On the Spring:
"It was an exciting spring. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that there was so much competition. A lot of young guys competing for positions, which added energy. The spring gives you an opportunity to talk about personnel quite a bit; you evaluate everything, you don't have the pressures of the game and preparations, so you're able to really get to know your football team. Obviously, this being the second year, you know the football team -- you know what they can do, you know what they expect, they know what you expect. So it was a much more productive spring; not that last spring wasn't, because it was a very, very productive spring last year, but I just thought that we have a much better feel for this football team -- where we're at and where we're going. We feel as a staff we improved every single practice; not every practice was as good as all of them, but it was a great spring and we got better. After our last game, we realized that 104 days from now we report to camp. We realize there's a lot of work to be done between now and then, and if we can improve and keep the same attitude there is no reason to think that we won't, I think we'll be a much improved football team."
In what way will this off-season be different for you than last year?
"Next week we'll hit the road again, basically the same way we did last year. We're going to branch out just a little bit more, get out of state just a little bit, but we still plan to do the same things that we did last year. I just think that it's important to get out there and I feel like it's another set of eyes, it's another evaluation, it's an opportunity that the NCAA gives you for an evaluation. I think it's important to use it. I have to be out anyway for the Gator Club, so it's just enabling me to do two things."
Chris Leak's readiness:
"It's hard to say. He's never yet taken a snap, he hasn't thrown a football. The last time I saw him throw the football in person was when I was up there and they were practicing for the Shrine Game. I know the guy has been down here a couple weekends, he's been in the film room, he's studied film, I guess he's gone out with a couple of the players and thrown the football around and they seem to feel like he can throw the ball pretty well. I think when you come in here it's a little different. You want to just wait and see how he handles being away from home. You know there's so many things that enter in. Every conversation that I've ever had with him he's been a very, very mature kid, great family, and I mean he's excited to be here. I know we're looking forward to him and Justin both getting here."
Ingle Martin and Zook's comfort level with him in this offense:
"There's two things that you look at there. I was talking with Coach Gottfried yesterday, and the one thing that you have to remember is that Rex Grossman has a tendency to spoil you a little bit. I mean his accuracy, his release, and so forth. I think Grossman's going to play a lot of football in the National Football League. If Ingle Martin continues to improve in the way he has from the fall till now, I think what you see in Ingle is a guy who now who thinks 'it's my job, it's my job to lose.' The thing I talked to him about just last year during the year, I said 'Ingle, you've got to quit acting like you're a second team player' and it's hard. It's one of the hardest things they have with the quarterbacks in the National Football League, because they know and he knew Rex Grossman was going to be a starter. Barring injury, he's going to be the starter. So, you're intensity level, the way you prepare -- it's not a lot different, but just a little bit different. You can tell, he can not be attacked this spring. He's a much, not that he wasn't before he has just performed better in the spring than he did in hindsight in the fall. So you're confident with him, the players begin to feel confident with him, he's very confident with the offense and what he's doing. He probably showed a little bit more experience than Gavin (Dickey). Gavin began to press a little bit towards the end, but once again I don't think that's a negative either. Right now I think Ingle's got a feeling that, 'hey, it's my job and I'm gonna go with it."
Impressions of Justin Midgett:
"Justin Midgett is an excellent quarterback. He hasn't been overshadowed in our minds. The way we look at it, we're expecting Justin to come in here and, just like Chris (Leak), have an opportunity to compete. I was asked a question last night in Mobile, 'would you play a true freshman?' I mean obviously there's a lot of talk about the quarterbacks, and who knows who is going to be the quarterback. I know when I was here before Coach Spurrier never use to worry about it. He'd say, ' I don't know...somebody can take it.' It's a little bit like that. I mean do you have to have a starting quarterback for the first game? Georgia, they played two quarterbacks and they had a pretty good year last year. I'm not saying that's what we're going do it, I'm just saying I don't want to be backed up against a wall saying you've got to have a guy that's a starter, and I don't think this football team feels that way either."
