Ask Ack - May 10, 2004

Check out this week's "Ask Ack". Inside read my take on Fedora and Zaunbrecher, where UF needs to improve for next season, what it will take for UF to upgrade the baseball stadium, Jimmy Ray Stephens and Joe Wickline and more!

A poster on another board noted that coach Zook said the following at a recent Gator Gathering:
"Trust me I want to score as many points as possible and no one wants to throw the ball downfield more than me. So if you look at how many times in the last 5 games, how many times we threw the ball more than 20 yards downfield we threw it about 10 times more." Question is, if that is what we can expect this year, why did Zook replace Zaun? What's the true reason behind the move? I suspect that Zook has seen both Zaun and Fedora up close and how they approach games and give input into the game planning and even devising new plays, etc. Is this the case: did Fedora outperform Zaun in that capacity?

I think both coaches are excellent teachers and knowledgeable. I think the correlation with Leak becoming more comfortable in the offense helped the coaches take some chances as the season went along. Zook replaced Zaunbrecher to get someone calling plays that thought more like him. I think Larry is more comfortable moving and coaching at a faster pace. I think Zaunbrecher will still have a strong influence in the offense and game planning during the week. Look at the results of the spring. Ed did a great job coaching Chris and working with him exclusively. As the offensive coordinator you are responsible for everyone including the line and this is why Zook made a switch. I don't think one guy out performed the other in any capacity… the bottom line is a head coach sometimes has a feeling about a certain coach and wants to give him the responsibility.

I am a newbie from Gatorcountry and my question is that Zook seems a little more "upbeat" than usual in saying that he is "more excited about this year than any other year at any level". This is what I am hearing him mention on his road trips to the Gator clubs. This would include the Gators from the early mid 90's that he was a part of. I hope he is right but I feel we are still young and about one more year away before gunning for it all. What do you think?

Ron Zook is a very positive guy who usually feels like the best scenario is going to take place. I think inside he is relishing at the fact that most people do not think this team could be very good. I think he sees a lot of talent and the right chemistry on his staff to get it done. The question will be game day operations because UF has had some glitches that he must erase to have a championship season. Some of these I feel Ron had no control over but as the head coach he is responsible for. I think it will be tough to win a title this season but not impossible. Not matter what you must have luck to win a National Championship. Look at last year's co-champs, they lost games early an needed a lot of help and you could look at teams like Tennessee, Ohio State and even Miami the year they won it. You need to be good, well coached and a bit lucky to be a champion in college football because there is no playoff.

Is there much of a difference in the inside and outside receivers positions?

There are two things that are different for slot receivers. Number one the actual terminology is a little different. Secondly the inside receiver has to learn to play in traffic and read different leverages in coverages. Everyone at all three or four spots will run the same routes it is just called differently by position. In the slot you sometimes have to get open against 2 to 3 maybe four defenders on a route depending on the call and coverage, while the outside receiver never really has more than two guys to beat or read.

UF had some guys up for jobs this year and it did not appear that any were offered and that is why we only saw one staff member leave in secondary coach Mike Woodford. Is this accurate and who was up for jobs?

First, getting coaching jobs is tough and so is a head coaching position. Ed Zaunbrecher was up for the Cincinnati job and when Ron Zook got off the phone Sunday night it looked like the Athletic Director was going to make the call. But a late push by the candidate from Ohio State got him the position and Zaunbrecher was since relieved of his offensive coordinator duties. Charlie Strong's name always comes up for jobs including the Mississippi St. position. I don't think Charlie had a strong interest because of the lingering penalties and because he really likes Florida and believes he can produce a top ten defense. He is a key coach because Zook would have had to hire three coordinators in three years. If UF has a big year then Strong can get a "good" job that allows him the ability to recruit and challenge for a National Title. The only other guy who interviewed for a job that I know of was Bill Miller who actually turned down the New England Patriots to stay at Florida. Miller is a top-flight recruiter and a terrific coach. He has a lot of connections in the college ranks and I think may get one shot at a head coaching job. He was in the hunt for the Kansas job before they hired Mangino. Also James Speer a graduate assistant and former player got a job.

Give me three things UF can improve on offense and defense that will get us back to the top of the SEC.

