Reviewing the Gators’ 2005 Recruiting Class

February 4, 2009

National signing day is today, and the recruitniks are restless with excitement. I’ve already gone over why I don’t follow recruiting closely, but the main reason why I don’t go nuts over it is the same as why it’s not worth going nuts over any professional drafts.

With a few exceptions, you generally don’t know who will pan out and who won’t for years. I would much rather look at past classes to see how they turned out years later, because you’ve seen how they’ve done and can revisit (hopefully) fond memories of seeing them play.

The members of everyone’s recruiting class of 2005 at this point has all either graduated or are now becoming fifth year seniors. It was a transitional year for Florida, going from the Zook era to Meyer era. One would think that with both of them being known as great recruiters that it would turn out all right for a transition year, but as you’ll see, it was very much a star-crossed bunch.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

Avery Atkins – DB (4* Rivals / 5* Scout)

Atkins’ career looked promising initially, but he quickly got into trouble off of the field. After essentially being kicked off the team, he transferred to Bethune Cookman where his legal problems continued. After multiple arrests for domestic battery, he would be found dead in his car in an apparent suicide.

His is a sad story all around, one of a bright future wasted and unnecessary grief for those he mistreated.

Kalvin Baker – LB (3* / 4*)

Never played at linebacker and transferred to Tennessee State.

Nyan Boateng – WR (4*/ 3*)

He never found a way to get playing time behind guys like Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell, and Percy Harvin. He transferred to Cal after the 2006 season to get more playing time, got arrested before leaving town, and had a decent year for the Bears last year.

Simon Codrington – OL (3* / 3*)

He played some as backup in 2006, but missed all of 2007 with a fractured wrist. His career ended due to injury.

Jon Demps – LB (4* / 4*)

He played in a couple of games in 2005, but missed 2006 and 2007 with injury issues. He also had some off-field problems. The last time his name surfaced was in December of ’07 when he was arrested for throwing a sandwich at a Jimmy John’s employee who simply wanted him to pay for a bag of chips.

No, he is not related to current running back Jeff Demps.

Brian Ellis – TE (3* / 3*)

He couldn’t get an SAT or ACT score high enough to get into school, and went to a junior college in California. He switched to linebacker, signed with Purdue, but couldn’t get into school there either.

Darryl Gresham, Jr. – LB (3* / 3*)

Was on the 2005 scout team, and only saw action in 2006 against Western Carolina. He left the team after the 2007 spring game.

Eddie Haupt – OL (3* / 4*)

He played sparingly from 2005-07, and his career ended due to injury.

Kestahn Moore – RB (3* / 4*)

He is part of an interesting bit of trivia in that he’s the only running back to start a season-opening game under Urban Meyer. He had an up and down time in Gainesville. Just as he was hitting his stride in 2007, fumble problems (especially against LSU) derailed his career.

Moore was good but not great, and he got passed up by others on the team largely thanks to not having an explosive speed burst. He played some in all four seasons, and he was the best pass blocking running back Urban Meyer has had at UF.

Dorian Munroe – S (4* / 4*)

He played some key minutes in relief of starting S Tony Joiner late in 2006, and he played often on defense and special teams in 2007. He was in line to get a starting role in 2008 before an ACL tear ended his season in August. He’ll be back in 2009.

Louis Murphy – WR (3* / 3*)

He spent a couple years on campus before things finally began to click with him. He got himself on track in 2007, and he was a key target and deep threat for Tim Tebow in 2008.

He’s one of the two or three best players of the class.

David Nelson – WR (4* / 4*)

Urban Meyer proclaimed him a waste of a scholarship for most of his time in Gainesville, and Nelson actually agrees. He admitted he didn’t take things fully seriously until about midway through the 2008 season, at which point he began playing a lot better. He had key catches late in the season and might actually fulfill his promise in 2009.

Reggie Nelson – S (4* / 5*)

After spending a year in junior college in 2004, this Nelson made it to campus in 2005. He is the unquestioned best player of the class, earning the nickname “The Eraser” for correcting any mistakes the guys around him made. His outstanding coverage and bone crushing hits will live on in Gator football lore forever.

Jonathan Phillips – K (2* / 4*)

He kicked a random extra point every now and then for four years, and he decided to go to Miami (FL) law school after the 2007 season. Meyer convinced him to stay, and he won the kicking job in 2008. He had an outstanding season, missing just two total kicks (one of which was blocked due to poor protection up front).

Josh Portis – QB (4* / 4*)

Originally a Meyer recruit to Utah, he followed the head coach to Florida. Everyone assumed that he would be the guy to run the Real Urban Meyer Offense once Chris Leak graduated (or maybe even sooner). Instead his crazy, meddling mother convinced him to transfer after the ’05 season rather than lose another year of eligibility playing behind Leak.

He transferred to Maryland, where he never got higher than third on the depth chart. After sparse minutes in 2008, he once again transferred, this time to a small school called California (Pa.) for the spring semester. He has good athletic ability, but has never been able to translate it into being a polished quarterback.

Eric Sledge – ATH (3* / 3*)

He wanted to play receiver or safety, but the Florida coaches had him play linebacker. He transferred to Valdosta State in January 2007.

Ryan Stamper – LB (4* / 4*)

He spent a season on the scout team in 2005 and hardly played at all in 2006. In 2007 he was still just a top reserve, but in 2008 he emerged as one of the linebacking corps’ most versatile and consistent performers. He started a few games and spent time at all three positions.

He figures to have a prominent role again in 2009.

