Meyer opened the media event praising the play of his defense against Troy.
“We have had some other great efforts, but it was one of our best efforts our guys have had,” Meyer said of his defense that limited Troy to six points in the game. “To hold them to 139 total yards...at one point it was like 30 yards passing late in the second half. They were 12 percenton third downs and had 10 drives of three-and-out.”
Meyer praised Troy's deception on defense from slowing the onslaught that would eventually occur from the Florida offense.
“The offense mushed around in the beginning with the weather and did a good job ...(Troy) changed the defensive scheme early in the game and it took us a minute to figure it out,” he said. “They did a very nice job of planning for our offense.”
The Gators fumbled six times and lost three of them, something Meyer said will get better.
“Turnovers, we had a bad day,” he said. “We will lose this weekend if we don't get that corrected. You know how we feel about that around here. I have enough confidence in our players and coaches and we will get that corrected.”
The Gators were ultra efficient inside the red zone a year ago. This year they have been good against inferior competition, but Meyer knows it can get better.
“Red zone, we did okay,” Meyer said. “A missed field goal down there we can't have and we will get that corrected. We had another turnover inside the red zone. We are 11-of-14 and not as good as we were last year so we need to work on that.”
In all Meyer was quite surprised how easy the Gators won and has a lot of respect for Troy.
“I did not see that score coming,” he said. “They have good athletes. They will be a bowl team when it is over.”
Meyer named his champions.
Deonte Thompson, Tim Tebow, Aaron Hernandez, Jeff Demps, Brandon James, John Brantley, T.J. Pridemore, Carl Johnson, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Pouncey, James Wilson, and Riley Cooper.
According to Meyer, ”Maurkice Pouncey was offensive player of the game and graded out at 98 percent.”
Meyer also continued to laud Riley Cooper.
“The one guy I would like to mention and can't mention enough is Riley Cooper,” Meyer said. “He is playing at a really high level right now. A lot of it is without the ball, which in this day and age it is neat to see.”
“He could be an NFL receiver in a heartbeat. Last year...we have two starting now and CI would have started. We have done a good job of developing NFL talent. Bubba Caldwell is starting, Louis Murphy is starting. Billy G has done a great job. My man Coop can play in the NFL, no doubt about it.”
Major Wright, Ahmad Black, Will Hill, Brandon Spikes, Ryan Stamper, A.J. Jones, Jelani Jenkins, Joe Haden, Markihe Anderson, Carlos Dunlap, and Justin Trattou
The defensive player of the game was Jermaine Cunningham. He had 31 points in their point system.
Meyer is expecting the crowd to be a major part of the game on Saturday. The Swamp is maybe the most imposing stadium in college football and Meyer always loves to utilize the atmosphere when he can.
“We look forward to playing this game at home and ask our fans to wear blue,” he said. “(We are) anxious to play our first SEC game in the greatest stadium in college football and with the greatest fans. We are ready to go and are going to have a good week.”
A number of big time football prospects will also be in attendance. Florida has added to the atmosphere aesthetically over the last two years with new facilities in the south end zone and now new jumbo-trons adorning the top of the north and south end zones. Meyer knows every bit helps in recruiting.
“It matters for the whole environment that you put together,” he said. “Will they come for that? No. But, they will come for the overall presentation. Your presentation has a lot to do with young men coming together.”
Meyer knows the importance of this game, but the most important aspect of the game for his team is that it is the first of eight conference matchups on the season.
“The reason I love rivalry games is because I am a big football fan,” he said. “I love watching other rivalry games on TV. I was thrust into the three rivalries here. You have to be careful here. I think it's more the SEC as opposed to one team or two teams. I am a big fan as is our coaching staff and our players. They love the SEC.”
Competition is still driving Meyer's team as they head toward the meat of their schedule. The Gators are two-deep just about everywhere on the roster and in some places have third teamers that are pretty good as well. At all three levels of the defense there is competition for starting spots.
“It is good that we have co-starters. Who is your four down?” Meyer asked of the defensive line. “At three technique we have Jaye Howard and Terron Sanders and I don't know who will start. It depends who practices the best and both will play. Who is your five-technique? It's Carlos Dunlap and Justin Trattou and they are both very good players. Your Fox position is going to be Jermaine Cunningham, William Green and Duke Lemmens.”
“When you have a really good defense you can rotate players. It is a little bit like on offense. If we have five good receivers, we can put them on the field at the same time. There are creative ways and that is a good issue to have.”
“We aren't going to list the offensive line, it's week to week. We have six starters on our offensive line and three starters at safety.”
One of the focal points of competition has been at safety where sophomore Will Hill earned the start in the season opener against Charleston Southern over Ahmad Black. Hill didn't have a great game, but continues to impress the staff enough to warrant a great deal of playing time.
“He played great,” Meyer said of Hill in his second start against Troy. “He had three-for-three opportunities. He didn't play great in his first game. He missed a tackle in the open field. The thing that makes Will Hill different than most safeties, he can play in the deep middle, he can play man-to-man coverage, and he can play down in the box.
“Ahmad Black can't do all those things. Will is such a good athlete and is as valuable a safety as anyone in the country because he can do all three. The only other guy that we had that could do all of that was Reggie Nelson. He had the athleticism, to cover guys man-to-man.”
Meyer is also seeing competition at linebacker and especially on the strong side where A.J. Jones has improved his play so much that he is making it very difficult for Brandon Hicks to get back in that role. Hicks won the job over Jones late last season.
“A.J. Jones is a guy that I think comes from really good people,” Meyer said. “He has never been in any discipline issues. He takes care of school, but did get a little lax in football. (After 2006) we lost our three starters and he kind of take that for granted. It was taken from him and he was beat out by Hicks. Now he is completely different and I admire him a lot. He is in a dog fight with Hicks for that spot and both will play.”
