Saturday, January 2, 2010
Uncertainty the next Gators' opponent
By Brian Bennett
NEW ORLEANS -- That was a pretty impressive epilogue for the Florida football dynasty under Urban Meyer. Or was it just a middle chapter?
Hard to say, because no one knows exactly where we are in this story. We know that the Gators crushed Cincinnati 51-24 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl to bid a fond farewell to Tim Tebow, the most accomplished senior class in school history and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.
But what happens to the narrator?
It's a time of transition for the Florida football program, with coach Urban Meyer taking a break, Tim Tebow taking his game to the NFL and assistant Steve Addazio assuming the title of interim coach.
Meyer himself offered only vague hints yet again about his future. The coach -- who resigned last Saturday before reinstating himself and taking an indefinite leave of absence the next morning -- didn't want to talk too much about his health or immediate plans, lest he overshadow his team's win.
When asked what the next few days would hold, Meyer said he didn't know.
"I know I'm anxious to get home," he said. "We'll address the future when it's the appropriate time."
Meyer said that his gut tells him he'll be back, but that he had to "make sure my family and health are number one." Tebow joked that Meyer had better be ready to lose to him in golf. And maybe some relaxing days would be the best possible thing, though the ever-looming signing day makes that unlikely.
"He definitely needs a break," linebacker Ryan Stamper said.
The question is, of course, whether that break lasts a month, a season or longer. How long will Steve Addazio have the interim coach title? That's what everyone will be dying to know from now until Meyer makes a decision. I asked running back Emmanuel Moody if there was anxiety on the team about the coach's choice.
"Oh yeah," he said, laughing. "From the fans, the players and the parents. But I have confidence in our athletic director if things shake out the way we don't want them to shake out. And I can speak for all the players by saying we would love to play for coach Addazio."
Florida has more to worry about than just losing Meyer. Tebow, the greatest Gator ever, leaves a huge void that sophomore John Brantley will somehow have to fill. Strong, the longtime defensive playcaller, is going to Louisville and is taking cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford with him. As many as eight juniors could jump to the NFL, including stalwarts like cornerback Joe Haden and defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
So there is uncertainty awaiting the Gators back in Gainesville.
"It's going to be tough," said Stamper, a senior. "Next year might be a little shaky. But we're going to get the program back going.
"We'll never have a team like this again, with coach Strong gone and a lot of the top seniors gone. A lot of guys who pretty much made the program what it's been the last couple years are leaving. We're not starting from scratch really, but a lot of young guys have got to step in. It's similar to [after the] 2006 [BCS title]. We came back in '07 and lost a few games but then got it going again."
Questions about the future will be apparently be answered on Meyer's own personal timetable. We're all anxious to see what's on the next page.