"The thing that I like about him [Meyer] fitting in here is he's got a little bit of a swagger that's really needed," said Herbstreit, who noted that the Gators just haven't had that confidence since Steve Spurrier was the coach. Fifteen losses in the past three years have taken away the luster of the Florida program and eliminated that confident swagger that once defied UF, but Herbstreit sees it returning with Meyer at Florida's helm.
"Steve did so well in everything he did," said Herbstreit. "He coached so well here and he was a great player here. He set a precedent here of having that bit of a swagger with the Gator program and that's been lost in the last few years. I don't mean that as a reflection on Ron Zook, but in my opinion that just wasn't part of the package. I think Urban Meyer … and not intentionally but just because of his style and personality … brings that to the table."
Kirk Herbstreit as spotted at 3/30 practice...
Meyer was a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Earle Bruce when Herbstreit was recruited to Columbus. The relationship began as a GA helping to host a recruit, but it's grown into a solid friendship.
"When I would come on visits or come up to a game as a recruit, he was assigned to me so that's how the relationship started," Herbstreit recalled. "From that point on we just stayed in touch. Through my job at ESPN we would bump into each other every year and next thing you know he's the head coach at Bowling Green.
"He had some success there then he headed out to Utah. In the last 4-5 years I've had a close relationship with him."
Herbstreit feels that Meyer is the perfect fit for the Florida program, not just for the self-confidence which shows up in "the swagger," but also because of the intangibles he brings to the table. Herbstreit thinks the Gators need the infusion of toughness and confidence to go with the ability Meyer has to excite a team both by example and with innovation.
"He's emotional, he's passionate and he's a disciplinarian," said Herbstreit. "He's got the ability to coach them up to be real tough and he's got the ability to love them up real tough, too. He's young, he's energetic and he's an innovator. Look at that offense he runs. He's everything that you would define a coach to be."
At both Bowling Green and Utah, Meyer was able to take teams whose expectations were low to average and get them to achieve beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The expectations at Florida are higher than those at Bowling Green or Utah, but Herbstreit doesn't see that as an obstacle for Meyer.
"I think you have the perfect coach to deal with the high expectations you have here at Florida," he said. "No one's expectations are greater than Urban's and you can see it in the way he demands from the kids in practice."
During a Meyer practice session, it isn't uncommon for the coach to call a player out in a tone of voice that could best be described as "the voice of God." It's loud and clear, like a cannon shot across the bow. Herbstreit sees nothing wrong with the way that Meyer calls his players out. In fact, he sees it as an excellent motivational tool.
"The coaches who excel and become the best in their profession have that quality that everything they do there's a reason for it," said Herbstreit. "It seems to me whether it's on the field watching them practice or in a meeting room or when he takes a jab at a player --- and he'll take a few shots --- that it's always done with a purpose. He'll challenge them emotionally and physically, yet he's got that quality about him that lets him pull them aside, wrap his arm around them and encourage them. One minute he's all over them, but the next minute, if the player responds, he'll tell him what a good job he's doing and how proud he is of him and he makes sure everyone sees and hears that, too. Everything he does is designed to bring out the best in his players."
Meyer has an exceptional coaching pedigree. Working for Earle Bruce, Sonny Lubick, Lou Holtz and Bob Davie prepared him for coaching college football. Herbstreit says that he sees a little bit of each of those coaches in Meyer.
"I think he's prepared himself well for this job," said Herbstreit. "Because of his background and the people he's coached with, he's ready for a job like Florida where the expectations are high. He's coached with Bob Davie, Lou Holtz, Sonny Lubick and Earle Bruce and he's learned from them. You see little pieces of each of them in the things he does, yet he does things that are unique. I just think he's the best possible fit here at Florida."
Asked what he sees as Meyer's best coaching quality, Herbstreit responded, "A player thinks he can get to a certain level of potential but then you get a coach like Urban Meyer, who is one of these coaches who says 'that's just not good enough because you can do so much better than that.' He's got that ability to make a kid believe that he can be the best and when you can get every guy on a team giving the effort and believing like that, then you've got yourself a championship team."