Meyer: Gator rebuilding, recruiting to begin immediately
Published: Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 7:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 7:04 p.m.
He has a reputation for being one of the best program builders in college football.
Now, Urban Meyer is facing the demanding challenge of rebuilding a Florida program that has lost its elite status with a 7-5 regular-season record.
The process has already begun.
"Recruit our butt off is what we are going to do, and that starts tonight," Meyer said after the Gators' humbling 31-7 loss Saturday to arch-rival Florida State in Tallahassee. "Coaches are all on the road tomorrow, so we are going to recruit our butt off to build this thing back up. Obviously, we are down. I know there are injuries and all kinds of excuses we came come up with, but we are down. We have to build this back up.
"I didn't believe we'd be that far down, but we are. So, how do you build up a program? I've done it a few times. You build it up with tough players, tough coaches and you have got to play better."
Finding more and tougher players on the recruiting trail is only part of it. In the coming weeks, Meyer will evaluate all aspects of his program. Some tough decisions could be forthcoming concerning his coaching staff, but Meyer said he's not ready to discuss possible changes on his staff.
"I'm not going to do that right now," he said.
Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin have both come under fire.
One change may have been taken out of Meyer's hands. There are reports that defensive line coach Dan McCarney has accepted the head coaching position at North Texas, although Meyer said Saturday night he was not aware that an offer had even been made.
Between now and UF's bowl game, Meyer may consider what direction to go with his offense, especially the three-quarterback system that has become largely ineffective. The UF passing game also has deteriorated in the second half of the season.
"We are just really ineffective in certain areas," Meyer said. "Really, really ineffective. So, if that's because of the three quarterbacks, we will blow that thing completely out of the water. We're going to do what we need to do to give us the best chance to win this bowl game (which will be determined on BCS selection Sunday)."
This has been the worst season of Meyer's coaching career, but it's not his only down season at UF. The Gators were in a slightly similar situation coming off a four-loss season in 2007, and rebounded with a national championship in 2008.
But this appears to be a bigger rebuilding project than in 2007.
"I have a lot of confidence in a lot of players in our program," Meyer said. "In '07, it was not this bad. That was not a good year. But the guys got a little bit of anger and edge to them and they came back with that great leadership on that team, and talent, and they won it all. I'm not putting us in that category, because we're certainly not.
"But there is one way to do it and that's hard work and you go rebuild it. How do you rebuild it? With tough-ass players and tough-ass coaches."
Meyer bristled Saturday night when he was asked if his program was at ground zero after losing for the fifth time in the last eight games.
"Certainly, not at ground zero," he said. "We're 7-5 and have a chance to win our eighth game. Certainly, we're nowhere near where we want to be, but to say ground zero, absolutely not."
Senior center Mike Pouncey said he's confident it won't take Meyer long to turn the program around.
"These (young) guys have to learn how to prepare, practice," Pouncey said. "We've got to get the right players playing in the right positions and rebuild this to a winning program.
"He will. He's a great coach. He's obviously going to get the right players in. He's going to turn this program around fast."
Meyer said on his television show Sunday that the process is already under way.
"We have a couple of things broke and we have to fix," Meyer said. "You have to worry about immediacy and the future. The immediacy is to find a way to win a bowl game. We get a bunch of practice time in with these younger players, but we also have to take care of these older players.
"We have to build this thing back up. It was built the last five years on extremely hard work, relentless effort, focus, determination. ... And we're going to start today and we're going to build this thing back to the elite program that Florida should be. We're going to get going immediately on it. Seven coaches are on the road right now. Recruiting is full speed ahead.
"We certainly have a lot of work to do, but there is a lot of promise."
NOTES: Meyer said on his television show Sunday that quarterback Jordan Reed had to stay overnight in a Tallahassee hospital after sustaining a concussion in the second half of Saturday's game. "He got a concussion, a pretty severe one," Meyer said. "I talked to him this morning, he's doing better." ... Meyer said nine or 10 players from the 2011 class will come in in January.