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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OGGOA Week(end) in Review: July 26-29

Considering so much has gone on over the last few days in regards to the Florida Gators, the OGGOA Week In Review returns for its third edition. (Yes, it is just covering a four-day period, but let’s just all agree to ignore that.) Be sure to check out all of the posts in case you happened to miss a thing or two.

FOOTBALL RECRUITING / FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
» The day before Friday Night Lights was set to commence, Florida received a commitment from 2013 defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL), who vaulted the program five spots from 10th to 5th in the Rivals team recruiting rankings and immediately became the Gators’ highest-rated player of the cycle.

» Florida doubled up on commitments before FNL even began as three-star defensive end Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, GA) chose UF over Georgia and committed even though he could not make it to campus for the event.

» There were rumblings all week that the Gators would receive a commitment from another highly-rated defensive prospect, but FNL came and went without him announcing his pledge. Four-star DE Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL) remained in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, however, and made his verbal commitment public.

» Florida received its fourth commitment in as many days on Sunday when 2014 defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, FL), expected to be one of the top players at his position when recruiting rankings are released for his class, ended his recruitment early and decided that he wanted to play for the Gators, too.

» More rumblings on Sunday indicated that Florida could go five-for-five in commitments and bring in a talented but underrated offensive playmaker on Monday though it remains to be seen if head coach Will Muschamp will give him a commitable offer and the opportunity to join the Gators.

2012 LONDON OLYMPICS
OGGOA has been offering full coverage of the Olympics all event long on this dedicated page, which includes a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, daily schedule and direct LIVE streaming links to each event as it takes place. Below are some notes in case you have not visited it yet and want a quick refresher.

» Ryan Lochte (United States) won two medals over the weekend including a gold in the Men’s 400 Meter Individual Medley, the fourth such medal of his Olympic career. Lochte also swam the final leg of the Men’s 4×100 Meter Freestyle Relay but got caught from behind over the final 50 meters; the team finished with a silver. He will compete in the Men’s 200 Meter Freestyle finals on Monday afternoon.

» Junior Elizabeth Beisel (United States) took silver in the Women’s 400 Meter Individual Medley, the first Olympic medal of her young career. She nearly won the gold but was bested over the last 150 meters.

» Thirteen other Gators (as well as one incoming freshman) competed in Olympic action over the four-day span though none of them were able to join Lochte and Beisel in bringing home medals as of yet. Striker Abby Wambach was dominant once again in soccer and got a black eye in her match on Saturday, though she scored a goal in retaliation and mocked her assailant during her celebration.

» “Gator Nation” is currently eighth in the Olympic medal standings with one gold and two silver. You can view the full medal breakdown on OGGOA‘s dedicated Olympics page.

FORMER PLAYERS SPEAK OUT
» Florida quarterback Shane Matthews praised Muschamp and the current Gators coaching staff while noting that he was frustrated with the way former head coach Urban Meyer and his staff developed play callers and recruited in his waning years.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said he definitely had more fun at Florida than QB Tim Tebow did and provided an interesting answer when he was asked how much class he attended during his junior season when he was helping the Gators win the second of their back-to-back basketball national championships.

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Matthews thrilled with Gators coaching staff

Former Florida Gators quarterback Shane Matthews has been quite vocal about his displeasure with his college team over the last few years, so much so in fact that it even earned him a spot (at least temporarily) in head coach Urban Meyer’s doghouse.

With Meyer now at Ohio State and head coach Will Muschamp at the helm in Gainesville, FL, Matthews told host Dan Hicken of Sports Radio 1010XL in Jacksonville that he sees a bright future ahead for his Gators.

“This coaching staff at Florida is the best we’ve ever had at that school – hands down from top-to-bottom – when you go from position-to-position and see where they’ve coached, what they’ve done,” he said. “I love the staff. It’s going to take time because we just don’t have the athletes that the other big boys in the conference do.”

Matthews, who took over as head coach of Nease High School in January, said his appreciation for the coaching staff begins at the top with Muschamp.

“I love him. I love him. I’ve known him for a long time,” he said. “I played for Nick Saban. His last year [2006] at Miami was my last year [in the NFL]. [Muschamp is] a combination of a little bit of [Steve] Spurrier and a lot of Nick Saban. I like the guy. He was dealt a bad deck of cards. I don’t think people realize how bad that situation is and was.”

Though Florida has brought in highly-ranked recruiting classes over the last few years, Matthews believes Meyer and company failed in their talent evaluations and relied on speed more than overall football talent toward the end of his tenure.

“We ain’t put anybody in the league the last couple of years, so that shows you how we were recruiting. They missed big-time,” he said. “We had a track team, which track teams don’t play on Sunday. You better run like a track player but be able to play football.”

Muschamp’s rocky first season as the man in charge of the Gators may be in the rearview mirror, but Matthews does not believe the coach is out of the woods yet. He said that Muschamp has plenty of tough decisions ahead of him starting with who he will name as Florida’s starting quarterback in September.

