Ask Ack: June 1, 2004

In this edition of <b>Ask Ack</b>, I answer questions about off-season preparations for the football coaches, trick plays in the Gator offense, UF not hosting a regional for the baseball tournament, Mohamed Abukar's surgery and more!

Do we do any game planning (football) over the summer? Knowing we have 3 or 4 teams that are must wins, do we strategize how we will game plan for them to both neutralize what they do best but also to add things we think could work and of which they won't suspect? Also, lots of teams have trick or gadgety plays that work or gives them a key completion when they need it. Do we have anyone on staff that explores this, compiles the plays, and thus has them ready should we need them? Again, this would seem wise, certain plays that our key opponents have not seen could be difference makers in crucial downs. What do you think?
--John

After the season, Florida will do a self scout and evaluate every play and down and distance from the entire season. Then after the spring they will once again evaluate plays and formations by doing spring cut-ups. When the summer begins, graduate assistants will start compiling tapes on the first two opponents. With the opponents being non-conference foes it sometimes can be tough. UF obviously has good ties to Middle Tennessee and tape trade with them will be no problem. The information will go into a computer and give the coaches tendencies and tapes to watch beginning in July. Some guys may watch tape in June but usually time is tight because of vacations and youth football camps the entire month. It will be interesting to see what Florida does for the first two games. In the previous regime the staff often held stuff back until Tennessee while this staff has always had to face Miami in game two. Coaches do work on plays and ideas during the summer and it usually begins in July. This staff does have it's share of trick plays and most of these "gadgety" plays have backfired in the Zook era. These plays will only work if they are called at the right time and the coach has confidence that under fire players will stick to their assignments. I think in this day and age of "Zone Blitzes" and defensive speed it is better to come up with "sucker " plays. Some coaches call this a different word that I will not print but for example the pass to Ciatrick Fason vs LSU. That is a "sucker" play that goes against all of the tendencies on tape coming into the game. It is not classified as a trick play, but it will only work a couple of times for that particular game. No teams after Florida were able to execute that play vs LSU and I don't even think Oklahoma tried to isolate the back on a linebacker. Florida State used the tight end to "sucker" Florida last season and the most memorable "sucker" play was the tight end "delay" Auburn used in 1994. I agree with your assumption and this staff like many others puts together it's share of big plays, but the great teams are very good at what they do. If Florida is going to get back to being a great team, then they must get an up tempo attacking offense that uses the entire field and multiple players.


Hi Brady, question this week revolves around the Gators three main [men's] coaches - Zook, Donovan, and McMahon. A lot of coaching is either x's and o's or motivational. How would you characterize the three coaches in terms of their skills/ability to motivate and strategize. In terms of motivation - what are some of the techniques the coaches have used successfully in the past to motivate their respective team's) to a big Gator win? (e.g. Donovan used the 'life raft' analogy to get the gators to take control of their own 'survival'). Any good stories along these lines? Thanks.
--gatorbogey


I think a lot of coaches get labeled in their careers as a recruiting guy or an x's and o's guy and to some extent that is a fair assessment. For any coach to be successful he must be able to recognize his own weaknesses and hire to compensate. First I think all three coaches are regarded as top recruiters. When you look at the talent Donovan has brought to University of Florida it would be hard not to label him as a top recruiter. I think some of his best coaching jobs may have been in 2001 and to some extent last season after Drejer departed. Donovan is very young in his profession yet he has already been to the National Title game and has had his team ranked number one in the country two years in a row during the regular season. Pat McMahon is another coach who in a very short time has re-established Florida inside the state as a recruiting power. Just three years ago people thought UF might be the fourth or fifth best program inside a baseball rich state. This season alone proves at least UF is back to being second behind Miami and right there with Florida State. One thing all three guys do very well is get their guys to play hard. It is easy to tell when the hoops, baseball and football teams are not playing to the level the coaches want because the overall effort is not very intense. Donovan has established himself and by doing so lost a top assistant to a head coaching job in John Pelfrey. He made a significant hire this year in Larry Shyatt and that may help shore up some defensive liabilities. Pat McMahon and Ron Zook have not even been here long enough to establish the proper class levels of their players in recruiting and both have lost major assistants to head coaching jobs. I think McMahon has a proven record of building a champion (Miss. St) and is known as a top recruiter and outstanding developer of pitching. I think Ron Zook is a top notch recruiter who has been able to land top classes and beat FSU and Miami on kids without beating them on the field. I think this year will help formulate whether or not his philosophy is going to work at UF. I do think all three coaches needed four years to be evaluated on there merits and obviously Donovan was going through the roof by year four. McMahon did not get his regional but I think this team may be able to go deep on the road. Zook has Chris Leak back this season and Charlie Strong for a second year and those will be key components to a big season. Finally, to answer you question I would say all three guys are great recruiters and if they needed to get a player to make a difference in the program they could out work the other schools to obtain him. As for motivation, football becomes more of a week to week motivation because of the schedule, while Donovan did a great job of selling his team on what people thought they could not do without Drejer. Thanks for you question, I could probably go on for ever.


