11/10: Florida coach Meyer’s SEC teleconference

OGGOA had the opportunity to participate in Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer’s Southeastern Conference teleconference on Wednesday (we will be doing so every week). Below are some notes from the event:

GROWING RELATIONSHIP WITH SPURRIER

Upon taking the Florida job, Meyer told anyone who would listen that one of the main reasons he did so was because he loved watching head coach Steve Spurrier‘s teams in the 1990s and had great respect for the Gators. Asked Wednesday how Spurrier’s continued prescence on the campus affects him, Meyer explained the two have become quite close since he arrived in Gainesville, FL.

“We’re fairly good friends now. Him and his wife and my wife and myself, we’re good friends. I actually lean on him quite a bit about the University of Florida when we get together,” he said. “He was Florida. He’s the reason I came here. I had such admiration for the way his teams played.”

RECRUITING ANOTHER DROP-BACK QUARTERBACK

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley has always been more of a drop-back, pro-style passer. This was known the day he was recruited and every day since. Meyer addressed whether or not he would recruit a similar player again or if he would instead simply find guys who fit his system a bit better.

“We’ve played a multitude of different styles of offense really since I’ve been a head coach. It’s all about the personnel,” he said. “To be a drop-back quarterback, you really need a 220 lb. [running] back to hand off too. You also need a very stout and experienced tight end, which [we don’t have]. We’re going to continue recruiting the best players we can get our hands on and adapt to that. [...] If we do [recruit another drop-back QB], we just have to make sure we have the pieces around him to give that guy a chance.”

ADDRESSING NEWTON QUESTIONS ONE LAST TIME

Meyer began Wednesday’s media availability with a short statement aimed to prompt against any more questions regarding Auburn Tigers QB Cameron Newton.

“I addressed recent news stories yesterday that our [sports information director]made me aware of in the early afternoon,” he said. “Those stories have absolutely nothing to do with our team and preparation for South Carolina. Our entire focus is and will always be on our team. I will say, however, that I was very supportive of Cam when he left here and Cam and his family know that and we wish him all the best.”

Asked later if he felt a statement on the Newton allegations was necessary, Meyer replied, “I didn’t. My SID thought it was important. I didn’t want to do it to be honest with you. Whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do.”

MEYER & SPURRIER QUOTES (After the break…)
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11/9: Addazio, players speak to the media

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, and defensive tackles redshirt senior Terron Sanders and redshirt sophomore Omar Hunter spoke to the media Tuesday as the team took a final look back on its win against the Vanderbilt Commodores and ahead to its game against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

THREE-HEADED MONSTER BEHIND CENTER

With redshirt junior starter John Brantley, redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed and freshman Trey Burton all sharing quarterbacking duties these days, Addazio was asked Tuesday if he has ever seen a team employ a similar strategy and why it happens to work for Florida. “No. Three quarterbacks? No, I have not,” he said. “For us it’s working right now, and it’s working because we have some really unselfishness guys who really want all for the team and winning. That’s very evident. It’s created a level of excitement and energy; it’s been a real positive thing for us.”

Though each player has his own specialized plays and duties, managing three signal callers with such unique skills is proving to be a work in progress for the entire coaching staff. “You’re moving a lot of checkers around and that takes a lot of time,” Addazio said. “You got to be exact in your practice time; you have to be exact in things. Systematically it’s a little different routine than what you’ve been accustomed to. Our whole deal has always been trying to get the right pieces in the right places.”

SATURDAY’s BIG GAME WEIGHING ON SENIORS IN GOOD WAY

In addition to playing for the Southeastern Conference Eastern division title on Saturday, the Gators’ senior class will be participating in their last home game of real significance seeing as Florida State is a road game this year. Sanders realizes how important the outcome of the game is not only to the team but also his classmates. “This is a make it or break it game for us,” he said. “As seniors, we don’t want to not make it to the SEC Championship game. It will hurt knowing that we had it right in the grasp of our fingertips and we let it go if we don’t come out and do what we need to do.”

Hunter, who has been wearing the orange and blue for some pretty big games already in his young career, doesn’t think Florida holds any advantage due to the game’s importance. “I think it’s irrelevant. It’s the SEC. Every week is a big game,” he said.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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11/8: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, senior center Mike Pouncey and senior safety Ahmad Black answered questions for the media on Monday about a variety of topics concerning the Florida Gators and their win on Saturday over the Vanderbilt Commodores on the road in Nashville, TN. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

RAINEY MAKING MOST OF SECOND CHANCE

Ask an outsider about redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey, and they will likely tell you head coach Urban Meyer’s concern about fielding a winning team was the reason he allowed the troubled athlete back on the field two weeks ago. Talk to his close friends, teammates and brothers and you will get a completely different story.

