Meyer’s ultimate test will come Oct. 2 at Alabama

 Destin—Before Tuesday, the last time I spoke to Urban Meyer in person was on the Friday before the SEC championship game in December. Tim Brando and I had a chance to visit with the Florida head coach on the floor of the Georgia Dome prior to No. 1 Florida meeting No. 2 Alabama for a spot in the BCS title game. I remember that he looked tired and way too thin.

As we walked away I remember saying to Brando: “He does not look good.”

A lot has happened to Urban Meyer since that Friday in Atlanta and yesterday, when he stood before a podium and actually laughed while he addressed the media at the SEC Spring Meetings began. Some of us who cover Florida wondered if we would ever see him laugh again. He took some good-natured ribbing from the press and was able to give it back with a smile. We sure didn’t think we’d see that again.

Here is the short version of Meyer’s unusual journey: In 2009 the strain of trying to repeat as national champions and stay No. 1 took their toll on Meyer, who won’t turn 46 years old until July 10. He had been secretly battling chest pains with no known cause. On Dec. 26, 2009 Meyer shocked the college football world by announcing that he was going to retire for health reasons. Then he shocked it again a day later in a bizarre press conference in New Orleans by saying that he was going to simply take a leave of absence.

The flip-flop opened Meyer up to waves of criticism and speculation. A lot of it was deserved. Some of it was not. It came on top of a season that saw him fined $30,000 by the SEC office for complaining about officiating. It came on top of a poorly-made decision to suspend linebacker Brandon Spikes for only a half-game for sticking his hand in the facemask of a Georgia running back. It came on top of the suspension of defensive end Carlos Dunlap for being arrested on the Monday before the SEC championship game. It ultimately came on top of a total meltdown against Alabama at the Georgia Dome. Alabama was the better team. Florida looked dazed and confused and tired. So did its head coach.

“Last year we kind of brought some of that stuff on ourselves. It was a crazy year,” Meyer said. “Every time you turned on the TV it was ‘Gators This” and “Gators This.”

Meyer’s diagnosis was uncertain as was his future as Florida’s football coach. And in the absence of good information, which Meyer did not provide, speculation filled the void. That is the reality of the 24-hour news cycle.

 Was he in or was he out? Was he telling the truth about any of this? Was he really going to return as coach and if he did, could he take a bunch of time off and keep the edge that enabled him to win two national championships in three years (2006, 2008)? Could Urban Meyer even BE Urban Meyer is he wasn’t obsessive about the details of his football program?

On Tuesday Urban Meyer looked like a man who had been shaken up over the past year and in the process had learned an important life lesson. He hopes to take that lesson, move forward and be just as good at his job as before.

“I have to be smarter in the future and I’m going to be,” said Meyer, set to begin his sixth season as Florida’s head coach. “ (People said) Just take care of yourself and I didn’t do that. The last year and a half was really a bizarre deal.”

The good news, Meyer said Tuesday, is that he finally got a diagnosis for his ailment: esophageal spasms. They create chest pains, which Meyer said he had been having for years, and can be treated with medication. Meyer said the medication works and that he has not an an episode since January.

Meyer said that not knowing the cause of his ailment only added to the stress of his job.

“When they finally say ‘this is it. Take this,’ then you feel a lot better about things,” he said. “Okay, good. Let’s go.”

Losing to Alabama in the SEC championship game cost Florida a shot at another BCS national title. But it may ultimately serve as the motivational spring board for the Gators to begin life after Tim Tebow.

“I hope that it will,” said Meyer. “I’ve had some discussions with our coaches about it. Some people overlook that but when you’re talking about a group of 18-to-20 year olds you need to talk about what the rallying cry will be.

“Last year it was hard to come up with one. This year it will be a little easier.”

After losing Tebow, one of the most decorated players in college football history, and five drafted players from the Florida defense, the Gators are supposed to take a step back in 2010. Those expectations—or the lack of them—may also be a good thing, said Meyer.

“I don’t want to say that our guys have a chip on their shoulder but we expect to compete for Atlanta (the SEC championship game) every year,” he said. “They’ve heard what people have said. I’m not doing all the talking. I’ve been doing some listening to our players. I like the look in their eye. We’ve still got some really, really good players.”

