Only seven days separate the Florida Gators and the start of the most important fall football practice at the University of Florida since 2005, Urban Meyer’s first year. The start of practice for 2005 and 2014 are important for the exact same reason – a brand new offensive scheme. Meyer had to deal with implementing a spread option with a pure drop back passer in Chris Leak for whom running was something to be done only in absolute emergencies. Will Muschamp has to deal with the implementation of an up-tempo, no-huddle offense that goes contrary to his conservative nature.
There were bumps along the road for Meyer and the Gators in 2005. The new offense was not the path of least resistance and it wasn’t until a road loss to South Carolina in November that he had the undivided attention of his team. Gator fans can thank Vernell Brown, Jarvis Herring and Jerome Mincey for a 2-plus hour come to Jesus meeting with their teammates while the Florida plane was on the tarmac at the Gainesville airport upon return from Columbia for salvaging that season (Gators beat FSU and then Iowa in the bowl game) and setting the tone for a national title in 2006.
There will probably be a few bumps along the way in 2014 for Muschamp, too. He does have the advantage of a quarterback whose skills fit perfectly into a shotgun spread scheme. In some respects, you could almost say that Jeff Driskel holds not only the key to Florida football success in 2014 but Muschamp’s future as the Gators’ head coach as well. Just as Meyer had to adjust on the fly to make things work, Muschamp will have to bite his tongue more than once when he and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper clash over ideas. Meyer had to revamp the offense to suit Leak’s skills. Muschamp will have to revamp his philosophy to suit Roper’s offensive plan of attack.
Meyer was a stubborn man who didn’t retool his offense until after a 19-17 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge, a game that could have been won with a more pragmatic approach. Muschamp is also known to be stubborn, but if he will take the pragmatic route instead, it could signal the beginning of a return to the status quo in the SEC East where Florida leads and everybody else follows.
ESPN.com took a look at the best coaches in college basketball and ranked them for consistency. At the top of the list was Kansas coach Bill Self, who has won 10 straight Big 12 championships and has an NCAA title and runner-up during that same span. Second is Florida’s Billy Donovan, who has now won 20 or more games 16 consecutive years and has four straight trips to the Elite Eight, four Final Fours, one NCAA runner-up and two NCAA titles in 18 years at Florida.
While they are both terrific coaches who have earned top shelf status, I would give the edge to Donovan because of one glaring reason – Self is at Kansas, a basketball blueblood where the recruiting is far easier, and Donovan is at Florida, a football-first school whose serious basketball history coincides with his arrival in Gainesville in 1995.
We’re in what Steve Spurrier calls “The Talking Season,” that time before fall camp begins when coaches will be too consumed with their own teams to let their alligator mouths bite off chunks of their hummingbird butts. Here are a few of the latest contributions:
Last week Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ripped into Texas A&M for its cupcake non-conference schedule. Sumlin replied, “Coach Stoops has the right to say whatever he wants. But if he’d like to play again, we’d take him up on that.”
The last time the A&M and Oklahoma met it was the 2012 Cotton Bowl where the Aggies handed the Sooners their butt on a 41-13 platter.
University of Washington coach Chris Peterson on the opening game suspension of quarterback Cyler Myles, who got into a serious altercation with Bronco fans following the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl rout of Denver: “We’re dealing with the dumbest age group in America.”
Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Jim Swofford on the NCAA: “The good ship Status Quo has sailed.”
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez on how happy he was to be at Pac-12 Media Days: “I could be like every other coach in America and tell you how excited I am to be here but that would be lying. Truth is, I’d rather still be on vacation or meeting with my coaches.”
Even before expansion added Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten Conference, 2014 revenue from the Big Ten Network projected at $102 million. Now that there are 14 teams in the league instead of 12, that averages out to $7.4 million per team. Although the SEC Network figures to challenge those figures in the extreme near future, for now the Big Ten is the richest league in American thanks to its network. Adding Rutgers and Maryland will do nothing to change the football product other than give the teams in the Big Ten East two easy wins every year but it will expand the league’s market area to New York and down to the DC metro area, which means the cash flow of the network will continue to increase. This is a league hasn’t had a national champion since Ohio State won in 2002 and unless Urban Meyer can turn the trick at Ohio State anytime soon, it’s a drought likely to continue. As Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com wrote Sunday, “Now suddenly Maryland and Rutgers are slumming in the Big Ten. The conference reaches from Lincoln to the Jersey shore. And not much has changed. The SEC still has the best football. The Big Ten still has the biggest budget. And 2002 seems sooo long ago.”
