Steve Spurrier made the College Football Hall of Fame as a player. You do that when you win a Heisman Trophy. Now he’s a double Hall of Famer because he’s in again, this time for a coaching career that included a national championship and 6 SEC championships at Florida while going 122-27-1, an ACC championship at Duke, of all places, and three straight 11-win seasons at South Carolina, which had never had even one 11-win season before Spurrier arrived.
Nobody will dispute that Bear Bryant is the greatest coach ever in the Southeastern Conference, but I’d give Spurrier the #2 spot, even over the great General Bob Neyland at Tennessee. Spurrier transformed the entire SEC when he arrived at Florida in 1990. The league hadn’t won a national championship since Georgia did it in 1980 and was known more for cheating and slug it out football than it was for dominating the college game. Spurrier changed the entire league. The league had to catch up with him. The SEC got faster. The teams recruited better players. The offenses opened up. In the decade of the 1990s, the SEC won three national championships – Alabama 1992, Florida 1996 and Tennessee 1998 – and played for two others (Florida 1995 and Tennessee 1997). Since 2000, the SEC has won eight national titles including seven in a row from 2006-2012.
None of that happens without Spurrier coming to Florida and transforming the SEC. All the other teams in the league had to catch up to Florida and Spurrier. The others had to hire better coaches, improve facilities and recruit the best players in the country.
Spurrier did it his way and whether at Duke, Florida or South Carolina, there were never recruiting violations or NCAA troubles. There is something to be said about winning like Spurrier did and doing it as clean as it gets in college football.
WILL THIS BE SHAKEUP DAY ON THE UF STAFF?
Now that the national championship game has been played, expect the worst kept secret in the world to become Florida’s reality. Nothing is set in stone – yet – but barring a snowstorm in Miami Mike Locksley should be joining Jim McElwain’s staff in some capacity, but most likely as the co-offensive coordinator. Locksley will likely take over as running backs coach with Tim Skipper moving over to coach linebackers where he’s spent most of his coaching career. Locksley and Randy Shannon would give the Gators a
I’m told that Mario Cristobal, who coaches offensive tackles and tight ends at Alabama, is a goner but it’s not a certainty that he will land at Florida. I’ve gotten it from a couple of very seriously connected types that Cristobal was all but a Gator until Willie Taggart made him a substantial offer to join his staff at Oregon. There are at least two other significant assistant coach names who could join the staff in some sort of O-line capacity. Bank on Mike Summers remaining on staff likely just concentrating on the centers and guards.
There was some scuttlebutt about Florida adding former Auburn QB and LSU WR coach Dameyune Craig on the staff, but Craig seems destined to become Taggart’s OC at Oregon.
Regarding the Ron Zook rumors that are really juicy and may or may not have legs, he’s got at least one more game in Green Bay and then he’ll be hanging up his NFL whistle and the tundra of Lambeau Field for his home on Lake Weir where the water skiing is good 10 months of the year. He coaches special teams for the Packers and he’s been an NFL defensive coordinator.
HOW’S THIS FOR TURNABOUT?
Usually it’s the college football player that gets arrested for hitting a woman in the face. Sunday in Gainesville, it was the woman who was arrested for striking Florida defensive end Antonneous Clayton in the face after an argument. Clayton did not strike back. The woman was arrested on a charge of battery.
Kudos to Clayton for holding his temper and resisting the urge to strike back. The national mood is such that even self defense for a football player involved in an incident with a woman is questioned at all levels. We can only hope that this is a sign that the entire Gator football team has gotten the message that restraint is a requirement whenever circumstances could lead to violence with a woman.
GATORS GO FOR SIXTH STRAIGHT AT ALABAMA
Mike White has the Gators (12-3, 3-0 SEC) in a very good place. They’ve won five straight games including three in a row to start their SEC schedule. Tonight they go for the sixth straight on the road at Alabama (9-5, 2-0) against a Crimson Tide team that has lost all five games it has played against decent teams. The Tide has lost to Dayton, Valparaiso, Texas, Oregon and Clemson. The Tide has won four in a row including a 2-0 start in SEC play, but it’s not like Alabama has beaten anyone of significance – Arkansas State, Stetson, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt with three of those four at home.
You wouldn’t call Alabama a good team but the Tide have a habit of bringing opponents down to their level. They only average 67.1 points per game and give up just 61.1, which ranks 13th nationally. A typical Alabama game is rather boring and features a lot of bad shooting by both teams. The closest thing Alabama has to a star is combo guard Dazon Ingram (9.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists). Avery Johnson plays 11 players who all average more than 10 minutes a game. They shoot the 3-ball poorly (31.1%) and they’re horrible at the foul line (65.6%).
