SEC Media Days: Meyer Takes Center Stage

HOOVER, Ala. -- Urban Meyer's done it before. He's used press conferences like SEC Media Days to challenge his team. In the spring, he called them a train wreck, and in past year's he's called out the selfishness of players, while criticizing the work ethic of his backfield. It was no different on Thursday as the Meyer prepares to begin his third season in Gainesville.

Urban Meyer questioned the heart of a defense that lost nine starters from one of the nation's top units a year ago. During his opening statement, he referred to his defense as just a bunch of names. He talked about how last year's team had toughness, referring to Ray McDonald's two ACL surgeries, and how he just didn't know about this year's squad.

He referred to his first recruiting class at Florida, who now makes up a large part of the Gators' junior class, as "a lot of misses."

Meyer's attitude on Thursday was clear. The 2007 version of the Florida Gators, especially on the defensive side of the ball, has a long way to go before they can compete for an SEC Championship, let alone a national title.

There was a lot of positive rhetoric from Meyer during his session, mainly directed at the offense. No one knows what year No. 3 in Meyer's system will bring because he's never had a third year, leaving both Bowling Green and Utah after just two seasons. But the Gators are loaded with talent on the offensive side, beginning with No. 15, Tim Tebow.

"He's got the ‘it,'" Meyer said. "Everybody wants the ‘it' in that position. That's a competitor, intelligent guy that will do anything for the team."

Tebow will step under center this season, replacing Chris Leak who quarterbacked the Gators for the last three and a half years. So it's been a while since there's been a change with Florida's signal caller. Most know what Tebow can do on the ground, rushing for 469 yards last season with eight touchdowns on 89 carries.

"If that position's a legitimate threat, it changes what you see on defense," Meyer said. "That's the biggest thing I'm looking forward to seeing. You see a little more structure. Better make sure that quarterback's taken care of in the run game."

Meyer feels good about the Florida offense heading into the season under Tebow's leadership. Tebow is surrounded by talented receivers and has a veteran line in front him. Nearly every member of the offense contributed in a valuable way to the Gators' championships last season.

"I've seen Tim Tebow in a very difficult situation react to it," Meyer said. "I've seen Drew Miller, [Phil] Trautwein, [Carlton] Medder, Bubba Caldwell. I'm a little more comfortable on that side of the ball."

The defense, however, has a long way to go, and Meyer knows that.

"Reggie Nelson, Brandon Siler, Joe Cohen and Steve Harris, pretty good football players," Meyer said. "In fact, they're all playing at the next level. Right now you have Kyle Jackson and Dorian Munroe, whoever. You have Brandon Spikes and Dusitn Doe, whoever is going to play that middle linebacker position or Lorenzo Edwards, whoever."

Not necessarily a vote of confidence from Meyer about a new defense, but not a lack of confidence either, especially with a veteran defensive coaching staff.

"If our coaches can develop that kind of chemistry, if those people are productive, I think we'll be very good this year," he said.

There's one thing about an inexperienced defense. There is no level of expectation, and there will be some wide-open competitions for starting spots when practice gets underway on August 5.

"Up the middle, I'm really excited to see what happens," Meyer said. "I think Brandon Spikes is a very good football player. Does he have the ‘it' factor? Is he a Michael Jordan or is he one of those athletes that brings down the level of play? If he brings it up, then we have a very good chance to be good on defense."

Text Messaging

Only five more days that Meyer and other football coaches around the country can text future prospects. Meyer's been outspoken about the rule change since day one.

"I disagree with it," Meyer said. "That's how you communicate nowadays. If you want to go back and use the rotary phone, too, say coaches can only use a rotary phone. I don't understand it at all."

Time and time again, recruits mention the family atmosphere that surrounds the Florida football program since Meyer's arrival. Text messaging is just another tool used by Meyer and his staff to find out more about a prospect's family and personality in determining whether the prospect is a good fit for the program and whether the program is a good fit for the prospect.

"I think text messaging helps with all those things," he said. "Our staff is being proactive as everyone else. You need to communicate with a student-athlete. We're doing the very best we can. What exactly we're going to do? We have five more days to figure it out."

Notes and Tidbits

For the first time since he arrived in Gainesville, Meyer is comfortable with the quarterback situation. Said Meyer, "We have four quality quarterbacks. We have John Brantley from Ocala, Cameron Newton and Bryan Waggener. That's another battle we're looking forward to." … Star status at SEC Media Days has shifted from Meyer to Nick Saban. Said Meyer, "The Southeastern Conference is so traditionally rich, I'm sure you're going to get the same reaction at Auburn or Tennessee." … Florida players have found the headlines this summer a little more than Meyer would like due to off-the-field issues. Meyer attributes it to a growing up process. Said Meyer, "Disturbing. … Discipline is education and correction, you do what you got to do. We're in the process of doing a lot of educating, a lot of correcting and putting a product on the field."

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