In anticipation of Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow‘s final college game on Friday in the 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Dan Shanoff – author of TimTeblog.com and close friend of OGGOA, has ranked the Top 10 moments of Tebow’s career. Shanoff’s site has been obsessively covering the “Tebow phenomenon” all season and wraps up 2009 with this list, complete with extended commentary. Check out the Cliffs Notes version here then head over to TimTeblog for the rest!
The Florida Gators defensive unit was made available to the press Tuesday, three days before they face the Cincinnati Bearcats in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Aside from every player and coach being asked about the health of head coach Urban Meyer, one of the hottest topics was the defense’s collapse in the 2009 SEC Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Special thanks to the Palm Beach Post and ESPN affiliate GatorCountry for providing the quotes below.
Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong:
“Looking back, we just didn’t play well. We played well all the way up to that game, and just weren’t prepared. We didn’t do a good job of coaching that day and just didn’t play well, and it showed.”
“Guys understand we have to be prepared to play each week, and we didn’t do a good job of coaching that day. We always talk about, if there’s 10 or less missed tackles, you have a good chance of winning the game. We exceeded that in the first half.”
Senior linebacker Ryan Stamper:
“The last game was a disappointment, but we want to just come out and play hard and show that we are still one of the best defenses in the country. We just want to come out and play the way we are capable of playing.”
“Blown coverages, missed coverages, guys out of gaps – we’ve never had that many missed assignments all season. Guys just weren’t into the game. You could see that on film.”
Junior cornerback Joe Haden:
“I haven’t even looked at the game. We haven’t watched film or anything. The equipment staff, when Major [Wright] asked them for the DVD, was like, ‘Why do you want to see that?’ It’s like nobody wants to bring it up.”
Junior safety Major Wright:
“We didn’t play Florida defense. We weren’t playing physical enough. We usually go out and have fun, chest bump, every play. But it wasn’t happening.”
“[Winning the Sugar Bowl is] very important. For one, just getting the taste out of our mouth from our last game, and start the season off right. We’ve got a lot of young guys who can come out and get better, make plays and show what they got.
Junior safety Ahmad Black:
“I don’t think we were ready. They wanted it a little bit more than we did.”
As part of Nike‘s roll-out of their Pro Combat line of football gear, the Florida Gatorssported new uniforms during the final home game of the season against the Florida State Seminoles. Senior wide receiver Riley Cooper said the players liked the look of the white “F” helmets so much that they elected to wear them for the 2009 SEC Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide. “They look cool,” Cooper said. “We all liked how they looked.”
Head coach Urban Meyer seems to have a superstition with uniforms, shelving certain color combinations and utilizing others more often when the team has success wearing them. Such is the reason, OGGOA believes, that fans no longer see the white jersey-orange pants combination and often see the all-blue and all-white uniform choices. Even the white jersey-blue pants uniform has become a rarity, though the blue jersey-white pants combination is used often.
Though the Nike Pro Combat uniforms were only a one-time promotional ploy, the Gators’ sporting the white “F” helmets for a second straight game led many fans to worry they might end up replacing the good ol’ orange helmets with the cursive “Gators” script.
Those fans should no longer be concerned with breaking tradition, according to Cooper. “It didn’t work out for us, so I don’t think we’ll wear those again,” he said. “I’m not wearing mine.” Not that Cooper would have a chance, seeing as Friday’s 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats is the last game of his college career.
While Florida’s 2010 uniforms will look the same as they have in the past, it is believed that the athletic department will use some of the Nike Pro Combat gear from a technical standpoint. Better gloves, lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics and lighter shoes are all things that can give the Gators an advantage – especially in the smoldering Florida heat.
Nike’s Pro Combat uniforms are said to be 37% lighter than current designs and utilize a four-way stretch twill that does not hold sweat or water. Additional features include Nike’s Dri-FIT technology, evaporation and cooling zones, more padding zones and improved ventilation and breathability. Players also wore Nike Vapor Trail 2.0 gloves and Nike Zoom Air cleats that are lightweight and feature better cushioning in the heel.
1 » Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Mardy Gilyard is the most explosive (and most vocal) member of his team. Though he may run his mouth on the sideline, in the huddle, on the line of scrimmage and after the play, one place Gilyard is not talking is his dreams – which have always included the Florida Gators in one way or another. Growing up in Bunnell, FL, Gilyard rooted for the Gators and always dreamed about either playing for or against Florida in a big game. “It’s always a real close game, going back and forth, and right before the end of the game I wake up,” he said. “So I’m anxious to see how it’s going to go.” ESPN’s Brian Bennett has written a great piece on Gilyard and the trials and tribulations he has experienced throughout his life.
