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THE INSIDER AUTHORITY ON GATOR SPORTS

BRADY’S BLACKBOARD THE TEBOW TECHNIQUE MY GREATEST GATOR MOMENT MICK HUBERT

URBAN’S WAY

MIAMI’S VICE RENEWAL OF THE FLORIDA-MIAMI RIVALRY

THE BOOK IS OUT ON HOW URBAN MEYER COACHES AND WHY HE HAS BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL

PART I Florida’s football coach lives in a neighborhood like no other

$4.97 | Vol 2 Issue 2 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2008


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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Albert and Alberta pose with WGGG/WMOP radio host Adam “Oilcan” Reardon, a loyal Hurricanes fan, at the Marion Country Gator Gathering, showing that the Gator Nation is friendly towards rivals; two Gator Country subscribers listen during the first stop of the Caravan at Gator Landing Restaurant in East Palatka; Terry Norvelle, co-host of the “Gators and More Radio Show,” and Franz Beard share a laugh with a guest at the Jacksonville Caravan stop at Sneaker’s; Fred Weary, a former Florida defensive back and co-host of “The Gator Connection,” meets two fans at the Jacksonville Caravan stop; the Tampa Caravan stop ends with swinging and swaying to “The Boys From Old Florida;” Florida sophomore quarterback John Brantley and senior defensive lineman Javier Estopinan pose with a Gator fan during the Gator Country Caravan prior to Friday Night Lights in Gainesville; Brady Ackerman, Franz Beard and Buddy Martin speak as part of a panel during the Marion County Gator Gathering.


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THE GATOR COUNTRY CARAVAN SCRAPBOOK Gator Nation came out in great numbers during the summer to listen as the Gator Country Caravan traveled around the Sunshine State and even into enemy territory (Alabama) to spread the football gospel. The first caravan, which started off in Palatka and followed with stops in Gainesville, Ocala, Jacksonville, Destin, Tampa and Orlando, also visited Gator Club gatherings in Huntsville, Ala., and Birmingham, Ala., the site of the SEC Football Media Days in late July. photos by TIM CASEY


contents GC Volume 2 Issue 2 September/October 2008

FEATURES WWW.GATORCOUNTRY.COM

THE INSIDER AUTHORITY ON GATOR SPORTS

BRADY’S BLACKBOARD THE TEBOW TECHNIQUE MY GREATEST GATOR MOMENT MICK HUBERT

URBAN’S WAY

MIAMI’S VICE RENEWAL OF THE FLORIDA-MIAMI RIVALRY

THE BOOK IS OUT ON HOW URBAN MEYER COACHES AND WHY HE HAS BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL

PART I

$4.97 | VOL 2 ISSUE 2 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2008

Florida’s football coach lives in a neighborhood like no other

COVER PHOTO Tim Casey

DEPARTMENTS

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GOING ‘URBAN’S WAY’

EXECUTIVE EDITOR’S LETTER Buddy Martin

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The Cul-de-Sac of Champions

MY GREATEST GATOR MOMENT Mick Hubert FLORIDA–MIAMI RIVALRY

26 MIAMI’S VICE

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Rivals for 70 years, Miami is back on the Florida football schedule and the Gators hope the Hurricanes’ grip on the series has loosened.

POSTCARDS FROM THE GATOR NATION Terri Hatton Florala, Alabama

FLORIDA–TENNESSEE CONNECTION

FOOTBALL’S HATFIELDS AND McCOYS 34 COLLEGE

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BRADY’S BLACKBOARD QB Power Brady Ackerman

Florida and Tennessee gridiron rivalry fueled by common threads.

RECRUITING 2009

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40 FLORIDA’S HOT 25

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VOLLEYBALL

In the class of 2009 football recruits from the Sunshine State, Seminole High School wide receiver is the valedictorian at the moment.

THE PICKS GC staff

46 KEEPING STREAK ALIVE

LAST GUY OUT OF THE PRESS BOX Buddy Martin

VISIT GATORCOUNTRY.COM FOR MORE THAN 300 ORIGINAL STORIES POSTED EVERY MONTH

Gators’ volleyball team seeking its 18th straight SEC title under Mary Wise. ALSO: LADY GATORS YOUNG IN SOCCER, TOO

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WHAT’S NEW IN ‘08 What was heaven in 2007 could be great in 2008.

Photos by Tim Casey

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executive editor’s letter

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THE INSIDER AUTHORITY ON GATOR SPORTS

PUBLISHER Raymond Hines III

LEARNING ABOUT URBAN AND HIS WAY

EXECUTIVE EDITOR Buddy Martin ART DIRECTOR Jason Farmand PHOTO EDITOR Tim Casey CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Franz Beard John Fineran Cody Jones Mark McLeod

SUBSCRIPTIONS

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GATOR COUNTRY MAGAZINE is printed 10 times a year by Gator Country Multimedia, Inc., PO Box 24, Waycross, GA 31502. Subscriptions are $49.97 annually. The magazine is included with an online gatorcountry. com subscription which also includes ESPN Magazine and ESPN Insider. Single copy rate is $4.97. SUBSCRIBERS: If the postal service alerts us that your magazine is undeliverable, we have no further obligation unless we receive a corrected address within two years. POSTMASTER: Please send all change of address forms to Gator Country Multimedia, Inc., PO Box 24, Waycross, GA 31502. Please allow two to three weeks for a change of address. We make a portion of our mailing list available to reputable companies. If you prefer to be excluded, please email or call us. ©2008 GATOR COUNTRY MULTIMEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR PART WITHOUT PERMISSION IS PROHIBITED.

Inquiring minds want to know. Everywhere I have traveled over the past few months this question has been asked: What’s Urban Meyer really like? Well, I wanted to know as well. So over the course of a year I set out to find out. The first fruits of that endeavor can be found in this issue of Gator Country Magazine, with Part I of the three-part excerpt from “Urban’s Way” scheduled to appear here — thanks to the generosity of my publisher, St. Martins Press. I’d like to report to you that my research has revealed his innermost thoughts and secrets to his success, but I can honestly only say that I’ve just begun to learn about Urban Meyer. Hanging out with the Gator teams during 2007 with a backstage pass that allowed me to virtually view the innermost workings of the football program, it wasn’t until we sat down at his North Florida lake home on Christmas Week 2007 that he began to reveal something of himself. One morning at sunrise when Urban looked up and saw the stunning sight outside on the lake, that moment seemed to touch his soul. And talked of spiritual things, his commitment to helping young men succeed in life (not just football) and the love of his family. You can decide for yourself after reading the book, but what I believe to be true is that his commitment to his family, his players and the program extends beyond what is normal of most coaches. You will also learn about his

“Plan to Win,” which governs everything Urban does. This peek behind the scenes comes in a year that should be a special one for Meyer, his team and the entire Gator Nation. This will be a season of milestones for Urban, Tim Tebow and their Gators. Meyer is on track to hit 40 wins at Florida in 2008 which would give him an average of more than 10 wins in four seasons as Gator coach — the only Florida coach besides Spurrier to accomplish that feat. He’s also closing in on his 80th victory overall in 2008 and at age 44 already has an SEC title and national championship to his credit, something that many other coaching icons have not done. Meyer’s 31-8 mark at Florida and overall record of 70-16 put him among the elite college coaches active through 2007, as the list below indicates.   1. Pete Carroll, Southern Cal 2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 3. Urban Meyer, Florida 4. Mark Richt, Georgia 5. Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee 6. Bobby Bowden, Florida State 7. Lloyd Carr, Michigan 8. Joe Paterno, Penn State 9. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina 10. Jim Tressel, Ohio State

76-14 97-22 70-16 72-19 147-45 373-119-4 122-40 372-125-3 163-56-2 208-73-2

.844 .815 .814 .791 .766 .756 .753 .747 .742 .739

And keep in mind, he has nearly half those 70 wins in the brutally tough Southeastern Conference. That, too, has been Urban’s Way.

Florida’s head football coach Urban Meyer, left, meets with Gator Country executive editor Buddy Martin after the 2008 Orange and Blue Debut game.


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my greatest gator moment

‘Oh, My!’

IT’S BEEN QUITE A RIDE FOR THE VOICE OF THE GATORS, MICK HUBERT By hubert mizell Photo by tim casey

“Oh, My!” in 19 years as Voice of the Gators, he has called the most golden of University of Florida sports conquests, two national championships apiece in football and men’s basketball, but Mick Hubert says his greatest and most defining moment at a UF microphone came in September 1993, a game against SEC middleweight Kentucky as Steve Spurrier was building a program that would captivate America. Florida’s new football coach, and old (1966) Heisman Trophy quarterback, the controversial and saucy tongued Spurrier commanded the Gators to a first-ever Southeastern Conference championship in 1991, but his operation had not yet become a full brother to NCAA

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dynasties like Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Southern California, Miami, Texas and Oklahoma. Florida began its ’93 SEC work in Lexington, quarterbacked by Terry Dean and freshman Danny Wuerffel whose future would deliver the school’s first national championship as well as its second Heisman in 1996. But that warm September evening in Kentucky, the Gators were still searching for building blocks that could lead to plateaus of football conquest that Gator Country was yet to know. The Dean-Wuerffel rotation was in a shaky funk against the underdog Wildcats, throwing seven interceptions. Kentucky took a 20-17 lead late


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my greatest gator moment

MICK HUBERT

AT A GLANCE Name: Michael Dean Hubert Birthdate: Feb. 16, 1954 (age 54) Birthplace: St. Anne, Ill. (65 miles south of Chicago) Parents: Russell and Vernadeen Hubert. Father was a career hourly worker at a garden tractor factory. They retired to Lakeland and Russell died in 1993 at age of 75. Mother, 88, lives on Marco Island. Boyhood jobs: Floor sweeper at Armstrong Tile plant; working with greens crew at golf course. Wife: Judi, his high school (St. Anne) and college (Illinois State) sweetheart who, for their 19 years in Gainesville, has taught kindergarten in the Martha Manson Academy at Oak Hill School. Children: None

