New Kid On The Block

HOOVER, Ala. —Florida center Mike Degory tossed his curly long brown hair with one turn of his shoulders as the media approached him like a blitzing linebacker.

Then he smiled as he let his answer roll off the tip of his tongue while making sure to edit his conversation as he spoke about new Gators coach Urban Meyer being brought in and Ron Zook being left out of the Florida equation.

"There is not a huge difference really," Degory said. "Ron Zook and Urban Myer are hard to compare. It is hard to compare two great coaches. I have the utmost respect for both of them.

"When a coaching change happens there is always a little bit of apprehension and with the guys we did not know what to expect, but from the day that he walked in, you could see and we knew that he was going to take us in the right direction."

Cameras rolled. Pens scribbled. Tape recorders clicked.

This was one of the main sideshows and just part of the circus which is Southeastern Conference Football Media Days which got under way Wednesday in the Wynfrey Hotel.

Meyer is the new sheriff in town with a Shotgun offense which has brought him incredible success at Bowling Green and Utah. He hopes to help lift the Gators back to Florida standards.

Last year's 7-5 record, including a 27-10 loss against Miami in the Peach Bowl was truly unacceptable.

Zook left and wound up at Illinois while Meyer rode in from the west after a well-publicized two-year stint at Utah where his teams went 10-2 and 12-0.

This coach with the Midas touch said he can't wait to get started rekindling the spirit of Florida fans.

"It's a great time of year," Meyer said. "It's great to be a part of the greatest sporting event in the country about to come up. And our players are excited, coaches are excited, the SEC fans are very excited to get this thing going.

"Thirty eight days and approximately four hours we're kicking this thing off Sept. 3 down in Gainesville, Florida (against Wyoming). Our players are doing a really excellent job. And I really believe unless something horrible happens in the next few days my team is mentally, physically ready to go and attack training camp."

Florida returns 14 starters perhaps the most celebrated is junior quarterback Chris Leak and players seem confident.

There are five offensive starters returning, eight more on defense and junior punter Eric Wilbur is back, too.

Mentally digesting Meyer's offense will be key.

"I'm very positive," Meyer said. "You can compare it to Bowling Green, compare it to Utah. And I think comparing it to Utah, you took a high formation offense at University of Florida, Chris Leak and Mike Degory working together.

"He's operating a good majority out of the shotgun, so I think you start with the basics that you can take a snap and operate the fundamentals of the offense. There is no question you can do that. He put things in a much faster pace and see how you play on the schedule. Put things in quickly.

"The comment I just made, I start meetings with staff Monday. Offense, first year has been OK. Second year is really good. We need to bypass that first year. Intelligent players in the shotgun offense put things in much quicker."

Degory said Leak is the focal point. He said he has no doubt his quarterback will be equal to the task.

"I was here when (former Florida QB) Rex Grossman was playing and Chris has a different style than Rex, but I think he has really progressed and matured," Degory said. "And not just his performance on Saturdays; it is what he does during the week and in the offseason. He has really matured a lot and I am sorry that I won't be here for his senior season."

A year ago, Leak completed 59.6 percent of his passes (238 of 399) for 3,197 yards and 29 touchdowns.

"Offensively, I think we're fast," Meyer said. "We have four receivers I feel very comfortable with. From what I have heard from Chris Leak, they have been very successful this summer in working together. They're fast. I like fast players."

Senior free safety Jarvis Herring said the atmosphere around the new coaching staff is positive.

And that could make a huge difference.

"The fans expect you to win right now and that's what they expect out of anyone," Herring said. "Now, the defense has not been changed a lot. We are not doing anything on the field that we don't need to do and that makes everything easier. The offense is fast and will be ready to go.

"I compare any team to the one that we had my freshman year," Herring said. "There is a lot of talent here this year and we can see our true team come out because they are maximizing their talents.

"I'm excited about things."

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