FOOTBALL: Coach Zook and Players Talk

When asked if anything positive came out of last Saturday's loss in Starkville, Florida Coach Ron Zook said, "Well, the plane didn't crash on the way back." Yes, Zook seemed much more relaxed and focused on the task at hand. However, it was all too obvious that several members of the Florida team have a long road with a short window before Saturday's kickoff, in which to attain Zook's let go get ‘em attitude.

Mixed messages were the central theme during the weekly media day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Most of the players in attendance were obviously shocked by Foley's decision to fire Zook at this point in the season. They have all reached the second step, anger, and it showed. Defensive back Jarvis Herring spoke candidly on behalf of those players who are unhappy with Jeremy Foley . "Some of the guys are thinking about leaving. They're getting tired of some of the decisions made upstairs. A lot of guys will leave. Whoever can leave, probably will".

Kicker Matt Leach stated, "It wasn't handled the way it should've been handled." He said that many of the players found out about the firing through the internet and that word quickly spread throughout the campus.

"I thought it was BS. This is my senior year. If the coaches are going to remain all year, why not wait?" said linebacker Travis Harris. He said that he spoke to Foley about the issue privately, but couldn't reveal exactly what he said because the language was harsh. Harris said of Foley's response, "He just gave me the runaround".

Many players also feel betrayed by those fans who have repeatedly bashed Coach Zook. Harris said, "It kinda hurts. We bust our asses everyday. If you're a fan, you should pull for us". Leach said, "We're playing for ourselves, our coaches, and our families". Leach's comments were not a direct shot at the fans. The Lakeland native was undoubtedly speaking of the lonely feeling that surrounds this football team.

Most of the players in attendance stated that they didn't feel Zook was ever given a fair opportunity. Running back Ciatrick Fason summed up a question about Steve Spurrier in similar fashion saying, "He's been mentioned for the job for three years now" alluding to the shadow that has hung over Ron Zook since his hiring in 2002. Many players seemingly questioned Foley's honesty stating that Zook was told that he'd be given three years, when in fact, he was fired in 2 ½ years on the job.

Notice was been served by those in attendance today, that several members of the program, especially the younger guys, have indeed reached a boiling point. And while they may continue to remain angered and hurt by Monday's events, there appears to be a desire to reach the next step in this grieving process and accept what has happened. "All of that anger will be taken out on Saturday" said Herring. It was a sentiment that was echoed in various ways by Jemalle Cornelius, Mike Degory, Harris, and Leach. "We want to send a message and show them that we have a good ball club" said Degory.

The players were also forthright in blaming themselves. Several stated that much of the blame lies within players who were either not playing to their level or for being out of position, thus allowing opposing offenses to make plays. Most of that talk was aimed obviously aimed at the defense. Harris said that it appeared that guys wanted to make big plays, but were getting out of position to do so. Cornerback Reynaldo Hill said that everybody needs to get back and play assignment football.

Center Mike Degory spoke like a true veteran. "I don't see us folding the tents. I'm one of the few guys who understand this" The Palm Bay junior was speaking about the business of college football and how he had already been through one coaching change. Degory is wise beyond his years and demonstrated such by saying that he learned a little from Spurrier and his move, learned a lot from Coach Zook about football and leadership, and that would learn from whoever is named as the next Florida coach. A returning Mike Degory would be a huge bonus to the next Florida coach.

If Zook can redirect his troops to turn their anger into productivity carries over throughout the entire course of the game, this could be another great one in the Florida/Georgia series.

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