A few notes about Florida football picked up over the weekend:
1. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here but the biggest obstacle Jim McElwain is facing on the recruiting trail is facilities. Until Florida catches up the Gators are going to lose good football players to Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and the like. I talked to several people who have legitimate concerns about how far behind the Gators have fallen and how this is negatively affecting recruiting. This was the most telling statement I heard from one of the bigger boosters: “While we’re playing catchup, they’re continuing to upgrade facilities that are already much better than what we have here so when we get this new football facility, we’ll still rank around 10 or 11 in the SEC when it comes to facilities.” Someone I consider a true insider to the program told me, “We’re getting a stand alone football facility. Meanwhile at Clemson they’ve got a barber shop in theirs and lots of other bells and whistles. You don’t think kids pay attention to that, then think again.”
2. It’s not a mortal lock, but JaJuan Seider, the running backs coach at West Virginia, should join the Florida coaching staff after national signing day. Florida wants Seider and Seider wants Florida, but if he elected to stay put, it wouldn’t be the first time an assistant coach jilted a Florida head coach. Chances that he’ll be a Gator in February I would say are 80-20 positive.
3. Unless something changes in the next couple of weeks, Jeff Stoutland will be the OL coach. Stoutland’s contract with the Philadelphia Eagles reportedly expires in February so he can’t come to UF now.
4. Why is Florida State consistently outrecruiting the Gators? That question was posed to me a couple of times Saturday while at the O-Dome and I paid the question forward to a couple of others. Here’s the general consensus: (1) FSU has vastly superior facilities to UF and (2) Jimbo Fisher has this unique ability to make both the 2-star recruit and the 5-star recruit feel as if they are the single most important recruit FSU will bring in this year. It’s that personal touch on the recruiting trail that makes it very, very difficult for recruits to say no to Jimbo and FSU. From what I’ve heard, Florida has ground to make up in that category.
GATORS AT A CROSSROADS
Two very winnable games resulted in two very disappointing losses this past week for a Florida (14-5, 5-2 SEC) basketball team that has to regain its mojo in a hurry if they want to make the NCAA Tournament instead of a second straight trip to the NIT. The team we’ve seen the last two games – losses to South Carolina on the road and Vanderbilt at home – isn’t anything like the one that ripped off seven consecutive wins to ascend to the #19 national ranking.
It was particularly troubling to hear Mike White talk about finger pointing in the huddle and immaturity post game Saturday, when the Gators snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. We are 19 games into the season, a little bit late for finger pointing and immaturity to rear their ugly heads.
Now, it’s not too late for the Gators to right the ship but they’ve got three games (at LSU, at Oklahoma, Missouri at home) before Kentucky comes to town to get their collective acts together. The Gators that played these last two games will get taken to the woodshed by Kentucky.
Against Vandy, the Gators played rotten defense, which has been their calling card all year, and they were all too happy to settle for jump shots, which has everything to do with the fact they only got to the foul line 8 times. Had the Gators done what they’ve done all year and taken the ball to the rack, they would have drawn fouls. Coming into the game they were averaging just under 20 free throws per game.
On a positive note, both KeVaughn Allen (29 points) and Devin Robinson (12) broke out of their slumps.
THE MIGHTY QUINN
Former UF defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is heading to his third Super Bowl in four years after the Atlanta Falcons buried the Green Bay Packers, 44-21, Sunday afternoon in the final game ever played in the Georgia Dome. Quinn won a Super Bowl ring as Pete Carroll’s defensive coordinator in Seattle in 2013 and made it to the Super Bowl again in 2014. In just his second year as the head coach of the Falcons, Quinn has Atlanta in the Super Bowl for the second time in team history.
Quinn spent 2011-12 as Will Muschamp’s defensive coordinator. His defense in 2012 was ferocious and the chief reason Florida went 11-2. What’s been interesting in watching Quinn as a head coach in the NFL is that he’s made the effort to bring in a wide open offense. Unlike Muschamp whose offenses were predictable and plodding, Quinn’s offense in Atlanta makes opposing defensive coordinators defend the entire field and every single skill player. The Falcons are a take no prisoners, score on every possession type of offense that creates mismatches out of every position. As for his defense, the Falcons are young and they’re only going to get better. Quinn knew what he was doing when he drafted former Gator safety Keanu Neal in the first round last year and signed nickel back Brian Poole to a free agent contract. They are staples of the Quinn defense.
As I watched the Falcons tear the Packers apart Sunday I had these two thoughts: (1) What would have happened if Quinn had been Florida’s head coach and Muschamp the DC? and (2) Had Quinn remained at Florida in 2013, I doubt seriously the Gators would have posted the losing season that ultimately cost Muschamp his job. Even with the injuries, I think the Gators would have had a winning season in 2013 and that would have taken the pressure off Muschamp to win 8-9 games in 2014, which he didn’t do.
