Meyer’s motivation, priorities changed at Florida

In a feature written by Wright Thompson for ESPN The Magazine centered on new Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer’s ability to focus on his health and family while simultaneously trying to rebuild another top-tier college football program, a number of interesting notes about his time with the Florida Gators are revealed.

While most of Meyer’s story at Florida has been divulged over the past year through stories and a video series produced by Sports Illustrated, the notes below provide greater detail into some of the issues he faced while with the Gators.

» Following the 2007 season, which was marked by four losses (including in bowl game) and quarterback Tim Tebow winning the Heisman Trophy, Meyer “confided to a friend that anxiety was taking over his life and he wanted to walk away.”

» After winning the 2009 BCS National Championship, Meyer ran off the field with the trophy “and locked himself in the coaches’ locker room. He began calling recruits as his assistants pounded on the door, asking if everything was okay.”

» Meyer became a maniacal perfectionist: “He lost even when they won, raging at his coaches and players for mistakes, demanding emergency staff meetings in the middle of the night. He stopped smiling. Days ended later and later. He texted recruits in church. He ignored his children, his fears realized: He’d become That Guy.”

» The DUI arrest of defensive end Carlos Dunlap four days before the 2009 SEC Championship started a “downward spiral” for Meyer. “After the campus police officer delivered the news about Dunlap, Meyer went to the office, overcome, driving in the dark. That week, everything came apart.”

» Meyer was consumed with going undefeated with the Gators. “All of a sudden, every step, every time I had a cup of coffee, every time I woke up in the morning and shaved, it was all about shomehow getting a team to go undefeated at Florida,” he said.

» Meyer admits that his priorities changed in his final years with the Gators. While on the phone with a coach who was asking his advice about what to do in regards to a troubled player, Meyer says he would have expelled the player when he was at Bowling Green but at the end of his tenure at Florida probably would have kept him in the fold.

Thompson goes into greater detail on Meyer’s life, transition out of and back into the coaching profession and how he is balancing his life these days, so be sure to check out the entire feature if you wish to read more.

Photo Credit: ESPN

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Sunday a dream come true for Spikes and his mom

For a young kid growing up in certain areas of Shelby, NC, dreams of playing college football – let alone someday in the NFL – can seem entirely impossible.

Throw in the fact that his brother was sentenced in 2003 to life in prison without parole on first-degree murder charges stemming from a drug deal gone wrong in 2001 and many expected Brandon Spikes to go down with the ship.

“There was a lot of negative people who said, you won’t do this, you won’t do that because he didn’t do this, he didn’t do that,” Spikes told USA Today in 2008 about his neighborhood growing up. “You won’t ever get a scholarship, you won’t go to Florida and play as well as you did. My whole career has been about proving people wrong.”

He started on that path during his time in Gainesville, FL with the Florida Gators. Spikes went from five-star recruit and the No. 13 prospect in the nation to a player who looked like he might be underwhelming after the Gators’ defense struggled mightily in 2007.

Months after the season ended, Spikes sat down with then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer, shed some tears, and told him he had no choice but to succeed going forward.

“I let him know this is my life. Without this, I don’t know where I would be. Football has been everything. It was my way out; it was my way here,” he said. “I just told him this is what I do. I wake up in the morning and I breathe, and this is the first thing on my mind.”

Spikes became the defense’s leader that season, the parallel to quarterback Tim Tebow and what he did for the Gators’ offense.

His hit on running back Knowshaun Moreno at the start the 2008 Florida-Georgia game is one of the most famous tackles in school history, and it fueled a 49-10 victory that helped propel the Gators to another win in the 2008 SEC Championship over Alabama and eventually to the 2009 BCS Championship.

Spikes promised when leaving for college that he would make his mother proud. His second national title in three years undoubtedly put a smile on her face, but his decision to stay a fourth year and graduate rather than leave early for the NFL likely made that smile grow exponentially wider.

Continue Reading » Sunday a dream come true for Spikes and his mom

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Florida accepts invitation to 2012 Gator Bowl

After completing their worst regular season performance since 1979, the Florida Gators (6-6) have accepted an invitation to play the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-6) in the 2012 Gator Bowl on Jan. 2 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL.

The game will air live at 1 p.m. on ESPN2 with Mike Patrick, Craig James and Jeannine Edwards assigned to the contest by the network.

Held continuously since 1946, the Gator Bowl is the sixth oldest college bowl game and the first one televised nationally.

It is one of three Southeastern Conference-Big Ten games set to be played on Jan. 2, getting the fifth selection from the SEC and fourth from the Big Ten.

