National Championship Press Conference

Fresh after winning a national championship, Coach Meyer speaks with the media in Phoenix before heading back to Gainesville later this afternoon.

Press conference audio (includes comments at end not in transcript):

THE MODERATOR: Good morning everyone, welcome. At this time, I would like to congratulate and welcome Coach Urban Meyer.

COACH MEYER: Thank you for being here today. Obviously a great day for Florida football and our players. There are some people I have to thank. I don't know if this is the appropriate time to do it, but I would like to thank Tostitos for hosting such a terrific Bowl and Bowl experience for our players; John Junker and Fiesta Bowl volunteers and their staff; the City of Glendale providing such a beautiful stadium; the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. And the reason I bring them up, along with Scottsdale Community College, because one of our issues and -- and everybody I talked to that coached in a game of this magnitude, to a person, to a man, they made a comment that the whole key is going to be keeping your team focused and keeping them with that edge.

We left Gainesville with that edge and we certainly didn't lose it in our five to six days we spent here in Arizona. On behalf of that, I think a lot of times that's overlooked. The security at our hotel, it was hard to get in there and that's the way we like it. I am grateful for that.

I'd also like to make a couple comments on the Bowl experience for our players. We have been very fortunate to be around, starting in 1990, I think, was the first time -- excuse me, Cotton Bowl, I want to say, was in '88 when I was at Ohio State, '87. We played in the Cotton Bowl and we took teams, for example, at 1990 to a Freedom Bowl when I saw a school that hasn't really been to a Bowl game in many, many years all the way through.

I also had to stand up in front of a team that deserved to go to a Bowl at Bowling Green at 9 and 3 and 8 and 3 and tell them they weren't going and they were completely devastated. I would like to make the comments that -- although I think it is an imperfect system, I think as the future unfolds, there may be a way to select one versus two because I know there is great controversy involved. I want to make sure I am perfectly clear that I think the Bowl system is what it is all about. What gets lost in the shuffle is the Bowl experience for the players.

And I watch every Bowl I can, and to see those young people enjoy themselves and to get to experience a different part of the country and say they went to a Bowl game, that can never be changed.

I do believe that the future discussions about fixing an imperfect system will continue to grow, but certainly the University of Florida, our football team, my coaching staff, I am very pleased with the way our guys played.

And the separation of the Bowl game from the other Bowls, I think, was college -- that's good for college football.

With that, I will answer any questions. Thank you.

Q. Coach, would you talk about what you saw on film? Obviously you saw some mismatches out there and your team was very well-prepared to go out there and exploit a lot of weaknesses in the Ohio State defense?

COACH MEYER: First of all, one of the mismatches was our defensive line has been playing well all year. We lost a player in the middle of the season. Coach Mattison, in my opinion, is the best in the country at what he does and that's coach and develop defensive linemen. They went through matchups. I think it was USA Today or someone made -- just once again, that underdog role. Our players really thrive on that. And our defense line, I thought, dominated that game. If you had to say what was the one area that changed the game, it was the performance of our defensive line.

That was very concerning going into the game because Ohio State had very good offensive line. Also, they had speed and athleticism. I think when No. 7, Teddy Ginn, left the game, that was a big momentum change as well. That mismatch I was concerned about was No. 11 and No. 7, their speed. You took No. 7 out and also the kicking game, that was a mismatch I was worried about. Obviously the first play of the game.

On defense, we felt really anybody in the country, we could probably play with outside on the edge. I was concerned about being able to block their big guys on the inside. We have starters, we have injury issues we have been dealing with all year. They held up pretty good. They didn't get to our quarterback but once or twice. I can't remember how many sacks we had. I felt we blocked the perimeter and all the bubble screens and staying on schedule, which you have to do against zone coverage because I think they are 95% zone coverage.

We matched up very well on the perimeter, our offense versus their defense.

Q. Urban, I hope it is not too early to start talking about next year already. But what kind of style of quarterback do you think we'll see from Tim Tebow next year?

