Okay, sure they’ll be in shorts and helmets the next couple of days, but it’s still football as the Florida Gators begin practice for their August 30 season opener with Idaho. The most important thing to note going into day one is attitude. At Sunday’s Media Day, Muschamp said it all about the team attitude when he said, “We always talk about renting it or owning it. You take ownership in your team. I see a lot of that.”
If everybody has his head screwed on right and the Gators can avoid the injury plague that devastated them last year, then this figures to be a vastly improved team. They were in four games decided by a touchdown or less last year when they went 4-8 so it’s not like the Gators were the worst team in the league, just the one that gotten bitten by the most snakes.
1. On going 4-8 last season: “It was great motivation through spring and the off season workouts, but something we've still go to deal with. I mean, it's there. I addressed our team about our preparation, about our attitude, about our embracing adversity, having a competitive edge every day. To stick your head in the sand and pretend it was all injuries, that's not right. You will fool yourself if you believe that. We addressed a lot of those things in the offseason and moving forward. We're getting ready to get started with the 2014 Florida football team.”
2. On winning the turnover battle: “My three years at Florida, we've been 19-3 when we won or tied the turnover margin. We've been 3-13 when we've lost the turnover margin. That's a team stat. Not just about offense, taking care of the ball. Defensively getting the ball off people. We haven't been explosive enough offensively to overcome turnovers, and I think we will be this year. Certainly not saying it's okay to turn the ball over. We've got to take care of the ball. That's the number one thing as far as our team goals are concerned.”
3. On Matt Jones return from knee surgery: “He's a 230-pound back that about midway through the third and fourth quarter you get tired of hitting. He's got extremely good hands, he's very good at protection, very smart player, a guy that had a lot I thought he had as good a spring, a spring ago, for a back that I've been around. Missed all of training camp last year with the viral infection. He weighs 233 pounds. We had his goal weight at 228 and I watched him run the 110s at 233 pounds and I told him that he can weigh 235 if he wanted to. He looks really good, he's healthy, he's in shape, he's excited, he's itching to get started.”
4. On why he changed to an up-tempo, no-huddle offense: Part of the reason why I made a change, I felt like they lost confidence in what we were doing. You can continue to do the same things and get the same results or you need to make a change. Philosophically, we're not going to be different. We're going to be balanced in what we do. That was one of the things in talking to Kurt when I interviewed him was about the balance that he wants to have offensively. You look at his numbers at Duke and Mississippi and all the places he's been and that's been that's the way they've been.”
5. On getting players to buy in to team discipline: “It's a daily continual education for your players, and I think it goes back to recruiting, part of the evaluation process and taking the right guys, number one. Then number two, doing a good job as far as your structure is concerned on your campus so guys understand there is going to be consequences. And they understand to stay within the lines of what we need to do and how they're going to act and represent the University of Florida. I always tell players they're going to make mistakes. They're going to make some poor choices and decisions, but help me help you. If you are willing to work with me, I'm willing to work with anybody. I'll give you the shirt off my back to help you. And it's through a growing process as a college student. So our guys, in my opinion, have bought into that. They understand that we're here to help them. They don't buck at that very much and I think they have done a nice job for the most part.”
ESPN.com came out with its top 100 players for the 2014 football season. Dante Fowler Jr. (tied for 43rd) and Vernon Hargreaves III (#13) were the only two players from Florida to make the list, dominated by Florida State (10 players including #1 Jameis Winston, and Alabama with eight. The SEC had 30 of ESPN.com’s top 100 players while the Pac-12 ranked second with 21 followed by the ACC with 20 and the Big Ten with 19.
Matt Hayes, the excellent college football editor/columnist for Sporting News has a solution for all the offseason arrests and troubles that are plaguing college football – get the NFL involved. Hayes says it’s about time the NFL paid back college football for providing a free minor league development system all these years and the way to do it would be to help college football eliminate discipline problems at their root.
Hayes says, “You want college football cleaned up? You want players who get second, third and fourth chances to finally see the game really is about both football and an education and learning about living and surviving and growing on your own? You want this seemingly endless string of arrests and violence to end?“Hit them where it matters most: future earnings.
“The NFL can make this very simple and succinct. Any college player interested in employment must pass a background check, and if they have a history of arrests or off-the-field issues, they immediately are moved into a – here’s the key – significantly lower earning bracket for the first four years of their employment.“How significant? Well below league minimum or about $50-75,000 a year.”
Just what does Steve Spurrier think about the Big Ten? Answering a question at South Carolina’s media day as to why the Gamecocks are playing East Carolina of the American Athletic Conference rather than a team from the power five conferences, Spurrier said, “Playing East Carolina is maybe a little bit better than playing one of those bottom-tier Big Ten teams.” Perhaps the coaches who vote in the Amway Coaches Poll agree. They placed seven SEC teams in the preseason top 20 while the Big Ten managed only three in the top 25.
Also at South Carolina’s media day, Spurrier said he is in favor of giving the parents of football players $200 toward travel to games.
It’s all but certain that Tiger Woods is finished for 2014 after re-injuring his surgically repaired back in the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio Sunday. The real question moving forward is will he play in 2015? He’s 38 years old and at an age when the injuries don’t heal nearly as fast as they used to. Any injury or re-injury of the back is going to be more difficult to overcome for Woods because of the amount of torque he generates in his golf swing. Although he’s re-tooled his swing several times during his career, none of the swing changes involves a less violent way of striking the ball. The only solution will be a long rest and perhaps a new approach to strength and conditioning. Given Woods’ competitive nature, it’s hard to imagine a willingness to take off for a protracted length of time but that might be the only chance he ever has to make a serious comeback.
Charlie Strong definitely means business at Texas. He has dismissed five players and suspended three others indefinitely just in the past few weeks ... Andrew Wiggins, the NBA’s #1 draft pick, says he just wants to play for “a team that wants me.” It’s not that the Cleveland Cadavers don’t want him. It’s just that they want Kevin Love more. Combine Kevin Love and LeBron James and the Cadavers are right there with the Chicago Bulls as favorites to win the NBA East ... A full scale investigation has been launched into the athletic department at the Air Force Academy where there are reports of drug and sexual abuse ... Trayvon Reed, a 7-1 center who chose Maryland over the Gators and Georgia, will not be allowed to enroll in school after an arrest for second degree assault, theft under $100 and resisting arrest. Figure he will go the juco route ... How is it that Sergio Garcia can cave to pressure so easily on the regular PGA Tour but put him in the Ryder Cup and it seems he can’t miss a putt or a fairway?
Other than quarterback Jeff Driskel, which player is most critical to Florida’s football success in 2014?
From 1961-63 rock and roll music began to leave its doo wop roots behind. The music epicenter shifted to California and was dominated by songs about the surf and fast cars. We start Surfboards and Fast Cars Week with “Wipe Out,” one of two hit songs by The Surfaris (the other was “Surfer Joe”). The Surfaris were the original for “Wipe Out” but The Ventures probably had the best version because of drummer Mel Taylor. Now that The Ventures are on the senior rock and roll circuit, they use two drummers to duplicate what Taylor did all by himself. Sometime when you have a few minutes to spare, look up “Caravan” by The Ventures and listen to an incredible drum solo by Taylor, who was truly one of the greats in his day.