Gators special teams must stop Hogs’ Johnson

Offense and defense are the most publicized parts of any team, but it is special teams that often wins or loses close football games. Just ask Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who also coaches special teams and has been purposefully dominant in that area throughout his career. “It’s not interesting to people, but that’s how you win,” Meyer said in 2008 about special teams. “If you want to win, that’s how you do it.”

Unlike many of their opponents, the Gators put extra emphasis on the unit, utilizing many of their starters and best players on kick blocking, coverage and, of course, in the return game. Standouts over the past few years have included defensive lineman Jarvis Moss, cornerback Joe Haden and running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. “Special teams are high on [coach Meyer’s] priority list,” punter Chas Henry said. “Starters want to play on special teams.”

Sure they do; they get rewarded for it. “A lot of teams take special teams for granted. Here, it’s a privilege to play on the kickoff team or the punt return team,” said senior quarterback Tim Tebow, who was on the hands team as a true freshman. “[Meyer] rewards guys who do good on special teams. It’s not just overlooked like it is at some places. That’s why they play so hard. “

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OGGOA Exclusive: Vols coach Kiffin not giving up on Gators five-star commit Elam

Last Tuesday, OGGOA broke the news that prized Florida Gators recruit, five-star safety/athlete Matt Elam of Dwyer, had reaffirmed his commitment to the University of Florida. This revelation came following a two hour conversation he had with head coach Urban Meyer, who reassured Elam of his ability to earn playing time as a freshman and be an impactful member of the Florida secondary from the day he steps foot on campus, regardless of how many other players UF signs at his position. “I talked to my coach [Meyer] a little,” Elam said. “We talked about the safety situation and our relationship. I committed for a reason. I’m not going to back down. It’s all Florida.”

Prior to OGGOA‘s report, Elam had spoken publicly about being impressed by two visits he had taken recently to the West Virginia Mountaineers and Tennessee Volunteers. “At first I just wanted to take a look,” Elam said about his Tennessee visit. “But I saw things and talked to [defensive coordinator] Monte [Kiffin]. I saw how they used their safeties and they put them in a position to make plays. They do have a chance [to sign me].” Elam would later say that, while both visits opened his eyes as to what else was out there aside from Florida, he was simply doing his due diligence.

Apparently, Elam showing a shred of interest in the Vols has gotten head coach Lane Kiffin smelling blood in the water. Kiffin visited Dwyer today, “pressing [Elam] pretty hard” to change his mind and decommit from the Gators, according to a source close to the player. This source also told OGGOA that it believes Elam’s commitment to Florida and Meyer is firm, but relinquishes that “Kiffin is a hell of a salesman.”

Elam plans to graduate in the fall and enroll at UF in the spring in order to get a leg up on the 2010 season. From now until then, anything can happen. “This is just part of what [Elam] has to go through until February,” the source said.

…and while we are on the subject, I just came across an Orlando Sentinel article about Elam keeping the memory of his murdered siblings close to him. Very touching story and a must-read for anyone following Elam or Gators recruiting.

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TWO BITS: Tebow’s new role; Meyer interviewed

1 » Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow has been called plenty of things in his four years at the University of Florida. From being called “Superman” to having thousands of Chuck Norris-like facts written about him, much of the focus has been on Tebow’s dominating presence both in the huddle and in life. On Saturday, as friend of OGGOA Dan Shanoff points out, Tebow morphed into another version of himselfTrent Dilfer. That’s right. Dilfer – the former Baltimore Ravens quarterback who was considered the quintessential “game manager” when leading his team to a Super Bowl.

2 » Head coach Urban Meyer spoke about Tebow, the impressive Gators defense, recruiting in South Florida, the success of wide receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy in the NFL and much more with Joe Rose on 560 WQAM. Click here to listen to the recorded interview.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow is tough; Meyer and recruits; airing it out; alcohol changes for Fla-Ga

1 » Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow has always been a tough person and even tougher football player. He has scored a touchdown on a broken leg (for Nease in high school), played with a fractured hand, run over players with a hyper-extended knee and played through seasons with injuries to his back and shoulder. But coming back from a concussion is not about being tough. It is about the brain – both protecting it and using it to make sure you do not return too soon.

