Ack's Insights

In this week's edition of <b>Ack's Insights</b> I talk about Gators in the NFL, the most recent NFL Draft, new facilities for the baseball team, Billy Donovan's hiring of Larry Shyatt as an assitant and more!

Ron Zook continues to make his way around to Gator Clubs for speaking engagements while taking care of spring recruiting. The spring evaluation period is going very well and many rising seniors are showing great interest in Florida. On Monday May 17th Zook will be close to the Gainesville area speaking in Ocala, Florida. He has been very upbeat about this year's team and seems to think despite the youth, the talent is in place to make some serious noise in the SEC. Athlon's recently released their preseason magazine and has the Gators as the second choice in the East and 15th overall in the country.

NFL mini camps have finished up and former Gator and Bachelor Jesse Palmer is still being chided by the New York Media. Palmer who has discussed his absence with coach Tom Coughlin had a solid mini camp this past weekend. The main focus was on Eli Manning with many rumors still surfacing on a veteran coming in after June 1st. Palmer has a strong arm and if he can handle the criticism of Steve Spurrier, I am sure he can handle Tom Coughlin. By the way, the word is he is still having conversations with one of the potential Mrs. Palmer's. (My guess is Tara.)

Gator Offensive Coordinator Larry Fedora has a couple of ex-players making some noise in two mini-camps at the receiver position. In Tennessee, Tyrone Calico is looking to make an even bigger impact as a second year player for the Titans, while in Miami Kendall Newsom has an outside shot of making the Dolphins roster. Both guys played for Fedora at Middle Tennessee State where he was the offensive coordinator.

Speaking of the NFL, the agent for Shannon Snell, Michael Brown, said that he went undrafted because of poor coaching. Snell, who was projected as a second day guy, was passed over and signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos. Only five guards were taken the second day of the draft in four rounds and one of them played tackle in college. Overall only nine guards were taken in the entire draft. I think it is better sometimes to be a free agent than land with a team that is a bad fit in the seventh round. Imagine if Miami or Tampa had taken a flyer on Snell in the sixth or seventh round. Those teams  signed so many free agent lineman that it would have been hard for him to make the team. He is going to an ideal situation that favors his blocking style in Denver. For the record, Snell was coached by the same guy that sent Max Starks to the Steelers in the third round and I will be willing to guess that Mike Degory will be a first day draft selection as well.

I was asked about the possibility of a roof being added to the Mac to shield the sun from the onlookers in the stands. The University Athletic Department hired a firm two years ago to due a study on whether or not a roof extending out much like a sail would benefit the fans and be cost effective. It was called a "Shade Survey". It was determined that with the cost being almost a million dollars and the actual shading of fans only occurring a minimal amount of the time due to scheduling, it did not justify the expenditure. Most of UF's games are in February to March and the weather is usually comfortable. The final eight weeks would include maybe 12 home games, four of which would be at night on Friday's. With the way the construction of the stadium is set the shade would only take effect on games starting at 4pm or later and then would only shade most of the general admission seats up higher and not the booster chair backs. The cost includes a higher ticket because of hurricane coverage and codes that Florida must reach that some parks do not have to. Certainly it will be very hot for the regional (if UF hosts), but to spend a million dollars for maybe 10 games a season probably is not a good business choice.

However, there will be a new locker room for baseball only that will be built in the facility and that costs in upwards of a million dollars as well. While fans may have to cool off on their own in April and May the recruiting should see a boom from a new state of the art baseball only locker room for Pat McMahon. Let it be noted that never say never on the roof at the Mac. Also there are some parks in the SEC that do not have roofs like Kentucky and Vandy.

Snippets and tidbits...
The NCAA has tabled the issue for the discontinuing of media guides. This season there will be media guides available once again. Last year's Gator Guide was a source for many jokes with the appearance of the Crocodile on the cover. Inside it was 344 pages of information that many would like to see go away. One thing is for sure there will not be a "Croc" on this year's cover.

Chris Leak had a terrific spring and there is no indication of the sophomore "jinx" about to take place in Gainesville. As a matter of fact, the history of UF Football shows some pretty impressive sophomore numbers put up by legendary Gator Quarterbacks. John Reaves had 24 touchdowns, Kerwin Bell led the SEC in passing, Shane Matthews was the SEC player of the year and Rex Grossman should have won the Heisman in 2001 with his tremendous season of 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns. If history repeats itself Chris Leak may just end up with a special sophomore season.

Many season ticket holders are not overwhelmed by the Gator home schedule this season and for good reason. Middle Tennessee and Eastern Michigan are the usual pre-season classics. But this year UF does not get FSU or Tennessee at home. In the past that always balanced out with SEC rivals Auburn and LSU. With the new schedule rotation the Gators are playing Mississippi St this season and it will be in Starkville. After the two "classics," Kentucky, without Lorenzen, and a rebuilding Arkansas team come to Gainesville. The change in UF's schedule came in the title year of 1996 when the Gators got rid of an SEC opponent from game two and moved it later in the schedule. This is why UF plays an SEC opponent with homecoming instead of it's usual money game. The last good non-conference opponent UF played early in the eleven game schedule was Southern Miss in 1997. That game was 21-6 and the last time UF almost lost a game in the first two with an eleven game schedule was Kentucky in 1993 (the Chris Doering game). With the twelve game schedule the last two years UF has lost to Miami in the second game. The bottom line is you could move a Vandy or a South Carolina into that slot but then you would still have Eastern Michigan to deal with. Most teams in the SEC will play two games that they should win in there non conference schedule. Arkansas does play Texas, however, and LSU will get a visit from Mike Riley and Oregon State.

Billy Donovan has added an assistant coach to his staff in former Clemson Head Coach Larry Shyatt, 53. Shyatt will bring an interesting resume to the table that includes winning stints at Clemson, Wyoming and New Mexico. He is considered a defensive expert who's teams regularly were at the top of their conference in points per game and rebounding margin. Billy has often been questioned about his team's toughness and defense and this hire may help erase that stigma.

I think Shyatt would like another crack at a head coaching position, so he may not be at UF long. But like the defensive coordinator's post for football, that assistant spot can become very attractive. I think one of Shyatt's first goals will be to help develop Richard into a inside defensive presence this season. If that can happen it would free David Lee up to use his athleticism in securing rebounds. As a head coach he has engineered some upset wins in his career and his resume is one that some Gator fans have been looking for on the bench for Billy Donovan. He is an older experienced coach who is defensive minded and should be a good fit with Billy and his staff.

Florida senior men's golfer Camilo Villegas (Medellin, Colombia) was named one of five finalists for the 2004 Byron Nelson Award as announced this past Monday. The 2004 SEC Player of the Year and SEC Men's Golf Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Villegas has won the most tournaments of any UF player since 1975 and is the only golfer in school history to be named SEC Player of the Year twice.

Stat of the Week: 64 ppg. The 1998 Clemson basketball team led the ACC in scoring defense under Shyatt.

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