More than two years ago, back in 2004, our esteemed Franz Beard wrote a great story about Urban Meyer, predicting that he would soon become the King in the state of Florida (and the rest of the nation). It’s a great read and a blast from the past… Enjoy!
At some point you have to figure that kids being kids, some teenager will get on the internet and use Photo Shop to do an image comparison of the coaches at Florida’s big three college football programs. When that happens and the side by side by sides start to circulate, some recruit who’s struggling to make up his mind about whose scholarship to sign is going to have second or perhaps even third thoughts.
When the photos are lined up, that recruit’s going to see Urban Meyer, a coach he knows by reputation since National Coach of the Year not once but twice makes you a hot ticket item. Meyer is 40 years old, looks 30 and acts like he’s 20. His wife is named Shelley, which is a Hungarian word that translated into English means knockout.
After taking a look at Meyer, that recruit’s going to see Bobby Bowden, from the school to the west, and Larry Coker, from the school down south, and he’s going to think he’s seeing the stars of a television remake of the movie “Grumpy Old Men.” Bowden looks every year of the 75 he’s been around. He’s old enough to remember when the late Bear Bryant was a young coach. Coker only looks like everyone’s kindly 70-year-old grandfather. Only problem is, he’s 56, which really isn’t that old especially if you compare it to Bowden.
The spin for years is that Bowden only looks old, that in reality, he’s a dynamo of energy with a mind sharp enough to cut diamonds. The school to the west sold that spin successfully for awhile, and as long as there were dynamic enough assistant coaches to pull off one 10-win season after another, it worked. Four years into the Jeffy experiment that just won’t go away even Bowden’s staunchest supporters wonder when someone is going to turn off the Onstar so that Bobby gets lost on his way home from practice and never returns. They see Bobby standing on the sideline, chomping his gum, listening in on the headset, wondering if he’s listening to Music by Muzak.
The spin at the school down south is that Coker is the latest plug-in to a program that wins in spite of itself; that any school capable of winning two national championships with Dennis Erickson at the helm is capable of winning with any Joe Doakes at the helm. Four different coaches have won five national championships at Miami in 21 years. Coker has a national championship and a runner-up in his first two years of a four year run. Of course, the national title and runner-up were secured with 22 first round draft choices recruited to the school down south by Butch Davis. Fans see Coker standing on the sideline counseling Brock Berlin, wondering if he’s advising B2 to become the business manager for his zillionaire mom’s Mary Kay business. Judging by the performance on the field, they can’t be talking football.
At the school to the west, you see an old man who just won’t give in to the reality that his less than competent son should be a factory rep for Nike and not the offensive coordinator. The Jeffy experiment has seen one of the most dynamic and productive offenses in all of college football history grind to a very pedestrian halt. They still play defense but the defense can only carry the team so far. In the four years since the school to the west robbed some village of its offensive coordinating idiot, 15 games have been lost, the exact number that was lost from 1990 to 2000.
For years, the perception at the school down south has been that there is so much talent in south Florida that it doesn’t matter who’s coaching or who’s playing quarterback, you can still win it all. It worked with Dennis Erickson coaching and Gino Toretta quarterbacking. It worked with Coker and Ken Dorsey. So why doesn’t it work with Brock Berlin? Could it be that the problems at the school down south have everything to do with who the replacement killers are? Dorsey was replaced by Berlin. Andre Johnson was replaced by Ryan Moore. Sean Taylor was replaced by Brandon Meriweather. And the list goes on and on.
So now there is gnashing of teeth and unintelligible grumbling that at times, sounds a bit like a roar when all the molars gnash and grumblers grumble in unison. At the school to the west, the fans wonder if Bobby Bowden’s sell by date expired a few years back. At the school to the south, they’re wondering if things aren’t spiraling back to the 1970s, days when there weren’t enough good players and certainly not enough quality wins.
At Florida, meanwhile, it’s a clean, fresh slate. Three years and 14 losses of bickering whether Ron Zook was the rightful successor to Stevie Wonder or just a cruel joke played on Gator nation by Jeremy Foley have ended. Zook’s out and resettled in Illinois where he’ll probably prove to be a very good head ball coach. In his place is Meyer, young, dynamic and just the infusion of feel good energy for Foley to regain the trust of a Gator nation that senses something very good is about to happen.
Meyer has inherited from Zook a talent base that is equal to or superior to either of his big three rivals. He won big at Bowling Green with what was perceived as the worst talent in the Mid-America Conference. He won even bigger at Utah with talent that didn’t exactly bolt off the charts. He’s got an offense that is the product of a terribly twisted mind. It’s an unfathomable invention that welds the best of Steve Spurrier and Tom Osborne into something so totally evil and monstrous that it could cause Mickey Andrews to swallow his chaw when he watches the film.
He also has the advantage of two national forums in the next three weeks that will enable him to showcase what’s old and what’s new at the University of Florida. First, there will be the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve. He won’t coach the Gators and the team will still be perceived as Ron Zook’s, but still the entire nation will see the kind of talented young personnel that Meyer is inheriting. What makes the implications of victory even more juicy is the Peach Bowl opponent, none other than the school down south, coached by one half of the grumpy old men. A couple of days later in the Fiesta Bowl, Utah will take the field one last time under Meyer’s direction and the nation will get to see Alex Smith in prime time, shredding Pittsburgh for a bazillion yards and a record number of points. Recruits will make the correlation between Meyer, excitement and Florida.
Those two forums should provide Meyer and the Gators all the impetus they need to seize the recruiting momentum in the month of January, and with this seizure, there will likely take place a shift in the power structure in the state on signing day. On paper, Meyer’s Gators are already the best team in the state for 2005. After this recruiting haul, the Gators could be the best team in the state for years to come.
The new coach is the picture of calm, self-confidence. He not only expects to win and win big, he is one hundred percent convinced that he will. He convinced kids at Bowling Green and Utah to dream big dreams then back up the dreams with the kind of hard work that makes dreams come true. At Bowling Green and Utah he never had this kind of talent on hand, nor did he have access to the kind of talent that he is going to recruit to the University of Florida.
There’s no questioning his brilliance as a coach. You don’t go 38-8 in your first four years as a head coach at places like Bowling Green and Utah unless you’ve got what it takes. Those places have been home to a lot of Joe Doakeses and this is no Joe Doakes. If he can match that on the field brilliance with the same kind of luster in the recruiting arena, then he will own the state of Florida. He will be the king and those other two coaches will simply look like grumpy old men, and no amount of touch-up on Photo Shop will be able to change that image.