The Florida Gators are currently in Tampa, FL, preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. Below are some notes from head coaches Urban Meyer and Joe Paterno, who held a combined media availability on Tuesday.
STEPPING DOWN IS SACRIFICING FOR HIS FAMILY
Since announcing his decision to resign, Meyer has cited the primary reason as the ability to spend more quality time with his family. Tuesday he said that his family’s commitment to him over the past few years has allowed him the opportunity show dedication back to them.
“I have a great family, as close as you can imagine, and we asked them… at one point in a five-year period we lived in four different states bouncing kids in and out of school, not by choice but just with that in mind that we’re going to go as hard as we can and then at some point pull away,” he said. “They’ve sacrificed for us now we’re going to sacrifice for those kids. It’s kind of a humbling feeling to do that. Not many people have that opportunity to step away and give back to the people that have given so much to us. The people are those kids. They deserve to have their dad go watch the games and be around. I think last December was kind of a frontal blow and let’s evaluate this whole thing for a minute, and we did.”
STATE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL COULD BE IMPROVED
Asked about the college football landscape, Meyer was quite critical about how things have changed since he first got into the profession decades ago.
“College football, I don’t know if this is the appropriate time, I’m very concerned about it,” he said. “I can’t speak for Coach Paterno. I got into coaching 25 years ago for guys like Joe Paterno, Bo Schembechler, the Earle Bruces of the world, the unselfishness, the teamwork, the struggle. […] I’m concerned, but I’m sure I’m not the only one, and it’s part of life right now. I hope to see it come back to the way it was, and that was a team sport that a bunch of good guys doing it the right way and guys getting education, graduating from college and looking at their college experience as the greatest experience they’ve ever had. That’s what I love college football for.”
Citing Paterno in particular, Meyer heaped praise on one of his idols in the profession. “I’ve known Coach Paterno longer than he’s known me. I was one of those guys that knew I wanted to be a football coach,” he said. “Obviously, whenever you know that, you pick your idols and pick the guys you want to pattern, you like to do it their way. Obviously Coach Paterno is at the top of the list.”
Paterno shared some warm thoughts about Meyer as well. “I have said this privately and publicly, and that’s why I hate to see him go, I think that Urban has been one of the innovators with some of the things they’ve done on the field,” he said. “I haven’t been to his practices, but some of my coaches have had some experience with him. My son, Jay, worships the guy. I keep telling him, ‘Your old man’s a head coach too you know.’”
JENKINS’s INJURY HAS BEEN SEASON-LONG
Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, arguably Florida’s most consistent and talented defender this season, played basically the entire year with a torn ligament in his right shoulder. Jenkins played quite well through the injury but will be missing the Outback Bowl after undergoing surgery to repair it after the Florida State game.
“He had a labrum tear in I want to say the second week or third week of the year,” Meyer said. “He was strapped down all year. He fought through it. He’s a competitor. He never missed practice, he never missed anything, and it got really bad near the end. He’s doing great and he’s a great competitor. Obviously you saw the way he played. He played like an all-conference player.”
Meyer admitted that he had not yet spoken to Jenkins about playing professionally and does not know if he plans to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.
With Jenkins and and redshirt senior defensive tackles Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders all out for the game, Meyer went over who would replace each player on defense. Redshirt sophomore CB Jeremy Brown will start in place of Jenkins with redshirt junior CB Moses Jenkins and freshman CB Cody Riggs splitting time on the other side. Redshirt sophomore Omar Hunter will play on the punt team and is slated to start inside along with redshirt junior Jaye Howard for Marsh and Sanders. Also getting playing time will be freshmen DTs Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley as well as redshirt senior DT Brandon Antwine.
ESPN CERTAINLY AN OPTION FOR MEYER
Meyer has worked as a college football analyst on two occasions: in 2007 during FOX’s broadcast of the BCS Championship game and last week during ESPN’s broadcast of the Las Vegas Bowl. Though some have criticized him as being a bit dry and fidgety during his appearances, Meyer looks relatively comfortable as a commentator and would likely fill such a role nicely. He admitted Tuesday that he may actually have a future with ESPN.
“They called and said, ‘Why don’t you drive up for the day?’” Meyer said of contact he had from the network while he was on vacation in New York. “So I brought my son and he loved it. What I found out is… What a place. Great people.”
Meyer said he will not think about working in television until after the bowl game on Saturday but that it is certainly an option. “Some guys are really good at that,” Paterno said of doing TV work. “Urban’s going to be great at it. […] I hope he never becomes ‘Dr. Urban.’ We can only have one doctor at a time.”
QUOTES (After the break…)
Meyer’s opening statement: “We’ve had excellent practices and today will be our hardest in full pads. Obviously it’s Tuesday of a game week. We’ve got a plus one so they had a good day yesterday. We gave them five or six days off for Christmas, which we like to do. But they’ve come back and they’re going real hard. We’ve had some injuries and we’re going to be down four starters. But we have some guys behind them that are pretty good players. It’s been good and we look forward to a great challenge.”
Meyer on his next job: “I’ve put in my application as graduate assistant at Penn State. I can set up the cones really well and make a good pot of coffee.”
Meyer on redshirt senior linebacker A.J. Jones: “That’s one of my favorite guys. He’s a person that’s come a long way on the field and off the field. He’s a graduate of Florida. He’s one of the guys coach and I were talking about, that the best four years, five years of his life have been at Florida. He knows that and he respects it. He’ll probably have a chance to play for a little bit maybe, maybe not. But he understands the value of what just happened in his life and he’s very respectful of that. You just like being around guys like that. He’s one of my all-time favorites.”
Meyer on coaching changes and players being uncomfortable: “The guy we hired is fantastic, so I think that eased a lot of the burden because the first priority is the players and our coaches. Steve Addazio getting the Temple job; I think he’s one of the finest coaches in America. It’s just great to see there is going to be some stability in some of our coaches’ lives. Our players are fine now. When something happens everybody starts this nonsense about I’m going to do this, do this. You’re not doing anything; you’re at Florida. Then you hire a coach with the intensity and energy that we’ve hired, I think it’s been fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed these last two weeks. I enjoyed practice yesterday, enjoyed being around the players. If there’s ever a good time, obviously I don’t know that there ever is, but this kind of worked out very well.”
Paterno on when he will retire: “I don’t know Urban’s situation, but he’s got a lovely family, no question. I certainly have some empathy towards the way he wants to go. I’m being selfish when I say I hate to see guys like that leave the game. I’m different than Urban. I’ve got people calling up saying, ‘When the hell are you getting out?’ I’ve got a whole different slant on it. People think I’m going to quit this year or next year; I haven’t even thought of it. I, honest to goodness, have not thought of it. The situation around me is very stable. The athletic director is a kid I recruited as a walk-on. The coaches have been with me, I haven’t had a lot of guys leave. Our president has been with us now for 14 or 15 years. We have a lot of fun together. I don’t see any reason for getting out of it yet. We had a big problem in State College last week. Somebody said that I was down at Hershey Hospital. I was chewing out somebody for being late for a meeting. It’s ridiculous. I don’t know when I’ll get out, I honestly don’t know. I haven’t even thought about it yet.”