Brady,
No matter how good I feel our offense will be, no matter how good our front 7 will be, I just can't see us having a very successful season. By that I mean an SEC east title, SEC championship and a bowl victory.  Teams like FSU, LSU and Georgia will eat up our secondary. Am I reading to much into things at this point?

--GatorSly


The key to Florida's defense is definitely the front seven. To get teams off the field on third down and when field position is in your favor, you must get pressure with the front seven. I think you should be concerned about the secondary from an experience standpoint. I think this secondary has a chance to be real talented and while I do not think they will pick off more passes they could be better as a group by the end of the season. By the time they play FSU and Georgia I would not be as concerned because I think they will be polished and ready to go. Chris Rix is very talented but he will not pick you apart and neither will Marcus Randall or whoever starts at LSU. Those two team will throw deep balls and pressure the young secondary.  UF may give up some big plays this season. But that will be fine if the pressure remains consistent throughout the game and the season. The Georgia game will be tough but once again David Greene needs time to throw and last year Travis Harris was unblockable for a half and I think this year's defensive line will be better. The concern is giving up a jump ball to James Banks in Knoxville with the game on the line. None of these corners have seen Knoxville at night and if it's a 17-13 type game I certainly would go for the Rolaids. Here are two thing you can hang your hat on with the secondary. Number one, the front seven is deeper and more talented and should be more aggressive at the quarterback. This means less time to throw and less time to cover. Number two, I believe UF has two stars in the making in Dee Webb and Terrence Holmes and that if the other spots can hold up till freshman develop the unit will be very good. By the way, you are not reading too much into it at this point because this is the time of the year to look at your weaknesses and your schedule and figure out how many wins, etc. you are going to get. I don't think Tennessee is headed to being a great team, but I did not think they would win 10 games last year and win in Coral Gables, so the faithful need to be concerned about Knoxvegas.


Ack, did UF get robbed from being a regional host?
--Unknown

Yes they did. I don't know the in's and out's of the financial arrangement but the SEC should have gotten six bids. I think Florida lost it's shot when South Carolina made a run to win the SEC tournament. FSU gets a bid because they are a good host traditionally and finished strong by winning the ACC tournament. I would hope UF gets sent to Tallahassee as the number one seed (turns out they are a #1 Seed in Oklahoma) because I think they are a better team than the Noles. Georgia, Ole Miss, Miami and South Carolina got bids and they all won season series vs the Gators. If UF leaves the state I like their chances to win the regional. One thing is for sure, if they can get a number one seed and then if an upset occurs they could still host a super regional.


Brady, thanks for your information. Can you give me some names of some guys making noise in the summer workouts?
--Gator homer

No problem. Check this week's insight column for an in-depth look at the strength and conditioning program. But here are some of the leaders and guys who are getting it done. Mike Degory, Travis Harris, Lance Butler, Earl Everett, Channing Crowder, Terrence Holmes, Mo Mitchell and Steven Harris. These are just a few guys but from what I here everyone is busting their tail and it is going to be a productive summer A.


Ack, any word on Abukar and his surgery?
--Unknown

Mohamed has had surgery and is doing fine. He should be ready to go this fall and be able to go through camp and the season without any pain. Abukar played hurt last year and will benefit big time from this off season.


Brady, who would be your MVP of the baseball team? I know C.J. Smith was first team All-SEC but I would give the vote to Ben Harrison, what about you?
--Ufgrad 91

Those would both be good choices, as would SEC pitcher of the year Justin Hoyman. I, however, would choose Conner Falkenbach. When you look at the word valuable, how can you not think of Falkenbach. He made 33 appearance including three starts and had a 9-6 record. He started a crucial game three of the Tennessee series on the road and went seven strong for the win. He has thrown 110 innings, mostly out of the bullpen, and just seems to always be there when Pat McMahon needs him. He was a big reason they won the first FSU game. Also, as the coaching staff has tried to develop other starting pitching, he has been able to do it all.


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