Marcus Thomas Hearsay

September 27, 2006

Something that didn’t really fit in with the last post was a report from 930AM in Jacksonville that Marcus Thomas would be back for the LSU game. I heard this from Heath Cline. He brought the issue up with Pat Dooley on his show, and Pat says that there’s no chance that he’ll be back.

I tend to agree with Pat. I just don’t think there’s enough circumstantial evidence, from what I’ve seen and heard, to overturn the suspension. Fact is, no one knows and no one will know until the university makes its decision. It’s their call, not Urban’s, though I’m sure his input is involved. We’ll just have to wait and see, and just focus on Alabama for now.


Lists and Hits

September 27, 2006

First, it seems to be one of those times when it’s bad to be a football player. Chris Simms had his spleen ruptured, Rice DB Dale Lloyd collapsed and died the following day, and now Terrell Owens perhaps attempted suicide. Delving into these is beyond the scope of this blog. It does help though to put things into perspective, and in the case of the Rice player, who probably passed away due to a pre-existing condition since he collapsed after a “light workout,” illustrates the importance of screening players for medical issues. While watching the Kansas-Toledo game a little while ago, they said that the Kansas quarterback Kerry Meier had a heart condition that had been undiscovered until a screening process that KU has recently required all of its players to undergo. I wonder if the same thing could have saved Lloyd’s life.

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Now, onto what this was supposed to be about. As I’ve said, there’s a vocal minority of Florida students who want Tim Tebow to start at quarterback for a variety of reasons regardless of what Chris Leak does. There also are a lot of vehement Leak supporters as well. I did a quick search for Leak on the Facebook (which for those of you who may not know is a popular social networking site among college students everywhere) and I count at least 18 groups started since Saturday to defend him, listed here:

Formal Apology to Chris Leak
STOP BOOOING CHRIS LEAK!
Real Gator Fans Don’t Boo Chris Leak
YEAH I JOINED ALL THE CHRIS LEAK GROUPS, HE IS THAT FREAKING AWESOME!
This year’s about Chris Leak forget about Tim Tebow
People who Boo Heisman Candidate QB Chris Leak are Retarded
GATORS AGAINST BOOING THEIR 1st STRING HEISMAN CANIDATE QB CHRIS LEAK
Dont Boo Chris Leak you motherf——!
If You Boo Chris Leak, I Will Punch You In the Face
REAL Florida Fans Who Hate Florida Fans Who Boo Leak
I’m NOT one of the idiots who booed Chris Leak at the Kentucky game.
Last time I checked, Chris Leak was still the starting quarterback.
Stop Booing Chris Leak!
Loyal to Leak
People who Boo Chris Leak aren’t REAL GATORS
Chris Leak Is the Quarterback of Florida Football, NOT Tim Tebow
F— Anyone Who Boos Chris Leak
GATORS AGAINST BOOING CHRIS LEAK

I could only find one group in favor of the booing, entitled “Bench Chris Leak!!” and it only had four members. Interestingly, there was also another group calling Urban Meyer out not defending Leak in the post game conference, called “The B—- Move:”I heard it, too. That’s not my business.””

Remember, there’s more to a group than just the squeaky wheels, and I don’t expect to hear any more booing of the team this year.

*  *  *

It’s fun to look at the ol’ stat counter for the site and see what kinds of methods people use to find this place. The hits have been skyrocketing lately (thanks for reading everyone!) and it’s been some predictable things driving it. For instance, I am the only person on WordPress.com who tags posts with “Tim Tebow,” so when people search for him I’m the only thing that comes up.  Also, I’ve been getting a lot of hits from people searching for Bruce Gradkowski since he’s the new Bucs starting quarterback and few people know that much about him.

The number one hit driver though, despite being a non-factor in the past two games, is Percy Harvin. I haven’t been keeping a running count, but he’s consistently at the top of search terms used to get here. Tebow has passed him in the past couple days in the daily counts, but Percy still is the top overall. Interesting that freshmen would be the top-two points of interest. It goes to show that regarless of what year you are, if you’re exciting, people take notice and want to know more.

