Urban Meyer Packs His Bags: What's Next for the Florida Gators?
Coaching is the kind of job that can bring forth new, exciting challenges one day and then become a living hell the next. To the outsider, when one succeeds, internal problems don't seem as evident as they would within other programs. Today, we caught a glimpse inside how stressful exciting challenges and internal problems can become for a head coach in college football.
Florida's Urban Meyer, who is 45 years of age, resigned late yesterday due to health concerns. He leaves the world of college football as arguably one of the best coaches the game has to offer, exiting with the highest winning percentage among active head coaches.
Meyer, who began his head coaching career in his home state of Ohio at the University of Bowling Green, will resign as head coach after Florida's New Years Day meeting with Cincinnati—Meyer's alma mater.
In a career that spanned three schools—Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida—Meyer posted success immediately and constantly. He never had a season with less than eight victories. Known for his offensive success, Meyer never had a team ranked lower than 49th in scoring offense, and almost half the time Meyer's teams were ranked in the top 3 of this category.
Not only was he known for having exceptional offenses, he also ensured that his teams were disciplined on special teams in addition to their offensive success. He built a reputation upon winning the field position battle, and became noteworthy for using his fastest players to block punts. Not only did he have success with that, but he also scored a couple points here and there off of returns.
His teams were built off the obvious—speed—but also off the desire. Not necessarily the desire to win, although that was apparent, but the desire to play. Meyer had built teams from the ground up with speed, yes, but the more important component to his success was building teams through competition.
Meyer was a firm believer in the best player seeing game action. He wasn't afraid to put someone on the sideline if they weren't doing their job, because more than likely he had someone sitting on that same sideline with similar abilities and a greater desire to play.
This season, for instance, Meyer sat Major Wright out, who was under performing in practice, in favor of Will Hill. To that point, Wright had been a starter since his freshman year.
Urban Meyer had also connected with his players on and off the gridiron. He was a firm believer in family, and welcomed his team and even former players into his family just as if he was their father. He changed the lives of players on more than one occasion, guys like Marty Johnson, a DUI convict at Utah. Meyer and his coaching staff were known to invite players to their houses for cookouts, and having very close bonds with their players.
While with the Gators, Meyer compiled a 56-10 record overall, alongside a 32-8 SEC record. He was 14-1 against Tennessee, Florida State and Georgia, with his only loss coming to Georgia in 2007. So, in five seasons as a head coach at a major program, Meyer didn't lose a game to two of his school's closest rivals, and only one out of five to another.
Keep in mind that when taking the job, nobody felt that Meyer's offensive scheme would work in the Southeastern Conference. Statistically, they were way off. In 2008, for example, Meyer and the Gators were beating teams in-conference by an average margin of 32.5 per game.
Domination aside, Meyer leaves a lasting legacy behind him at the University of Florida. It has been quite possibly one of the greatest five year periods of any head coach in college football at one program. While it's sad to see a man of his tenure go, it's part of the game to move on.
Who's among the candidates available, though?
There's always Bob Stoops. Stoops, who was Florida's defensive coordinator during the Spurrier era, will likely come up among the rumor mill in the next couple weeks.
Another popular name is former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen. Mullen, who left the Gators after their victory over Oklahoma last season, is looking to build Mississippi State into a winner. However, he has ties to in-state recruiting considering he had been a coordinator with the Gators, and has a great deal of knowledge to the offense that Florida ran.
A name I'm passing along is Kyle Whittingham of Utah. He's had a great deal of success with Utah, and had experience under Urban Meyer as well. There's a lot of questions that will be asked about him, considering he'd be making that same jump that Meyer made, from Mountain West to SEC, but I think that's a capable name to consider.
Then there's always Bobby Petrino, Chris Petersen, or Gary Patterson.
All in all, it's likely the right man will be found to coach the Gators. Athletic director Jeremy Foley is certainly capable of finding a replacement who can win games, just like he found Urban Meyer.
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