Meyer Zings UM, Talks Recruiting In So. Florida

CORAL GABLES --- A hard day on the recruiting trail in Dade County where he made no less than six stops on Monday did nothing to dull the razor sharp wit of Coach Urban Meyer Monday night. Upon finding out there were 17 Miami Hurricane fans in attendance, guests of a Florida alum, Meyer delivered a few well timed shots aimed straight at the "school down south."

Shortly into his speech at the Miami Gator Club, Meyer told the sellout crowd of 350 that "I'm not surprised at the enthusiasm and support from Gator Nation." Then he looked over at the Miami fans seated together over on the right side of the room and he said, "I mean it's not like that at your place … it's just not."

Meyer also said called the Miami fans in attendance "Gator wannabe fans" and when talking about Florida's academic standards compared to the local school of choice in Dade Country, he said "Florida is going after the one percent of the one percent. We're going after the best football players. We're going after the best students. If you're not a real good student, then save your 25 bucks and see if you can get in school someplace else."

Then, looking over at the Miami fans in attendance, he said, "I'm not going to apologize, I'm just going to keep taking the shots at you."

A very appreciative Gator crowd roared its approval at each of the little shots at the Hurricanes, but what got them revved up the most was Meyer's insistence that South Florida is now a prime recruiting ground for the University of Florida.

"We don't have enough kids from South Florida on our team so we're going to make a real push to come down here and get a couple of guys," he said. "The best players are in South Florida and the best coaches are in South Florida."

Prior to spending more than an hour signing autographs for the Gator fans, Meyer told the local media that South Florida has "as fine talent and speed as there is in anywhere in the country. You watch it on and it's faster than anywhere else in the country and then you get down here and watch it live and it's even faster. There's a bunch of great juniors down here, too. The next couple of years are going to be intriguing for Florida football down here."

Meyer told the crowd that when he began assembling his staff at Florida back in December, he had two priorities.

"I wanted to hire people who understood the intensity and seriousness of recruiting the great state of Florida," he said. "I had a great job but Florida is the best job in the country and the real reason we came to Florida is because within four or five hours of my house are the best players in the country.

"When I went there looking for coaches, number one we wanted good people and number two, powerful recruiters, especially in South Florida because it's unique and because it's hard but the best players are here and we have to get better down here."

Midway through the recruiting season and just a few weeks on the job, Coach Mike Locksley left Florida to take a position on Coach Ron Zook's staff at Illinois. Meyer's choice to replace Locksley was Coach Doc Holliday, the associate head coach at North Carolina State and a legendary recruiter in South Florida.

"He's the best recruiter in the nation for South Florida," Meyer said. Praising Holliday for 25 years of coaching and recruiting at West Virginia and North Carolina State, Meyer said that one of the reasons he wanted Holliday on his staff is that "he does it the right way."

Midway through spring practice, Holliday was offered the head coaching job at Marshall University. After a week of speculation that he would take the job, Holliday announced that he would remain at Florida, which Meyer says is a "tribute to the power of Florida football."

Meyer said, "The reason he stayed … you coach for a long time … it's my 20th year in college coaching and he's been at it longer than me … but how many chances do you get to be the best? How many chances do you get to get the big prize? … the ultimate prize in college football which is to say you're number one?"

* * *

During the question and answer session after he spoke, Meyer was asked what is the psychology of denying players access to the locker room, their team practice clothes and taking down photos of former Gator players in the locker room?

Meyer responded, "The media got hold of that whole issue about not letting them in places and not wearing the Gator gear. Well, I'm not going to speak about that because there are certain things that are not meant to get outside the inner circle and I hit the ceiling when I read that the next morning. You have to understand that Florida football is under the microscope. The whole intent is that I think people take things for granted. When you touch that Gator head, it should really mean something. It should mean you're the one percent of the one percent. You don't touch that Gator head and walk away from it, then go out and act like an idiot that night. If you think you have to act like an idiot, then do what you gotta do, but don't be a phony. Don't disrespect what the University of Florida stands for and what the team is all about. What I want from a football team, players and coaching staff is that you respect what the University of Florida stands for. You respect the traditions of the 90s of Florida football. If you don't want to respect that, then save us all a bunch of time and money and go do your own deal. That was the whole intent. There was much more made of that than was necessary. Much more."

* * *

Meyer was asked about the problem of finishing games that plagued the 2004 team. The same questioner had a follow-up to his own question, asking about how to avoid some of the problems that caused games to be lost in 2004.

Meyer said, "I don't worry about what's happened in the past so much. I do know our football staff is working their tails off. Last year there were a lot of things that were so close. When you're dealing with a young immature team you will come close and not finish the job so our goal is simply to finish the job this year. We're not going to have some silly penalty or some silly reason to lose a game."

* * *

Holliday was introduced to the crowd by Meyer and the Gators safeties coach told the Gator crowd that "I've been very fortunate to recruit in the state of Florida football and in particular in Miami for 25 years and I always felt that Florida is the best job in college football. The best high school football in the country is played right down here in South Florida."

Holliday said that South Florida football is best because of an abundance of speed, plus tough, hungry players who have learned what it takes to survive and win.

* * *

University of Florida National Alumni Executive Director Randy Talbot had a chance to speak to the crowd prior to Meyer taking the podium. Talbot, a Gator defensive back during the 1970s, was a high school All-American at nearby Coral Gables High School.

From 1969-71, the mighty Cavaliers were considered the best high school team in the nation, winning the mythical national championship all three years. The team was coached by the legendary Nick Kotys, whom Talbot took time to praise.

"Whenever I'm down here and I get a chance to talk to my former teammates, inevitably we end up talking about Nick Kotys," said Talbot. "He was a great man and we were very lucky that we got to play for him."

Talbot reached into a box and pulled out his faded number 14 Coral Gables football jersey that looked small. He asked the crowd, "Can you imagine that this fit over a set of shoulder pads?"

* * *

Meyer signed autographs until there were no more seekers once again. He joked with the crowd about all the signatures.

"This is Gator Club number 11 and what happens is you sit here and it's sign this sign this sign this," he said. "Well, I've been on the other side of this coin where you show up to speak and there's four people there and then the next time there's eight people there. This is the way it's supposed to be, but I have to tell you, when you start out someone gives you some wild name like Urban or something like that and you say 'what was that?' and then I sign it. Then after about an hour of doing it, someone steps up and they ask me to sign it To Tom. I look over there at them (dazed look) and they say 'you dope, Tom … T O M.' So I just want to apologize for that and want you to know that we appreciate all of you that are here, even you Gator wannabe fans."

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