Other interesting things? All WordPress provides is yesterday and today’s stats, so that’s all I’ve got now, but here goes. There’s a lot of people misspelling Chris Simms’ last name as “Sims.” Someone still looking for information on signs from College GameDay week two searched for “gameday usc jabba weis.” Twice I’ve been found by someone simply searching for the letter t (don’t ask me how or why).

Also seen are “Jay Cutler Matthew Stafford” from probably a hopeful Bulldog fan, “bruce gradkowski will be good” from a desperate Bucs fan (not at all unlike myself), “CBS Sportsline Mike Freeman Leak” from a controversy seeker, and “how to be a good football run baker” from someone who learned English from the “All your base are belong to us” school of grammar.

The busiest day of the week in terms of traffic is Monday, followed by Sunday, and that makes sense. Thanks again for dropping in, never hesitate to comment!


Meyer: National Title “Not a Goal”

September 26, 2006

Looks like Urban and I are on the same page. When asked about how the next four games affect the team’s national title hopes, he said “That’s not one of our goals.” This is a good team, but not a great one yet. To wit, the Gators have

  1. A mediocre-at-best secondary
  2. An every-down back, but only when he feels like it
  3. Absolutely no depth at linebacker
  4. Little depth anywhere else but receiver and d-line
  5. A completely underwhelming offensive line, and
  6. A freshman returning punts and kicks

That doesn’t sound like a national champion team to me. Fortunately, the defensive line is monstrous, the starting linebackers are fantastic, the receivers are a defensive coordinator’s nightmare, and statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the country and school history. Plus, the backup quarterback is as fast as receiver, built like a linebacker, runs like a tailback, and has no fear whatsoever.

The pluses outweigh the minuses enough that they should win the division, and maybe the conference. But the national title? Not at this point. How exactly could they stop Troy Smith and Ted Ginn? Who’s covering Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett? These are questions that can’t be answered unless they match up in a bowl game, but we will get to find out how they plan on moving the ball on Auburn and LSU’s defenses very soon. We’ll get a preview against Alabama.

(Clarification note: I have been referring to the next four games as “the next four weeks.” In fact, the Gators mercifully have a bye week after Auburn and before Georgia, so it’s really the next five weeks. I apologize for the sloppiness, and might go back and fix the places where I did that if I get the time and motivation.)

* * *

Another great college football site is College Football Resource. From there I found a like to this piece on icing the kicker. It’s annoying and never seems to work, but as it turns out statistically it does. Not dramatically, but the chances of making a high pressure kick delcines by about 10% if a timeout is called before the kick by the opposing team. Good stuff.


Rankings and Such

September 26, 2006

Now that we’re a few weeks into the season, the rankings start to be more meaningful. For instance, Cal was probably a bit overrated at the beginning of the season, but then likely fell too far after losing to a highly motivated Tennessee team. Louisville has shown that it has a legitimate case for being a top-10 team. The ACC teams have shown that they all were vastly overrated.

And yet, we still don’t know how good some of these teams are. How good is Tennessee? Can you really say? And by extension of that, can you really say how good Florida is yet? Tennessee is really the only point of reference. Virginia Tech is lurking at the edge of the top-10, but they’ve played no one yet.

The top five of Ohio State, Auburn, USC, West Virginia, and Florida, with only the order of AU and USC in dispute. The Harris Poll, which replaced the AP poll in the BCS and doesn’t come out until week 5, has Michigan fifth and Florida at sixth. The Master Coaches Survey, which I mentioned last week, bumped Florida down to sixth and Michigan up to fifth. That’s fair, because Florida struggled with Kentucky and as I said, we can’t say for sure how good the Gators are yet. Plus, Michigan and Ohio State play each other so I’m not that worried.

I’m really not that concerned about any of these polls, really. Coming into this season, I wasn’t thinking about a national championship. This actually puts me in conflict with more and more Gator fans, as I’m finding. Florida hasn’t even won the SEC since 2000, also the last time we won the East. My attitude was win the SEC East, take our chances in Atlanta, and see if we can get to the BCS again.