2 » The worst part for a head coach about having their phone number leaked is not just changing the number but making sure everyone has the new one. This includes staff, players, parents and, perhaps most importantly, recruits. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that Urban Meyer is a recruiting powerhouse all his own and took care of that situation swiftly. “Oh, we e-mailed the recruits and all that, so it’s OK,” Meyer said on Monday. “We’re doing alright. We got a plan.”

3 » As referenced Monday in his press conference, Meyer seeks to improve the Gators’ passing attack. Even though, as one OGGOA reader pointed out, Florida’s appears to be ahead of pace in that area compared to 2008, it is not where Meyer wants it to be. “I think we’re pretty close,” Meyer said. “I like where we’re at.” For Tebow though, stats are not everything. “We’re 5-0 and very happy with that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we score 13 points or 2 points, as long as we win the game.” It would still do the Gators good to improve in their aerial attack. “Hopefully we’ll keep progressing and getting that timing, getting that rhythm and getting that feel,” Tebow said.

4 » The event formerly but no longer officially referred to as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is doing even more to curb alcohol consumption. There will be fewer places to buy alcohol at the Jacksonville Landing and no longer will vendors be allowed to walk around the property selling shots. University of Florida President Bernie Machen has been adamant about making Florida-Georgia weekend safer, and the city of Jacksonville, FL, is willing to abide him in a new plan that was submitted on Friday.

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Monday press conference – Gators vs. Razorbacks

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer and senior quarterback Tim Tebow (along with other players and coaches) speak with the media every Monday afternoon. Here are some notes from their press conferences. More information and quotes will come later.

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There are Strong issues in college football

Originally written Jan. 30, 2009; edited Oct. 12, 2009

Racism, bigotry, oppression, hate and lack of acceptance are great for the football program at the University of Florida.

Calm down and hold your horses before you pass judgment – let me explain. The Florida Gators do not advocate or support these absurd ideologies – you can now take a breath – but its opponents certainly do.

Otherwise, how can you explain the fact that a man like Charlie Strong has yet to be offered a head coaching job in NCAA Division-IA football? (Sorry, I do not recognize this new B.S. “FBS” designation.)

How can you explain that a man who has been defensive coordinator at one of the best and most talented football programs in the country for eight straight years, finding success under three different head coaches, has not advanced from said position?

Because he buttons the top button of his polo shirts? Please.

How can you explain that one of the best defensive minds in college football – a man who held the “best offense in NCAA history” in the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners to 14 points, did the same in 2006 to the Ohio State Buckeyes, whose defense only gave up more than 21 points in one game in all of 2008 and is now averaging only 6.4 points per game in 2009 – has not been recognized as such?

Because he graduated from the University of Central Arkansas? No way.

How can you explain that one of the best college recruiters (Rivals top 25) to come around the state of Florida (arguably the most talent-rich state in the union) cannot land a head coaching job at a university looking to dive into the aforementioned talent pool?

Because he lost his only game as head coach, the 2004 Peach Bowl (six years ago), by 17 points? Come on…

How can you explain that a man: with 27 years of collegiate coaching experience at major universities (Florida, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Southern Illinois, Texas A&M); who has coached in 19 bowl games (including 12 in January); who has coached under Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer; whose defenses at UF have (a) scored points off turnovers in 41 of 64 games , (b) intercepted 85 passes in five years, (c) ranked first in the SEC and second in the nation in rushing defense the past three seasons [all numbers prior to 2009 season]; and who will soon be the longest tenured defensive coordinator in school history, still has not been given a chance to do for another school what he has done so well at Florida?

Because he is an African-American man.

Because he has a Caucasian wife.

And because he refuses to apologize for either.

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TWO BITS: Meyer sought advice; East-West Shrine

1 » Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer sought the advice of his mentors and fellow coaches in making a decision regarding quarterback Tim Tebow. He spoke with current ESPN analyst Lou Holtz, former Ohio State Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce and two current coaches whose names he kept private. “I learned a lot these past two weeks,” Meyer said.

2 » Tebow, middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, wide receiver Riley Cooper, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and kick returner Brandon James have been invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL.

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URBAN MEYER to GameDay: “Do these rings count as part of my wardrobe?”

ESPN College GameDay Commercial with Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer:

Meyer plays bocce ball with the GameDay crew, and Kirk Herbstreit offers some unnecessary wardrobe advice.

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