Urban Meyer Opts For Leave Of Absence

NEW ORLEANS — Less than 24 hours after he resigned, Florida coach Urban Meyer is instead taking an indefinite leave of absence and expects to be on the sideline leading the Gators when next season opens.

“I do in my gut believe that will happen,” he said Sunday at a Allstate Sugar Bowl news conference.

Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will run the team during Meyer’s absence, but Meyer will coach against Cincinnati on New Year’s Day.   more…

Alabama Review

It was a totally stunning and deflating defeat in Atlanta — a complete collapse of the defense, coupled with a bizarre offensive gameplan that went completely away from Urban Meyer’s “plan to win”.

Where to begin?  I suppose the defense gets most of the blame, playing a listless, sloppy affair from start-to-finish.  There was something wrong from the very start just from the eyeball test watching the players on the field.

The week began ominously enough, with the suspension of Carlos Dunlap for a DUI offense — shocking for someone who had been a model citizen until then.  It would come to light in the days following the SECCG that there were many significant players at the same party.  The loss of Dunlap was glossed-over by many, but not me, as I stated my concern in my preview article.  Little did I know that after a year of distractions, that this one was more deep-seated than all of the others.

There was no energy of life in the defense from the outset, and the tackling (or lack thereof) was the worst since 2007.  The only signs of life came when Coach Strong started bringing the house in the second quarter, forcing Bama to finally punt.  But after the Gators closed to 12-10, the corner blitz was burned for a 60+ yard screen pass to Ingram, leading to a short TD run a few plays later that swung the momentum right back to the Crimson Tide.  It seemed the defense was never in the game again, making an average Alabama unit look like the 2005 USC Trojans.  Unreal.

On offense, the play-calling was curious at best, and a seemingly complete departure from what had been successful for almost 2 seasons.  4 carries for the RBs?  No speed option to the edges?  It appears in retrospect that the staff actually panicked to an extent when they saw the defense struggle so much from the start.  The funny thing is that the O-Line probably did it’s best job of protecting Tebow all season, and the passing game was working.  Cooper and Hernandez were getting open, and David Nelson came to life, catching the only TD scored by the Gators.

But the lack of running plays to the edges to spread the field was shocking — and a real indictment of Coach Addazio in his first year as Offensive Coordinator.  When the lights shone the brightest and hottest, he failed.  I can understand going against tendencies with the passing game, and it had some success.  But the complete lack of balance killed Florida against a quality defense and a defensive mind like Coach Saban.  Unacceptable.

The most disturbing revelation to come from this game is the word leaking out that a handful of players, including some prominent starters, completely got away from the preparation and focus they had exhibited for 22 straight games.  Even more troubling are the strong rumors that a group of guys did not lay it on the line for this game, with thoughts of a possible NFL future and money being first priority.

Wow — no wonder Tebow looked so devastated after the game.  He already knew that there was a serious lack of focus permeating the locker room, and it showed on the field clearly for all to see.  This outcome is so shocking that it has the entire Gator Nation shaking it’s head — and has caused serious rifts between fans, players, and possibly some of the coaches.  It was an open secret that Charlie Strong was probably going to Louisville.  But the sudden departure of WR coach Billy Gonzales, who was miffed that his input on playcalling was limited and that he wasn’t going to be promoted to the Offensive Coordinator position, was a surprise, made worse with his accepting a spot at L$U — an annual SEC rival.

Coach Meyer and his staff have a major task ahead in trying to re-focus the team on a strong showing in the Sugar Bowl.  Cincinnati is dealing with it’s own drama, losing it’s Head Coach to Notre Dame, but they are a dangerous offensive team.  It will be very interesting to see if the Gators resemble the sleep-walking Bama team that got run off the field by an inspired Utah team last year.

I’ll be back in a few days with my Sugar Bowl preview.  Until then, Happy Holidays from The Visor.

