Press Conference Quotes


Posted Sep 2, 2003


Ron Zook, Max Starks, Dallas Bakers and others sound off about their win against San Jose State and their upcoming game against the mighty Hurricanes.

Head Coach Ron Zook

Opening Statement:

“Saturday’s game was exciting and an exciting way to start the season. We weren’t concerned, but optimistically looking at this team. We have 90 guys and 45 of them haven’t played before but we ran out of the tunnel and got to the right bench. One thing (that happened that) you would expect from a young football team would be that they waited around in the beginning. But they played with emotion and played with excitement and energy. After we blocked the punt is when they really seemed to start going. I was also pleased with the fact that as the game went on, we got better. That’s a sign this team wants to learn and get better. It’s very important that we continue to do that throughout the season. As for this week, it’s a big challenge for us and we are excited about going down there.”

On fifth-year senior walk-on corner Johnny Lamar earning a scholarship and starting vs. SJSU:

“I’m so happy and proud of him and what he’s done. He played an unbelievable game Saturday night. He’s a walk-on and it tells you that recruiting is not an exact science and that guys mature differently. He’s a guy that has continually gotten better and better, hung around here for five years and done what he has been asked to do. I was happy to be able to put him on scholarship.”

On being the underdog vs. Miami:

“I don’t look at it that way, but we do have an awful lot to gain. Our football team is excited to go down there; this is a great opportunity against a great football team. Everyone knows who Miami is, what they’ve done, and their record speaks for itself. This is a chance for us to show people where we are and to show ourselves what we can do. We’ve still got the same 45 (young) guys coming out of the tunnel. It will be a different tunnel and a different environment, but it will be exciting to see how we perform.”

On placekicker Matt Leach and the improvement on special teams:

“I’ve had confidence in Matt’s leg. I’ve been around enough kickers in college and the NFL to know he has a great leg. It’s just like a golfer, you can hit the ball, but you have to make it go straight and that’s what we needed to do with Matt, the consistency. Right now he is in a rhythm. In the rain, his swing got messed up, but he has overcome that. I’m very happy with the way he’s kicked and he needs to continue to kick that way.”

“I’m happy with the special teams, but we still have a lot of improvement there. We have guys that want to be on special teams. They realize it’s a way to get on the field and a way to have an impact, even if it’s just one play.”

On trying to keep QB Brock Berlin at Florida when he took the head coaching job:

“When you recruit at the University of Florida, you always have a chance. Talking to the guys I know he is well thought of. I’ve never heard a negative word about Brock since I’ve been here and the administration loves him. I tried to do everything I possibly could to keep him here, but he made a decision and those things happen. There is not one negative thought about him; not only was he respected as a football player, but also as a well-thought of person.”

On the strengths of this year’s Miami team:

“Same team, different names. They’ve never really been a giant team, their offensive line is big, but they are an athletic football team and a well-coached team. They play with a lot of excitement and a lot of energy. They run to the ball very well and make things happen, and that’s the way it’s been for a lot of years.”

On recruiting in Miami:

“There's going to be guys down there that we can't get, but I feel good about going down there. (Defensive line coach) Red (Anderson) has done a great job down there and highly thought of and respected. It's taking time, but we're getting in. I think there are a lot of Gators down there. (Linebackers coach and former Miami defensive coordinator) Bill Miller has spent a lot of time down there as well. Contacts take a little bit of time to build, but Bill has come in and instantly given us a big help."

On rotating quarterbacks:

"If you ask the experts, it's probably not the best thing to do. This football season we had four prospects have great springs. The thing we have to do is play the guy that is going to give our team the best opportunity to win. I also think that when you have guys with no experience, you don't want to put it all on the quarterback. We felt all along that our offensive line is improved, our running back situation is better, and we have not only depth at wide receiver, but guys that can make things happen. With that, we just want the quarterback to go in and use his ability to run the system, without having to win the game for us. I don't want any of these guys to feel they have to go in and win the game; I don't want confidence to be a factor. Because things are going this way, doesn’t mean it's going to be like this all year long. At this point in time, I don't think it is disruptive. I talked to the staff and players and there doesn't seem to be any conflict with this system. They know what we're doing. Until we get to a point where someone is "the guy" then we have to play the one who will give us the best opportunity to win."

