Fixation on Urban Meyer Continues as Former Florida Coach Speaks Out about Aaron Hernandez

As we near the start of the 2013 college football season, many of us need to come to the realization that Urban Meyer last coached the Florida Gators in 2010. Two full seasons have passed since Meyer ‘resigned’ as the head coach of the Gators’ football program. Since that time, Jeremy Foley hired a new coach–Will Muschamp–and that coach led the Gators to a BCS bowl following the 2012 season. While that particular game started and ended on a sour note, our focus should be firmly on the man in charge of the Gators now, yet we can’t seem to let go of the fascination with the man that used to coach the Gators. And that fascination is largely a negative one.

Urban Meyer - Florida Gators

I’ll always remember Meyer fondly for two things–the 2006 national championship and the 2008 national championship. You could expand that to bringing certain players to Gainesville as well, but let’s stop with the championships because it’s difficult to accurately predict which players would have gone where had Meyer never taken the job as the head football coach at the University of Florida. Remember, some very bad coaches are great recruiters too. What Meyer did (although some would go as far as to give credit elsewhere even in these instances) is lead the program to two national titles during his six seasons at the helm. The Gators’ football program claims three titles today, two of which were won under Meyer.

There you have it; that’s where Meyer begins and ends for me these days. He was the coach for six seasons and brought two titles. The man now coaches the Ohio State Buckeyes. End of story. Or so you would think

Following the 2008 season, many fans began to sour on Meyer. Once offensive coordinator Dan Mullen left to become the head coach at Mississippi State, Meyer’s offense began to stall. He would produce a 13-1 season in 2009, but fans wondered just how good the Gators really were that year. The following season would be Meyer’s worst as a head coach. The Gators would finish 8-5 and before heading to the Outback Bowl, Meyer would announce he was resigning (for real this time).

Since he’s been gone, fans have continued to grow their hatred for the former Florida head coach. The championships do very little to put him in their favor. They feel he quit on them, on the Gators. If he had truly needed to get away from coaching for an extended period of time, fans may have accepted that, but after only one year off, he ended up in Columbus. Taking over for a program in its own period of turmoil. One season at Ohio State, one undefeated season at Ohio State, and the feelings haven’t changed–Urban Meyer has become the enemy.

The last week did absolutely nothing to get him back into the favor of Florida fans. Gators’ running backs coach Brian White was turned in for illegally ‘bumping’ a prospect–running back Curtis Samuel. The school that turned in White? You guessed it–Ohio State. But then the plot thickened. Not only was it the Buckeyes that turned in White, but it was also supposedly Urban Meyer. A ‘source’ said so, so it has to be true, right? Meyer has denied turning in White and has even gone as far to say he didn’t even know it had occurred, but those pesky sources say he was aware and, if he wasn’t the one that did it, he was at the very least in favor of it.

And we care. For reasons beyond explanation, we care. We care that a man that IS NO LONGER AFFILIATED WITH THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA supposedly (according to those ever-reliable sources) turned in a Gators’ coach for violating an NCAA recruiting rule. Why do we care? Are fans to expect better from someone they can’t stomach? And that right there is why they care. They want to continue to believe Urban Meyer is the bad guy and this story furthers their cause.

Then there’s Aaron Hernandez and a situation completely unrelated to a minor recruiting infraction. A situation in which we should actually side with Meyer. The media has been quick to place blame on what could have caused Hernandez to become the man he is today. The alleged murderer must have had something push him toward his accused actions. Something that couldn’t actually be his fault, right? Enter Urban Meyer.

Known for the high number of arrests during his time at Florida, Meyer was thought by many to care little about discipline when it came to his star players (or in some cases, all of his players). The reality could be that he was attempting to give his players second, and sometimes third, chances. There’s an argument for both sides and one that is raging on again with Hernandez not leaving the headlines in the near future. The truth could be either or a little bit of both, but to place blame on Urban Meyer, the Gators’ coaching staff, or the University of Florida is ridiculous and irresponsible (as Meyer himself has said).

Aaron Hernandez may be a very, very bad man. If he did what he is being accused of doing, Hernandez is not a good person. If that’s the case, the blame is on Hernandez himself. To say his time at Florida turned him into an (alleged) murderer is grasping at every straw you can find. Meyer didn’t cause this and the Florida Gators didn’t cause this. If Hernandez is found to be the one the did in fact kill Odin Lloyd, he did this. If we discover that he was the one that pulled the trigger, that’s a decision he made. The desire to place blame elsewhere is the media’s attempt to enhance the story to unbelievable levels. In other words, it’s a way to get more readers and more page views. It’s also a joke of the worst kind.