Finally, Meyer said that he is learning to trust the people who work for him and not try to micromanage every detail of the football program. That, if he can actually pull it off, represents a big change for Meyer, who wants to micromanage everything.

“I have a better appreciation for the guys around me,” said Meyer. “You can just bolt for five days. I’ve never done that in my life. But you know what? The stadium is still standing. Guys are working out and getting faster. And guys are graduating.”

So will Urban Meyer’s new outlook on life and coaching last? Or, will he return to his old habits under the weekly pressure of game preparation this fall? Coaching at the top of his profession and be excessively demanding and unforgiving.

Florida goes to Alabama on Oct. 2. If the two teams are undefeated and ranked in the top five, That week Meyer’s new life will be put to the ultimate test.

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259 comments Add your comment

RxDawg

June 2nd, 2010
9:53 am

Hmm, are we watching the begining of a dynasty coming back down to earth?

NoGaGator

June 2nd, 2010
9:54 am

Can You Dig It -

Seriously dude, get some help and get some real facts.

Meyer continuously praises and gets his assistants better jobs (see Strong, Mullen, Mattison, etc.) Meyer never stated anything about the mess that Gonzalez allegedly caused. UF has tougher academic requirements for athletes than most SEC schools and has a very high rate of recruits that qualify.

It’s alright to have opinions and likes/dislikes but try to earn some credibility without resorting to BS.

Mr. Name Drop

June 2nd, 2010
9:55 am

Let me tell you who else I talked to.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
9:56 am

Can You Dig It…

Oh now you have connections close to the UF program? People like yourself as so pathetic. The only connection you have to the UF program is the Gator shirt you probably bought in order to see what its like to actually be part of a championship program.

McDawg

June 2nd, 2010
9:57 am

i like UF chances w/ Bama earlier in the year rather than later because of relative lack of experience on Bama’s D

Big Al

June 2nd, 2010
9:59 am

I hope Urban’s health will continue in the positive direction so no want an excuse when the Tide Rolls over them again.

Volunteer Nation when you have facts come back to the table—illegal classes?

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
10:00 am

Can You Dig it….

Who is wondering how Marsh got into school? Once again, show me one link where anyone questions this. Also show where all these other schools stopped recruiting him because of it. The simple fact that you actually mentioned South Carolina as one of those schools just completely exposed your made up story. Trust me, Florida is dropping players on their list far before South Carolina ever would.

Do love though how you can not show any facts to back up your idiotic ramblings.

NoGaGator

June 2nd, 2010
10:02 am

Can You Dig It -

It’s really sad how you can become so bitter at someone else’s success because you have none.

I have sympathy for your and Patrick’s anguish. At least Patrick tries to dig up some facts, however mis-applied with his circular logic.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
10:03 am

Can You Dig it…

Really now your going to play the, “that wasnt my post” card. If anything your probably the one using other peoples screen names on here. Amazing how after I first responded to you, mine was used. But I guess that is just a coincidence right?

Facts for FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
10:08 am

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
9:44 am
Reality-

List for us how many players that Urban Meyer recruited committed felonies? Then list the number of felonies Mark Richt’s players have committed. Go ahead and also list the number of players arrested under Meyer since he’s been at UF and then list the number of UGA player arrest during the same time frame.

I don’t think you will like that reality…

Felony arrests
MARQUIS HANNAH
JANORIS JENKINS
CAM NEWTON
JACQUES RICKERSON
JAMAR HORNSBY
TONY JOINER
RONNIE WILSON
DORIAN MUNROE
AVERY ATKINS
BRANDON JAMES

These are just the felonies, not misdemeanors. UGA had a lot of misdemeanors of DUI, underage drinking, driving with license and insurance, no tag. I couldn’t find many felonies.

Bulldog59

June 2nd, 2010
10:08 am

Good article. Will be interesting to see if Meyer can stick to his new regimen. He is a self-admitted micro-manager.

I am more interested in seeing how his hiring skills work out. New DC, Teryl Austin, has never been a DC before. It will be interesting to see if he is successful. Likewise, Grantham at UGA is a test of CMR’s hiring skills.

im4bama

June 2nd, 2010
10:09 am

I’m ready for that Florida game. Remember what happened the last time Urban Cryer came to T-town? They got smoked by Shula. Guess what’s gonna happen in front of the largest crowd ever at Bryant Denny this year against perhaps one if the best offenses that Bama has ever put on a field. We’re gonna make their asses quit by pounding them all day.

