An Interview with: FLORIDA’S JOE HADEN, TIM TEBOW AND CARLOS DUNLAP (transcript courtesy of SEC Media Relations)
THE MODERATOR: We’ll have Florida with us from right now until 12:30 Central, where we will have Alabama join us. We do have the Florida student athletes with us. We’ll be speaking with Tim Tebow, Joe Haden and Carlos Dunlap.
Joe, could you give us your thoughts on the upcoming championship game against Alabama?
JOE HADEN: I think it’s going to be a really good game; two very strong defenses and two good offenses. I think it’s going to be a really good game. We’ve got our guys. They’ve got their guys. It’s going to be a really good game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. I was wondering if you could kind of compare your defense with Alabama’s: Are there things you do similarly, and are there big differences with what you do or the personnel?
JOE HADEN: I know they have a really good defense, as far as their stats. But their personnel, they’ve got their middle linebacker Rolando. Spikes. I think those two do a really good job in the middle.
Arenas, he does a good job blitzing. Terrence Cody on the D line. They have good players all around. Terrence Cody for the pass, and Rolando for the run. And we’ve got Carlos and Spikes and myself and Janoris. Just all around really good athletes all over the place. And they can play man coverage all over. And they have a lot of people in the box.
Q. And from what you’ve seen of Greg McElroy, tell me a little bit about facing him and the challenges there and also with Julio Jones and how much will you be matched up on Julio?
JOE HADEN: Julio, I think he likes the boundary, the short side of the field more often. I play boundary corner. So whenever he lines up to the short side I’ll be lined up against him. Whenever he lines up to the field, he’ll be lined up against Janoris. And Julio, he’s a really big, strong guy. Pretty fast. What I’m going to do is try to get my hands on him, throw off the timing. Stuff like that and the same thing with Janoris, get my hands on him, try to throw off his timing and try to keep him off a little bit.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Ryan Stamper and what he means to your offense.
JOE HADEN: Coach always says he’s one of the most consistent players on the entire team. Whatever you ask him to do he’ll do it. Great tackler. He knows the game. He’s not so fast. But on the field he looks fast. He anticipates stuff. He knows what’s going to happen before it does, you can get a jump on it. He’s been a leader, whole defense, he doesn’t just know what his position is; he makes all the checks. If we have certain checks, certain offenses, he makes all the calls and he just really kind will do exactly what’s going on out there.
Q. Coach Meyer said yesterday he was voted the team captain before he even started the game. That’s a pretty big statement about somebody. What is it about him that makes him such a good leader?
JOE HADEN: He’s like a coach on the field. Even if he wasn’t out there on the field he’s still making calls to everybody, just talking to us while we’re out on the field. When the 1s used to be out there, he was on the 2s. He’s on the sidelines making calls for the 1s. Stuff like that. He never complained.
He never made any just always was positive about the whole thing, even if he felt like he should have started you would never know it. All the young linebackers he helped them out, Jelani and Bostic, showing them the ropes, teaching them things. Everybody looked at him like a leader, like a captain.
Q. Could you talk about the importance of this game as it pertains to this season? You guys have been all season long the expectation has been that this is a team that is projected to win not only SEC and national title, and now you’re here basically to achieve those goals. It basically comes down to this game.
JOE HADEN: It definitely does. We had a plan to go to the SEC Championship. That’s the whole goal. That’s the mindset for the whole team. Coach said, if you set yourself on going undefeated, he tried to keep that away from us. If you lose a game, then was the season a failure. He didn’t want that to be the case. Now we’re all sitting here undefeated. SEC Championship, we win this, we go on to the national championship.
So basically this is the game. So everybody is just getting real focused. And today defense comes in at 2:00 watch film together. And we want to treat this week like a championship week.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about how the last two years you and Alabama have distanced yourself from the rest of the league? I think you’re 31 1 in regular season games between the two of you and one losses by a point. Do you think that will continue to go on?
JOE HADEN: I think they have a really straight, good strong program. We have a good program. And just the players on the team, they’re just winners.
You’ve got people when you watch Alabama play, it looks like they’re playing for each other, too. Like the way we play for each other. We don’t just play for individual stats. We don’t just play for ourselves.
We play for our teammates, because you could tell that if you really care about your teammates, makes you go that much harder for them. I don’t know how Alabama is doing it, but looks like they really care about each other, too, the way they play, all the passion and emotion.
