Sleepless Meyer Playing for it all

Sunday night, the final BCS rankings were released and the SEC Champion Florida Gators will square off with the Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners. Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer will be making his second trip in three years and was just as nervous on this selection day as he was two years ago. Meyer talked about the anxiety and more after the announcement Sunday.

To say Meyer was worried about the selection is an understatement.

"Not a little bit (worried), zero sleep and I came in and wore (Athletic Director Jeremy Foley) out," Meyer said looking relieved from the days activity. "It's an imperfect system, but I think it's a system that's functional right now. You just never know. You can control only the things that you can control. You can't control it when polls and computers are involved."

Meyer is a bit confused over the computer aspect of the BCS equation. That part of the BCS formula has had the Gators trailing significantly for a couple of weeks as they were busy making their run, and a lot of folks were wondering if the lower rankings from the computers might do the Gators in.

"I keep hearing the computer and what I know is you push 'on'," Meyer said stating his case for ignorance when it comes to new technologies. "You go on the Internet every once in a while and look at a spread sheet every once in a while. I am going to do a better job...it's our careers and our job to represent the University. I'm going to become very acclimated with exactly what happens."

Meyer was also recently made aware of an SEC rule that is similar to a Big 12 conference rule that saw Texas eliminated from their conference championship game, even though they had an identical record to Oklahoma and beat the Sooners head to head. That bothers Meyer a bit.

"I understand in the SEC there is a BCS tie breaker rule and it's seventh in the tie breaker rules," Meyer said. "I've never heard it discussed in the SEC meetings and I don't think it should be there. That will be discussed in the spring, those are important issues."

The matchup in Miami will feature two of the brightest young coaches in all of football. Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer are as respected nationally as any coaches and the two just happen to know each other very well.

"Bob is a good friend of mine," Meyer said. "He's from Youngstown, Ohio and I'm from Ashtabula, Ohio. They are not even an hour and a half apart. We talk quite often. He's a defensive guy and I've run things by him in the past from hiring coaches to schematic issues. He's run things by me as recently as this summer offensively. We talked two weeks ago about some other issues. There is a very good healthy relationship there and a lot of respect.

"Bob Stoops and I first crossed paths when I was at Colorado State and he was the defensive coordinator at Kansas State. We played in a bowl game and they had the number one defense in America. I was talking to him and he had a great reputation then before he went on to Florida. The respect was there."

Meyer is a little behind in film study but a month to prepare should be enough in the matchup. He expects a solidly coached team to show up to play his Gators on January 8.

"I have not watched a lot of film on them, but I am pretty sure of what we are getting ourselves into," Meyer said. "That's a team that will be sharp in all three phases. And we'll do our best with that."

In preparing for the game, Meyer is going to approach it just like he did two years ago for the Gators 2006 National Championship win against Ohio State. One of Meyer's mentors, Lou Holtz has instilled him not to get ready too early for the big game, but to prepare the team to be sharp.

"Coach Holtz had that great statement, 'Don't play that game until the 8th'," Meyer said. "We are going to do three phases like we did two years ago. The first phase is fundamentals emphasis. The second phase will be game planning, the third phase will be game preparation.

Injury update...

It appears the Gators are fairly healthy coming out of a very physical matchup with Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Percy Harvin is of course the main injury to be concerned about, but two other running backs are also a bit hobbled. Meyer talked about the three.

"I met with the doctors today," Meyer said. "The week we travel to Miami we are expecting (Percy) at full practice. The week before we get to Miami we are anticipating getting him ready to go. Percy is in great shape to play. We have a really good plan in place, but we are anticipating once we get to Miami he will be able to fully practice."

Meyer was optimistic last week that Harvin would play against Alabama.

"I think we were all praying and expecting something to happen Friday," Meyer said. "I know I was crushed. Percy was devastated that we weren't able to cut him loose."

Running backs Chris Rainey and Kestahn Moore are also a bit dinged up, but Meyer expects both close to full health in a short period of time.

"Rainey is going to have something done after the season," Meyer intimated. "We just have to watch him at practice. Kestahn Moore has a sprained knee, I just saw that today. I will know more tomorrow about that but don't think that is a problem."

Gators have matured during 2008 season...

Meyer said early in the season, he did not see a team that was going to play for it all. His Gators were just not grown up enough to make a run like they have in the last nine games.