To Auburn fans- Lower your expectations, you are not knocking us off the top of the west this year or anytime soon. I wish you well against everyone else though.

poopdawg

June 2nd, 2010
10:14 am

Are those TEBOW TEARS i hear dropping on the keyboards from the GATOR bloggers? Quit your dam whining!

Facts for FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
10:15 am

Anyone else want to take the “Pepsi” challenge? College kids drink underage, drive without insurance and get into fights. Not all shoot Ak-47s, stalk women, commit felony breaking and entering, felony drug buys, use dead girls credit cards and receive stolen goods. Next?

Yet another....

June 2nd, 2010
10:16 am

SEC article… zzzzzz

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
10:16 am

What do people not understand when they list players who were arrested who were eventually found to be not guilty and had charges dropped (Tony Joiner). Additionally Jenkins, Munroe, James were not charged with felonies. Atkins (RIP) was arrested after he left the UF program (guess thats Meyer’s fault). While the only ones actually charged with a felony.. Hornsby, Newton, Wilson and Rickerson were all kicked off.

So what exactly is your point?

Shankit

June 2nd, 2010
10:20 am

FACTS
Okay, we will list the number of felony arrests under Urban Meyer – Total 24 arrests
ranging from beating up pregnant girlfried, to stealing credit card from car accident
victim, to rape, gambling, theft, assault and battery,, resisting arrest.
Number of misdemeanors dismissed – Total 33
Since Spurrier in 1989, over 100 felony arrests of Gator football players.
AND OH YEAH, how about your football announcer being arrested for child
pornography.
Source of information is the Orlando Sentinel. That paper is in Florida.
How is your recruiting going at Raiford prison this year?

Poker in the front

June 2nd, 2010
10:21 am

Urban does not need to slow down. He does not have a heart problem.

I think UF will take a step back…but I don’t see who will step forward. Could be Carolina or it could be Georgia. I fear the East will be well mediocre in 2010.

Liquor in the rear

June 2nd, 2010
10:23 am

What Bama paranoia will surface today?

Customary Fact Checker

June 2nd, 2010
10:28 am

Great Article Tony:

Urban Meyer has a major rebuilding job going on in Gainesville. Yes, the talent is there. The lack of time these players have spent on the field is going to be the difference. With the NCAA limits on time a player can practice and with all the New Staff Members at UF, it will be a long and testing season for the Gators. It still makes you wonder: How DEDICATED is Urban to his program today compared to this time last year?

The SEC is going to be alot stronger across the board this year compared to last year and in 08. We see cycles in college football, schools are up for several years and then a key player gets hurt, or a coach leaves or some issue arises and times get a little tougher. UF went through a couple of years under Zook, Alabama under Dubose, Shula, Georgia has a tough couple of years, Auburn transistions from Tuberville to Big Cat Rescue Chizik, Tennessee –enough said,,,,it goes on an on. The question comes from dedication and how these 18 to 23 year old kids respond?
Alot of question are to be answered in 10 and we are about 3 months away from some answers.

NoGaGator

June 2nd, 2010
10:29 am

Tony-

I don’t agree that “Meyer’s ultimate test will come Oct. 2 at Alabama”.

As Meyer has stated on countless occasions, his team’s goal is to make it to Atlanta. Win there and the rest tends to take care of itself.

Oct. 2 is still early in the season. UF’s defense, while talented, is still young and unproven. They’ll need time to jell, form an identity and have the new DC get them to play to their strengths. An early loss to Bama won’t hurt them if they win the SEC East. I like our chances for a rematch in December. BTW, Meyer’s record against UA is 2-2. Saban’ record against UF is 4-4.

Can You Dig It

June 2nd, 2010
10:30 am

kgator79…Grow up little boy…your showing how inmature you are with your rantings on your posts……your beginning to act like Meyer……,I agree with “Facts for the FACTS”….I don’t see any felony arrests at Georgia since Richts been there…only minor offenses. Can You Dig It!

Shankit

June 2nd, 2010
10:31 am

Facts for facts
Good blog, but if you go on Google, Orlando Sentinel,
you have left off 15 names under Meyer who have
felony arrests, including Carl Johnson (rape), Riley Cooper,
etc.

