UF comes into it's mid week game with a three game losing streak after going to Nashville and getting swept by Vanderbilt. The Gators got good starting pitching, but managed only 4 runs and 17 hits the entire series and remained winless on the road. They do however still sit atop the SEC East at 5-6-1 with South Carolina coming to Gainesville this weekend. This is the first time since 2001 that UF has hosted the Gamecocks. Third baseman Brett Dowdy has been the Gators most consistent player starting all 33 games and leading the Gators with 20 extra base hits. He has also only made three errors in 88 chances. Senior Catcher Brian Rose had his first career triple against Vandy and ended up going 6-15 this past week with 4 RBI. He also provided the only run in game three of the series with a home run off of Conner Falkenbach with his new three quarters delivery appeared twice in the series going 5.2 innings and giving up only two earned runs and striking out seven. UF's midweek game is against the formidable Stetson Hatters from Deland.
If Gator fans can take any solace from the final four, it is this - offense won the National Championship. Syracuse made 11 three pointers against Kansas and played eight guys over 23 minutes. Sound familiar? Even though they were out rebounded both games the Orangemen made shots and caused turnovers. Kansas had 18 turnovers and Syracuse had 9 steals. If Florida shoots well it generally will beat anyone it lines up against. The key for UF next season is off season conditioning and film studying. I think UF must find someone who can be at the top of the press so that Billy will have confidence in it next season. This year that was Matt Bonner and because he was so valuable offensively many times Donovan did not want to fool with pressing to keep him fresh. It will be interesting to see if UF continues their "zone" style of this season (which just won Syracuse the National Championship) or go back to the Pitino like press. Another Brett Wright would help Donovan's cause and that could be Chris Richard, out of Florida. Here are the team records set for 2002-2003:
Team Records Set In 2002-03
Regular season wins (24)
Consecutive NCAA appearances (5)
Consecutive 20-win seasons (5)
Consecutive wins (14 -tied previous mark)
Highest overall ranking - No. 1 (both coaches and AP polls, Feb. 3, 2003)
Non-conference victories, regular season (12)
Non-conference victories overall (13)
Consecutive games with a three-pointer (366 - active)
It is the final week of Spring practice and it appears a lot of jobs are still open and may stay open until the end of fall camp. Many jobs have been won in the Orange and Blue game, such as the Quarterback job by Shane Matthews in 1990. But with Chris Leak coming in the fall I do not believe you will see a winner until August 30. Still, here is the Ack Starting Depth Chart going into Saturday's Orange and Blue Game. Offense:
QB: Ingle Martin
RB: Deshawn Wynn
TE: Ben Troupe
WR: Keiwan Ratliff,Dallas Baker,Carlos Perez.
OL: Max Starks, Shannon Snell, Mike Degory, Mo Mitchell, Lance Butler.
Offensively, Griffin and Butler have outperformed the competition in three weeks. They have definitely created some decision making across the front line. With Jon Colon coming back there is a possibility that big Mo Mitchell could be a candidate to move to defensive tackle if they do not feel they can get the guys at that position better. If that move were made it would be for two a days and then if it did not work out Mitchell goes right back to guard where he is comfortable. I have Wynn as the starter because once again Carthon has not proved he is physically dependable. Martin is the starter today but both would play and Perez is barely holding off Conelius and Lewis for his spot. He is however recovering from an injury so don't right him off.
Defensively, I have Crowder and McCollough listed because they are two of the best. McCollough has raised his level of play under new coach Bill Miller and has delivered some bone crushing hits in the spring. The corners are starting by default .I do think if Carter could have been healthy all spring he could have made a move and Nick Brooks still has tremendous upside.
All this could change by the end of Saturday and of course when the new guys come in this fall. The seven most important guys not on Campus right now are: Marcus Thomas, Jarvis Moss, Demetrice Webb, Reynaldo Hill, Andre Caldwell, Eric Wilbur and oh yeah Chris Leak. I could also see Joe Cohen, Earl Everett, Tranell Morant and Michael Hill playing this season. The Gators started 4-1 last season and hope sprung eternal and it looked as if Zook had not missed a beat. But habits were developing and the Gators did not finish they way they wanted at 8-5 and left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. This season they could be 2-2 one third of they way through, but a 9-4 finish with a young team would build a lot of momentum towards the future. And who knows maybe they will catch lighting in a bottle and win the SEC East.
Snippets and Tidbits:
It will be interesting to see the crowd at the Orange and Blue game. It historically has drawn near 30,000 but with less people at practice this year and a young team it may not get there this spring. Auburn was near 37,000 and Ohio St., the defending National Champion got near 60,000. The SEC has another bowl tie in and if your a fan who believes the ship is headed south the Gators could end up in the Houston Bowl in Reliant Stadium .The SEC signed a three year contract to replace Conference USA and matchup with a Big 12 team. The game is held December 30. Speaking of Bowl games we may get number 29 with the Fort Worth Bowl in Texas. Pitting the Big 12 against Conference USA in that one. Hmmm, oust Conference USA in Houston but make a new bowl in Fort Worth. Emmitt Smith will be here for the Orange and Blue game this weekend to be honored at halftime .Some of his ex-teammates will be back too, including former All Sec Defensive End Huey Richardson. Richardson, a former first round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a financial planner in New York. His office was located on the first floor of the World Trade Center before the tragedy of 9-11. He was in the building when the attack took place. Finally, look for an entertaining Orange and Blue game, with both teams split evenly. It could be and should be very exciting. Sunshine Network will have the replay April 20th at 10 am and 4 am. They will also show it on April 24th at 11 pm.