Right attitude greets new coach

Published: Sunday, March 13, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 13, 2005 at 3:42 a.m.
At Bowling Green, he encountered attitude and discipline problems and ended up running off numerous players to get what he was looking for. At Utah, losing attitudes had to be reversed and a lax work ethic had to be refueled and reshaped.
At Florida ... well, it's been a much smoother coaching beginning for Urban Meyer. So far, at least.
For the first time, it appears he's taken on a head coaching job where his first priority is to simply do what he's really in the business to do, coach.
Meyer, 40, has stepped into a favorable situation - a program with a winning tradition, a team with plenty of players and a university with all the resources.
And, he's taken over a group of players apparently ready and willing to follow him and eager to accept his methods - methods which eventually led to big things and lots of wins at Bowling Green and Utah.
It's no wonder Meyer has literally been counting down the hours leading up to the start of his first Florida spring practice, which begins at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday on the UF practice field.
"Eight days and four hours," Meyer said as his pre-spring news conference this past Tuesday. "Not that we're counting. I can't tell you how excited I am. Our staff and I have never been this excited to get around a group of guys and coach football, teach football. I can't wait till we take the field.
"I've been on the speaking circuit and fans say, 'Coach, are you amazed at the passion and the interest?' No, I'm not. This is Florida football; it's supposed to be just like that.
"I anticipate a bunch of people are going to come out and watch practice on a beautiful, sunny day in Gainesville and I can't wait. I wish it was tomorrow. More importantly, our players can't wait."
Meyer arrived in Gainesville earlier this year with the reputation of being a disciplinarian, a demanding perfectionist, and a believer in a will-testing offseason conditioning program that had driven some players to quit at Bowling Green and Utah.
There was speculation that his new players, many of whom had strongly supported their former coach, Ron Zook, would fight change; that some what leave, others would quit.
None have.
The Gators survived the punishing offseason and now the fun part - football - begins.
"I'm usually not this positive this time of year, but we faced very little resistance (from the players)," Meyer said. "I wasn't anticipating that. Common sense, and not being naive, you expect some resistance. We've had very little and that's a positive.
"I think they're as excited as we are to get away from those three strength coaches (Mickey Marotti, Matt Balis and Mark Campbell) for just a minute and practice some football because they've had a hard go."
Meyer said in the one area where he anticipated perhaps the most resistance - from the UF wide receivers - there has been none.
"Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker, Chad Jackson, Jemalle Cornelius, Michael McIntosh and Kenneth Tookes have been fantastic," Meyer said. "That's usually the position we're most hard on because I've coached those guys (wide receivers) for about 16 years. So, I know some of the issues you deal with.
"I'm really eager to see their athleticism and let them play a little bit. I cannot wait to see Bubba Caldwell catch that shovel pass and see him take off down the field."
Compared to the offseason conditioning program, spring practice might feel like a vacation. But, there still is serious work to be done.
Chris Leak and the offensive players must grasp a new offense - which includes the option - and the defensive players will be adjusting to having co-defensive coordinators (Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison), although the scheme (and most of the terminology) will be similar to last season's.
Leak, of course, has been studying the offense since Meyer accepted the job.
"We've been talking to Chris and we're going to meet daily," Meyer said. "I've watched most of the (UF) offensive tape from last season and there is some carryover. Reading the end (and running the option). ... Chris has done some of those things. But we've got a lot of work to do."
The Gators also enter the spring looking to shore up two potential trouble spots - tailback and linebacker.
Meyer said earlier in the week the Gators don't have a tailback they can count on. And, he also pointed out that UF has only two linebackers (Brandon Siler and Earl Everett) who have proven they can play.
"There are two positions (tailback and linebacker) on our team that are completely unacceptable where we're at at this point," Meyer said. "There is going to be a lot of pressure put on those guys."
You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com or by calling (352) 374-5022.

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