Not much fun for Meyer
Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 14, 2009 at 6:22 p.m.
After a stormy and strange season, the Florida football program's offseason has continued to be rocky with the departure of coaches and rumblings of a mass defection by the team's juniors.
As a result, rumors have been flying in cyberspace and around water coolers. On Monday, in an exclusive interview with The Sun, Urban Meyer addressed several issues while keeping one eye on recruiting and the other on preparations for the upcoming Sugar Bowl.
"My mission is to make this bowl experience as positive as I can for these players," Meyer said by phone from California. "(The last two weeks) have been hard, but I'm awfully proud of what we have accomplished."
In the last two weeks since the feel-good Saturday night celebration of flashing cameras and heartfelt hugs in The Swamp not a lot of good has happened for Meyer. The Florida coach must feel like every time he plugs a hole with a finger another pops up and sprays him in the face.
There was the arrest and suspension of Carlos Dunlap, the loss of two coaches, a numbing loss to Alabama in the SEC title game and a hospital visit.
One of the stories that has gained momentum since Billy Gonzales left for LSU was that the wide receivers coach was shown the door because he was aware of the birthday party attended by Dunlap and several other prominent players.
"That's absolutely not true," Meyer said. "In fact, that's the first I've heard of that one. Billy left because he was passed up last year for the offensive coordinator's job (which went to Steve Addazio). It was about the title."
Gonzales is now the passing game coordinator at LSU. Much of the speculation was based on how quickly Meyer hired Zach Azzanni from Central Michigan after word leaked Gonzales was leaving.
"We had to act quickly on that because of recruiting and because we have a bowl game coming up," Meyer said. "I knew the guy and we moved fast on that."
Meyer hasn't had to act as quickly in replacing Charlie Strong as defensive coordinator because Strong — as first reported in The Sun — will coach the defense in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 vs. No. 4 Cincinnati (12-0) before returning to Louisville. Meyer denied reports Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was offered the job and turned it down.
"I talked to Tyrone. I've known Tyrone for a long time," Meyer said. "But we would have had to change our whole defense if we hired him. We would have had to change everything our players are doing, and we didn't want to do that.
"I'm going to take my time with that hire."
Meyer was also asked about reports that many of the UF juniors are going to turn pro including Joe Haden, Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, Aaron Hernandez, Carlos Dunlap, Lawrence Marsh, Chris Rainey, Ahmad Black and Major Wright.
"They'll be getting their (NFL) paperwork back in a couple of weeks and I'll sit down and talk to each of them," Meyer. "If they're an early-round pick, that's one thing."
Haden, Hernandez and Dunlap are all considered first-round selections according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who lists Maurkice Pouncey as the second best junior center available and Mike Pouncey as the third best junior guard. The remaining players are not among his top five juniors.
Meyer said he has yet to make a final decision on whether or not Dunlap will play in the Sugar Bowl.
"It's close to being finalized," he said. "It'll be done pretty soon."
Meyer said he, UF president Bernie Machen and athletic director Jeremy Foley will all be part of the decision. Dunlap was suspended for the SEC Championship Game following his DUI arrest.
Florida did receive a bit of good news Sunday night when five-star recruit Matt Elam re-committed to the Gators on local television in West Palm Beach. There had been speculation Elam was considering FSU and Tennessee.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow at http://Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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