If we win the East and go to the BCS, that will be a great launching pad for the next few years under Urban Meyer. Next year, it will be mostly his team, and in two years, all of the Zook recruits will be gone. Winning the division and possibly the conference will go a long way to establishing Meyer as a solid winner and not just a mid-major champion.

While I do question some of the things they do (running a reverse to the left from the left hash comes to mind), Meyer and Dan Mullen have been to more BCS games in the last five years than anyone at Florida has. The national championship? That’d be awesome, and just as great of a story as the basketball team was last season. However, let’s just win the East first.

You know what? Forget that. Let’s just beat Alabama on Saturday first. Then we’ll worry about anything more.

Side note: Steve Young on post-MNF SportsCenter just said that double reverses are “what the University of Florida runs,” not what NFL teams usually do. Touché. But what a win for the Saints. Just a huge game for the city. I visited there three years ago with the band for the LSU game (when Florida beat the Tigers for their only loss that year when they won the national title), and the atmosphere was amazing. I loved it. America needs New Orleans, and this is a baby step towards restoring things. The Saints look legit, too.


Monday Coverage

September 25, 2006

Aside from those who are specifically assigned to covering Florida, no one seems to be paying much attention to Boo-gate 2006. And that’s a good thing. There’s no good that can come of dwelling on it, so this is the last I’ll say about it.

ESPN.com’s College Football Final doesn’t even mention Florida except a brief bit about Tebow in a section on highly-touted freshman quarterbacks and their struggles. On SI.com, it gets a Quick Hit and a mention on Stewart Mandel’s blog. Foxsports.com doesn’t even have Florida in any of its wrap-up coverage, netiher does SportingNews.com, and Sportsline has no mention of it in writing or on its video with Tim Brando.

The Gainesville Sun had its say, and it went as expected. The articles in the Alligator predictably went 2-1 in favor of Tebow, with one defense of Leak, the simple writeup of the game calling Tebow “superhuman,” and a glowing report on Tebow’s play. It figures since most of the booing came from students.

The current generation of Florida students, of which I am a part, grew up watching Steve Spurrier run roughshod over the SEC and be in national title contention more often than not. It more or less thinks that the natural state of Gator football is to be at the top, and that Ron Zook merely held it down for three years. Now that he’s gone, its expectations to win every game by 30 return. It looks at football as a great excuse to tailgate and get hammered, and it focuses on that because it’s already a foregone conclusion that we should rule the college football world. It always gets caught by surprise when reality hits.
I know that it’s not just students who think that, but that’s where most of the cries for Tebow come from. They started the Tebow chants in the first couple of games, and led the way with the boos on Saturday. They don’t have perspective. For instance, Alabama has won 12 national titles, more than any other school, and they come into the Swamp on Saturday unranked. It’s not anyone’s natural state to dominate. That’s hard, and it doesn’t come easy. What I can also tell you is that freshman quarterbacks seldom dominate.

Tebow appearing against Kentucky was like a flamethrowing reliever following a crafty curveball pitcher. They’re both good but in different ways, and throwing 100 mph on the gun always gets more attention than the nuances of mixing curves, sliders, and changeups. That is not so say that Leak has a weak arm or anything; the analogy on goes so far. Leak is still statistically one of the best passers in the country.

Now trust me, like my fellow students I want to see us win by 50 every game. It’s more exciting that way and more fun. Still, I appreciate the way the coaches are getting ready for the next four games. We could go 4-0, we could go 1-3. There’s no way to tell right now, though I do think that people are overreacting to the messy play on Saturday. Every team has games where they come out and fall flat, and Florida still won by three touchdowns.

I trust the veterans to show up for the big games, because they have given me no reason to think they won’t this year. I trust the coaches to get the team ready for big games, because they are undefeated in the state of Florida and have won all their rivalry games. The team is definitely improved from last year. We’ll find out these next four weeks by how much.