Ronnie Wilson – OL (3* / 4*)

He redshirted in 2005, but thanks to some injuries to guys ahead of him he played often enough (and well enough) in 2006 to be named an honorable mention Freshman All-American and was put on the SEC All-Freshman team by The Sporting News. In the off season before the 2007 season, he discharged a semiautomatic weapon during an altercation, thereby getting himself thrown off the team.

He continued to pay his way to attend UF, and in 2008 Meyer allowed him to try to work his way back on the team. After spending some time on the defensive line and never playing a meaningful minute, he was once again kicked off the team after getting in a fight. He never got his scholarship back.

In Total

The class had only four players who became starters for a significant amount of time by now: Kestahn Moore, Louis Murphy, Reggie Nelson, and Jonathan Phillips. Ryan Stamper played significant minutes this year, even starting a few games, and along with Dorian Munroe will likely be a top contributor next season. David Nelson figures to be a key part of the receiver rotation if the second half of 2008 was not a mirage.

Two players had a single season of playing noticeable roles before getting kicked off the team: the late Avery Atkins and Ronnie Wilson. Josh Portis played spot duty for a season before transferring.

Of the 18 players of the class, six have been significant contributors now four years later. Three had single notable seasons before leaving, and one has one last year to impress after a half season of productivity. If you’re counting at home, that leaves eight players who had no impact at all.

For a recruiting class that was ranked No. 15 by Rivals and No. 11 by Scout, the actual contributions are surprisingly low. Reggie Nelson (an All-American), Wilson, Munroe, and Moore (54 carries, 282 yards) were the only players to play a measurable role on the 2006 national title team. Only Murphy, Phillips, Stamper, and to a lesser extent Moore and David Nelson played measurable roles on the 2008 national title team.

Those are not good numbers. It speaks to the talent that Ron Zook left behind as well as the outstanding quality of Meyer’s subsequent classes. When you consider that a team has 44 starters and backups on offense and defense, not to mention special teams players, four or five contributors is not a high number.

As everyone pores over this year’s classes and predicts fortune or doom, just remember that they don’t always turn out as advertised.


In Gainesville This Weekend

April 10, 2008

I will be in Gainesville this weekend, visiting family and friends and of course, attending the Orange and Blue game. I’ll try to get some good pictures to share.

I’ll be interested to see the progress of Urban Meyer‘s prized Gateway of Champions, as detailed by Pat Dooley at the Gainesville Sun. Apparently it’s all covered over and will remain as such until its done, but that’s somewhat of an improvement over the random steel girders blighting the southwest corner of the stadium last fall. It apparently will contain a large alligator near the entrance with the names of every player from the 1996 and 2006 national title teams on it. That brings up two questions:

  1. Will Marcus Thomas‘ name be on it? (guess: no)
  2. Will they put the names on it like a tag cloud where the most important players’ names are the largest?

My guess on #2 is also no, though it’d be awesome if they did. It would start one of the all-time great discussions/arguments/flame wars in Gator football history. The biggest name for 1996 obviously would be Danny Wuerffel, but for 2006 I’d put Reggie Nelson‘s name as the biggest, followed closely by Jarvis Moss.

Never underestimate the importance of Jarvis Moss to the 2006 team.

If you can’t make it to Gainesville, you can watch it on ESPN at 1pm. GameDay will be there, and the first hour will be on from 11-noon on ESPN2 and the second hour is from 12 -1 pm on ESPN.

I’m looking forward to the Race for a Scholarship; it’s not that I think some random kid will beat Louis Murphy, Chris Rainey, or Deonte Thompson in a footrace, but to see just how badly three highly motivated speedsters smoke 15 regular college students. It’s too bad Percy is hurt, but the tradeoff is we get to see Rainey or Thompson go (who we otherwise wouldn’t) after not getting to see much of anything from them last year.


BCS Title Game Preview, Part 2

January 8, 2007

Today started as a really dreary day here in Gainesville. It was cool, overcast, and drizzly. Shortly after noon though it began to break and now it is a beautiful day. Basically, it was a typical cold front day. It may feel fine now, but it’ll get colder after the sun goes down. If the Gators win tonight, expect to see lots of jackets, sweatshirts, and knitted wool hats.

Bonus Overrated Media Story

The SEC Has More Speed than the Big 10

While this may be true overall, on a top-to-bottom basis, let’s face it: everyone has speed nowadays. Florida has it, Ohio State has it, and if you saw any of the Fiesta Bowl, you’ll know that even Boise State has it. With the way that training science has improved over the years, it turns out you probably can teach speed, or at least improve it. Ted Ginn and Percy Harvin have the unteachable kind of speed, but with the kind of facilities and resources that most college programs have, everyone has speed.

Stuff that Actually Matters

The Layoffs

Both coaches in this game have proved that they are sharp if you give them extra time to prepare, so that’s a non-factor. What does matter is how much time both teams have had off. Ohio State’s 51-day break from games will be a factor initially because no team can go that long without a game and play well for all 60 minutes. Ohio State will find their groove again, but I don’t expect to see the Buckeyes light up the scoreboard in the first quarter without big help from turnovers or special teams.

Florida has had a more traditional break, but their problem is one that has been there for the past 4 years: focus. The Gators have a hard time handling success during a game lately, which is why there have been so few blowouts and the Ron Zook-led teams gave away so many leads. You can always tell when it’s going to happen too: they’ll come out for a kickoff jumping around, waving their arms, pointing at the crowd, and then the defense will come out and do the same. Scoring drives of 5 plays or less usually follow this behavior. Urban Meyer has done a lot to curb this, but half of the team is still Zook players, and this will remain a concern for me at least the whole game.

