Meyer speaks on expansion, recruiting and 2010

By Adam Silverstein
June 11, 2010

Not always up for extensive one-on-one interviews, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer granted Joe Rose of 560 WQAM in Miami, FL, 15 minutes of his time on Thursday and answered questions spanning a number of topics that fans have been waiting to hear him discuss.

Meyer, who makes it a point to appear on Rose’s show once or twice a year mostly due to the fact that it is popular in the recruiting hotbed of South Florida, said he would not necessarily be against Florida’s in-state rivals being added to the mix of a potentially expanded Southeastern Conference in 2012-13.

“I think that would be great for the SEC,” Meyer said. “I have not done the research, I [would need to] ask a lot of questions. […] I know one thing – our commissioner and our office, they won’t be caught by surprise because we got the best people. It’s phenomenal the job they do. That’s a natural fit – the two schools you just mentioned – we play one of them every year anyway and the other is a great rivalry as well.

“As a coach, you look at it and say, ‘Here we go, let’s go add a couple more powerhouses.’ [But then] you have to go play them.”

He also noted that the SEC’s recent dominance is likely the cause for the immediate need for conference expansion across the country.

“As far as interest on a national level, as far as quality of play, right now the SEC is the best,” he opined. “The television contracts, the interest level that’s taking place in the SEC is forcing some of these other conferences to react. It’s going to be interesting. The one thing you can rest assured though, commissioner Mike Slive – the guy’s phenomenal. He has got his hand on some buttons if we have to do what we have to do.”

One facet in which adding Miami and/or Florida State to the conference could potentially impact the Gators is in recruiting. When it comes down to it though, Meyer is more than confident about the prowess of his program in that area.

“Our best recruiters are our players,” Meyer said. “I didn’t even go on the road the last three weeks because I was not allowed to do that. The fact that we have the facilities in place now, we have the players in place, we have an excellent coaching staff. I don’t want to say it recruits itself, because it doesn’t, but the best salesmen you have are the people that are involved in your team. Our current team right now is very close. Our team has had success in the classroom and on the field.”

That success is one of the reasons why Florida had to deny four-star athlete Travon Van admittance to the school. Van winding up with former Gators assistant coach Doc Holliday and the Marshall Thundering Heard was no coincidence – the two coaches remain close. In fact, Meyer took a bit of offense to Rose questioning if any dirty recruiting was involved on Holliday’s part.

“Doc’s a great friend – so [the decision] was nothing behind the scenes. That was in the forefront. The person that we’re talking about – I’m not even sure I’m allowed to mention it – but that was all done in conjunction,” he said. “There was no shady play or something like that. There was going to be an admission issue at Florida. Guys like Doc Holliday –he’s great for college football, he’s a great man and he’s a great friend. The most important thing is making sure the student-athlete has a place to go to school.”

Regarding 2010 recruit Kevin Nelson accusing his coaches of dirty recruiting, Meyer said he didn’t hear about those comments and that Florida worries “about its own business.” Nevertheless, he touched on the subject of how bad ugly recruiting can get.

“It’s a little bit like Tim Tebow. Tim, when he first came to Florida, he was The Chosen One. And then I’ve never seen a young man go through the scrutiny [he did and] just get picked apart,” he lamented. “I don’t think it’s necessarily me…maybe it is….but I think people just want to take a shot at something that’s doing OK. We’re very proud of our program here.”

When it comes to the Gators’ latest group of incoming freshman, Meyer once gain praised five-star safety Matt Elam and said he is looking forward to getting all of his players on the field as soon as possible this summer.

“Matt Elam is going to play. It’s done,” Meyer said emphatically. “He had a heck of a spring, he’s a heck of a kid, comes from a great family, we’ve known about him forever. We feel very good about our freshman class. Our [defensive line] – those kids are going to play. We don’t redshirt here at Florida – you go play. That’s why we recruit them and that’s why they’re here. We need some help because we lost a lot of really good players. I’m about as excited for [summer to begin on] June 24th as I’ve ever been.”

The most telling statement Meyer made during his conversation with Rose was his response to being questioned about how difficult it is to recruit nationally. Contrary to popular belief, it is an absolute non-issue for the program.

“We don’t want to recruit national. That’s one of the big sales why I wanted to come coach at Florida, because it’s a regional recruiting school,” he noted. “I have no interest in getting on a plane and flying across the country. We don’t recruit nationally, what we do is we cherry pick a little bit. If there is some kind of draw or some kind of interest – one of the best players in the country – we’ll go and make a run at them. Because of our brand, lately, we’re getting involved in that. That’s not what we do. What we do is try to do the best job we can in South Florida and Georgia and obviously the rest of the state of Florida, and then we’ll go cherry pick a little bit. This has been a unique year for out-of-state kids to jump all over it. They are some great players. I would like to, out of 25, have 18 in-state-ers or [from] south Georgia and in-state.”

Meyer also spoke on a variety of other topics, which you can read…after the break:

On how he is feeling health-wise: “I sought after a lot of advice and talked to some guys. What I was doing wasn’t working. I think it was a wake-up call – the fact that I was dealing with some health things. There has never been an issue with what the priority in my life has been. Football is real important, but it certainly is not going to overtake faith, family and my health. And it happened. I just got to be a little smarter; I’m not the smartest guy in the world. […] I really found I appreciate my coaches more, appreciate my strength coaches more. We really have a good program here, and to say that you have to micromanage – you don’t have to do that.”

On there being no off-season in college football: “The greatest example of it is the year we played Oklahoma down in Miami. The championship was on the 8th and we started classes on the 4th. As we’re walking off the field – and people tell this story – I’m ripping our SID and saying, ‘Hey, we got to get our team back, because we’re missing classes. We already missed one week of recruiting.’ We just won the National Championship. […] So I’m panicking about that in the locker room after the game [after winning] a national championship. There is something wrong with that.”

On John Brantley starting in 2010: “He’s it. He’s having a great summer. He’s really gained strength. The biggest thing is the leadership issue. He really did a good job in spring practice. All indications are that he’s having a fine summer.”

On the offense’s transition from Tebow to Brantley: “We’ll change it a little bit like we did in ’06 with Chris Leak as our quarterback. […] We adapt to your personnel. We’re going to have to find someone to get those 800 yards rushing, because we want to be the top rushing team in the SEC. Johnny’s an excellent thrower, so we’re always going to have that component. Someone has to produce in the running game – I like our backs, I like them a lot. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have a single wing package like a lot of schools have where a Jordan Reed or a Trey Burton go in there and run the ball a little bit. You have to keep teams honest.”

On the criticisms Tebow endured through the evaluation process: “I thought he was going to go a little earlier from what everybody told me. […] All the coaches understand that their job is to go win games. Objective No. 1 with a quarterback is to be a leader and go win the game. There was never a question as far as the coaches’ [opinions of Tebow]. [The experts’] career is not on winning and losing games, their career is on criticizing or evaluating personnel. There was never a doubt in the NFL with the coaches, especially the quality coaches that we have relationships with, that Tim was going to be a high draft pick.”

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