In most cases, we want Urban Meyer to be the bad guy. It makes it easier for us to go about our daily lives. He left when the going got tough and Florida fans don’t want to like him anymore. A source said he turned in the Gators. GREAT! Screw that guy! Ohio State loses a game in the future. WOO HOO! Go Michigan! But Aaron Hernandez? No. We must draw the line somewhere and it’s far before that point. The University of Florida isn’t to blame. The Gators’ football program isn’t the blame. Urban Meyer isn’t to blame.

Transfer News: Matt Patchan and De’Ante Saunders To Leave Florida Gators

We’re back from the holidays, but two (now former) Florida Gators won’t be. Redshirt junior offensive lineman Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante “Pop” Saunders are leaving the program.

Matt Patchan - Florida Gators

Patchan came to the Gators out of Tampa, FL (Armwood) in 2008. After being one of the nation’s most sought after recruits, he saw immediate playing time as a freshman. After spending time on the defensive line as a freshman, he moved to the offensive side of the ball. The future looked promising for Patchan, but then injuries took their toll. In 2009, he appeared in only four games and then missed the entire 2010 season. Patchan was able to appear in 12 games in 2011, but wasn’t healthy enough to play in 2012. He recently graduated and will look to move to a graduate program elsewhere so he can play immediately. Likely destinations are Boston College–where former Florida offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio is now the head coach–or Ohio State–where Urban Meyer will begin his second season as head coach in 2013.

Saunders was a bit of a fly-under-the-radar recruit coming out of Deland (Deland, FL). He was only considered a three-star recruit, but there was plenty of talk of his potential to become a big-time player. Saunders came on strong out of the gate as a true freshman, showing vast improvement over the course of his first season with the Gators. He played in 12 games in 2011 and started eight. Saunders was expected to be an important part of the Gators’ defense in 2012, but he only appeared in eight games after missing the first two and last two. There was talk of injury problems, but discipline also came into the discussions. Saunders has now been released from his scholarship. He has already mentioned Louisville as a possible destination.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp has yet to comment on either player’s departure.

The Full Week 7 College Football BlogPoll: Where The Florida Gators Go Up, But There First-Place Votes Go Down

Monday, my ballot. Today, the full Week 7 SB Nation College Football BlogPoll.

College Football Rankings 2011

Results for Week 7

# School Points/blog SD Delta
1 Alabama Crimson Tide (62) 24.64 0.84
2 Oregon Ducks (3) 23.32 2.15
3 Florida Gators (5) 22.51 1.40 Arrow_up 2
4 Kansas St. Wildcats (1) 21.99 1.36 Arrow_up 2
5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4) 21.30 1.81 Arrow_up 2
6 LSU Tigers 18.41 2.62 Arrow_up 3
7 South Carolina Gamecocks 17.05 2.44 Arrow_down -4
8 Oregon St. Beavers 16.89 3.84 Arrow_up 2
9 Oklahoma Sooners 16.18 3.44 Arrow_up 5
10 Ohio St. Buckeyes (1) 16.05 5.49 Arrow_down -2
11 Florida St. Seminoles 13.70 3.69
12 USC Trojans 13.09 4.69
13 Georgia Bulldogs 11.82 3.12
14 Mississippi St. Bulldogs 10.21 3.80 Arrow_up 5
15 Louisville Cardinals 9.88 3.84 Arrow_up 3
16 Clemson Tigers 9.49 4.56
17 West Virginia Mountaineers 9.29 3.46 Arrow_down -13
18 Texas Tech Red Raiders 8.32 4.52 Arrow_up 13
19 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 7.33 3.61 Arrow_up 1
20 Texas A&M Aggies 6.36 3.70 Arrow_up 4
21 Cincinnati Bearcats 6.24 3.87
22 Stanford Cardinal 4.83 4.42 Arrow_down -5
23 Ohio Bobcats 3.96 4.92
24 TCU Horned Frogs 2.11 2.61 Arrow_up 4
25 Michigan Wolverines 1.76 2.58 Arrow_up 4
Others Receiving Votes: Boise St. Broncos | Arizona St. Sun Devils | Iowa St. Cyclones | Louisiana Tech Bulldogs | Northwestern Wildcats | Nevada Wolf Pack | Texas Longhorns | Tulsa Golden Hurricane | Northern Illinois Huskies | Toledo Rockets | North Carolina Tar Heels | UCLA Bruins | Wisconsin Badgers | Virginia Tech Hokies | Western Kentucky Hilltoppers | Penn St. Nittany Lions | Nebraska Cornhuskers | Ball St. Cardinals | Utah State Aggies | Kent St. Golden Flashes
Updated: Oct 16, 2012 9:30 AM EDT

