Florida Gators Under Meyer: Out of Control

The Aaron Hernandez mess has caused a double-take of Urban Meyer’s time at Florida and it ain’t pretty:

Now that Meyer has defended himself and the University of Florida football program in connection with the background and history of Aaron Hernandez, Meyer has invited increased scrutiny of the players he recruited.  As pointed out by Greg Bishop of the New York Times, at least 31 players were arrested during Meyer’s run from 2005 through 2010 as the Gators’ head coach.

ProFootballTalk also also ponders this question:

The Hernandez situation, which has shed new light on an unsolved shooting from 2007, highlights a bigger question:  How many players avoided arrest, thanks to local law-enforcement officials who didn’t want to undermine the football program?

And then provides an answer:

A spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department told Bishop that Gators players did not receive special treatment under Meyer.

Hmmm…31 players were arrested, but that’s ok, no one else received special treatment.  Is that supposed to make us feel better?  Well, if so, it doesn’t.

Anytime you shepherd 100+ football players, you are bound to have problems.  No matter the school and no matter the location.  But 31 arrests…that’s insane.  That’s a statistic for a football program out of control.  Plain and simple:  out of control from top to bottom.

No matter what disciplinary structure a school uses, at some point – pretty early on – players need to be ejected from the program.  That’s the one way to assure a) the player involved won’t be a problem anymore; b) it sends a message to the other players.  Sure, discretion can be used and every situation is not the same, but, at some point, either the coach or the players have to hit the road.

Instead, we’ve heard the “roster management” cry babies remind us of how the Florida Gators would never do such a thing.  They might want to re-think that plan.

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Blah Blah Blah Nick Satan

Tell the truth.  The first time or so after you heard the name “Nick Saban” the phrase “Nick Satan” also ran through your mind.

I know it did for me.

So I’m sure Nick Saban has heard the phrase a couple of million times in his lifetime.  And it’s probably one of those things you never like and you never get used to.  One of those things you wish people would just quietly pass by.

For Saban, though, the phrase doesn’t just emanate from his surname.  In case you haven’t heard, he’s got sort of a reputation as being a tough boss.

So this week, Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis tried to be a funny-man at a gathering of Florida boosters:

“I’ve always wanted to work with Will,” Davis said. “Will’s got a plan. Will coached under the devil himself for seven years. I only did three. He did seven. And his DNA is not any different than Nick.”

Real original, coach Davis.

Most expected coach Saban to bypass the comments and continue The Process undisturbed.  But he addressed the issue with reporters at a Crimson Caravan event:

“I try to do right by the people that work for me,” he said. “It’s a tough, demanding job. And at the same time, if anybody had an issue or problem with me, I would want them to just tell me.”

“Twice. On two occasions,” Saban said. “It’s just disappointing. If somebody has a problem with me, I’d appreciate it if they’d tell me. If I’m doing something to offend somebody, I’d certainly like to do whatever I have to do to fix it. It’s not our intention. It’s not what we try to do.

“We’re in a tough business. It’s very competitive. Sometimes you’ve got to demand that people do things that maybe they don’t want to do, but it’s not personal.”

“I know it’s not representative of Will Muschamp and the University of Florida and the way they do things,” he said. “I know that, because I’m close enough to Will to know that.”

I’m not sure why people thought Saban would have no response.  I mean, at some point he’s going to be in front of reporters and be asked about the situation.  But, as it almost always the case, Saban handled the issue brilliantly.

In addition to generating a bit of sympathy for himself and showing a bit of his personal side, Saban also issued a few zingers:

  • “I try to do right by the people that work for me,” he said. “It’s a tough, demanding job…We’re in a tough business. It’s very competitive. Sometimes you’ve got to demand that people do things that maybe they don’t want to do, but it’s not personal.” – In other words, it’s just bidness, Sonny.  In his own way, Saban notes perhaps Davis wasn’t tough enough to work for him.  He almost makes it sound like there were parts of Davis’ job he was asked to do, but either couldn’t or wouldn’t.
  • “And at the same time, if anybody had an issue or problem with me, I would want them to just tell me…It’s just disappointing. If somebody has a problem with me, I’d appreciate it if they’d tell me. If I’m doing something to offend somebody, I’d certainly like to do whatever I have to do to fix it. It’s not our intention. It’s not what we try to do.” – In a couple of short sentences, Saban sends the message that Davis didn’t handle things the right way.  If Davis had a problem with Saban, he should have been man enough to talk about the problem face-to-face.
  • “I know it’s not representative of Will Muschamp and the University of Florida and the way they do things,” he said. “I know that, because I’m close enough to Will to know that.” – Boom, you’ve just been scolded by your daddy.  In these parting words, he lumps the issue back over onto the Florida coach to handle.

