Meyer: Great Defense Overcomes Adversity

Urban Meyer

Last night, the Florida Gators defense dominated the LSU offense in front of a record crowd in Baton Rouge. In doing so, the No. 1 ranked Gators protected Tim Tebow while staying undefeated and maintaining the nation's longest winning streak. Urban Meyer talked about those things and much more during his Sunday morning teleconference.

How close were you to not using Tebow?
"Early in the week, I had a lot of hesitation. As it grew closer and the medical staff assured us that he would be fine if he passed all the tests, I talked to other college coaches and Bob Tebow. I needed 100 percent assurance form the medical staff and 100 percent from the athlete and I had both."

You lost Matt Patchan during the week. How concerned with you to changes along the offensive line, and how would you grade their performance?
"We obviously have a depth issue on the O-line. Jon Halapio and Xavier Nixon are two freshmen that we're going to push to get ready. I would give them a B/B+ because that was a good D-line, and they played pretty good."

Was it reassuring that the defense played to win the game?
"That's what we are right now. I'm an offensive coach and to know that is good. This is not the first year that I've had a defense that can win games. All the great teams I've been affiliated with have had great defenses. We've had some high-scoring teams like two years ago, and it will get you statistics, but it won't give you wins."

How good was it to get through the game like you wanted to?
"We've had our share of 'what if?' moments this season with illnesses and guys getting nicked up. I love this team. They've fought through adversity and we're 5-0. Any time you have a great defense you can fight through a lot of things."

How did John Brantley react when he found out he wasn't starting?
"I talked to him after the game and many times before. One thing around here is there's a lot of communication with the players and especially when you're dealing with mature, grown-up people. Absolutely no issue whatsoever with Johnny. He's going to prepare again this week as if he's playing. I think that's the No.1 thing with a kid like Johnny is that he's growing up and he's matured and he's preparing to go win a game."

How much of the defense is players and how much is Coach Strong?
"I think it's a great marriage. This is a player's game and Charlie will be the first to tell you. It's not how the schemes are drawn up, it's how they execute it. There're highly recruited players everywhere in the country. It's getting them to play unselfish and to play as a unit. You can't play with 10 where someone can get exposed, and right now, we're playing with 11 strong."

Will Tim continue to undergo daily testing and assessment?
"I don't know off hand. I'll have that answer. I have not asked that question."

What did you think about the corners shutting down both Toliver and LaFell?
"We recruited both of those receivers. When they came out they were two of the best receivers in high school football. You'll see them both playing on Sundays. That was my biggest fear. Our defense is built on stopping the run with guys like Spikes and our front seven. Could we keep those athletes in front of us? Coach Heater and Bedford got those boys in the right positions. They worked real hard this week."

Was the play calling more conservative because of Tim?
"Anytime you manage a game, it's how your defense and special teams are playing and they played at a very high level. Tim has not been able to condition, for instance he's coming in for a heavy weight workout today. It was only about half last week, and we wanted to keep that in mind."

How healthy are you after yesterday?
"Jaye Howard has a bruised knee. Maurice Hurt has a sore neck, but we're pretty good."

Is Joe Haden one of the best man-to-man corners you've seen?
"We've had some good ones. Ryan Smith was pretty good and the other one, Janoris Jenkins, is pretty good. But I love Joe Haden. He brings so much to the table and he's great on special teams, too."

Is it unusual for you identity to be on defense?
"In ‘01 at Bowling Green, we were awful on offense for the first half, and our defense won some games for us. Then our ‘06 national title team was a defense first team."

Would you like more balance on offense?
"I'd like to see us a little more balanced on offense. I thought we would be a little further ahead and I also saw our schedule and wanted to find a way to be 5-0."

Can you talk about extending the nation's longest winning streak?
"We have some very good players and to get them to play unselfish is very difficult. We're just trying to get to Tuesday's practice. The only good thing about being 5-0 is the chance to go 6-0. We don't have time for that. There are no signs around the office or the locker room. It's not in the discussion."

Is Charlie Strong ready to be a head coach?
"I'm going to start hearing this question a lot. Charlie is not only a great coach, he's a great friend, a great person and a great role model. Our program is based on personnel and develop the personnel, and Charlie does that better than anybody."

Do you expect a confident Arkansas team?
"Oh yeah. Our defensive coaches have told me many times that they've very good. I have studied Coach Petrino for a long time. I haven't watched them on defense, but I've certainly watched them on offense. We know exactly what we're getting. We're getting one of the top offenses in the Southeastern Conference. They've got a guy that can throw it all over the place and I love that running back. He kind of ripped us apart last year. The film doesn't lie and when you start seeing confidence, you've got something to deal with. They maybe didn't have the confidence last year, but you can see that happening right now?"

Have you talked with Scot Loeffler who worked with Ryan Mallet at Michigan about Ryan yet?
"We've talked about him already. Scot has a lot of respect for him. He says he's got a great arm and Scot's been around a lot of great guys like Henne and Brady."

Does there ever come a point where you say we're just going to be a power running team?
"I don't think you say it's just okay. You don't hear that around here or from me. At some point, we're going to have to throw the ball around to win a game. Right now, Deonte Thompson is full strength. Cooper is playing at a very high level, and Hernandez is. We've got Tebow back full time at practice now. We have to throw the ball. We're No. 1 in third down efficiency. We're No. 1 in pass efficiency. That's who we are. We're going to be very efficient when we throw the ball and we have so far this year."

You mentioned talking to two college coaches about Tebow. Who were they and what did they say?
"I'm not going to say who they were out of respect for them. One of them dealt with this exactly. Same injury, same time of year. That was Thursday night. I talked to Coach Holtz and Coach Bruce and one other coach who is still active. There are two things. Number one, it has to be absolute with the health staff. And number two, look the athlete in the eyes. If you get clearance on both, then the athlete deserves to play."

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