FLORIDA DEFENSE PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES
Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong
Opening Statement: The players have done a really good job of practicing this week. I know we’ve been through some tough situations here the past few days, but they’ve been very focused on the task at hand. We’re playing a great team in Cincinnati, and they understand that. With our last performance on defense in the SEC Championship game against Alabama, we weren’t happy with that and have been working to get better. I just like the way they’ve worked so far this week.
Talk about how bizarre the coaching changes have been for both sides. When you have success in your program, there are going to be opportunities for coaches to leave, and that’s what’s happened with me. Other coaches have moved on, and I have the opportunity to go to the University of Louisville. I don’t know what’s going to happen with coach (Urban) Meyer, but we have a professional staff of coaches who come to work and have prepared themselves. We haven’t got caught up in what’s going on, because guys know we have a job to do, and that’s what we should do.
What are the pros and cons of staying for the Bowl game before you depart for Louisville? I made a commitment to the University of Florida and to our players. I told them even if I were to get a job I would come back and coach in the bowl game because I felt like I owed it to them. Right now in the recruiting process, we really can’t see kids, it’s only a matter of making phone calls. Plus I sat down with our AD, Tom Zurich, and he told me that he didn’t mind and actually wanted me to coach in this game.
Now that you’ve had a few weeks to digest the SEC Championship game, what happened defensively? Looking back, we just didn’t play well. We played well all the way up to that game, and just weren’t prepared. We didn’t do a good job of coaching that day and just didn’t play well, and it showed.
At the start of the season, playing for the national championship was the goal. After the SEC Championship loss, what’s the motivation for this week’s game? We have the chance to win 13 games, and that is the motivation. We are a veteran football team, and you definitely don’t want one mistake to lead to two. Our players have the chance to redeem themselves after the Alabama game and understand they didn’t play well. Had that loss come at the end of the season, our players would have to eat this for eight or nine months. What’s great is that we have the chance to play another game.
How do you recruit with the uncertainty at the head coach position? Coach (Meyer) has said that he doesn’t know when he’s coming back. Either way, you still have a head coach sitting there. It will be tough under the circumstances, but still, it’s the University of Florida. You recruit to the University.
Ryan Stamper, LB
Is it hard to believe this is your final college game: It’s definitely hard to believe. I’ve been here five years, now the last one is coming. We’re just going to come out here and play as hard as we can.
Does the defense have something to prove after the loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game: The last game was a disappointment, but we want to just come out and play hard and show that we are still one of the best defenses in the country. We just want to come out and play the way we are capable of playing.
How has the team dealt with all the distractions this season: I was just talking to a couple of my teammates yesterday about all the things that have happened this season. I don’t think there’s been any team that’s had as many obstacles that we’ve had to go through. But we’ve had a pretty good season, having an opportunity to go 13-1 and play in a BCS game. We just want to go play our hardest and win the football game.
Major Wright, S
How important is winning the Sugar Bowl: It’s very important. For one, just getting the taste out of our mouth from our last game, and start the season off right … We’ve got a lot of young guys who can come out and get better (for next season), make plays and show what they got.
What has the coaching uncertainty surrounding the program been like for the team: I would say, for the first day it was kind of crazy. But now, the older guys are rallying us back together. They’re making sure we stay focused.
Joe Haden, Cornerback
Did the thought ever cross your mind when Urban Meyer was leaving, that we could have Charlie Strong as a head coach? We defeinitly had that conversation after Coach Meyer told us he was going to resign as the head coach. Major and I were talking about how if this happened a little bit earlier we felt like Coach Strong would have been a very good coach for Florida.
Defensively you guys have been so strong for so long, do you feel like that will still continue with Coach Addaizio? We feel like it will. Coach Addaizio will hire someone who can come in and do a great job like Coach Strong. Coach Strong had a really good scheme and we feel like we can piggy-back off of that with whoever the new defensive coordinator will be.
Can you talk about Mardy Gilyard of Cincinnati? What makes him so good is Cincinnati moves him around get him the ball in certain situations. Putting him everywhere on the field and the quarterback looks for him a lot. Even if he is covered they still try to get him the ball.
Where does Gilyard rank in terms of the receivers you guys have faced this season? He is a very good receiver. He is definitely in the top five of the receivers we’ve faced this season.
Ahmad Black, Safety
Is the team worried that something could seriously happen to Coach Meyer?
Everyone is really worried. That is why when he told us he was stepping down, we all respected his decision. It takes a strong and courageous man to do what he did and we are all behind him.
Is there a feeling of apprehension that he might be involved with the team?
When he said he was he was getting away from football and in the same breath said he was going to be around the team I knew he would still be coaching. He is a competitor, and a fighter.
Cincinnati throws the ball all over the field, and other than Arkansas, you guys haven’t faced a team like this. Does that make it fun for you? Yeah it is fun. A chance to change it up and go after a couple interceptions. You just need to get pressure on the quarterback too. We have a great defensive line and just need to play great in the secondary.
How happy were you for Coach Strong when he got the job at Louisville?
I was really happy for him. It was a long time coming for Coach Strong. Everyone knew he was going to get it. It was just a matter of time before it happened. I am really happy for him, and wish him the best of luck.