“It’s his attitude about the game,” said Pouncey on Monday when asked how Rainey has changed the second time around. “He appreciates it more just because it was almost taken from him. I’m glad to see that he’s doing well. We need him to play good every week. I’m just glad he’s back out there. All Chris has is football. He’s had a rough life. I think Florida has given him a second opportunity to do well at this sport.

“I was [worried about him]. Chris really doesn’t have any family outside of me and my family. It was tough on him because he obviously had a lot of time on his hands without being a part of the football team. He’s just glad to be back. He doesn’t say anything at practice. He just goes hard, and that’s how it should be.”

Meyer has been criticized for being “easy” on players who make mistakes with his detractors saying he has no control of behavior. However, to Meyer, giving a kid a second chance at a meaningful life has always been of primary importance. “Coach Meyer knew [about Rainey’s issues],” Pouncey added. “Him and coach Meyer have a special relationship. He knew Rainey’s past and his whole life story, so he understood the fact that this [is] all he has.”

BRANTLEY NOT BOTHERED BY REDUCED ROLE

With a lacking run game and struggling offense, Florida’s coaching staff has been utilizing freshman Trey Burton and redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed along with Brantley behind center. According to the player, he’s perfectly fine with taking fewer snaps as long as it helps the team win. “We had to get our running game going and, no matter what it takes, we’ll do it. I’ll do it,” he said. It doesn’t matter to me as long as we win games and as long as we fight for that spot like we’re doing for the SEC Championship.”

Meyer and Pouncey both gave Brantley their vote of confidence on Monday, calling him “the” quarterback of the Gators. “I guess that means I’m the leader of the ship – that’s the role I’ve taken on this offseason and all summer, coming into camp and everything,” Brantley said. “That’s the way I look at it – that I still need to lead this team. Even though I’m not taking all the snaps, that’s fine with me, I just got to be able to lead the troops and keep this thing rolling.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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11/8: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday before the Florida Gators compete in a game the following Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

SUNDAY FUNDAY = BLUE-OUT SATURDAY

During his weekly Florida Football with Urban Meyer post-game program on Sunday, Meyer looked back at the team’s victory against the Vanderbilt Commodores with great pride – especially for the fans. “Gator Nation covered that stadium. We came rolling in there at 9:00 in the morning – orange and blue everywhere,” he said. “I even heard one of our players say, ‘You know you took over a stadium when they’re doing the wave’ – the orange and blue people. It was great, and I want to thank them.

“This team – we’re not a great team – but we’re getting better, getting better in all areas. I admire guys that fight, show toughness, come together as a team and give everything for their university. I’ve never really done this, but I want to make this the most intense stadium in the history of Florida football this Saturday. This is for the SEC [East] Championship. Get there early. I want everybody to wear blue – head-to-toe – including our players. Let’s make this one of those ones, when you get those great books about Florida Gator history, let’s put this down in there as one of the great weekends in Florida football history.

“November in Gainesville playing for a championship, this is why we’re all here. Once again, I’m going to go on record – I want this to be the most intense week in Florida football history. Let’s wear blue, let’s make this place nuts, let’s have a lot of fun with this, and let’s show up and make this one of the ones you put this right in the history books as one of the great days in Florida football history.”

STATUS / INJURY UPDATES

Discussing Saturday that freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley was basically in the coaching staff’s doghouse and did not travel with the team to Vanderbilt, Meyer said Monday that he is still with the team but “has got to do things we ask him to do” in order to get back involved. He is confident that everything will be worked out in the end.

» Junior running back Jeff Demps – will play Saturday, how much is not yet known
» Redshirt sophomore DT Jaye Howard – “promising” that he will be able to play
» Redshirt sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan – seeing a specialist on his wrist due to an ongoing problem, likely out for the season
» Junior kicker Caleb Sturgis – out

CHAMPIONS

Meyer announced Monday that 18 Gators had earned the designation of Champions after Saturday’s win over the the Commodores. Offensively, Meyer named redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed as his most valuable player along with redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey, freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr., senior center Mike Pouncey, redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson, redshirt senior tackle Marcus Gilbert, redshirt senior guard Maurice Hurt, redshirt junior fullback Steven Wilks, sophomore RB Mike Gillislee, freshman TE Gerald Christian and redshirt freshman G Jonotthan Harrison as his champions. On the defensive side of the ball, freshman DT Sharrif Floyd won the MVP award, while redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins, redshirt senior DT Terron Sanders, redshirt sophomore defensive end Lerentree McCray, redshirt senior linebacker A.J. Jones and senior LB Brandon Hicks were champions.