On the format of two-a-days:
"First, we will have a camp again and as I explained to the guys. The rules have changed now. The NCAA is meeting right now because it's not exactly sure when we are going to report. The rule will be that you still have your 29 practice opportunities, but you cannot have two-a-days two days in a row, which is really kind of what I tried to get to last year. You go two-a-days, one, two, one, two, one, and what it does is it protects your players a little bit from wearing out. That's why we practiced in the morning and then at night, because I want them to have as much time in between practices to recover in the afternoon. So really, it's good, but don't think that just because you're going one-a-day every other day, that it's gonna be easy, because it's not gonna be easy. In fact, we did it that way in New Orleans and the players would have rather gone two-a-days than the one because it was usually in the afternoon and it was hotter and it was a tough practice."
Guys like (Mo) Mitchell and (Sylvester) McGrew who were switched a little bit when you start the summer, will they begin where they were? How do you determine that?
"Right now we'll probably stay with Mo (Mitchell) playing defense. I was impressed when he played 33 snaps on defense and about 20 on offense. He played pretty well on defense, he really did. He's a big body. One of things I felt like when I started thinking about it in the beginning is Mo likes to play football. Some of the time he causes some bobbles, but I think we'll probably leave him starting at defense, and he knows he's going to work some weight off, and we'll see how that goes. Joe (Wickline), in the couple days we had McGrew on offense, was excited about hitting too. Being in athletics, sometime it's trying to get guys in the right positions. I'm sticking with Travis Harris on that. In the beginning, the first time I mentioned it, he did not want to move. I think everyone has to have individual goals, but once again to be a good football team the team has to be going towards one goal and not be selfish. Travis and Mo and those guys have made moves that maybe help the football team, and think it's also helped them. They've done it with a great attitude and I think that's what you want to have on a football team."
Do you think it's Ingle Martin's job to lose at this point?
"I don't want to say that. I want those guys to continue to compete, to continue to get better. Once again, in summer when they come in, Justin (Midgett) and Chris (Leak), they'll get in the mix, and obviously they'll be a little bit behind just because of beginning at the beginning of practice. I think one of the things, too, is the way the NCAA has changed practices, we're all going to start together. In other words, last year, remember how the freshmen used to come in for three days, and then the veterans report. Everybody's going be together now, everyone's going start together. It'll be interesting to get a shot right away."
Is place-kicking job still wide open or does Matt Leach still lead the way?
"I also made a statement to the football team and I talked about the offense and the defense and the kicking game. I'm not pleased with the way we're punting the ball, I'm not pleased with the way we're kicking the football, and that's something that we have got to get corrected. I feel like protection-wise, coverage-wise, those things we're gonna be fine and it needs to be a plus for us, but I'm still not pleased with the way we punted the football and kicked the football this spring."
Comment on the running game and is Deshawn Wynn the next great UF Back?
"Ill be honest with you. One of the things I am concerned about with Deshawn Wynn is everyone saying that (the next great UF back). He has the potential to become a good football player but to be a great football player, he needs to learn that he needs to be as good without the football in his hands. When he does that, I think he will have the chance to be a good player. Until he learns all the other things he needs to do, he still has a way to go. He is a very talented individual but this is his first time, being from a small high school in Cincinnati, to be striving and there is a lot of competition at running back. Ciatrick (Fason) has shown that he is tough and can run the football and do a lot of great things as well. Ran (Carthon) is an excellent back and probably could have played Saturday, but I didn't think it was worth taking a chance with a sprained foot. Jimtavis (Walker) is a pretty good back as well and so I think this position is the strength of the football team. Now, they're not where they need to be, they're not where they want to be, and they sure are not where Coach Watson wants them to be, but I think this year we need to be able to run the football."
What is the main concern of the football team?
