Commentary

Gators react to Urban Meyer news

Florida players and ex-players have mixed emotions about their former coach

Updated: November 28, 2011, 11:05 AM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Reaction to Urban Meyer's hiring at Ohio State was mixed among Florida's players.

Some, like redshirt junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter and junior linebacker Jon Bostic, seemed to be OK with their former coach taking another job less than one year after he resigned because of health issues and the desire to spend more time with his family.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Kim Klement/US PresswireUrban Meyer, who won two national championships at Florida in his six seasons, is moving on to Ohio State after another brief retirement.
Others, like redshirt junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins and redshirt senior offensive lineman James Wilson, didn't exactly sound supportive about Meyer now wearing scarlet and grey.

They were the only four players who spoke with the media following the Gators' 21-7 loss at home to rival Florida State on Saturday night.

"Not a problem with me," Hunter said. "Not a problem with me at all. I love Coach Meyer. He brought me here [to] Florida. I can never say anything bad about Coach Meyer. I respect him a lot. I love him as a coach and if he wants to go to Ohio State, good luck to him."

Bostic said he didn't really pay much attention to the news last week about Meyer's impending hire at Ohio State because he was concentrating on Saturday's game against the Seminoles. But he admitted that his first thought when he heard the reports that Meyer had already accepted the job was that Meyer's health must have improved during his year away from coaching.

"Obviously he's gotten better," Bostic said. "I haven't paid too much attention to it. I've been trying to be here, trying to win games here."

Jenkins and Wilson, however, seemed indifferent or annoyed at Meyer's decision to leave his job at ESPN to return to the sidelines. Jenkins said he didn't want to comment and Wilson followed suit, although he went just a bit further.

"No comment," Wilson said. "I've got nothing to say about that. He's ... coach [Will] Muschamp's my coach."

Meyer was Florida's coach for six seasons, winning two Southeastern Conference and two national championships. The Gators' chance for a third ended with a loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship game. Hours after that game ended, Meyer was rushed to a Gainesville hospital and resigned on Dec. 26 because of health reasons. He changed his mind the next day, however, and agreed to take a leave of absence.

Meyer returned full-time for spring practice but Florida struggled to a 7-5 record in 2010. Meyer resigned less than two weeks after UF's 31-7 loss at Florida State in the regular-season finale, again citing health reasons but also adding that he wanted to spend more time with his family.

In January 2011, Meyer joined ESPN as a college football studio and color analyst. When Ohio State coach Jim Tressel resigned in May, Meyer's name was immediately linked to the opening because he is from Ohio and worked as a graduate assistant under Earl Bruce in the 1980s. Ohio State named Luke Fickell as interim head coach for the 2011 season, but reports surfaced last week that Meyer had agreed in principle to become the Buckeyes' new head coach.

That prompted former UF offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert, who is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, to criticize his former coach on Twitter: "I don't know why anybody is surprised about urban taking the job at THE OSU. Me personally I would've been a man and not have made up a lie."

However, another former player, Ahmad Black, took to Twitter and said he is behind Meyer.

"S/o to coach Meyer for getting the job at Ohio state...you got my support 100%," Black wrote.

Current UF offensive tackle Chaz Green said on Twitter that he wants to play Ohio State in a bowl game. That's the likely scenario for the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter