Ack's Insights

In this week's Ack's Insights I have a little bit of everything regarding the Gators - spring football, the upcoming season, the SEC East, the upcoming NBA draft, the baseball team and possible new recruiting rules.

Florida has five practices left after this week's first workout on Tuesday before concluding the spring on April 10th with the Orange and Blue game. One of the benefits of spring practice is the fact that the NCAA allows one month from the beginning of spring to fulfill the 15 practices. There are some cases that involve five weeks because of spring break but most of the SEC schools start and end within one month. The advantages are the recovery time for the student athletes and the fact it is not as time consuming as the regular season, which should not hinder academics. Players utilize off days to continue to weight train and also watch film on their own to improve there knowledge of the game. The biggest concerns going into spring for any coach is injuries and numbers. Injuries are a part of football but you would hate to lose a big time player due to injury versus your own team. Lee Evans from Wisconsin was lost for an entire season because he injured his knee in the Badgers spring game. To avoid this Ron Zook gives his team a pre-contact speech each day about not taking an unwarranted shot at a teammate. He wants them to be physical but smart. Numbers have caused coaches to invent Arena ball for the Spring Game in some instances without enough bodies. UF has numbers and should be able to put together an entertaining game next Saturday but that is a luxury.

Snippetts and Tidbits Looking at the Gator Schedule there is more reason for optimism. First, with the two "pre-season" games returning following the last two years in which UF had to squeeze it's 12th game in between these games and before it's annual SEC opener Tennessee. That game in Ron Zook's first two years was defending Champion Miami and National Runner-up Miami. The team did not have a chance to warm up to the season because of it's schedule, one that Steve Spurrier did not have to endure. As a matter of fact, Spurrier's first year with a road win at Alabama may have been his only schedule that mirrored the last two. That said, this young talented team will need to experience some success to fuel confidence going into Tennessee. Two years ago they bounced back after the Miami debacle but they had a some tough players like Rex Grossman and Bam Hardman to lead them.

Another factor that bodes well to a quick start for UF is there first three conference games following offer some interesting advantages. When the Gators go to Knoxville the Volunteers return just nine starters and only 2.2% of it's passing yards from last season. With Casey Clausen graduating it will give UF the QB edge on the road. Kentucky and Arkansas then come to the Swamp the next two weeks with a combined road record the last two years of 2-6. Also Kentucky returns 8.5% of it's passing yards with the graduation of the Hefty Lefty and Arkansas does return it's passing game with Matt Jones but as a running team first they only return 52% of it's running game because of the graduation of Cedric Cobbs.

With some early success this team could be 5-0 hosting LSU on October 9th.

Speaking of the SEC, the East favorite will most likely be Georgia. As a matter of fact look at the number of returning starter according to the SEC Sports Information Department. Georgia-17, Vanderbilt 21(ok they are not the favorite), South Carolina 15 (new coordinators), Kentucky 15 without Lorenzen, Tennessee only nine and UF only eight. Look for the preseason magazines to have Georgia as an overwhelming favorite.

One final SEC note, the SEC Media Days begin on July 27th in Birmingham, Alabama and this kickoffs football season officially. For the first time since I have been covering the event Florida will open the festivities. Auburn, Vanderbilt and Arkansas will join the Gators on Day one in Alabama.

The biggest surprise of the spring for the defense: Joe Cohen (DE). After watching the tape from Saturday he may have had the best overall scrimmage. Cohen, who spent last season at fullback/running back, made the switch prior to spring and looks like a natural at the position.

Other items of note: A recent NBA Draft website had Anthony Roberson going 55th in the second round. This is the first time I have seen his name mentioned among the most popular NBA websites. The fact that his name as a sophomore ended up on this draft tells me the word is out to those who cover the NBA that he is interested in moving on. Christian Drejer must go in this draft as well because he left college and signed a pro contract .He will have to accept his draft position unlike many international underclassman he cannot withdraw his name because he left college for a pro team. He is a projected mid-second rounder at this time. I think the college players Roberson is competing most for draft status are : Rashad Wright (Georgia),Timmy Bowers (Mississippi State), Blake Stepp (Gonzaga,), Lionel Chalmers (Xavier), Antonio Burks (Memphis), and Marcus Moore (Washington State). All of these guys are seniors and from a numbers standpoint Roberson compares favorably with each one. Other underlassman could play a factor as well.

The baseball team will host Florida State on Wednesday night in a new scheduling move that will help both schools down the road. UF will play FSU three times, twice in Gainesville and once in Tallahassee this season. In doing so Pat McMahon will be able to schedule a big time opponent from out of the region to come to UF next season and beyond. The Gators have always had a three game set with FSU tying up their pre conference schedule and with Miami they were unable to bring in a big name opponent. The schools are two and a half hours apart and the travel is not as much of a problem for either team mid-week. It will test the depth of both team's pitching staffs but it will also bring added mid-week revenue to both programs. Look for teams with names like Cal St. Fullerton, Stanford or USC to maybe make there way to Gainesville in the coming years. Last season UF was 12-0 in mid-week games but did not play FSU in the center of the work week.

Finally the NCAA Task Committee that Jeremy Foley is on could have a proposal for new recruiting rules and regulations finalized by April 20th. If some of the proposed ideas go through it will make recruiting more regionalized in the future. Now before you get real excited and say the state of Florida has plenty of recruits remember these Gator Greats were from out of state: Steve Spurrier, Shane Matthews, Rex Grossman, Ike Hilliard and future great Chris Leak. The biggest change this committee can make is to allow the schools to pay for the parents or guardians to visit with the student athlete. This will keep the kids from going out and behaving like fools and make them more accountable on their visits. Many parents come on visits but unless they drive the recruit (in which they get mileage) they must pay there own ways.

Stat of the Week: 13
The number of runners the Gators have picked off base this season. This leads the Southeastern Conference.

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