"Probably right now the main concern is on the front seven on defense. That has been the main concern, with being untested, but I feel a little better with the way Mo (Mitchell) played the spring game. Defensively, I think we will get better as the year goes on. Where we start will depend on what we do between now and mid-August. The more we do between now and then, the higher we will start."
Talk about Kenny Parker, Ronald Dowdy and Eric Holcombe a little bit:
"Kenny Parker is a very explosive guy. He can be as good as what we have had around here in awhile. He got through spring fine and he just has to do the things he needs to do prove himself. There have been a lot of players that have done similar things and have been ok. But still, you want to make sure that he gets through it. Ronald Dowdy has been very impressive and had an excellent spring. He will continue to get better and he has a motive to run and, as a good athlete, is coming into his own. He is one of those junior college guys that takes him awhile, and finally Eric showed me some things Saturday, but the light came on and he is going to be very strong. He has unbelievable strength and some moves on the pass rush. He does some things that we don't exactly want done but he does make plays, so he is going to get better and better. He is one of those guys that the more they play, the better they will be. I have a pretty good feeling that he will be a good football player."
Will there be some adjustments made with some guys who have emerged like Dallas (Baker)?
"I think that you always want to push a big-play guy and put the ball in their hands and I think this year we have a lot of big-play guys. I think it is exciting that we have three running backs that can run the football and make things happen. Ben Troupe is one of those guys that is dangerous and can make plays with the ball. Keiwan (Ratliff) and Dallas (Baker) also are guys that can make things happen when they get the ball in their hands. I think that the more guys that you have that can make plays for you, the better you are going to be and the harder it is for the opposing defense to man up on you. So that is one of the things that we have a chance to be much better at offensively because we have guys that can make plays. With the young freshmen coming in, we have a lot of speed. Keiwan has had a great spring and O.J. Small is a guy that really just makes things happen. He is a guy that won't necessarily go downtown on you but you don't need them all to go downtown, you need to be a little different in the middle as well, and I have been impressed with the spring OJ has had as well."
Talk about the impact of new coach Charlie Strong and changes:
"We did not change much. When I flew up there that Christmas Day and talked to Charlie, we talked about how you don't want to get in and change your offense and defense a bunch. I mean Coach Spurrier was here for 12 years and for 12 years they ran the same offense. Obviously if you run the same system over and over and over guys will come through the system and get better and the system itself will get better. When you have five different defensive coordinators and change things even though I didn't change things when I came in and took over for Jim Bates, some things were still changed and were different. So it was important for me that we do a lot of the same things with Charlie. We have tweaked the system with terminology but that's where Charlie has been so good. He's not an ego guy and along with all the defensive coaches, they've done a great job. We have a lot of experience here with Bill Miller being here 18 years and Coach Graves has been here a long time. So it's been a very smooth transaction over there and the changes that happen, like a coach going to a clinic or visiting a staff and picking up things that the staff does that they like, that's where it has been a very positive thing."
Is there a danger with having Keiwan on the field too much for the course of the season?
"Keiwan is one of those guys that can run all day, he is one of those guys that can do that, and you just have to keep an eye on him and don't want to wear him to a point where he is too thin. He is a heck of an athlete and can do a lot of things and he wants to do it. I think that is what's exciting too and he can help us. One of the things we talked about with him playing offense in spring is that he has a pretty good grasp of defense and he knows what we are doing there. We didn't make a whole lot of changes in spring and so we can get him up to speed on defense pretty quick. Now he has a pretty good understanding of the offense and what is expected of him there. So now we have a guy that can play both positions and even though we did that with him last year, his role in the offense was very limited, but now his role will be expanded and we can do a little more with him. We can really use him quite a bit."
How strong do you expect the running game to be in 2003?
"I expect us to be able to run the football really well in 2003. I really do think we are better than last year. I think we are better up front with more depth and toughness and I think it will help us run the football better."
Courtesy UF Sports Info. Department