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in the fourth quarter as Commonwealth Stadium shook with delight. Would the Spurrier quarterbacks throw an eighth pick, crushing the hopes of their new season? “Harrison Houston gave us hope with a strong kickoff return to near midfield,” Hubert recalls. “But it quickly came to a third-and-10 at the Kentucky 28. Wuerffel was in charge. At that time, in my fifth season doing Gator broadcasts, I wasn’t sure I had connected well with a lot of our fans. But then, Chris Doering ran a pattern down the hashmarks and broke open. Danny hit him for a 28-yard touchdown as the game clock was running out.” Florida won 24-17, avoiding a huge detour in the Gator rise as a football power. It sent Mick into an “Oh, My!” frenzy. That season, the Gators went 11-2 and won a second SEC championship. It was the start on a heroic Wuerffel stretch that would produce a four-year record of 45-6, four SEC trophies, the ’96 capper of a Heisman for Danny and a national championship. “To me, that Wuerffel-Doering pass for the late winning touchdown against Kentucky was a catalyst. At that moment, I felt an emotional, energetic explosion,” Hubert continues. “Lee McGriff, our analyst on the Gator Radio Network and a former All-SEC wide receiver, says he remembers standing back, giving me space because I was unloading with extreme broadcast passion. To become truly established, an announcer needs to strike a nerve with listeners. That did it for me. “That game was on pay-per-view TV so we had an unusually huge radio audience. That call on Doering’s TD seemed to put me on the map. People then knew my name was not ‘Mack’ or ‘Herbert.’ This was to be the job of my lifetime. I once had dreamed of being a bigleague baseball or NBA announcer. But looking to my 20th season of calling Gator games, it’s clear in 2008 that I could not have been in a better place with more impressive things to describe and discuss.” Many followers of the Gators recall well that Mick Hubert moment when, as the game clock ticked to 0:03 and 0:02, he shouted, “Oh, My! Doering got a touchdown!!!” Oh, about his “Oh, My!” signature call, Hubert admits he got the idea from renowned network TV announcing legend Dick Enberg. “From the gitgo, when I used it back in the Midwest, I gave Enberg full credit,” Mick said. “It was a signature line that worked well for me in the TVRadio sportscasting jobs in Peoria, Ill., and Dayton, Ohio, where I won two Emmys before being hired in 1989 to succeed David Steele as Voice of the Gators.” Spurrier was playing a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe in the mid ’90s and Enberg was there. He told Dick, ‘We’ve got a fellow in Gainesville who uses ‘Oh, My!’ all the time.’ Enberg, one of the great gentlemen in our business, told Steve to tell that chap that, ‘I stole

September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com

‘Oh, My!’ from somebody in the ’40s whose name I can’t even remember.’” Hubert had no idea in ’89 Steele was leaving to do Orlando Magic basketball. “My buddy in Dayton, Bruce Asbury, saw something in a broadcasting publication. He suggested I send tapes to Gainesville. I did and would receive a call from David Steele, who was helping weed through the 150 applicants. I met with Jeremy Foley (then associate AD) and would be hired by his boss, Bill Arnsparger. Ironically, my pal Asbury now works in Sarasota. I will be forever grateful to Bruce.” Hubert says without reservations, “I’m a homer as an announcer. I get paid by the Gators. Jeremy Foley (named AD in 1992) has been great to me. Every day, I work with our coaches and athletes.” Mick does all UF football, men’s basketball and baseball games also a bit of women’s basketball on television and some soccer. He is host of weekly TV and radio shows featuring coaches Urban Meyer (football) and Billy Donovan (men’s basketball). I love working with all of them.” He learned by listening. “I grew up listening to Chicago announcers, pressing a transistor radio to my ear to hear Jack Brickhouse doing Cubs baseball and Harry Caray doing the Cardinals, White Sox and Cubs. They were unquestionably homers. When you do one team all the time that is what a majority of listeners prefer. I also learned from the great Jack Buck and his St. Louis Cardinals baseball broadcasts. I get some criticism, which is the nature of my business, but I think it’s the better idea for me to let everybody know I’m a Gator and I want our teams to succeed. But if things go sour, I try to deal accurately and fairly with those situations.” Hubert’s first year at UF was a time of turmoil. It was a fourth straight football season with no more than seven victories. Galen Hall was replaced as coach by Gary Darnell. He went 3-4 before Spurrier was hired away from Duke in 1990. Men’s basketball was a mess. Norm Sloan departed after two stints and 15 seasons as coach. Don DeVoe took over, went 7-21 and was bounced after one year, opening the gate for Foley’s smashing hirings of Lon Kruger in 1990 and then Donovan in 1996. “My wife was worried in ’89 that we had moved 1,000 miles and gotten into tough football and basketball seasons that Gator fans wanted to forget,” Hubert said. “But I was deeply bothered by that. I immediately realized what a special job I had taken, and how strong Florida should be in sports. Judi and I have a great life in Gainesville. Wow, was my faith justified.” Hubert Mizell does Monday and Friday sports commentaries on WCJB/TV-20 in Gainesville.


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postcards from the gator nation

Embedded in Enemy Territory

gator gal is surrounded by fans of alabama, auburn, lsu, tennessee and georgia By terri hatton ILLUSTRATION BY RON BATES

Terri Hatton on her way down to the 2008 spring game.

ello Fellow Members of Gator County. I am writing to you from Florala, Ala., just across the Florida stateline. I know you are thinking that I am only surrounded by Alabama and Auburn fans, but you can add Louisiana State, Georgia, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Florida State fans as well. It is like waking up in a movie by M. Night Shyamalan, who wrote and directed “The Sixth Sense.” The nightmare of being surrounded by so many anti-Gator fans, some of whom aren’t even educated on what’s going on with their own schools, is non-ending. I know you think you feel the terror and pain I feel every day, but did I happen to mention that some of those enemy voices are in my own family? It’s like being trapped in Hades with only a glass of ice water. Unbelievably, I even have an aunt from Michigan, which beat our team last January in the Citrus Bowl. Egads! But when the Alabama fans try to give me a tough time, I tell them to go and beat Louisiana Tech and then get back to me. That pretty much stops their trash talk. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I get a picture from my brother of my seven-month-old nephew Joey, who is wearing a Florida State outfit. Poor kid: Florida State father, Alabama mother. My mission in life is now clear — I must turn Joey away from the dark side. Now let’s talk about my cousins who are fans of Louisiana State. At least they think they are fans. When I questioned them about their “love” for LSU, they couldn’t even tell me the starting quarterback in last year’s SEC Championship game in Atlanta. Even I knew Ryan Perrilloux started the game, not Matt Flynn. They didn’t even know that Perrilloux is no longer with the team, having been kicked off the team by coach Les Miles and now attending Jacksonville State University.

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It amazes me every day that people can continue to open their mouths and nothing of substance comes out. When I asked the LSU side of the family who was the running back who converted those fourth-down plays in last year’s game, they couldn’t tell me. I even spotted them the name of Hester, and they said it was Devon Hester, which just cracked me up. Now that was funny. Devon Hester, a former Miami Hurricane, plays for the Chicago Bears; the LSU player was Jacob Hester. These fans … Give me someone who knows his stuff and can go toeto-toe with me regarding the facts. Auburn, Alabama and LSU sometimes can’t hold a candle, though, to all those “Pups” who have come out of their Dawg Pound. All the apparel I see among Georgia fans seems so new that you have to wonder if they threw away their FSU paraphernalia from the 1990s. All Georgia fans want to talk about is the BCS National Championship trophy which will be coming soon to Athens. They don’t realize they have a brutal schedule and just an average quarterback in Matthew Stafford. Georgia fans want to talk about how their coach, Mark Richt, roasted Urban Meyer with that little end-zone celebration dance. I just tell them that if the Dawgs can beat Florida for the second straight year, then they should give me a call. They bring up Knowshon Moreno. Well, I bring up Tim Tebow, who won last year’s Heisman Trophy, and Percy Harvin, who could win this year’s Heisman Trophy, and then I tell them to go win a few football games before they even think about talking about the national championship. That’s why I can’t wait until November for the game in Jacksonville.


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postcards from the gator nation

People don’t think our defense is going to improve very much over last season’s defense, but what team with all that talent doesn’t improve the next season. Besides, I saw the Gators during the Orange and Blue Spring Game and they blew me away. So bring it on, Georgia fans. Bring it! For the most part, the Alabama and Auburn fans who live around me are a little more refined. While I miss my home among Gator fans like you, the tranquility of southern Alabama is refreshing and non-stressful to a degree. The people here are great even if they don’t have great taste when it comes to football teams. Finally, I hope to see you in a short time at “The Swamp” to welcome the 2008 Gators, a team I am certain that is set up for greatness. I see more titles coming the way of the mighty Gators and their adoring fans who in all kinds of weather stick together. It’s good to be a Florida Gator! Go Orange! Go Blue!

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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Theresa and Dave, who are FSU fans, in Florala, Ala.; uncle Leon’s Alabama hat; cousin Todd’s LSUdecorated truck; uncle Bruce’s Tennessee hat; cousins Deon and Todd, LSU fans in Orange Beach, Ala. (Photos courtesy of Terri Hatton)


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Diagram Analysis Florida will line up in its four-wide, one-back shotgun set. The team they will play is in a base 4-3 defense. By spreading the field out Florida is able to get five or six defenders in the box. The play will always run to the shade or nose technique. We can also call this the weak side. Billy Gonzalez requires all his receivers to be strong blockers so each wideout will stalk/ block his man.