Q. And both these teams are ranked in the top eight, I think it is, in every defensive category. Does that put more pressure on you as a defense that you know that the other defense is probably going to play pretty well, too?
JOE HADEN: Not really. Not as much. It just makes you know, you can control what you can control. And our defense, we feel like we go out there and we play like we play. Our play will speak for itself. We know Tim and the boys are going to get the offense straight.
We feel when we go out there, we’ll have to play defense how we’ve always been playing. And Tim and the boys will get it done on the offense. As long as we do what we’ve been doing, we should be okay.
Q. Can you just talk about the challenges that McElroy presents to your defense?
JOE HADEN: Well, actually as far as McElroy, I haven’t really watched him too much. I’ve just been watching I’ve been having individual clips of Julio. So today is going to be the first day, about 2:00, is when I’ll be able to watch him. I haven’t seen too much. I’ve just been watching Julio, honestly. I’m sorry.
Q. The offense, though, in general, do you see some similarities between your offense this season and what Alabama’s been able to accomplish?
JOE HADEN: In a different way, yes, because they have a power running back with Trent Richardson. With their running game, definitely.
We have a different way of doing it like with the scat backs and with Tebow and him running the ball like that. But establishing the running game is definitely a big similarity between our offense and their offense. They might do it in a different way as far as just power and power, the power game. But we do it in a different way.
Q. I know you returned a whole lot, pretty much all your starters on defense from last year. In what respects has the defense gotten better or changed this year versus what you had last year?
JOE HADEN: I feel it’s a little bit as far as the cornerback position, I can speak of, I feel we’ve gotten better as a secondary. Might not have had as many interceptions. But as far as they haven’t had too many big plays on us. We’ve been preventing the big play. And nobody’s really thrown the ball too much on us. So I feel that’s one thing.
Last year we definitely stopped the run really well. We had a whole lot of sacks. Defensive line and linebackers, they kept it up, increased a little bit, getting more pressure and getting a lot of hits on the quarterback and linebackers stopping all the runs.
And the biggest thing that we improved on was the secondary and stopping the big plays and not letting them pass the ball on us as much at all.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Tim, if you could start us off by giving us your thoughts about being back in the championship game against Alabama this season.
TIM TEBOW: We’re very excited about it. It’s an honor to be in an SEC Championship. It means a lot to us to be here, to win out in the East and have an opportunity to play a great team in Alabama, a very well coached team, a very athletic team, a team who is one of the best teams in the country, we feel. Very exciting for us. And it will be a very exciting game and one of the best games hopefully in SEC history.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Could you just talk about the fourth quarter of last year’s game, just how y’all dug down and came through, and also the effect that had on your BCS Championship game?
TIM TEBOW: Well, I think that was because all year long we had been working on finishing. We had been striving for a finish. And that’s something that Coach Mickey Marotti preached in the weight room to, on the practice field, to our coaching staff, we have to finish. We have to be a tough team in the fourth quarter and we have to have that heart. We have to learn how to finish.
I think that’s something we really tried to implement. Our finish, how are we going to finish, what’s our character like? Are we going to have the character to be able to finish and fight through the tough times?
In that fourth quarter, I think we really rallied together and really came up with a lot of heart, found ways to finish. And just kept finding ways to get first down, put it in the end zone against a great team, a great defense in Alabama and finding ways to be able to finish that game.
I’m really proud of my teammates for that. It was just kind of a togetherness that we had that we were going to go in there and get this done because we care about each other, because we care about that this means so much to each of us and we cannot not finish this game. It means too much for us. And that’s our approach and making sure we did everything we could. We weren’t going to leave anything on that field. That’s what I’m most proud about.
Q. Looking at Alabama’s defense, how do they compare to the Alabama defense you played against last year, and also are there any similarities with Florida’s defense?
TIM TEBOW: I think they’re very similar to last year’s defense. I think there is a few differences. Obviously a little different in personnel. It looks like more of what they did last year, 49. Their safety kind of ran things this year. It’s more like 25 run things, and they’re both extremely intelligent players. So they kind of can put their defense in good situations.
And similarities, they make a lot of checks. When we check, they check, sort of thing, and they get in a lot of different blitzes. And they scheme up a lot of teams to put pressure on the quarterback, to put pressure on the run game, to kind of make you think and dunk and rally up and make big plays and cause a lot of turnovers.
