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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Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

When college football fans think about Florida Gators football in the 1990s, three names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. A three-time first-team All-SEC selection (1990-92) who finished fifth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, Matthews set Florida’s career passing yards record, led the SEC in passing for three consecutive years and led the Gators to their first official SEC Championship.

Finishing his college career 9,287 yards and 74 touchdowns, Matthews moved on to the NFL where he played for 14 seasons as mostly a back-up with Chicago, Carolina, Washington, Cincinnati, Buffalo and finally Miami.

Enshrined in the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2002, he spoke to us on Tuesday as a precursor to his involvement in the 90’s Gators Celebration benefiting Desire Street Ministries during this all-important weekend in Gainesville, FL (more information below).

Matthews gave us almost 30 minutes of his time; unfortunately, OGGOA experienced some technical difficulties during the interview. Even though 50 percent of the conversation was missed, we were able to recover a portion of it for publication, which you can read below along with some summary answers to our other questions.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent 14 years in the NFL, first seeing extensive playing time during your sixth season in 1999 (167-of-275 for 1,645 yards and 10 touchdowns). What did it feel when you were actually given the opportunity to show your stuff?
SHANE MATTHEWS: “The reason I lasted as long as I did in the NFL was because of my mind. I could learn plays in a second, an entire playbook in a day and never have to look at it again. I was only 6’3” 190 lbs. at the most. Didn’t have the arm strength or the size to take a pounding, but when I did get my chance, I had some good games and some good moments, but I also had some bad ones. That just comes with the position. You’re going to play well at times, you’re going to play poorly at times. I enjoyed my 14 years in the NFL. In 14 years, I think I only played in 35 games, so I knew my role on teams – didn’t rock the boat – tried help the other quarterbacks and the coaching staff knew they could count on me.”

AS: With Saturday’s game featuring two of Florida’s greatest coaches, how do you compare and contrast Spurrier and current head coach Urban Meyer?
SM: “Urban and coach Spurrier are a lot alike – extremely strong competitors. However, they run their programs differently. Urban’s a great motivator, kind of runs a tight ship and keeps everybody in line, where coach Spurrier is kind of that laid back southern personality. His practices are more laid back and relaxed by comparison. The biggest thing is, coach Spurrier is an offensive-minded head coach where Urban is a defensive-minded head coach. Both of them have done a tremendous job for the University of Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Shane Matthews…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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SIX BITS: Florida-Kentucky, Rainey, UT violations

1 » It has been more than 30 years and 15 games since the Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Florida Gators in The Swamp, and while head coach Urban Meyer has been tempering expectations noting his upcoming opponent’s recently blossoming offense, Kentucky is looking to make a statement this year. “[People are going to be skeptical] until we start beating quality opponents,” Wildcats running back Derrick Locke said Monday. “Even if we do beat some, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got to beat the teams we haven’t beat, and then we’ll get respect.” Head coach Joker Phillips agrees. “[Games like this are] what you come to Kentucky for,” he said. “This team will not be a team intimidated by The Swamp or playing in a game like this.”

2 » The last time Florida played Kentucky, the Gators dominated the contest 41-7 on the road in Lexington, KY. But the emotion most took away from that game was fright, not excitement, due to then-quarterback Tim Tebow being knocked out cold with a concussion. Wildcats defensive end Taylor Wyndham was responsible for the initial hit that knocked Tebow out but hopes he is not seen as a villain. “Hopefully [I get treated] just like anybody else,” Wyndham said of walking into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. “I’m sure I might get a couple boos, but it’s not a big deal.”

3 » Gainesville, FL, attorney Huntley Johnson, who is representing redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey for his aggravated stalking charge, told the Palm Beach Post that his client has been overcharged. He will likely have some idea of where Rainey stands by the end of the week. “It doesn’t fit the elements of the crime,” Johnson said. “This kid was never going to hurt her. She knew he wasn’t going to hurt her. The fact that he misspoke in the text is not something to crucify this kid for. […] He’s devastated. He cared and cares tremendously for this woman and he cares about being a student at the University of Florida and he cares about being on the football team. […] This is not the kid to draw the line on. I’ve represented a lot of kids over the years. It’s an easy statement to throw stones at, but this kid is a great kid. Period.”

4 » As the Gators offense continues to progress week-to-week, one important factor that must grow is redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley’s trust in his receivers. After Saturday’s game against Tennessee, Brantley says that is as high as ever. “I didn’t put the ball in the best spot, but they made me look good, that’s for sure,” he said at a media availability Monday. “I trusted them before the game and now I really trust them. If I don’t make a perfect throw or anything like that, they’re going to make up for it, they’re going to make some great catches.”

5 » Documents obtained by ESPN on Monday revealed that the Tennessee Volunteers have “self-reported several NCAA violations involving its men’s basketball team, including nearly 100 impermissible phone calls to various recruits” over a two-year period. Additionally, the documents revealed that assistant coach Jason Shay “approved lodging expenses for the parents of three recruits [who] were allowed visits that extended beyond the NCAA mandate of 48 hours.” Though the Volunteers are chocking these mistakes up to “poor record keeping or miscommunication,” Tennessee’s subsequent punishments while they await a NCAA ruling may prove otherwise.

6 » OGGOA’s thoughts and condolences go out to the family and friends of former South Carolina Gamecocks WR Kenny McKinley, who was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound suicide late Monday evening. He was 23. Head coach Steve Spurrier spoke about McKinkely and recently meeting with him. “I saw him here – he came to the Georgia game,” Spurrier said. “He seemed in good spirits. Great smile like he always had. I don’t understand it if it happened the way they say. It’s hard to comprehend. Kenny was certainly one of my favorite all-time players. He was a wonderful guy. It’s hard to figure out why this happened. It’s a sad day.”