Florida State Review / Alabama Preview

The Beat Goes On……

Another beatdown of the Criminoles capped off a perfect Senior Day at the Swamp.  The gap between the two programs is as wide as ever.  The superiority in talent and coaching was in evidence for a national audience to witness on Saturday, and the last 3 victories so complete that even Blobby Bowdown has had enough and will retire.  How much better could the script be than that?  The coach that coined such sportsmanlike phrases like, “Praying for a misdemeanor”, “The Polish Rules”, “playing to the echo of the whistle”, all the while doing anything and everything to keep players eligible and continually recruiting thugs like Darnell Dockett, Geno Taze, er, Hayes, and currently Nigel Bradham and Greg Reid, can’t hang with the Gators anymore.

The Florida defense toyed with F$U all day.  The Criminole OL (aka “The Turnstiles”) were once again dominated by the Gator front seven.  No running game of note, and a dink-and-dunk passing game that hardly posed any threat.  That’s one dangerous offense new head coach Dumbo Fisher has.

Even worse was the F$U defense, which is defenseless this year, and is the worst in probably over 30 years in Taliban City.  The Gator offense didn’t have to do anything but run mostly base plays, letting the OL easily abuse the Criminole front seven.  There were some good developments — seeing some long runs broken off by Demps and Rainey, improved pass protection, and some very accurate passes to the intermediate zones by Tebow to Cooper and Nelson.

Talk about “resistance is futile”.  Florida dominates F$U across the board, and the best thing is that the F$U “fans” still think it’s going to get better.  They have no idea how the past 3 years of poor recruiting, to be coupled with a weak class this year (and possibly a few more), will keep them down for a loooong time.

It was quite an atmosphere at the Swamp, watching the introductions of the Senior class.  The accomplishments of this group are on a level of the best groups in SEC history, and possibly nationally as well.  It was an emotional week for Coach Meyer and the departing players, capped off perfectly on a beautiful afternoon.  By the time Tim Tebow was introduced, if there was a dry eye in the stadium, that soon changed as he wept openly on his walk to hug Coach Meyer, a truly wonderful moment.  It was almost surreal during the last few drives by the Gators, as camera flashes went wild, looking almost like paparazzi at an awards show, capturing Tebow’s last few snaps in the Swamp.

But, as the players themselves said to a man, there’s still work to do……

It’s on to Atlanta for a rematch with the Crimson Tide in a game that somehow may eclipse last year’s in anticipation and hype.  Alabama has wanted the Gators all season, and now has them.

I really think that Bama will throw a lot on first and second down — especially with Carlos Dunlap out — and it could hurt the Gators.  It would also take some pressure off of McElroy by not putting him in must-pass scenarios on 3rd down.  The loss of Dunlap’s playmaking against the pass could be felt much more than folks are talking about.  There’s no way Bama’s OL is as good as last year — despite the running success of Ingram and Richardson.  Last year’s group was damn good.  They have no lineman that can Dunlap one-on-one, but now they don’t have that worry.  Justin Trattou will probably move out to DE.  He is a tenacious player, and plays the run very well.  But , he is still playing hurt with a ruptured biceps tendon.

Coach Strong will have to adjust accordingly.  I expect to see the multiple looks from the front seven that have been so successful the second half of the season, and hope that this can lead to some confusion on the Bama OL and with the QB.  As good as Julio Jones is at WR, Florida has enough talent at CB that I could see some exotic blitz packages dialed up to try and force a turnover or get a timely defensive stop.

The Florida offense seems to have turned the corner since the start of the Georgia game in terms of finally spreading the ball around and utilizing all of the skill players.  The zone-read must remain the staple of the game plan…..but Coach Addazio HAS to spread the ball around early and often.  That has been the key to better efficiency on offense.  Once again, the Tide will have the best defense the Gators have faced all season, and they have the experience pf playing Florida as recently as last year to learn from.  Coach Saban knows defense, and I fully expect them to frustrate the Gator offense occasionally.  Cody, McClain, Arenas, Jackson, and co. are simply too good and experienced to expect anything less than a difficult challenge from.  However, this is no time for Florida to go into a shell.  You have great senior leadership and playmaking — take advantage of it.

Another #1 vs. #2 matchup.  Another berth in the BCS Championship Game at stake.  And this quite possibly will be the most-watched college game on CBS — ever.  Unbelievably, the hype exceeds 2008, and again proves the superiority and cache of SEC football across the country.

