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 the players who spoke with the media on Wednesday.
THIS ONE’s FOR MEYER
Though the players – especially the seniors – obviously want to win their final game in the orange and blue for themselves, they all realize that it is important to send head coach Urban Meyer out on top. That was a common topic of conversation Wednesday.
“We are going to do everything possible to get this win, not only for us, but for him. It’s his last game as well as ours,” senior linebacker Brandon Hicks said. “It’s going to be an emotional time for all of us. I know he’s going to have some tears. Some guys may have some tears. I don’t know, I may have tears. Coach Meyer was a great person, a great coach, and it’s something that you can’t really exchange that for anybody.”
Redshirt senior LB A.J. Jones shared a similar sentiment. “I know it’s going to be pretty emotional because Coach Meyer’s a great man,” he said. “He’s done a lot for us and he’s done a lot for this program. As we want to go out with a bang, the seniors, we want to send him out with a bang, too. Because we know how much we’ve done for each other.”
Senior center Mike Pouncey recalled his thoughts of Florida under Meyer. “Dominant. When we stepped on the field, we never thought we would be beat. We won a lot of games,” he said. “He’s a real emotional coach. He loves to attack other teams, especially on special teams. That really gives him the edge, that he’s a real aggressive coach.”
EARLY THOUGHTS ON MUSCHAMP
They will not have the chance to play under him in Gainesville, FL, but Hicks and Jones also had positive things to say about new Gators head coach Will Muschamp in the little they have seen and heard from him recently.
“He’s going to do great here. He’s a coach that has a lot of drive and a lot of want-to to win,” Hicks said. “He’s excited about the program and what direction he can take it in. They’re going to get the program rolling,” added Jones. “When [athletic director] Jeremy Foley said he was going to be a coach in here, I knew he was going to bring in the best coach possible.”
REDEMPTION FOR THE GATORS
Hicks also sees Saturday’s game as an effort for the team to get a little redemption. “We are going to go out this last game and show what we can do, what we should have done and what we are going to do,” he said. Senior punter Chas Henry agrees. “It’s going to be a very emotional, very hard-fought game,” he added.
TURNING POINT IN THE SEASON
Looking back, Pouncey points to LSU’s come-from-behind win on a fake field goal and fourth down conversion as the turning point where things nose-dived for Florida. “That was the swinging point of our season. If we would have won that game, we would have had all the momentum going into homecoming to beat Mississippi State,” he said. “It came down to them faking a field goal and getting a first down on fourth and four. That’s how the game swung. Once your team has momentum, it’s hard to beat a team with momentum. We lost all our momentum especially when we thought we won the game again.”
QUOTES (After the break…)
Pouncey on offensive coordinator Steve Addazio: “We’re very proud for him. He deserves it. I think he’s going to do a great job with Temple.”
Pouncey on game preparations: “We’ve been going out and we’ve been practicing hard. They’re going to put the most prepared 22 people out there to win the game on Saturday.”
Pouncey on Penn State’s defense: “They really line up in one defense the whole time. We’re used to teams witching it up on us to out-scheme us. But they’re pretty decided on one defense.”
Pouncey on the offensive line: “We have to play good up front. They have a good defense and they play hard. So if we play good up front, we’re going to have a good game on Saturday.”
Jones on redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter: “Omar, he’s going to be a great player one day. He makes plays, he goes hard, and he’s a great competitor. You can say he never has a problem trying to compete with anybody. He goes every play, goes hard.”
Jones on freshman DT Sharrif Floyd: “He’s coming along great with our defense. He wants to be on the field, he wants to play. For a young guy to have so much want-to and drive to do it, he’s one of those guys that you can really count on to make plays.”
Jones on freshman LB/defensive end Ronald Powell: “He wants to learn as well. He feels that he should be playing, and I feel that way too because he’s a great guy, a great kid that wants to go ahead make plays and do what he can to help us win.”
Jones on Meyer: “To tell you the truth, that man’s a genius. I think he’ll do OK or great at whatever he decides to do.”
Henry on working with Meyer: “Very special. He’s my special teams coach, he’s my punting coach. He’s a great person. I’ve learned so much from him on and off the field. I really admire everything he’s done.”