Meyer wants better team chemistry


UF cornerback Jeremy Brown, right, runs through a drill as coach Urban Meyer watches during the Gators' first spring practice.

Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 12:27 a.m.

This is a different spring than any other under Urban Meyer. For the first time since Meyer took over, the Gators have had to carry a bitter loss into the offseason, a loss that has raised questions about chemistry and attitude as UF gets back to work for the first time since the Capital One defeat against Michigan.

Developing chemistry is a priority, Meyer said Wednesday after the Gators' first spring practice.

"It's amazing what we're dealing with nowadays, and I've talked to our players about that," Meyer said. "You throw your iPod in, you come in the locker room bopping your head, you put your equipment on and go out to practice, come back in and throw on your iPod and punch in your cell phone and text people and leave.

"How are you going to develop any chemistry as a team? We're really going to attack the chemistry part. Not that we've had bad chemistry, but I don't know if we were a very close team last year. Two years ago, we were real close, a lot of good stuff going on there. We have to get back to the chemistry. That's one of our goals."

Meyer said he has talked to his players about staying off their cell phones in and around the locker room. He said he has no plans to ban iPods.

"We're living in a world where you see it every day," he said. "Just go walk on campus, the white things in people's ears. That means I don't have to talk to you. That's what we're dealing with.

"I could (ban iPods), then now I'm the policeman pulling out iPods. No, I'm going to talk to them about being grown men and let's develop a little chemistry. We don't want cell phones around. I've talked to them about it. I'll go down there and pull them out and encourage communication."

In one attempt to start building some team chemistry, Meyer said the team went paint-balling Tuesday.

"I've never been paint-balling," he said. "We're going to do some things and get some communication going."

Along with finding some chemistry this spring, Meyer said the Gators are also in search of the chip they wore on their shoulders during the 2006 national championship season and during the four-game winning streak at the end of the regular season last year, before the bottom fell out with the humbling 41-35 loss to Michigan.

"(The loss) is a hard one to swallow, but it's probably what the team needed," Meyer said. "We got beat. That wasn't a fluke. We got beat.

"I think when you have a chip on your shoulder, and Billy Donovan has said it many times, that the minute you lose that chip on your shoulder, you're not very good for some reason."

Meyer said the Gators lost that chip last season somewhere between the 45-12 rout of arch-rival Florida State and Jan. 1 in Orlando.

"You won those four games right before that last game and that chip started disappearing," Meyer said. "We had that chip for those four games. We played some excellent football against our rivals and South Carolina. I mean great football, the best of the year.

"Then I saw the same thing everyone else saw, especially on defense, in that last game."

Meyer and his players said the loss served as motivation in the tough offseason conditioning program.

"I think it was definitely one of the best offseasons we've gone through because all the guys bought in and there was not a lot of trouble, not a lot of guys doing stupid things," quarterback Tim Tebow said. "They were all real focused and had a good offseason.

"(The loss to Michigan) was definitely motivating, no doubt about it. All those losses are motivating. There was definitely a lot of motivation this offseason."

Meyer said he's noticed a difference.

"I saw it in the offseason from the head coach to the assistants to everybody," Meyer said.

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