Can You Dig It

June 2nd, 2010
10:31 am

Great post Customary Fact Checker….no truer words have ever been spoken…Can You Dig It!

Gen Neyland

June 2nd, 2010
10:39 am

Can You(r) Dig It : Please. We that lived through the 60’s would appreciate it.

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
10:41 am

And this isn’t the full list under Richt, there looks to be some felonies and not just a bunch of traffic tickets:

Trinton Sturvidant (simple battery)
Blake Barnes (furnishing alcohol to a minor)
Tripp Chandler (minor in possession of alcohol)
Brandon Wood (DUI)
Kelvin Perez (DUI)
Vince Vance (knowingly driving with a suspended license)
Donovan Baldwin (DUI, reckless driving)
Fred Munzenmaier (underage possession of alcohol)
Jeff Henson (public urination)
Clint Boling (DUI)
Jeremy Lomax (reckless driving, possession of a concealed weapon without a license)
Matthew Pick (underage alcohol possession)
Tanner Strickland (fake identification)
Paul Taylor (battery)
Shane McCleskey (battery)
Akeem Hebron (underage possession of alcohol)
Antonio Sims (DUI)
Ian Smith (public intoxication)
Marquis Elmore (driving with a suspended license)
Dannell Ellerbe (DUI)
Kedrick Golston (disorderly conduct, bar fight)
Derrick White (disorderly conduct, bar fight)
Tavares Kearney (simple battery)
Derrick White (DUI)
Zeb McKinzey (underage possession of alcohol)
Darrius Swain (driving with a suspended license)
Michael Turner (possession of less than an ounce of marijuana)
Rennie Curran (theft, taking a parking boot worth $350)
Michael Lemon (aggravated battery) Felony
Justin Anderson (simple battery)
Montex Robinson (battery)
Bruce Adrine (battery)
Tim Jennings (posession)
Bryan McClendon (posession)
DeMario Minter (posession)
Mario Raley (posession)
Randall Swoopes (posession)
Kenny Bailey (theft)
Richard Seymour (theft)
Robert Brannon (theft)
Decory Bryant (theft)
Kendrell Bell (theft)
Tony Gilbert (theft)
Charles Grant (theft)
Zach Mettenberger (sexual battery)
Vance Cuff (driving with suspended licsence)

Mr. Pappagiorgio

June 2nd, 2010
10:42 am

I honestly hope Florida loses every single game.

Facts for FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
10:44 am

Any felonies on that list Facts?

Shankit

June 2nd, 2010
10:45 am

FACTS
Ya’ll got you a new announcer recruited yet?
Was the Child Porn charges against your
announcer dismissed in Gainesville as a misdemeanor?

Corch Meyer

June 2nd, 2010
10:47 am

Give ME 5 more years to tally up the arrest totals, I haven’t been here long enough to catch up on misdemeanors.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
10:51 am

Can You Dig it….

Really the multiple screen names your using now to make it like someone actually agrees with you is truely sad. If your going to do that, at least fake it a little better. Yet you go on the same rants on those screen names that you were before.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
10:53 am

FACTS….

This is all they have. Fans like them realize their team has not been able to do it on the field against Florida, so now they have to look off the field and try to find something. I mean just look, now they are having to go to a sideline reporter for material against Meyer and Florida. Like I’ve said before, thats when you know things are pretty good in Gainesville when thats all they got.

Kirby Smart

June 2nd, 2010
10:54 am

Saban will spank Meyer and the Gaytors come September.

T-Town will be rocking and Chi-Town will be downtown with all the chicks.

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
10:56 am

Facts for Facts-
Michael Lemon
Montex Robinson
Danelle Ellerbe

just to name a few felonies from that list

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
10:59 am

I honestly do not care who has been arrested for what at what school and not going to pretend I care. Not just with Florida but for any other school, no more than any of you all care who is arrested for your school. But I always love this mightier than thou attitude rival fans get when a school they hate has a player arrested and act like they are totally appauled. All successful programs throughout the decades have always had their share of high risk guys. You have to take chances on that highly talented kid who is a bit of a trouble maker if you want to be a top program. Sure, you can go for all good kids if you want to be Wake Forest and maybe be a consistant bowl team, but a consistant National title team takes a couple crazy guys whether its Miami of the 80s and 90s, FSU in the 90s, Nebraska with guys like Phillips ect…

Coach Urban Meyer

June 2nd, 2010
11:02 am

Listen folks, I recruit football players. They come for a very diverse background and that includes felonies and misdemeanors. If I win, all that should be cast aside as the cost of doing business. Period.