Reggie Nelson

This guy is as crucial a player as there is in this game. Florida’s secondary is undersized and inexperienced. Nelson and Ryan Smith have player pretty well for the most part, but Tony Joiner is not going to be at full-strength and Reggie Lewis cannot be trusted against top-flight receivers. Beyond that, you have the freshman Dorian Monroe and the McCollum brothers. These are hardly promising prospects against the talent Ohio State has on offense.

This brings us back to Reggie Nelson. He and/or Ryan Smith have made some kind of huge play in the second half of every win that in some capacity seals the game for Florida. The only game that neither made such a play in was the Auburn game. These guys need to make something happen. Nelson will be very emotional with the recent passing of his mother, with whom he was very close. I expect he’ll try to play hard in her honor and memory, but I hope that doesn’t mean he overpursues looking to make a big hit somewhere. He’s been known to do that when he gets excited. Nelson must play well for Florida to have a chance.

Eliminating the Big Mistake

Whether it is Eric Wilbur dropping a punt or Chris Leak throwing bad interceptions, this Gator team has been susceptible to making very bad plays at inopportune times. Each of Florida’s past two games they have come out flat after halftime and had a terrible third quarter. In the Arkansas game, it was probably because at halftime they heard that USC had lost and they lost focus, as I have described above, allowing their minds to go to Arizona before finishing the job in Atlanta. Having that one disastrous quarter against Ohio State means going home humiliated.

Close Game Experience

Nearly everyone agrees that this game will be close. Florida has had much more experience in winning close games than OSU has had this year. From rallying from 10 points down at Tennessee to putting Arkansas away after falling behind in the second half, Florida has been winning close games all year. Ohio State on the other hand, has really only been in danger once, against Illinois, and the Illini would have had to drive the length of the field to tie it up (highly unlikely given the two teams involved). And no, the Michigan game was not that close.

I don’t know how good Ohio State is in a hurry-up offense because I just haven’t seen that much game film of them playing. I do know that Chris Leak is at his absolute best in the 2-minute drill. When he’s out there just throwing and not thinking hard, not worrying about having to run the option, and knowing exactly where he needs to put the ball (near the sidelines), he executes with outstanding precision. When it comes to the last two minutes, I have much more faith in Florida’s ability to move the ball down the field and score than I do in its ability to keep an opposing offense from moving down the field to get within field goal range.

Well, hopefully there’s some unique things in there for you. Final predictions in a bit.


The Offense

October 30, 2006

Okay, enough of being a homer. Let’s face it – Florida is somewhat fortunate to be 7-1 with an offense that sometimes lacks cohesion, and absolutely lucky to be ranked 4th in the BCS under those circumstances. Every week it’s something different; sometimes the scheme is good but the execution is not there, other times the execution is pretty good but the scheme is puzzling at best. In the case of the Georgia game, both execution and scheme were bad.

In some ways, it seems like the coaches get stuck up on things that are good in theory rather than focusing on what goes on in the games. For instance, they are very big on getting players “touches.” I’ve always hated that term because it subtly implies that a player will excel simply by placing his hands on the ball. Just get this guy X number of touches per game, and things will be great. A case in point was the one play the coaches ran for Jarred Fayson on Saturday. He came in on one play and had a pass underthrown to him, as if the coaches suddenly thought “Oh no, we need to get Fayson a couple of touches this game,” and threw him in to catch a screen. He then disappeared for the rest of the game.

I prefer more of a basketball style approach – find the open man, and feed the hot hand. Just run good plays and let the fourth-year starter at quarterback decide who gets the ball. It’s like Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen are micromanaging the offense rather than letting it flow. There’s more to it than throwing either the occasion deep bomb to placate the fans and sideways screen passes. Georgia played a lot of zone, and as anyone who knows football well knows, you attack the zone with someone, usually the tight end, going over the middle. Andre Caldwell got his 40-yard touchdown doing just that. Why they didn’t “feed the hot hand” by going back over the middle in the 10 – 15 yard range is beyond me.

Part of micromanaging also is overthinking things. According to a quote from Meyer in today’s Alligator, it took DeShawn Wynn getting in Meyer’s face in the third quarter in order to get him carries. Urban said that did change his mind. Why he decided in the first place that a guy who ran for more than 100 yards on Tennessee was not fit for carries against Georgia raises plenty questions. Meyer spent some of his post game comments talking about how displeased he is with the drop back passing game since Chris Leak doesn’t get enough protection. I would think that using Wynn early to open up the pass would be a good way to buy Leak more time. I’m not advocating the Auburn game offense of Wynn up the middle nearly ever down, but Wynn is a better option between the tackles than Percy Harvin is (and yes, they did run Harvin up the middle in the first quarter). It’s about balance.

Now, part of the offensive struggles may have had to do with Leak and his not-concussion/headache/whatever it was that plagued him from late in the second quarter. Urban said Leak used three unnecessary timeouts after getting a particularly bad hit. It also seemed that some of the penalties could have come from miscommunications dealing with that. I don’t know, but I do know that the penalties need to stop. They kill momentum and disrupt the offensive game plan. Turning third-and-shorts into third-and-longs has been a specialty for the Gators this year, and they will not beat Auburn or Arkansas in the SEC title game if they get penalized as much in that game as they have all season.

One interesting thing I gathered from the morning and midday talk shows today is that there is somewhat of a Tim Tebow backlash starting up. I never thought I’d even get a hint of that this year, but it’s starting. I think his key fumble that led to a Georgia touchdown and his general ineffectiveness (aside from a couple of plays) has reminded people that he is fact a freshman and that he is not Superman. The St. Timothy image I talked about early in the season is fading. Some complain that using Tebow disrupts Leak’s rhythm and that the switching of quarterbacks leads to some of the false start penalties. They decide that for those reasons, Tebow may be better off left on the bench, almost that he’s more trouble than he’s worth now that defenses know that he’s going to run off-tackle left nearly every time.

