After players talked some trash in public before the Miami and Tennessee games, it appears that Urban Meyer has issued a preemptive strike against it by issuing a blanket gag order on the team. Or, at least, the Associated Press thinks so.
The theory stems from a sound bite Brandon Spikes made after the Kentucky game where he said he wouldn’t comment on the celebration because he didn’t want to get in trouble. Such a gag order, if it exists and Spikes wasn’t just trying to be funny, would fit in with his prior maneuvers surrounding player comments. Meyer is one of the most paranoid coaches in the game, which is why he tries to keep his players from talking smack and why he leaves his starters in games longer than most do.
Tim Tebow only said it would fire him up and that’s it. Percy Harvin said that Florida wouldn’t try to do a similar display, something they team has said since last year and that’s never been in doubt. Brandon Hicks is the only other Gator quoted in the piece, and he basically just said they got rattled by the celebration last year and that they’ve had this game circled for a while.
On the Georgia side of things, Mark Richt is steadfastly refusing to talk about it, referring everyone to what he said during SEC media days. LB Rennie Curran just said some boilerplate material about how Florida is a good team and that the Bulldogs are going to try their best.
Meyer for his part tried to downplay it, saying that it was “old news” and had nothing to do with this year’s game. That is in direct conflict with things he said over the summer and in the book that Buddy Martin wrote about him. In those cases, he said it was a big deal and something he’d never forget. I would expect a good number of folks from the UGA commentary community to jump all over that and try to say that he’s a liar, or duplicitous, or some stuff like that.
I really just think that’s his way of trying not to answer questions about it everyday until the game. It won’t work; he’ll likely be asked about it more days than he won’t this week. I guess he figures he’d give it a shot an establish a precedent for avoiding the issue for the rest of October.
Behind closed doors though, I have no doubt that the celebration last year is being used by the Florida coaching staff. Meyer is a master motivator, and I seriously doubt that he’d forgo using something so perfect for getting the guys amped up for this game. Not that the fact the SEC East and the rest of the season are on the line isn’t enough.
Things are going well for Florida right now. They are peaking and getting healthier at the same time. They rolled up 63 points with Harvin getting only three touches for goodness sake. Meyer even hinted that he’s having trouble keeping the team from being too amped for the game saying, “I’m emphasizing with our players that we don’t play this thing until Saturday at 3:30.”
Motivation is no trouble for either side in this one. The winner is in the driver’s seat for the SEC East, with the loser needing the other to collect two improbable losses to go to Atlanta. The winner is also still in the national title race for that matter too.
What happened in the first quarter of last year’s game doesn’t need to be even discussed for both the Gators and Bulldogs to be at their best on Saturday. Yet still, I have a feeling it will be a theme all week. We’ll see.