The Big Question: How do you repeat?

Urban Mayer has one of the most monumental tasks of any college football coach in recent memory. He has a team loaded with superstars and returning starters from a team that just won a national championship. The biggest question in all of college football this year will be..."Can the Gators repeat?" The Gators' Head Coach is going to rely on the past and hard work to make it happen.

It is that long stretch of time that can make some coaches squirm. The off-season...when all of their players are out of the reach of their assistant coaches and doing their own thing. Bad things can happen, complacency can happen, or you could have a team of players that will continue to grow outside of the eyesight of the coaching staff. Meyer has a plan and a group that he thinks can make for another special season of being a Gator.

Most of his team is home visiting parents and friends in between spring and summer semesters. When they get back, he and his assistants aren't allowed to coach them up, but Florida strength Coach Mickey Marotti and his crew will make sure that the boys are physically and mentally ready for the season ahead.

"Everybody's home right now," Meyer said at a press gathering before speaking to 350-plus Gator fans in Jacksonville. "They get back...May 11th we start. I've seen the program we're going to do. The one thing that the NCAA changed years back, and it's the right thing to do, is coaches are not allowed so it's all Mickey, but that's the value of the strength staff. We have the best strength staff, and that's easy to evaluate. Just look at what our guys have done."

You can talk about talent on the field and play calling and all of that, but in 2008, the Gators fielded their toughest team they have in quite some time. Week in and week out they were the toughest team on the field, save maybe the game against Ole Miss. Against Alabama and away from home the Gators ran into a buzz saw of a team that was ready to go toe to toe. In the end perseverance and strength won out, and that was built during these grueling months of summer a year ago.

"There's ways of making it (tough)," Meyer said of the strength and conditioning program that he will have his troops endure until they show up for August drills. "You don't want to burn out and you don't want injuries, so how do you make it that hard? There's creative ways and it's mental training as much as anything. Everybody's going to bench press. Every school in the country is going to bench press a lot of weight this summer. Every school in the country is going to run those 110's across the field. How do you mentally make it so taxing that they don't have time to worry about the Street & Smith, Athlon's and all?"

Meyer thinks he has a team full of guys that want it all, and it is something he wouldn't trade for any other.

"This group would be very disappointed if it was anything less," he said about the grueling off-season program they have ahead of them. "Other groups? No, they want to get through. This group wants to ... I love this group. A good group of guys."

Meyer is going to draw on his past when it comes to getting this team prepared. He has had one undefeated team since he became a head coach in 2001 at Bowling Green. His 2004 Utah team had high preseason expectations and rankings and showed everyone as the season progressed they were actually better than those rankings.

"Obviously a much different scale but Utah's '04 team," Meyer said about how he would approach this team in 2009. "First team pre-season ranked and we finished the way we did and all those players coming back and we took the same approach so we've got a little bit of experience with that. The '06-'07, maybe the media or fans thought that was a good team coming back. That was not a good team coming back and we knew that as coaches. So we've got a little experience. The '04 team we made it real hard. You don't give them time to breathe. You don't give them time. That's the only way to do it."

Meyer is never one to shy away from hyping players that he feels deserve the hype. Most of the time he is correct in his assumptions and rarely do they not live up to that hype. Still, he knows he needs to shy away from it sometimes, even when he is recruiting so many skilled players to play for the Gators.

"One of my many faults," Meyer said about over-hyping players. "I'll get over it. I like to throw it over their shoulder and get excited. I'll be out there tonight and they'll ask me about (true freshman receiver Andre Debose) and I'll get excited. Phenomenal player. I think (defensive tackle) Omar Hunter is a phenomenal player. We all want it yesterday instead of tomorrow. (Sophomore cornerback) Janoris Jenkins, I didn't think that would happen. (not like that). It's all good."

"I have strong, strong feelings about (true freshman linebacker)Jelani Jenkins, that he will be in the rotation at linebacker. That could blow up. So many things happened. (True freshman linebacker) Jon Bostic, I thought he'd be really good. I didn't think he'd be challenging for a starting spot. But he earned it, he had a helluva spring. Jeff Demps, you never know. You think you know, but you never know.

"(Freshman center) Sam Robey? Are you kidding me? We had to beat Louisville on him. Think about that, he wasn't seven stars or nine stars. He's right in the middle of that thing (the rotation on the offensive line). Our players have a lot of respect for him. One of most improved surprising players. Sort of like Ahmad Black, where did that one come from?"

With Robey's great play at center this spring, Meyer now has been able to contemplate making some lineup changes when everyone is back healthy. Maurkice and Mike Pouncey were both banged up this spring and are expected back as starters. Carl Johnson was moved to left tackle, but the late emergence of Matt Patchan in spring could mean that Johnson stays inside at his guard spot where he started most of last season. Of course James Wilson is also fighting hard at guard and has to figure in there somewhere. The Gators are deep across the roster and the offensive line is no exception.

"That's kind of intriguing (both Pounceys to guard)," Meyer thought out loud. "A lot of that depends on James Wilson's progress, and Matt Patchan. If Patchan does what he did in the spring, Carl goes back into guard and put Maurkice at center."

The depth on the offensive line is just one of the luxuries of the 2009 roster. The Gators also return the entire secondary and a slew of safeties that were fighting neck and neck throughout the spring to jockey for depth chart position. Meyer sees it all as a positive. He likens it to another college juggernaut and the success they have had in recruiting.

"I think Ahmad earned his spot, but also if he has a bad day, it's going to cut his playing time," Meyer said, letting everyone know that he still considers Black the starter. "That's what you want to see. USC, they've been the cornerstone on developing depth and developing competition. If you have a bad day, you're out."

Meyer has had his moments of disdain for recruiting antics in the SEC, but by in large he understands it is part of the game and he is willing to play along. He has been on the inventive side of the process for most of his career but also respects the other great minds at work in the conference and staffs his has to recruit against every day.

"It's fun," he said with a grin. "You can tell, SEC unlike any other, anything goes. You can see the value of it.

"When we first started, we were very creative. What can we sell? We were a program, (where the) best thing that happened was winning the Outback Bowl. Kind of a mess GPA-wise...all kinds of other issues. When you're on the road, you have to sell. We were selling an offense nobody believed in, we were selling a defense that wasn't really good... We did the song and dance."

"Now you're selling 100 percent graduation rate, you're selling this offense, this opportunity to get drafted, most receivers drafted in the NFL. So much to sell now that you're not as creative. That's what I'm constantly working with the staff –- how do you get that message out, but not falling by the way side with all these creative coaches coming in the league. It's all relative. It's the same thing we did.

"That worries me a little bit, 18-year olds...what's the wow factor with graduation rates?"

That is when Meyer just shows them the rings.


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