I think that’s a fascinating development. Even the hits for this site from people searching for Tebow’s name have fallen off and nearly disappeared in the past three days. I think people are realizing that Tebow cannot yet run the offense, that trying to run two different offenses concurrently won’t always work, and that Chris Leak really is the best option for winning this year after all. Now, all it probably will take is a 30-yard run against Vanderbilt for the Tebow madness to start again, but for now there are at least a few fans who are deciding that picking Chris Leak as the quarterback and sticking with him is the best option for success.

It also may be that, just like with Leak and th booing nonsense earlier in the season, that they are not upset with Tebow as much as they are with the coaching staff. The coaches definitely deserve some criticism after that game since Georgia is clearly rebuilding this year and Florida can be an elite team when it wants to be. That game should not have been close. I wonder if the players slipped back into a Zook-era trademark move of relaxing when they get a big lead. Not only is the Meyer regime trying to get by with players recruited for a different scheme, it also has to deal with the culture of complacency that grew up in Ron Zook’s three years. Losses were bad and “not acceptable,” but there were never any consequences really, since they were “getting better and better every week.”

Do not get me wrong here, I am not blaming Ron Zook for anything. His direct influence doesn’t pass the limits of Champagne, Illinois these days. However, even Steve Spurrier in his last couple of years tended to whine a lot more than he did when he first started. I do question the mental toughness of Florida football, and that includes the fans too. We were all spoiled in the ’90s, and it seemed like Florida could do whatever it wanted to simply by showing up. The Tennessee loss in 2001 ended for good any thought of that since Spurrier owned Phil Fulmer, the SEC East was on the line, and Florida still lost.

This year, a lot of good fortune and bad turnovers by opponents in critical times has propelled Florida to where it is now. As I mentioned before, Florida has yet to put together a full game, but neither has any of UF’s opponents. Auburn’s second half was the best half of football played against the Gators, and if not for two uncharacteristic and costly turnovers by Chris Leak late, it still might not have been enough to beat the Gators. There is something about this team that is a double-edged sword – it keeps them from playing sharply, but also keeps the opponents from doing so either.

In the end, the Gator defense has been winning the games week in and week out. The front seven has been excellent in stopping the run outside of the Auburn game, and the secondary has getting a lot of big plays (once again, except for the Auburn game) while letting the smaller plays go. Reggie Nelson in particular has saved the secondary many times, at least when the coaches don’t have him playing 30 yards off of the line of scrimmage (just like in – get this – the Auburn game). Florida has the luxury of playing around with all sorts of things on offense since the defense has been so adept at keeping opponents out of the end zone. They haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been tremendous.

So what about this week? It’s just Vandy right? Well, Vanderbilt beat Georgia and has been very well-coached under Bobby Johnson. Using well-coached and Vanderbilt is not a common occurrence, so that should tell you something. Sure, Jay Cutler is gone, but there were plenty of other guys besides Cutler working to take Florida to double overtime in a game that Florida very well could have lost in regulation if not for a suspect celebration penalty on the Commodores. Florida has better size, speed, and talent all over the field, so the Gators should absolutely win.

As we know, though, Vandy doesn’t make things easy for anyone. They played Michigan to a closer final score than Notre Dame did. Florida should win, but it won’t be a cakewalk.


So Far This Year

October 25, 2006

Urban Meyer said yesterday that while watching the games this Saturday, he realized that what won teams games was playmakers making plays. This “revelation” of sorts means that Florida will be putting more spread back into the offense rather than a lot of the up-the-middle stuff that they had gotten into the habit of doing this year.

This is good. I have been saying that the “we’ve got to out-tough teams” mindset, while useful, is not what will win games for Florida. Last year, they had to take some of the spread parts out of the offense and go with a  more power scheme since the playmakers were out injured or playing hurt. This year, there’s more playmakers on the team, and none have had serious injuries. It was appropriate to get more conservative then, it is appropriate to get more aggressive now. The two leading rushers for Florida against Auburn were Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell, and it was frustrating to me at least watching the Gators go away from that kind of play as the game wore on.

 *  *  *

So a lot of people did mid-season report cards, and I didn’t. Partly, it was because I was exceedingly busy at the halfway point, and partly because it didn’t make sense to do it at that point for a number of reasons. It didn’t occur during an off week, and also it was still inside the three-week run of SEC West teams.

The offensive line has been good, but not spectacular. It has led the way for multiple games with a 100-yard rusher, but it was as big a factor in the second-half letdown at Auburn as any unit on the team. The running backs all complement each other when all are healthy. The receivers have been inconsistent in that you don’t know who’s going to step up in a particular game out of the lot of them, but so far someone has in every game except Auburn (note the common thread throughout this). As far as the quarterbacks, I think I’ve beaten that horse enough over the past weeks that I don’t need to rehash it all again right now. The offense gets a B+, since sometimes it was the coaches going too conservative that held them back.

The defense has been great for the most part. The defensive line was hampered by not having Marcus Thomas for three games, but it otherwise has been one of the strongest positions on the field. The linebackers have been great too, though as many have pointed out, they over-pursued everything at Auburn. The coaches have them blitz too much which hampers their effectiveness, but I don’t hold that against them. The secondary has been a paradox. They give up too many yards, and can’t make enough stops. When opposing teams convert on third and more than two, more often than not it’s on a quick screen or slant because the cornerbacks are lined up 5 to 10 yards off the line. I understand that the coaches put them there, but they have too because only Reggie Nelson is a top-tier player back there. If you take away the some of the rather fortunate interceptions they’ve been getting, Florida is not 6-1. Overall they get a B as well, but I don’t know how it can improve that without taking more risks and getting more timely stops.