QB Power

why it is tough to stop tim tebow’s fOURTH-down runs

By BRADY ACKERMAN

How many times over the last two seasons of Florida football on third-and-short or even fourth-and-short did you lean next to the fan beside you and say “Here comes the Tebow run?” Have you wondered to yourself, “If I know what is coming then how in the world can the

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defense not know the Tebow run is coming?” The play — Quarterback Power (QB Power) — is the signature play of the Tim Tebow era. It combines true power with superb execution to provide the simplest of results: First downs. Now to understand the play you must first understand the key parts of its success.

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From left to right here are the assignments: 1. Left tackle: Influence the end up the field and run him out of the play. 2. Left guard: Block down on shaded tackle, getting head across the numbers and wash him down. 3. Center: Turn back on outside shade and kick out the defensive tackle. 4. Right guard: Take a drop step and pull to the “A” gap on the weak side while looking for the Mike linebacker. 5. Right tackle: Influence end up the field and run him out of the play. 6. Tailback: Lead up the field, centering up the Will linebacker and keeping his body between him and the window. 7. Quarterback: Take snap and a drop step to allow for timing and holding the linebackers, then follow the guard up into the hole. Make your cut off his block, reading his body angle.


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The origin of this play was likely perfected by the Washington Redskins with John Riggins running from the I formation. When Miami won its last national championship, the Hurricanes bloodied many opponents with their power running game. Today’s college football has evolved into the spread attack and many think a more “finesse” style of offense. Teams who want to remain strong in the run game out of the spread have incorporated “power” into their attack. Florida happens to have the ultimate power back in quarterback Tim Tebow and that is why the Gators run QB Power. The first component needed to run power is the ball carrier, and Tebow fits the bill with his 6-3, 232-pound frame. He also is a strong runner who secures the football. Tebow carried the ball 210 times without a fumble in 2007. The power run play implies strength on so many levels, including the ball carrier.

Statistical Analysis 1. Florida led the nation in third-down percentage at 53 percent. 2. Florida converted 64 percent of thirddown plays on the road. 3. Florida averaged 4.3 yards per carry on third-down plays of less than 3 yards in 2007.

Anytime you run between the tackles downhill, you must run power. The second component is the pulling guard. Florida was very successful in 2006 with Drew

Miller and last season with Maurkice Pouncey as the players to handle this assignment. Pouncey, who lined up at right guard, would pull around the center to the left and look for the inside linebacker. This is the toughest block to make and requires an athletic and talented offensive lineman. The guard will be pulling to an open space and trying to engage with an athletic smaller linebacker. Sometimes just getting in the way is enough for a guy like Tebow, but if blocked perfectly a window should open up. The third and final component is the lead blocker. The Gators have run this play with no backs in the backfield and they have run it with receivers coming in motion. It is most effective when the running back who is a good blocker is lined up directly next to Tebow. He is responsible for finding the weakside linebacker, engaging him in space and keeping him out of the window. Once again this a tough block to make because you are trying to hit a moving target who is likely a terrific athlete.


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GOING ‘URBAN’S WAY’ the cul-de-sac of champions By Buddy martin

photos by tim casey

EDITOR’S NOTE This is the first of three excerpts from the book, Urban’s Way, the authorized biography of Florida football coach Urban Meyer that will be released Sept. 2. Autographed copies can be ordered from the Gator Country Store at gatorcountry.com. www.gatorcountry.com September/October 2008

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Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan were on a roll, with two national titles in the bank as the year 2007 began — a college sports precedent labeled The Gator Slam by fans. Following the Gator football team’s victory over Ohio State in January, the Bling Brothers on the Cul-de-Sac of Champions had their bookend national championship trophies in football and basketball. In four months, Donovan would have yet another. This meant the best college football and basketball in the land was played out of Gainesville over a 366-day period from the spring of 2006 to the spring of 2007. It took a century, but by the time one hundred years of intercollegiate athletics rolled around, the University of Florida sports program got it right, and the nickname “Titletown” was not inappropriate, even if almost a cliché. Now though, as Earle Bruce and Bud Meyer might have facetiously said to Urban before the start of the 2007 season, what has he done for us lately? The challenge at hand for Meyer was going to be establishing consistency at Florida. Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin would return for 2007, but most of his Florida defense would not. Life for the Florida football coach, contrary to his postmortem immediately after the BCS title game, was not going to be all that much fun. Meyer was about to discover he’d made one of the worst predictions of his life about the upcoming 2007 season. He knew his team was too talented to call for a “rebuilding” season, but also too green to make a championship run. With that youth came some behavior problems that preoccupied the coaching staff. Urban was aware of the myriad problems players face today, including drugs. Inside the culture of the defending champions there would be some disappointment and discordance caused by player disobedience, leading to arrests, suspensions and demotions. These kinds of problems are not enough to make Urban Meyer cut and run, because as much as he wants to win football games and championships, he is even more committed to rescuing young athletes from the predicaments of their poor judgment. And so is his staff. That is why the job description of each position coach mandates that he keep a close eye on players. That’s also why players are often guests of Shelley and Urban Meyer for cookouts and other family occasions. Meyer and Donovan are both actively involved in the lives of their athletes. That

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Meyer can seek counsel on such off-the-field problems simply by walking out the front door of his home and making a hard left toward Billy Donovan’s house is a big advantage to living in his Gainesville neighborhood. Meyer’s and Donovan’s homes are maybe half a football field apart in a neighborhood too exclusive to be called a subdivision because there are only five houses on large, expansive lots, all two-story, some with circle drives and

Meyer led his Gators to the 2006 BCS National Championship. most with white columns. To reach the Cul-de-Sac of Champions, one must travel through contiguous traffic roundabouts in southwest Gainesville on a narrow, two-lane road framed by moss-draped oaks. Inside the ten-foot tall iron gate, the Meyer home sits off to the left, painted olive green with stone elevations. A basketball backboard is in the driveway, with a volleyball net and batting cage in the back, a screened-in kidneyshaped pool, plus an air hockey table and pool table in the rec room. The house has a distinct Florida-style garden decor with a country flavor — though the area outside the gate is well-populated and a grocery market and strip mall are down the street.

September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com

The expansive gray and white home with the stone and wood facade at the end of the Cul-de-Sac of Champions belongs to Billy and Christine Donovan, who helped recruit the Meyer family to Florida and to their neighborhood — and their school. This world is ruled mostly by Shelley Meyer and Christine Donovan, who are friends, but don’t often socialize because of their busy schedules. The Donovans were there first and Christine guided, advised and assisted the Meyer family even before they moved from Salt Lake City in 2005. After a long negotiation with the owner of the lot, a not-so-happy Notre Dame alumnus who was still ticked about Urban’s spurning the Irish, finally relented and sold to the Meyers. Gainesville is a city of definitive seasons, occasionally frosted by subfreezing temperatures in the winter and often toasted by 95-degree summer days with 100 percent humidity — but mostly right in the middle and pleasant. The seasons are not just defined by the equinoxes, however, but the kind of ball that is being played on campus: round or oblong. A sign that hangs on Meyer’s lake home wall proclaims there are four seasons — winter, spring, summer and football. In Billy Donovan’s house, that sign would have a fifth season added — basketball — and Urban Meyer wouldn’t even mind. They don’t fraternize as much as they would probably like. “With our schedules, it’s insanity,” said Meyer, noting that only a few times a year do they ever get together for dinner. While they may not invite each other over for weekly fondue parties or beer and pretzels, they do occasionally share an adult beverage and indulge in coaching brainteasers. To say Billy Donovan and Urban Meyer collaborated on winning championships would not, however, be a stretch. On a late night-ride through the neighborhood, Donovan will notice that Meyer’s car still isn’t parked at his house. Their sons often play with each other, but the dads not so much. On Fridays during the off-season, Urban walks son Nate down to the bus stop, where they play a game with Bryan Donovan, rewarding the first to spot the bus with cash. “Bryan has a lot of my money,” Urban said.


Meyer and his family sing the UF fight song after the Gators’ 49-22 win against the Vanderbilt Commodores in 2007.

Billy and Urban are good friends — maybe not best pals, but better than just mere acquaintances and neighbors—and by-products of strong Catholic upbringing, which Donovan feels has shaped both family environments and their values. Urban Meyer totally gets Billy Donovan and vice versa. “I talk to Billy all the time because he’s a great motivator,” said Meyer. He has borrowed several themes from Donovan, including how to prevent the “poison” from contaminating a team’s attitude. Meyer remembers his basketball counterpart “pulling up the ropes after a championship win” to ward off the evil spirits of self-adulation. Meyer wound up living on the Cul-de-Sac of Champions quite by accident. He had tried to buy the home of Spurrier, but, the Ol’ Ball Coach didn’t want to sell. Meyer’s admiration for Spurrier and his accomplishments at Florida — which, by the way, are considerable — were not the motivation behind his request, he says. It was more a case of needing a prebuilt house right away. Steve and Urban have become pretty good friends off the field and away from the cameras. But they keep their relationship private. Without the help of the Donovans, getting located and building a new house would have been far more difficult. “Christine and Shelley were really involved in the whole deal,” Urban said. “I just said, ‘Just do what you have to do.’ So we bought that lot

and built a home.” The Donovans’ mentoring didn’t end there. Impeccable timing allowed Meyer to peek inside Billy’s laboratory for a clinic on team chemistry at the group affectionately known as the Gator Boyz, who were crafting a blueprint for champions. Donovan’s success became the business model for Meyer’s 2006 national championship football team. “I still think a lot of our success of that whole ’06 team was because we got to experience witnessing one of the greatest basketball teams ever to play the game — the most unselfish, probably, I’ve ever seen,” Meyer said. “I became a better coach watching that team. I bent Billy’s ear to death.” They are as different as they are similar, virtually the same age, with Meyer eleven months and twenty-nine days older. This prized perfecta of coaches picked by Director of Athletics Foley is also the highest paid duo in college sports. Florida has to be the only place where a national championship football coach makes less money than the basketball coach — but, hey, Donovan did win back-toback NCAA hoop championships. And he was retrieved from halfway down I-75 to Orlando’s Not-So-Magic Kingdom when he had a change of heart about coaching the NBA’s Magic and did a U-turn. So the price of poker, basketball, and football went up in Gainesville. It cost Florida just under $8 million a year for the Bling Brothers, with Donovan making an extra

quarter million. One is an overachieving gym rat from Rhode Island via Long Island who became a boy-coach with a baby face that looks like as if it belongs inside a uniform instead of a Jack Victor suit; a Rick Pitino protégé who soon transformed his on-the-job training skills into championship basketball. The other is the wunderkind from the

