Ack's Insights

In this week's edition of Ack's Insights, I break down the Outback Bowl, what lies ahead next season for this team and Billy Ball is back!

Florida finished the season 8-5 with once again a two game losing streak. Iowa's 37-17 win over Florida was a combination of a very good football team coming ready to play and another one just there in body. The formula that had worked for the Gators since the 3-3 start did not materialize in Tampa and UF was embarrassed.

Ron Zook and his staff felt the preparation on the field was sound and seemed surprised by the effort off the field. With players missing curfew and the energy level at game time very low it was obvious this Gator team felt it had nothing to play for when it's coach had everything to play for. A win would have given UF nine for the season, which happened three times during the previous era. It would have shown numerical improvement over 2002 and it would have provided a top fifteen ranking and a springboard with Chris Leak to a big season next year. It also would have stemmed the flow of sentiment that the Gators need to go after the Old Ball Coach and bring him back to the program. Instead, the Florida team played uninspired and without emotion and now many questions arise going into next season.

Outback Bowl:
Iowa set the tempo in the first quarter by running seven times on first down and getting 55 yards. This helped set up the play action pass and get Iowa into the rhythm of their offense. With Keiwan Ratliff and Guss Scott out of the game, I thought Dee Webb played well and probably should have played more. He's a physical corner like Johnny Lamar yet he's faster. UF's defense did however hang in there pretty well but eventually wore down. Marcus Thomas played hard and made some plays, but on the big runs defensive lineman got off their assignments and opened huge holes. UF played a lot of nickel with the linebackers of Channing Crowder at middle, and Earl Everett and Jarvis Herring on the outside. This was to get more speed on the field against Fred Russell.

The receivers were so open for two reasons. One, the play action sucked the linebackers out and there was no underneath coverage in the throwing lanes, and two, the UF secondary played soft. Lamar had a bunch of missed tackles and Scott and Ratliff were not physical in coverage. It was the worst performance of the season by the secondary.

Offensively, UF thought it could hit some big plays down the field and they did find Kelvin Kight early. But because of field position and time of possession they did not get back to the down field pass until 27-10. This is something UF must correct next season. When you have success with a big play you must make the defense defend it again. The touchdown to Dallas Baker that was called back in the third quarter was the same exact play they completed to Carlos Perez earlier in the drive.

Chris Leak had a bad day. Leak missed open receivers and seemed to read the field extremely slow. The Gator running game, which had some bright spots, was non-existent because of the inability to keep their home run threat Ciatrick Fason on the field. He and Deshaun Wynn left the game with injuries. For one of these guys to be the feature back next season they must be able to stay on the field.

Finally Ben Troupe was not even thrown to during the game. This was definitely a combination of poor effort by Ben and the double in and out coverage Iowa was using on him. Troupe had been ill during the week but he did not play hard and conversely he was not open very much.

Finally, the special teams was a disaster. This is a true barometer for a team's focus during a bowl game and it was apparent the Gators were not ready to play. First, Matt Piotrowicz was not starting due to breaking team violations during bowl week so the kickoffs were not as deep as they have been. Andre Caldwell had a horrible day returning kicks and Joe Cohen did not even attempt to block someone on the Eric Wilbur punt in the endzone. Hard to explain why Joe Cohen would not give effort on the punt protection team.

To beat Iowa you must stop the run, be patient with your own running game, play sound in the special teams and hit big plays on there secondary. This is the scouting report before the game and it was pretty accurate except for one area I omitted. Your team must come ready to play with a purpose, an edge and the pride it takes to win a football game when you have 50,000 Gator Fans in the stadium.

What's Next:
The Florida Coaches will visit the AFCA coaching convention in Orlando then return home for a visit weekend this coming week. Zook and his staff will evaluate every aspect of their bowl preparations from practice time to curfew to what they had for breakfast. Expect UF to be in a boot camp mode next season when they prepare for a bowl game.