On paper this is a game the Gators should win but UF will have to play a full 40 minutes, unlike Saturday when they played a great second half to negate a rotten first half in a win over Tennessee at the O-Dome. The key for the Gators will be avoiding turnovers, good shot selection and getting some sort of inside game going against a team is absolutely desperate for a signature win. The Crimson Tide ranks #82 nationally in RPI, which actually seems rather high, so knocking off the nation’s #3 RPI team in Florida would be a significant feather in a rather mediocre cap.
Top 10 nationally RPI: 1. Villanova 15-1; 2. Baylor 14-0; 3. FLORIDA 12-3; 4. Kansas 14-1; 5. Minnesota 15-2; 6. Creighton 15-1; 7. Butler 14-2; 8. Kentucky 13-2; 9. Louisville 13-3; 10. Oregon 14-2.
SEC national RPI rankings: 3. FLORIDA 12-3; 8. Kentucky 13-2; 26. Arkansas 12-3; 36. South Carolina 11-3; 39. Ole Miss 10-5; 51. Georgia; 55. Vanderbilt 8-7; 70. Tennessee 7-7; 82. Alabama 9-5; 93. Auburn 10-5; 96. LSU 9-5; 108. Texas A&M 8-6; 176. Mississippi State 10-4; 264. Missouri 5-9
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP THOUGHTS
1. Alabama folks have their built-in excuse in Lane Kiffin for Monday night’s 34-31 loss to Clemson in the national championship game but Steve Sarkisian got the Crimson Tide 31 points and that should have been enough to win the game. If you want to point fingers point them at Alabama’s vaunted defense, which gave up 420 yards passing to Deshaun Watson because (a) the Tide DBs couldn’t cover, (b) the Tide’s vaunted pass rush couldn’t get to Watson with any consistency and (c) Watson proved he was indeed the best player in college football in 2016. Lamar Jackson of Louisville was the most spectacular, which is why people voted him the Heisman, but Watson was indeed the best and he showed it by driving the Tigers down the field for the game-winning touchdown.
2. After a season in which Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt was declared the next Norman Einstein (see Joe Theismann and you’ll understand that one), he was basically clueless against Clemson. Clemson couldn’t run the football so there was no secret it was a pass on nearly every play but Pruitt had no answers. Maybe that’s why there were people in Athens were shouting glory hallelujah when Pruitt left for Alabama after the firing of Mark Richt.
3. First and foremost on Nick Saban’s offseason agenda is to get quarterback whisperer Steve Sarkisian to shape Jalen Hurts into a legitimate passing threat. Alabama’s running game was so good this year that Hurts got away with throwing nearly 70% of his passes either behind the line of scrimmage or no more than seven yards downfield. When Alabama needed to throw the ball downfield, Hurts showed impatience in the pocket and an inability to make accurate throws.
4. Give Dabo Swinney all the credit in the world. The knock on him was great recruiter, mediocre coach, but Dabo surrounded himself with great assistants and let his assistants coach. Yes, he’s a great recruiter, but there are a lot of great head coach/recruiters who don’t have a national runner-up and national championship on their resumes. Dabo earned this one. Clemson deserved to win and don’t think for a second the Tigers are about to ride off into the sunset. They’re going to be a top five power for years to come.
5. Back to Deshaun Watson. What a class act this kid is. Take some time when you are looking for something to read and marvel at the story of how he is so dedicated to Habitat for Humanity. Deshaun knows. His family got to leave the projects of Gainesville, Georgia thanks to Habitat for Humanity. Watson is a guy you can cheer for at the next level. He is a great kid who has all his priorities in the right places.
They’re probably celebrating in Fayetteville and calling P.J. Fleck a sucker. The new Minnesota HBC just hired Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith to be his DC up in Minneapolis. Arkansas gave up 426.6 yards and 31.1 points per game in 2016 with epic meltdowns in losses to Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Missouri and Virginia Tech. In each of the last three years, the Arkansas defense got progressively worse.
Sonny Dykes will get paid $5 million not to coach by California the next three years.
If I had to pick a top five to start the 2017 football season it would look like this: 1. Oklahoma; 2. Ohio State; 3. Florida State; 4. Clemson; 5. Washington. No, I don’t have Alabama in the top five, not with all the first rounders that will be lost from the defensive unit.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
The 2016 season has been over for only a few hours. What is your way too early top five for 2017?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Today’s music is live Joe Bonamassa. This is a 2016 concert recorded live at the Greek Theater.