Have you ever wondered why coach Saban limits the time his assistant coaches spend with the media?  Consider this issue to be one of the top reasons.

Do I think Saban was seriously offended by Davis’ comments.  I doubt it.

Do I think he meant to deliver the messages I’ve outlined above?  I doubt he consciously thought about it.  But that doesn’t mean the message wasn’t delivered.

Will Muschamp and Mark Richt Go to Church

When it comes to the world of college football recruiting, SEC members Florida and Georgia can often look down their noses at other members’ recruiting practices.

This right here, though, could be a real life case of the Gators and Bulldogs being a little bit holier-than-thou:

UGA coach Mark Richt is going to church on Wednesday with the state of Georgia’s top uncommitted prospect, Josh Harvey-Clemons.

Richt’s church visit will count as his in-home visit with the 6-foot-5, 200-pound linebacker from Lowndes High School. Harvey-Clemons has UGA, Florida and Florida State in a three-way tie and will announce his decision on National Signing Day (Feb 1.).

Richt, who is known for his Christian beliefs, won’t be the first college coach to attend church services with Harvey-Clemons at a small Baptist church in the Clyattville area of Lowndes County.

“[Will Muschamp] came to our regular service about a month ago; I guess Coach Richt doesn’t want to let Coach Muschamp beat him out with going to church with us,” said Josh’s grandfather, Woodrow Clemons, with a laugh.

And this right here is the punch line:

It created quite a stir when Florida’s coach showed up at church last month. “We gave everybody a heads up, and they were surprised to see [Muschamp],” Clemons said. “And the collection plate was equally surprised.

Josh’s grandfather said the idea to invite the college coaches to worship was from some of the deacons. “Coach Richt liked the idea. He said he was more than happy to be there.”

[Emphasis added]

I’m sure they were, Mr. Clemons, I’m sure they were.

More Weis to Kansas Thoughts

A couple of days ago I posted on the strangeness of the Charlie Weis to Kansas deal.  It seem really cold and unusual for someone to make the decision to uproot their family – especially considering what Weis has told us about his family, in less than a 12 hour period.  That just doesn’t make sense to me.

Then later, I stumbled across this tweet from Yahoo’s Charles Robinson:

The above tweet is among many made by Robinson on the day the Kansas City Chiefs fired Todd Haley.  In a nutshell, Robinson indicated Haley and Weis had a running argument about the potential of Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell, with Haley being in Cassell’s corner and Weis not so much.  According to Robinson, Weis washed his hands of Cassell and Haley took him under his wing.

When Cassell flourished last year, Weis re-emerged to take credit for Cassell’s development and Haley hit the ceiling.

So this little nugget from Robinson, if true, gives a ton of insight into Weis’ move to Florida before the the 2011 season.  Robinson doesn’t say Weis was forced out, but I’m sure he definitely wasn’t welcomed any longer in Kansas City.

So did Weis use the Florida gig as a great opportunity to get away from Haley?  It kind of sounds that way to me.

Could it be that Weis made a bad move to Florida due to his haste to leave KC and then jumped at the first opportunity to leave Gainesville?  It’s beginning to sound less and less like a stretch.

SEC 2011: Review of the Preview

Way back in the pre-season, I predicted the order of finish for both divisions in the SEC, along with who I thought would meet next Saturday in Atlanta.  Now that the regular season is finished, let’s take a look at how I did.

SEC East

1) Georgia Actual 10-2 (7-1), Predicted  10-2 ( 7-1)

  • Preview: “Mark Richt will remain on the hot seat after the Bulldogs lose to Boise and South Carolina, but 10 straight wins later, his future in Athens is extended.  Georgia probably has the league’s best quarterback, at least for this year, and brings in hotshot freshman Isaiah Crowell, who will try to be this year’s version of Marcus Lattimore or Michael Dyer.”
  • Review: This is probably my best call of the season, although I thought South Carolina would wind up in Atlanta.  Crowell had a decent year, but never came close to Lattimore status.  Murray exceeded expectations and has a good shot to be the SEC’s offensive player of the year.

