Urban Renewal For Meyer, Gators
HOOVER, Ala. -- Florida coach Urban Meyer said he experienced chest pains during each of his past three visits to SEC media days.
Meyer said he was so consumed by his job as a college football coach that he would sit in church each Sunday, texting on his cell phone throughout the service.
"I'm talking about certifiable," Meyer said Wednesday. "They'd lock [me] up if they really knew."
But after a self-imposed leave of absence this spring, Meyer said he has renewed energy and perspective as he begins his sixth season as the Gators' coach.
"I'm as jacked as I've ever been and excited," Meyer said. "I really like my staff and love my players."
Three weeks after the Gators lost to Alabama 32-13 in the 2009 SEC championship game, which cost them a chance to play for their third BCS national championship in four seasons, Meyer announced he was resigning because of health concerns. He changed his mind the next day, before taking a leave of absence this spring.
During his leave, Meyer said he spent more time with his family and traveled around the world. He visited Hawaii, Italy, Israel, Key West and the Bahamas. Former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz helped Meyer and his family get within a few yards of the Pope at the Vatican.
"There was a lot of family time," Meyer said. "The things in the spring, I've never done that."
Meyer said he plans to spend at least one night a week during the season at his family's lake home near Gainesville, Fla. He has delegated more responsibility to his coaching staff, such as allowing offensive coordinator Steve Addazio to devise the team's practice schedule during spring practice and preseason camp.
Before Meyer's wake-up call, he handled nearly every aspect of Florida's program.
"I was always told, 'Get your hands on it and make sure it's done, because your name is on it,'" Meyer said.
Meyer said a healthier diet, prescription medication and daily workouts have helped him control esophageal spasms, which doctors say caused Meyer's chest pains.
"I feel great knowing what it is," Meyer said. "I thought I had some real life-death decisions to make, and that's what prompted some things in December."
Even though the Gators face a major rebuilding job without record-setting quarterback Tim Tebow and the heart of its nationally ranked defense, Meyer said he likes the makeup of his 2010 team. Meyer said he likes Florida's leadership and is encouraged that there have been fewer off-field problems this summer.
"I think what happens is you get that bigger-than-life mentality, and I was fearful of that the last two years and it came true," Meyer said.
Meyer also had to take a long look in the mirror about how he was living his own life.
Meyer said he's determined to spend more time with his wife, Shelley, and their three children. Daughter Nicole is a volleyball player at Georgia Tech, and daughter Gigi is leaving to play volleyball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla., this fall.
"Life is moving really fast," Meyer said. "I used to laugh at college coaches who said, 'I missed my kids grow up.' I'm not going to miss my kids growing up."
Secondary Matters Primary For Crimson Tide
HOOVER, Ala. -- There could be a new face to throw into the mix this fall in the Alabama secondary.
Junior college transfer DeQuan Menzie, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in March while playing pickup basketball and was thought to be lost for the season, has been working out with the rest of the team this summer during voluntary workouts.
Junior linebacker Dont'a Hightower said Menzie has looked great at cornerback.
"It's going to be Coach [Nick] Saban's decision and the doctors' decision on whether he can play, but he looks ready to go to me," Hightower said. "He's moving around great and making a lot of plays."
When Menzie suffered the injury, he told reporters that he expected to redshirt this season and that his recovery would take anywhere from four to six months.
The Crimson Tide were hoping Menzie could come in and help right away after losing everybody in their defensive backfield rotation from a year ago with the exception of All-SEC safety Mark Barron.
Hightower said sophomore safety Robert Lester has also been impressive during voluntary workouts.
Saban said he was pleased with the way the secondary progressed this spring and likes the young talent back there. He said the key this fall would be identifying roles for everybody and not putting too much on the younger players, in particular true freshmen DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton.
"I don't think we have all the roles solved," Saban said. "The way we play in the secondary, we have a lot of role players. Guys move around and play multiple positions, so you can play situational defense. We didn't have enough players to solve all those roles. Fall camp is going to be really important for that group, in particular, to sort of continue to make improvement and play with consistency. But the first thing we've got to do as coaches is identify everybody's role."
Saban said it's easier for the guys who already know a position to cross over and play a second position in the secondary.
"It's harder for the young guys," Saban said. "We tried to teach Fulton and Milliner multiple positions, and it just confused them and blew their mind. If you know one, then it's easy to learn the next one. We decided to back off that a little bit and let them learn one thing."
Cobb Ready To Deliver For Wildcats
HOOVER, Ala. -- Kentucky coach Joker Phillips declared his intention Wednesday that junior Randall Cobb "will be the sorest guy in the league" this season.
"I think I've been that the last two years," said Cobb, voted by SEC coaches as first-team all-purpose player on the preseason all-conference team. Cobb gained 1,752 yards rushing, receiving, passing and returning. He also scored 15 touchdowns.
Florida coach Urban Meyer saw Cobb and paid him the ultimate compliment.
"Man, could I draw up some plays for you," Meyer said.
Cobb said he will see more time at receiver and less at quarterback in a Wildcat formation this season. He does have another position in mind. The other day, he came off the practice field and found Phillips waiting inside the building.
Cobb asked, "Coach, what's Deion Sanders and Troy Brown got in common?"
Phillips said, "They both play both ways."