Florida has participated in the event eight times in its history, posting a 6-2 record including a 27-10 win over North Carolina State in their last appearance in 1992. Ohio State has not played in the game since 1978, when they lost 17-15 to Clemson.

(That OSU appearance, the team’s only time playing in the bowl, led to the firing of head coach Woody Hayes, who struck a Clemson player that ran onto his sideline after catching a pass with the game winding down.)

The Gators are 1-0 all-time against the Buckeyes, defeating them 41-14 for the 2007 BCS National Championship in Glendale, AZ.

In addition to the game being a rematch of the 2006 national championship, it features a further level of intrigue seeing as head coach Urban Meyer recently agreed to take over the Ohio State program in 2012. However, current head coach Luke Fickell will lead the Buckeyes in the bowl game as Meyer does not take over until next year.

Each school will earn nearly $3 million for participating in the bowl.

Florida will be appearing in its 21st consecutive bowl game, a mark that ranks first in the SEC and second nationally.

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Tim Tebow named Denver Broncos starting QB

The Denver Broncos confirmed Tuesday that Tim Tebow will take over as starting quarterback on Oct. 23 against the Miami Dolphins following the team’s bye week.

At 1-4 on the season and with Tebow nearly leading a comeback after entering the game as a reserve last Sunday, Denver had little choice in the matter.

Though head coach John Fox believed Kyle Orton – not Tebow – gave the Broncos the best chance to win at the beginning of the season, he decided to turn to his backup at this time because Denver will have two practices during the bye in which to install new plays before preparing for their game at Miami next week.

Tebow started the final three games of the 2010 season, leading the Broncos to a 1-2 record that included a come-from-behind victory against Houston and a near duplication of that performance vs. San Diego. He completed 49.3 percent of his passes for 217 yards passing in those games and rushed for 66.3 yards per contest.

Accounting for seven touchdowns and three interceptions in his 2010 starts, Tebow had four more in a reserve role. He has scored at least one rushing and passing touchdown in all five NFL games in which he has touched the ball at least three times.

With Denver down 13 points to San Diego at the half on Sunday, Tebow took over in the third quarter and attempted to rally his team from behind. He scored two touchdowns (one rushing) in three minutes, brought the Broncos within two points (a conversion attempt to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd was dropped) and drove the ball 51 yards down the field with 24 seconds remaining before a hail mary attempt fell incomplete.

The fact that Tebow will start his first game of the 2011 season against the Dolphins is an interesting one. Miami attempted to trade for Orton in the offseason but was unsuccessful, a move that likely would have led to Tebow starting from week one.

The Dolphins will also be hosting a celebration for the Florida Gators 2009 BCS National Championship team on Oct. 23 as a promotion to reach out to the largest alumni base of South Florida. There will be a special on-field ceremony at halftime with former head coach Urban Meyer and past Gators players in attendance.

Broncos fans can now set their clocks because it’s Tebow time in Denver.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger

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Florida Gators grab No. 1 spot on Rivals’ Top 10 recruiting classes since 2002

Celebrating a decade of presenting high school recruiting rankings, released a special feature on Tuesday detailing the 10 best recruiting classes since 2002. The Florida Gators, under former head coach Urban Meyer, earned two spots on the list including the No. 1 overall ranking.

Florida’s 2006 recruiting class, which featured five-stars quarterback Tim Tebow, wide receiver Percy Harvin and linebacker Brandon Spikes, came away as the clear leader even after being ranked as the second-best class that year.

“What makes this group stand out above the rest was the number of prospects who panned out: 16 members of the class were starters at one time,” writes Rivals. “Beyond Tebow and Harvin, there were guys such as LBs Brandon Spikes, Dustin Doe and A.J. Jones, DE Jermaine Cunningham, T/G Marcus Gilbert, DTs Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders and WR Riley Cooper. The group helped Florida win two national championships, and Tebow won the 2007 Heisman as a sophomore and was a finalist as a junior and senior.”

Two of those players (Tebow and Harvin) wound up being first-round picks in the NFL Draft; three more (Spikes, Cunningham and Gilbert) were selected in the second-round and one other (Cooper) was a fifth-round pick. Other prominent names in the 2006 class include kick returner Brandon James and offensive lineman Carl Johnson.

The Gators’ 2007 recruiting class, ranked No. 1 the year it was signed, closes out the list at No. 10. One of the reasons it is lower on the list is the fact that three of its most prominent members – five-stars quarterback Cameron Newton and defensive tackle Torrey Davis as well as four-star DT John Brown – had off-the-field issues that did not allow them to conclude their careers in Gainesville, FL.