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Woody Hayes/Earle Bruce coaching tree; a hard-charging young assistant who paid attention and took copious notes, then collated them into a manual of innovative techniques as he moved up on the coaching ladder toward his dream. Meyer is still tethered to father-figure coaches such as Bruce and Lou Holtz, both of whom he calls regularly. During the fall of 2005, in his first season at Florida, Urban suddenly became distressed by some issues that he felt might be less common to those two wiser, older coaches. That day he was overwhelmed by the lifestyle problems of his players — drugs, alcohol abuse, etc. — when he remembered that his basketball coaching friend had a file on behavioral problems thickened by more than a decade of experience. “I was so upset that I got out of my office and called Billy and said, ‘You got a minute?’ He said, ‘Yeah, what’s wrong?’ And I said, ‘I need to talk to you.’ I went over (to Donovan’s office). I didn’t know how to handle it. So I had a heartto-heart with Billy for about an hour and a half, and Larry Shyatt (Donovan’s assistant head coach), who had to deal with that when he was a head coach as well. “You sometimes have to fly somewhere and spend thousands of dollars and try to get meeting time with someone (like that) … I get out of my office, walk down the street and visit with the best basketball coach in the game.” After the spring of 2006, as Meyer was prep-

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ping his team for what would be a championship run, he tapped into the excitement on campus about the basketball team’s success. Billy made what Urban called “an extremely passionate speech” to the football team. That day Meyer learned the importance of breaking down seasons by segments. “He talked about total commitment for the one hundred and seven days leading up to the SEC Championship game,” Meyer said. “I use that all the time now. I try to break it down. On our bowl preparations, I don’t go anything beyond four- or five-day segments because you lose the players.” Meyer adopted Donovan’s idea of a new psychological approach on a season schedule — “It’s only a hundred and seven days” — as opposed to twelve games or six months. “A hundred and seven days! We used that big-time, even on our highlight videos,” Meyer said. “I’ll never forget, later in the season, ‘only thirty seven days left.’ That’s when you get the guys’ attention. That all came from Billy. “And then they woke up on the morning of the game and we had a big sign made: ‘Zero days left! It’s time to go play the game.’” Now the two teams were feeding off each other. To reciprocate, as March Madness 2007 approached, Meyer, his staff, and players signed a poster, “Go get ‘em, we’re behind you” and sent it to Donovan’s Gator Boyz. The poster

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counted down the seventeen days to the title game and each time the basketball players left the room they touched it for good luck. Donovan says he learned something about organization and structure from Meyer, who has to govern a 105-man squad versus his 13. They have similar coaching styles. Both believe in directly challenging players, Meyer perhaps even more so. Life as a Gator football player begins with throwing your press clippings away and taking a quick inventory of your shortcomings. Billy Donovan can respect that and agrees that Meyer’s way is a quick primer on learning how to compete. “One of the biggest misconceptions for these kids is that they think they understand competition,” Donovan said. “And what happens is that when they are highly touted — and they’ve been billed or dubbed as the next NFL star or next NBA star — there can be a lot of easy ways of going through and they’ve never faced adversity. “I think what Urban is doing every day is creating (competitive) confrontation out on the football field to show these guys, ‘When you leave this place, you’re not going to have


LEFT Meyer and his son Nate share a quiet moment in their boat as the run rises over near his North Florida lake home. CENTER Meyer looks at a Catholic medal before kickoff against Florida State in 2007. RIGHT Meyer and Florida State coach Bobby Bowden chat before the 2006 game. BOTTOM Meyer talks with Nate after practice in August 2006.

somebody walking you to your job. There’s not to be somebody checking to see if you’re on time. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you get a pink slip and you’re being fired.’ I don’t want to say it’s tough love — it’s reality of the way it is.” Donovan praises Urban for making his athletes earn their place, such as achieving the Champions Club, and for the freshmen’s indoctrination of their stripe. (All incoming freshman start with a black piece of tape on their helmets, which is removed in a battlefield promotion.) “Just because you’re ‘here’ doesn’t really mean you are ‘here,’” said Donovan. “You need to earn your way into this core group of guys, and I think there’s merit in that.” Given their similar philosophies about coaching, they make excellent sounding boards for each other. Donovan and Meyer have developed the verbal “bounce” pass into an art form, whether it’s a conversation about how to be a better dad or how to be a better coach. So while there is a good bit of basketball in Florida’s football these days, there is also some football in the basketball program.

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Rivals for 70 years, Miami is back on the Florida football schedule and the Gators hope the Hurricanes’ grip on the series has loosened By john fineran illustration by ron bates


Florida’s Dan McCravy (86) participates in the famous “Florida Flop” on as Miami quarterback John Hornibrook scores in the 1971 game. INDEPENDENT FLORIDA ALLIGATOR

It’s a little different Gainesville than when the Miami Hurricanes came to town last time. The forgotten rival and occasional visitor to the Florida football schedule used to own a piece of Gainesville, but that was before it became the real Titletown USA. The Hurricanes do have possession of the War Canoe Trophy. Now that would matter, if only anybody knew what the War Canoe Trophy actually was. You remember Miami — that city where fantasies like CSI, Miami Vice and numerous other TV shows played out. You remember Miami – that college football program with five national titles in the last 25 years. As far as Gator fans are concerned, the notion that the Hurricanes are the dominant program in the state anymore is pure fantasy, too. Miami’s Vice on the Florida Gators is no longer Once upon a time, the biggest college football rivalry in the state of Florida was not Florida and Florida State. Long ago, in a far-off football galaxy, where men wore leather helmets and high-top cleats, the Miami Hurricanes were even bigger rivals for the Gators than the Seminoles of Florida State. Heck, like all good football rivals, Miami and Florida even played for a trophy of sorts — the

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War Canoe Trophy, given by a civic group in Hollywood, Fla., to the winner of each game in the series beginning in 1950. The Old Oaken Bucket and the Little Brown Jug can’t compare to this sucker — handcarved by the Seminole Indian tribe from a 200-year-old Sycamore tree felled by lightning, the War Canoe Trophy was 9-feet long. “The thing was huge,” Florida sports historian Norm Carlson remembered. “We almost didn’t have anyplace to (store) it.” In 1972, two Seminole Indians showed up to present the canoe to the winner in Gainesville. It rained that day when Florida beat Miami, 17-6, and after the post-game interviews were conducted and most of the fans had left, those two loyal sentries stood stoically in the rain waiting for someone from Florida to pick up the trophy. No one did. “That’s the last time I saw it,” Carlson continued. “They were still standing there an hour after the game. No one ever came.”

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Few have has seen the War Canoe Trophy since Miami “retired” it following a 31-4 victory over Florida in the Orange Bowl in 1987 that started the Hurricanes to the second of those five national championships. It tells you, in a way, how some Florida folk felt about the rivalry, which would soon be changed by the arrival of Bobby Bowden in Tallahassee in 1976. Bowden’s Seminoles soon elbowed their way into the college football picture in Florida, and their success soon forced Miami and Florida to up their program’s antes, to the dismay of the NCAA. Eventually, Florida State replaced Miami as the Gators’ biggest instate rival, and the Miami-Florida series, played almost every year from its inception in 1938 through the 1987 season, went on a hiatus of sorts. There have been only four games between the two schools since — two postseason games and a homeand-home series early this century. On Sept. 6, before more than 95,000 screaming zealots and under the lights at


Miami vs. Florida Hurricanes lead all-time series, 28-25

(At Gainesville, Miami leads 12-8; At Miami, Florida leads 14-13; At Jacksonville, Florida leads 2-0; At Orlando, Florida leads 1-0; At Tampa, Miami leads 1-0; Bowl games, Miami leads 2-0).

