Coach Urban Meyer confirmed written reports that wide receiver Nyan Boateng plans to transfer to another school Thursday afternoon when he met with the media following practice for Florida’s battle with Ohio State in the Tostitos National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona (January 8). Meyer had good news on the injury front as well as insight on how the Gators are prepping for the game.
Meyer said that nobody should miss the game because of academic setbacks but he did confirm that Boateng is looking elsewhere. The sophomore wide receiver from New York City is on medical redshirt this season due to a knee injury.
“I think Boateng is going to transfer,” Meyer said. “I hope (he’s the only one), I don’t like to see guys leave the program. Academically we did pretty good and discipline, well it’s still a ways away. No, I don’t anticipate any problems.”
One of the more pressing issues is getting the team ready to play with more than a month to prepare. Florida’s last action was the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta back on December 2. To address the long layoff and get his team ready to go, Meyer and his staff have mapped out a three-phase schedule so that the Gators could simulate a game-week during the regular season.
“To handle this team and look at this schedule, it’s unique and has never been done before in college football where it [the layoff] has been that long,” Meyer said. “When players look at 20 practices (in a row), that’s a tough deal.
“When you try and break it down into its simplest form, we have three game weeks to get ready. We actually do a Thursday practice at the end of each game week, so we get into a routine. Once you get out of that routine, it’s hard to get it back. So, we are trying to keep it as if we are playing games each week. Phase one is the first game, phase two is the second game, phase three is the real game week. We just keep our guys motivated and keep them on edge, and then we practice the game plan three different times.
With game week fast approaching, Meyer sees the Gators getting a little livelier. They are starting to sense it is time to put their game faces on.
“I see a little bit of urgency,” he said. “I think we are really going to see it after New Years. All the bowl games are showing up now, so I can see a sense of urgency happening.”
Meyer often talks about the week leading up to the blowout victory over Florida State last season as the turning point for the players on the team. It was a time when they became focused and they haven’t strayed from that focus sense. One game early in the season this year that really magnifies that focus was the big win at Tennessee, where the Gators came back at the end to win it.
“I saw a group of players go out there in the toughest environment I could recall,” Meyer said. “That was a tough one. I saw their reaction when we went to Alabama the year before. It was a reaction of a non-confident team and a team that didn’t trust each other and a team that was looking over their shoulders. They knew the way they were living, their lifestyle, and their practice habits. Players are smart.
“People say they feed from the coaches … I feed from the players. This was a very non-trusting team last year. This year I saw a team in Knoxville whooping it up in the locker room and firing a Gator chomp at a crowd at 107,000 people. It takes guts to do that, especially a 5-6 170-pound true freshman [Brandon James], and when I saw him do that I said ‘by the way, you are returning punts’.”
A defining moment in the game and the season was when freshman quarterback Tim Tebow was called onto the field to convert a short fourth down late in the game. Meyer mentions that play as one of the biggest of the year.
“We talked about that today,” he said. “That was one of the five biggest plays of the year. I think that shows you our confidence in Tim Tebow as well. He took a direct snap and ran it. That was the game. Then we had enough confidence to put Chris [Leak] back in and throw the game winner. That is the type of year we had.”
Meyer took a moment to thank Betty Ling for long years of great service to the Florida football program. She is retiring after handling many aspects of Florida’s recruiting for years.
“She is terrific, I love Betty,” Meyer said. “She was very helpful to me and the staff. I love who she is and love what she has done for the university. I think she came in eight times wanting to retire and I wouldn’t let her retire. It is a testament to her that all the high school coaches in this state know her.”
On the injury front, there are a few Gators that are not 100% but most are climbing to that mark. As far as injuries go, it has been a good month to heal up.
“Ray (McDonald) is probably 90% and still not banging, but a little running,” Meyer said. “Tony Joiner practiced a little today and ran so he will be ready to go. DeShawn Wynn has a bruise and will be fine. He practiced for most of the practice today. Jim Tartt is still limping a little bit, but he should be fine.”