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9/1: 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 Meyer’s media availability (full transcript later):

» Meyer answering OGGOA’s question about redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey’s importance to the offense: “It’s his year. He’s gonna perform. He’s ready for it. He’s up to almost 180 – 178 he told me yesterday. He’s stronger than he’s ever been. He’s now focused on a position that really his body is more trained to be. And he has to give us the home run shot, and he’s got the ability. There’s really not an offense who can function without a home run hitter. And he’s either one or two on our list of guys that can take it to the distance.”

» Asked about whether or not he was concerned about junior running back Jeff Demps returning kickoffs, Meyer said the team is being “very cautious” but “hopefully we don’t return many kicks.” He also noted that Demps getting injured is one of the team’s main concerns; he no longer participates in “non-essential running” drills during practice and the team is “very cautious” with him throughout the week. “He just goes 40 yards every time he touches it at warp speed.”

» Meyer refused to pick either redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown or senior Moses Jenkins as the team’s No. 2 cornerback, saying the duo is both competing in practice and will split time.

» He went out of his way to give shout-outs to freshmen quarterback Trey Burton and safety Matt Elam, redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins and sophomore LB Jon Bostic as four players who will soon become household names among Florida fans.

» Read the rest of what Meyer had to say…after the break!
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QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

When most college football fans think about the Florida Gators 1996 season, two names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and starting quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Winner of seven individual awards in 1996 including the Heisman Trophy (and another Davey O’Brien Award in 1995), Wuerffel led the Gators to their first National Championship in his final effort after a four-year career in which he threw for an astounding 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns.

A first-team All-America selection in 1995 and 1996, many of Wuerffel’s numbers remain the best in Southeastern Conference history and the second-best in national history. In 1995, his efficiency of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record, and in his Heisman year of 1996, his 3,625 yards (SEC record), 39 TDs (led nation, SEC record) and efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first QB to ever post a rating of 170 or more in back-to-back years. Wuerffel led the Gators in passing in each of his four seasons (1993-96) and still holds Florida records for most career passing touchdowns and most passing touchdowns in a season (in which he also holds second place). In fact, one out of every 9.74 passes Wuerffel threw in his career would be scored for a touchdown.

Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, Wuerffel is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

OGGOA spoke to Wuerffel on Tuesday and, even though our interview was feared lost by a technical difficulty, it was recovered at the end of the day. How lucky are we?

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of Fort Walton Beach, was attending the University of Florida an easy choice for you – something you always knew you wanted to do?
DANNY WUERFFEL: “Actually, we were living close to Florida State and my sister was attending Florida State. By default, I was more of a Seminole fan in high school. I took three visits – one to Alabama, one to Florida State and one to Florida. At the end of the day, the two things that drew me to Florida were, firstly, the quality of the education with so many different directions – I wasn’t centered or decided on a major and Florida just had so many highly respected colleges and majors to choose from – I was really impressed with the school, and then secondly, the opportunity to play for coach [Steve] Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

AS: When deciding on Florida, did you know your high school coach wanted to eventually go back to the Gators, or did that happen afterward?
DW: “Coach [Jimmy Ray Stephens] – he played at Florida and had coached at Florida and he was always hoping to get back there – I think that was one of his goals. It was a year or so after I got signed, a year or so after that, coach Spurrier gave him the opportunity to come.”

AS: You played four years at Florida – which is not something a lot of quarterbacks really get the chance to do – but obviously broke out in your final two seasons in 1995 and 1996. Was there a particular switch that turned on for you, was it a measure of the talent around you – what was the difference?
DW: “Practically what happened – both my freshman and sophomore year I was splitting time with Terry Dean – so in terms of snaps and reps, [I] didn’t get as much. For both the 1995 and 1996 team[s], there were some really, really dynamic players and folks that came along and we had two really good teams those two years. And it just happened those were the two years I was in the driver’s seat. When you’re in the right place at the right time with the right coaches and the right players, a lot of cool things can happen, and those were definitely some good years.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Danny Wuerffell…after the break!
Continue Reading » QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

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Was Smith’s omission purposeful or an accident?

When running back Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Florida Gators fans across the country tuned in to cheer on only the second player in school history to receive such an honor. Many were disappointed after the speech concluded and Smith failed to utter a single word of appreciation for the University of Florida, his college coaches, teammates or even the fans.

Plenty has already been written about the situation here from an editorial standpoint, but SPORTSbyBROOKS dived further into the issue Sunday and has concluded that “Smith purposely snubbed Florida and the [2007] Ring of Honor ceremony for one reason. His relationship with Steve Spurrier.”

Spurrier was hired as head coach of the Gators following Smith’s junior year in Gainesville in December, 1989. It was widely reported at the time that Spurrier made only a token attempt to ask Smith to complete his final season of eligibility with the team.

Smith has never forgiven Spurrier for that lack of interest.

From what I’ve been told, that’s also what led to Smith not show for the 2007 UF Ring of Honor ceremony, as Spurrier was also an inductee.

This has long been known as a cause of Smith’s rocky relationship with Florida; however, SPORTSbyBROOKS cites “multiple sources […] including Florida athletic dept. officials” claiming that this is the exact reasoning for Smith’s purposeful omission.

Countering that argument, however, is former Gator Brady Ackerman, who has been told that Smith not mentioning UF was just an accident. “I just talked to one of my ex-teammates who is with Emmitt. He got off his script and just plain out forgot to mention Florida,” Ackerman wrote via Twitter. “I can guarantee you Emmitt feels bad about it. He will address it tonight in his TV interview.”

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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