Game Day Thoughts: Florida

Man, what a week it’s been.

There was a trip to Minnesota early this week and then I’ve been playing catch-up ever since.  Next thing you know, it’s game day.

I griped quite a bit yesterday about the messy state of affairs in sports.  But today, Lord willing, we can just enjoy the game.  There was a time in sports when winning meant you expended more effort, planned better, practiced better, played harder and fought longer.  Winning made you feel good – even as a fan, because it represented a successful mission.  In today’s era, I think that message gets drowned out a bit.  Now, when we look at the “winners” we don’t exactly like what we see.

I know, I know.  I’m not trying to sit over here in a glass house and throw stones.  I know Bama hasn’t been squeaky clean over the years.  But I will say this.  I’d rather lose with a guy like Blake Sims as our quarterback than to win with one like the last two Heisman winners.  Blake may be the worst human ever, but at least he’s keeping it to himself and not disrupting the team.  You can tell by watching him over time that he’s put in the time and effort to get better and his teammates respect him.  Win or lose, I’m glad he’s our guy.

But I don’t think we’ll lose.  I think today the team will face a pretty good sized challenge and I think they’ll respond well.  We should beat Florida, but in games like these, you see the leaders start to step up and lead, or not.  That process should be fun to watch.

Enjoy the game everyone and Roll Tide!

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.

Re: Quarterbacks Shining at LSU and Florida

Over at GTP, the Senator is pondering the upcoming quarterbacking at LSU and Florida:

I wouldn’t exactly call this a blazing insight on my part, but this Bruce Feldman mailbag, which addressed Florida’s chances this season and this post at Capstone Report about LSU’s Zach Mettenberger got me wondering which school is likely to be happier with its quarterback production in 2012.

Maybe it isn’t blazing insight, but it’s good conversation for a Monday a couple of months away from football season.

Which team will be happier with their QB play?  Well, I think statistically, Mettenberger will play better than the Florida quarterbacks, but that doesn’t mean the LSU fans will be happier with his production.  As I pointed out in this post, the Jarrett Lee – Jordan Jefferson tandem put up some nice numbers in 2011:

Along the way, LSU quarterbacks Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson passed for over 2,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions. The duo also completed over 61% of their passes.  You have to admit, those aren’t bad numbers.

Yet LSU fans weren’t too thrilled with their quarterback play last year.  Why?  Because their expectation was to win a national title and they failed.  The expectations are the same for this year – a title.  Anything less and Tiger fans will be disappointed, regardless of how good Mettenberger’s numbers are.

I’m also in agreement with Capstone Report that it’s not a given for Mettenberger to walk on the field and throw up those kind of numbers, but I do agree with the Senator that he’ll have a much better supporting cast around him.  It’s also not uncommon for first year starters to win a title – just look at the last three BCS champs.  I guarantee that Mettenberger is no Cam Newton.  The real question is whether he’ll play as well as Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron.

CR also rolled out this quote related to the LSU QB situation:

I have no doubt that Mettenberger will be good; programs like LSU get good quarterbacks. But if he were better than what they had, wouldn’t he have made an appearance in New Orleans a few months ago? It is proposterous to think a team would hold anything…ANYTHING…back when the crystal football is on the line.

 When Alabama played Texas for the first of their National Championships in the last three years, it was well-documented that if something happened to Alabama’s starting QB Greg McElroy, Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s next option was to burn the redshirt off of AJ McCarron and put him in the game. In game 13 of a 13-game season.

The reason McCarron was the next option was that he had won the backup job.  That’s not exactly the same as LSU’s situation last year.  By the end of the year, Jefferson was the starter and, for whatever reason, Lee wasn’t.  He was the backup and it was pretty safe to say Nick Saban was all up in his head.  Yes, Mettenberger could’ve pulled a Garrett Gilbert, but I don’t think that was very likely.

And then there’s this comment from the Senator:

And as much as an Alabama fan might sniff at Mett’s prospects against a Saban defense, it’s worth noting that LSU and ‘Bama split their two games last season with the very quarterbacks he derides.  Florida, however, couldn’t win a game last year that Brantley didn’t start.

I know this comment was directed at Capstone Report, but those two quarterbacks managed only nine points in two games.  The LSU QBs didn’t beat Bama.  Jefferson actually presented more of a challenge to the Bama D because of his running ability.

 

 

14 Burning Questions for 2012: #6 – Florida

We’re looking at 14 SEC teams and 14 burning questions. Today we’re up to Florida.

#6 – How much of a year two bump will Florida experience under Will Muschamp?

Florida was a major disappointment in 2011. There’s no doubt about that. Despite having one of the more talented rosters in the conference, the Gators stumbled to a 7-6 mark, their lowest win total since Ron Zook’s final year in 2004.