Read the rest of Matthews’s thoughts on the Gators…after the break!
Continue Reading » Matthews thrilled with Gators coaching staff

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Tim Tebow takes snaps in New York Jets OTAs

The story of the day coming out of New York Jets organized team activities was new quarterback Tim Tebow throwing consecutive interceptions during 7-on-7 drills

His miscues undoubtedly caught the eye of the media in attendance with many saying (in what could be described as either a joking, serious or joke-serious manner) that the quarterback competition in New York is already coming to an end.

But to paraphrase a tweet by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King: That’s as absurd as saying, during spring training, if a guy competing to play first base strikes out his first two times at bat that the competition is over.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Tebow of his two interceptions, according to the New York Daily News. “But it’s 7-on-7. Those plays…were the first time I ran them. So I’ll learn from it. Honestly, it won’t bother me again. When you make the bad play, you got to put it behind you and move on. I felt like I did.”

Though Tebow was in a brand new environment running an entirely new offense on Thursday, there was a familiar face in the crowd as former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer watched practice from the sidelines. Tebow said after the workout that Meyer and former Florida strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti flew into New Jersey on Wednesday and he had dinner with Meyer that night.

The Daily News also reports that Tebow spent time during practice as the personal punt protector on special teams; he saw action back there for the first time on Monday and is expected to be on special teams on occasion in order to provide a different look and give the opposition something to think about.

Tebow also got a bit of grief from his teammates upon entering the locker room following practice. According to multiple reports, players chanted “Lolo, Lolo,” in reference to fellow virgin and U.S. Olympian hurdler Lolo Jones, when he walked inside the facility. Jones, upon learning of this occurrence, first tweeted, “Hello by Lionel Richie is now on repeat on my ipod,” and followed that up with another tweet:

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Carthon named Rams’ pro director of personnel

Former Florida Gators running back Ran Carthon has been named the new director of pro director of personnel for the St. Louis Rams, the organization has announced.

Carthon, who led Florida in rushing with 595 yards and six touchdowns in 2003, finished his career with the Gators having played in 48 games (11 starts). He accounted for over 1,300 yards on 270 carries and scored 12 total touchdowns.

Since ending his NFL playing career following three years (2004-06) with Indianapolis Colts, Carthon has been working as a scout with the Atlanta Falcons (2008-11).

For him, the opportunity in Atlanta was a lifelong ambition come true.

“Scouting is something I’ve always been interested in,” he told OGGOA in March. “I used to sit home and record every draft from 1995 to 2003. I would sit by the TV and have my legal pad and kind of do my own little mocks with the magazines and all that.

“When I was in school, whatever team my dad [Maurice Carthon] was with and whatever coach came down, I would always get with them to watch film when they watched our guys for Pro Day. I would be on the field timing 40s myself, timing drills and doing all those things. It was something I always wanted to do.”

Scouting always came naturally to Carthon, who returned to Florida in 2008 to get his degree. After graduating he sent letters to every NFL team looking for an opportunity but got his big break when former Gators head coach Urban Meyer allowed him to participate in Pro Day and bump into some coaches and scouts.

“I wasn’t there working out, but I came and I met some of the scouts and got some cards and kind of kept in touch with guys throughout that process. I was able to get an interview with the Falcons and was able to land the job,” he said.

Carthon has been a popular figure in Atlanta’s front office and even created a Fatherhood Ticket Program that earned him recognition from the White House for responding to a call from President Barack Obama to help strengthen the bonds of fathers and families.

He now has a new challenge in St. Louis and should do quite well if he continues to possess the same passion and fortitude he has throughout his career.

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TWO BITS: Tebow and Meyer, coach leaves UF

1 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow was featured as part of yet another Saturday Night Live skit on Saturday as New York Giants QB Eli Manning hosted the long-running television program. In the skit, Taran Killam (dressed as Tebow) performs his signature “Tebowing” move as a celebration while EA Sports is taking motion capture footage for the latest Madden video game.

2 » Tebow and former Florida Gators head football coach Urban Meyer took part in the 2012 Chik-fil-A Leadercast last week. An event that was viewed by more than 125,000 people across the United States via simulcast, the Leadercast included a number of high-profile guests with Tebow and Meyer standing as two of the signature participants. Both men were interviewed by CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien, who got some interesting notes from the duo. “I just know that I really care about what I do. I’m very passionate about it, I love what I do, and I’m willing to put it all on the line. And I think when you’re willing to do those things…people can respect you for it,” said Tebow about being a leader. “What’s so frustrating for me is you have all these athletes, celebrities and entertainers that say, ‘I’m not a role model.’ Yes you are, you’re just not a very good one.” (Tebow apparently received a solid round of applause for that line.)

Meyer indicated that things were not always smooth when it came to his early relationship with Tebow but that his respect for the player’s intensity, integrity and leadership helped them get along just fine. “When I first met Tim, I didn’t like Tim,” Meyer said, according to The Christian Post. “I admired him, but I didn’t like him…Tim has a unique ability to force you to look inward, to evaluate yourself. Because everything you see Tim do, it’s hard to believe.” Tebow also discussed how he has been able to block out so many distractions and focus on football. “Don’t worry about what you can’t control,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we can’t control. We can’t control what people write about us, what they say about us, but we can control a few things: our attitude, our effort, our focus and how we go about treating our teammates.”