Keiwan Ratliff and Guss Scott should be ashamed of the way the disrespected Coach Zook and his staff. These seniors have meant too much to the program to become selfish during bowl week. Expect Zook and his staff to implement a rule that you almost hate to put in but most teams will do this when burned in a bowl game. If you miss curfew by one minute you go home. We had this rule in 1993 and sent a couple players home from the Sugar Bowl. The key to the rule is making it well known before the trip.

Florida loses it's entire secondary but Reynaldo Hill and Demetrice Webb did do some good things in the opening quarter for UF. Look for Nick Brooks and Deshawn Carter to be in the mix in March during spring ball for playing time in the secondary.

Piotrowicz may have some serious apologizing to do for him to keep his job. His team violation did not sit well with the Coaching Staff and he could be in a battle for his job and his scholarship in the spring.

Mo Mitchell has had a good fall in the classroom now he must have a great spring in the weight room. The much maligned center of trouble Mitchell has great talent if he can get his weight down. If he cannot get down 25-30 pounds he may not be in the rotation for next season.

Florida's offense and big plays this season seem to come when Chris Leak was under center. While the gun fast break is a big part of the scheme look for Ed Zaunbrecher to maybe add more plays with Leak under center. Certainly all the big run plays (Fason vs Arkansas, Wynn vs Miami, Fason vs USC) the Gators were under center but some pass plays as well during the season.

Max Starks and Shannon Snell will move on to the NFL and Snell really had a great season but UF should be ok up front. The first unit in the spring could be from left to right - Tavares Washington, Steve Rissler, Mike Degory, Lance Butler and Randy Hand. It could also have Degory at left guard and Billy Griffin at center. One guy who will definitely be in the mix is freshman tackle Carlton Medder. His position may depend on how much Jonathan Colon's back can hold up. Colon, who is much improved, but hard to rely on because of his chronic back troubles.

One positive from the Outback Bowl is that Dallas Baker got a lot of playing time and made some nice plays. He is a kid who gets real excited to play and sometimes blows assignments but I have to believe his upside is far too great. Although OJ Small has and will be a productive receiver next fall I have to believe this staff will get Baker, Caldwell and Jackson on the field together. Cornelius and Lewis would give the Gators the most speed it has had as a unit since 1996.

Linebackers are a big need at Florida for next season. Right now Crowder and Everett would be on the outside with Todd McCollough coming off an injury at the middle linebacking spot. Brian Crum and Taurean Charles are great athletes who are not comfortable at linebacker. Charles may end up at defensive end and it would not surprise me to see Crum back at tight end if UF landed some top LB's. Howard Linguard can play but really must work on his off the field responsibilities with school.

UF played its best game of the season against FSU this past Saturday. They did give up a high shooting percentage but Billy Ball is back! The press forced 21 turnovers and wore down the athletic Seminoles. FSU led by Tim Pickett is a much improved and athletic basketball team. Anthony Roberson did a nice job offensively working without the ball in his hands to get open looks. Billy Ball is not only back with the press but also the offensive sets. Remember 2000 UF was notorious for the 4 and 1 down set with Haslem on the block and four shooters around the perimeter. UF used a lot of this the other day with David Lee and Bonell Colas on the block. If Lee can knock down some jump shots this will be very difficult to defend. It's also clear the lane for Drejer and Roberson to get into the painted area. David Lee had made 19 consecutive shots before missing with 2:22 to go in the first half. Roberson's career high of 28 points was aided by his seven three pointer which tied his career high set against Georgia last year. Bonell Colas and Adrian Moss combined for 17 points in the decisive second half. UF will play South Carolina Wednesday night and Tennessee at home on Saturday. UF may have to grind out a win versus the methodical Gamecocks and they are a much improved team. USC has beaten NC State already this season and are off to a great start.

Stat of the Week: 23
The Gator Basketball team has won 23 consecutive games over teams from the state of Florida.

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