Discipline: Meyer Says It's The New Tradition

Urban Meyer is a man who embraces campus life and all the traditions that make up college football. He seems to be the perfect coach for the college game as he goes from one student organization to another rallying support for his Florida Gators and encouraging the student body to embrace the traditions that have made Florida football great over the years.

He loves the thought of 90,000-plus swinging and swaying to "We Are The Boys" at the end of the third quarter and hearing "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrre come the Gators!" when the team rushes out of the tunnel at the beginning of each game. He wants to begin a new tradition of having the coaches and football team sing the fight song "Orange and Blue" along with the fans after each game.

He is indeed a traditionalist but there is one tradition he is working diligently to bring to an end. This recent tradition of off the field troubles by the football team that included fights at downtown bars and fights with fraternities is one he can do without. Tradition such as that is sure sign that discipline and respect are lagging. In Meyer's way of thinking that lack of discipline and respect has to be eliminated quickly.

"I know this is a college town with all kinds of issues and I want people to start talking about the tradition of singing "We Are The Boys" and the fight song after the game not the tradition of what goes on on Main Street in Gainesville," said Meyer after practice Wednesday. "Right now there seems to be more of a tradition of acting like a nut and obviously that won't be tolerated here."

He has heard all the excuses and he doesn't buy into this sowing wild oats or "boys will be boys" thing. He doesn't tolerate out of control players nor does he believe the players are the only ones who must be held accountable when there are players who cross the line.

With Meyer, everyone is accountable. Everyone is responsible. It all starts with him at the top and filters its way down to the players. He sets a high standard and he expects everyone to do things the right way. Those who choose to do things the wrong way are ones who will find themselves thumbing through college football's yellow pages, searching for a new place to call home.

"Some coaches say that it's not their responsibility," he said. "Well, it's my responsibility and it's our position coaches' responsibility. What you do is you try to set a standard, demand everyone lives up it and correct the standard if there's a correcting issue and eventually sever the head of the snake if it becomes a problem."

Setting the standard means instituting rules and discipline, although he will tell you that discipline, along with leadership, is an overused word.

"You hear leadership and you hear discipline and I don't think anybody really knows what that means," he said. "I have my philosophy and I'm not saying I know what it means but discipline is doing all the little things right."

Doing the little things means following the rules, even the ones that seem archaic and even the rules where no one gets hurt if the rules are broken. Meyer will tell you that there is a price to pay even for breaking the little rules. He believes that a person who breaks the little rules is someone who can't be counted on at crunch time.

He doesn't want a person who lacks the discipline to follow the rules on his football field when a game is on the line.

"When we just ran gassers over there we had about four guys with their foot across the white line," Meyer said. "Those are very undisciplined people because they don't things right all the time. If you have class at 8 o'clock and you show up at 8:04 you're not a very disciplined person. You're the same guy that's gonna jump offsides in the fourth quarter against Tennessee, so let's just try to do the little things right."

In Meyer's first spring, the Gators have learned that life isn't quite as simple as it was under Ron Zook. Zook was known as a players' coach and players genuinely loved him. However, Zook cut a few corners here and there on discipline --- things like letting Keiwan Ratliff and Guss Scott play in the Outback Bowl after breaking curfew and showing up at the team hotel at 6:30 in the morning on game day.

With Meyer, there will be no cutting corners. Last Friday he worked his team harder than usual at practice. It was a ragged practice, bad enough that he took personal responsibility for the team's performance. The fact that there was a lack of execution didn't stop the practice from being one of the hardest the team has seen this spring.

Meyer cut the team loose after chewing them up one side and down the other after last Friday's practice. There was a 10 a.m. scrimmage the next day and he didn't spend a lot of time talking to them about the pitfalls of a Friday night in Gainesville. Instead, he left them to make their own choices knowing fully well he might not like the results he saw Saturday at 7:30 a.m. when team meetings began.

After he cut the team loose last Friday, he told the media that Saturday's scrimmage was the most important day in Gator football history.

"We killed them on Friday and I heard about Friday nights around here and the good thing from what I heard, no one was out on a Friday night in Gainesville," Meyer said. "That means they were thinking about football and they weren't selfish son of a guns who are worried about themselves. That's why it was so big, not just execution.

"That was a big day. If we would have come out and I saw things that I've seen before --- the things that we've all seen when you're dealing with 100 18 to 22 year olds --- the smell of something on their breath and that look in their eye then you've got a really bad team here, a really bad team. Forget about the record, you have a bad team. Well, I didn't see that. I saw a team that came in bright eyed and wanted to go to work. It had nothing to do with who won the scrimmage."

