Meyer Familiar with Big Blue

ORLANDO, Fla. --- Last year, Urban Meyer faced his home-state team for the National Championship. This year is a little different with the Florida Gators facing Michigan in the Capital One Bowl, but it still brings back some of Meyer's childhood memories.

"I grew up in Ohio where you had no choice," Urban Meyer said after the Gators' Thursday practice. "Where I came from it was all scarlet and gray. You would get beat up and have your lunch money taken from you if you did otherwise. I kept all my lunch money."

As a kid, Meyer grew up hating the Michigan Wolverines, and then when he received his first coaching job at Ohio State, the hatred continued to grow. But growing up so close to the Michigan program, Meyer has great respect for the Wolverines.

"I admire them because they do it the right way," Meyer said. "I admire teams that don't cheat and recruit good kids and are a high-end academic school."

Meyer is definitely putting his stamp on the Florida program by instituting traditions like the Gator Walk and the singing of the alma mater with the student body after each home game, and many of those traditions, he admits, were stolen from Ohio State and Michigan.

"In a lot of ways the Ohio States and Michigans have a little advantage over us," he said. "They were winning championships back in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s. I think we tied them in the last 10 years, but if you go back and visit those places, they are deep in tradition."

Florida's newest addition will be the football offices currently being constructed at the Southwest corner of The Swamp. The new building will contain many of the traditional characteristics.

"The facility we're building is going to have a Hall of Fame walk and if you're an All-American you're going to get a brick in the stadium and bunch of other things that we took from some of the schools that have that great tradition," Meyer said.

Meyer believes the new features will not just benefit recruiting and the carrying on of the Gator history, but also help current players.

"You can't help everyday but to walk past the All-Americans," Meyer said. "It also helps the former players coming back."

When Meyer was a graduate assistant at Ohio State, he had his closest encounter with Michigan's legendary coach Bo Schembechler. Schembechler never had the kind of influence on Meyer that his mentor Earl Bruce had, but the former Michigan coach left an impression on Meyer.

"I remember my second Ohio State/Michigan game," Meyer said. "My job as a GA was to coach the receivers and hold the door open. Right before the game, I opened the door and there was the Michigan team with Bo Schembechler standing in front of them in that tunnel. When the door opens and there's Michigan football with Bo Schembechler, that's pretty cool. We beat them that day."

Harvin fine for bowl game

On Wednesday, wide receiver Percy Harvin sprained his right ankle after stepping on someone's foot during a two-minute drill. According to Meyer, Harvin looked fine during Thursday's workout.

"He was tremendous," Meyer said. "It took him a little bit to get going, but he battled through it. He should be full strength for the game."

Harvin's presence on the Gator receiving corps obviously makes the Gators tougher to defend, but Meyer said it's not what makes this year's receiving corps great.

"I think what makes them special is that they are the best blocking group in the country," Meyer said. "There are a lot of guys in the country that can run fast and jump high, but the national championship game was a great indication of that. They dominated the edge. Ohio State came out and played quarters and forced us to be patient down the field, but that perimeter blocking was imperative."

Pouncey making it difficult

Since the Gators turned freshman offensive guard Michael Pouncey into a defensive tackle, they've been undefeated. But the freshman has made it known to the coaches that he wants to go back on offense.

"He's making it a little tough, especially for coach Greg Mattison," Meyer said. "It will be a discussion for after this game. I think he wants to play offense, but I think the best thing about Mike Pouncey is that he loves Florida football. He'll do anything to help this team."

Pouncey has helped the Gators squash the run and has also helped with inside pressure on the quarterback, but Meyer is not quite ready to call him a full-fledged defensive tackle yet.

"He's close," Meyer said. "I wouldn't put him in that category yet because it takes a whole year. But ever since we moved him, he's brought some energy to that side of the ball."

Should Pouncey go back to offense, there is another rising star inside on the defensive line that could soften the blow. Justin Trattou came to Gainesville at 250-pounds, but is now up to 260 and may be Florida's future at defensive tackle.

"We're going to keep him inside," Meyer said. "His energy and his speed and his attention to detail, he's going to be a great player inside. And Lawrence Marsh is starting to make a push inside, so it's starting to happen.

Like Pouncey, Meyer likes what Trattou brings to the table.

"He's got a lot of juice," he said. "We have to slowly add that weight so he doesn't lose that speed."

Notes

  • Discipline hasn't been a concern for Meyer in his three bowl games at Florida, but he's also keeping a close eye on it. Said Meyer, "Everyday we watch ESPN and someone is losing kids. Penn State just lost five kids. I guess I don't understand those decisions. We remind them, and we're on it. We had a good night last night. I think tonight and last night are the two we worry about. As we get closer to game time, we cut back on the curfew. Last night we had a 2 a.m. curfew and had no issues."
  • Meyer said position coaches and his administrative team are responsible for monitoring team curfews.
  • Senior tight end Tate Casey has applied for a medical exemption for the season. Casey had a strong freshman season, posting eight receptions and four touchdowns, but hasn't done much since Meyer's arrival. Said Meyer, "Tate is a great guy. He has not been a great player for a variety of reasons - one was size, one was strength and one was injuries. Hopefully, he can overcome that and become a great player."
  • Casey had elbow surgery last week.

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


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