The special teams has been a mixed bag. At first they couldn’t get convert an extra point on a regular basis, and it took until Game 7 to get a field goal (for a variety of reasons, some not their fault). The return coverage had been decent until Auburn, and the return game still has not scored a touchdown in years. I give them a C, but that may be somewhat generous. There is a lot of room for improvement here.

I may be a bit harsh, but I would give only two teams in the country an A on offense, and that’s Ohio State and West Virginia. I may seem odd that a consensus top-ten team would be B, B, and C on its assessment, but that’s the truth. And, this year, that’s all it takes to be a top-ten team. This Florida team is good compared to a lot of other teams this year, but the 1996 Florida team would destroy this one. The 2006 Florida secondary is too weak, and the offense is too inconsistent.

Still, all they have to do is beat three teams that are inferior to them and they go to Atlanta for the first time since 2000. That’s a good feeling.


Florida – Auburn Preview

October 14, 2006

I’m been procrastinating as long as I could, but it’s time to write this.

One the one hand, a lot of things are lining up for Auburn. It is a night home game for them, and they had College GameDay there this morning which always gets the fans fired up. They are coming off a loss to Arkansas, and good teams (like Auburn is) rarely lose two games in a row. In addition, Florida traditionally has never played well at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn is essentially playing for its season here, since with a loss it’d be unlikely for them to get to a BCS game and they’d need Arkansas to lose three conference games to go to Atlanta. Plus, Arkansas beat them with size and brute strength, and that’s not how Florida generally wins games.

Florida, on the other hand, has a lot going for it. UF has won eight in a row, and has already won a big night game in Knoxville in front of probably a louder crowd, and quite possibly against a better team. Chris Leak is as steady as they come, and he’s won games in Baton Rouge, Knoxville, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee before. The Gators are coming off of a big win against LSU, and the two quarterback system is really gelling into something special. The defense has bent in every which way, but it hasn’t broken and now with a full week of practice with Marcus Thomas back on the defensive line will only make them better. The offense also gets DeShawn Wynn back and Percy Harvin should be about 100%.
Now the bad. Auburn has been listless the past two games, nearly losing to South Carolina and getting demolished by the Pigs. Brandon Cox is really beat up, and Kenny Irons has been merely average in big games this year. If UF punter Eric Wilbur does as well as he did against LSU, then Auburn will be faced with long fields and the proposition of going 70 to 80 yards on the Florida defense. The Tigers’ defense has had serious issues stopping the run lately, and now they face a healthy Wynn and they’ll also have to deal with Harvin and Tim Tebow busting out of the backfield for potentially big plays.
Florida’s biggest problem, besides history saying that they’ll struggle at Auburn, is what Urban Meyer calls the Florida Nonsense. It’s all of the buzz and the press about the team. There were dozens of stories about Tebow’s touchdowns, how Florida might run the table, how they are in the national title race, and how they might not be in the top two when the BCS standings come out. Well, Florida definitely will not be in the top two if it listens and starts getting a big head. The Gators are at their highest ranking since anyone on the team came to this school. Also, Florida has yet to put a full game together with bad penalties, sloppy play, untimely turnovers, and unfortunate timeouts marring their play.

I will not be surprised whichever team wins. I am going to pick Florida though, and not just because I’m a homer. The offense has been getting better, and with a healthy Harvin it will get even better. Remember after UCF when people were comparing him to Reggie Bush? He’s not Reggie Bush, but he’s a big play threat every time he touches the ball. Wynn is not as fast at the Arkansas backs, but if he is healthy and ready to go he could punish the Tigers’ defense. Auburn also does not have the corners to cover all of Florida’s receivers. It’s hard to describe just how much of an advantage UF has when comparing receivers.

Auburn having lackluster wideouts also mitigates the Gators’ biggest weakness on defense – the secondary. Reggie Nelson and Ryan Smith have been great and good, but they still give up too many passing yards. Basically though, if you stop Kenny Irons you stop Auburn and Florida’s front seven (plus Tony Joiner blitzing most likely) will get to both Irons and Cox in the backfield.

I expect this will be somewhere between the Tenenssee game and the LSU game. I don’t think it will take a 4th quarter comeback, but the Gators won’t put it away early in the second half either. Still, I’m feeling something in the 24 – 16 range. We shall see.

One last thing – I’ve referred to Auburn as the WarPlainsTigers because they have three nicknames: the Tigers, the War Eagle(s?), and the Plainsmen. Alabama fans give all sorts of reasons why, but they have issues themselves somehow making the Crimson Tide into an elephant. The Plainsmen is the vestigial one of the three, rarely coming up as far as I can tell. Auburn fans yell “War Eagle!” to each other instead of something like “Go Gators!” and they have an eagle fly to the 50 before every game. Finally, the Tigers are what they generally go by to everyone else. I don’t get it exactly, but I’m sure there’s convoluted stories behind them all.


GameDay Report: 10/14

October 14, 2006

10:05 – We’re live from Auburn (and I’m live from a recliner in southwest Gainesville), the second straight Florida game covered. Last week it was here and I was there, but I can actually comment this week.

10:07 – We’ve got a lot of talk about how tough road night games are in the SEC. Florida won’t be intimidated, and Chris Leak will be poised. This much, we already knew.