Rainey also earned the Southeastern Conference‘s Special Teams Player of the Week award for his two blocked punts against Vanderbilt.

LEAK > SPURRIER?

When discussing redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley on Monday, Meyer said as an aside that former starter Chris Leak was one of the top three signal callers in school history. Asked to evaluate that statement later, Meyer said, “I go champion – champion – champion,” when judging quarterbacks, rather than worrying about who has won the Heisman Trophy. That puts Leak over current South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier…at least in Meyer’s book.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Week 10: Gators post-game news & notes

Winning their second-straight game, this time in dominant fashion, the Florida Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC) toppled the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-7, 1-5 SEC) 55-14 in Nashville, TN, at Vanderbilt Stadium. With so much to discuss, OGGOA presents some important notes and quotes following the contest.

RAINEY’s REDEMPTION PART II

Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey has been one of Florida’s best performers in back-to-back games. With two blocked punts and a 40-yard touchdown reception in which he came back for an under-thrown ball, Rainey is quickly proving to head coach Urban Meyer that he has his head on straight and is ready to be a valued member of the team. “He hit rock bottom and he had one way to go,” Meyer said after the game. “Good for him. To even be on football, good for him. He’s doing much better in school and the thumb is on him real hard, so his whole work ethic has changed and everything.” He also discussed Rainey’s punt blocks. “You talk about a momentum shift. [Chris] Rainey’s a very unique, skilled athlete that can come off that edge that’s skinny like that,” he said. “Ninety percent of the time we win or are undefeated when we get a hand on a punt. Great momentum change.”

TEAM CHEMISTRY AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH

Having won their last two contests, the Gators are feeling good – especially considering one was an overtime thriller and the other was a shellacking. Meyer is pleased with how the team is currently assembled and thinks, now that most everyone is healthy, they can continue their progress. “I just like the chemistry of our team right now. The way they hang out with each other at the hotel. You see a gelling right now,” he said. “You take some good players out of your team and you don’t look as good. I’m very excited about the chemistry of our team right now. We needed this.”

Florida is feeling so good these days that, before the game was even over, players on the sidelines were talking about playing South Carolina next week for the Southeastern Conference Eastern division title. “[They were talking about it] a lot. I tried to encourage them to. I wanted the focus,” Meyer said. “We’ve learned some great lessons around here in the past of a team being ready to play a big-time game and maybe a team not being ready to go play a big-time game. So that was my whole message to them. I like the look. If they’re talking about next week’s game obviously when this one is over, it’s real clear what the focus is. [...] I think we’re finishing strong and obviously it’s championship week in Gainesville, Florida. So we’re going to get back to work as soon as we can and everybody’s excited about it.”

REED-IRECTING OFFENSE

Saturday saw the emergence of redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed as a legitimate offensive option for the Gators as he accounted for 120 yards through the air, 84 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Meyer was complimentary of Reed after the game and hopes to utilize him more as the season goes on. “He’s a freak athlete. I think we did it right. Hindsight is 20-20 how we’re pushing him into this offense,” he said. “Obviously you can see what a dynamic runner [he] is, he’s got a nice arm. We don’t have that big runner – and he gives us that. […] He’s tight end and quarterback. He’ll be a single-wing quarterback and a tight end for us.”

PLAYER STATUS UPDATES

» Freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley: “He’s not on the travel team – just not a part of the team right now. Lot of reasons. […] He’s not part of the travel team.”
» Freshman running back Mack Brown: “He’s been having hamstrings all year, so we just didn’t want to risk it. But his attitude has been fantastic.”
» Junior RB Jeff Demps: “Jeff was available, but we wanted to be smart. He didn’t practice much this week. It was very painful on him this week. We’ll know more this week, but I’m planning on him being ready for South Carolina.”
» Redshirt sophomore DT Jaye Howard: Meyer expects him to return next week after having nursed a serious ankle injury for 2-3 weeks.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Gators knock down ‘Dores 55-14 in Nashville

It may have been cold in Nashville, TN, Saturday afternoon, but no one was hotter than the Florida Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC), who piled up 41 points in the first half on the way to a rout of the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-7, 1-5 SEC) 55-14 in Vanderbilt Stadium.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey stole the show early, blocking two punts and catching a 40-yard touchdown pass from redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, who finished the day 11-of-18 for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Rainey also had a career-high and game-high 75 yards receiving.

