Meyer more cautious with comments

Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 11:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 11:41 p.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE — Florida coach Urban Meyer is learning the hard way that even at booster club functions, sometimes what he says can get blown out of proportion.

After a recent comment about loyalty at an earlier Gator Club function ballooned into a national story, Meyer acknowledged he’s learning to become more careful about what he says.

“What happens is you can’t speak anymore,” Meyer said before a speaking engagement with the Broward County Gator Club. “You can’t talk. So everything you say there’s no off the record, there’s no ‘hey we just want to talk about something.’ You can’t have fun. You can’t talk. You know, it’s a shame, but that’s the way it is.”

That’s what happens when you’re a coach that’s in the national eye after winning two BCS titles in the last three seasons. Comments Meyer made about Notre Dame being his “dream job” and questioning whether former players have the right to expect perks after being critical of his program have come back to bite him in recent weeks.

“It’s awful,” Meyer said. “I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is what it is.”

Meyer did have some fun with the crowd Tuesday night, sharing a funny story about senior receiver David Nelson. In labeling Nelson as the most improved receiver on the team, Meyer talked about a pair of “drop-dead” blondes waiting following a spring practice. Meyer assumed they were waiting for him, or at least maybe Tim Tebow or Brandon Spikes.

“Here comes David freakin’ Nelson and they walk off with him,” Meyer said. “I mean, he caught one pass. He’s a great kid and he’s worked very hard.”

There also was a video presentation of Florida’s visit to the White House edited with highlights of Florida’s BCS title win over Oklahoma at nearby Dolphin Stadium.

The loudest ovation of the night came when Meyer mentioned a pair of Broward area standouts, former St. Thomas High stars Marcus Gilbert and Major Wright. Meyer said Gilbert is projected to start at right tackle and that Wright will return to start at free safety.

Meyer said he’s felt like he’s made some strong in-roads in recruiting in South Florida during his four-year tenure, labeling it as “the most talent-rich area in the country.”

“Every coach comes in here and builds relationships,” Meyer said. “The fact is, there’s a home school here (Miami) that’s hard to beat. However, there’s enough good ones where you can come in and do a good job. And we have, I think we’ve done a fine job. People say the numbers are down, that’s not correct. The numbers are right about where they have been throughout the last 20 years.

“Miami is the area we haven’t done well. Here (Broward County), we've had some success.”

Also of note:

Meyer said there is no change in the status of defensive tackle Torrey Davis. Davis was removed from the team for undisclosed reasons last March, but during the spring, Meyer left the door open for Davis to return to the team if he took care of some issues. “I'm not exactly sure what he’s doing,” Meyer said.

Meyer said he met with speedy sophomore playmaker Jeff Demps on Tuesday afternoon. Demps pulled up lame at the Southeastern Conference track meet after running the 100 meters on Sunday night.

“They are trying to get him ready for nationals,” Meyer said. “He had a surgery, a midsection issue and he had some muscle tears, and they fixed that so he didn’t have the proper time to train like he had to train. He pulled both hamstrings. So he didn’t have the time to train like you have to train for track.”

Could Florida be playing Miami more frequently in the future? Meyer said he would be open to Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt’s proposal to play Florida twice in a four-year circle. Florida and Miami will complete a home-and-home series at Dolphin Stadium in 2013. “I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” Meyer said.

Meyer said he thinks the Florida-Georgia game should remain in Jacksonville. Georgia coach Mark Richt has been vocal in creating a series in which the game alternates between Jacksonville and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Richt said that Florida has an advantage playing the game in Jacksonville because the Gators don’t have to travel as far.

“I’m a traditionalist,” Meyer said. “I think it’s just one of the great venues, the great events. I grew up watching it. So I don’t know what’s going on with it.

“I stand on that field and it’s 50-50. I know what I see. When you drive in, there’s no home-field advantage.”

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