10:08 – Okay, so our fluff pieces this week are on Brandon Cox and Adrian Peterson. Good to know.

10:10 – Speaking of Cox, Heath Cline had a guy named Chuck Oliver on from an Atlanta radio station who goes around to SEC or ACC practices every week, and went to Auburn this week. He says that Cox is really physically beat up right now. That bodes well for Florida, especially if the defensive line can get into the backfield regularly.

10:12 – We’ve got some same “The Good The Bad and The Ugly” posters, bad puns on Chris Leak’s name, and so far I’ve only caught one pro-Florida sign saying that Albert wants seconds of Tiger. I still like my brother’s girlfriend’s sign from last week that said “Even Sigfried and Roy Could Tame These Tigers.” I know a camera man panned it slowly, but I still don’t know if it got on TV.

10:15 – This just in: West Virginia hasn’t played anyone yet. Oh oh, breaking news: The winner of WVU – Louisville will go undefeated, and Georgia knows how fast the Mountaineers are. WVU is lousy on defense, Corso rants, which is interesting because they’re the other team besides Cal that he picked to go to the national title game and he apologizes for Cal does wrong. Herbstreit just points this fact out as soon as I’m done typing it.

10:20 – A nice picture of Bo Jackson, who never became half the player of video game Bo Jackson.

10:22 – Before the break, Herbstreit tried to be clever by saying that the Big East big guns needed to watch out for Pitt, but really they don’t need to for two reasons: 1) Pitt is coached by the Wannstache, who is one of the worst big game coaches in recent memory, and 2) they don’t have the players to keep up with them. If you’re understaffed compared to your opponent, you’ve got to out coach them to win. That’ll never happen.

10:25 – The new clock rules suck, and the officials this year are missing a lot of calls on the field. Corso thinks they’ll amend the rules to go back to the old rules for the last two minutes of halves. We’ll see, but since offensive coaches hate them but defensive coaches love them, a decision to change them back will be in deadlock and never get overturned.

10:29 – Arkansas has had a nice year, and part of that is their new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the coach at a high school where Mitch Mustain went to high school.

10:31 – Houston Nutt apparently knew Malzahn for a while before hiring him, and he was able to get a few recruits to change to Arkansas for them. Malzahn has actually written a book on how to run an offense, for sale on Amazon. At least he’s brought some crazy trick plays.

10:33 – No Microsoft, I still don’t want to restart now. I don’t even know what MSXML is or why it needed an update. I hate Windows.

10:37 – Will Arkansas win the SEC West? Maybe, but beating Tennessee and LSU will be tough. If Auburn wins out, the Tigers might, but we’ll see. Fowler asks the guys what several teams all have in common, and while waiting for a response from the other two a guy in the crowd shouts “They suck!” Well done, whoever that was.

10:40 – Thanks to Auburn fans for bringing back the “Pac 10 Sucks” chant back. It’s truth, and needs to be said as often as possible to remind the uninformed masses.

10:42 – DeSean Jackson has better stats than Ted Ginn does, but why is Ginn lingering in Heisman discussions while Jackson is unheard of? Part Ohio State hype, part East Coast Bias, and part level of competition.

10:44 – Herbstreit baits the crowd with talk of USC beat Arkansas who beat Auburn and what does that mean, a classic logical fallacy. The crowd responds with more “overrated” chants for Cal and USC. Once again, well done. Don’t let them get away with that. The Pac 10 is weak, and USC will lose, maybe twice.

10:47 – Some pandering with gratuitous highlights of the 1994 Florida at Auburn game. Thanks.

10:51 – A nice fluff piece on Tim Tebow. The Auburn fans are targeting him, but as Fowler said he got through LSU fine. Herbstreit, of course, as a former quarterback didn’t like the two quarterback system, but it’s grown on him. The also point out that no one has knocked Tebow back. That’s true. He practically ran over LSU’s prize safety last week.

10:53 – Desmond Howard demonstrates Tebow’s plays, you know, if Tebow was a slow, right-handed former receiver.

10:54 – By the way, Publix’s Cheesy Quick is about a dollar less than Easy Mac, and it tastes exactly the same. Just a tip for you fellow students out there.

10:55 – Nope, I still don’t want to restart. Just like I said the last 5 times. Stupid Microsoft.

10:56 – Fortunately, despite what the song said, Big and Rich did not come to my city last week. In fact, I hope I’m never in the same city as those hacks.

11:01 – An somewhat interesting piece on Adrian Peterson and his father, who spent a lot of Adrian’s life in jail. As always when they do these things, they gloss over why the athlete’s relative got into jail, and in this case the people who raised Peterson too (his mother and step father).

11:03 – Wow, there’s no creativity in the signs in the crowd at all. Of course, it’s Auburn, so there you go.

11:05 – As Fowler pointed out, Herbstreit’s philosophy on Buy or Sell is sell low and buy high. I hope he has someone else doing his investments.

11:08 – We’ve got Mike Hart showing Desmond how not to fumble later in the show. I really think Penn State has a shot against Michigan this week since Hart will have to be the offense by himself. Mario Manningham is out, and Chad Henne doesn’t have enough weapons after him to be all that effective. That means the Nittany Lions will stack the box and stop Hart. When you stop Hart, Michigan is a 7-5 team like last year.

11:09 – It is 11:09 am, and Miami and FSU are still unranked, while Mizzou and Rutgers are. Life is good.

11:10 – Some funny stuff with the GameDay guys trading seats and imitating each other.

11:13 – Just as we all knew, Corso could never make it as host. Also, Fowler got some good jabs in pretending to be Kirk. Herbstreit could work on his Corso some, but he’s not bad at it.