As the spring has progressed, Meyer has put his stamp on the Florida football team. With the exception of three kids who graduated early from high school so they could participate in spring practice, it is a team that he inherited with players who were recruited to Florida by coaches named Spurrier and Zook. He's instituted new programs, new attitudes and new rules to follow which means getting players who don't know him well to buy into his system. He's let them know that the first tradition he intends to set is the tradition that Florida football players know the rules and follow them or they won't be here very long.

BIG HIT: During the third down scrimmage, wide receiver Chad Jackson had a near out of body experience when safety Kyle Jackson hammered him as the ball arrived on a crossing pattern over the middle. The hit drew the ooos and ahhhhs of the fans, but Meyer wasn't all that impressed.

Asked what he thought of the hit, Meyer responded, "That's really not that big a hit. I guess it's been awhile since you've seen a good hit. We'll try to get you one Saturday. You'll see some good hits in the fall. No, that wasn't a great hit. If Chad Jackson's hurt over that, then Chad Jackson's in the wrong business. I'm sure the SEC hits harder than that."

BLITZ, BLITZ AND BLITZ SOME MORE: The emphasis for the offense Wednesday was picking up the blitz. Defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison were sending in blitzers from every angle. It seemed that at least every other play, the defense brought the house.

Meyer said that preparing for the blitz is essential because "with our style of play if you don't blitz we'll wear you out."

He said that it is essential that the offense has to learn to deal with the blitz because "what blitzing does is it puts you in one-on-one matchups and if you can't get the ball to the guys one on one you're going to keep getting blitzed, so if you hit a few times then they start playing more stationary."

OFFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY: The key word with the Meyer offensive philosophy is balance. Meyer likes running the spread option because it gives his team the best chance to have an attack so balanced that defenses can't key on any one thing.

"I think we're a balanced offense that takes great pride in knocking people off the ball, being a physical group," he explained. "If we're good running the ball you're going to have to put an extra guy in the box and then you have matchups so it's a matchup offense if we're good running the ball. If we're not good running the ball it's a very average offense."

Two times in the past four years, Meyer's teams (Bowling Green and Utah) have averaged near or beyond 500 yards per game with almost perfect balance.

"Two of the four years we're right at 500 yards and 50/50 so that's when you know you've got things going pretty good," he said.

Balance is a key because it makes defenses have to make decisions about who to stop which then creates personnel mismatches.

"If we do that we're really hard to stop," he said. "Because what do you stop? You stop that run game then you're leaving Chad Jackson alone on a safety."

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Meyer emphasizes having a winner and a loser at each scrimmage as well as almost every drill. Why such an emphasis on winning and losing?

"If there's not a winner and a loser then why the hell are we doing this?" he said. "Some I find myself getting bored in practice watching guys run over bags, so maybe it's just for me. You see the guys in the offseason and we do the run for the BCS and you see a guy like Dane Guthrie. Now I like Dane Guthrie but if he just has to go out and run cones on his own --- maybe a guy like Danny Wuerffel he'll go out and run them on his own, but Dane Guthrie's not, not yet anyway. You tell them they'll get a T-shirt at the end of the day if you and your teammates win and they go a little harder. That's why we do that."

ON THE NEWFANGLED PUNT FORMATION: Meyer is putting in a punt formation that looks strange with three big linemen lined up in front of the punter. It looks odd, and that's one of the reasons Meyer likes it. Another reason he likes it is because he's found it to be effective.

"It's unique and therefore it's hard to prepare for," he said. "Last year (at Utah) we finished second in the country in net punting. A lot of it is because teams just don't want to spend the time to work against it so that's why we do it."

EVALUATION OF WEDNESDAY'S PRACTICE: The defense was the winner in Wednesday's scrimmage and Meyer likes the way the defense is shaping up. He felt the stop troops had an exceptional practice, but he felt the offense did some good things, too.

"The defense won at the end and did a nice job but the offense had one of their better days," he said.

Although the offensive line got worn out a bit trying to combat the massive blitz package coming at them, Meyer wasn't displeased.

"Our defense is doing of good things right now but our first offensive line is going to be good," he said. "Our second string is really bad right now but our first string is going to be good. They probably didn't look great today but that's probably because of the defense."

DOC UPDATE: Safeties Coach Doc Holliday interviewed at Marshall University Tuesday and some newspapers in West Virginia say that head coaching job is his if he wants it. Holliday had little to say about the situation after practice except that he's looking into the possibility rather seriously.

"It's no secret I went up there," he said. "Right now I haven't made any decisions. I need to call up to Marshall to see what's going on. Other than that I'm trying to get Florida better. That's all I'm concerned about. I did go up there (Huntington, West Virginia) yesterday. Any assistant coach at some point wants to be a head coach. Other than that I have no comment."

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