Florida Coaches Face Florida Media

The week before Florida college football teams open practice each year, the state's twelve head coaches make their way to Tampa for a half hour with the Florida Sports Writers Association. The familiarity this group has with the teams leads to more pointed questioning, unlike a conference media event where many attending don't know many specifics on the teams.

The biggest curiosity of this year's event was the first to appear - new Miami head coach Randy Shannon. How would he come across as the lead man of the program after previously being an assistant throughout his career? Other noteworthy coaches appearing Saturday were Florida's Urban Meyer and UCF's George O'Leary.

Shannon came across very well. He was frank with regards to his expectations for his players on and off the field. For example, Shannon's policy on guns is a simple one - no player is allowed to have one. If they do, they will no longer be allowed on the team. After a recent accident caused by a player falling asleep at the wheel while driving back to campus, Shannon now mandates his players not drive long distances at night. If they go home, they're expected back to campus by the time it gets dark.

As for fan demands for more victories from the Canes, he's comfortable with them as well.

"If you want to be a guy that wants to win nine games, eight games and be successful, don't take Miami," Shannon said. "Don't take a Miami, don't take Florida State because you know that's what the expectations are."

Shannon didn't offer any indications who might emerge as Miami's starting quarterback. Kirby Freeman and Kyle Wright are battling for the job and will only be allowed to address the media once, at Miami's media day, as Shannon looks to keep the possible controversy at bay. The starter will be announced Tuesday of the week leading up to Miami's opener with Marshall.

Nothing New from Meyer

Meyer's remarks were largely similar to his comments Thursday at SEC Media Days. One noteworthy item which didn't make it into the discussion in Birmingham was Meyer's effusive praise of Jarrod Fayson. He indicated the sophomore could well be Florida's No. 1 ball carrier this season, and is at minimum likely to be in the top three. Fayson has seen time previously running the ball from the quarterback position, but a switch to the backfield full time would be a new wrinkle.

Meyer also was pleased with where Florida stands academically, stating his belief that when his team has a high GPA, he knows they're focused and that carries over onto the field as well. On the question of Lakeland defensive tackle John Brown's eligibility, Meyer's hearing good things, but says he does not know yet if Brown will in fact be eligible this season.

Exciting Times in Orlando

George O'Leary and UCF will open up a new stadium this season against Texas on Sept. 15. It's something he believes will transform both the program and the university as a whole by giving people a reason to go to the campus if they're not actively enrolled there.

"There are no more excuses," O'Leary said. "It's time to win."

One issue he chose to hold back on compared to last year was the likely end of the USF-UCF series after this season. O'Leary said he wants to play the game and believes it's good for both schools, but went no farther in criticizing USF's stated plan to focus on other out of conference opponents instead. UCF has scheduled Miami, and O'Leary says he'd like to play two state schools each year if possible.

O'Leary also said he's pushing Conference USA to add a ninth conference game, since it's become a chore to book games outside the league without agreeing to two road for one home game deals. According to O'Leary, UCF is no longer willing to do that.

Seven more coaches will address the media Sunday. The featured names will be FSU's Bobby Bowden and USF's Jim Leavitt, but Gator fans will likely be interested in Kerwin Bell's first statewide appearance as coach of Jacksonville University's program.

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