Teryl Austin is in his first stint as a defensive coordinator at any level, so there will continue to be a lot of questions until he is able to produce in that capacity. Having spent the last six years of his career in the NFL will certainly help him in his effort, and Austin is excited to bring what he has learned back to the college scene where he first made an impact at big time programs like Michigan and Syracuse.
“I think it's great, especially coming to a great program like the University of Florida,” Austin told a media gathering at a function to introduce Florida’s three newest coaches. “You get a chance with all your hard work to see what shows out (as a coordinator).”
Austin was contacted for the position shortly after it was learned that newly hired defensive coordinator George Edwards was looking at a job as the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills in the NFL.
Austin was first contacted by a former coaching mate at Syracuse, Steve Addazio, who he has a great relationship with.
“The first contact, Steve made a fishing phone call to see if I was interested in coming here,” Austin said. “I had just signed a two year contract extension in Arizona, so I told him the proper way to do this would be to call the head coach Ken Whisenhunt.”
Addazio and Meyer evidently learned that there may be an opening on the staff and were making preliminary calls just in case.
“(Addazio) said there may be something happening the Monday or Tuesday before signing day, and I got down here the Wednesday after (for a meeting). There was about a week for it all to happen.”
Ready to start his leave of absence to get away from everything and get his health in order, Urban Meyer had to spend one more week making sure this last hire was done. However, Meyer seemed to let Addazio take the reins a bit, much like Addazio was supposed to do until Meyer returns from his leave of absence.
“He was involved, but he did step back,” Austin said of Meyer and his hire. “I don’t know how much but with him and Steve, it was collaboration. There wasn’t much he missed. He was there when I visited.”
Austin has a very comfortable relationship with interim head coach Addazio as heard by his humorous comments on his personal coaching friend.
“He is still ugly…still has a loud voice, but one of the best men you will ever meet,” Austin said of Addazio. “He is a big reason (to come here). When you have an opportunity to work with good people, and Steve is a great person…it was a no-brainer.”
Austin has five children that will eventually have to make their way to Gainesville from Phoenix, Ariz. Three boys (15, 12, and 11) and two girls (13 and 8) will have a huge challenge in dealing with the move.
“When this opportunity came up our kids are old enough now that we talked to them about the move and going back to college and going across the country,” Austin said. “As parents, we are going to make the final decision, but we wanted to include them and make them feel comfortable. But, we did get feedback, some good and some not so good. I think they are all excited to move back to a college town.”
“Our kids really loved Ann Arbor (Michigan). They really loved that type of college town atmosphere and football games. I just know when they get here they are really going to love it. “
Austin likes what he is stepping into at Florida. He likes the people that are a part of the program already.
“I think there are a lot of good guys,” he said. “I think when coach picks a staff that it is important that there is chemistry. We spend too much time together to be bickering and fighting. The guys on the staff have been great. Everyone I have come in contact with has been tremendous. It has made it an easier transition.”
There really was no pause for Austin when the opportunity arose to become a coordinator at a major power like Florida. Recruiting won’t be an issue for someone that was known as a top notch recruiter when he did coach in the college ranks.
“I don’t think there was any apprehension…when you have an opportunity to come to a great place like this and coach football in college at the highest level, I think it is a great opportunity,” he said. “I would like to think when I was a coach in college I was a pretty good recruiter. Everyone knows at any level, the players are the lifeblood of the program. The better players you have the better chance you have to succeed.”
Meyer’s future and when he will return did not play a part at all according to Austin.
“I think the biggest thing was the foundation was built at the University of Florida,” Austin said. “I didn’t have any hesitation at all. The health issues are something he has to take care of and I can’t control that. What I can control is the opportunity in coming to this situation to this program and recruiting good student athletes.”
Most of the rest is the same in the NFL or college…preparing players to make plays in games and the right decisions off the field are the things that are preached at both levels.
“There are positives and negatives in any move,” he said. “Obviously in the NFL there is an off-season and we can spend some time with our family. That is kind of minor. One of the things we have to do differently is we don’t have as much time with players in college, we spend more time with them in the NFL…in terms of what you are giving players we have to be careful. We want them to be able to function and can’t give them too much stuff.”
“I think coaching is coaching. You are coaching and trying to make sure the guy playing is trying to be the best person and player he can be. As a player you are always striving for excellence. In the NFL, you are talking about how to live your life. In college they talk about growing to be a good man, so that if you do have an opportunity to play in the pros you can be successful or if you move into the job market you can be a successful citizen. In terms of coaching ball, you coach it the same way.”
As for what we will see on the field, don’t expect a big change in X’s and O’s. Austin understands the success the Florida defense has had in the last four years finishing in the top six in defense nationally three of those last four years.
“We are going to do a lot of things that are player friendly,” he said. “There will be a lot of things that we mesh in with what was done here before. We aren’t going to overhaul…Charlie (Strong) had a great defense in place, a great scheme. To change just to change sometimes isn’t good.”
He was part of a 3-4 scheme at Arizona, applying three down linemen with four linebackers as the base defense. Florida has run a base 4-3, relying on more linemen and three backers. However the Gators used a lot of three down linemen when it came to long down and distance situations and Austin sees that continuing.
“I think if you watched the defense in the past it has a lot of under front,” he said. “That is really nothing more than a 3-4, you just take a guy that is down and stand him up. I think these are the kind of things we are going to use.”
An attacking in your face scheme or zone defense will be decided on when they determine the talent and abilities of the current roster.
“It depends on personnel and what they can do,” Austin said. “One thing I learned a long time ago is you better do what your personnel is good at. Once I get into spring I will determine whether we will play more press or off-an, zone or man, that to me is all to be determined.”
Austin’s personal responsibilities still haven’t been set yet either. It is a period of adjustment now as the staff makes a plan on what positions they will be coaching.
“We haven’t decided that yet, we still have a few GA positions to fill and that is how we are going to determine how we (divvy) our staff,” Austin said. “Right now as we go through the off-season, D.J. Durkin will do something with the linebackers, we don’t know if it is going to be all or a portion, the same thing with Chuck Heater and the secondary, we don’t know if he will do all or a portion of the secondary.”
Austin says he is a guy that is under control during the games and will pound what he has to teach into his guys during the week. He will be doing his coaching from the sideline.
“I’m not a lose my mind guy,” he said. “I like to practice hard during the week. I get after the guys and want them to practice hard. In game time, we are often putting out fires and we have to build them up. I don’t want to be tearing them down.”
“I have been a sideline guy which is nuts. If you have been on the sideline before, you know it is hectic. That is why I feel you have to get your yelling out during the week. On the sideline, when your team needs direction…you can give it.”
Austin is excited to have a very highly rated defensive recruiting class coming in. He said these prospects should come in with the mindset that they can play right away.
“We have 11 kids enrolled in school right now and that is exciting,” he said. “One thing that I learned as a coach is that you play the best players and if those young guys coming in get themselves in position to play, then we will play them. I think it is good for the team to have competition and it will make the players here better. They will have to work their tail off to be the best they can be.”