Kan Li / Scout

Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; Dec. 31

A few thoughts to jump star your New Years Eve morning...

Geoff Collins knows exactly why Jim McElwain was able to take Florida well beyond preseason expectations in his first year on the job as the Gator head coach.

Collins says that “every single day that I come to work for and learn from a man like Jim McElwain, it's awesome.”

And what makes it awesome?

“The way he handles the players, the way he handles situations, ups, downs, highs and lows, you know, whatever it is,” Collins said. “But my favorite thing about him is he's a real guy.  He's a great head football coach.  You know, he knows what he's doing offensively, defensively, special teams.  But the way he manages people, the way he extracts with our players, the staff, the grounds crew, whoever it is, he's him.  And, you know, I think that's one of the biggest lessons for me.”

Collins has an impressive resume. He’s worked for outstanding coaches such as Bobby Ross (won a national championship at Georgia Tech), Nick Saban (1 national title at LSU, 3 at Alabama) and Dan Mullen (6 straight bowl seasons at Mississippi State), but he says McElwain has a little something extra.

“I've been fortunate to be around some great head coaches in my career, but the little intricacies that Jim McElwain brings personality-wise and explaining the why to our players. Not just you do this because I told you to do this; here is why we are doing this today; here's why this schedule is changed; here's why. The why makes everybody feel at ease and know there's a reason for the things that we do.”

Collins admits his goal is to be a head coach and the kind of coach he wants to emulate is McElwain.

“I just think day in and day out, getting to learn from a head coach like that, you know, is going to carry me through my career and I think it's impacting our kids' lives, our coaches' family's lives, all those things,” Collins said.

THE MONEY DOWN

When it gets to the “money down” the Florida defense starts drooling. The “money down” is third down and that’s when the UF defense is at its best.

“If they're in third down, they understand it's a money-down situation,” says defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. “We've got to get off the field.  I think Jon [Bullard] and them are leading the country in sacks on third down.”

What the Gators do on third down against Michigan in Friday’s Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl could very well determine the outcome. Michigan has converted 44.25% of its third downs this season while the Gators are allowing opponents to convert only 30.96%. The Gators allowed opponents to convert 50% of their third downs only twice all season (win over East Carolina; loss to LSU). Tennessee (43.75%) and Alabama (41.18%) are the only other teams to convert at least 40% on third down against UF. The Gators posted two games (New Mexico State and Missouri) when opponents converted only one third down. Florida State’s high-powered offense managed only 2-13 against the Gators.

LEONARD FOURNETTE IS A MAN

Did you happen to catch Leonard Fournette against Texas Tech Tuesday night? It looked like an NFL player running through a high school defense. Fournette turned on the speed when he had to, showed the agility and quickness to make people miss, and when challenge to take on a defender one-on-one, lowered his shoulder and showed he has serious power. The final numbers were 219 rushing yards for 4 TDs and 1 pass reception for 44 yards and a fifth TD. Had Les Miles left Fournette in the game another series in the fourth quarter, he probably could have eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark the season. As it stands, Fournette finishes with 1,953 yards and 22 TDs.

Now, Texas Tech certainly won’t bring back memories of the Steel Curtain, but the Red Raiders often stacked the box with nine and ten players but to no avail. Fournette just ran over, under, around and through them. Derrick Henry won and deserved to win the Heisman Trophy, but if Leonard Fournette had the kind of supporting cast Henry had, the Heisman would be collecting dust in Baton Rouge these days.

Leonard Fournette is a man.

DAK PRESCOTT WAS TRULY AN ELITE QB

Few will list Dak Prescott among the great quarterbacks in SEC football history but the numbers tell a different story. With 380 passing yards for four TDs and another 47 rushing yards in Mississippi State’s 51-28 win over North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl, Prescott finishes his college career with 9,376 passing yards for 70 touchdowns and 2,521 rushing yards for 41 touchdowns. Tim Tebow is the only other member of the 9,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards club in SEC history,

ANOTHER COLLEGE COACH FAILS IN THE NFL

Three years into his experiment with Chip Kelly calling the shots both on the field and in the general manager’s office, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie decided he couldn’t afford another year of this disaster. In his remarks after firing Kelly on Tuesday, Lurie said, “We’re looking for several things: No. 1, a smart, strategic thinker. That’s a given. You’ve got to look out for the short-term, mid-term and long-term interest of the franchise.” Those are thinly veiled smacks at Kelly, who became the latest college coach who couldn’t adapt to the pro game.