Extra BIT » Florida Gators assistant women’s basketball coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick will be moving on from the program as it was announced Monday that she will be the new head coach at North Carolina-Asheville. Kirkpatrick, who has served as a Florida assistant for six seasons, is a local product; UF notes that her family lives 40 minutes away from UNC-Asheville. “I’ve never coached a game without Brenda as my assistant,” Gators head coach Amanda Butler said in a school release. “She’s outstanding and is so ready for this opportunity. I’m so proud of her that it’s hard to linger on the negative of her leaving for too long. She’s not only fulfilling part of her dream of being a head coach, but she gets to do it in her own backyard. That’s super cool.”

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FOUR BITS: Noah, Leak, Tebow, Meyer

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, acting team leader with point guard Derrick Rose sidelined for the remainder of the season, looked very much like his young teammate during Game 2 on Tuesday when he performed a quick crossover and broke the ankles (figuratively) of Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young.

2 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak, the new starter for the AFL’s Orlando Predators, has also decided to continue his career as an analyst and sports commentator by accepting a new gig. Leak will join Chris Childers as a co-host for College Sports Coast-to-Coast on SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation, the company announced via press release on Tuesday. The show airs weeknights from 7-10 p.m. and Leak will appear on the program multiple nights each week. “SiriusXM College Sports Nation offers college sports fans outstanding coverage of their favorite conferences, schools and players all year long and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Leak said in the release. “I still get amped up every spring, like I did when I was at UF, knowing a new college football season isn’t far off. I look forward to talking directly with the fans about the BCS, this year’s national title contenders and the teams and players that you’re going to want to keep an eye on from now through the upcoming season.”

3 » New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan told ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini on Tuesday while at a charity event that he is thrilled about having QB Tim Tebow on the team and thinks he brings a lot to the table. “It’s exciting to have a young guy that has experience in the playoffs and is learning the system,” he said. “I think he’s an excellent backup quarterback. I think he’s an outstanding football player. We’ll see what we can come up with.” Ryan expanded on his “football player” comments as well. “Everybody recognizes the competitiveness. The guy’s a winner, no question. People get tired of me saying it, but how do you not describe this guy as a football player? That’s what he is. He’s got size, he’s got strength, he’s got speed and he can throw the football.”

4 » With former Florida head coach Urban Meyer going to Ohio State, there should be no doubt that plenty of comparisons and parallels will be made throughout his tenure with his new employer. One thing that will not be the same is that Meyer plans to use a no-huddle offense at OSU, something that he sent former Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to Missouri to learn but never implemented at Florida. “The minute you go no-huddle, you lose the intangibles and the immeasurable leadership of guys like Tebow and Mike Pouncey,” he told ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach. Meyer, during his year off from coaching, travelled across the country and picked up plenty from all the other head coaches he visited while working for ESPN. The no-huddle, up-tempo offense he is installing may be similar to another school that has recently gained prominence. “All you’ve got to do is look at Oregon,” he said. “We’re committed to it. We’re going to pop a huddle once in a while, but we’re committed to it.”

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Gator Bites for Monday, April 30

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Florida Gators baseball (33-12, 12-9 SEC) continued to falter over the weekend, dropping two of three games to the Arkansas Razorbacks (31-13, 11-10 SEC). Florida has now lost 10 of their last 20 games (including one each to North Florida and South Florida) while also struggling to put forth consistent performances at the plate and on the mound. For instance, the Gators scored just five runs in 27 innings over the weekend. Florida picked up a 3-2 victory on Friday before falling 5-1 on Saturday and 3-1 in 10 innings on Sunday. The Gators were supposed to get a reprieve with a nine-game homestand but instead went just 5-4 over that span of games. Florida will have three full days off before travelling to Kentucky for a three-game series on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. UF fell to No. 5 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 and No. 7 in the Baseball America rankings on Monday.

» Gators softball (43-8, 20-5 SEC), also ranked No. 2 heading into the weekend, dropped their final home series of the regular season to the Kentucky Wildcats (26-27, 12-13 SEC) over the weekend. Florida fell 2-0 in the series opener (their second-straight shutout and fourth of the season) before picking up a 5-0 win on Senior Day Saturday and dropping the rubber match 5-1 on Sunday. Freshman right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger picked up a win on Saturday and a loss on Sunday to bring her to 13-4 on the season while sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (25-4) added a loss Friday despite pitching quite well over the weekend. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, R) began her Senior Day with a big-time solo homer in her first at bat on Saturday, giving her another nice memory for her career. UF will conclude the regular season with a three-game road series at Alabama over the weekend.

» Florida five-star 2013 point guard commit Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) threw down a strong dunk over the weekend and followed it up with a Gator Chomp while staring straight into the camera. Think he’s ready for the big time?

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, April 30

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