Meyer admitted Saturday afternoon that he takes it very seriously when
an underclassman wants to leave school for the National Football League.
When he has his discussions with underclassmen, first and foremost, he
wants to know their reasoning but he said he only gives opinions when
opinions are asked for.
"Each case is an individual," said Meyer, who began his day in Atlanta
watching a high school football combine before flying to Daytona Beach
to speak to the Volusia County Gator Club's annual gathering, held as
always at the Daytona International Speedway. "A coach or anybody that
would tell a kid that this is what you should do that's a mistake. If
they ask your opinion, that's your opinion."
Jackson was the second early entry into the NFL in Meyer's brief tenure
at the University of Florida. The first was tailback Ciatrick Fason, a
1,200-yard rusher for Coach Ron Zook in 2004. Meyer was hardly on the
University of Florida campus in January after his Utah team had waxed
Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl when Fason came to his office to talk about
going to the play for pay league.
"I didn't know C4 at all," said Meyer. "He came in [my office], we sat
down and talked. He said 'Coach I got to take care of my two kids. I
want to get married. I want to do this, this and this and that's why I'm
going out.' I stood up, walked across the room and gave him a big hug
and said God bless you, that's very admirable and you've gotta do that."
Meyer didn't try to talk Fason out of leaving Florida and says he would
never do that.
"That would be a tragic mistake," said Meyer. "If he does come back and
something happens, then you're at fault. You can give your opinion,
Fason was drafted in the third round by the Minnesota Vikings. He had a
productive 2005 season in the NFL and he will see the field quite often
in year two.
Just a few days prior to his conversation with Fason, Meyer had a smilar
earlier Meyer had a similar conversation with his quarterback at Utah,
"With Alex Smith he came back and said 'General Managers I have talked
to said I am going to be a first round pick, maybe a top 15 pick so we
shook hands and started talking about something else," said Meyer. "That
was a no-brainer and he had his degree already."
Smith became the number one pick in the 2005 NFL draft when he was
selected by the San Francisco 49ers.
With Jackson, there was a certain amount of skepticism on Meyer's part
largely because the pre-draft evaluations were incomplete. It was just a
few days after the Gators had waxed Iowa, 31-24, in the Outback Bowl and
Jackson hadn't done any individual workouts for the pro scouts. Jackson
tied the school record for catches in a season (88) so his productivity
was certainly high enough to get the attention of the NFL scouting
establishment in a draft year that was expected to be very weak for wide
"When that discussion came up, he had the goal of playing in the NFL and
he had a goal of being drafted as high as possible," said Meyer. "The
research we did was mixed because he didn't have that 4.3 time yet so
that was not a no-brainer."
Jackson turned the heads of the skeptics in Indianapolis with a blazing
4.3 40-yard dash and in workouts at Florida's Pro Day and private
session with coaches and scouts, his draft stock rose considerably.
"It turned out that with his workouts and his 40 times that it was a
no-brainer," Meyer said.
At the time Meyer was speaking to the media, race cars were roaring
around the speedway's famed tri-oval banked track and the 2006 NFL Draft
was already in full swing. Only later in the day, well after he had
finished his speech and signed plenty of autographs for fans from the
crowd of 750 that attended the gathering, was Jackson drafted --- the
number 36 player taken, fourth selection of the second round by the New England Patriots.
In assessing Jackson's abilities, he said, "There are some things he has
to work on. He's really only played one year. That's the way you look at
Chad Jackson. His first year, he really didn't play receiver. He played
special teams. His second year he was a 22-catch guy (actually 29) or
something like that and last year, he played a lot of football and made
some great plays. Normally speaking, you need two years of football
before you're ready to go to the NFL and he hasn't had it. He's had one
But, Jackson left on good terms and he will always find the welcome mat
at Meyer's door. Meyer's only regret about the entire decision-making
process is the distraction of being asked the same questions by friends,
family and media during Florida's practices for the Outback Bowl.
"I enjoy talking about those things after a bowl game," he said. "Any
distraction during the season … a couple of times the media, family and
third uncles were all asking 'What's he going to do? What's he going to
do? What's he going to do? I'm going to make it clear with the family,
media and our team that those are great discussions to have after your
bowl game like I've done in the past. You can't distract a team during
SPRING ASSESSMENT: Meyer said that the recently concluded spring
practice answered some but not all the questions the Gators had when
practices began in late March.
"There are certain areas that exceeded our expectations," he said. "I
think our quarterback situation is better than I thought it would be. I
think our offensive line is better than I thought it would be. I'm a
little disappointed with our D-line because we had some injuries and I
thought they would come together as a unit better than they did. The
linebacker position we needed to create some depth and we didn't solve
that problem. We helped it a little bit but we didn't solve it."
Asked the greatest areas of need, he said, "Linebacker probably and just
a lack of experience on the offensive line and then corner … those are
the three areas."
ATKINS UPDATE: Speaking to the media before the event and to the
Gator fans during the gathering, Meyer re-iterated that the situation
with Avery Atkins is okay.
"It's a family situation which I think we've done a good job respecting
his privacy," said Meyer, who told the crowd that Atkins was on track to
finish the spring semester with a 3.5 in the classroom. "He's all set
for summer school. His situation is not going to go away. He's just a
young guy that has to learn to deal with something and we're helping him
but it's all positive. He's back in Gainesville. He's getting ready for
finals. He has two finals next week."
TEBOW AND INGRAM: Meyer told the crowd that freshman quarterback
Tim Tebow and multi-purpose receiver Cornelius Ingram have really bonded
and will be working together throughout the summer. Meyer said that the
two aren't going home in Summer A. They will stay on campus where they
can throw and catch daily.
OVER-RATED 40: Meyer said that the 40-yard dash is one of the
most over-rated tools for judging football players. He reads all the
stories about high school kids running sub-4.3 40s and the like and he
doesn't buy it, particularly since he thinks it's not even the most
important aspect of judging a player's ability.
"It's a great tool but I think it's over-rated and I think that the more
I'm in this game," said Meyer, who said the 100-meter dash is a far
better indicator of speed.
"The thing about 100 meter times … that's computerized and digital," he
said. "With 40 times it could be that third uncle that sits in my office
that sometimes says they run a 4.28 … well, it's not a 4.28."
Meyer said that what's far more important than 40 times is football
speed, which he said is vastly different than any 40-yard dash.
"Football speed is what you want," he said. "Football speed is how fast
you play when you're getting smoked, when you're getting ready to get
hit. Nyan Boateng is the perfect example. His 40-time is still a little
faster than his football time right now because he's still learning how
to play. He hasn't played a whole lot of football. Game speed improves
OFF THE FIELD PROBLEMS: Meyer said that he's proud of the way the
off the field problems with the law have been curtailed under his watch.
He said there are still problems, but not the kind that resulted in
players arrested and embarrassing the university and the football program.
"We had a lot of problems [last year] but they are all considered minor
and all considered fixable," he said. "They just weren't brushes with
the law like we saw in the papers. We're certainly not where we want to
be at the University of Florida but it's actually better than it was a