Ack's Insights

Merry Christmas to all!!! In this week's Ack's Insights, I break down the Iowa/ Florida Outback game, talk recruiting, hoops and what's on the wish list on Thursday.

It's almost Christmas and the Gator football team has taken a break for the Holidays and will resume practice on December 27th in Tampa at the University of Tampa. The team will report December 26th for a Welcome Dinner then get ready to go to work. UF will handle it's pre-bowl schedule much like it did last season, with workouts daily at 10 am-12pm. The team will meet in the afternoons but spend much of the p.m. time going to events such as Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey, A Bowl Beach Day with Iowa and Busch Gardens Theme Park. The Team will conclude it's week of preparation on New Year's Eve with a Walk Thru at Raymond James Stadium .It should be a Pro Florida Crowd and with the familiar surroundings from last season UF should be focused on winning the football game. With the game taking place at 11:00 am it requires an early bed check on New Year's Eve as well as Pre Game Meal taking place between 6:30am-7:00 am. The most important thing for the players is to get their energy level up quickly and in the first quarter to avoid getting behind early. It does help the energy with the game taking place in an NFL Stadium and a big crowd on hand for the matchup. The only difference between this year and last season is the Gators will practice at the University of Tampa and not at South Florida. This is actually a better setup because the soccer fields are in better shape than USF's practice fields and it is located closer to the team hotel, which makes for a short bus trip to practice.

Key Matchups:
Florida's Running Attack vs the Iowa Run Defense
Iowa is 11th in the country in run defense and are solid in the front seven. Ben Troupe will be a key cog to get the Gator running attack going. Iowa defends the run with numbers in your favor (Florida's). When Leak sees numbers in his favor he will have the run play on but Iowa has shown against Big Ten Competition they can defend the run with five and six in the box.

Iowa's Zone running attack vs Florida's Front Seven
The Hawkeyes are a typical Big Ten team who excels at the zone play. Iowa's offensive line does a great job of engaging the blocks and keeping on their blocks. Gator defensive tackles Ray McDonald, Kenny Parker, Mo Mitchell and Marcus Thomas will be on the hot seat to disrupt the Iowa attack.

Florida Screen Package vs Iowa's secondary
Iowa is not a great cover team in the secondary but they do tackle extremely well. UF may have to run the screen package if the running game is slow to get started and it will be imperative that the UF wideouts block on the perimeter. This part of the passing game could set up the big plays later in the game.

Iowa's Play Action Passing game vs UF's Back seven
We say "Back Seven" because the linebackers are not only playing the run but have to filter in the gaps against the pass in Iowa's attack."Re-Direct" will be the phrase given to the linebackers as they recognize pass out of the play action. Gator LB's must stop the run first then get into coverage so early the secondary may be all alone in coverage. One good note the passing game is similar to Arkansas and Ratliff had a huge day against the Razorbacks.

Special Teams
Iowa is very solid and a game this close could come down to a kickoff return, punt return or a blocked kick. Nate Kaeding is the best kicker in the country and Matt Leach had a tremendous season for UF. Sometimes in Bowl games Special Teams are the difference because of the Bowl preparations focusing so much on the opponent and personnel. Which team prepares better on Special Teams may be the one who comes out on top.

Christmas Wishes
Here are some nice gifts that could be under the tree on Thursday:

Gator Fans - An Outback Bowl win and a Top Ten pre-season ranking for UF.

Ron Zook - A fairly officiated game that will see his team finish the job with a victory.

Billy Donovan -That Christian Drejer will develop into the most dominant point guard in the SEC.

Mike Locksley (UF Recruiting Coordinator ) Keith Rivers to play Will linebacker next to Channing Crowder next season

Ed Zaunbrecher - That young receivers Chad Jackson, Andre Caldwell, Jemalle Cornelius and Dallas Baker learn everything about the offense so that it will explode in 2004.

Charlie Strong - A Head Coaching job opens up that does not have NCAA Sanctions pending or is located in the Pacific Time Zone.

