Ack's Insights - 5/27/03

In this week's edition, I discuss the baseball team and their surprise NCAA Tournament bid, football news and notes, and off-season football player updates, including another Chris Leak story.

Imagine that!!! The Gators got in the NCAA tournament and the catch phrase for '03 is" Body of Work."  I think a couple of factors determined the Gator fate. One is obvious and that was Vandy going 0-2 in the SEC tournament and finishing with a sub .500 record. Secondly the RPI of 31 for UF was very strong considering the Gators had wins over Auburn, FSU, Miami and of course a tie with LSU. Those teams are top 8 seeds. Thirdly the SEC was going to get 8 teams in because of the conference and the fact that teams 5-9 all had essentially the same conference record. Fourthly the proximity of UF to Miami and the opportunity to get fans in the stands at the regional. Think about this, UF got one of the 34 at large berths and a number three seed, while all other SEC teams finished with a 1 or 2 seed including #2 Arkansas despite losing 13 of 17 and two in a row in the SEC tournament. It also helped that Skip Bertman the former LSU coach was involved heavily in the selection process. 

UF is one of the 64 best teams but they became the first to get in without going to their conference tournament. It will be the seventh time the Gators have gone to Coral Gables and the last was in 2001. Miami has moved on to the World Series 15 of the 18 times it has hosted a regional and is riding a 16 game home winning streak in NCAA tournament play. The Canes who open Friday night against Bethune Cookman took 2 of 3 from Long Beach St. (#4) this past weekend to wrap up the number 8 overall seed in the tournament. 

The Gators were 7-10-1 vs. Top 25 teams this season including 3-1 versus teams in their regional. The Gators have not played FAU since 1997. The Owls out of the Atlantic Sun Conference ( Jacksonville University won the tourney) received an at large berth on the heels of a #19 final ranking. Florida Atlantic has a big time lefty in Randy Beam, with a 12-1 record and a 2.28 ERA. The Owls beat Miami 5-3 in 13 innings earlier this season. FAU also hit 64 homeruns this season which leads me to believe Justin Hoyman will get the nod on Friday afternoon to try and get to the winners bracket game Saturday at 3:30. Last year it was Miami that got into the tournament at 30-26 that caused so much controversy but they stole the winner's bracket game from a flat UF team and then held on Sunday for a sterling regional win. The roles are reversed this time and hopefully for Gator fans the result will be as well.

The end of May brings the end of the recruiting period for UF coaches. The final tally is not quite in for Ron Zook yet but his boating accident cost him two days on the road and a lot of joking from his assistants. I had the opportunity to visit with several high school coaches around the state recently and to a man they all said UF still has it's allure with Ron Zook in year two. Some of the negative recruiting surrounding the 8-5 season has still not hampered the UF recruiting efforts and after a top two class last season in recruiting their is no reason to believe it won't be just as good this year. 

One thing is for sure -- Ron Zook has made other Head Coaches pay attention to spring recruiting more closely. One coach I talked to said last year Zook was the only head coach to come through in the spring which is mostly used for identifying prospects. This season everyone has been through his school including Tommy Tubberville, Larry Coker and Philip Fulmer. Chalk one up for the Zook factor.

One thing the football staff has done is make it clear to everyone that jobs are open and on the line. Two guys who are looking to have a big summer are Carlos Perez and Matt Jackson. Perez is listed as a starter and has the best hands and most experience of the returners. He is being pushed by young players and spent a lot of time at number two on the depth chart. He is starting to run at 100% and with his good health and renewed confidence he could be a 60 reception guy this season. Matt Jackson is a physical corner who needs work with technique. He has toughness, football savvy and athleticism. To play the field corner spot he must learn and harness the skills of a run stopper corner. Matt could have been a better defensive back had he committed to playing the position earlier, but his game experience and a big summer will help him get into the mix for some serious playing time this fall.

Snippets and tidbits...
...At a recent workout for summer conditioning the defense was the first to show up and run their sprints as a unit. When departing the field upon completion the offensive players showed up and started giving two-way player Keiwan Ratliff the business. Without hesitation Ratliff ran the entire drills again with the offense. Let it be noted Ratliff was up in front taunting the offensive group for the whole drill... 

...The transformation of Ben Troupe from a guy with potential to an all-conference performer is almost complete. His sparkling spring has been reinforced by his now strong workout habits in the summer workout program. He will get plenty of opportunities in Zaunbreaker's offense to show the rest of the country what Spurrier often commented about Troupe after recruiting him." He has Sunday potential," it has taken a little longer for him to catch on but keep an eye on Troupe this fall...

...This week's Chris Leak update is another one that makes you wonder if this kid is human. Leak apparently can throw the ball pretty well with his left hand. What? This may expand  Zaunbreaker's rollout package with the sprint pass. Just imagine a rollout to the left and boom Leak throws it to Dallas Baker with his left hand! At the final scrimmage in the spring that Leak visited, Chris would stand behind the quarterbacks during the drill and go through the reads and steps as if he was in the game. He was spotted by other teammates on tape and has gotten the veterans attention with his film watching ability and passion for the game. That same night Chris was watching film on his own trying to learn the offense and Jemalle Cornelius got a call at 10pm at night! It was Leak, he wanted someone to throw to on a Saturday night and Cornelius and others obliged. The Chris Leak stories just keep coming...

...The rumors of the Florida Miami game in September being at 8pm could be true, but I think it would be a major mistake by the Hurricanes to not have that game at noon. I have seen what the South Florida sun can do to FSU and with the Gators being young it would be a tremendous advantage... 

...Looking at the other seeds in the NCAA baseball tournament it was evident that it also is very tough to find 64 deserving teams. Baseball is mostly played in the south and the State received seven bids. But looking at the other number 3 seeds, like Florida, most received at large bids -- New Mexico St., UNC-Wilmington, Lamar and East Carolina don't exactly stand out as programs that were that much more of a lock to get in than Florida. The Gators had more wins than 14 teams and the same as 1 in the field of 64.

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