A few points:

• The Florida Gators lost four first-place votes, but moved up two spots. Basically, less believe the Gators are the nation’s top team, but more believe they should be near that No. 1 spot. It really came down to South Carolina and West Virginia losing. The two dropped and the Gators started their climb.

• Alabama is the overwhelming No. 1, as expected. Both Oregon and Florida received first-place votes, along with Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. I’m assuming the Buckeyes ranking didn’t take their defense into account.

• LSU is the top one-loss team, but I disagree. The Tigers’ win over the Gamecocks’ was impressive and a check in the positives column. Their three outings before that showed that they may not be as good as many want to believe. I put them back in my top 10, but I’m not thinking this is an elite LSU team. I could see them losing again before all is said and done.

• Texas Tech one spot below West Virginia? Nope. That’s wrong. That wasn’t an upset, it was a destructive blowout. Plus, the Red Raiders one loss is to Oklahoma, who has one loss to Kansas State. Texas Tech deserves to be the higher team.

• Stanford belongs, but two losses already hurts. Especially when one of those losses isn’t to USC.

Week 5 BlogPoll: Where 5 SEC Teams In The Top 10 Is Not Only Encouraged, It’s Justified

For a number of reasons, or just for two, I waited until October to join the BlogPoll fun this season. Reason number one has to do with time being precious and all those sorts of things. Reason number two is because long ago I planted my feet in the No Polls Until October camp and although I’ve broken that belief many, many, many times, I’m sticking with it for 2012. So without any additional rambling, here’s my first BlogPoll ballot of the 2012 college football season…just in time for week five.

A few points:

• Putting five SEC teams in the top 10 is acceptable, reasonable, and right. The SEC is that good. I know it. You know it. We all know it.

• Having to play three of those plus Florida State over the remainder of the Florida Gators’ regular season schedule is not acceptable reasonable, or right. But it’s what makes college football, and especially the SEC, great.

• I value unblemished records. Winning all of yours games is a good thing, but less-than-impressive wins over teams you should have beaten soundly is not. Take care of business appropriately and you will be rewarded.

• West Virginia at No. 4 is high considering they don’t play anything resembling defense. Still, someone has to outscore them to win and I’m not quite sure they don’t have more 70-point games in their future.

• The Urban Meyer-led Ohio State Buckeyes may very well be the Big Ten’s best team. That still means there are five SEC teams better than them. BOOM!

2013 Football Recruiting: Alex Anzalone Puts Florida, Notre Dame At Top Of List

Four-star outside linebacker Alex Anzalone still has a number of schools on his list of possible places to play college football, but two are tied at the top. The Wyomissing, PA (Wyomissing Area) LB has said the Florida Gators and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are his favorites at the moment ($). Despite also having interest in Ohio State, Penn State, Stanford and Southern Cal, the Gators and Irish are the current kings of the hill.

Since decommitting from Ohio State, Anzalone has made kept an open mind as he visits the various programs he’s considering. He has visited Florida three times in recent months and has enjoyed every visit. Anzalone sees himself as a versatile linebacker that can contribute whether the Gators defense is lined up in a 3-4 or a 4-3.

Anzalone will try to get to Penn State later this month and has mentioned other possible visits throughout the summer. It will be a tough decision for the linebacker and one many programs will be following closely.

2013 Football Recruiting: Ohio State Could Get Another Chance With Alex Anzalone

The story of Alex Anzalone’s decommitment from Ohio State is a weird one. That sentence isn’t of the highest literary quality, but there’s really no better way to say it. The entire situation is odd and gives off a feeling of, well, let’s just move on from the reasons behind Anzalone’s decommitment. You’ve surely read about them by now and that’ll do. The latest chapter is that the Buckeyes may still have a chance with the four-star outside linebacker.