COACH MEYER: I think very similar to Alex. I'm hoping we can -- he is obviously a very good thrower. He was in high school. Did we let him throw as much? No. He threw quite a few touchdown passes, he had a few against LSU. I think Tim Tebow brings to the table arguably one of the greatest competitors, leaders. There is a reason why he ran that last touchdown in because he would not get out of my face for about two and a half minutes there and I backed down. And he is 230 pounds. Of course I'm going to back down. And we let him run the ball in. He said, Give me the ball, and we did.

What style of offense? I expect us to be a little bit more option, more quarterback run. A lot of that depends who our backup is, because you cannot jeopardize running him as much as he likes to run and we'd like to have him run if you don't have a quality backup because of the schedule we play and the shots he will take. I think a little more spread like we ran at Utah.

Q. Urban, this is the ninth different team to win a BCS title now, and having gone undefeated at Utah and then this year, can you appreciate the difficulty of what you accomplished last night?

COACH MEYER: I appreciate the fact that -- I think it all goes back to, is your team able to stay healthy. The schedule you play, and to think that our offense line -- I will never forget against Vanderbilt Steve Rissler goes down in the first or second game of the play and I thought we lost the game because we don't have a backup. We didn't have one, we'll have to move a guard inside, another guy in. That's just Florida's problem. That's problems across the country. When you see Ohio State lost Teddy Ginn, obviously that explosive player, there wasn't someone behind them.

I think you have to be fortunate to make it through a season -- especially now -- we played 12 games, 13 games, 14 games without major, major injuries. That says something about the development of our guys and also we are very fortunate.

Q. Urban, the offense, did you feel like it was -- why was it executing so smoothly and so differently? A lot of the plays were things you do in general. It wasn't like you were throwing plays at them that you hadn't used before?

COACH MEYER: You are right. It wasn't -- I can't think of many new plays. You know, a little power pass to Billy Latsko was a new play. We used that a little bit. Our whole theme going into this game when you have this much time to prepare, we watch every series that Ohio State played the entire year and Dan and our staff did a great job of being very consistent the way the defenses were called, beginning of every series.

We kind of had a feel. They played more cover too than they had in the past. It was pretty consistent what we were going to get. It is a very good defense. It is not going to give you the big play. Instead of forcing it, we were trying to move it. I saw all those bubble screens early in the game. I think our guys just were very well prepared.

You have 30 days to practice, you better be prepared. I think another thing is the fact that our young guys are growing up. There is a lot of young players on that field playing. And a lot of the early mistakes were guys jumping off sides in the offensive line. Jim Tartts and Ronnie Wilsons and Phil Trautweins, those four names never played at Florida before, now they are all playing. Same with Percy Harvin and some of the other young guys. I think it is maturity.

Q. Were you surprised Ohio State didn't blitz a lot early?

COACH MEYER: As a matter of fact, they did -- they have a tendency to do that after a third or fourth play of a drive, they will bring pressure. That's one of the big ones we hit. Those were some of the plays we hit. I think it settled down. The beginning of the third quarter they started corner blitzing quite a bit. There was really nothing new on either side. I think it was our guys executing pretty well.

Q. Urban, can you talk about the job that Dan Mullen did all season, enduring criticism and also the way he and Chris stuck together with each other and made it through the season?

COACH MEYER: I think it is important, Dan Mullen has to worry if there is one person's criticism he has to be aware of, and that's mine. I thought he grew up this year as a coordinator. Dan and I have been together six years -- six plus two, eight years we have been together. All the egos are at the door. When you are together that long, you think alike a little bit. We have discussion. And I think he did a really, really good job preparing this team.

More importantly what happens with a coordinator sometimes, this happened last year, you get so consumed by the scheme that you forget to coach your position. Chris Leak is a better quarterback now than he was last year and that's because of coaching. Chris Leak fundamentally is not even close to what he was last year. He sets his feet, the touchdown pass against Florida State, the touchdown pass yesterday on the slant and go, he hung in there as the pressure is caving in. We have all seen Chris curl up and fall down. He stuck it in there and made a play. I think that's practice and coaching. And Dan has done a really good job with that.

