Not a Surprise to Meyer

Rich Rodriguez's move from West Virginia to Michigan may have come as a surprise to some, but for long-time friend Urban Meyer, it wasn't much of a surprise.

"I've talked to him every night for the last five days," Urban Meyer said after the Gators' Monday practice. "I think Michigan is a great place, and I think West Virginia is a great place. They got a really good coach."

Ironically, the Gators face Rodriguez's new team in two weeks. Obviously, Lloyd Carr will be patrolling the sidelines for the Woverines, but Rodriguez knows something about Florida's spread offense. It's the same offense he ran in Morgantown, leading the Mountaineers to one game shy of a national championship appearance. But Meyer doesn't think he'll give Carr any tips.

"Rich is a good friend of mine, so if I hear that, he won't be a very good friend anymore," Meyer said.

The Gators practiced in full pads on Monday as they begin "phase two" of their Capital One Bowl preparations. Meyer has divided the time from their final regular season game to the bowl game into three phases. The first is just a conditioning phase, and the third is the final game week preparations that the squad will do down in Orlando.

"We got the game plan pretty much done," Meyer said. "It was a little sloppy out there, but we were full padded. We're not going to go too many days full padded so were getting them out of the way."

Meyer talked to his team today about the importance of getting off to a quick start, especially on special teams. Against Tennessee earlier this season, Brandon James got the scoring started with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown following the Vols' first possession.

"If you look at the Outback Bowl and some other ones, we've had some big plays to start games and they're momentum changers," Meyer said.

Blessing in disguise for Traut

Offensive tackle Phil Trautwein was forced to miss the season with a stress fracture in his left foot, but for both Meyer and Trautwein, it's a blessing in disguise.

"That's the worst part of coaching and the worst part of being a player," Meyer said. "But Phil needed another year. He's getting ready to have a great, great season. He graduated from Florida. He's going to work on his master's, so there are a lot of positives. You don't think of all that when you hear it, but it was a crushing blow in the locker room."

It also forced some of the backups who needed to step up to actually step up.

"It's a blessing for our team," Meyer said. "It forced guys like [Carlton] Medder and [Jason] Watkins to really step up. You would really like to have him because he's a great leader, but when you look at next year's offensive line, that could be something special."

Not packing it in

After the Gators went through a difficult stretch midway through the season, losing three of four games, they finished the season playing their best football.

"I learned a lot about this team," Meyer said. "There are teams in the SEC and teams all across the country that cashed it in. That's why we're very careful about how many goals we have. If your goal is to win a national championship, we'll never say that because it's awful hard to win every game. What you don't want is your team packing it in. Not only did our kids not pack it in, but they played their best football in the last four games. That South Carolina game and FSU game was as well as we've played in the last two years."

Meyer hopes to get one more effort this season at the Capital One Bowl, especially from the defense that definitely played their best games down the stretch.

"It's going to be a big time challenge," Meyer said. "Their issue is a little like it was on offense two years ago. When there are guys hurt, they are struggling. From what I keep hearing, everybody is going to be 100 percent. I keep hearing there are a bunch of NFL players on that team especially on offense. If they're all healthy, we're going to have our hands full."

Notes

  • Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen has been assigned the task of protecting Tim Tebow with all the attention the Heisman winner attracts. Said Meyer, "There was one day after practice that they were driving him back in a golf cart, and I don't want that so I nixed it. Pam Tebow is Tim's mom, but Dan Mullen is his mom around here. He just does a good job."
  • If there's one area that Meyer sees a need for improvement with wide receiver Cornelius Ingram as he ponders making the jump to the NFL, it's the Hawthorne-native's speed. Said Meyer, "CI's very functional with speed. That's one thing that we have to work on is getting him faster, but he's very quick and he's very efficient for a guy that big. His hand eye coordination is as good as I've ever seen with a guy that big."
  • Aaron Hernandez has been working out at fullback all season long, which should benefit the Gators who won't have Eric Rutledge for the bowl game. Said Meyer, "I think Aaron Hernandez could be one of the best tight end/fullbacks to ever play here. I really do. He's that good. He actually gives you a little more of a weapon because he can catch ad he can run real fast."

    Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


  • Fightin Gators Top Stories