However, Florida’s 2007 signings also included a trio of first-round picks (cornerback Joe Haden and centers Maurkice and Mike Pouncey), safeties Ahmad Black and Major Wright, DE Carlos Dunlap, tight end Aaron Hernandez and punter Chas Henry. Players remaining on the Gators include redshirt seniors QB John Brantley, DT Jaye Howard, running back Chris Rainey and WR Deonte Thompson.

Check out Rivals at 10: Ten best recruiting classes for the rest of the rankings.

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TWO BITS: Rainey robbed, Baker in CFL?

1 » The residence shared by Florida Gators redshirt seniors running back Chris Rainey and cornerback Moses Jenkins was burglarized Sunday morning, and both players had expensive items missing upon returning. According to The Gainesville Sun, Rainey’s BCS National Championship Ring was the most prominent item stolen; however, also taken when the house was “ransacked” were a television, PlayStation gaming system, Gucci duffel bag and 10 pairs of Jenkins’s shoes.

2 » Former Florida wide receiver Dallas Baker has found his way to the Canadian Football League and is currently taking part in workouts with the Montreal Alouettes. Though he is not officially on the roster yet, Baker is hoping to make an impression during the team’s exhibition finale on Wednesday and play in the CFL next year. “I feel like my career’s on the line,” Baker told the Montreal Gazette. “I have to go out and do all the details – catch every pass, complete my blocking assignments and give 110 percent every play. Even without the injury you have something to prove every day. No one remembers what you did on your last play. To me, every day is like a job interview.”

The former Pittsburgh Steelers pass catcher just wants a chance to prove he can play, even if it is not in the United States on the big stage of the NFL. “We all have dreams of being a star in the NFL and are prepared to do what it takes,” Baker said. “But I could have played 10 more years on special teams in the NFL and never made a catch, and I would have been able to sleep at night.”

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Calgary signs former Florida DL Torrey Davis

The Calgary Stampeders of the CFL announced on Monday that they have signed former Florida Gators defensive lineman Torrey Davis.

Davis, who made a pair of clutch goal line tackle to stop Oklahoma from scoring a touchdown in the 2009 BCS Championship Game that Florida eventually won, transferred to Jacksonville State due to academic issues and legal troubles.

He played for the AFL’s Spokane Shock last season after trying out for but failing to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ roster.

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SIX BITS: awards, Tennessee, blog, BCS, SEC

1 » Learning they earned a unanimous No. 3 ranking on Tuesday – earning placement in the top-three for the first time program history – Florida Gators lacrosse continues to celebrate their 2011 ALC Championship while riding a 14-game winning streak. The team finished the ALC schedule 5-0 and completed the regular season 11-0 at home. With all six ALC schools ranked in the top-20, Florida is among great company and only behind Maryland (15-0) and Duke (13-2). The team also received great news as sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen was named National Player of the Week by, National Offensive Player of the Week by and Offensive Player of the Week by the ALC. Joining her is redshirt freshman M Hayley Katzenberger, who took home ALC Rookie of the Week honors.

2 » The Gators brought home two other Player of the Week awards on Monday, with the Southeastern Conference recognizing senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder for softball and sophomore Allie Will for women’s tennis. Bruder hit a home run in three-straight games, while Will won two matches (including the 75th of her career).

3 » The Tennessee Volunteers are planning to begin their annual spring tour in Orlando, FL, prompting columnist John Adams of GoVolsXtra to point out that Tennessee fans in general have a number of conspiracy theories about some of their own in regards to connections with Florida.

4 » Former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, the No. 4 overall pick of the 1999 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks is back with the team after spending two years in Washington and continues to play great. In addition to winning tow Olympic gold medals and a pair of WNBA Championships she is 11th all-time in both scoring and rebounding, sixth all-time in steals and eighth all-time in minutes played in the league. Milton-Jones wrote a guest blog for SLAM Magazine, which you can check out here.

5 » Whether or not you like the BCS is no matter as its existence may be a matter of legality going forward. The United States Justice Department is currently looking into whether or not they should investigate the BCS for violating federal antitrust law, and a University of Florida professor is lending his hand (and signature) to the anti-BCS regime, according to The Gainesville Sun.

6 » For the first time since 1999, the 2011 SEC Tournament for men’s tennis will be held at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gaiensville, FL. The event begins Thursday at 9 a.m. and will continue through the championship game on Sunday.

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