Meyer SEC Teleconference

Urban Meyer spoke to the media Wednesday morning. There was a lot of talk about defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and the job he has done with the Gator defense. He also updated injury status of Jaye Howard and Lawrence Marsh, talked about Arkansas, and a little about LSU. Here is the transcript from Wednesday's teleconference.

Media: Talk about the strength of the conference, is it an off-year?

Urban Meyer: I know what I see on film. I just have great respect for the athletes in this league and great coaches in this league. People take it for granted about the environments and I have coached east, west, north, and everywhere else and with all due respect to everyone else, I think the SEC is different. I don't think the SEC has to worry about anyone else.

Media: Is Charlie Strong a better coordinator than three years ago?

Urban Meyer: There is no question. Charlie and I go way back. When we coached at Notre Dame, he and I lived about five houses apart. The Joker package goes pretty good because of the players....but he is on top of his game..,as a coach, the way he handles his players, and he calls a really fine defense for us. Chuck Heater is another guy and those two are kind of joined at the hip. Coach Bedford, and McCarney, we have four coordinators in that room, but Charlie has done a fantastic job.

Media: How have kids responded to Strong?

Urban Meyer: I think he is on top of his game. I hear people use the guru status and he uses the perfect defense, and that is about 20% of it. It's the motivation, the practice, we are missing a few tackles, so every Tuesday and Wednesday we work at it. It's much deeper than a guy that calls a play...the way he relates, motivates, and gets a group of 11 to play like one, that is what makes a coach. It isn't some secret play or call, that is why I think he is as good as anyone in the country.

Media: Talk about keeping Charlie Strong on the staff when you came?

Urban Meyer: I love Charlie and glad he is part of the staff. I wish I could keep him every year. He has a wonderful family and loves Gainesville. He has done a great job. We are much more than just colleagues. That was nonnegotiable when I accepted the Florida job unless something that showed up that was better. Once again, Coach Strong has two beautiful daughters and a beautiful wife and he wants to be treated with respect. His treated very well around here and with a lot of respect and I think that is very important to him.

I have respect for the coach...I coached directly with him. More importantly I tell people all the time...I am not going to hire a coach just for coaching, I am going to hire a guy that is a great father and a husband and has the best interests of the players in his heart.

Believe it or not I got hammered when I hired him. I got emails and phone calls,and letters. People saying the defense is not very good at Florida. I did some research...There were a lot of things out there I had to research and it was obviously a great hire.

Media: Are there similarities with the '06 defense?

Urban Meyer: There are similarities. I think it is a fairly close team like the one in '06 and they are getting closer. That defensive front was mostly four much and we let those four play. Right now we are more advanced, because we are much more multiple than we were in '06, but statistically we are right there.

Media: Dennis Johnson had a couple of kick returns, how important is it to stop him?

Urban Meyer: I think it is going to be the key, offensive football when you get good field position, our scoring percentage is real high. They are number one in the SEC in kick off returns. He is 5-9, 205 pounds and bounces off of guys. It is very well blocked for him, but he is hard to get down. We will spend some extra time on that.

Media: The status of Jaye Howard?

Urban Meyer: He is hurting a little bit and hoping to have him back tomorrow. He did a little bit yesterday ion practice. He and Marsh are banged up a little right now. We are kind of thinned out. Omar Hunter played well, but we still need some depth. We will know more today, it isn't structural it is a bruise below the knee that was pretty significant, but bruises heal with time.

Media: Any other flu like symptoms going around?

Urban Meyer: No, we have been pretty positive on that now. We had one early in the week, but we are pretty set.

Media: How has the defense evolved?

Urban Meyer: I am very proud of them and instead of worrying about what has happened in the past,I think everyone has their focus about walking into the stadium. I think that is a dynamic football team. We are playing better but we are one play away from not being very good. We aren't worrying about that, just trying to get better.

Media: What did the LSU defense do well and what would you expect from them moving forward?

Urban Meyer: They have great players and Coach Chavis did a good job. The thing we did best against LSU was the 36 minute possession time and the third down conversion rate. The drive of the day was probably the first drive. Their offense will come around. There is not a better defense in the league right now than LSU. They held Georgia down and that defense will continue to play well.

Media: How important is it to run the ball effectively?

Urban Meyer: We have always been one of the top rushing teams in the SEC. It is a belief that I have and our staff has, you have to stop the run and you have to run the ball. Maybe we do it non-traditional according to some. But, at the end of the day you have to be able to run the ball, take care of the football to win consistently. We need more balance, but when we keep a team from running the ball under 100 yards we are 39-1 or some crazy stat like that. That just tells you the success rate of teams that can run the ball and stop the run.

Media: What do you see with Michael Smith of Arkansas?

Urban Meyer: I guess he has a hamstring injury we are keeping an eye on, that is how much respect we have for him. He ripped us apart last year. I never heard of him until we played him and I saw it first hand. He is a hard guy to tackle, great acceleration through the hole. They are a big zone running team and he is perfect for it. We think he is one of the top five backs in the league,no question.


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