Urban Mania Enters Second Year

HOOVER, Ala. -- When Urban Meyer arrived at Florida last year, he was given the type of reception that's usually saved for a coach who has just won a national championship.

Meyer's face appeared on boxes of Florida Gators cereal, which tasted like a generic version of Frosted Flakes and were sold in grocery stories throughout the state.

Meyer also embarked on a nonstop tour of booster clubs throughout much of Florida and Georgia, and his arrival was treated like that of a rock star coming to town. His speaking engagements in front of crowds of sometimes more than 1,000 fans quickly sold out.

Fans couldn't seem to get enough of Urban Mania, as Meyer immediately became one of the most popular figures in the Sunshine State. He was beloved in large part because he wasn't Ron Zook, the coach he replaced at Florida.

Now if only the Gators can find a way to ease their way through a brutal schedule without a proven running back and some questions at quarterback, then there might be a legitimate reason to put Meyer's face on a cereal box.

"We were not a great team a year ago," Meyer said at last month's Southeastern Conference media days. "... The University of Florida at this point needs to have a great team. The University of Florida needs to get back to a championship game at some point."

Much of the talk over the last few months has centered around starting quarterback Chris Leak, who has received plenty of criticism from Florida fans despite the fact that he enters his senior season as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

Leak struggled at times last season while trying to get adjusted to Meyer's spread offense, and some disgruntled Florida fans have called for freshman Tim Tebow to take over as the starter.

But Meyer has left no doubt that this is Leak's team.

"Coach, from Day One, said that he wanted to build this system around me and strong players like me," Leak said.

Florida went 9-3 in Meyer's first season in Gainesville, and there is reason to believe that the Gators could challenge for the SEC championship -- if not more.

Wide receiver Andre Caldwell appears to have recovered from a broken right leg. And perhaps more importantly, the team's underachieving group of running backs -- who Meyer once referred to as "trash" -- have impressed the coach so far in preseason practices.

Everything could be in place for Urban Mania to grow in intensity this season.

"We always want to be No. 1," defensive end Ray McDonald said. "We're not No. 1 in the country; there are a lot of top teams ahead of us. So, that's just motivation for us to use this season."

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