My inclination right now is that Atlanta is going to win the Super Bowl in two weeks.
ONE FOR BRADY’S THUMB?
Jim Nance of CBS commented at the end of the New England Patriots’ 36-17 win over Pittsburgh that Brady told him he’s moved on from his feud with Roger Goodell, that he’s past DeflateGate, which cost him the first four games of this season.
If you believe that then I have this beautiful bridge that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn that I would like to sell you. Terms are great.
This will be a chance to win a fifth Super Bowl ring (for the thumb) but if he can get the job done against the Atlanta Falcons in Houston in a couple of weeks, he gets to say “Up yours!” or words to that effect to Goodell. Did Brady deflate footballs a couple of years ago in a playoff game? Maybe, but there was never any concrete proof. Even if he did, was a four-game suspension merited? I don’t think so.
Just as Bill Belichick has a long memory and never forgets (or forgives) what he perceives to be a wrong, neither does Brady. As if he needs more incentive to play well against the Falcons, Goodell represents a couple of 50-gallon gasoline cans on an already raging fire.
One quick note about the Patriots. Brady is a superstar but he was a 7th round draft pick. Running backs LeGarrette Blound and Dion Lewis are someone else’s throwaways reclaimed and refurbished by Belichick. Wide receiver Julian Edelman was a 7th-round draft pick out of Kent State while Chris Hogan was an undrafted free agent from Monmouth who was reclaimed from the Buffalo Bills ash heap and Danny Amendola was an undrafted free agent from Texas Tech. It says plenty about Belichick and his ability to not only see talent that others overlook but find a way to fit it into his system. He might be the best ever at doing that.
THE HARBAUGH RULES
Jim Harbaugh pushed the envelope and got away with it for a couple of years, but no more. The NCAA has decided no more satellite camps and by a 58-22 vote of the members of the Power 5 Conferences, Michigan (and anyone else) will have to hold spring practice on campus, so no more trips to Bradenton and IMG Academy.
As expected Harbaugh objects. “How is football traveling to Bradenton so different?” Harbaugh said, a question echoed by his AD Warde Manuel before Friday’s vote.
Harbaugh might have gotten a bit more sympathy if he had chosen to do a spring break week of practices someplace other than IMG, which produced more than 10 of the nation’s best recruits for 2017.
THE POWER OF ADVERTISING
Arkansas fan/booster James Rogers of Memphis took out an ad in the sports section of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette to voice his displeasure with football coach Bret Bielema, basketball coach Mike Anderson and athletic director Jeff Long.
The ad read, “Eight million dollars when neither football nor basketball has even come close to winning an SEC or NCAA Championship.” The ad went on to say that AD Long has a “well established history of ‘Unprecedented Failure’ in hiring coaches at the University of Arkansas, so we cannot expect that continuing with the same leadership will lead us anywhere but to more failure.”
Rogers urged everyone who reads the ad to contact Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and demand accountability from the Arkansas athletic department.
If he could do it all over again, I bet Billy Donovan would have offered Tacko Fall a scholarship before the early singing period of 2014. Billy didn’t and Fall went with Donnie Jones to UCF. Billy’s gone to the NBA now and Jones is scouting for the NBA (Johnny Dawkins is the new UCF coach). As for Fall, he’s gone from someone who had what you can’t teach (tall) into a force to be reckoned with. He’s 7-6, 320 pounds and still about 30 pounds underweight. He’s averaging 13.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots per game and those who have seen him say he’s only scratching the surface of his potential.
Auburn finally has a new offensive coordinator. Gus Malzahn hired Chip Lindsey away from Arizona State and gave him a 3-year deal worth $700,000 a year. Most of Lindsey’s work has been done with pass first offenses so his hire could be a sign that Malzahn is bringing in a coordinator that better fits the style of Baylor transfer Jared Stidham. Stidham can run the football quite well, but he’s not the kind of guy who is going to get the call 20-25 times per game. Stidham has the big arm and Lindsey’s job will be to get receivers open down the field.
Former USF offensive coordinator David Reaves, who went to Oregon with Willie Taggart, was arrested and charged with DUI Saturday night. Reaves is expected to be fired over the incident.
Alabama has 12 early enrollees on campus including running back Najee Harris, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and linebacker Dylan Moses.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
How concerned are you that Florida State continues to dominate Florida on the football recruiting trail?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Since I put the video of “The Mighty Quinn” up I couldn’t resist the opportunity to use a full Manfred Mann Earth Band full concert from 2005 in Germany. We tend to think of “Quinn” and “Do Wah Diddy” when we think of Manfred Mann but this was a fine band that evolved from its British Invasion roots to become one of the better concert bands that toured in the 1970s. They’re still touring with Mann and guitarist Mick Rogers, one of the originals, fronting the group.