There’s a lot of similarities. Both great defenses. There are similarities with our defense. A lot of team speed. They run for the ball, make big plays.
They put the pressure on the quarterback. And so I think there’s a lot of similarities between their defense the last year and this defense I think this defense and our defense. I think there’s a lot of similarities.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Riley Cooper. Just the decision he made to come back after signing the baseball contract and then to have such a big season. What can you tell me about Riley?
TIM TEBOW: Well, Riley’s a great kid. We obviously have a close relationship being roommates and everything. He loves baseball but he also loves football a whole lot. When he signed that baseball contract, but he loves playing football. He is great at it.
He decided to come back because he wanted to finish out his career here and finish on a good note. He’s come back. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s done well. He’s one of our most consistent players. Every week he comes out with an attitude of wanting to work and goes out and makes big plays every week for us.
I can’t say how proud I am of him and how far he’s come as a player, as a person, as a receiver here. And he’s just doing a great job.
And when we need a big play, he just comes up and steps up and makes that big play for us, time and time again.
Q. When you look at Alabama’s defense, what kind of impression does Javier Arenas make? Are you always conscious of where he is?
TIM TEBOW: I think he’s a great player. I think he does a lot for their team on defense, special teams, all the stuff that he does. So I think you have to be aware of him.
I think you have to, you know, obviously know that he’s a great player. But you can’t just focus on him because they’ve got a lot of great players. It’s not like we’re going to be throwing towards one guy, away from the other guy, because they’ve got a lot of great playmakers. You have to realize that overall in the secondary they have a lot of great playmakers and he’s one of them.
Q. I know that you followed Florida football in the ’90s. And then Florida and Alabama kind of distanced themselves from the rest of the league. Do you see that happening now. You’re 31 1 in the last two years between the two of you in the regular season. Do you think that separation is happening again right now?
TIM TEBOW: I don’t know if I think the last three years, I think we both had really good teams. I don’t know if there’s that much separation, because I think there’s a lot of teams that are really close, the Tennessees, the LSUs and Arkansas, those teams are close to being up there.
I don’t know if there’s a lot of separation. I just think in the key games us and Alabama have found ways to win. And that’s just made the difference. I don’t think there’s extremely as much separation as there was in the ’90s, though.
Q. Just wondering what it’s like for you to look across the line and see a 6 5, 350 plus pound nose guard in Terrence Cody?
TIM TEBOW: Well, you know, he is a big guy. He’s someone who disrupts a lot of what offenses try to do. He’s just big. You can’t move him. He’s a pretty stout guy. What you try to do is you just try to tire him out and you just try to make him miss as many times as you can. And get as many people on him and just get around him.
And obviously you don’t like seeing people like that, but you just try to do your best and look past him and getting past him. He’s a great player, and he causes a lot of trouble. And he’s someone that we have a lot of respect for as a player because he goes hard and he’s a big guy and he creates a lot of trouble.
Q. You also mentioned No. 25. In what ways do you see him kind of taking control, getting guys in the right spot this year?
TIM TEBOW: I think he’s one of the smarter players on the team. He makes a lot of checks for them. I think he’s someone who gets people in the right position. Because they’re a defense that does a lot, that checks a lot.
When people motion, they check. They change their defenses. They change their blitzes. So when you do that you have to be extremely intelligent. Not a lot of defenses do that. Not a lot of defenses are that sophisticated.
You have to have smart people to run it. Like I said, last year it looked like 49, their safety, did it a lot. And this year it’s really him. I think he’s really taken on that responsibility since 49 graduated. And he’s really that smart guy on their team that can really get them in the right situation, the right place.
And he’s also not only is he extremely smart getting people in the right place but he’s a great player, stout linebacker and athletic guy who makes a lot of plays.
Q. Coach Meyer talked about how this is your third time in this position, the SEC title, national title. But he talked about how this season has been different because of the level of expectations placed on you guys since day one. Could you talk about what the season has been like for you?
TIM TEBOW: I think every season is different. This obviously being the next chapter and being a new season, a new opportunity. And it has been a little bit different. There’s been a lot of expectations, a lot of pressure, not only by outside forces but also by ourselves, by just our expectations of our team and some of them are pretty high. And we haven’t hit all of them.
What I’m extremely proud about is that in all the situations, tough situations, opportunities where it looked like we could have folded, we could have lost, we could have not pulled it out, we really rallied together and made great things happen.
