Meyer Keeping Gators Focused

You might not like some of his methods, but you certainly can't argue with Urban Meyer's success so far. Florida's head coach has the Gators on the verge of their 19th win in a row, a school record and the longest current streak in the country. He has done this with distraction after distraction in 2009. For the Gators, they understand the motto...just win the next game.

David Nelson is one of the team leaders on offense and the senior receiver has two national championship rings to defer to when people say things might be tough. He does understand the rigors of a championship season, and also that this year is different than most when considering all of the issues this team has had to deal with.

"It does seem like there is something every week," Nelson said as his No. 1 Gators prepare to take on Vanderbilt Saturday. "It just makes us a better team and brings us closer together."

One of the latest sagas has been over defensive captain and star linebacker Brandon Spikes and his involvement in extra curricular activities during a tackle in the big win over Georgia last week. Nelson has learned over the years to trust in his coach and most of his teammates to do the right thing when something like this comes up.

"Coach Meyer did what he thought was right and he is also doing some other things in house that nobody knows about," Nelson said in regards to Spikes punishment. "At the same time, we know that isn't who (Spikes) is. If you look at his track record and the past three and a half years that he has been here, that isn't him."

This 2009 season has been filled with potential potholes. The season started with an injury to the most heralded prospect in the freshman class. Andre Debose was supposed to come in play significant minutes and contribute a great deal in the offense.

Week three saw a matchup with Tennessee and all of the extra off the field issues that UT head coach Lane Kiffin brought to the table. Then, as the game neared, several key offensive players contracted flu-like symptoms and starting receiver Deonte Thompson was out with a hamstring pull.

Then came one of the biggest stories of the year, when in the third quarter of the Kentucky game, star quarterback Tim Tebow was knocked out of the game with a concussion. The two weeks after the game, Meyer and company would be put through the wringer about leaving Tebow in the game too long with a 34-7 lead. Then Meyer and staff were tossed to the wolves for even thinking about playing Tebow in the next game against LSU two weeks later.

Each week came and went and the Gators still won. The week after LSU, the Gators returned home and beat Arkansas in a very close game that was won in the fourth quarter. That game was also the impetus for the officials that were in charge of that game to get suspended for a week for two calls late that went in the Gators' favor.

The Gators won, but the scrutiny didn't end there. The Mississippi State contest saw Tebow throw two interceptions for touchdowns and the offense misfire for most of the night. It was an offense that just wasn't the same from the previous year and the the numbers were starting to catch up to the Gators. Still, they managed to win.

The Georgia game came and while the offense was under so much scrutiny they made changes....changes that worked in the game. A 41-17 win seemed like it would be a cure all for the season that has had so many crazy situations pop up. Then, the Spikes stuff mentioned above happened.

Friday, Urban Meyer was fined $30,000 for supposedly questioning the officiating of a personal foul that was not called in the Georgia game.

When will it end? No one knows, but one thing is for sure, the Gators seem to have the right guy in charge to get them through all of it. Ask Dan McCarney, who coaches the defensive linemen at Florida and spent 12 years himself as a head coach at Iowa State. McCarney couldn't name anyone more suited to pull the Gators through what they have gone through so far this season.

"He does an unbelievable job," McCarney said of Meyer's ability to guide his team through all the turmoil. "With any successful head coach it is about understanding and finding out what (the problem) is and being proactive. Always being on edge, making sure players don't relax, coaches don't relax, don't get comfortable with what we have accomplished and when there are problems, find solutions. I think he does a marvelous job of that."

McCarney also knows that a big part of getting through it all is the leadership that has been molded by Meyer and staff in the form of the upperclassmen on the team. He said that this team has learned to thrive on the negative.

"I think it's just the personality of this team and the leadership of this team," he said. "When you are very successful which we have been, we are always looking for another challenge out there and something else that we can motivate our team with. It's not phony, there is real substance to everything Urban puts in front of this team...real substance to the motivation and goals to do the things we need to do to win. Our guys really understand that and they know that the things he talks about come from the heart. There are going to be highs and lows, but if we keep staying the course and follow his plan, we will be just fine."

Whatever Meyer said to his team a week ago in the hotel the night before the Georgia game must have been special. There have been numerous mentions of the talk, it was just another in a long line of things Meyer has been able to do to keep this team focused on the goal ahead.

"I thought (last) Friday night with our football team was the best job he's done talking to our football team since I have been here," McCarney said. "I had hair standing up on the back of my neck and goosebumps on my arms and I have been doing this a long time and have heard a lot of coaches speak. He really did an unbelievable job, I was ready to go play...It was an A-plus speech."

"(It was about) all the things that are out there," he started. "That someone wants to drag us down, say negatives, pull us apart, this is a real genuine family and in a family you take care of one another."

And the pressure mounts every week.

"With every victory and every win that happens, it's 18 in a row now, it is amazing, but why stop now," McCarney said. "Here are the things we have to do to try and get 19 this week and stay on course for all the goals we have this year."

The Gators clinched the SEC East after the Georgia game, yet this team hasn't even begun to celebrate that.

"The word Atlanta didn't come up in the team meeting (Sunday)," McCarney said. "Vanderbilt did. We had some hard lessons last year and this year. We learned from them. I think our kids have a deep respect for all of our opponents in this conference. It is the best conference in college football and if you aren't ready you will get beat. If you are ready you have a good chance to win, this team has a good chance to win this week."

"I don't even know if half our team knows about it yet," Nelson said about the SEC East Championship later in the week. "We haven't talked about it and all of our conversations are about Vanderbilt. We only have three games left in The Swamp and we want to take advantage of that. We want to take it one week at a time with how tough the SEC is."

Most likely on Sunday we will be talking about getting to 20 wins. Then something crazy will happen to light up the fans and the media. And Meyer will just roll up his sleeves and get his team ready for the next one.


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