On the number of Gator fans in the stands in Miami:

“It could be similar to the Gator Bowl when we play Georgia. I don’t know if it will be that many, but I know it means we will have constant energy and constant excitement. When you have a great crowd it is uplifting to your football team.”

On the Florida-Miami Rivalry:

“A lot of these guys are from the state of Florida and have played against each other and know each other. From that standpoint it is a natural rivalry. All those things magnify the intensity level of this game and I am sure they want to beat us for the very same reasons. The state has three great programs and each one wants to be the best in the state of Florida.”

On the Offensive Line:

“We are looking forward to getting (Jon) Colon and (Anthony) Guerrero back to add depth to the offensive line. We did however, still play a good number of guys and that paid off for us. I think we are getting closer to finding our top five. I don’t see a lot of changes in the line this week. We are still going to rotate them and try and keep people fresh.”

On DE Bobby McCray playing the game of his life:

“I hope he does and anybody who has been around him knows that he is a talented individual. I love Bobby and have every reason to believe that he will go down there and do it. He is an extremely gifted athlete. He can bench over 400 pounds and jump out of the gym.”

On a talent comparison between Miami and Florida:

They are a very talented football team. I went back and looked at the tape from last year and there were a lot of things that could have happened. There were a lot of “ifs” and that doesn’t mean we should have won the football game. They are a great football team and they have proven that. It is our job to go down there and prove how good of a football team we are. I have said this before I think we are a better football team right now than we were a year ago today. Will that be good enough to go down there and win? I don’t know but we will find out.”

On defensive coordinator Charlie Strong’s influence on the defense:

"Charlie has a great rapport with the players and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get him back here. We didn’t change things much on defense but I was extremely pleased with the way we chased the ball and tackled on Saturday night.”

On stopping Miami's TE Kellen Winslow:

“He is a great player and in watching him on tape he has really become an all-around tight end. There are some things with him that you have to take into consideration. They put him all over the field and you have to know where he is at all times.”

On UF corner Keiwan Ratliff:

“He has the athletic ability to be as good a corner as I have been around. I think he tackled well on Saturday and I like his toughness. He knows it’s his senior year and a chance to turn it up and play well.”

Max Starks, Offensive Guard

On playing against former teammate Brock Berlin:

“He’s a really great athlete and a great quarterback. It’s going to be interesting to see him out there as starting quarterback for Miami, having a year to get familiar with the system. He’s playing against his friends, who are right now his enemies, so it will be an interesting game.”

“He was here for two years. He was here as a freshman and sophomore and went through the hardships of transitioning from high school to college, so he has definitely made some friends here. We’ve spoken on and off since he’s been down there in Miami.”

On this year’s camp:

“Camp helped out a lot. It’s going to play a big role in our endurance and conditioning because this is a tough team and it’s going to be a 60-minute battle from beginning to end. So it’s going to come down to the fourth quarter and that’s when will see who has the better conditioning and endurance to outlast the other.”

“Our team is a lot tougher this year than we were coming into this game last year. We are a lot better prepared and we have the people in place that we need.”

On the benefits of playing freshmen this year:

“I believe it will have benefits, especially after this first game. It gave me a lot of confidence as a senior because I didn’t know how they would perform in front of 90,000 people in their first collegiate game. They held their composure very well and executed their assignments. It will really help us as we progress through the year.”

On the Miami-Florida rivalry:

“This ranks pretty high. The anticipation for this rivalry to be renewed has been so great, and now we have this opportunity. We played them in the Sugar Bowl two years ago and then had them here last year, so it’s definitely starting to heat up to the status of the Florida State or Georgia rivalry.”

On freshman quarterback Chris Leak’s first game:

“He came in and let his actions speak for him. He didn’t really have the opportunity to say too much because we were ahead when he came in the game. But in the future he might have something to say.”

Keiwan Ratliff, Cornerback /Wide Receiver

On playing Miami:

“When you come to a school like Florida, you want to play the best, and right now Miami is one of the best.”

On this game’s influence on recruiting:

“This game certainly can’t hurt, it can only help. Playing against Florida State and Miami every year gives you two big games that will be nationally televised and recruits want to play on television.”

On last year’s game:

“Of course it still stings. Every time you lose you remember things and you want a chance to play them again. Knowing we were in that game early and let it slip away is bothersome. It bothers any competitor. Any time you lose to a team it is embarrassing. Whether it’s by 20 points or two, it’s embarrassing because you feel you should beat every team you play.”