2 » Another Bearcats player who has overcome adversity and won over the media with his charisma is defensive tackle Alex Daniels. Calling Friday’s 2010 Sugar Bowl “my national championship game,” Daniels defied the odds by making it out of a bad neighborhood in Columbus, OH, and turning his life around as a football player. “I’m playing against Tim Tebow in the Sugar Bowl,” Daniels said. “It’s Florida, man, come on! This experience, to be in New Orleans – I have to embrace Bourbon Street, to see the Big Easy. I’m soaking it all in.”
3 » There is no question that Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow is going to go down as the greatest player in the history of the program. It should come as no surprise that he is considered by many to be possibly the best player in the history of the sport on a collegiate level. Those beliefs are exactly why other Southeastern Conference teams are foaming at the mouth for Tebow to call it a career on Friday. Chris Low of ESPN, the site’s SEC blogger who lives in Knoxville, TN, and covered the Tennessee Volunteers as a beat writer for 10 years, relates a quote that tells the story of a conference which decided that rather than try to beat Tebow, it would be best to wait him out. “The playing field’s going to be level for everybody else when Tebow is gone,” numerous people in the SEC told Low. But, of course, the story turns to question the future of the Florida program: “Life after Tebow [is] one big unknown for the Gators,” Low titles his piece.
4 » Gators head coach Urban Meyer‘s name is popping up every time a reporter speaks to a head coach these days whether said coach is leading a college football team or not. It should then come as no surprise that Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban was asked about Meyer’s situation on Monday. “I think college football is a lot better off with people like Urban Meyer in our profession,” Saban said. “He’s a true professional in what he does. He’s done a fantastic job every place he’s been. He does it with a lot of dignity and class and professionalism. We not only have a lot of respect for him as a person, but also the wonderful job that he’s done everywhere he’s been, especially at the University of Florida.” Tight end Colin Peek echoed Saban’s sentiments. “I think it’s very sad to see a coach in his prime have to deal with a situation like that,” Peek said. “I thought it was going to be cool to have this rivalry of Florida vs. Alabama hopefully every year in the SEC Championship. I have so much respect for the man and the program that he’s built.”
1 » Though he has already signed a professional contract with the Texas Rangers after being selected in the 25th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, Florida Gators senior wide receiver Riley Cooper has his sights set on the NFL and plans to do whatever he can to land a spot on a team. “I’m going to the NFL combine and the Senior Bowl,” Cooper said during his Sugar Bowl interview on Monday. “Hopefully [I’ll] run a good 40 [yard dash], hopefully run a 4.3 or 4.4, not that 4.52 [that scouts] are talking about. Hopefully my draft stock goes up a lot.” As to whether or not baseball is still a consideration, Cooper said, “I do think I’m definitely going to have a decision to make.”
2 » Earle Bruce, the man who gave Urban Meyer his first coaching job as a graduate assistant with the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1987 and continues to be his friend and mentor to this day, spoke with Sporting News Today to provide some perspective on recent happenings involving the Florida head coach. “I was with Urban the Friday night before the Alabama game for the SEC Championship, and I could see there was something wrong,” Bruce said. “He looked withdrawn and a little bit under-weight. He looked like he wasn’t enjoying anything. I didn’t see the same passion he’s had for coaching. And then, watching the game, I don’t think he was all together with it. He’s usually a dominant factor on the sidelines, and he wasn’t in the game. He was subdued, and that’s not his way.” Bruce dives deeper into Meyer’s situation and how he can correct it and return to being “the finest football mind I know.”
2 » Perhaps the key component to Meyer’s recent decision and then about-face is the effect it will have on rival schools and coaches who will use it as an opportunity to pounce on the Florida Gators and their recruits. OGGOA starts the festivities with a piece from Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who contends that Meyer’s flip-flop is a bad sign for Florida and an opening for the Georgia Bulldogs. “Meyer isn’t so much on the clock now as he is looking at it,” Schultz writes before flip-flopping himself. “Don’t misunderstand. I’m not projecting the Gators’ program is going to implode. But odds are, the Gators take a significant step back.”
3 » Next to jump on the pile are the Tennessee Volunteers faithful. The Knoxville News-Sentinel named Gainesville, FL, the flip-flop coaching capital of the world. No real reason to click that link – not much to read there. Just covering all angles.
In what can only be described as a somber yet hope-filled press conference, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer told reporters he believes deep down inside that he will return to the sidelines in 2010. “I do, in my gut, believe that will happen,” Meyer said.