2) South Carolina Actual 10-2 (6-2), Predicted 11-1 (7-1)

  • Preview: “Steve Spurrier calls this his best team yet in Columbia.  If OBC can keep his troops clear of the buffet lines and cocktail parties he may be right.  Alshon Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore, Stephon Gilmore and yes, even Stephen Garcia make it hard to pick against the Gamecocks for a repeat.  They’ll stumble against Mississippi State, but earn another berth in the SEC Championship Game.”
  • Review: The Gamecocks successfully transitioned from Garcia to Connor Shaw and finally hit their stride when Shaw came up to speed.  Although the Gamecocks lost to Arkansas, it was a lackluster loss to Auburn that kept them from a repeat trip to Atlanta.

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Urban Meyer Returns

So Urban Meyer makes it official: he’s an Ohio State Buckeye now.

Generally speaking, this makes most of the college football world happy, except maybe Michigan and Florida fans.  Most of the folks happy for his return think college football is a better place with him on the sidelines.

But Meyer’s return to the game causes one to ponder his several reasons for exiting in the first place: health concerns, a desire to spend more time with his family and his general unhappiness with the state of the game.

You’d have to guess that if he’s returning to the game, then these issues must’ve been addressed.  Either that, or the his reasons for leaving weren’t really reasons, but more like excuses.

I’m not really in a position to tell what’s real or right about the reasons.  Hopefully, he’s in better shape health-wise and better prepared to take on the rigors of big-time college football.  You only get one shot to raise a family, so hopefully he’s made the necessary adjustments in that area.  Supposedly he has.  But if you’re one of those that thinks college football is a moral wasteland, then I suppose the landscape hasn’t changed much since 2010.

In many ways, Meyer has more to prove and more pressure at Ohio State now than he ever did at Florida.  Though he won two BCS national championships at UF, Buckeye fans don’t care about that.  They want a crystal ball of their own.  Meyer will also have to continually deal with Tim Tebow issues as well.  Though Tebow may have been the best college quarterback to ever play the game, Meyer’s teams – and his quarterbacks – will constantly be compared to the offenses of the Tebow era.

And speaking of the state of college football, will the Buckeye teams under Meyer have the same arrest ratio as his UF teams?

Just a few thoughts to ponder as we head toward the end of this 2011 season.

Florida Blame Game

After Florida’s 24-20 loss to Georgia this past Saturday in Jacksonville, there’s lots of blame to go around:

You know situations are dire when the Gators can’t even defeat Georgia, a program they’d beaten 18 times in the last 21 years. But what do expect with Florida’s offense remaining this bafflingly bad? How can this possibly be? How can a Charlie Weis offense be this pitifully pedestrian? How can the Gators have only one first down in the second half and minus-19 yards rushing? And how can UF’s offense fumble the ball twice, setting up two easy touchdowns for Georgia’s own struggling offense?

Weis has four Super Bowl rings, but his offense this season isn’t even good enough to deserve a spot in the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl.

Here’s all you need to know about Weis’ offense: It came into Saturday’s game ranked No. 90 in the country, 19 spots behind the offense of Temple, which is coached by former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. Weis, of course, is considered a maestro — the Beethoven of offensive football. Addazio? He is the Weird Al Yankovic of offensive football.

You know the Gator offense is bad if they play the Addazio card.

But Weis doesn’t share the blame by his lonesome:

Granted, Florida’s offensive talent is not what it needs to be. The line is weak. The depth is thin. The receivers seem incapable of making big plays. The quarterback situation has been in flux because of an ankle injury to starter John Brantley. And the Gators are trying to run a pro-style offense with spread offense talent.

The fact is, former coach Urban Meyer left Muschamp with a paucity of elite-level SEC talent. Muschamp even admitted as much Saturday. “We’ve got to build our numbers back up, we’ve got to get better on the line of scrimmage and it’s difficult to have a power running game with who we have,” he said. “You don’t have to be real educated to figure it out.”

That’s right.  Blame the former coach and blame talent.  While it is true that Will Muschamp’s Gators run a different offensive scheme than the Meyer versions, it’s the coaching staff’s job to make that transition in a way where you can compete.

And regards to talent?  Well take a look at these Rivals.com rankings for Florida over the last five years: ’07 – #1, ’08 – #3, ’09 – #11, ’10 – #2, ’11 – #12.  Yes, there have been departures, etc., but that hardly shouts “paucity of elite-level SEC talent.”