When Anzalone first announced he would not be attending Ohio State, two schools came to the forefront – Penn State and our beloved Florida Gators. You can add Notre Dame and Stanford to that list, and now the Buckeyes as well. There were times when Anzalone was considered a Florida lean before he originally committed to Ohio State, and after the decommitment, it was figured the Buckeyes were out of the picture. While the Gators and Nittany Lions seem to have a definite advantage over the others at the moment, with even the possibility he could consider Ohio State again, no one can be sure which direction Anzalone is now leaning.

We do know he’ll take time to explore every option and weigh his decision heavily this time around. A great addition to any program, all five of the schools named would welcome Anzalone with open arms and with Ohio State still a possibility, the probability he ends up picking the Gators may have taken a hit.

2013 Football Recruiting: Jordan Sherit Visits Florida; Gators In Good Shape With Defensive End

Jordan Sherit visited Florida last weekend and with all eyes planted firmly on the four-star defensive end, he had good things to say about the Gators. Sherit is enjoying the recruiting process to the fullest, but Florida may be in the best shape to gain a commitment from the Tampa, FL (Hillsborough) defender.

Sherit told Zach Abolverdi of GatorSports.com he could have seen himself committing to the Gators during his visit. He was the only visitor and received special attention from Will Muschamp and the rest of the coaching staff. Sherit said he loved every minute of the visit and values what Florida has to offer both athletically and academically. He also appreciates the fact that Muschamp didn’t pressure him into committing, but instead told him to take his time and come to the decision on his own. It doesn’t hurt that Tampa is just a quick trip away down I-75.

Both 247Sports and Rivals give Sherit four stars. 247 ranks him as the No. 6 overall weak-side defensive end while Rivals has him as the No. 6 overall strong-side DE. ESPN and Scout don’t break the tie as both put him at the more generic position of just defensive end. With the attention Sherit is getting, he definitely has a chance to climb all of the lists as his senior year approaches.

Despite his near eagerness to commit during visits, Sherit has yet to do so and it could be a while until he announces his school of choice. He plans on making additional visits during the summer to see how other schools compare to Florida. Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Stanford currently round out his favorites, but the Gators are thought to hold the lead. The 2013 class doesn’t have a defensive end among its ranks, only making it more enticing for Sherit to join the fold.

As If You Need More Reasons To Dislike Former Florida Gators Head Coach Urban Meyer

Yesterday brought us this – an article by Matt Hayes of the Sporting News exposing the real Florida Gators under former head coach Urban Meyer. For some, it was shocking. For most, it was on par with many of the rumors we’ve heard over the last few years. For all, it put another item (or two, or three) under “Cons” on the list of our thoughts about Meyer.

I’m not a Meyer supporter – although some would paint me as such – I just choose to remember certain things. That selective memory is because of a desire to be happy for certain things that occurred while not wasting the time to be upset about other things that can’t be changed. If the article by Hayes is true and former Florida defensive back Bryan Thomas is telling us what really happened under Meyer, so be it. It doesn’t make me proud as a fan by any means, but I’m also much more interested in discussing Will Muschamp and season two under the man we currently refer to as the head coach.

What I do choose to remember and bask in when it comes to Meyer are the two national championships and the athletes we had a chance to witness – Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes to name a few. I don’t know if there was preferential treatment for those three and the other Gators stars during Meyer’s tenure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was. That’s not an admission that I believe it’s right, it’s just a statement that, again, those rumors have been present well before Monday when the article was posted.

What the article does provide is justification – justification to those Florida fans that no longer consider Meyer a friend. Gators fans are a passionate bunch and among that passion will be certain feelings for not only Meyer, but also Steve Spurrier and any other coach or player that ever spent a day in The Swamp. What they choose to celebrate or condemn is their choice and they should be proud of whatever stance they take. My stance just happens to be one of the now and not the past.

That doesn’t mean I believe the arrests are justified in any way and it doesn’t mean I will go home today and dust off my Urban Meyer shrine. It simply means I don’t treat Monday as a groundbreaking day in the history of the Florida Gators football program. It keeps my feelings right about where they were when Meyer was named the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, which is somewhere between “meh” and “sigh.”