Year Date Site 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965

Oct. 15 Nov. 18 Nov. 16 Nov. 15 Nov. 14 Nov. 3 Oct. 19 Oct. 19 Nov. 21 Nov. 20 Nov. 18 Nov. 18 Nov. 17 Nov. 22 Nov. 28 Nov. 27 Nov. 26 Dec. 1 Nov. 30 Nov. 29 Nov. 28 Nov. 26 Dec. 2 Dec. 1 Nov. 23 Nov. 28 Nov. 20

Rankings (Fla.-UM)

Gainesville Miami Miami Miami Miami Miami Miami Gainesville Miami Gainesville Miami Gainesville (ur-17) Miami Gainesville Miami Gainesville (ur-11) Miami (ur-14) Gainesville (18-6) Miami (20-ur) Jacksonville (14-ur) Jacksonville (ur-12) Miami (19-ur) Gainesville Miami Miami Gainesville Miami (10-ur)

Winner (Score) Miami (19-7) Florida (13-0) Florida (46-6) Florida (14-0) Miami (12-0) Florida (13-0) Miami (7-6) Miami (20-13) Florida (7-6) Florida (27-13) Miami (28-13) Miami (20-14) Miami (21-6) Florida (43-6) Miami (14-10) Miami (14-0) Miami (7-6) Miami (20-7) Florida (14-0) Florida (12-9) Florida (23-14) Florida (18-0) Miami (15-6) Miami (17-15) Florida (27-21) Florida (12-10) Miami (16-13)

Year Date Site 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 2001 2002 2003 2004

Nov. 26 Dec. 9 Nov. 30 Nov. 29 Nov. 28 Nov. 27 Dec. 2 Nov. 24 Nov. 30 Nov. 29 Nov. 27 Nov. 26 Dec. 2 Dec. 1 Nov. 29 Sept. 5 Sept. 4 Sept. 3 Sept. 1 Sept. 7 Sept. 6 Sept. 5 Jan. 2 Sept. 7 Sept. 6 Dec. 31

*Sugar Bowl (2000 season) **Peach Bowl

Longest Florida winning streak: 7 (1971-72-73-74-75-76-77) Longest Miami winning streak: 6 (1986-87-2000-02-03-04) Last Florida victory: Sept. 6, 1985, 35-23 at Miami Last Miami victory: Dec. 31, 2004, 27-10 at Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta

Rankings (Fla.-UM)

Gainesville (9-ur) Miami Gainesville Miami (17-ur) Gainesville Miami Gainesville Miami Gainesville Miami (13-ur) Orlando Miami Gainesville Miami Gainesville (18-ur) Miami (17-ur) Gainesville (16-15) Gainesville Tampa (17-10) Miami (5-ur) Gainesville (13-3) Miami (20-10) New Orleans* (7-2) Gainesville (6-1) Miami (18-3) Atlanta** (18-14)

Winner (Score) Miami (21-16) Miami (20-13) Florida (14-10) Florida (35-16) Miami (14-13) Florida (45-16) Florida (17-6) Florida (14-7) Florida (31-7) Florida (15-11) Florida (19-10) Florida (31-14) Miami (22-21) Miami (30-24) Miami (31-7) Miami (21-20) Florida (17-14) Florida (28-3) Miami (32-20) Florida (35-23) Miami (23-15) Miami (31-4) Miami (37-20) Miami (41-16) Miami (38-33) Miami (27-10)


Florida Field in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Miami and Florida — winners of seven national championships — renew their unfriendly acquaintances under the direction of head coaches Urban Meyer and Randy Shannon, respectively. “We’ve had some great games with them,” Carlson noted, “and there have been plenty of great players and coaches on both sides.” For Miami that would include coaches Jack Harding, Andy Gustafson, Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Larry Coker and players Ted Hendricks, George Mira, Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, Bernie Kosar, Ken Dorsey, Ottis Anderson, Chuck Foreman, Michael Irvin, Jim Dooley, Don Boessler, Ruben Carter and Dan Latimer. For the Gators, there’s Steve Spurrier, first as a Heisman Trophywinner quarterback and then as head coach, his own head coach Ray Graves and Graves’ successors Doug Dickey, Charlie Pell and Galen Hall. The players are headed by John Reaves, Rex Grossman, Emmitt Smith, Neal Anderson, Carlos Alvarez, Wes Chandler, Burton Lawless, Jack Youngblood, Wilber Marshall, Scot Brantley, Rick Casares, Lomas Brown, David Little, Alex Brown and Louis Oliver. This will be the 54th in the series, with Miami leading 28-25. Florida is still Miami’s most frequent rival, but Miami finds itself tied for fourth among Florida’s opponents with Louisiana State, trailing Kentucky (57), Auburn (82) and Georgia (85 or 86, depending on which tailgate you plan to attend in Jacksonville). “I don’t think it ever has been a big rivalry for Florida,” Carlson added. “Even when the Miami-Florida series started, our biggest rival was Georgia.” Nevertheless, there have been some great moments — or not so great, depending on your rooting interest — in the series that began in 1938, 20 years before Florida and Florida State first played. The most controversial certainly would have been the Nov. 27, 1971 game in the Orange Bowl. At least it still riles up Hurricanes players, coaches and fans almost four decades later. With the Gators leading 45-8, Miami in possession of the football late in the game and Reaves needing 14 yards to break Jim Plunkett’s NCAA career passing yardage record, senior Harvin Clark called a timeout to ask Dickey if the defense could allow the Hurricanes to score so the Gators could give Reaves a last chance for the record. “Doug was against it,” Carlson recalled. “But Clark and the players begged and finally Doug let them do it.” On the snap, 10 of the 11 Gator defenders fell to the ground. Miami quarterback John Hornibrook rolled left and the one Gator who didn’t flop — safety John Clifford — had a shot at Hornibrook but pulled up to allow the touchdown. When the Gators got the ball back, Reaves threw a 15-yard pass to Alvarez for the record. “It was a nice gesture by my teammates,” Reaves said. “I don’t believe the guys were trying to humiliate Miami. It’s just something that happened.” Following the game, Miami coach Fran Curci refused to shake Dickey’s hand and some of the Gators drifted to the end-zone pool where the NFL Dolphins kept mascot Flipper and jumped in. That 45-16 victory started a seven-game winning streak by the Gators. By the time Schnellenberger took over the program in 1979, the Miami program was on life support. All he did was revive the Florida rivalry, establish “The State of Miami” recruiting policy and eventually guide the Hurricanes to their first national championship


in 1983. In 1980, the Hurricanes were up 28-7 in Gainesville when Florida fans started pelting them with insults and peaches — Miami was headed to the Peach Bowl. It angered Schnellenberger so much that he ordered a late field goal to increase the final margin of victory. Florida won the next two games under Pell, the last one 28-3 in the 1983 season opener at Gainesville. Little did the Gators know that would be their last victory in the series at home, where Miami leads 12-8. The Hurricanes wouldn’t lose again the rest of the season as Kosar led them to a 31-30 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for their first national title. Johnson would go 3-1 against the Gators, including a 31-4 victory to start off the 1987 national championship season. That was the second victory in Miami’s current six-game winning streak, which includes the 2001 Sugar Bowl (following the 2000 season) in New Orleans where the “Bourbon Street Brawl” preceded the game, games in Gainesville (2002)

and in Miami (2003), and the 2004 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Ironically, the hiatus from 1987 until that 37-20 Sugar Bowl victory by Miami took place during most of Spurrier’s tenure as head coach of the Gators. Can you imagine what it would have been like with “The Ol’ Ball Coach” on the opposite sideline from Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis and Coker? Spurrier had wanted to renew the series so that Florida could make inroads into recruiting in “The State of Miami” — the area between Tampa and Daytona Beach south of I-4. The Gators paid Miami $150,000 to get out of two games scheduled in the 1990s that had to be cancelled because of expansion in the Southeastern Conference. The Hurricanes and their followers have felt that the Gators pulled the plug because of the national championship banners (1983-87-89-91-2001) hanging in the Orange Bowl. “We can only hate or despise so many teams,” Spurrier said to quell the uproar. Which is why it’s tough to call Florida-Miami a “rivalry.” It takes two to make one.

Once upon a time, the biggest college football rivalry in the state of Florida was not Florida and Florida State. Long ago, in a far-off football galaxy, where men wore leather helmets and hightop cleats, the Miami Hurricanes were even bigger rivals for the Gators than the Seminoles of Florida State.


Defensive line coach Dan McCarney, left, and cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford joined Urban Meyer’s staff in 2008.

Staff Changes, Player Returns, Record Assaults

what was heaven in 2007 could be great in 2008 By mark mcleod photos by tim casey

There are four new additions to the Florida football staff for 2008. The Gators have a new defensive line coach in Dan McCarney, who moves up I-75 from South Florida. Florida also added cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford, the former secondary coach at Michigan, and running backs coach Kenny Carter, who was running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Vanderbilt. The final addition is a homecoming of sorts. Former Florida running back Terry Jackson returns to campus as Meyer’s new Director of Player and Community Relations. McCarney brings 30 years of coaching experience to the Gators program. He has served as an offensive line coach at Iowa in 1977, head coach at Iowa State and defensive line coach for South Florida. McCarney was named Big 12

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Coach of the Year in 2004 when his Iowa State Cyclones finished as Big 12 North Co-Champions. He was named the Gators assistant head coach and defensive line coach last spring. Perhaps McCarney’s most impressive recent work was last season with defensive end George Selvie, who became a consensus first team AllAmerican as a Bulls sophomore. Selvie was the national leader in tackles for loss (46.5) and finished second in the nation in sacks with 20. Expect McCarney’s high-intensity attitude to be visible throughout the season on the Gators defensive front. Bedford brings a wealth of experience to the Florida staff. He served five years as the secondary coach for the Chicago Bears (19992004) and 13 years in the collegiate ranks at

September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com

Michigan, Oklahoma State, and Colorado State. He has coached Charles Woodson, Selwyn Jones and Andre Weathers. Bedford brings an in-your-face style of play to a developing Florida secondary. Former Florida strong safety Todd Johnson played for Bedford in Chicago and was extremely complimentary of Bedford’s coaching style. Carter brings 15 years of experience to the Florida staff. Carter has coached a variety of positions at the collegiate level including tight ends, defensive ends, outside linebackers, and wide receivers. Carter also brings expertise as a recruiting coordinator at both Vanderbilt and The Citadel. He spent three years under the legendary Joe Paterno at Penn State. Jackson was welcomed back to Florida on


himself 19 touchdowns away from breaking the career conference mark held by former Georgia great Herschel Walker from 1980-82. The Florida junior also established a new school record for most rushing touchdowns in a single game with five. The old record was four equaled by Jesse Palmer (Kentucky, 2000), Fred Taylor (Florida State, 1997), Tommy Owens (Mercer, 1928), and Rammy Ramsdell (Mercer, 1915). Another school record that Tebow demolished was the consecutive games with a rushing touchdown, which was previously held by Errict Rhett (7 in 1991-92). Tebow’s record currently stands at 15. Tebow just missed on a couple of other records. He needed 111 yards to establish a new SEC record for career rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. He finished third in the category rushing for 895 yards in 2007. Former Auburn quarterback Jimmy Siddle ran for 1,006 yards on just 185 carries (an average of 5.4 yards) in 1963. His 138 points, courtesy of 23 touchdowns, were nine points shy of the SEC total points in a season established by former LSU kicker Colt David. Meanwhile, James established a singleseason SEC record with 841 kickoff return yards. He is third in SEC history with 1,095 return yards (841 yards via kickoffs and 254 yards via punts) in a single season. James is second in SEC history in combined returns, averaging 24.9 yards in a season and 18.8 yards in a career.

