July 27, 2005

Meyer wants tougher Gators

HOOVER, Ala.- Urban Meyer will readily admit that he has inherited a lot of fast athletes at Florida.

He just wants them to get tougher.

"I want to know what they are going to have when the score is 13-13 and it's 90 degrees," the first-year Gators head football coach said. "Everybody can come out there and start the drill hard."

In the opening session of SEC Media Days on Wednesday at the Winfrey Hotel, Meyer addressed that issue, along with Florida's strengths and weaknesses heading into the 2005 season.

"We need to finish," Meyer said. "That means you need to play as hard as you can at the end of the game as you do at the beginning."

Staying tough is a question of attitude, something that Meyer has stayed in constant contact with his strength and conditioning staff about.

"I call my strength coaches six times a day," Meyer said. "I don't want to know about bench press or 40 times. What I want to know about is attitude and willingness to work hard."

Chris Leak, the most experience returning starting quarterback in the SEC, will be handed the reigns of Meyer's offense, which was among the nation's most prolific last season when he guided Utah to a perfect 12-0 record and a Fiesta Bowl win. Leak threw for 3,197 yards and 29 touchdowns a season ago.

Some skeptics have wondered how Leak, a classic pocket passer, will perform in an offense that saw quarterback Alex Smith run for 631 yards last season.

No need to worry, according to Meyer.

"Urban Meyer doesn't have an offense," Meyer said. "It's Chris Leak's offense. At Utah, it was Alex Smith's. It's a player system. If you can make plays and you're a talented guy, we've got to get you the ball."

He will have plenty of those in the Gators' receiving corps, which includes Andre Caldwell, Chad Jackson, Dallas Baker and Jermalle Cornelius. Meyer said those players have made strides working on their timing with Leak during voluntary summer workouts, according to reports he has gotten from his junior quarterback.

"I think we are very fast on offense," Meyer said. "If you look at the top 10 teams from around the country, the faster teams usually win."

The Florida defense, which will be co-coordinated by former Notre Dame defensive line coach Greg Mattison and Zook staff holdover and assistant head coach Charlie Strong, returns a talented front seven, which Meyer said would be strong, led by sophomore linebacker Brandon Siler, a 2004 Rivals.com Freshman All-American.

Meyer, who has won 83 percent of his games (39-8) as a college head coach, wants to restore the dominance that the Florida program had during the Steve Spurrier era. During the three years after Spurrier's departure to the NFL's Washington Redskins under Ron Zook, the Gators never finished higher than No. 24 (2002) in the final USA Today/ESPN Top 25. Florida also never made a trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, a game they played in seven times under Spurrier

Meyer looks forward to coaching in his new conference.

"In 38 days, we're about to take part in one of the greatest sporting events on Earth," Meyer said. "I always have said that this is the best conference in the country.

"All you have to do is look at the NFL rosters and watch the film and you will understand that the best players in the country play here."

NOTES: The Gators play host to Wyoming on Sept. 3. Meyer's Utah team defeated the Cowboys 45-28 a season ago…Last season, Florida lost four conference games, its most since 1986.

More from SEC Media Days:
Can Orgeron restore Ole Miss?
Vols have attractive quarterback options
Day One SEC Media Days photo gallery
Day One SEC Media Days notebook
SEC unveils new instant replay system


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