A transcript of the question-and-answer session between University of Florida Gator Football head coach Urban Meyers and members of the media Monday afternoon.
Head Coach Urban Meyer:
“Thanks for coming. I’m going to give you a lot of information because I’ve had time to go through it and it will probably save a lot of questions.
Number one is, we’ve obviously had some severe issues here the last three weeks that have been very damaging as far as the won-loss record. The issue is not finding the blame but it’s finding a solution, and that’s what we’re going to do this week.
We began the task last week and I think some are very obvious, but some as far as the plan to win that has been fairly successful around here is not being followed. So the intent is, once again, and I’ve got to make that clear, not to assess blame because that is not the intent. The intent is to get better and improve, and the first thing you look at is if there is a lack of execution, why?
The first thing you ask is, ‘Are you getting it done in practice?’ And that’s my job. I believe the number one job as a head coach during the season, once you go through the recruiting and the staff, and (everything else), you find out now is when there is a lack of execution, how does that occur? The answer is not to say ‘Well, that guy, that guy, that guy.’ I understand on the outside at times... Not at times, that’s the way it is. But on the inside, now why is the execution not being accomplished? Is it because we don’t practice enough? Is it because we don’t get them in that situation enough?
We call it a competitive excellence around here, that you’re in that position over and over and over and over again so that when it hits during a game, you execute it. We’re not into excuses. We’re not into this happened because. It’s fix the issues.
Number two is making sure we’re asking guys to do what they can do.
“So those are the two focuses I’ve had. Number one is to evaluate execution and how do you do that? It’s, are we giving them enough practice repetitions to fulfill their job description? Number two would be, are we asking guys to do what they can do? If we’re not, then we got to assess that. We’ve got time to evaluate that.
“So number one on the hit parade here is turnovers. We’ve been number one in the Southeastern Conference really for the last forever. We’ve been I think number one in the country as far as turnovers, and the last three games we’ve had five interceptions and three fumbles. Once again, we’re not here to assess blame. It’s, now why? The why I have always evaluated turnovers – and some of the people I spoke with, my coaching colleagues – is I put it with carelessness and toughness, and are you careless with the ball? And are you a tough guy carrying the ball or holding the ball or whatever?
Because when you get whacked, they’re going to happen once in a while but carelessness and toughness…And when you say carelessness, are we practicing that enough and do we have enough ball protection drills during practice? So fundamentals fall underneath carelessness. We’ve had more turnovers this year than we had in all of ’08 already.
“Number two, big plays. This is alarming, and this is something that I didn’t realize because we are just trying to get a first down. But our goal in 2005 was to have the fastest team in college football, and I know there’s injury issues, all other kinds of excuses that that maybe we’re not hitting big plays. However, the obvious one would be what I just said.
The not-so-obvious to the outside – but on the inside is – maybe it’s a lack of execution, a lack of blocking the edge, whatever it may be, and that’s what we’re going to really work on this week.
Our running backs have been accounted for four for the year. Just to give you it in relative terms, we had five in one game last year against FSU so that tells you the lack of production. None in the last five games from the running back position. We’ve always been, and I don’t have this stat, I should’ve tried to rally this up for you, but we’ve always, I believe, been number one in America. I’d be hard pressed to say that we haven’t had more big plays than any other school in the country the last few years, so that has to be addressed. What’s the solution? I have ‘speed’ written down in real bold letters right here. I have perimeter blocking, and then I have execution of the play call.
“Number three, pass efficiency. We’ve always been number one. We were number one in the country for the last several years combined. We’ve always been extremely high. Our expectation levels are about 160, 165 as a passer rating, and we’re currently at 117.
The last three games, we’re at 98.5. It’s a multitude of issues that have to be corrected. Number one would be drops. Number two would be protection issues between the offensive line and the backs. And number three would be execution of a play.
But when you start figuring out 160 to a 98.5, that has to be corrected. When you’re at 165, the first thing everybody says is, ‘Boy, that quarterback is doing great.’ Well, the quarterback is doing his job. It’s also the offensive line and the running backs not missing protection. We’ve had some missed protections, and guys are making plays down the field, so that has to be improved.
“Red zone would be the last. I could go on and on, but this is where we’re really sinking our teeth into improvement. We’ve led the SEC the last three years. The first four games this year, we were 16-of-16 in the red zone and the last three games we’re 3-of-11 with three turnovers and three missed field goals. So that’s execution, and grind it and work at it.