Irresistible force meets immovable object again.  Bama has immense motivation to avenge last year’s loss, while at the same time Florida seeks a special place in college football history.  It has been a year of distractions and detractors for the Gators, even going into this game.  And yet, they persevere to survive and advance.  I have to go with the coaches and players that can face and overcome what this group of Gators has done.

Prediction – Florida 27        Alabama 23

FIU Review / Florida State Preview

Mission accomplished against FIU, except for the injury to AJ Jones that could keep him out until the bowl game.  Florida was able to clear the bench in the second half, and give the young guys plenty of reps before the next 2 games.  Coach Meyer complimented the team for staying focused and practicing well, even with an outmanned opponent to play against. 

It was apparent that the staff wanted to work on the passing game quite a bit with Tebow, and they went with a lot of empty-set looks to work on timing routes and underneath stuff — good idea to work on this now, as the level of competition ramps back up with the Criminoles coming to the Swamp.

The defense played a solid game.  Coach Strong knew he could keep things simple against FIU.  The tackling was good, and once again no touchdowns allowed.  Business as usual.

It’s now on the Florida State, and Rivalry Week.  This is not a vintage Criminole team, what with a lousy defense, no running game, and a serious lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball.  Even providing on-line courses with the answers, the usual cash inducements, and always discounting any lack of character, it looks like F$U just doesn’t have the cache it once did.  Gator fans have had to put up with the garbage coming out of Taliban City for 25 years, but karma is now putting them back in their rightful place.

On offense, E.J. Manuel won’t have weak sister ACC defenses like Wake Forest and Maryland to face.  Hopefully Coach Strong unloads a lot of pressure on the F$U OL and WRs to disrupt the dink-and-dunk passing game of Dumbo Fisher, which should lead to a lot of 3-and-outs and possibly some turnovers.  The Turnstiles on their OL are still in place, and I expect a lot of Gator meetings behind the LOS.  The only thing that could be problematic is Manuel’s running ability, and I fully expect some draw plays and read options called to take advantage of that.  However, Florida’s defense can run with anyone, and should be able to limit the effectiveness of that.  The Gator front seven is superior in ability and more physical than F$U, and should be able to dictate the pace of the game.

The F$U defense is in shambles.  Their DL is the weakest it’s been since the early ’80s.  They have their usual talent and thuggishness at LB in Bradham, Watson, and Carr.  The Criminole secondary also has some talent at CB in Robinson and turncoat Greg Reid, but their safety play is poor, and has been for years.  The fact that they can ruin Florida’s season will give them extra motivation to play hard and to “the echo of the whistle”, but, quite simply, they don’t have the talent or coaching to stand up to the Gators for a full game.

 The Florida offense has to elevate it’s level of play now.  No more excuses — it’s time to physically dominate in the run game, and to execute some crisp pass plays to gain momentum early and slowly beat down F$U.  There are only 8 more quarters of play to achieve their goals, and there’s no reason the Gators shouldn’t push through to the finish.  The OL should be able to impose it’s will all game, and allow Tebow, Demps, Rainey, Cooper, Hernandez, and Co. to make plays.   

** Extra Bonus Points **  Florida gets to kick Mickey “the Lizard” Andrews’ *#$ one more time before he retires as well.

It’s going to be an especially emotional Senior Day, with an outstanding class playing their final home game at Florida.  Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes are the headliners, but there are a ton of talented players that have contributed from their freshman year, and as the names are called, it’s really going to hit home all of the great things they have accomplished.  There will be a lot of tears shed by not just the fans, but Coach Meyer as well.

With all of the attention of Senior Day, the imminent fall of the Criminole empire, the countdown to St. Bobby being wheeled away from the sidelines, and the SEC Championship Game talk, this will be a real test of the leadership of this team to focus on the immediate job at hand.  Fortunately for Florida, it doesn’t get any better than Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow, and Brandon Spikes to lead any team, and the players have already had an almost weekly dose of distractions to deal with and push through all season.  The Gators will be ready for this game.

Preciction – Florida 34        F$U 14