11:16 – The crowd is getting restless. Herbstreit pulls out a Scarlet Knight mascot head to pick Rutgets over Navy, and Corso can’t help himself and pulls out a Navy hat. Lee tried to play it straight as the host, but he can’t contain his enthusiasm.

11:17 – It’s Rocktoberfest at Gatorland Kia so, uh, don’t miss out on those great deals on small cars. Has a local car dealership ever made a decent commercial?

11:19 – Sir Charles joins us on the phone. He’s always a great interview. He needs to turn the volume down on his TV, because there’s an echo effect like when people call in to radio shows with the radio still on.

11:22 – The Chuckwagon picks Auburn 21-17. Of course he does.

11:26 – Auburn’s 101 db is not nearly as load as Florida’s 111 db. Yeah, that’s right. I think there’s even more people there than there were in Gainesville last week since there’s absolutely nothing to do in the village of Auburn.

11:28 – Mike Hart just does not fumble the football. He’s a bit undersized, but he’s tough as nails and doesn’t put the ball on the ground. That’s going to keep him in the NFL for a long time.

11:30 – Penn State had a pep rally last night and Joe Paterno gave a rousing speech. They’re doing the white out thing today, which jumped the shark when the Miami Heat bandwagoneers “fans” used in the playoffs last year. Like all other Miami sports teams, they don’t have real fans, just a bunch of people who show up to be seen. And yes, I just made up a word.

11:33 – Thinking of AT&T (who just had a commercial), how is it that they are probably going to get to buy Bell South? Are there any Baby Bells left if they go? I thought the government meant it when they broke up that monopoly.

11:36 – I have no idea why Louisville is expected to do so well in the BCS while West Virginia languishes. I didn’t know a mediocre Miami team improved the Cardinals’ resume so much. Also, the computers love USC for some ungodly reason. I give up with the BCS.

11:39 – Now we get Mark May to talk about how awesome USC is. He’s the biggest USC fanboy in the country. He says that they deserve to be number 2 because “they won their games.” Yes, well so have Florida and Michigan, and both of them have had tougher schedules. Herbstreit calls him on this, and May counters with picking Auburn to win. This despite that their talking about who’s number 2 now, not after tonight.

11:42 – Apparently Auburn fans roll “Toomer’s Corner” after big home wins. Classy.

11:46 – Brandon Cox has had to overcome MG, a neuromuscular disease that harms muscles and can lead to paralysis. Now, he’s the quarterback of Auburn. That’s remarkable, but as a player, he’s no Jason Campbell. If Florida can stop Kenny Irons, Cox probably can’t win the game by himself. Especially since Auburn has average at best receivers.

11:49 – Auburn’s offensive line has been playing terribly of late, and Herbstreit thinks the Florida front seven will be a big difference. Corso highlights Marcus Thomas and Reggie Nelson. He thinks it’s a game where the tougher team will win. Good thing Urban learned how to be tough from Lou Holtz earlier this year. Yes, that was sarcasm.

11:50 – Shockingly, I still don’t want to restart my computer. I should have waited to install that update until after GameDay. Oh well.

11:54 – They mention the Wisconsin band being on probation. I’ve read beyond the stale AP report, and it’s some pretty bad stuff. I just wonder how that can be allowed to happen.

11:55 – The Auburn band meanwhile decides to play while the show is on air. Real classy guys. Do they play while the ball is live too?

11:58 – I still think Penn State has a great chance. They even have the revenge factor from last year. Herbstreit is calling the game, so he can’t make a pick, but Corso likes the Wolverines.

12:01 – Auburn is really banged up, and they are still reeling from Arkansas. Kirk finally learned his lesson for picking against Florida and likes the Gators. Corso picks Florida again after setting up the crowd by saying things like they have beautiful women there and that he wore an Auburn tie.

That’s all for GameDay, and that’s it until the Florida – Auburn preview later this afternoon.


“Madness” 2006

October 14, 2006

The only madness going on at Madness 2006 was that of fans who probably felt shafted. Granted, it’s hard to get that upset when admission was free, but that was an embarrassment for the defending national champs. The whole thing was just a commercial for frozen pizza, cell phone service, and the local utilities. I’m not validating them all by giving them a mention

It began with the dumb games as usual, like the crawl around and pick things up off the floor while blindfolded game, and a contest where answering trivia questions gave contestants a chance to putt across the entire basketball court diagonally to win a truck. It was the standard boring stuff.

Next, they introduced the women’s and men’s teams and had them walk in through the lower section crowds like the men’s team did during their championship celebration. Each player had a signed mini basketball that they tossed into the crowd after being introduced. One of my friends got Corey Brewer’s ball, so that was cool.

They then did a three point shooting contest of sorts, where two pairs of players alternated shots concurrently at the two baskets to see who could get to 10 made shots first. This is when we learned that Joakim Noah and Al Horford have been working on threes over the summer. They then had a dunk contest which, as has been the case since David Lee left, was pretty lame overall. Walter Hodge won, but it was sort of by default, really.

So after that they did their standard intrasquad scrimmage right? No, Billy said several times that they had practiced at seven, so they weren’t going to do it again for the fans. Goodnight. Yeah that’s it. That’s all there was. I mean, there also was Lee Humphrey, Taurean Green, Horford, and what looked like either Jack Berry or Garrett Tyler dancing with the Dazzlers again, and Billy pretending to drop the crystal basketball trophy and having it shatter to pieces. It was a fake trophy, and the crowd didn’t believe it was the real one for a second. Billy, sensing that no one really thought it was funny, later would say that it wasn’t his idea to do that. At least they didn’t trot out a “I guess we’ll have to get another one” line or anything.

