Meyer Says Gators Don't Need Orange Eaters

BONITA SPRINGS --- At the first home football game during Urban Meyer's first year as the coach at Bowling Green, the Falcons came into their locker room at the half. It was 100 degrees outside and the locker room had no air conditioning, just fans blowing hard, trying to circulate some air. Meyer was just into his halftime talk to his team about making some adjustments when he noticed some players surrounding a table in the corner of the locker room.

The training staff had filled the table with orange slices as a way to combat the heat and dehydration. Meyer had no problem with that. What he did have a problem with was the players who were there sucking on those orange slices.

"Sucking up the oranges are these guys who don't even play a down," Meyer recalled to an overflow crowd at Monday night's Southwest Florida Gator Gathering at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Seeing players who hadn't contributed on the field chowing down on the oranges got under Meyer's skin instantly. He stopped his talk, walked over to the table and kicked it over.

"Guys who don't contribute, we call them orange eaters," Meyer said. "We don't need any orange eaters. If you're an orange eater we don't need you at the University of Florida. We need football players."

That brought a roar of approval from the record, standing room only crowd that numbered somewhere between 800-900 Gator faithful, a crowd that waited patiently for Meyer to arrive at the venue. The coach was almost an hour late because he had been in Tampa recruiting, so he launched immediately into his speech, answered questions and then vowed to sign autographs until everyone was happy.

This was the ninth Gator Gathering of the spring and for the ninth consecutive stop on the tour, the crowd exceeded expectations by a wide margin. Extra chairs along the back of the ballroom couldn't accommodate everyone and there were people standing against the walls.

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Meyer got the crowd going when he told them "you've got a football coach who's coming out of his skin and can't wait for September 3 to get here." He later would emphasize that the September 3 game with Wyoming, which will be his first as the Gator football coach is the most important game on the schedule. Again, as he has at previous stops, he emphasized that he and the staff are not even thinking ahead to games against Tennessee, LSU, Georgia and Florida State.

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To the delight of the crowd, Meyer recognized senior offensive tackle Randy Hand who hails from nearby Estero. Hand's parents were in attendance.

"Randy Hand is one of the best offensive linemen I've ever been around," said Meyer, after explaining that he moved Hand to left tackle because that's where you play your best offensive lineman other than the center. "He's got to work on a few fundamentals, but he'll get there. He's going to be very good."

While on the subject of his offensive line, Meyer joked that Jim Tartt, who is 6-2, 320, is "about an inch or two away from being round."

Meyer said that the offensive line has work to do but there is tremendous potential.

"Our offensive line is very good and it has a chance to be great," he said.

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As he does at every tour stop, Meyer praised the academics at the University of Florida, telling the appreciative crowd that the average incoming Florida freshman has a grade point average that is better than 4.0 and an average SAT score of 1350. He talked about how Florida's academic standards are high enough now that only the best of the best need to apply.

"If you're not one of the best of the best, then send your 25 dollars to the school out west where they'll take you," Meyer jabbed, an obvious reference at Florida State's lower admission requirements and academic standards.

While on the subject of academics, Meyer said the team grade point average made great strides in the spring semester and that he was pleased with the effort put into school work by the team.

He praised tailback Markus Manson, who turned in a 4.0 for the spring and defensive tackle Marcus Thomas for his efforts.

"Marcus Thomas, who has been struggling academically since he go there, had a 3.0," Meyer said proudly. "There were a lot of positives academically this spring."

Meyer said that "the relationship between great academics and great seasons is pretty high."

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Meyer emphasized that in the Florida offense, the ball is not going to be thrown to a specific position but instead the ball will go to the players who are the best with the football in their hands.

"If I've got Bubba Caldwell over here who runs a 4.3 and over here I've got a tight end like Dane Guthrie who runs a 4.6 or 4.7, you bet I'm going to get the ball to Bubba Caldwell," he said. "We don't just throw the ball to a position. If you're a great player you're going to touch the ball."

While talking of his wide receivers, he said the Gators can't afford an injury at the wide receiver position because of depth. He once again said that Gavin Dickey will be battling for the backup quarterback position but will be the number five wide receiver. When he mentioned incoming freshmen Nyan Boateng, David Nelson and Louis Murphy, he hinted that they would need to be ready to play because of the depth issues at wideout.

Assessing the wide receiver position, Meyer said, "Dallas Baker … it's hard for me to say that he's not our best wide receiver right now."

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Commenting on questions about officiating and instant replay, Meyer said that the Florida-FSU game in The Swamp will have a split crew of SEC and ACC officials.

"We will have some ACC officials but we will have some SEC officials in that game," he said.

Later, he said that the Southeastern Conference will be patterning its instant replay procedures on the Big Ten Conference, which added instant replay last season.

"Instant replay will be based on the Big Ten model where if it's a close call and there is an error you can fix it," he said.

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Former Gators in attendance were Terry Dean (quarterback in the Spurrier era and Spurrier's first Gator recruit), former All-America wide receiver Charley Casey and Dale Hutchinson … Meyer said that Athletic Director Jeremy Foley is working with the Miami AD to find a way to make the UF-Miami game part of the schedule. He said that the tough part about adding the game is when to play it so that the game doesn't conflict badly with conference schedules … Meyer said that TV timeouts "are ridiculous because they end whatever momentum you have going." … he called Earl Everett a great player in waiting and said that "Earl Everett can play for the Patriots some day because that's the kind of kid he is."

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