With junior running back Jeff Demps out of action as a precaution, sophomore RB Mike Gillislee led Florida on the ground with nine rushes for 61 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed, added to the Gators’ quarterback rotation last week, also shined in the contest completing 11-of-19 attempts for 120 yards, a touchdown and an interception while also rushing 16 times for 84 yards and a score.

As per usual this season, Florida started off slow but got on the board with 8:47 left in the first quarter on Gillislee’s first touchdown run. The second quarter saw the Gators post 34 points including a 31-yard pass from Reed to redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson, Rainey’s 40-yard touchdown catch, a 45-yard fumble return touchdown from redshirt senior defensive tackle Terron Sanders, a 39-yard touchdown reception by redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. and a 42-yard punt block return touchdown from freshman WR Solomon Patton.

The Commodores finally got on the board in the beginning of the third quarter when Sanders missed a block on a punt; Vanderbilt knocked down the ball and cornerback Javon Marshall returned it four yards for a special teams score. They would also score on a six-yard reception from QB Jared Funk to WR Jordan Matthews made possible after a Reed interception.

Florida took its foot off the gas at halftime, substituting almost every starter and still scoring 14 more points in the third quarter on a 43-yard run by Gillislee and a six-yard rush from Reed. The Gators’ 41 first-half points were its most in a Southeastern Conference game since 2005, it’s 55 points on the road were the most since 1997 (Kentucky), and its 88 plays and 480 total yards of offense were both season-highs.

Defensively, redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins notched a team-high eight tackles, while freshman DT Sharrif Floyd had a breakout performance with a career-high seven tackles (three for loss) and some monstrous hits. Redshirt sophomore LB Lerentree McCray and senior safety Ahmad Black each forced fumbles, sophomore S Josh Evans grabbed an interception, and UF’s seniors also accounted for four sacks with one each from linebackers Brandon Hicks and A.J. Jones and defensive ends Duke Lemmens and Justin Trattou.

Florida’s win Saturday set them up for a showdown with South Carolina next week in Gainesville, FL, in a de facto SEC East title game with the winner advancing to the 2010 SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA. The game will air at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN or ESPN2.

Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

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11/4: Meyer delivers good, bad injury updates

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer met with the media after practice on Thursday and divulged a few important notes about the team’s eight game of the 2010-11 season on Saturday against the Vanderbilt Commodores. OGGOA has compiled some of the key details which you can check out below.

FIRST THE GOOD NEWS

Injured early against Mississippi State and out for Saturday’s game against Georgia, redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Debose (ankle) “looked really good” at practice on Thursday and is expected to play against Vanderbilt, according to Meyer. Joining him will be junior running back Jeff Demps (foot), who saw some action in Jacksonville, FL, but has been limited in practice all week for precautionary reasons. Earlier this week, Demps said he still had pain in his foot when cutting but feels fine when running straight. Meyer also affirmed his statement on Wednesday that both sophomore RB Mike Gillislee (hamstring) and redshirt senior RB Emmanuel Moody (thigh) are 100 percent healthy and ready to return to the field.

NOW THE BAD…

Meyer announced Thursday that redshirt freshman tight end Desmond Parks – who has yet to see the field in 2010 – will miss the remainder of the season after having his third wrist surgery in two years. “He’s a tough kid, man. Good dude. The whole deal,” Meyer said. “He won’t play again this year, but we’re pushing for spring practice.”

Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaye Howard (ankle) is still being hampered by his injury, has barely been able to practice this week and “doesn’t look good for the game.” Also out of action Saturday is redshirt sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan (wrist) and freshman WR Robert Clark (ankle).

DUAL ROLES BENEFIT THE OFFENSE

Redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey and redshirt freshman TE Jordan Reed have been playing two positions for the Gators this season, with Rainey carrying the ball as a running back and Reed taking snaps as a Widcat quarterback. That will continue Saturday, according to Meyer, as Rainey will be taking at least half of his snaps in the backfield and Reed will continue to be used along with redshirt junior starter John Brantley and freshman Trey Burton. In fact, Meyer promised Reed would throw the ball this week, for what it’s worth.

QUOTES

On if the up-tempo offense is now second-nature and if there have been any tweaks to it: “Working through the glitches…you know, we had penalties last week. You couldn’t have done what we done without a bye week.”