Off-Topic: Chris Simms

September 24, 2006

This has nothing to do with the Gators, but the Bucs are my favorite NFL team. Forgive me, but this is too weird not to say something.

Chris Simms had his spleen removed today after having it rupture against the Panthers today. Now, I am not now nor have I ever been a Chris Simms fan, but I certainly don’t want to see this. He’s basically done for the season since he’ll be out 2 – 3 months. The Bucs aren’t going to the playoffs after starting 0-3, so I think they should keep Simms out even if cleared to play for say, Week 14 or 15, just to make sure that he fully recovers from this.

Based on what happened today, Bruce Gradkowski will become the starter over Tim Rattay. I think Gradkowski is going to be fine too. He won’t be anchoring anyone’s fantasy team, but he’ll be solid. I don’t think he’ll be like Ben Roethlisberger coming out of the MAC (Gradkowski went to Toledo), but I like his chances of staying poised at the end of games more than I like Simms’ chances.

Anyway you look at it, this was a bad day for the Bucs. They lose on a last-second field goal to fall out of the playoff race after just three games, and the starting quarterback ruptured his spleen in the process. You just have to wonder when Jon Gruden will start falling into Larry Coker territory – on the hot seat because though he won a championship with someone else’s players, he hasn’t done anything since. At least they’ll get another high draft pick.


And So It Begins…

September 24, 2006

From the Trolling-For-Dollars Dept.

We get this gem from Jemele Hill of the Orlando Sentinel. To be honest, Hill started writing for the Sentinel after I started at UF, so I haven’t read much of her work. What I have seen has been good and informative. Until this. I’d have expected Mike Bianchi to write this, but not her.

Anyway, she takes UF fans to task for the boos last night. I’ve already done that so I don’t have a problem with that part of the column, though I think she misses that the fans for the most part were booing the coaches’ decision to pull Tebow, not the presence of Leak. In any event, it’s the end where it takes a turn for the worse.

She echoes the sentiment of a CBS Sportsline writer named Mike Freeman that Leak has been a punching bag at UF because it’s the South and Leak is black. The fans are down on the black starter, and want the white backup to be the savior.

To begin with, that’s crazy. Yes, there were racists in the crowd on Saturday. If you take any random set of 90,000 people on the planet, there will be racists of some type in that group. However, she must be forgetting 2003 when the UF fans were breathlessly pining for Leak to supplant Ingle Martin as starting quarterback. Martin is white. He ended up transferring to I-AA Furman where he played well, and he was a fifth round pick of the Packers in this year’s draft. There also were fans last year who wanted to see Josh Portis take away some of Leak’s snaps because of his running ability. Portis is black. He transferred to Maryland for a variety of reasons this offseason.

The booing only lasted about 2 seconds too, and it was only a small fraction of the people in attendance. It was like the thought process of the fans was:

  1. What? Tebow’s going out?
  2. Urban is an idiot for doing this! Tebow deserves to score after all that running!
  3. Boo!
  4. Oh crap, it looks like we’re booing Leak.
  5. Yay! Go Chris Leak!

Now, I know from people who were there that people were cursing Chris Leak’s name in the student section. In the alumni section where I sit with my folks, there were a few people who were booing the player, not the coaches too. However, the vast majority did their best to make up for the others. After a night of offensive frustration, people were excited to see Tebow run all over the field and they wanted to see him get a chance at the touchdown, not see the first team offense get more reps in the red zone. They were thinking about running up the score on Kentucky, not about what will get the team ready for the next four games.

Look, there will always be impatient jerks who either don’t understand that football is about the whole season, not just one game, or who are just too drunk to care. There are others who just want to see the Next Big Thing, regardless of what’s in place now. In Internet parlance, they are trolls: people looking more to stir up trouble to get their way than looking out for what’s best for the team.

Ms. Hill has now joined them. Playing the race card when it is clearly not applicable is a classic troll move. Hopefully people will figure out that there is no quarterback controversy among people who know what’s going on and I won’t have to read anymore ignorant opinion pieces like this. At least until I pick up tomorrow’s Alligator.


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