DawginLex

June 2nd, 2010
11:23 am

Are we really going to exchange lists of kids who got into trouble?

God, I hope not.

I am glad Meyer is healthy and is feeling better. Anyone who wishes ill health on someone else is sick themselves.

Alabama is going to beat florida on 10/5/10.

florida will have a worse record than UGA when they meet in Jacksonville.

florida will not sniff a title without Tebow.

Tebow is Florida’s Herschel.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
11:26 am

Georgia folks are the LAST people who should be mentioning arrests and talking about players getting kicked off teams. You do that in order to try to discredit other programs but only end up discrediting your own. I’d suggest you go back to talking about the referee conspiracy theories or something.

Jim

June 2nd, 2010
11:37 am

When questioned on how he would describe Coach Wally Butts character, UGA President O.C. Aderhold replied, “I would say it’s bad’”

Now Butts’ name “graces” the facade of the headquarters of UGA’s athletics.

How delightfully appropo.

Bulldog59

June 2nd, 2010
11:38 am

40-yard dash, bench max, squat max, highlight films…. there are lots of things used to measure a kid’s physical abilities.

But, there is no simple test for honesty, integrity, and character. If a coach is lucky, he gets word of character issues early, and doesn’t offer the scholarship.

Other than that, once enrolled, coaches can only have strict guidelines and penalties for a player’s transgressions.

All the coaches are in the same boat, except for Kiffin, he is truly the scum of the earth.

gdawginkalamazoo

June 2nd, 2010
11:50 am

All schools have problems with their players. As Bulldog59 mentioned the only way to avoid this is to find out any character problems before kids get there and not offer a scholarship. Any program is susceptible to this so I won’t fault the coach whether it be Meyer, Saban, Richt etc because we all know that is the last thing that they want for their program. Now if they recruit kids with character issues it is a different story.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
12:01 pm

I can kinda understand why many Georgia fans would think that Florida will not win championships without Tebow. They are still caught up in the Hershel Walker analogy from 30 years ago. They see that they themselves haven’t sniffed a national championship since he left. And it took them how long to win another SEC championship?? Was it 2002 before they won another one? So, as misguided as it may be, I can understand the mindset.

SaintsLSU

June 2nd, 2010
12:05 pm

Meyer won’t be able to rest the week after the Tide because the Tigers come to Gainsville on the Oct 9. Tough two week stretch for them.

Gen Neyland

June 2nd, 2010
12:21 pm

Bulldog59 : For the life of me, I can’t understand why a Dawg fan still hammers on Kiffin. Oh wait. Never mind…

SEC Headlines – 6/2/10 « MrSEC.com

June 2nd, 2010
12:28 pm

[...] Meyer hasn’t experienced any chest pains since January…16.  But this writer believes the real test for Meyer will come when the Gators face Alabama on October 2nd.17.  Everyone was glad to learn that Meyer’s chest pains weren’t caused [...]

G8R GRAD

June 2nd, 2010
12:39 pm

HE LIVES ! ! ! !
Atlanta Gator, where ya been, son?

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
12:39 pm

SaintsLSU….

Never is any rest within SEC play week to week. UGA fanw will be glad to know though that UF’s bye week is right before the Florida/Georgia game. Meyer and UF with 2 weeks to prepare for a team never works out good for the team they face.

G8R GRAD

June 2nd, 2010
12:45 pm

UF goes 10-2, at worst, and gets a rematch in Atlanta December 4th!

GO GATORS!

G8R GRAD

June 2nd, 2010
12:48 pm

UF’s toughest weekends are in Tuscaloosa and Tallahassee.
Bama’s are in Fayetteville and Tuscaloosa(twice).

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
12:56 pm

G8R…

I keep hearing about how playing at FSU is going to be tough. But I just cant buy into it I guess until I see it. Every year we hear the same thing and almost every year its a blowout by Florida. (2005: 34-7 2007: 45-12 2008: 45-15 2009: 37-10.) And frankly Jimbo being the head coach now really doesnt mean all that much. Anyone who doesnt think he has been running things the last few years is pretty blind. But we will see.