On how he would describe himself as a player:

“A risk taker. As a corner you have to have a short memory. Sometimes if you take risks you’ll get beat, and sometimes you’ll get rewarded. I like the rewards better than the failures. I like to take risks because I am trying to help the team.”

Shannon Snell, Offensive Guard

On the environment in the Orange Bowl…

"The environment is going to be hostile, very hostile. It will kind of be like LSU at night, so it will be pretty rough. Its going to be one of the best atmospheres I have ever played in. I remember playing down in LSU. It was fun because going into hostile territory always makes you step up your level of play. I can't wait to get down there and play."

On being underdogs vs. Miami…

"Normally I try not to look at the odds, but it is tough. It does put the target on them a little bit. They have everything to lose in the game. While everyone is expecting us to lose, we have nothing to lose. I think that’s bad for them."

"I'm going to have to play extra hard because I know the guy across from me is too. This has to be the game of my life because if I am going to talk the talk, I have to walk the walk."

On what the Miami game means versus SEC games…

"We want to win every game but this one is for backyard bragging rights like it always is. You want to win these games to win the state of Florida with Florida State and Miami. I am not taking this game any differently than Tennessee, South Carolina, or Kentucky. "

On not being ranked highly…

"Its kind of fun being the hunter though. If you're Oklahoma and you are sitting at that number one spot, you are waiting for someone to knock you off every week. Its fun when you are the team trying to take the number one team down."

Daryl Dixon, Free Safety

On this year's tough camp…

"Miami is just going to pound you play after play so you have to be mentally tough. The camp we had definitely prepared us for a game like this. Especially with the weather, how hard it was, and day after day of going out and hitting each other and pounding. I think it will definitely be an advantage."

On the defense proving themselves versus SJSU…

"I don't think that we proved anything last week. To do that you have to go out and play the best. Right now, because of the athletes they have, the best is Miami."

Travis Harris, Defensive End

On playing Miami…

"This is a big game. I'm just focused on winning, not on losing. I feel like we have a good chance this year. Going down there with the group of guys that we have. We have some young guys but they are very talented."

On the rotation of players on the defensive line…

"When you are on the defensive line, staying fresh is a real big key. When you are up against somebody it is like you are fighting them for a few seconds here and there and that really wears your body down. The fresher the legs we can get out on the field, the better for us."

On the defensive line not getting a lot of credit from the media…

"That is just motivation. I might as well write those critics a check because all they are doing is motivating us as a defensive line to work harder and get better. If they stop criticizing us then we may not get to be as good as we are going to be. People can criticize us all they want. It is just motivation."

On the team's thoughts when Brock Berlin transferred to Miami…

"At the time that (Brock Berlin) left, we had Rex Grossman so there was no one pouting or crying about it. This is a business so we aren't bitter about him leaving. He went someplace where he felt he had a better opportunity."

Dallas Baker, Wide Receiver

On what he knows about the Orange Bowl…

"I don't really know too much about the Orange Bowl. Right now I am just focusing on the game and how we can come up with a win. I'm not really focused on what it is going to feel like to play in Miami. I am trying to focus on what its going to feel like to win this game."

On waiting to play in a big game like Miami…

"Its not about the team, I've been waiting for the longest just to play. Its not about who we are playing. If we were playing San Jose State again, I would still be ready to come out and play so it really doesn't matter who we are playing."

Kenny Parker, Defensive Tackle

On this week's game vs. Miami…

"We are considered underdogs to everyone in the country. We are ranked 21 in the nation and that says a lot to us. In the past this school has been rated in the top 10 every year. So it is more of a big motivation to us that everyone looks at us as being young and inexperienced. That is all a plus. We can come into the game more relaxed now."

On living with back pain…

"The back pain, soreness, and cramping that is natural. That is something that is supposed to happen, just like any other muscle. But as far as pain and having to worry about surgery again, that is not an issue."

On stopping Miami's run…

"The main thing is stay in our gaps and use the techniques that our coaches taught us and everything else will be fine."

"Staying fresh is a real big thing. Last year we didn't rotate guys on the defensive line. One thing we want to stress this year is having everybody be able to rotate in and having our coaches trust us enough that they can put us out there and not have to worry about whether or not we are going to read our key right."


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