Meyer talks Gators, coaching on ESPN call

Former Florida Gators head coach now ESPN analyst and color commentator Urban Meyer participated in a teleconference with the network on Thursday and spoke at length about his former team as well as his mindset not being on the sidelines this year. He also touched on some subjects (such as using a two-quarterback system in 2006 and John Brantley’s struggles in 2010) that pertained to his time with the Gators. Below are some excerpts of the conference call that are informative and relate specifically to Florida.

Q. – Urban, I had a question for you about the way you used Leak and Tebow in 2006 I was curious how that process evolved, how maybe easy or difficult it was to commit to it, and how did the team respond to it when they first saw the design?

URBAN MEYER: It was not something we went into the season planning because we really didn’t know what we had with Tim. You don’t know until you get into the game atmosphere, and his value we learned rather quickly. So it evolved throughout the course of the year.

It was a very fragile situation and very unique where if you don’t have character guys that are playing that position, you can see where it could become a locker room issue or become a chemistry issue. The parents were fantastic. You’re talking about a quarterback at Florida, which is a very high profile position, on a team that had a chance to be really good. So it was incredible to work with two guys that are built like Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. There was absolutely no ego, there was no anything other than what’s good for the team, and their families were on board, and the team really bought into it, as well, too.

Like Chris made a comment, which is if we didn’t win then it probably would have been chaos, but winning cures all evils, and we won a lot of games and we had one stumble and that was against Auburn. But to see that team rally back from that, and really both quarterbacks were a major, major part of that.

Read the rest of what Urban Meyer had to say on Thursday…after the jump!
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DT Terron Sanders: “It was a dream come true”

Former Florida Gators defensive tackle Terron Sanders has taken a bumpy road filled with injuries and setbacks to get to this point in his playing career. A redshirt senior, Sanders remains in Gainesville, FL rehabbing with trainer Marty Huegel in order to heal a torn right labrum he had surgery on after the Florida State game.

Sanders, who signed with Craig Schaeffer and Glen Lansky of Elite Sports Agency, plans to head to Sarasota, FL after his rehab is complete so he can begin training for Florida’s Pro Day in April. He spent some time over the weekend with OGGOA recounting his collegiate career and looking ahead to the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start at the beginning. I read you were a fan of the Gators growing up but obviously had plenty of other schools vying for your services out of high school. What was it like to receive a scholarship over from Florida and how long did it take you to jump on it?
TERRON SANDERS: “It was kind of a dream come true for me, actually. Coach [Greg] Mattison and Coach [Steve] Addazio told me that Coach [Urban] Meyer wouldn’t consider offering until I came up for a camp. So I came up for the camp, did whatever I could do, and when they called me in the office after the camp and told me that I really impressed them and they were really interested in me. That made me feel good. A week later I got a call with them offering me the scholarship. It felt surreal almost. I felt like I was kind of dreaming. It wasn’t something that I really expected because I didn’t know how well I did at the camp. It took me five minutes – if that – to call them back and tell them that I was going to be a Gator. Coach Addazio called, offered me the scholarship. [I asked for] a week to think about it, got off the phone with him and told my dad they offered me a scholarship. My dad asked me what I was waiting for, so I turned around, called Coach Addazio right back and told him that I’d come. There was no question about it; it was what I wanted to do.”

AS: Between your senior year of high school and the 2008 season, you tore your meniscus in your left knee twice, the one in the right knee once and suffered a high ankle sprain. Coming back from injury so many times, what were you going through mentally and how did you prepare physically to come back the next season?
TS: “I wasn’t doing what I needed to do when I first got here. I wasn’t accomplishing my goals. I was kind of disappointed in myself. I had the motivation for myself to get better and do what I needed to do.”

AS: After going through all of that you ended up starting 12 games in 2008 including the SEC Championship and BCS National Championship. How special was it getting to play that season and seeing the end result?
TS: “That was another one of those surreal moments. You kind of had to pinch yourself afterward. To sit back, look at the turnaround I made, it felt good to know that I did everything I could to become a part of that. I knew how important it was to be a part of that. And I knew that, if I hadn’t pushed myself, and I didn’t have the people around me – the family members, the support group that I had – it wouldn’t have been possible. After it happened, I went back to my hotel room, spent some time with my family and just embraced the moment. It was something that was an amazing feeling. A lot of people say it’s an once-in-a-lifetime feeling to experience two National Championships. The second one I was a part of, and I feel like I added my contribution. It was an incredible feeling.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Terron Sanders…after the break!
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TWO BITS: Teryl Austin hired? Joe Haden’s chain

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive coordinator Teryl Austin may have a new job…thanks in part to a fellow former Florida defensive coordinator having moved on. With Greg Mattison leaving the Baltimore Ravens to take the same job with the Michigan Wolverines, Baltimore decided to promote secondary coach Chuck Pagano to his old position. That left an opening on the team for Austin, who according to the National Football Post, has already interviewed to be the Ravens’ secondary coach and is “considered the leading candidate to land the job.” Before joining the Gators, Austin was the secondary coach for the Seattle Seahawks from 2003-06 and Arizona Cardinals from 2007-09; he participated in one Super Bowl with each team.