March 30 when he was named to the new position of the Director of Player and Community Relations. Jackson is part of an extremely successful football family. His father Willie Jackson Sr. played at Florida from 1969-71 and an older brother Willie Jackson Jr. played for the Gators from 1990-92. The Gainesville native has a tremendous rapport with young players and those relationships are expected to pay huge dividends within the Florida program.

Wilson returns and finds new home

Former offensive lineman Ronnie Wilson is back to the Florida practice fields — but on a different side of the line of scrimmage. Wilson, who was expected to play a key role on Urban Meyer’s 2006 Florida squad before he suffered a broken left ankle in mid-August, is now competing for playing time on the defensive line. A lot has happened since Wilson suffered his injury. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and discharging a firearm in public during a late-night altercation. After a suspension lasting one year, Wilson returned to classes. He received permission from Florida head coach Urban Meyer to walk on the team and is now in a heated competition for one of the defensive tackle positions. Wilson plays a physical, no-nonsense brand of football that should help defensive coordinator Charlie Strong tighten up the middle of a defense that struggled to get a push last season.

New running backs coach Kenny Carter; Ronnie Wilson (below) rejoins the team on the defensive side of the ball.

The Urban Meyer Era

Closing in on the top of the charts

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow and kick returner Brandon James did their share to rewrite the Florida and Southeastern Conference record books their first two seasons. Now the former prep standouts from St. John’s County will have a golden opportunity to rewrite both books. Tebow established a new SEC record for total offense in a season with 4,181 yards in 2007. He rushed for 895 yards and passed for 3,286 yards, eclipsing former Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch’s total by 30 yards. Tebow also shattered the SEC season record for touchdowns responsible for with 55 — 23 rushing and 32 passing. The old record belonged to former Florida Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel with 41 (2 rushing, 39 passing). Wuerffel’s record would have fallen in 2007 anyway because Kentucky

quarterback Andre Woodson totaled 43 touchdowns rushing (3) and passing (40) last season. Tebow kept the record in the Florida family and currently finds himself 17th in career touchdown responsibility in the SEC with 68. The Florida southpaw also established the NCAA record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and SEC record for most rushing touchdowns in a season with 23. The old record of 19 was held jointly by former Georgia running back Garrison Hearst, former Alabama running back Shaun Alexander and former LSU running back LaBrandon Toefield. Tebow’s 31 career rushing touchdowns already rank him 20th in SEC history, tied with former Florida running back Fred Taylor. Tebow also finds

And let’s not forget Florida’s football coach. Meyer has five measuring sticks which allow even the most novice college football fan to understand that he is among the best of the best. Meyer has once again established Florida as a home favorite, beginning his Florida career with a 19-1 record (.950) in “The Swamp.” He is third nationally in winning percentage (.814) among active coaches since 2001 with an overall record of 70-16. He has an 11-3 record when matched up against the Top 10 winningest coaches in college football. Meyer is one of only four active coaches to have led his team to a national championship (2006), tutored an NFL No. 1 draft selection (Alex Smith of Utah) and had a player win the coveted Heisman Trophy (Tebow). Meyer is the only coach in Florida history to open his career with three consecutive victories over both Tennessee and Florida State.

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If you believe the legend and since there aren’t

any players still alive who actually played in the game to verify it anymore, then on the night of Dec. 7, 1928, Captain Bob Neyland — he didn’t become General Neyland until World War II — left the hoses running for several hours at Shields-Watkins Field in Knoxville. It was the eve of a historic showdown between the Florida Gators and Neyland’s Tennessee Volunteers, and both the Southern Conference championship and a possible berth in the Rose Bowl were on the line for the undefeated Gators, coached by Charles Bachman.  The Gators were the highest scoring team in the nation, led by Clyde “Cannonball” Crabtree, the ambidextrous quarterback, and end Dale Van Sickel, a consensus All-American. The Gators were just as good on defense. They had allowed only 31 points all season going into that showdown game with the Vols. They were

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September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com


Ray Graves, a former Tennessee player, rides the shoulders of Allen Trammel, Gary Thomas and Kenny Russell. Florida beat Bear Bryant’s Alabama, 10-6, in Tuscaloosa in one of the Gators’ greatest upsets. UF SPORTS INFORMATION

favored to beat a good Tennessee team (8-0-1) that had only a 0-0 tie with Kentucky standing in the way of an unbeaten, untied season which could have put the Vols in the Rose Bowl. This part is all true.  What may or may not be true is that the Gators showed up at the field on Saturday morning and discovered a muddy quagmire waiting for them. This was a bit shocking considering a drought had gripped eastern Tennessee for months. It was bone dry all the way from the team hotel to the football field, which means miraculously, the only place it rained was on Shields-Watkins Field.  Legend says Neyland, being the good sport that he was, offered the Gators longer cleats to handle the mud, but alas, he discovered the Vols had none to spare and there weren’t any sporting goods stores around that were open. So while the Vols had good traction the whole game, the faster Gators were slowed to a snail’s pace by slippery footing.  Tennessee won that game, 13-12, avoiding a tie when sophomore quarterback Bobby Dodd broke through to block Florida’s game-tying extra point. This wouldn’t be the last time Bobby Dodd impacted the history of Florida football.  Folks in Tennessee claim the muddy field story is nothing more than a colorful story — an excuse, actually — offered up by Gators who couldn’t handle the first of what would become many “wait ‘til next year” losses.  “I’ve talked to some people who were there at the game,” says Jack Hairston, the former president of the Football Writers Association

of America and a legend himself in sports writing circles both in Florida and throughout the South. “Players like Clyde Crabtree and Dashwood Hicks were in that game and they say it happened. There hadn’t been a trace of rain in Knoxville in three weeks, but when they arrived at the stadium that Saturday it was under water.” As it turns out, the Rose Bowl bid had been decided the week of the Florida-Tennessee game and the bid had gone to undefeated Georgia Tech. That didn’t stop Bachman from waving a telegram over his head and telling his players that if they won, the Rose Bowl was theirs. Bachman knew the Gators weren’t going but his motivational ploy almost worked.  Almost. That became the story of Florida football for 63 years after that historic game in Knoxville.  “The Gators would have won the Southern Conference championship if they had won that game,” Hairston said. “I’ve often wondered what would have happened with Florida football if the Gators had beaten Tennessee. The Gators might have become a real college football power long before Steve Spurrier coached them to their first SEC championship ever in 1991.”  The Vols won national championships under Neyland, who rose in rank to Brigadier General during World War II. The Gators floundered but Florida and Tennessee shared a bond that lasts even until today.    From 1930 to 1949, the Gators posted only four winning seasons. Determined to

break the spell of losing and turn the University of Florida into a football power, Gov. Fuller Warren hired Bob Woodruff, a Neyland protégé who had fashioned an 8-2 record at Baylor in 1949. Woodruff got Florida to its first two bowl games in history (1952 and 1958 Gator Bowl) but he never turned the Gators into a national powerhouse.  Woodruff’s 1952 Florida team, which earned a 14-13 Gator Bowl win over Tulsa, was quarterbacked by Douglas Adair Dickey. An assistant coach on that team was Frank Broyles, who later became the legendary coach and athletic director at Arkansas. Broyles, a Georgia Tech grad, returned to Tech in 1953 to coach under Bobby Dodd. Dickey was Broyles’ offensive coordinator before he landed the head coaching job at Tennessee in 1964. 

Woodruff was fired after

the 1959 season, and Dr. Wayne Reitz, Florida’s president, went to Georgia Tech to hire another Neyland protégé, Ray Graves. An All-American center and captain of Tennessee’s 1939 national championship team, Graves was Bobby Dodd’s defensive coordinator. In his third game as Florida’s head coach, Graves beat Dodd, 18-17, in what ranks as one of the top five games in Florida football history. One of the key players on that Florida team was quarterback Bobby Dodd, Jr., son of the legendary Georgia Tech coach.  The Graves era was the best 10 years of football in Florida history until Spurrier became the head coach in 1990. Graves won 70 games and took the Gators to four wins in five bowl games.

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The coaching triumvirate of Doug Dickey, Steve Spurrier and General Bob Neyland have played key roles in the series. Dickey and Spurrier both played and coached at Florida. UF SPORTS INFORMATION UT SPORTS INFORMATION

Thanks to his brother Edwin, a postmaster in eastern Tennessee, Graves got wind of a lanky, pro-style quarterback from Science Hill High School in Johnson City named Steve Spurrier. Tennessee ran single wing under Bowden Wyatt and Spurrier was a passer. Spurrier became a Gator and won the Heisman Trophy in 1966.  During the summer of 1969, Florida president Dr. Stephen C. O’Connell forced Graves out as the head coach and brokered a deal to bring Dickey back home. Graves took the Gators to their greatest season ever, concluding it, ironically with a 14-13 win over Tennessee, the SEC champion, in the Gator Bowl. Starting on the offensive line of that Tennessee team was present UT coach Phillip Fulmer.  “The whole situation for the Gator Bowl was strange,” said Hairston, who was then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal. Hairston and Gator Country Executive Editor Buddy Martin broke the story a couple of days before the Gator Bowl that Graves was out and Dickey was in at Florida. “On one sideline you had Ray Graves, a Tennessee man coaching Florida, and on the other sideline you had Doug Dickey, a Florida man coaching Tennessee … and he was about to come back to Florida where his boss would be Ray Graves, who stayed on as the athletic director.” 