On redshirt freshman guard Jon Halapio: “He’s one of our most improved players on the team. Just the way he practices, his work ethic, his toughness. He’s going to be a really, really fine offensive lineman in this conference. […] He’s what you look for in recruiting.”

On if players are looking ahead to South Carolina: “No, I don’t see that at all. My basic concern is getting them up to go play [the Vanderbilt] game. It’s an early game, that’s a pain in the rear end.”

On why they decided to bring the quarterbacks in-and-out: “If you take Johnny out of the game, they’ll play one defense. If [you] keep Johnny in the game, they’ll do blitz-a-thon like it’s been. The tempo, having them pop in and out, it’s hard – especially in a noisy stadium – to start changing defenses. You get mistakes.”

On sophomore tight end Jordan Reed playing more: “He’s really worked really hard. Coming of age. He’s earned his right [to play]. He can help us.”

On potentially resting Demps instead of playing him: “We’re just being smart right now. If he can go, he’ll go.”

On Burton: “Trey’s one of those rare breeds that knows the offense – knows it really well. He’s one of those guys that just picks it up [snaps his fingers] so fast.”

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11/2: Addazio, McCarney, players discuss Georgia

Florida Gators offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio, assistant head coach, defense/defensive line Dan McCarney, junior safety Will Hill, redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson and redshirt freshman G Jon Halapio spoke to the media Tuesday as the team took a final look back on its win against the Georgia Bulldogs and ahead to its road game against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

SPEEDY BACKFIELD CREATES HOME RUN THREATS

As head coach Urban Meyer has mentioned repeatedly over the last few weeks, one of the reasons for Florida’s inefficient offense during its three-straight losses was a lack of the home run plays. Addazio believes that element has officially returned now that junior running back Jeff Demps and redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey are back playing. “The ability to have Demps and Rainey together back there, the ability to create a lot of speed back in that backfield again, gives you those opportunities for home run balls. [Options and dives] can be home run strikes now, they’re not just necessarily four-or-five-yard strikes.”

GEORGIA GASSED BY NO-HUDDLE OFFENSE

A common theme the players have expressed since the Georgia game ended on Saturday was how winded and unprepared the Bulldogs were for Florida’s enhanced no-huddle offense. “The no-huddle was actually harder in practice than it was in the game,” Johnson said. “It was fairly easy because Georgia was so tired. They weren’t even getting in their stance half the time because they were so tired. It wasn’t that bad. I thought it would be a lot, lot worse, but they make it so much harder in practice. We don’t have the 40-second clock rule in practice. The coaches are like, ‘Get on the ball, run another play!’”

Halapio shared similar sentiments. “I felt sorry for them boys because we practiced that bonazi stuff, that no-huddle stuff for two weeks. We were in shape. We had no mercy against them,” he said. “They were breathing and they couldn’t even get set. They were all walking around. They couldn’t even do trash talk or nothing. They couldn’t even talk to each other they were so gassed out.”

HILL EVALUATES HIS PERFORMANCES THIS SEASON

No matter what the coaches said about how he played, Hill knew he was better than the performance he was giving on the field throughout the season. After missing UF’s first two contests, Hill regained his starting job against Tennessee and has been performing admirably but with plenty of mistakes since. Though he suffered another miscue on Saturday, he hopes that he has now turned a corner.

“I played decent [early in the season]. I didn’t play like a top guy. I was just playing as a regular guy,” Hill said Tuesday. “I know what the coaches expect and I know what the team expects and I wasn’t up to those expectations. I was just average. [Saturday] was a big game for me. To be able to step up and help the team, I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff like how can I help the team, how can I better myself, how can I better the team? By me performing the way I did, it just showed a lot of improvement.”

FIVE-STAR FRESHMEN DEFENDERS COMING INTO OWN

McCarney raved Tuesday about the progress of freshman defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and defensive end (currently outside linebacker) Ronald Powell. He said Floyd is “the most improved freshmen that I’ve got on the defensive line right now,” adding that injuries have “given Sharrif more of an opportunity and he’s really gaining confidence, improving. I think he’s one of the most improved players on our defense right now.” As for Powell, his improvement has come from a variety of directions. “He’s playing lower. He’s playing with better fundamentals. He’s playing with better technique. He’s understanding the game. He’s understanding the game plan. He’s understanding schemes, what people are trying to do to him,” McCarney said. “He’s really improved a lot – immensely. He’s one of the most talented, most mature freshmen I’ve ever been around [and] I’ve been doing this a lot of years.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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