tampabay.com

UF vows that this time, it'll care

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, VINCENT THOMAS, FRANK PASTOR
Published December 30, 2005


TAMPA - Just call it a week of confessions and promises for Florida.

Thursday, some Gators openly admitted that when they met Iowa in the 2003 Outback Bowl, they weren't prepared to play.

Heck, they didn't even want to be here, and they hardly remember it.

"I just remember they whipped our behinds," senior safety Jarvis Herring said. "I knew it was going to happen before the game even started. A lot of guys didn't care. They thought, "Oh, we're just playing Iowa.' ... We wanted to be in one of those other bowls like the Orange Bowl. That's what you expect at Florida. Guys didn't even want to play in the first place."

So though Florida fans were lamenting the 37-17 loss to the Hawkeyes, the team wasn't concerned about it.

"At that time, I don't think it was humbling at all," Herring said. "Like I said, guys didn't care. You didn't care if you got whipped. Nobody was embarrassed after the game. It wasn't anything. Guys were just ready to get it over with, go home and start a new year."

Now the promise: This time will be different, players said.

"This is a business trip," senior defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "We're all businessmen and we're here to handle business. Now we've just got to take care of our business on game day."

Even the Iowa players sense a difference in this Gator squad.

"I don't know what it is; I think Coach ( Urban) Meyer has probably brought discipline when he came in," tight end Scott Chandler said. "You're not seeing guys talking all about themselves."

CHEATED: There's usually an oversight when leagues and conferences hand out year-end honors. And that's what some might call Iowa tight end Scott Chandler not getting even an All-Big Ten honorable mention.

The junior had more catches (40), yards (463) and touchdowns (two) than Minnesota's Matt Spaeth and Michigan's Tim Massaquoi combined. Yet Spaeth and Massaquoi received first- and second-team honors.

"You can't really worry about it," Chandler said. "It's nothing that's going to keep me from sleeping at night."

The 6-foot-7 Chandler has seen his production and playing time increase since moving from receiver in 2004. He said he has gained 25 pounds to 242 since his switch, something he needed for "blocking bigger guys."

He also had to change his approach.

"As a tight end you're not really running routes," he said. "You moreso work around guys. You're usually in the middle of zones, so you have to find your spots."

Chandler's best performances came in losses. He had seven catches for 72 yards in Iowa's 23-3 loss to state rival Iowa State in Ames and had career highs of eight catches for 90 yards in the 23-20 overtime loss to Michigan.

Ultimately, says Chandler, his new position has done him well.

"I don't think I would have had near the amount of playing time (at receiver) with Clinton ( Solomon) and Ed ( Hinkel) and Matt Malloy and those guys playing," he said. "I've been able to catch a lot of balls and been able to play a lot of plays. It's been a lot of fun."

ON HIS FEET: Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker is happy to be back on his feet after spending the week before last season's Capital One Bowl in a golf cart.

Parker, who oversees the nation's 21st-ranked defense, missed the first three games of 2004 after having a toe amputated and to have surgery to improve circulation in his legs caused by diabetes.

"It's been easier because of standing up," Parker said after practice at Jefferson High. "Last year, I couldn't stand up. Last year was hard there at the beginning. This is a lot better."

Last year was difficult for another reason. Parker's 33-year-old son, Jeff, died.

Parker, one of six finalists for the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year Award, has forged a similarly strong bond with his players, their admiration as evident as the T-shirt linebacker Chad Greenway wore after practice Monday. The shirt had a picture of Parker on the front and 10 "Norm-isms" on the back.

"I think it means they're comfortable, they're not afraid to tease me," Parker said. "I always tell them when we have our linebacker meetings, "I'm not interested in being in a room with a bunch of sad sacks.' Life's too short to walk around with a frown on your face."

Contemplating retirement after the graduation of linebackers Greenway and Abdul Hodge, Parker, in his seventh season at Iowa, said Thursday that he plans to keep coaching. "I'll probably quit when they close the lid and it's dark inside," said the 1965 graduate of Eastern Michigan. "I'll know I'm dead."

SLIGHT SETBACK: Linebacker Mike Klinkenborg had his right hand in a cast after fracturing it during practice Tuesday. "We're hopeful he can play," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.