Q. Coach, last night's performance could only help recruiting matters. Can you talk about after the game, did you reach out to any of the guys you were recruiting and, in general, can you just talk about how you think next year's team is going to be?

COACH MEYER: Next year's team, we have a few juniors that are going to make some decisions here in the next couple days. We also lose some very good players. 13 starters that are seniors. We also have a very good, young group. We are senior heavy, freshmen heavy and in between -- which is not good. You want 22 across the board for four years and that's your 88 scholarships or 85 scholarships. We are not that way. We have 20 and 12 and then 7, and a gigantic freshmen class. And we're going to sign 27 this year. And we are about done. I would imagine -- I know where I would want to go. (Smiling).

Am I allowed to say that for recruiting?

Good. Say that again. Print that. I know where I would want to go. Our guy have a lot of fun playing. What's the future look like? I think it looks really good. That's part of the reason why our staff went to Florida, because you can recruit the best players in the country at that place

. Q. Urban, I wonder if you can talk about the resiliency that Chris has shown and how far he has come when you got him and came to Florida and to the game last night?

COACH MEYER: I want to make sure I get the picture in the USA Today, Chris Leak holding the crystal ball and the confetti falling on top of him. I can say this without reservation, I love Chris Leak. I love good people, and that is good people.

That's a great family, extremely unselfish. Tim Tebow goes in and scores. And early in the season there is also a picture of the first person to greet Tim Tebow after he scored a touchdown, was Chris Leak. And that's the normal progression that has to happen at Florida. Chris Leak, it was not the way it is supposed to happen. He came in and started as a true freshmen and never learned how to play quarterback from an older guy. You are supposed to hand the baton to the next player, and that's the way it is done. Our receivers are having that luxury right now. Dallas Baker is handing the baton to Jarred Fayson and Riley Cooper and Percy Harvin. Now Chris Leak will hand it to Tim Tebow and Tim Tebow will hand it to someone and we will get consistency going here now which we haven't had.

Q. Coach, did any of the juniors that talked last night -- they knew what they were going to do, but they wanted to talk to you before they made their announcement. Did any of them talk to you last night? Did you have an update? There is a report out there that C.J. Spiller has enrolled at Florida. Can you address that?

COACH MEYER: I'm not sure I can address that. Someone asked me that -- the first time I really heard about that was last night. I'm flying back today. I'm sure I will hear more today on that issue.

The one about the juniors, at the appropriate time we will release the information. At this moment, I do not know. I have a feeling, and there is kind of leanings one way or the other. Our feeling is if it is for the right reasons, God bless you, go get it, we are supporting you.

The good thing about these guys this year is well done. These guys, it is not like last year had some kind of -- My uncle says I am going to do this, and, Well, your uncle doesn't know. These kids all have talked to -- the NFL has done a great job with that, not a good job. What you do is you turn in your paperwork, it comes back within ten days. Our strength coach, Mickey Marotti, is in charge of that. He will talk to you on the phone as well and give you great advice.

The one thing about Florida guys from here on out will be very well-educated decisions about whether they go out or not.

Q. Coach, I'm not sure if you can talk about it yet, but do you have some of your 2007 class already enrolled in school and going in? How important is getting them in early?

COACH MEYER: I think I can. We have nine. We have nine. I can't think of anybody in the country that has nine -- nine guys that showed up for class on Monday. And I'm sure they think they don't have to go to class today because we won a national championship. I assure you that's why I am going home today. We have nine guys going to class. That's a tremendous boost. That's a tremendous boost. We have been very successful. Our student life, advising, every kid that's been -- every young person that has come through early has a 3.0 or better. And that tells you the kind of support they receive from the University of Florida. And it gives them a little bit of a juice, a little head start going into their freshman year.

Q. Coach, offensively, the opening drive when you were able to score, did that build confidence and momentum offensively? And defensively, likewise, confidence builder, momentum builder when you stopped them on fourth down deep in their own territory?