“Then I go to special teams. We’re expected to be the number one punt or up there in punt. We’re number one in the SEC. I want to say we’re number one or number two in America in punt. So I think we’re doing decent there. We still had that one against Alabama, (which) was absolutely inexcusable, and we face a great returner this week.
Kickoff return, we’re number one in the SEC. Punt return, we’re average, and kickoff I think we’re good. The stats, I want to say we’re in the middle of the pack, but when you just identify who we’ve gone against and if we got them on the ground, our guys have done a pretty good job and that the specials teams. The areas we’re missing are big hits and blocked punts.
“Defense, I don’t believe we’re playing at the level that we expect. We’re not dominant. However, we’re good enough to win some games around here. The area of concern will be third downs and getting our guys off the field. Now, as a synopsis to close on these comments for you, efficiency of practice time, making sure your players can do what you ask them to do. Red zone, there’s only one way to do that. We’ve always been pretty decent in the red zone. Last year we struggled a little bit, (but) it was just work our tails off. We take great pride in that around here and being very clear in what we expect and what we’re going to do down there. And then the final things is just get players ready to go, get them healthy.
“The good news on (Jeff) Demps today, he ran on the treadmill. He’s going to practice 20 to 25 snaps today. Andre Debose is still questionable for the game. I’m trying to think who else. I think everybody else is good to go. Jaye Howard is still hobbled a little bit, but he’s going to be good to go for the game. (Matt) Patchan is still questionable. (Caleb) Sturgis, it’s good news on Sturg. We’re going to try him this week, and we’ll see what happens.
With that, I’ll answer any questions for you.”
On any modifications that have been made to the offense:
“Yes, I’m not going to share much with you, but we have modified quite a bit. I’m obviously not going to say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,’ but things are modified and the injury issue, the personnel issue, is real so that’s going to help, I’m thinking. I’m going to let you know later this week and see how it goes, but it doesn’t look like us out there. It doesn’t look like BANG. I want to have the thud. We all want that. How do you get that? You recruit it. You develop it. You coach it. You make sure you’re practicing the mess out of it. That’s kind of where we’re at.”
On getting to 4-0 and then things turned quickly:
“We played a couple of really good teams. That’s number one. We got smacked with an injury that just devastated us because we’re not dynamic enough. But you play the number one team in the country, another team that was ranked real high, I guess, and a couple good defenses, real good defenses. But it’s absolutely inexcusable. Everybody felt good against Kentucky because obviously Kentucky is a good team. They beat South Carolina. And we basically moved the ball up and down the field with a great mix combination of run and pass. I’ll give you a great excuse: We’re in and out of injuries, in and out of injuries the whole year. Finally, I’m hoping that I come out there and watch practice today and it looks like the University of Florida. I think we’re all hoping that, but I’m really hoping that.”
On if he saw what he was looking to see from the team last week:
“I think 18- to 22-year-olds are all motivated differently. Obviously differently than maybe a grownup or a coach or a parent or something like that. I think the moment I put the standings of the SEC East and they see what’s going on, because I didn’t think that. Someone handed it to me last week and I didn’t know that, so it lifted my spirits and I think it lifted a lot of guys’ spirits around here. We had three really hard days now. We went Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday as hard as we’ve ever gone. More contact than we’ve ever had for development. But we had them in this morning at 7 a.m. and we’re ready to go.”
On whether he’s seen anything to indicate Patchan could play:
“I’ll know more today. You talk about energy-givers and energy-takers, and everyone wants energy-givers. That means you walk in next to somebody and you feel the energy and you don’t have to motivate and hug and slap on the tail and rah-rah everyday. Let’s go real hard today, what do you think? He’s the guy that supplies energy, and that’s an evaluation of a player that is so overlooked. He’s a half-a-step slow, OK, but he supplies energy for the entire program, and that’s real important. That’s an intangible that a guy like Matt Patchan brings to the, not just offense, but team. He is an energy-giver tough guy.”
On if he has made a decision on Chris Rainey and where he fits into the plans:
“He’s eligible to play but that decision won’t be made until… It’s day-to-day. There are a lot of expectations we have of him, and if he fulfills his obligations he’ll be playing. If he doesn’t, he won’t.”
On whether a decision would come before Saturday:
“I’m hoping before that. I usually evaluate the week and I’ll know by Thursday if he’s taken care of all the things he is supposed to be taking care of.”