Skal Labissiere is a 6-11 center originally from Haiti. He lives just across the Tennessee state line in Olive Branch, Mississippi and is the center of one of the more interesting and intense recruiting battles in the country. Bluebloods Kentucky, Georgetown and North Carolina are in hot pursuit, but the two schools that might have the best chance to land him are Memphis and nearby Ole Miss. But, there is one more option. Labissiere told Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com that he might take the Emmanuel Mudiay route and skip college altogether for a rather large contract to play overseas rather than spend a year in school prior to the NBA Draft. Mudiay got $1.2 million to play one year in China and Labissiere says “that is a lot of money.” It is a lot of money and it should be another shot across the bow of the NBA Players Association that it needs a new draft policy because one-and-done isn’t working. A better idea would be a baseball-like policy where every kid could be drafted straight out of high school and those who don’t sign would have to remain in college three years until they are eligible to be drafted again. It works well for baseball and it would work very well for college basketball. The only thing standing in the way is the NBA Players Association, which can pride itself on one dumb decision after another throughout the years.
A 1985 scouting report by Duffy Dyer of the Chicago Cubs that was obtained by CBS Sports gives you insight as to why the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. Dyer wrote that Maddox is “not strong enough to be a starter” and that he “ran out of gas.” Maddux only went on to win 355 games (355-227 record) in the big leagues which tells you he either got strong in a hurry or Duffy Dyer didn’t have a clue. Given the Cubs’ history, I would lean toward no clue.
During his Sunday induction speech to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Maddux had a little fun with older brother Mike (39-37 career record), who also pitched in the big leagues, noting, “My brother Mike led by example ... he even taught me about science. It had to do with methane and a lighter.”
Chris Rainey is getting a second chance at pro football with the Indianapolis Colts where he’s expected to make the team. Colts coach Chuck Pagano says he’s been a Rainey fan since he saw high school highlight films of the former Gator when he was tearing it up at Lakeland High School ... Georgia redshirt freshman Davin Bellamy was arrested Saturday for driving under the influence and speeding. Bailey finished spring football on the second team on the depth chart. That’s one more hit to a Georgia defensive depth chart that is starting to suck wind ... Apparently Charlie Strong is taking the no-nonsense approach at Texas. He’s kicked six players off the team in the last week, four in the last two days ... This is a mind blower. Penn State’s new athletic director is Sandy Barbour, who was an absolute miserable failure at California, which fired her just a couple months ago ... Chase Jeter, a 6-10 center who played for Billy Donovan and Team USA earlier in the summer, will choose between UCLA, UNLV and Arizona this week. Duke has been his leader for months but don’t be shocked if he puts on the UCLA hat ... The Big Ten media voted Ohio State as the favorite to win the conference championship. I’m sure you are shocked.
Ray Rice got a two-game suspension from the NFL for violence against his wife. Feminists are outraged, claiming Rice should have been suspended an entire season. Should the NFL even have the right to suspend players for off-the-field problems that are not related to their on-the-field performance?
We will call this Altered States of Consciousness Week because all the songs deal with taking a trip without ever leaving the farm. As a kid growing up in the 1960s who lived a very sheltered life, I relied heavily on enlightened friends and neighbors to fill me in on the details. During my family’s three-year exile to Mississippi, The Association came out with the song “Along Came Mary” in 1966. Fortunately for me, my nextdoor neighbor was John Hennigan, one year older and enlightened enough to know things. After all, he had spent his formative years in Memphis. There I was thinking Mary was this very cool chick who certainly didn’t live in a small town like McComb when John explained it was about marijuana and that there were people in McComb who not only knew what it was but who had smoked it. That was another one of those chips off the block of innocence for me.