Though Meyer shied away from answering any questions about his health, he did admit that his chest pains have been a worry for the last four years and gotten progressively worse over time. “It’s chest pains – they became rather significant two years ago,” Meyer explained. “I was advised that I have to get this right or it could lead to damage.” Asked if his personality or job was leading to the issues, Meyer responded “yes” as those in attendance laughed. He added that he was not sure whether or not he would need a procedure. “That’s something I am going to find out as well,” Meyer said.
Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will be named interim coach of the team after Meyer takes a leave following the 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Meyer confirmed during the press conference. “It’s full speed ahead,” he said. “We are going to do everything possible to win this game.”
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley sat next to Meyer on the stage and had plenty to say about his coach’s personality and future. “Our primary concern is coach Meyer and his health, getting him fixed,” Foley said. “He will have the opportunity to do that.” Pressed about Meyer’s contractual status and imminent future, Foley looked a bit puzzled at the question. “He is the head coach of the University of Florida,” Foley quipped. “The head coach of the University of Florida is taking a leave of absence.”
Though Foley offered Meyer the “leave of absence” solution a week to 10 days ago when the subject was first broached, it was not considered an option until Meyer got on the practice field early Sunday and saw how hard his staff and players were working. “I’ve accepted this offer to improve my health,” he said. “I want to make sure I do right by my family. My second family is my players and my staff.” Meyer said the main reason for his change of heart is simply “the love that I have for these players.”
Meyer also noted that the way he coaches could have much to do with how he has been feeling recently, seeing as he blames himself when a player flunks a class or gets in trouble or when the team loses a big game. “I have to learn to delegate and function,” he said. “I [have] lived a 30-year coaching career in nine years. I cannot do that. I’m not very smart.” Foley agreed with some of Meyer’s comments. “Urban Meyer is very very successful because of how he has done things. Part of this process is evaluating how he has been doing things.” The Gators’ AD added that he wants Meyer to keep his style and edge but figure out a way to continue coaching with less stress and anxiety.
Seniors quarterback Tim Tebow and linebacker Ryan Stamper sat besides Meyer up on the podium. Both recounted Meyer telling them he loved them during Saturday practice, noting that something did not seem well. “I knew something wasn’t right,” Tebow said. “We just want what’s best for our dad – coach Meyer.” Stamper told a similar story. “I could see it in coach Meyer’s face that something was wrong,” he said. “He told me he loved me, I told him I loved him back.”
Tebow commended Meyer for both his initial choice and change of mind. “I admire him for the decisions he’s made,” Tebow said. “As a team we support him, as Gator Nation we support him. I think he’s making the best decision.”
While the last few weeks have been tough for him, Meyer reiterated his dedication to UF and the Gators. Asked if he thought about leaving, getting healthy and then returning to coach at another school, Meyer scoffed. “It would be a travesty – it would be ridiculous to feel good again, throw on some other colors and go coach. I will always be a Gator and represent the Gators.”
Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who announced Saturday night that he was stepping down from his position, has changed his mind and decided to take an indefinite leave of absence instead, according to numerous sources. Meyer will coach the Gators in the 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats before ceding the job to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who will be named interim coach in his stead. Adazzio confirmed this arrangement in a telephone interview with The New York Times.
Meyer’s change of heart began Sunday morning, when he was at an early practice on campus at the University of Florida watching his players. He spoke with the team before their plane departed for New Orleans, LA, and informed them of the news, which was greeted with relief and excitement sources say. Even with this decision, Meyer returning to Florida is not imminent – he could still decide to step away at any time if he feels coming back is not in the best interest of his health and well-being.
“There’s no guarantees here,” a source told the Associated Press. “He could still walk away. He’s got some significant concerns about his health and his tank and his family. But instead of cutting the cord, he’s going to take a step back and see how he feels.”
The Independent Florida Alligator is reporting that “there has been no timetable set on his return, though [a] source said it could be as early as next season.” Mark Schlabach of ESPN made a similar report, stating that “Meyer [...] would take a leave of absence and return to the team before the 2010 season” in a proposed situation. However, a source close to the program told ESPN‘s Chris Mortensen that “Meyer would take a leave of absence for the entirety of the 2010 season.”
Athletic director Jeremy Foley gave Meyer an option to take a leave of absence approximately a week to 10 days ago when the two first spoke about the possibility of Meyer stepping down. Though he did not consider it an option then, apparently he has changed his mind since.
OGGOA will continue updating this story as more information is made available. Meyer is set to hold a press conference in New Orleans Sunday at 4:30 p.m. (EST). It will also air live online here.