Coach Zook Speaks at Polk County Gator Gathering

A few good seats still remain on the Ron Zook bandwagon, but approximately 450 Polk County Gator fans gave Coach Zook a standing ovation last night in Lakeland. Recruiting coordinator Mike Locksley also accompanied Coach Zook along with their posse from the athletic department and Gator Boosters.

His remarks were preceded by the awarding of $1,000 scholarships to 7 of Polk County's brightest high school students planning on attending UF. As F$U and Miami try to build a school their football teams can be proud of, UF continues to be the flagship university in Florida and nationally buttressing its already established reputation for a balanced mix of academic and athletic excellence.

What do students at UF and F$U have in common? They were both accepted for admission into F$U! UF is the #2 school in the entire country in the number of National Merit Scholars admitted trailing only the University of Texas. UF ranks ahead of Harvard, Yale, Georgia Tech, and Stanford among others in this prestigious category.

If you have a child who has gained admission to UF place your right hand over your left shoulder and pat vigorously, because they have achieved the pinnacle in academia. UF will receive 26,000 applications and admit about 6,500 of them. Of the top 50% of incoming freshmen the unweighted GPA will range from 3.8 to 4.2 with an average SAT score of 1340.

Thankfully, when I was seeking admission the standards weren't quite that high. I did graduate from UF with a 4.0, but that was just my blood alcohol level!

Now to the stuff we all live for, football. Coach Zook said in the spring you could begin to see the effects of good recruiting. "I would rather be known as a bad coach with good players than a good coach with bad players, any day," he said! He said he relishes the level of expectations at UF because it shows the passion Gator fans have for their school and is the reason we have 600 Bull Gators statewide contributing $12,000 or more annually to Gator Boosters.

He said we have the maximum seven coaches including himself canvassing high schools nationwide during this spring evaluation period. "Our players and coaches understand that 8-5 isn't good enough. I promise you we will be a better football team than we were last year," The Head Gator said.

Evaluating the team:

WR Jemalle Cornelius is a kid you can expect to see emerge. He is mastering the art of being consistent and is a playmaker. Not only is he an outstanding athlete, he is a quality person and student.

OL We will be better here. Anchored by one of the nation's finest in Mike DeGory we will have more depth in the O-Line. Mo Mitchell is continuing to lose weight and the JUCO guys will be strong contributors in this area for 2004.

DL Ray McDonald can be as good as he wants to be. This will be an area of strength on our team with Marcus Thomas and Ray Mac in the middle. Jeremy Mincey will hit someone hard on every play. Right now that may be one of his teammates, but combined with Steven Harris the Zookster is excited about the enthusiasm in this group.

Joe Cohen is an impressive athlete who will disrupt an offense with his rare combination of speed, strength and quickness.

DB Yes we will have new corners, but Bailey and Herring have played a lot and will anchor our secondary. He said if we have to be young somewhere it is better to have youth in the secondary than in the front 7 like we did last year. He said to watch Terrence Holmes, a very good athlete with a nasty disposition on the field.

Special Teams

Coach Zook felt we improved in every area here except KO return defense and that will be remedied this year. He said Eric Wilbur went from playing several sports and both ways during high school to being only a punter and had gotten complacent coming into spring. He feels the competition for his job opened his eyes to what it takes and he will be a dominant force for us in the fall.

Play Calling

He emphasized the offense will not change under Larry Fedora's direction. They will bring in a few new plays, but most of the existing offense will remain. Coach said he met Mark Richt at a convention and Richt said, "All I heard all summer is when are you going to stop that damn bubble screen Florida runs," he said" Zook replied, "My fans say when are you going to quit running that damn bubble screen?" He said it has averaged over eight yards a pop for the last two years and will remain a viable option in our scheme.

Zook went on to remind us we had 20 more plays of 20 yards or more than LSU. He said the notepad he carries on the sideline is to remind him of things he wants to suggest to our coordinators. He feels it does no good to interrupt them during the heat of battle.

Zook said he expects Chris Leak to build upon the strong foundation he built last year. "When he got tackled for a safety at South Carolina I said, what were you thinking, Chris?" Leak said, coach, I forgot where we were on the field. "I screamed, how can you forget where we are on the field," Zook said? "Then I remembered he was riding yellow buses to games just last year!"

Finally, on running to the wrong sideline in Jacksonville. "I have coached in that stadium 7-8 times previously and had always been on the sideline opposite the press box. I was so fired up by the time the television folks let us run out I went to the wrong sideline," he said!

Go Gators!


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