Meyer Pleased to See Florida Not Broken After All
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Florida Gators are back. The only real question is whether they were ever gone to begin with.
Photo by Dan Harker
An article appearing in The Sporting News back in April certainly suggested they were, and the author was all too willing to point the finger at Urban Meyer, calling him the man who destroyed Florida football after bringing a pair of BCS National Championships to Gainesville.
That was a much easier argument to make in April. The Gators were coming off a 7-6 season in year one under new head coach Will Muschamp, and they had been 8-5 the previous season, Meyer’s last as the head coach at Florida.
It was all too easy to lay the blame at Meyer’s feet, but it’s a little more difficult to figure out now that Florida is 5-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country following a 14-6 win over then No. 2-ranked LSU on Saturday.
“I don't want to get into all that cupboard is bare, because that's one man's opinion, and it's not,” Meyer said Monday when he was asked about his former school’s success.
“We've got to move on.”
After a year away from football, Meyer is back on the sideline this season and back in a familiar place. He’s taken a lot of criticism for returning to the game so soon after walking away because of health concerns, but Meyer also has the Buckeyes back in the national spotlight for something other than the scandal that rocked the university in 2011.
While Ohio State cannot appear in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, or play in the postseason in year one under Meyer, the Buckeyes are all the way up to No. 8 in the latest AP Poll following a 63-38 win over Nebraska.
Meyer’s team was led by Braxton Miller, a Heisman Trophy candidate who was gift-wrapped for the 47-year old head coach by Jim Tressel and the school’s previous coaching staff.
He needed a lot of work after a disastrous 6-7 start to his Ohio State career, but it didn’t take long for Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman to get Miller playing at an elite level.
The same could be said for Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who has blossomed in his second season under Muschamp down in Gainesville.
“Really proud to see Jeff Driskel play well. He's a heck of a player,” Meyer said of Florida’s sophomore quarterback.
“I'm very proud of those guys. Love those guys.”
Driskel originally committed to play for the Gators back when Meyer was still running the program. He wouldn’t sign with Florida until after Muschamp took over and held things together following Meyer’s sudden departure.
The 6-4, 237-pound quarterback didn’t put up elite numbers against LSU’s vaunted defense, but he’s having a strong sophomore campaign for the Gators this fall. After five games, Driskel is completing over 69-percent of his passes and has four touchdown passes to just one interception.
He has also rushed for nearly 150 yards and another score, despite the fact Florida has already played four SEC games to start the season. Tailback Mike Gillislee, another one of Meyer’s recruits, is also having a big season down at Florida. The former 4-star in Meyer’s class of 2009 ran for 146 and two touchdowns against LSU and leads the team with 548 yards on the ground as a senior.
Meyer is also familiar with a number of key names of Florida’s defense, which currently ranks 6th in the country in points allowed after wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU.
“I keep in touch with some of those players,” Meyer said Monday.
“Great win. Great, tough win against a tough opponent, absolutely. Always be a Gator.”
Great State of Ohio
Meyer isn’t the only Ohio State coach whose former team is experiencing a tremendous amount of success this season. Meyer pulled offensive line coach Ed Warinner and tight ends coach Tim Hinton out of South Bend, where the Fighting Irish are also off to a 5-0 start under former Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly.
OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs also coached under Kelly when he was at Cincinnati, and the Bearcats are off to a 4-0 start under current head coach Butch Jones.
“I stay in close contact with the Bearcats,” Coombs said Monday.
“I'm extremely proud of those kids at Cincinnati, those coaches are my friends and that's my town, that's where I was born and raised. For them to be in the top 25 is fantastic. Those are kids that I raised.”
One of them is, literally. Coombs’ son Dylan is a freshman defensive back for the Bearcats this season. He helped lead Cincinnati Colerain High School, where his dad was the head coach from 1991-2006, to a 10-2 record and a GMC Championship as a senior last season.
He’s not the only kid on the roster, however, who still holds a place in the heart of Kerry Coombs, who left the Queen City to become one of Meyer’s assistants in Columbus this offseason.
“I recruited about 60 percent of that team,” Coombs added.
“I love those kids and I love those coaches and I want nothing but the best for them. I hope they win every week. It's a different football team than the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Ohio State Buckeyes we also hope win every week.”
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman came over from Iowa State, a team that is 4-1 this season after an upset win over then-No. 15 ranked TCU over the weekend. None of the coaches have much time to keep up with their former colleagues, however, as the Buckeyes prepare for Indiana on Saturday.
“There just isn't time,” Hinton said, “I don't talk to my wife, let alone them.”
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