

A Knight at Fresno, the place that gave Jerry Tarkanian another chance to hone his outlaw image?

Sure would be interesting to see that play out.

Out Of Sight

Houston, we don't have a problem.

Closing spring practices to reporters and fans might just be a good call by Razorbacks football coach Houston Nutt.

It makes our jobs harder (the beat guys must now guess questions on development and practice attendance), but probably the coaches' jobs easier as they try to groom someone to take quarterback Matt   Jones' place and begin working a game plan that almost certainly will be running-back oriented.

And Herring needs his unit's full attention as he makes the move to a more aggressive 4-3 scheme and shifts players like crazy.

Besides, how entertaining can it be to watch Herring force his players to plop up and down from the ground a hundred or so times?

Saw enough of that sort of thing at bootcamp.

The secrecy, cloaked in black tarps around the practice fields, is fine for now and standard practices at most Division I places.

But when two-a-days kick off this summer, we'll need to watch so we can let you know exactly what's going on.

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