Mary Wise - (UF Volleyball Coach) Another shot at the National Title with her squad fully healthy.

Keiwan Ratliff - One more year of eligibility. OK, this is what the fans and media wish but he is going to make himself a lot of money. He had a tremendous senior season.

Gator Fans - At least a trip to the Sweet 16 in Hoops and while we are getting greedy can you tuck a trip to Omaha in there for Pat McMahon?

Chris Leak - A date with the most understanding UF Co-ed on campus. Of course she must know it's football first, football second and football third but she could tie for fourth with his parents. And most certainly the only movies she can go see with him are the Hawkeye defensive game film.

Steve Spurrier - A change of scenery where the media appreciates him and the owner lets him do his thing. Well like Miami and let him at least have a fair shot to see if the Fun and Gun can work in the NFL. Members - All the good news you could want on recruiting and signs that your team will once again sit on top of the college football world. I think there may be some room at Newberg's House in Atlanta next December for the SEC title game so you might want to RSVP now!!

Snippetts and Tidbits
Recruiting is going well for UF and certainly the Gators look to finish strong. Most of the big names will be on campus in mid-January and the one thing the recruits seem to be telling everyone is that UF is on the upswing in College Football.

Many folks have emailed or asked me about "Secondary Violations". These are mistakes made unintentionally by coaches when not following each and every rule closely. These violations are not serious and sometimes are between 10-15 in any given year. Examples could be: Having a kid on campus for 50 hours after he arrives (rule is 48 hours). Another one is too many contacts or evaluations on a particular day or week by more than one coach from the same institution. One more could be having contact in person during a non-contact period. These "secondary violations" are self reported to the SEC not the NCAA. If the SEC sees an unfair advantage taking place or a complete disregard for the rules, then they would rule on the violation possibly with a written reprimand. These are not violations that can cause an NCAA Inquiry, but most coaches will self report and sometimes self administer a penalty such as removing the coach involved for a short period of time off the road. I think the most important thing to remember is that these go on at every University and most importantly these are reported to the SEC. It's kinda of like dropping your golf ball at the hazard 150 yards further up the fairway than where your ball went in and saying "My Bad". (Newberg is notorious for this on the links).

Final Thoughts
If Keith Rivers January visit list is any indication then the Gators are still in the hunt, but I think he is playing the field and USC is where he will end up. The Gators think Markell Thompson can provide blocking from the tight end position which is key to the running attack out of the spread. The Gators two best looking boards for recruiting in my opinion is the Wide Receiver and the Linebacking board. Of course Willie Williams and Rivers have a lot to do with that LB board. Defensive Back Tony Carter is not being highly courted by UF out of Mandarin High School because of the numbers already going in UF's favor at the defensive back position. He will probably go to Tallahassee but UF likes Dewayne Grace out of Jacksonville Ed White a little better. Gaineville PK Yonge Product Eric Rutledge wants to be a Gator, but once again the UF fullback and linebacking board is stellar. He may end up at Mississippi State as new coach Sylvester Croom is really looking at him as a fullback.

Hoops Thought
Christian Drejer started at the point the other night for two reasons. One, Billy Donovan wanted to get the ball inside to the low post and Drejer is the best entry passers. Secondly, Roberson off the bench gives UF a boost in scoring and could make for a long term solution with Abukar showing signs of improvement offensively. Monday's Opponent Northeastern beat West Virginia and plays in the America East Conference with teams like Vermont, Delaware and Hofstra. Matt Walsh won his second consecutive Orange Bowl MVP honors with his 17 points,8 rebounds and 5 assists performance against the Mountaineers. Walsh has also made 22 consecutive free throws and this certainly was his best all around game as a Gator. Walsh started the game at his position from a year ago-the three.

Stat of the Week: 38
This will be Florida's 38th appearance to play football in Tampa. The Gators are 21-13-3 in Tampa. This is the fourth time UF has concluded it's season in Tampa and they are 2-1 in the three previous season finales.

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