Well, to bring it back to football, I decided to do a list of equivalents of people on the football team to their analogous basketball brethren.

Taurean Green: Chris Leak is the Taurean Green of the football team. This is the easiest one to do. Not only is there the parallel of the point guard being the quarterback of the basketball team, but also their demeanors are similar. They aren’t the flashiest or most vocal guys, but they are the steady hand at the wheel fully capable of being spectacular when they need to be.

Lee Humphrey: Jemalle Cornelius is the Lee Humphrey of the football team. They both are coaches’ favorites, both are stand-up guys on and off the playing surface of their choice, and both are humble and do everything their coaches ask. They are the glue guys – they help hold the team together. They both make big plays but will never make big headlines because of the other guys on their teams. The best part is that neither would have it any other way.
Corey Brewer: Dallas Baker is the Corey Brewer of the football team. They are versatile scorers who are more athletic than they look sometimes. Both have Big Man on Campus personalities, and for good reason, but that helps to drive them to get better rather than bask in the glory and slack off. Their respective teams would be more hurt by them going down with an injury than most realize. Last year we saw that with Brewer’s ankle; hopefully, we won’t have to see the Gators without Baker this year.

Al Horford: Brandon Siler is the Al Horford of the football team. Both get noticed by making big plays, and fortunately for Donovan’s and Meyer’s squads, they make them often. Neither is afraid of being physical, and they intimidate their opponents with their toughness. They are leaders, and their teams would be hurt more than most realize without them. They are also very consistent and consistently good. You know what you’re getting game in and game out with Horford and Siler, and you’re very pleased with what you get.

Joakim Noah: Here’s the tough one. Let me be clear about something: there’s no one on the football team like Joakim Noah. There’s no one on any team in any sport in any country with someone like Joakim Noah. He’s incomparable and inimitable, and speaks for himself in more ways than one.

That said, I picked two guys to equal Noah: Reggie Nelson and Tim Tebow. Nelson is the best defender on the team, has an exuberant personality, and has some wild hair at times. He also has a penchant for making big plays at crucial times. That sounds like Joakim, right? I add Tebow to that because he plays with the most visible emotion of anyone on the football team, and when he gets a head of steam going, there’s no stopping him easy. That definitely sounds like Noah. Plus, fair or not, for better or worse, no one gets the crowd riled up as much as Tebow does. Again, same with Noah and the basketball fans.

For now I’ll leave the comparisons with the starters and save Brandon James as Walter Hodge arguments for later. If anyone has any other comparisions they think are apt or have issues with mine, well, that’s why there’s that big ol’ comment box below.


A Few News Items

October 13, 2006

According to the Gainesville Sun, both Percy Harvin and DeShawn Wynn should be ready to go tomorrow. Florida has been very fortunate with injuries this year in that they have not been serious or season-ending injuries like what hit Ray McDonald and Andre Caldwell last year. All of those injuries came in the preseason, which gave the coaches time to plan for life without them. Keeping clear of the injury bug is something that all elite teams in particular years do, so that’s encouraging.

I also heard some interesting things on the local radio programs today. In the past 59 games in the Florida – Auburn series, the teams are 29-29-1, with the home teams having a considerable advantage. In fact, it took until 1973 for UF to get its first win ever at Auburn. This is not going to be some kind of cakewalk tomorrow. Dave Revsine also brings up the fact that Auburn has beaten a top-five team at home six times in its history, and three of those six times were Florida. Yahoo! Sports does mention that Florida has won 8 of 9 against Auburn, but the loss was in 2001 at Jordan-Hare.

One of the remarkable things about this team is about how balanced it is. Not too many people stand out statistically because so many guys are playing productive ball. Foxsports.com has a reprinted midseason report from CollegeFootballNews.com listing accolades for the first half of the season, and while it predicts UF to win the SEC title game (curiously, it says over Auburn, which means they must think the Tigers win this weekend), no Gators made the best players list. Even more puzzling is SI.com’s midseason All-Americans which has only Reggie Nelson from the Gators on the first team (which makes sense) but has only Marcus Thomas on the second team, andhe’s been suspended three of Florida’s six games.

The most satisfying to see though was ESPN’s midseason hot/not report, as the first pairing was Florida being hot and FSU being not. The most important thing year in and year out is how the Gators do in the SEC, but beating the Noles is something that never does get old, you know? For all the crap I have heard from Seminole fans since 2001 (the only year I’ve ever heard them be humble about a game since they were having a down year and were completely terrified of Rex Grossman), it’s nice to see them put in their place some. I hope when Bobby’s done they promote Jeff. I really do.

I am however, intentionally not linking to Mike Freeman’s latest disaster of a column. He basically says that Urban Meyer is undercutting Chris Leak’s Heisman chances by doing “gimmick” plays with Tim Tebow. If you need analysis as to why that’s wrong, I’d like to invite you to return to WarChant.com or your Miami fan message boards or what other Florida-hating corner of the net that you slunk out of to end up here. I think now that Freeman is writing for a website and not a newspaper, he’s taking the John Dvorak approach of writing highly inflammatory things in lieu of reality to drive page hits. The sad thing is that it’s a strategy that works. Freeman probably picks on Florida because after spending a year in Jacksonville he knows how passionate and downright irrational Gator fans can get. Plus, a lot of the rest of the country hates Florida because of many Gator fans’ arrogance. I hope everyone can just agree not to feed the troll anymore and just ignore whatever else he might spew out between now and the end of the season.


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