Meyer’s tenure will be discussed at length for years to come. It will probably even be summed up by many just as Thomas did when asked to comment for the article:

“As far as coaching, there’s no one else like (Meyer); he’s a great coach. He gets players to do things you never thought you could do. But he’s a bad person.” – Bryan Thomas, Former Florida Gators Defensive Back

That may be accurate and, if you believe the article and the rumors you’ve surely heard, you probably don’t doubt it. I don’t either, but I am continuing to look forward more than I’m looking back. For your own sanity, I recommend you try to do the same.

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Florida Gators Women Make The Big Dance, Will Face Ohio State Buckeyes

On Monday evening, the Florida Gators’ women’s basketball players and coaching staff were rewarded for a successful season by being selected as an at-large team in the 2012 Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Gators were selected as the No. 9 seed in the Des Moines, IA bracket of the tournament and will face No. 8-seed (and No. 17 ranked) Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday at 12:15 PM in Bowling Green, OH. If UF’s history versus the Buckeyes in postseason basketball tournaments are any indication, the Lady Gators should have no trouble advancing to the second round. Should the Gators advance, they will most likely face the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament in the second round, the undefeated Baylor Bears.

Overall, this is the 13th time that the Gators have made it to the tournament. The Gators sport an overall NCAA Tourney record of 10-11 and in 1997 advanced to the Regional Finals, the team’s best ever showing. This is the first time that the Gators have played in the Women’s March Madness since 2009 when they were a No. 8 seed in the tournament. In that year, the Gators beat No. 9-seed Temple in the first round before losing to the undefeated No. 1 overall seed and eventual national champion UConn in the second round of the tournament. Sound vaguely familiar?

This year, the Gator women finished with an overall record of 19-12 and a SEC record of 8-8. Eight of the Gators 12 losses came against teams ranked in the top 25 in the country at the time when the game was played. The biggest wins of the season for the Lady Gators came in the third game of the regular season against then No. 19 FSU and the third-to-last game of the regular season against No. 15 UGA. Unfortunately, both of those games took place in the friendly confines of the O’Dome, a luxury that the Gators won’t have as they move forward. In the recently completed SEC Tournament, the Gators were able to get past Auburn in the first round before losing a close battle with No. 9 Kentucky in the second round. In fact, Kentucky accounts for three of the Gators losses on the season by a combined 12 points.

It wasn’t that long ago that the UF Women’s Basketball team seemed to be the only squad at UF that was struggling, but the hiring of head coach Amanda Butler five years ago appears to have been another great move by athletic director Jeremy Foley. Coach Butler has these girls playing tough and who knows, maybe a little over a week from now we will be talking about the Lady Gators as the Cinderella team in the tournament.

2012 Football Recruiting: Stefon Diggs Commits To Maryland; Five-Star Receiver Stays Home

Five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs made his commitment announcement Friday night. The decision came down to four schools: Auburn, Florida, Maryland and Ohio State. All signs were pointing to a Maryland decision since Diggs’ announcement took place in a Maryland bar – a popular location that hosts the Terrapins’ coaches’ radio shows – that was packed full of Terps’ fans. Although Maryland became more and more likely as the decision drew near, the Gators were, for the most part, considered the heavy favorites in receiving a commitment from Diggs. A Florida commitment from Diggs was thought to be coming when the receiver referred to the Gators as “we” and when he tweeted about dreaming of playing in The Swamp. However, for the Gators, that dream was not meant to be; Diggs signed with Maryland.

Although the failure of Florida to secure commitments from Diggs, Nelson Agholor, Tracy Howard and several other uncommitted recruits makes it hard to think of it as a positive recruiting cycle, it is important to acknowledge the Gators brought in an extremely solid top-five recruiting class, and a fairly large one at that. With 23 signed recruits, Florida addressed the main concern: depth. One must come to realize one recruit, such as Diggs, does not make or break a school. How has Alabama done since they lost out on Tim Tebow? Two NCAA championships. (This rule does not apply to Cameron Newton.)

Gators’ fans, keep your heads up. The Gators will look to recruit in a state packed with skill position players all over the recruiting board. For example, another positive is that Florida appears to be establishing a pipeline in the heart of Seminole land at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee with the help of former Gator great Jacquez Green.

For the Gators, they now look forward to a new season starting with spring practice. Recruiting is probably over for this cycle, but for 2013, it has already begun.