No.1 with a future
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Only a few hours after Florida's big night in the desert, head coach Urban Meyer sat at a podium Tuesday morning next to three separate national championship trophies and peered into the Gators' future.
One of Meyer's first priorities will be replacing the 21 seniors (and maybe a handful of juniors) who were so instrumental in UF's success this season and in Monday night's 41-14 blowout of No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS national championship game.
"Next year's team. ... We have a few juniors that are going to make some decisions (about the NFL) in the next couple of days," Meyer said. "We also lose some very good players — 13 starters that are seniors. We also have a very good young group (of freshmen).
"We are senior heavy and freshmen heavy and not a whole lot in between, which is not good. You want 22 across the board for four years. We have 21 (seniors), 12 (juniors), and then seven (sophomores) and a gigantic freshmen class. And we're going to sign 27 this year and we're about done. I know where I would want to go.
"Am I allowed to say that for recruiting? Good. Say that again. Print that. I know where I would want to go. Our guys have a lot of fun playing. What does the future look like? I think it looks really good."
Meyer already knows who will be replacing one of his best seniors — quarterback Chris Leak. After Monday night's 41-14 victory, Leak, the game MVP, handed the baton to true freshman Tim Tebow, whom Leak helped mentor this season.
"It is Tim Tebow's team as of right now," Meyer said. "It is Tim Tebow's team and a lot of these young players will have to pick up the slack. We just have to get to February (and the offseason conditioning program). February is a tough month around here and these kids know that."
With Tebow becoming the guy at quarterback, the offense will take on a little different look in 2007, Meyer said. Tebow ran for a touchdown and passed for another in the national title game and brings more of a running threat to the position.
"I think (Tebow) is very similar to (former Utah star) Alex Smith," Meyer said. "I'm hoping we can do the same things (with Tebow).
"I expect us to be a little bit more option, more quarterback run. A lot of that depends on who our backup is, because you can't jeopardize running him as much as he likes to run and we'd like to have him run if you don't have a quality backup because of the schedule we play and the shots he will take. I think it will be a little more spread like we ran at Utah."
The look of the 2007 team also will depend, in part, on the impending decisions of several standout juniors — safety Reggie Nelson, defensive end Jarvis Moss, middle linebacker Brandon Siler, wide receiver Andre Caldwell and cornerback Ryan Smith.
Nelson, an All-America, and Moss appear to be locks to leave for the NFL. Siler and Caldwell are expected to announce their intentions in the next few days, while Smith is expected to return.
"At the appropriate time we will release the information," Meyer said. "At the moment, I do not know (who is leaving early). I have a feeling and there are kind of leanings one way or the other.
"The good thing is the way these guys have gone about it. It's not like last year when someone said, 'My uncle says I'm going to do this.' Well, your uncle doesn't know. The NFL has done a great job with that. The one thing about Florida guys from here on out is there will be very well-educated decisions about whether they go out or not."
While some juniors will be departing, Meyer's third UF team could receive an immediate boost from the 2007 recruiting class. Ten players who will be a part of that class enrolled in classes at UF on Monday, including junior college quarterback Bryan Waggener, who figures to be the No. 2 quarterback in the spring.
One player who won't be joining the Gators is former Union County star tailback C.J. Spiller, who was considering a transfer to UF. Spiller, a standout at Clemson as a true freshman this past season, met with Clemson coach Tommy Bowden on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the matter.
"I discussed the situation with my mother and I decided it is best for me to stay at Clemson," Spiller said in a statement released by the Clemson athletic department.
As for 2007, Meyer and his coaching staff find themselves in the same position Billy Donovan was in after the UF basketball team won the national title last April — having to fend off possible complacency, while coping with high expectations.
Meyer said he received several text messages from Donovan, who lives two houses down from Meyer, but would not talk to him until arriving back in Gainesville on Tuesday night (when Meyer and some members of the football team were introduced at halftime of UF's basketball game against Arkansas).
"The human element takes over. You get patted on the back so many times you actually believe you are pretty good," Meyer said. "I have talked to Billy Donovan about this quite often because now we will have to deal with that issue for the next nine months. How you deal with that will be the key (to the 2007 season)."
For at least the next few days, though, the Gators are going to celebrate their national championship. The team will be honored in The Swamp on Saturday at noon. A crowd of more than 50,000 showed up for the national championship celebration in 1996.
Florida now holds the national championships in both football and basketball — a first in NCAA history.
Meyer credits athletic director Jeremy Foley.
"I think he is as good as there is in America," Meyer said. "He makes great decisions. He creates an atmosphere.
"If somebody says, 'Do you feel like you are coaching at a basketball school now?', I keep saying that darn volleyball coach (Mary Wise) thinks it is a volleyball school because all they do is win 16 straight SEC championships.
"(Foley) created an atmosphere maybe second to none in the college athletic world right now."
Contact Robbie Andreu at 374-5022 or email@example.com.
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