The next two months are critical for the entire Florida football team, but especially for Jeff Driskel. Dan Mullen once told me that the summer months are when a quarterback discovers if he's the leader that his teammates would be willing to march with into hell and back. Mullen had two national championship quarterbacks at Florida – Chris Leak and Tim Tebow – and he said the example they set by working harder than anyone else during the dog days when you can see the heat rising in waves off the practice fields truly set the tone for excellence in the fall.
Driskel needs to be that hard working guy this summer for the Gators. He has to be the first one on the field and the last one to leave. He has to be the vocal guy who won't let a teammate slack his way through a hot afternoon. He is the one guy who just can't have a bad day. Oh, there will be days when maybe his passes don't hit their mark, but he can't have a bad day as a leader.
Injuries – including the one to Driskel – certainly played a very large part in the Gators going 4-8 last year, but I sensed all along that there was a serious leadership void. I'm not sure if the leadership void was a lack of leadership from Driskel or perhaps it was not enough support for Driskel from teammates, but it's the one thing the Gators can't do without this year. It will start at the top with Driskel and if he gets it done in the months of June and July, proving that he is indeed the supreme leader of this team, then 4-8 will seem like a bad dream or a blip in the rearview mirror.
With the NCAA championship the Florida softball team brought home Tuesday night, the Gators have won 33 national championships in 13 sports in school history. More impressive is that they've won 15 national championships since 2000 and 11 since 2010.
Softball coach Tim Walton gives UF X coaches who have won national championships: Billy Donovan (men's basketball); Roland Thornqvist (women's tennis); Mike Holloway (men's and women's track); Becky Burleigh (soccer), Rhonda Faehn (gymnastics) and Greg Troy (women's swimming).
Florida just completed its 18th season of softball in school history. In the first nine years the Gators never advanced past a regional and never won the SEC. In Walton's nine years, the Gators have won three SEC championships, advanced to the Women's College World Series six times and have brought home only the second NCAA title ever won in softball by an SEC team.
20. Joe Haden, cornerback (2007-09): He came to Florida as a quarterback who expected to move to wide receiver. The Gators had Tim Tebow at quarterback and Percy Harvin at wide receiver. Playing time was available at corner so he moved to defense, started 12 games as a freshman and then made All-SEC as a sophomore when the Gators won the national title and consensus All-American as a junior. He intercepted eight passes in his career and was in on 218 tackles.
19. Reidel Anthony, receiver (1994-96): He caught 72 passes for 1,293 yards and 18 touchdowns in Florida's national championship season of 1996 when he was a first team All-American. He finished his career with 126 catches for 2,274 yards and 26 touchdowns.
18. Maurkice Pouncey, center (2007-09): He started 11 of 13 games at guard as a true freshman, then moved to center where he started all 14 games in Florida's national championship season. He was a consensus All-American and won the Rimington Award as the nation's best center in 2009.
17. Rex Grossman, quarterback (1999-2002): He was genuinely robbed of the Heisman Trophy in 2001, when the voters gave a lifetime achievement award to Eric Crouch of Nebraska. He was the Associated Press National Player of the Year that season. For his career he threw for 9,164 yards and 72 touchdowns.
16. Ike Hilliard, receiver (1994-96): He is best remembered for the play in the Sugar Bowl when he made a complete stop and change of direction to freeze FSU defensive backs on a pass he turned into an easy touchdown. He had 150 receiving yards in that national championship game. A first team All-American in 1996, Hilliard finished his career with 126 catches for 2,214 yards and 29 touchdowns.
1. Cody Prewitt, safety, Ole Miss: Prewitt is everything you want in a safety. He hits hard, wraps up and puts people on the ground and picks off passes. Last year he had 71 tackles including 4.5 for loss. He picked off six passes, broke up another seven and forced two fumbles.
2. Vernon Hargreaves, III, cornerback, Florida: He takes one side of the field away. Last year he picked off three passes and broke up 11 others. He was also in on 38 tackles.
3. Landon Collins, safety, Alabama: Collins had a brilliant sophomore season with 69 tackles including four for loss, two interceptions including one he ran back for a touchdown, six pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
4. Tre'Davious White, cornerback, LSU: An excellent cover corner, he broke up seven passes and picked off two as a freshman last year. He was also a wrap up tackler, who was in on 55 stops including 2.5 for losses.
5. Robenson Therezie, safety, Auburn: He plays the star position at Auburn which means he's a hybrid corner/safety/linebacker. He had 57 tackles last year including three for loss. He picked off four pass, ran one back for a touchdown, and had another pass breakup.
6. Taveze Calhoun, cornerback, Mississippi State: He picked off three passes and broke up four others as a sophomore. He was in on 45 tackles including 1.5 for loss and forced a fumble.
7. Alan Turner, safety, Arkansas: Turner was in on a whopping 97 tackles as a junior. He also showed good ball instincts, picking off two passes and breaking up five others.
8. Deshazor Everett, cornerback, Texas A&M: He was the lone bright spot in an otherwise porous secondary at A&M. He was in on 73 tackles (two for loss), returned a fumble for a touchdown, broke up seven passes and picked off two, one of which he ran back for a touchdown.
9. Braylon Webb, safety, Missouri: He's one of the best tacklers in SEC secondaries. Last year was in on 89 including 1.5 for losses. He broke up seven passes and picked off three more.
10. Tony Conner, safety, Ole Miss: He's the perfect sidekick for Prewitt. Last year he was in on 66 tackles including five for loss and had a sack and four quarterback hurries on the blitz. He broke up six passes and picked off one.
Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy suggested last week in Destin that it's time for college basketball to eliminate the concept of fouling out. Kennedy would prefer no foul limit but giving a team two shots and the ball, which would certainly alter strategies since coaches typically pull a player as soon as he commits his second foul and he sits the remainder of the half. I understand where Kennedy is coming from. It only takes one bad zebra with an agenda and a star player can be taken out of the game by a quick whistle. Don't think that can happen? May I remind you of the 2011 NCAA regional final when Jamie Luckie's quick and inconsistent whistle took Vernon Macklin out of the game when the Gators had the game under control with Butler. Macklin was unstoppable that day and finished with 26 points, but Butler was able to come back from a big deficit with Macklin on the bench in foul trouble.
I'm not sure that unlimited fouls is the answer even with two shots and the ball. There are players good enough that they can make up whatever points are lost on the other end of the floor. I've always thought that one solution that might work would be the basketball equivalent of a penalty box. If a player commits a third foul in the first half then he has to sit for three minutes and the other team gets shots and the ball. In the second half, if he exceeds five fouls, again he has to sit for three minutes and the other team gets shots and the ball. That doesn't take a player out of the game completely but it does ensure there won't be excessive fouling while still allowing a player to have an impact.
Every Florida fan wants the Gators to win all their games this fall, but is it more important for the Gators to beat Georgia or to beat FSU?
"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" was written in 1923 by Jimmy Cox and it's been recorded numerous times since. My two favorite versions of this song are the one done by Derek and the Dominoes when Eric Clapton and Duane Allman collaborated, or the acoustic version that Clapton did for his 1992 "Unplugged" album. This is the version from the album "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs" by Derek and the Dominoes in 1970. Clapton on the lead and Duane on the slide guitar are truly outstanding in this one.