COACH MEYER: I think that was the changer. Everybody, you are jacked up, you come out like a bunch of caged animals and then, bam (snapping fingers), the fact we didn't kick the ball very well. I think one of the most dynamic players in America, early draft pick probably, he will be whenever he decides to go, I think he is a fantastic player. We made a gamble, and that's my fault. We kicked it to him, he didn't kick it where he is supposed to go and he brings it back. We are all on the heels and the offense systematically goes down and converted three or four first downs and everybody settled down and said let's go play. If we punted there, they go down again and score, which obviously they have the weapons to do that, you are in a storm. I think that was -- what was the turning point of the game? The first drive by the offense.

Q. What about the defense as well?

COACH MEYER: I want to add something to that. The kick return. Statistically our kick-off return has not been great. We have a great returner. To knock that thing with a 15-yard penalty, we started on 30, 40 yard line going in. Our defense the way it started, too, kind of set the tempo. I know I felt as a coach, I was in a panic after they scored the opening kick-off. Once we scored and I saw the way our defense played, I thought, okay, let's -- I know if I am feeling that way, the team is feeling that way.

Q. I'm guessing "Come Monday" is probably your favorite Buffett song right now. The question I have is you talked last night about Chris Leak and his role now and his stature in Gator history, 100 years of Gator football and only two quarterbacks have won national championships. Only two coaches have won national championships now as well. Without any modesty, what does that mean to you and what does that mean for you to be lumped in with that other guy's name right now?

COACH MEYER: The other guy's name is Steve Spurrier. People keep asking, will the shadow disappear? It shouldn't and I want to make sure it doesn't. We admire people who achieve, and to be honest, he is the reason that we're there. If Florida didn't win the championships in Florida, I am not coming to Florida. You don't go try to start traditions at this stage of your career. You go try to build upon a tradition that's there. Obviously the real tradition started in the '90s when they started win the six SEC championships.

What does that mean for myself? With great humility, I appreciate when you look at the names of people who won national championships and I sat in that locker room when Billy Donovan won the national championship last year, I remember walking up to him afterwards and everything was going on like it was in our locker room, I grabbed him and said, "You just won a national championship." For about 30 seconds we stared at each other and said, Holy cow. I am sure he will get me when I get back. Just appreciate the opportunity to coach some great players.

Q. Coach, all year long you had said that some -- the reason why maybe your stats weren't so gaudy or the wins weren't quite so lopsided because the SEC was just so tough. Does your win last night and the way the Bowl season played out with the SEC having so much success, does that validate that point of how tough the SEC is?

COACH MEYER: Yeah. I'm not sure -- I don't have time to validate. We're fine. We're okay. We played very good teams. Check the NFL draft and watch all these young people go and play, and watch the great coaches and D coordinators, I believe we have been validating for 30 days. Can we do this? We are okay. We played a good schedule. We play in a great conference. I don't want to get into that because then someone will take it as disrespect to some other conference. I don't know if I even have to go there.

Q. Urban, two-part question here. We talked to Brandon immediately after the game and he was passionate, to say the least, about how much he and his teammates internalized all this; you guys don't have a chance, this is a crowning achievement for Ohio State. Can you give us some insight on if that was used a lot in practice? Secondly, you mentioned Billy Donovan, have you had an opportunity to talk about the history that you two have made?

COACH MEYER: No, I have not -- Billy has got a game tonight. He sent me four or five text messages. I guess that's the way people communicate now. I am guilty of that as well. We will talk tonight after his game.

The underdog role, was that the first part of the question? We use that quite a bit. And I'm guilty of that. But then our players, it was like a feeding frenzy. Once we started seeing how it was sharks in the water once that thing got going. At half time, half time the normal routine as you go in the locker room and settling down, hydrate them, trainers going around and working, coaches going to make adjustments. I come back out after looking, their helmets are on and they were beating the lockers up. It was a feeding frenzy what was going on in that locker room. What do you attribute that to? Chance to win a national championship? Absolutely. Chance to play a great football team and let the country see you have some good players, too. We used that book. There was a book someone gave me and it was 220 pages and the Gators got two pages and it was called "The Championship Season."