The Florida-Tennessee rivalry never heated up with Dickey at the helm of the Gator program, largely in part because the

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two teams didn’t play each other every year. Dickey was fired as Florida’s head coach after the 1978 season. He returned to Tennessee as athletic director, replacing Woodruff in 1986 and remaining on the job in Knoxville until he retired in 2002.  The Florida-Tennessee series became one of college football’s greatest and most intense

rivalries in 1990 when Spurrier was hired as Florida’s head coach. That was also the year that the Gators began playing the Vols every single year. Spurrier led Florida to its first SEC championship in 1991. In 1992 Fulmer became the head coach at Tennessee and the rivalry exploded into the national limelight.  In 1992 the SEC expanded to 12 teams

and broke into East and West divisions with a championship game at the end of the season to decide the league title. Florida and Tennessee were paired in the East and that game became the early-season matchup that caught the nation’s fancy. In its first 10 years, either


UF coach Bob Woodruff UT SPORTS INFORMATION

Florida or Tennessee represented the East in the SEC Championship Game. Florida played in the title game from 1992-96, winning every year from 1993-96. The Gators played for the national championship in 1995 and won it in 1996. Tennessee won the SEC East and the SEC championship in 1997 and 1998. The Vols played for the national championship in 1997 and won it in 1998.  In the 16 years of division play in the Southeastern Conference, Florida has made it to the SEC Championship Game eight times and has brought home the big trophy on six occasions (1993-96, 2000, 2006). Tennessee has made it to the SEC title game five times and won twice (1997-98). “I think Florida-Tennessee became one of the great rivalries in all of college football in the Spurrier era,” said Hairston. “For 10 straight years, the Gators and the Vols dominated the SEC. It’s a great rivalry. the Tennessee-Florida connections at each school make it even greater.” 

Spurrier left Florida for the NFL after the 2000 season. His 12 years at Florida were among the best 12 years of any college football team in history — 122 wins, 27 losses and one tie (.817 winning percentage). His replacement was former Florida defensive coordinator Ron Zook, who served on the same Tennessee staff as an assistant coach with Fulmer in the 1980s.  When Zook was fired after three consecutive five-loss seasons in 2004, he was replaced by Urban Meyer, who in three seasons has compiled a 31-8 record, won the SEC and national championships (2006) and has a 3-0 record against Tennessee. 

Florida and Tennessee will face each other for the 38th time in Knoxville on Sept. 20. If the Gators win, the series will be tied at 19 wins each. It’s only fitting that a rivalry this intense and with this many ties that bind has been played this closely. It is truly one of the greatest rivalry games in all of college football.


GC RECRUITING 2009

FLORIDA’S HOT

ESCAMBIA HIGH’S TRENT RICHARDSON

In the Class of 2009 football recruits FROM the sunshine state, Seminole H.S. wide receiver is the valedictorian at the moment By bob redman PHOTOS BY TIM CASEY and Jeff Squires

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September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com


T


For those of you who follow college football recruiting, it is no secret that the state of Florida is a hotbed for gridiron talent. Every year, state and national football powers come to Florida to pick from the harvest of some of the best high school football players in the country. With so much talent from which to choose, it is a tough job rating the top prospects in any given year. But someone has to do it. So Hollywood Bob takes a stab at ranking the state’s top prospects, using his own judgment as well as the opinions of those he trusts. So without further delay … drum roll, please …

1

Andre DeBose | WR

(6-1, 182) Sanford Seminole H.S. Earns the top spot in the state because everybody — from Florida to Southern Cal — wants him and because he is a very special player who can do everything with the ball at his position. … Favors Florida, Miami, Southern Cal.

McALLISTER ALIJAJIAN

7

DeBOSE

2

Jaamal Berry | RB

(5-11, 195) Miami Palmetto H.S. A speed merchant who has good size and extremely great moves in traffic. … Favors Ohio State over Florida.

3

Aaron Murray | QB

(6-0, 198) Tampa Plant H.S. Maybe the best quarterback in the nation in an offense which may help him break several national records. … Committed to Georgia.

4

Brandon McGee | CB

5

Nick Alijajian | OT

Trent Richardson | RB

(5-11, 215) Pensacola Escambia H.S. Best size and speed combo in the state at the position. … State champion in the 100 meters, and at 215 pounds, that’s a nice speed and strength combination. … Committed to Alabama.

8

Gary Brown | DT

(6-4, 285) Greensboro West Gadsden H.S. Another extremely quick defensive tackle with optimum size for the three technique. … Committed to Florida.

(6-4, 270) Naples H.S. Maybe the top offensive lineman in the state with the meanest mean streak. … The Gators got a good one when he committed.

Jacobbi McDaniel | DT

(6-3, 270) Greenville Madison County H.S. Doesn’t have pure size, but does have excellent strength and the best quickness out there for a defensive tackle. ... Committed to Florida State.

42

The Class of 2009’s silent sleeper who is going widely overlooked. … He was the star at Florida’s Friday Night Lights and at a Miami camp in July. … Committed to Florida.

Giddins | DE 11 Ryne (6-4, 235) Seffner Armwood H.S. Great specimen at defensive end who is really looking hard at UF. .. In the picture are Florida, South Florida, UCF and Georgia.

Ray Armstrong | S 12 Ray (6-4, 220) Sanford Seminole H.S. Smooth athlete who will play defense in college but plays quarterback for Seminole. ... Has the size for linebacker and speed and hitting ability of a big-time safety. ... In the battle are Florida, Miami and Louisiana State.

(6-0, 180) Plantation H.S. College scouts tell me this one is the prototype at cornerback. … Looking at Tennessee, Florida State, Miami, Louisiana State, Ohio State.

6

Richardson | WR 10 Nu’Keese (5-10, 180) Pahokee H.S.

BROWN

9

DeMonte McAllister | DE

(6-3, 235) Tampa Alonso H.S. Explosive off the snap, not as big as billed and will play defensive end in college after playing inside at Alonso, where he was a force. … Committed to Florida State.

September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com

ARMSTRONG

Bostic | LB 13 Jon (6-2, 225) Palm Beach Central H.S.


Coach Urban Meyer visits with Palm Beach Central High LB Jon Bostic at July’s Friday Night Lights showcase.

Best linebacker in the state, bar none. … He is a great athlete who loves to rock people. … Doing battle are Florida and Louisiana State.

Miller | RB 14 Lamar (6-1, 205) Miami Killian H.S. Big-time speed and great size for this Miami star. ... He looks to be heading out of state as West Virginia leads Florida and a list of others.

Smith | QB 15 Eugene (6-4, 180) Miramar H.S. Great passer with excellent mobility but not a great physique. … Needs to add weight or he will take a pounding in college. … Still, someone is going to get a good one. … Florida, South Florida, Florida State and Boston College are in the mix.

Pryor | RB 16 Lonnie (6-1, 200) Okeechobee H.S.

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Southern Cal among the others in the mix.

Telfort | S 18 Frankie (5-11, 195) Miami Gulliver Prep A little undersized but a great all-around football player who just knows how to play the game. … Florida and Tennessee will battle it out for this one.

Giles | RB 19 Jarvis (6-0, 185) Tampa Gaither H.S. Fast through the hole, he is be a big-time runner who wanted to get out of state and chose Tennessee.

Gillislee | RB 20 Mike (6-0, 200) DeLand H.S. Another underrated player who most likely made the Florida coaches smile when he committed. … Can play receiver or running back but likely a running back at Florida.

Big back who runs well in traffic and has good power. … Committed to Florida State.

Dye | DE 21 Dyron (6-4, 230) Sanford Seminole H.S.

Charles | TE 17 Orson (6-3, 205) Tampa Plant H.S.

Long and lean, he is a blur coming off the edge. … Favors Florida, Miami and Louisiana State.

Fastest tight end in the country and a very tough player. … He should catch a lot of footballs thrown by Aaron Murray (see No. 3) in a high-powered offense. ... Florida, Florida State, Georgia and

Robinson | DT 22 Luther (6-2, 270) Fort Pierce Westwood H.S. Camp warrior who started to turn heads in

September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com

DYE the spring and is a mean player on the interior defense. ... Committed to Miami.

Downs | WR 23 Willie (6-2, 185) Tallahassee Lincoln H.S. Big receiver who committed early to Florida State.

Thompson | RB 24 Chris (5-9, 180) Greenville Madison County H.S. More of a running back/slot receiver type, he is amazingly quick and a nice talent who committed to Florida State early in the process.

Starling | S 25 Jawanza (6-2, 195) Tallahassee Lincoln H.S. Big-hitting safety who can cover the field. … Starling is looking at schools all over the map from USC to Florida, Florida State and others.