2 » Last April, OGGOA posted this picture of Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden showing off a unique “Gator Boy” chain at the 2010 Orange & Blue Debut. The Fab Empire found this picture of Haden sporting the ice while out on the town last week, so we figured it was worth sharing here once again.

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Charlie Strong hired as Louisville head coach

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been announced as the 21st head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. Strong was named the front-runner to replace former head coach Steve Kragthrope by Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich after the regular season concluded, though Jurich waited to speak to Strong and Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley until after the Gators competed in the 2009 SEC Championship. The two first met Sunday evening in Gainesville, FL, and spoke about the job throughout the week as Jurich waited for the University of Louisville‘s Athletic Association Board of Directors to approve the hiring of Strong. That endorsement came Wednesday afternoon, and a school press conference scheduled for 4 p.m. confirmed Strong’s future with the Cardinals.

“I’ve done a lot of homework with this hire, and I was amazed how well-respected and revered Charlie Strong is throughout the country ,” Jurich said at the press conference. “He commands a lot of respect from people within the game, including ex-players and coaches around college football. However, after meeting him in person, I was even more impressed. Tony Dungy had a huge impact on me with this hire. He was passionate about Charlie as a coach and as person. I respect the opinions of Urban Meyer, who was part of our staff at Colorado State, and Jeremy Foley, who is one of the most respected athletic directors in the country. They both raved about Charlie as a football coach and his great character.”

During his first address to the Louisville faithful, Strong first paused and then cried when asked by a reporter if he thought he would ever get the chance to be a head coach. “Because you just never knew if it would happen,” he said. Strong also described the meeting when Jurich offered him the job as “very emotional” for his family. “Coaching is taking young men and making an impact and influence on their lives to make them better people,” Strong said. “I want them to know that their sole purpose here is to get a degree and to go win football games.”

Strong got his start as a graduate assistant at Florida from 1983-84 and has spent the majority of his 27-year coaching career with the Gators. He returned to the team in 1988 as outside linebackers coach for two seasons before leaving and coming back in 1991 under head coach Steve Spurrier as assistant head coach/defensive tackles coach. In 1999, he became the first African-American coordinator in Southeastern Conference history when he was hired by Lou Holtz of the South Carolina Gamecocks to coach the defense. His most recent stint with Florida began in 2002 as defensive coordinator under then-head coach Ron Zook. Strong survived the transition of the team to current head coach Urban Meyer, who eventually gave him complete control of the defense and the additional title of assistant head coach. He also served as the Gators’ interim coach (effectively the second African-American head coach in SEC history) in Florida’s 2004 Peach Bowl loss to the Miami Hurricanes.

Throughout his career, Strong has been known as a terrific recruiter who is able to connect on a personal level with his players. He has coached in 19 bowl games, including 12 in January, due in part to his installation of an aggressive, attacking scheme that puts pressure on the quarterback and forces turnovers. Strong has developed six first-round NFL Draft picks and 15 players who were drafted in the third round or higher (prior to the 2010 draft). Since 2003, Florida’s defense under Strong has intercepted 132 passes, good for No. 3 in the nation and best in the SEC. No SEC defense has forced more turnovers (139) or interceptions (95) than the Gators since 2005, and only one other school in the nation (Boston College) has picked off more passes. Florida’s defense has also paced the SEC in total rushing yards allowed and rushing yards per game allowed since 2005 while remaining at the top of the league in red zone scoring defense over the last two seasons (second in the nation – East Carolina).

Because of the recent success of the Gators under Meyer, the coach has lost a number of his assistants to promotions. Doc Holliday was with Florida from 2005-2007 as associate head coach/safeties coach/recruiting coordinator before leaving to become the West Virginia Mountaineers associate head coach while also coaching tight ends, fullbacks and running the team’s recruiting. Co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Greg Mattison left after the 2007 season to coach linebackers for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens (he is now the team’s defensive coordinator). And most recently, former offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen was hired as the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs before the 2009 BCS National Championship. Mullen took tight ends/assistant offensive line coach John Hevesy with him as his assistant coach/offensive line coach/running game coordinator.

Strong was bombarded by phone calls from assistants around the country looking to earn a spot on his Louisville staff before he was even officially interviewed for the position. Rumors are swirling that he may tap either Florida wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Billy Gonzales or running backs coach Kenny Carter to become his offensive coordinator. (Gonzales has since denied these rumors, though it is believed that Meyer has already spoken with Notre Dame Fighting Irish running backs coach Tony Alford about replacing Carter should Strong bring him along.) Some are also speculating that Strong could ask assistant head coach/defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney or assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater to join him as his defensive coordinator. Either McCartney or Heater is expected to be named the Gators’ defensive coordinator in succession of Strong.

The Cardinals told Strong that he could stay with the Gators to coach in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, and according to a statement he gave the St. Petersburg Times, he will do so.

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