On if he feels like the team has the talent level to execute: “Sure. I have more of an issue about efficiency at practice. Fundamentals don’t improve for a lot of reasons. Number one is you don’t practice them at the game speed that you need to practice them at. Number two is that you’re not taught very well. Number three is that the player is not good enough. That number three is not allowed around here. So if I hear someone say that from a coach, then – there’s no trade or waiver wire or something like this – that’s not acceptable. We don’t hear that around here because you don’t say that here. That’s very clear to our staff and it is what it is and you’ve got what you’ve got. Let’s get them better and find out what they can do. So, absolutely we have the talent level to execute at a high level. I’d like to see it all put together at once so we can operate.”
On whether efficiency at practice relates to player discipline and players knowing what they have to get done:
“I think so. I put more into coaches than I do of players, a lot of times. It’s getting it done. If the route’s 12 yards, it’s 12 yards, not 11 and a half. It’s, that free safety blitz is through the B gap and a back has him and blocks him and he doesn’t go to the right and says, ‘My bad,’ or something like that. That’s something we’ve been very good at around here. Very good at, and to me that is efficiency at practice. That is called competitive excellence, which is something that we’re lacking right now for the first time since ’05.”
On his assessment of play-calling and if it is putting the team in the best position to win games:
“We don’t have a bad play. I don’t allow that. That’s my job. There is no such thing as saying, ‘Oh, that’s a bad play.’ It might look awful because someone doesn’t block the right guy or someone doesn’t execute, so I go back to efficiency. I evaluate every play called. I do that every week, and are there times where I would have like to run this play as opposed to this? Yeah. But is it a bad play? There’s not a bad play that goes into a game. It’s poorly executed because we didn’t efficiently practice it.”
On what has been encouraging and gives hope for competing in the SEC East to get to Atlanta:
“Number one is coaching good guys. Coaching guys that came out there on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and practiced and having a staff that’s grinding them and working them and going. That’s the positives. Seeing a Jeff Demps just killing himself to get back, get ready to go and understand his value to the team. Seeing a guy like Mike Pouncey on a Wednesday block a guy at 12 yards and knocked him on his tail and went 25 more yards down the field. The same stuff that has gotten us to (be successful) the past few years, so I see that. It’s great learning for the young players to see that because a lot of them don’t understand that.”
On facing Washaun Ealey and the tight-rope of rewarding a player for his good efforts and holding him accountable for what happens off the field:
“That’s a great question. That’s up to each program, up to each individual and up to people’s perceptions. I have my own personal theory on that, though I’m not really going to share that with you. I think you guys know it after six years. I believe an athlete shouldn’t be penalized just because he’s an athlete, either. I don’t know what he did. However, you certainly need to be held accountable for everything that you do. That’s a tough… Especially in the last, whatever years it’s been, because it’s – boom – it’s a big story.”
On whether there is some desperation on the team:
“Sure. I like the word urgency instead of desperate. Desperation sounds awful desperate. I like urgency. Urgency sounds urgent.”
On if he has ever felt like he didn’t want to come to work with this year’s team:
“No, not at all. Like I told you, I kind of like where our players are at. I mean, I can’t stand where we are at, but I like where we’re at as far as 7 a.m. today seeing my guys back and it’s all about your players. It’s all about your guys, and we have good guys.”
On whether he took a full day off at any point during the bye:
“Saturday I was off.”
On whether he was recruiting or anything on Saturday:
On what changes he made to the starting lineup going forward:
“It depends on health, obviously, with Demps’ issue. You would have to ask Steve (Addazio) about the offensive line. I think between Xavier (Nixon) and Mo Hurt, I don’t know. You kind of caught me off guard. I don’t know off the top of my head if there are any major changes.”
On if there will be changes to the rotation, if not the starting lineup:
“Yeah, that’s more up to the position coaches. I’ll watch that more during the course of the week. I can’t tell you right now because I don’t know that. But the answer is yes. That’s (the case) week-to-week. Our biggest thing is the efficiency, like I told you. There is not someone waiting in the wings that’s going to blow the top off this thing. If there was, we would let it go, so there’s is no saving. It’s guys executing and efficiency of practice time.”
On why the team is not so dynamic behind Demps and running back and why there is a deficiency there:
“I don’t know if there’s so much a deficiency. It’s the guys that are dinged because people were really high on Gilly (Mike Gilislee) and all of a sudden he gets pulled up. And people were high on (Emmanuel) Moody and it’s on and off, on and off, injury after injury. I just think that you’ve got to keep plugging the holes. I think what happened whenever you have dynamic personnel, too… Steve keeps saying, ‘So-and-so scored a touchdown (in the NFL). So-and-so did this,’so we’ve been a nice feeder school to that next level. I’m finding out in recruiting sometimes that guys won’t come if there are one or two guys that are there already, and we’re working our tail off to address those. But that’s not a shot at our talent at all because we have the talent. It’s just getting them all there and going.”