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GC around THE CAMPUS

Keeping Streak Alive

Gators’ volleyball team seeking its 18th straight sec title under mary wise By franz beard

photos by tim casey

The only motivation Elyse Cusack needs hangs from the rafters of the volleyball practice facility within the Lemerand Center on the University of Florida campus. Those banners which represent 17 straight Southeastern Conference volleyball championships are both her fear and her inspiration. Fear because she doesn’t want to be part of the team that finally breaks the streak of championships; motivation because she will do everything in her power to keep the streak alive. “We try never to focus on the streak but every day when we come to practice we see those banners and you have to think about it,” said Cusack, a junior libero who is widely regarded as the best defensive player in the SEC. “It’s always in the back of our minds because the tradition is up there on the wall and that makes us focus hard and work harder than anyone else because that’s what it takes to win. “But,” Cusack added, “you really don’t want to be on the team that’s remembered for breaking the streak.” The streak began in 1991, Mary Wise’s first year as Florida’s volleyball coach. Pre-Wise, Florida won one SEC championship and the program was on a roller coaster. In her 17 years as the Florida coach, the Gators are 551-57 and

46

they’ve won the SEC regular-season championship every year. If they make it 18 straight this year, the Gators will hold the all-time NCAA record for most consecutive conference championships. The Gators will be favored to win the SEC once again but they will have to do it with one of the youngest teams in the Mary Wise era. The Gators have two seniors, one junior, three sophomores, one redshirt freshman and six true freshmen on the roster. “We’re young but we don’t lack talent,” said Kelsey Bowers, a senior middle blocker who has been second team All-SEC the last two seasons. “Winning the SEC is going to be tougher and that’s not just because we’re young but because the rest of the league is getting better. Every team in the SEC will be better and they all want to beat the Gators.” The Gators are replacing three All-Americans in setter Angie McGinnis, opposite hitter Amber McCray and outside hitter Marcie Hampton. Wise has brought in the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation to bolster her small but talented group of veterans. Bowers is expected to be a force in the middle along with junior Kristina Johnson while sophomore Callie Rivers is a star in the

September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com

making on the outside and she will be backed up by redshirt freshman Kristy Jaeckel. Sophomore Lauren Bledsoe will get the start at the opposite hitter. Wise will have to figure out what to do with Kelly Murphy, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, who can set and play the opposite hitter. Four freshmen — setter Cindy Bathelt, outside hitter Colleen Ward, and middle blockers Cassandra Anderson and Betsy Smith — will also be in the rotation. It’s a young team with high expectations, not to mention a 17-year legacy of winning championships. Wise hopes to continue the streak but the last thing she wants is for her team to shoulder the pressure of getting that 18th championship. “We do talk about the program and the tradition of the program but more in terms of how we won and the things we learned along the way that helped us win,” Wise said. “But beyond that, it’s all about hard work and winning.” She knows a thing or two about winning. Her .906 winning percentage for her years at Florida is better than any coach in Division I with 10 years on the job — in volleyball, football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Lauren Bledsoe, Elyse Cusack and Kelsey Bowers


GC around gator athletics

Lady Gators young in women’s soccer, too By franz beard photo by tim casey

Senior forward Megan Kerns

48

September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com

Becky Burleigh, who also knows a thing or two about winning, has a women’s soccer roster dominated by freshmen and sophomores but with All-American midfielder Ameera Abdullah, All-American defender Lauren Hyde and All-SEC midfielder Ashlee Elliott leading the way, the Gators will be in the hunt for their ninth SEC championship in the Burleigh era. The Gators have won one NCAA championship (1998) and the last two SEC regularseason titles. Last year, the Gators were 17-5-3, making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Soccer Tournament. Florida is ranked 20th in the preseason soccer poll, joining Tennessee (No. 13) and Georgia (No. 18) as the only SEC teams in the preseason top 25.


THE PICKS our ‘experts’ predict the 2008 season, and, hint, there will be a lot of orange and blue in miami

OK, Gainesville. Get ready to celebrate another national championship early in 2008. Or not. In a poll of seven members of the Gator County Magazine staff, five believe Urban Meyer’s Gators will be making a short trip to Miami’s Dolphin Stadium, where the BCS National Championship Game will be played on Jan. 8, and four of them believe the Gators will be holding the championship hardware after the game. The six members were asked the following questions: 1. For the regular season, do you take the Gators’ over or under at 10 wins, 2 losses? Why? 2. Do they make it to the SEC title game in Atlanta and, if so, who do they play and what will be the final outcome. 3. BCS Title Game or just another bowl. Whatever, who will the Gators play and who will win? Mark McLeod, Cody Jones, John Fineran and Jason Farmand believe the Gators will win the national title. Buddy Martin believes the Gators will get there, only to lose to USC. Franz Beard believes the Gators will be BCS’d (remember, you can’t spell BCS without a B and S) and play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Photographer Tim Casey, meanwhile, believes the Gators will stay instate — playing in Tampa’s Outback Bowl against former UF coach Ron Zook and his Illinois team. 50

Buddy Martin Executive Editor 1. Over. They will lose to either Tennessee or another SEC team, but not Georgia. They will go 11-1. 2. Yes. Beat Auburn 34-28. 3. BCS title game. Lose to Southern California in overtime, 38-36.

Tim Casey

Franz Beard managing Editor

John Fineran staff writer

1. Over. I think the Gators have enough offense to make up for any defensive lapses, lapses I might add that will be far fewer than last season. 11-1. 2. Florida will make it to the SEC Championship Game and the opponent will be a very good and highly ranked Auburn team. Florida will win, 33-14.  3. I predict a BCS mess. It will be bias against the SEC that will pit Oklahoma and Southern Cal in the BCS Championship Game while Florida and Ohio State get a Glendale, Ariz., rematch at the Sugar Bowl. Florida wins 41-14.

1. Over. The Gators will finish 11-1, losing in overtime at Tennessee, which won’t beat Georgia and thus allow Florida to win the East. 2. Yes. Florida beats Georgia on the last play of the game and the whole team celebrates in the end zone — an appropriate way to win the East. Florida beats Auburn in a thriller, 24-23. 3. BCS Title Game. The Gators play for the national title in Miami against Southern Cal, winning 23-14, as Tim Tebow breaks off an 85yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.

Jason Farmand

Cody Jones

photo Editor 1. Even. 10-2: Inexperience on the UF defense and Percy Harvin’s health leave too many unanswered questions which will lead to two losses in the three games Florida plays against Tennessee, LSU and Georgia. 2. No. 3. Outback Bowl in Tampa where the Gators will beat their former coach, Ron Zook, and his Illinois team, 37-23.

September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com

art director 1. Over. The Gators will lose a close one to Georgia, finishing 11-1. 2. Yes. They sneak in to the SEC title game after Georgia stumbles twice. The Gators beat surprising West champs Alabama 38-18. 3. BCS Title Game. Ohio State can’t get revenge in this rematch. The Gators win by a score of only 37-28 this time.

staff writer 1. Over. The schedule sets up well and I would be disappointed to see the Gators lose more than one game. 11-1. 2. Yes, beating Auburn 38-27. 3. BCS Title Game. Gators beat Oklahoma 42-31.

Mark McLeod

espn gator country Radio host 1. Over. The Gators will finish 11-1 because they have too many offensive weapons, Heisman Trophy quarterback Tim Tebow has another year of reading defenses under his belt and you can say the same about the returning defensive starters and reserves. 2. Yes. Auburn, which plays LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia on the Plains, wins the West but Florida wins the Peachtree playoff, 24-17. 3. BCS Championship Game. Florida will take on Southern Cal. I wonder if Wilber Marshall has any eligibility left or if the film of the 1982 GatorsTrojans game won by Florida can be shown to the team? Florida wins again, 20-17.


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GC

buddy martin last guy out of the press box

IT’S WHAT THEY AREN’T TELLING US here is nothing like the Great American Sport of guessing. It’s what we do when we really don’t know what we are talking about. “Educated” guessing means we know just a little bit — enough to get the names and places correct and maybe glean enough data to justify our opinion. You know, sort of like the weathermen. In the case of predicting the finish of Urban Meyer’s team this season, we socalled “insiders” and “experts” have a lot less information than Larry The Local Weatherman. At least Larry gets the forecasts from the National Weather Service and has Doppler Radar. And if not, he can look outside at the clouds and venture a guess. We don’t even have the benefit of seeing a good cloud cover. Since the third practice of the season in early August when Urban locked the gates to the media and fans, all we’ve been getting is second-hand material. If they don’t say it happened, then it didn’t happen. However, it’s what they don’t say that makes me believe this Gator team is going to be special. Something tells me the coaches are giddy. That some of the gaps have been filled and the shortcomings shored up. That defensive tackle isn’t going to be a position devoid of talent. That safety has been fortified. That the loss of Cornelius Ingram, painful though it may have been, won’t be devastating. That the running backs are plentiful. Let’s not say the cup runneth over but it may well be filled to the brim. For the most part the players have stayed out of trouble. The chemistry on the team and coaching staff appears to be

54

September/October 2008 www.gatorcountry.com

better than last year, and that’s with three new coaches. Injuries have been high in number but not all critical and, besides, this team has remarkable depth at some positions. And then there is the schedule that, while difficult, is still pretty favorable with all but one big conference biggie (Tennessee) being played in “The Swamp.” We all know about that red-letter, double-circle game on Nov. 1 in Jacksonville which is being heralded as the Clash of the Titans. And it does, indeed, set up as maybe the biggest FloridaGeorgia game ever played, with both teams likely to be ranked high. There is an obvious, huge incentive here for Florida and you can rest assured that Meyer will wring every ounce out of Georgia’s Times Square Celebration after the opening touchdown last season. In fact, that little demonstration by the Dawgs is going to cost them for years to come. Otherwise, what do we know? Their quarterback will be mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate. I can tell you this about the 2008 Gators. They will play at least 12 football games, maybe 13, or maybe 14, and they will win more games than they lose. I am fairly certain they will beat Hawaii and The Citadel, and probably Miami, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida State. The games in question are Tennessee, LSU and Georgia. To be honest, they are all in question, just some are bigger questions than others. And so we guess. I am going to guess that these Gators don’t lose to Georgia, but do lose one somewhere along the way, because SEC teams just don’t go unbeaten. So let’s make it Tennessee. But they will recover in time to make it to Atlanta, where they will play Auburn for the SEC title, beat the Tigers and then finish No. 2 in the nation behind unbeaten Southern Cal. In Miami, Southern Cal kicks a field goal to win in overtime. Hey, but it’s only a guess, so don’t be hard on me.


Gator Country Magazine - September/October 2008  

Latest issue of the Gator Country magazine featuring Urban Meyer on the cover.

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