And was that discussed? Yeah, that was probably about a good 45 minutes' team meeting one day about -- we discussed that book. And I think what happens is when you are dealing with 18- to 21-year-olds, any little stoke you can give them we are going to give them. As a coach, you try to watch the response. You try to go certain ways with a team. If you don't get the response, stop it, go another way.

We as a staff felt, and the seniors felt, that was going to be the M.O. for the game, let's show them we have good players too.

Q. Urban, with your knowledge of the state of Ohio, how would you imagine fans in that state are feeling and reacting today?

COACH MEYER: Oh, just like I think -- Ohio is just like Florida, just like Texas. Those are the power states. Those are the states with great high school football, great tradition. And I think they have great confidence and knowing the way they recruit, I know the way they recruit. I know their staff very well, that they are anxious to get going for next year.

I think obviously they are disappointed because once again, they were the consensus number one team in America. I know Ohio well enough I know exactly what they are doing, they can't wait for next year to get going.

Q. Urban, your team was up ten late in the first half and they decided to go on fourth down from their own 29. Did that surprise you and did you interpret that as a sign that they were a little desperate at that point?

COACH MEYER: No. I think college football's momentum, I probably would have done the same thing. It was the momentum, you feel like -- when things are going bad, you start -- you feel like you are playing on a field like this. When we were at Arkansas, we were like this and it is hard to get that back (indicating). If we get the ball there and we get good position, and score, the game gets out of hand. Am I surprised they did that? No, not at all. I thought they would try to draw us offsides. We keep telling our defensive line that they're going to try to -- we call it "hut-hut ya," try to get that 5-yard penalty.

Someone asked the comment, what was the mismatch, I think our defense line dominated the game and that was a perfect example of it.

Q. Urban, no school has won football or basketball titles in the same year. What does that say about your athletics program and athletics director?

COACH MEYER: I think he is as good as there is in America. The one thing about athletics, it is easy to judge. He makes great decisions. He creates an atmosphere. When he came in and visited us in Salt Lake City, walked in, very well-prepared, very clear. There was no doubt when came in.

He had put a book together, and the book was not so much about the size of the stadium or the color of the carpet in the facility. It was all about we have a young family that's very important to me. When I saw him really care about that kind of stuff, I thought this guy is a real one. I was fortunate to work with two ADs, Paul Krebs and Chris Hill. If everybody said, do you feel like you are coaching at a basketball school now, I keep saying that that darn volleyball coach thinks it is a volleyball school. Because all they do is win 16 straight SEC championships.

He created an atmosphere maybe second to none in the college athletic world right now. Q. Given the dominance of your

v defensive line and the fact they were still within two touchdowns, were you surprised at all that they didn't try to run out the clock and regroup and instead had the strip sack at the five-yard line after the fourth down gamble?

COACH MEYER: Oh, is this right before the half? I don't know. My head is spinning right now. Am I surprised that they didn't --

Q. (Indiscernible)?

COACH MEYER: I think you evaluate Ohio State which we had the opportunity to do. In the big games they are a full-throttle football team. Texas, Michigan, those are the two really big, big games where the checkers were fairly even. And I think against the other teams, their checkers are better than their opponents, it was different. We are the same way. But we expected them to be full throttle. We would have done the same thing. If you are playing a team with talented players like that, you better put the pedal to the metal the entire game.

Q. Coach, with these freshmen, will the next challenge be a national championship with a perfect season?

COACH MEYER: I will tell you, we met with some of them -- facts are facts. The defensive line you are talking about, we lose quite a bit of -- Steve Harris is gone. My goodness, we don't talk about Steve Harris. Steve Harris is unbelievable. We named him captain for the game. He was the same guy that was out the door August 5th. He was gone, he was out. He was handling issues that we all probably have never dealt with. He is a captain of our team. Has a degree and now he has a big old ring that says he is the best at what he does.