On whether he allows himself to watch Cam Newton:
“It’s really hard, I’ll tell you that. I don’t watch much of it.”
On why that’s the case:
“I think he’s a very good player, and I’m trying to watch more of the teams we play. So I spent my time watching the other ones that we’re going to play.”
On if he’s like every Florida fan wondering what if Newton were here:
“No, no, no, no, no, I didn’t say that.”
On whether the thought crossed his mind:
On his policy for his players on use of social media and what they tell the players, considering some coaches have banned players from using social media:
“We talk to them about it. Every time I see that (it’s been banned), does he miss a game? I’d rather have a short set of rules. I’ve not done that yet. We monitor it, I know that. But we haven’t gotten to that point. The answer is, if we have to, we will.”
On whether team-related information is out of bounds for players to post:
“Yeah, we have some signs that say, ‘What we see in here, what we say in here stays here when we leave here.’ We monitor it, that’s what I can tell you, and that’s handled on a case-to-case (basis). I’ve not spent a whole lot of time on it, but I have guys watching that stuff.”
Senior Safety Ahmad Black
On the mood of the team during last week’s practices:
“It was great. You would’ve sworn we had a game. Everybody went hard, went tough. We’re just excited to be out there again this week.”
On how bad the team needs a win:
“Real bad. These next couple games are huge for us. Like Coach said a couple times, we need to get urgent about everything, and urgency is a key factor.”
On whether players are being vocal with their teammates if they make mistakes in practice:
“That’s all the time. If I’m out there not doing good, I want somebody to tell me to step it up and to get better, so just because we lost these couple games doesn’t make it any different from anytime else, in that aspect.”
Junior Quarterback John Brantley
On how excited he is to get back out on the field and work towards trying to get a win:
“Really excited. We had a great short practice week last week and a great bye weekend to get everyone a little healthy and just to get our minds right for the second half of the football season. We’re real hungry to get back out on the practice field and have another great week of practice and carry that over to Saturday.”
On what stood out to him about last week’s practice:
“Everyone was still ready to play. We wanted to practice, and we wanted to succeed. To see that, especially after such a hard weekend, to see everyone come in and know that we had the weekend off and know that these guys still wanted to be out there practicing hard and getting better, it was a great thing.”
On his memories from growing up of the Florida-Georgia game:
“I remember a lot. My best memory is watching a highlight film of when it was pouring down rain and Errict Rhett scored the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. That’s my best memory of this rivalry.”
On being a part of the rivalry now:
“It’s great on the buses going over the bridge. Everyone always told me about it, and to see that my first year here was amazing. I try to just take it all in every chance I get.”
Senior Linebacker Brandon Hicks
On whether he notices any changes in the team’s attitude or execution:
“I would say yes. It’s been definitely more focused, more technique looked upon, and basically more accountability from not only sides of the ball, but position groups as well as individual players. We’ve all taken great accountability for each other and the techniques that we have to accomplish and the plays that we have to get done.”
On if there has been any personnel changes or difference in number of practice reps taken:
“I would say it hasn’t really been so much of a change. It’s been basically just everybody taking responsibility for their actions, I would say, or the person or position group just trying to take accountability for everything that goes on. If there’s a missed tackle, we’ll get on ourselves more than the coaches would, take more in our own hands.”
On his biggest memory of the Florida-Georgia game:
“Everybody thinks it’s when they came out on the field and did all that, but my memory I felt was worse than that. It was last year when I finally started and got to play, and the second or third play I was out there I pulled my hamstring and I was out for the rest of the game. So that was a hurtful memory, and now I actually want to get back to that point (because) I’m good now. I can play. I’m 100 percent. I’m ready to go out there and play as best I can and as hard as I can.”
Senior Center Mike Pouncey
On the week of practice the team had last week:
“I’m seeing a bunch of guys that really want to win. We came out and practiced hard on the bye week. Most teams don’t do that. We did. We went out and practiced like we had a game that Saturday.”
On if the team needs to increase efficiency at practice:
“You practice like you play, and it’s something we’ve been trying to key on this last week, executing a lot better than we have and finishing.”
On whether it’s time to get on guys more when they don’t play well:
“It’s a team effort. We’re going to push the whole team. Even the guys that are playing great, they’ve got to play even better. We’re going to take this season one game at a time, and this week is a very critical game for us.”