It is this insistence on excellence on defense that Meyer says his team understands and relishes. This is what makes them a good team and a very good defense.
“(It's about the) personnel,” he reiterated. “I think we have a group that was embarrassed two years ago and they walk around with a chip on their shoulder. That is still thrown at them a little bit by myself and others. In this program, you have to play great defense.”
“Joe Haden comes in and is one of the best wide receivers in America and he is starting at corner. Matt Patchan comes in as one of the best offensive linemen in the country and he goes to three-technique because we needed him there...Our players know we manage a game with defense in mind. We try and not put them in bad position. It starts with personnel and there is a variety of other things. That is how you play great defense.”
With all the competition some might worry about team chemistry. Tim Tebow believes the chemistry is the best he has seen. Meyer likes the chemistry a lot.
“I listen to guys like Tim and our strength coach,” Meyer said. “He has made some comments as well and it's pretty strong. The core of our team is strong. When you can have a grown man conversation with a lot of guys on your team that is pretty good and we can do that now.”
The competition at tailback means when someone isn't playing well another one can go in the game. Against Troy, Emmanuel Moody fumbled on his only carry of the game and wasn't seen on the field after that carry.
Meyer still has faith in the junior from Texas.
“He is dealing with some injury issues, but nothing to keep him out of the game,” Meyer said. “He is really down but is fine and practiced yesterday.
“He is a person that won the starting tailback job at Tennessee last year and then got hurt. He is a guy that was running hard this year then showed up at training camp and sprained his ankle and was out for two weeks.”
“I think when you put your mind into his whole world, which is playing football and carrying the football at Florida...then injury, fumble, this and this. I certainly have not lost confidence, we just have to get him right.”
Meyer named freshmen cornerback Adrian Bushell, linebacker Jelani Jenkins, linebacker Jon Bostic, and defensive tackle Omar Hunter as young guys that are making a move for more playing time.
“Bushell, I will start him on kickoff, he is doing good,” Meyer said. “Jelani Jenkins is another guy we are trying to get back for this game. Bostic is a guy that's really come on. Omar Hunter is coming on and starting to develop a little bit. We have some pretty good guys coming up the ranks.”
There have been a lot of fond memories in the Tennessee game from two Florida seniors both from the St. Augustine area. Quarterback Tim Tebow and do everything kick returner Brandon James have made a living off of the Vols in their four years.
James earned his first start as a returner on the road in front of 100,000-plus hostile fans as a freshman.
“I will never forget that he wasn't our starting punt returner until I stood behind him in Knoxville when he took the field as a freshman,” Meyer said. “100,000-plus people and he had so much confidence. I have seen a lot of guys confidence in practice when we're practicing than I have seen on a Saturday afternoon when we took the field...that is when he became our starting punt returner.”
It was the same game in Knoxville that Meyer called upon Tebow to deliver one of the biggest plays in that national championship season. Tebow was asked to come off the bench for a first down run as a true freshman.
“He has played really well,” Meyer said of Tebow in the series. “I remember that like yesterday when we called time out and it was fourth and one I saw that young stallion sitting on the sideline and here we go. He's played really well. Some other guys have played fantastic and that is what makes Florida special. I think a guy like Tim Tebow and Reggie Nelson will be legends around here and deservedly so because they play awfully well in these big games.”
Meyer is expecting a lot of the usual stuff that fans are used to seeing Tennessee offense, they want to run the ball hard at you. On defense they are very talented with speed and skill all over the place.
“It's not a secret what they are going to do,” Meyer said. “They have two really good backs. They are going to try and pound us and come after us running the ball. That is why a guy like Lawrence Marsh who hasn't played yet is going to be key. I don't believe they are going to come in trying to throw it all over the place. We have to stop the run and if it starts to be a down hill game we will have a problem.”
Meyer believes if they can shut down the run they should be able to be a little more free with the offense.
“I don't feel that way yet, I don't know enough about the game,” he said. “If we can go into this game and play great defense and control line of scrimmage and the run, that changes how you attack things on offense.
“I met with Coach Heater on Sunday, a little tradition we have and I asked, 'what do you think?' That gets in my mind because I am the person that has to manage that game. If we aren't playing defense we will have to take a lot of chances. If we are playing great defense then we won't.”
The Vols come to town sporting a NFL legend as defensive coordinator. Monte Kiffin is well respected among his peers and Meyer is included in that group. Meyer knows all about Kiffin and has a great relationship with him. He feels like he knows what to expect on Saturday.
According to Meyer, he doesn't expect a lot of the famous Tampa-2 defense that Kiffin perfected with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the Vols on Saturday.
“That's not what they play,” Meyer said. “They are a fire zone, blitzing group. The one thing about Tennessee defense is they were number three in America a year ago. Their personnel...they are an excellent defensive football team. They have very good players.
“When you hear Tampa-2 defense that is in passing situations you will play that, not to stop the run. What makes them difficult is that there are a lot of edge pressures that we have to be ready for.”
One defender the Gators will be looking to stay away from is interception master Eric Berry. Berry is a first team All-American and a real monster safety that can do it all in the secondary.
“He is that talented and is the real deal,” Meyer said of Berry. “We are trying to find where he is, they are doing a good job of moving him all over the place. We don't have that figured out.”
It should be a relatively healthy Gator squad that practices this week. Meyer expects his starting defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh back after missing the first two games. He also expects starting receiver Deonte Thompson to return after leaving the game against Troy with a hamstring injury.
“Marsh is probable, I say he will play,” Meyer said. “It is a little longer injury than we thought. If I had to say, he'll play.”
“Deonte we will find out and I say as of right now its probable and there is no question he will play. We just have to get him at practice Tuesday and Wednesday, he needs the practice.”