Facts are facts. Ray McDonald is gone. Steve Harris is gone. Earl Everett is gone. The freshmen -- I told you our junior class is not dynamic. Our junior class, we will have to educate that junior class in how to pick the bar up and do what the seniors just did.

So our freshmen, Tim Tebow -- it is Tim Tebow's team as of right now. It is Tim Tebow's team and a lot of these young players will have to pick up the slack. To start talking about that kind of stuff, you won't hear that from me. We just have to get to February. February is a tough month around there, and those kids know that.

Q. Urban, they played uncharacteristic for them, they made a lot of mistakes. Where on the spectrum did they have a bad game or did you force them to have a bad game?

COACH MEYER: When you watch them on film, they were a very well-coached team, very few mistakes, very few penalties. I attribute that to probably a lay-off. I attribute that to -- I heard Coach Tressel say this, and I agree with him, and I have heard other people say this, the banquet is to the pat on the back. That 30 days -- the 30 days of the media blitz that went on for 30 days certainly was advantageous for the Gators.

The human element takes over, you get patted on the back so many times, you actually believe you are pretty good. And I have talked to Billy Donovan about this quite often because now we will have to deal with that issue for the next nine months on how you deal with that, I think it will be the key.

To answer your question, I'm not sure we forced that. I think it was the lay-off. It was the fact we got to play two more games past their games, and the SEC championship game and FSU. I think it was also attributed just the constant going back to that book, that 200-page book that had 198 pages of -- that takes its toll on players. I'm sure that had something to do with it as well.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

COACH MEYER: Thank you very much. Have a great day.

THE MODERATOR: We will have the presentation of the trophies. I will would like to introduce Mike Griffith from the Knoxville News Sentinel, the new president of the Football Writers Association of America.

MIKE GRIFFITH: Coach, I realize this was a process of sorts since taking the job in Gainesville. I think Coach Meyer has brought a lot of tempo, a word he used a lot, focus and certainly organization to a great University. This regular season, we saw a lot of resiliency and determination from Florida and that culminated in that domination last night. On behalf of the 900-plus members of the Football Writers Association of America and the 16 voters of the Grantland Rice Super 16 poll, it is an honor to present you with our national championship trophy.

COACH MEYER: Thank you very much.

MIKE GRIFFITH: Congratulations, Coach.

COACH MEYER: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: I would like to introduce from the Associated Press, Dale Leach.

DALE LEACH: Coach, congratulations on a great season. On behalf of the Associated Press and its 65 poll voters, some of whom may be in this room, we would like to present you with the 2006 season poll championship trophy from the AP.

COACH MEYER: Thank you very much.

THE MODERATOR: Now I would like to introduce Steve Hatchell, the president of the National Football Foundation.

STEVE HATCHELL: Thank you, Shawn. First off, we would like to congratulate Mike Slive and the BCS commissioners for showcasing college football in such a wonderful way and to John Junker and the Fiesta Bowl family for a marvelous job and what you do for college football.

The National Football Foundation was started in 1947 by Grantland Rice, General Douglas MacArthur and Coach Earl "Red" Blaik to honor the great benefits that come from football, hard work, discipline, leadership on and off the field and what it means later on in life.

And before I present this trophy to Coach Meyer, we would like to acknowledge the fact -- he talked about it earlier, that on December 5th, we had a chance to honor one of the great scholar athletes in the country out of the hundreds that were submitted to us in Chris Leak.

He is not only a great football player, but he is a great student. And we want to recognize him because he is special. He has become an ambassador of football.

On behalf of our chairman, Ron Johnson, our board of directors, I would like to present the MacArthur trophy which has been presented since 1959 to the national champions and Coach Urban Meyer and the Florida football family. Thank you. COACH MEYER: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: I would like to now present the coach's trophy. It will be formally presented at the AFCA convention tomorrow. But, Coach, here is the coach's trophy. Thank you, Coach. We will see everyone next year in New Orleans.


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