MEYER: Tough Offseason Awaits Gators

EUSTIS --- You don't have to be the second coming of Jimmy the Greek or a distant relative of Nostradomous to predict the kind of season the Florida Gators will have in the fall of 2005. Coach Urban Meyer told the Lake County Gator Club Wednesday night that there's a simpler way to determine what the Gators will do. Just follow the media reports over the next three months.

"If you want to follow Florida football for the next three months, you watch it closely," Meyer told the crowd estimated at 850 at the fourth of the spring Gator Gatherings. "If you hear good things coming out of Gainesville… things like work ethic, accountability, great behavior and great attitude … if you hear those things get ready because this is going to be a lot of fun. This is going to be one of those years you talk about for a long time. If you hear things about behavior issues, about guys acting like children, then get ready for a very average year and that's the most brutally honest opinion that I can give you."

Florida's players have been warned by the first-year coaching staff. If they thought the spring was tough, then just wait till the summer months. Meyer says they have been told to expect the single most demanding offseason they've ever experienced, perhaps the most demanding summer in the history of the program. Meyer knows that this team is one that is loaded with talent even though 15 games have been lost in the past three years. It's not talent that must be reshaped in the offseason but instead it's work ethic, attitudes and off the field discipline that are the chief concern.

"If we have a great offseason you can have an excellent team in the fall," Meyer said, "but if we have an average offseason where we have to deal with some issues like we have here in the past, then you are looking at a very average team and get ready for a very average season. That's just the way it is."

The offseason workouts in his previous stops at Bowling Green and Utah were such that players transferred out rather than handle the demands of strength and conditioning coaches whose tactics are designed to toughen up the team both mentally and physically. He said players may choose to leave and if they do "that's their business but I don't think we're there. I think we've reached the point where guys just want to win."

Meyer has made it clear what he demands. Now, he says it is up to the players to buy into it. He said that if the players treat this like the most important offseason in the history of Florida football, "Get ready to have some fun. Get ready to sweat, scream, yell and have some fun in The Swamp because it's going to be a lot of fun. We're going to open it up and let the kids play a little bit. This is going to be the kind of program that players want to play in. This is going to be the kind of program that fans want to go watch players play in. If you saw the spring game, you're going to see wide open offense, you're going to see guys play and you're going to see players play very hard."

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For the fourth straight stop on this spring tour of Gator Clubs, Meyer told the crowd that the Florida job is the best job in all of college football. As proof, he went down a list of spring football game crowds, ranging from 1,000 who attended Auburn's game to the 22,000 at "the school that's north of us (Georgia)." Meyer said all he needed to reinforce his belief that the Florida job is the best came at the Orange and Blue Game when he saw The Swamp rocking with 58,500 fans.

Meyer said, "I would not have left great job where I had the number one quarterback in all of college football in Alex Smith for a job that wasn't the best."

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As he did in Atlanta on Monday night, Meyer indicated that if Gavin Dickey isn't drafted high in the Major League Baseball draft in June, that the Tallahassee junior will be back to play football in the fall. Meyer said that Dickey will be a backup quarterback but he will also see action as the fifth wide receiver… The coach said that after the first two weeks of spring practice he was certain that true freshman quarterback Josh Portis would redshirt, but now he believes that Portis will see time on the field.

Meyer said there were only 16 players who qualified as Champions after the first quarter. He said that the number will be something like 50 for the second quarter Champions banquet…Meyer said that the rumors that Ray McDonald is very lazy are "partly true but that's starting to leave his system now and he simply won't play if he's not giving the great effort on every play." …Meyer said that if you have someone you don't like, you should request that person spend some time behind the second team offensive line. He said that if there is an injury problem to the starting offensive line of Randy Hand, Lance Butler, Mike Degory, Tavares Washington and Jim Tartt there could be problems… Second team offensive guard Ronnie Wilson, a 17-year-old who enrolled early at Florida this spring is a player to watch in the future.

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Meyer broke up the crowd when he mentioned the recent flap between the Old Ball Coach (OBC) Steve Spurrier and Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer. Spurrier zinged Fulmer about the number of arrests in Knoxville during the offseason just a night before two of Spurrier's South Carolina players were arrested for smoking marijuana.

"You gotta love the Old Ball Coach," Meyer said, recalling to the crowd how he ran into one of Steve Spurrier's daughters a couple of days ago at a baseball game where their sons were playing.

"She came walking over and we had met each other… she's a very nice gal," Meyer said. "She came up to me and as she walked up I started shaking my head and said 'can you believe what he just said?' and she just put her face in her hands and said 'I just can't believe he's said that.'"

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Meyer said his offensive philosophy is "stay out of third down and 12." He said that football is a 10-yard game where you move the chains, play field position and "don't be afraid to punt the football."

Explaining to the crowd, Meyer said that teams that have to drive the ball 90 yards score approximately three percent of the time, while teams that continually get the ball on the opponent's side of the 50 score more than 60 percent of the time. "Because it's a short field, you don't need the discipline that it takes to drive the ball 90 yards to score," Meyer said.

Meyer said that in his philosophy, the offense and the defense have to work together for the team to achieve great results.

"If you work together then the offense holds the ball for 35 minutes and the defense never has to jog out on the plus side of the field because you're playing field position football," Meyer said.

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