"There you go," Cobb replied.
Phillips said Wednesday that Cobb will play his usual four positions but not defensive back.
"I'm not saying I should play the whole game both ways," Cobb said, "but five or seven plays, what would that hurt?"
State Of Play: Bulldog QBs Primed
HOOVER, Ala. -- There is a freshman quarterback on the Mississippi State roster whose surname sets nerve ends twitching around the state.
His name is Dylan Favre. You may have heard of his uncle.
Dylan does not have Uncle Brett's size -- he's listed at 5-foot-10 -- but coach Dan Mullen believes he possesses some of the intangibles that have made Uncle Brett an ageless superstar.
"This is Dylan Favre demeanor," Mullen related. "We play LSU. We lose a very close game [30-26, when State's last drive ended with an interception in the end zone]. I pick up my phone. There's a text message on my phone from Dylan Favre. 'If I was your quarterback, I would have scored on that play.'
"He has that swagger, that 'it' factor that you want in a quarterback. He carries his team to a state championship game and dominates the game on both sides of the ball. Then I get a call, he's over in an All-Star Game. He completes his first 15 passes of the game, which is hard to do with receivers you don't know. He just has that 'it' factor that he wins. Whatever he's going to do, he wins. That's what you're looking for in a quarterback, and that's what we're excited to have on our team."
Mullen said he was considerably less excited by the offseason work ethic of QB Chris Relf a year ago. That has changed, helping push Relf into the favorite's role to start this year.
"[In 2009,] we had to push Chris through the offseason," Mullen said. "Your quarterback position shouldn't be the one that you're having to push as a coach. Your quarterback position should be the one that's pushing everybody else on the team. I can tell you this, I couldn't tell you one time this offseason where I had to look at Chris Relf and say, 'You need to pick it up.' He was the one that was winning a lot of the sprints. He's the one that's pushing for extra reps and everything that he did. He's getting that demeanor that he has to be better than the other guys on the team if he's going to be a leader."
Talk Of The Town
The topic du jour at SEC media days was obvious. Agents dominated the conversation. Coaches, players, the aggrieved and the accused went on the offensive, but the debate is far from over. Story
Saban Speaks Out
One Good Thing
Alabama: Finding a better running game anywhere in the country this season than Alabama's will take some doing, especially with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson taking turns pounding away on defenses. But Nick Saban said the biggest difference in the Crimson Tide's offense might end up being the way the passing game has improved. "I think our receivers have gotten better every year, so having the same three guys back again to what amounts to the third year means we should have a chance to make even more big plays and explosive plays in the passing game," Saban said.
Florida: For the first time since they started playing football together in the youth leagues, identical twins Mike and Maurkice Pouncey won't be playing alongside each other this season. For that matter, they will be on different teams, Mike sliding over to play center for Florida, the position Maurkice played last season before deciding to leave school early and being drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. "It's going to be weird," Mike said. "We've always been there for each other and will still be, but we'll have to do it long distance. We've got the skype thing going on."
Kentucky: Kentucky running back Derrick Locke is known for his speed. He came to Kentucky as a track athlete, but has emerged as one of the best all-purpose players in the league. One of his goals this fall is to run with more power and break more tackles. "I'm running behind my pads better and lowered that shoulder a few times this spring," said Locke, who rushed for 907 yards and caught 31 passes last season. Locke also said his left forearm has almost completely recovered after breaking it in a moped accident in late June.
Mississippi State: Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, responding to a quote repeated to him from Nick Saban that the spread offense may not prepare players for the NFL: "I've had a lot more first-round quarterbacks than he's ever had in his career. In the last six years, I've had two of mine drafted. One was a five-star recruit [Tim Tebow]. One was a one-star recruit [Alex Smith]." Say this for Mullen: he doesn't lack for confidence.
Florida: Mike Pouncey
Best Of Day 1
Best Quote: "Last year, it got to the point where everybody felt like superstars. This year, we just feel like a bunch of workmen going to work." -- Florida center Mike Pouncey
Best Mob Scene: The lobby at the Wynfrey Hotel gets a little more frenzied every year on the day Alabama is in town. Anybody who even looks like a Crimson Tide player ends up signing a few autographs and taking a few pictures while trying to navigate his way through the masses.
Best Suit: Nobody had to tell Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower to get into the spirit. He was sporting some sweet red threads that could have almost passed for crimson.
Best Powwow: Alabama's Nick Saban bumped into Florida's Urban Meyer in the hallways at the Wynfrey Hotel, and the two coaching giants had a little chat about, yes ... agents. Of course, who in the SEC isn't talking and/or fretting about agents right now?
Best Specimen: Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf could easily pass for a defensive end. He's a legitimate 6-foot-4 and said Wednesday he weighs 245 pounds. "You definitely think about it before you break down to tackle him," teammate and junior safety Charles Mitchell said.
Best Admission: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen conceded that he nearly played true freshman quarterback Tyler Russell last season, which would have burned his redshirt. "He warmed up [in the Houston game], and I said, 'Get him ready,'" Mullen said. "Luckily, they went on an eight-play drive to calm myself down. ... But he was going in."
McElroy Talks 2010 Tide
Tracking SEC Media Days
Alabama: Mark Ingram
Kentucky: Randall Cobb