And the thing about our team is we’re not as flashy as we’ve been around, probably potent offensively as we have been in scoring points in some games. But what we do have is we have the character when we need to, when our backs are against the wall, to really find ways to get things done.
And I think that’s the character of this team, when we have to get things done, we get it done. I think that also hasn’t helped as far as the media putting up as many points. We haven’t looked as flashy, I’ve been noticing.
That hasn’t helped with the criticism and everything. But that’s kind of what we try to just keep out, all the outside forces, and focus on the next day, the next play, and just stay focused.
And I think that’s something that we’ve really done and just kind of trying to get better. And it’s been a long season as far as that. But it’s been extremely fun because there has been a lot of ups and downs with us because people are expecting more on some games. So you’ve got to score more, got to be more flashy and more big plays.
Sometimes it’s not just who we are. We’ve got to be who we are and you’ve got to accept your role. And I think our role is to be an offense that controls the ball, that puts points on the board when we need to, but also puts our defense in good situations.
And so that’s been a little bit different compared to the last few years for us.
Q. Are you surprised there’s been that type of criticism for a team that just keeps winning?
TIM TEBOW: Well, I think they would expect us to be more flashy and put up more points. That just hasn’t been us. We’ve found ways to win. I think there was a lot of expectations out of us. And so I don’t think we lived up to all of them from the outside forces.
But we did internally because we’re 12 0 and that’s all that matters.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Tim.
THE MODERATOR: Could you give us your thoughts on the match up this weekend?
CARLOS DUNLAP: It’s going to be a big match up, 1 versus 2. A real good game. Competitive game. This is the type of game that everybody wants to play in, want to play football in. You always want to be in a good game or a game with a lot of competition, that just brings out the best in good players.
Q. They returned just about every starter on defense, two deep. What is the biggest improvement you’ve seen in your defense this year versus last year? Is it totally similar from last year? Or have you seen some growth and improvement?
CARLOS DUNLAP: Of course, with the year of experience, just being together as a team, you trust one another and like knowing your teammates, like what they’re going to do in certain situations or like what they know what you’re going to do.
So if I was like the counter or something and Spikes fit in my gap, just small things like that. Just playing together. Like growing up together, when you play with the same basketball team. They know when you’re going to do certain things. There’s respect for your teammates.
Q. You and Alabama have been the top two defenses pretty much all season. How much do you pay attention to those stats, measure yourselves up against what Alabama is doing? Did you pay much attention to what they were doing over the course of the season defensively?
CARLOS DUNLAP: No. We’ve been focusing just each week getting better ourselves and working on things we didn’t do too well the week before, we messed up on in that previous game before. We’ve been constantly concentrating on ourselves, looking at what we can do to get better or to better ourselves.
Q. How much credit does Mickey Marotti deserve for the performance in the fourth quarter last year against Alabama, and just the fourth quarter in general, how much credit does Mickey Marotti deserve?
CARLOS DUNLAP: Technically, training hard in the weight room and doing everything we do like pushing beyond your limits, like after you’re completely done and tired and worn out, the only place you do that is in the weight room.
Over the summer and winter, doing the massacres, as we call them, everything we do. That right there trains you for like the fourth quarter and pushing beyond your limits and knowing when you have to go into overtime and just step it up another gear even when you’re done.
Q. You kind of compared this Alabama offensive line you’re going to be going up against, a couple new faces on it compared to last year. How does it look compared to last year’s offensive line?
CARLOS DUNLAP: We just started on films today. I caught a couple of their games. They look pretty good. In the SEC you’re going to play against a pretty good offensive line. I mean, just overall good teams.
Then even if they’re not a good team, you’re going to get a team’s best shot no matter how good they are or how good their stats are. So the team is always going to come to play when they’ve got a chip out for you or when you’re the number one team or when you’re having a good season or just because we’re the Gators.
Q. Joe talked earlier about the leadership that Ryan Stamper brings to you guys. Could you compare him and Spikes and how they differentiate in leadership qualities?
CARLOS DUNLAP: Basically they’re like the Tebow of our defense. You know how Tebow controls the offense and gets the offense and keeps them in check when they’re going through adversity or anything, Stamper and Spikes are basically the guys we go to on the defense in those situations, that the offensive players would go to Tebow in.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.