"No, I did not (see this happening) because I didn't see the same maturity level going into it,l" Meyer said about the preseason. "I saw a very talented group that I was hoping would develop. I thought we recruited very well and Coach Marotti sculpted them and developed them (physically). I was in a panic when we lost Dorian Munroe and Cornelius In gram at the start of the season. I didn't see this happening. We had eight ACL surgeries, depth on the offensive line issues. This is the most resilient group of people I have been around. I have great admiration and love for this team. I love to be around them, watch them work. I cant wait till Tuesday (practice) and they can't either."

He is starting to see some resemblance to the team he coached to a National Championship in 2006.

"The core of both teams were phenomenal, whether that is 10, 20, or 30 people that I can trust," Meyer said. "I think that team in '06 prepared for the national championship as well as any team I have ever been around. This team preparing for the SEC Championship and the last nine weeks has prepared as well as any team I have been around. That is the correlation along with some very good players. The preparation and the core other than the quarterback a year ago was non-existent. The preparation and core was not there. We won games with some very good players, but we were not a good team."

Recruiting and effects of playing in South Florida...

Meyer believes playing in this game will have a positive effect on attracting prospects that he would want to play at Florida. Not all guys are looking to win, some are more worried about promises of playing time. Meyer can use games like this to weed them out.

"It depends on the recruit," Meyer said about prospects looking at Florida because of it's place at the top of college football. "Some of them want to get a great education and play for championships. For the Tebows, Harvins, and Spikes of the world, they want to go play for championships.

"They want to go play for a conference championship in front of 85,000 people and another 30,000 people trying to get in. That was as awesome a venue as I have been associated with. Two teams playing at a level of football that night. If you are a football player and want to play at the highest level, you are going to take a look at the University of Florida."

Playing in Miami also has its advantages. A hotbed of recruiting talent, it isn't easy to go down in to Dade County and pull top recruits from the University of Miami. Meyer can't do anything himself, but believes being on the biggest stage in the area will get the attention of the local prospects.

"I think it's going to have a major impact," Meyer said of recruiting in the Miami area." They changed the rule where we can't have recruits visit practice during the dead period, but every time you pick up a paper down there it will have stories about Florida and the players and that usually has a big impact on recruiting."

Meyer's staff auditioning for jobs...

With the success of the Florida program, it is bound to happen. Urban Meyer lost three coaches last year and two to job elevations. He is likely to face more this season and a lot of his assistants are getting looks from several college openings. Defensive line coach Dan McCarney interviewed for the New Mexico job. Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen has had his name thrown around publicly. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is another that is getting his name called a bunch.

"I talked to Dan (McCarney) and the athletic Director at New Mexico is the guy that hired me at Bowling Green," Meyer said. "I spoke to him a week ago. He's a great athletic director. Obviously, Dan McCarney is the winningest coach in Iowa State history. When I hired Dan I knew he was the kind of guy I would hire as a head coach. He's well respected and the job he's done with the defensive line speaks for itself when you watch those kids play.

"I don't want to lose Dan, however when you hire great coaches sometimes you know you will lose them," Meyer said. "We lost a brilliant coach in Greg Mattison and replaced him with a brilliant coach. At the University of Florida you should be able to hire the best."

Playing for all the marbles doesn't seem like the best time to be facing staff change possibilities, but Meyer understands the timing can't be helped sometimes.

"It is difficult, yet it can be done," he said. "I am hoping zero (leave)..

Not happy about penalty in SEC game...

Meyer was asked about the penalty he received for walking on the field during the game in the late stages of the contest. It was a key moment with the Gators less than a yard away from scoring and Meyer was flagged for being out of the coach's box. Meyer was clearly agitated about the situation, even a night later and says there will be some communication on the issue.

"That was wrong," he said. "There was nothing funny about that. I don't know what you are supposed to say. I need an answer to that one.

"What happened was one of their players kicked the ball and one ran through our formation because they had 12 people on the field. The guy resets the clock and the referee who had done a great job in the game, resets the clock but starts the game. Phil Trautwein and the offense start walking toward me thinking it was a time out. I am 35 yards away and with the ball on the one foot line going in and I was yelling 'get back in there'. Then someone saw the flag. There were major implications in that game. Four point led and I was 35-yards away from when it was called. There were procedural resetting the clock in a noisy stadium and they couldn't hear."


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