Kelly will probably land another NFL job – the Tennessee Titans are said to be interested and that would unite Kelly with Marcus Mariota, who he recruited to Oregon – but it will be surprising if he’s successful. Kelly’s offense and style best fit the college game. If the Texas A&M job suddenly comes open, Kelly would be very wise to listen if the Aggies came calling.

BOWLING FOR DOLLARS

Florida State 35, Houston 21: Tickets can be had for less than $20 even though it probably will be a good football game that pits FSU’s Dalvin Cook against a defense that is susceptible to the run and Houston’s Gary Ward Jr., the kind of dual threat  (16 passing TDs, 19 rushing TDs) QB that gives the Seminole defense fits.

Clemson 37, Oklahoma 34:  The two best quarterbacks in the final four go head to head in the Cotton Bowl with the winner advancing to the national championship game. Deshaun Watson of Clemson is not only the best quarterback but he’s also the best football player in the country. Watson will win the battle over Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Clemson will advance.

Alabama 28, Michigan State 14: This is Nick Saban against one of his former assistant coaches (Mark Dantonio). Saban rarely loses to anyone but especially his former assistants (just ask Jim McElwain, Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley). Michigan State will probably stack the box to stop Derrick Henry and dare Bama to throw, which will put the game in Jacob Coker’s hands. Coker will get the job done and Alabama will move on to the championship game.

SEC BOWLING TEAMS

Winners: LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State

Losers: Texas A&M

LSU looked better than it had since September in beating Texas Tech. Auburn won an absolutely ugly game against Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl and Mississippi State blew the doors off North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl behind Dak Prescott. As for Texas A&M, the Aggies have to make a decision about Kevin Sumlin. Big money boosters are willing to pony up the $20 million to buy him out. Stay tuned for this one.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Former Florida co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who is the interim defensive coordinator for Michigan, couldn’t stop grinning when I brought up his defensive line and the game they played against Ohio State in the national championship game in 2006. The Gators rotated five D-linemen in and out – Derrick Harvey, Jarvis Moss, Joe Cohen, Ray McDonald and Steven Harris. Florida’s D-line was so quick of the ball that the Buckeyes were reduced to running two-man pass routes after the first quarter. “I always tell people that bunch played the best game you’ll ever see a defensive line play in college football,” Mattison said.

LSU was willing to match the offer of three years and $4 million but Kevin Steele has officially taken the defensive coordinator job at Auburn. Smart money on Steele’s replacement at LSU is on D-line coach Ed Orgeron. Coach O turned down a chance to return to Southern Cal about a week ago and there were at least two other opportunities for him to make a move. Coach O is a lights out recruiter and his reputation as a developer of talent is well known.

Urban Meyer admits that he was contacted by an NFL team but he wouldn’t specify if that team happened to be the Cleveland Browns. “I’m very happy with where we’re at,” Meyer said.

Ohio State backup quarterback Cardale Jones has declared for the NFL Draft. He might go in the first three or four rounds. Had he left last year after leading Ohio State to the national championship with consecutive wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, Jones would have gone in the first five picks.

Beth Mowins is an outstanding volleyball announcer. When it comes to football, I would rather sit in a room where a woman runs her long fingernails up and down a chalkboard. That she was calling the Auburn-Memphis game tells you what ESPN thought about the Birmingham bowl.

WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK

Work your fingers to the bone and what do you get? Boney fingers. Bob’s doing Under Armour and I’m doing the Citrus Bowl. We work and we do it all for you. Oh the sacrifices we make as you can see by this photo.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Who are your winners in today’s college football semifinals and why?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

Because the Gators are playing Michigan Friday, the music this week is from artists who made Michigan, and in particular, Detroit rock throughout the years. Today’s selection is Aretha Franklin’s 1968 album “Aretha Now.” She was, is and always will be the Queen of Soul.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUZzWprFp54


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