This is a good question and I will answer with the thought that there will be no injuries to the key players.
1.        Improve third down offense and third down defense.
2.        Improve the red zone offense (touchdowns) and red zone defense (stops and field goals).
3.        Stretch the field with the vertical game in the first quarter and improve kickoff returns.

Everyone wants to see deep balls for touchdowns and UF should have these opportunities if they can run the ball with Fason and Wynn. Part of the problem on defense last year was the offense has got to convert third downs and keep the football. Finally the defense cannot be a bend but don't break defense this year because it does not have the interceptor's or fumble guys coming back in the secondary. They must become a five and out defense. Get teams off the field in five snaps or less.

Any plans to add shade structures to the Mac (baseball stadium)?

This has been a topic of discussion for a couple of years. I think the attendance would need to get in the top half of the conference to merit the change. Right now UF is eighth in attendance at 42% capacity so I am sure the finances would be tough to justify. I will look into it and see if I can get a more definitive answer in my "Insight" column Wednesday.

Brady, do you see Terrance Holmes starting come the fall?

Yes. He should be the starter and finished the spring ahead of Bailey. Cory knows the defense real well and won't make too many mistakes but Holmes is going to be a playmaker. When UF is in nickel which could be a lot with so many spread offenses then all three safeties will be on the field at the same time.

Hi Ack, will you compare and contrast the coaching philosophy/style of JRS and Wickline? I always felt Stephens was soft and never a big fan of his. I was happy when Zook grabbed Wickline. I read he was tough on the line and likes them to be physical. I have not witnessed the physical domination that I expected Wickline to produce. At the draft Snell and Starks were labeled as being soft. Who would you hire if it was your decision?

Both guys are good coaches and I think Jimmy Ray is a fine coach and person. Jimmy Ray got the label probably because UF threw the football so much and much of his practice time was spent teaching pass pro. I think Stephens did a great job at UF and guys like Donnie Young, Zach Piller and Jeff Mitchell were as tough as they come. I would hire Wickline because he does a good job of mixing the run and pass in his teaching. With my offense more similar to what Fedora runs you must have lineman that can pass protect but be mean on the run because you are trying to get balance. Let me put it this way, Spurrier was throw first and if you were ahead or in control he could achieve 50-50 balance with the run. I would want to be a spread offense but more balanced so running the ball is as important as throwing it. I would hire Wickline because he has coached in that system. Starks is not the most physical guy at UF but the one season he played at right tackle he was terrific. He only gave up two sacks and they were in the last game against Tennessee. He has a shot at Pittsburgh at right tackle. Snell really was a better fit in Spurrier's offense and the changing of offenses his last two years took some adjusting. But Snell is not soft and he may have slipped off the board but he was much better as a senior than his junior season.

Hi Brady, how ya' doin'? I'd just like to ask what you think of the RB offers we have given out. I just saw that we have offered Jamaal Charles from Texas and have also offered Antoine Smith and the star kid out of Jacksonville, I think his name is Jones. Well, my thought is this. What do you think about Lagarrett Blount? That kid has great size and decent speed. I would love for the Gators to land him and maybe move him to LB. (Keeping him informed of course). I think Marcus Manson is gonna be the real deal at RB when he gets here so are the other RB's being recruited for other positions? Thanks for taking my question and GO GATORS!!!!

I am doing great, thank you for asking. Spring recruiting is going very well, and UF is offering earlier like many other schools. First in are the first get scholly's and if you have three top flight running backs on your board and one decides to commit early it put's a lot of pressure on the other two. I choose not to have a professional opinion on any kid until I have seen them myself or spent time with one of the coaches who are recruiting them. For whatever reason a lot of rising seniors are ready to jump on board with this Gator staff. I really like Marcus Manson. I talked to him several times on the phone and he endured a lot of pressure in Tuscaloosa. I think he will play this year if he can come in to camp in shape and healthy. Most likely he will play special teams but he is a terrific running back prospects. When recruiting running backs you know the old saying, "you cannot have too many good ones". Look at last season where UF needed Fason against Lsu after he had slipped to third on the depth chart.The rest was C-4 history.

Thank you all for your questions and I will look to get you the answers you want. Feel free to agree or disagree with any of my opinions. That is what makes this fun and interesting. If you would like, please put your handle with the question so that I can put it in the article. If not we leave the question as unknown. Thanks! Ack

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