Leak carries a title ring for size

Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chris Leak is carrying around a national championship ring this week to remind him what is attainable Monday night in the national title game.

It is a 1996 national championship ring and it belongs to graduate assistant coach Nick Schiralli, a former UF player and the lone connection on this year's team to the Gators' national title team.

"For him to ask me was kind of an honor for me," said Schiralli, a receiver who played mostly special teams in 1996. "I said, 'Definitely, go ahead. If it helps you out, give you something more to play for, then go ahead."'

Leak also borrowed one of Schiralli's SEC championship rings and kept it with him the week of the conference title game against Arkansas.

Leak is keeping the national championship ring in his hotel.

"I've got it stashed in a safe place," Leak said. "The last thing you want to do is lose it.

"That's what you're playing for. It makes you that much more hungry."

Baker has a crush

At the Outback Bowl a year ago, UF wide receiver Dallas Baker said if he ever met Beyonce' he would ask her to marry him. He said he has no plans to propose if the singer somehow shows up at the national title game.

"I don't think she'd like that too much," Baker said. "She still has a big place in my heart, though.

"I don't even know if she watches football, really. I know she watches basketball. I've been thinking about asking coach (Billy) Donovan if I can try and play point guard or something like that so she can see me."

Siler putting off decision

Junior linebacker Brandon Siler said he will not make a decision about whether to leave early for the NFL until after Monday night's game.

"That's a life-changing decision," he said. "You sit down and talk to all the people who are important to you, your coaches, your mom, your family. I'm not thinking about that right now."

Junior wide receiver Andre Caldwell said earlier this week he's made his decision about the NFL but will not announce it until after the national championship game.

It appears cornerback Ryan Smith likely will be returning for his senior season. He said Friday the NFL has told him he could go as high as the fifth round. Meyer has said Smith is not physically ready to play in the NFL yet.

Two other juniors — All-America safety Reggie Nelson and defensive end Jarvis Moss — also will be considering their NFL options after the game.

Curfew not an issue

The Gators have had a curfew every night, but Siler said there's really no need for one because the players are pretty much staying around the hotel after dinner.

"We know this is a business trip," Siler said. "You give us a curfew and we're still in early. That's not what it's about. We can party back in Gainesville after the win.

"Nobody has the need to go out and be partying and doing all those things. The majority of the players were at the hotel playing cards last night. Nobody even stretches curfew."

With the national title on the line, Siler said there is a much different atmosphere than the Gators have experienced in past bowl games. For one thing, they are not being escorted around town for a bunch of bowl functions.

"We might go to one thing and that's it for the day," he said. "They let your relax and get off your feet and chill out, where in other games they kind of run you ragged doing different kinds of things. I'm really surprised at all the time we get off. We like it a little better."

Injury update

Starting safety Tony Joiner is still recovering from a high ankle sprained he sustained in the SEC Championship Game.

"He is 90 percent," Meyer said. "We've got two days to get him up to 100 percent.

"Dorian Munroe did very well when he substituted for him in the Arkansas game. We will play both those players."

Tight end Tate Casey (ankle) has been very limited in practice and will be a game-day decision, Meyer said.

No. 1 tailback DeShawn Wynn has been practicing with a sore foot, but should be ready for Monday's game.

"He's fine," Meyer said. "He's gimping a little bit, but he is good to go."

Year two success

Meyer's second-year success has reached a new level at Florida, with the Gators earning a place in the title game. Meyer said there has been no secret.

"We have fantastic players," he said. "If you didn't have Chris Leak and Tim Tebow and Dallas Baker, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. It is certainly not the coaches. I have a terrific staff, but this is all about the players. I have been very fortunate."

Meyer recruited Smith, Ginn

When he was the head coach at Bowling Green, Meyer recruited Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr.

"They were a little better than Bowling Green," Meyer said. "They were both in our camp and Troy Smith was a guy that was under the radar for a long time. I know Troy very well and watched him grow up as a player."

Dinner with friends

Meyer and his family had dinner with the OSU coaches Thursday night, including secondary coach Tim Beckman, who was on Meyer's staff at Bowling Green.

"Our wives got together. I think our kids are getting together today," Meyer said. "I love Tim. Tim is a very close friend.

"I looked around (at dinner) and knew every one of the coaches. I knew their football operations guy."

Contact Robbie Andreu at 374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com.

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