He has heard the questions about his health since deciding not to resign as the Florida head coach. He’ll look annoyed with the questions, but only because of the repetition. Wednesday was no different.
“I think the stress of a job like we have, that wasn't the issue,” Urban Meyer said. “The issue was knowing there was something wrong and what was that. That's been solved. The wear and tear of being a football coach, I've just got to be a little smarter. The issue was not coaching at Florida. The issue was what's going on and we're not finding it. That stress of knowing there's a health issue has been relieved. That's the biggest issue.”
The trouble Meyer had came because of an esophageal issue. The trouble disguised itself as heartburn or chest pains at first, and the hospital visits after the loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game were the final straw.
This is the first time in three seasons Meyer is going into a season without the pain. Coaching a high-level football program can take a toll on anyone, but the intensity that Meyer coaches with only amplified the issue.
“I'm not going into the season with the same concern I had last season,” Meyer said. “Last season, I walked in with my third year of dealing with some pain that was undiagnosed. It's been diagnosed. I think the biggest issue as far as how I handle situations is going to be just maintaining a balance I had for many years. I think it got a little out of whack. I think there's enough things in place to make sure that doesn't happen again.”
For Meyer, it all comes down to delegating. He acknowledged issues with trying to manage every aspect of the Florida program, instead of giving responsibilities to assistant coaches and staff members.
That is a large part of the adjustments made. The stress of coaching a football team will never go away, but trusting his assistant coaches will help.
During the season is the time some coaches lose control of their lives off the field. Meyer has refocused that, and he has a new, simple policy with obligations. If they help Florida be competitive and win games, Meyer will be there. If not, he’ll use his energy better elsewhere.
“If that means I'm going to spend an evening at home with my family instead of travel and speak, unless that speaking is going to help the competitiveness of Florida,” Meyer said. “We just prioritized what's important to have us be successful on Saturdays, successful in the classroom.”
It won’t help the Florida staff dodge questions on the recruiting trail. While signing last year’s top class in the country, Meyer’s resignation and return to the program all came as a shock to recruits. The top class at times looked like it could fall apart.
It was the work put in by Meyer and his staff before the resignation that eventually saved the 2010 recruiting class.
“I was asked quite often,” Meyer said of his health issue. “But the good thing is, most of our relationships were already solid with those guys. I love this class. They're already on campus. The relationships were already pretty much there. But how many times I answer that question is non-stop. We're still dealing with that non-stop.”
On the field this fall, there’s no doubt the Gators have questions. Depth at linebacker and defensive end serve as two concerns, as well as searching for a second cornerback. Meyer likes what he hears from strength coach Mickey Marotti about the toughness of the team in offseason workouts, but there are some questions that won’t be answered until fall camp opens August 5.
“Toughness, from what I understand, is starting to get answered,” Meyer said. “The biggest concern on our team is depth at linebacker and production. We have some really good young players, but not much depth and not much experience. Then the number one thing I have to do, my job is to identify the playmakers on that team. That's going to be my deal during training camp. Usually I have a handle. I have no handle right now. I have an idea, but I couldn't list you the top seven in order. We have to have that done by the second or third week of training camp.”
The offense heads into its first season since 2005 without Tim Tebow taking snaps at quarterback. The panic in some programs would be noticeable. For Meyer, there’s calmness when he talks about Brantley taking over.
Part of it is trust in the level of talent Brantley is. More importantly, Meyer has seen the redshirt junior learn for three years under Tebow about how to lead the offense, on and off the field.
What worries Meyer isn’t Brantley being effective, it’s finding the playmakers on offense that will make plays after the catch.
“We have a real clear understanding of what John Brantley can do,” Meyer said. “It's the guys around him. We have a lot of talent. I can't list you the top six or seven playmakers in order. I know we have them. Instead of all the focus being on John, it's certainly not our focus. We're very well aware what he can do. It's the personnel around him. One common characteristic of a great quarterback is the personnel around him. I think we have it, but it's not been identified yet. So it's going to be a big job for us in training camp.”
Meyer also announced that wide receiver Frankie Hammond is off scholarship at Florida. He will have to pay his own way if he decides to come back and play, which Meyer expects to happen.
“There will be playing time taken away from him,” Meyer said. “He'll be on probation like other players that have made mistakes. If he does something again, it will be probable dismissal. As of right now, he's not on the football team. He's training away from the team, off of scholarship.”
SEC ANNOUNCEMENTS: Broadcast times were also officially announced on Wednesday for four Florida games. The Gators will open the season at home against Miami (OH) at 12:21 p.m. and be broadcast by the SEC Network. Florida will host USF during week two, also kicking off at 12:21 p.m. and broadcast by the SEC Network. The Gators open conference play in week three at Tennessee. The conference opener will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and be broadcast on CBS. As always, CBS will also broadcast the Florida-Georgia game from Jacksonville, which will kick off at 3:30 p.m.
The Gators will report for camp on August 4, and the first day of practice will be August 5. Florida will practice in pads for the first time on August 11.
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