Maybe a 7-6 mark could be expected in the first year of a new coaching staff. Heck, I even picked the Gators to have a 7-5 regular season mark.

But it was the way the Gators went about their business that was so disturbing.

After John Brantley was hurt against Alabama, the Gators went into the tank. Following the 38-10 loss to Bama, they received a 41-11 hammering by LSU, staggered through a 17-6 loss at Auburn, lost 24-20 to their bitter rival Georgia, narrowly averted a loss to Vandy and fell short against South Carolina, 17-12. That’s five losses in six games and maybe that was expected after Brantley’s injury, but the Gator coaching staff appeared completely uninspired and outmanned as they tried to deal with this adversity.

Take the Auburn game for example.

Against a defense that wound up surrendering an average of 408 yards per game, Florida managed 194 yards. That was by far Auburn’s best effort of the season and was the only time an opponent was held less than 200 yards. Yes, yes, I know Brantley was hurt and they had to play fill-ins. But the game planning and on the field coaching were totally uninspiring. Given the talent advantage held by Florida, this game shouldn’t have been close.

This year, the Gators are again rather loaded. In fact, in an upset, Phil Steele is picking the Gators to win the SEC East.

Two quarterbacks with experience return. The running backs are bigger and stronger and more suited to a pro-style type of attack. Their leading receiver returns. And the offensive line returns four starters.

Defensively, the Gators return 10 starters to a unit that wasn’t all that bad in 2011. Florida gave up 299.5 yards per game last year, good for 5th in the league.

The biggest addition to the team, though, may come in the form of a big subtraction. This year, Brent Pease replaces Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator.

So will all of this result in a big year two bounce for Muschamp and the Gators? Maybe, but the they will have to work for their bounce. The schedule includes LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State, but the other eight games look very winnable. Lose those four and your looking at a very average 8-4 season. Split those four and the Gators could finish 10-2 with a nice little second year bounce.

 

Perhaps it was because of a new coaching staff. Perhaps it was because of the Gators’ merry band of misfit five stars. Perhaps it was because of their offensive coordinator. Perhaps it was injuries. Perhaps it was all of the above. Whatever the reason, no team go so little out of so much like the Florida Gators.

It’s tough to have a brand new coaching staff led by a first-time head coach. That can definitely cause a few growing pains. It’s tough to lose key players to injury. That can always make a season much more difficult. But in 2011, Muschamp and the Gators

 

Charley Pell’s Legacy

Another one of Bear’s Boys makes it into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame this week:  Charley Pell.

Most of us, when we think of Pell we think of only one thing: he got caught cheating at Florida.  Yes, he did, but there’s much more to the Charley Pell story than just that.  On Monday, Jon Solomon posted a reminder at AL.com:

Here’s what’s not mentioned.

The phone call Pell received from a stranger saying the ex-coach had saved his son’s life. As described by Pell’s widow, Ward Pell, the stranger was watching “Dateline NBC” as Charley discussed his 1994 suicide attempt and coping with depression. The man went to get his depressed son to watch and found him on his bed with a pistol in his hand. The son got help.

The letter Pell got from a California doctor thanking him for better understanding his father’s suicide. The doctor had hated his father for killing himself. He returned his dad to a pedestal after hearing Pell explain the abyss he sunk to before trying to take his life.

The impact Pell still makes in the mental health community 11 years after dying of cancer.

Four years ago, the Alabama Department of Mental Health made a 17-minute film on Pell’s life to show depression is a treatable illness. Ward Pell, who now lives in Lexington, Ky., still hears from people about the film, particularly high school coaches who show it to players. Ward makes about 10 speeches a year on behalf of mental health organizations.

Pell was definitely persona non grata in the football world after he left Florida.  I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Pell to cope with in addition to or on top of depression.

Here’s another blurb from that article that caught my eye:

“There was a difference in the NCAA then and now,” Ward said. “They decided to become the white knights on charging horses. One of the investigators told us after the fact he had a choice (where to investigate). They had a school in the North and a school in the South and it was January. So where do you think they would go?”

Charley Pell and Florida were guilty of cheating, there’s no doubt about that.  But it does kind of make me wonder who the school in the North was that got a pass.

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.

Weis on Brantley: “If I had a couple of more years with the kid…”

Of course:

“I think John’s going to have an opportunity to play on Sundays,” Weis said. “I think he’d be a good, reliable back-up quarterback at this point. I think he’s better than some of the back-up quarterbacks that are in the NFL right now.

If I had a couple more years with the kid, I think he’d even be that much better. But I do believe that at least we put him in a position to be competitive on the next level, where he’ll get himself an opportunity and then it’ll be what he does with it once he gets there.”

[Emphasis added]

[HT: Saturday Down South]