Ask Ack: June 29, 2004

In this week's edition see answers to questions about the benefits of silent commitments, how the coaches decide which players they will recruit based on their academic standing, who among the incoming freshman has a chance to see significant playing time, and more!

Hey Ack, what are some pros and cons of the "silent" commitment. It doesn't seem like many coaches besides Zook push for them. I would think that although effective, it's a somewhat dirty tactic. Which, coming from Zook, surprises me. What do you think?

I think the silent commitment has many benefits. First I think Florida prefers it because of the negative recruiting the has incurred following the Spurrier departure. The thought process is that if you make an early commitment then the schools know who they are recruiting against and begin to attack your institution. If more than one school negatively recruits against you it can cause some problems. Lance Leggett is a classic case of a kid who committed early and changed his mind during the process. I am not saying Miami was negatively recruiting but some people who wanted the kid to go anywhere but UF did that. The old school of thought regarding silent commitments is that it was used so schools could get multiple stars at certain positions. Some kids want to believe they are the number one guy at a position and would frown on reading about the recruitment of another top guy at their position. This still goes on because schools can't afford to not recruit multiple five star guys at one position. The final way a silent commitment works is one that could be viewed as a "dirty tactic" as you say. One example of this may be a kid who leads a school on as a commitment instead of de-committing prior to signing day. Florida was able to land Mike McIntosh last season after Clemson felt it had him locked up. Was this dirty? I don't think so but in recruiting you know that everyone is fair game until signing day. I do think Zook is at the forefront of recruiting ideas and tactics and uses all to the advantage of his program.

Ack - don't take this the wrong way b/c I love your column and respect your opinions, especially as a former player, but David Pollack as a Heisman contender (dark horse or any other variety)? You have got to be kidding me!!! Was that your subtle joke of the week? Is this the same David Pollack that was completely shut down by Max Starks last year? I admit I have a particular peeve about him b/c I live just a few short miles from Athens... all the "experts" up here in GA last year said that Pollack would just eat Starks' lunch...and of course that didn't happen. He was invisible in many other games last year, too. Please tell me you were kidding!

I never take anything the wrong way and love the fact that you are passionate and opinionated. That is what college football is all about -- passion. I believe Pollack will get a lot of hype because his team will be highly ranked, he is a force on the defense and Georgia will be a high profile team with television this season. Pollack added too much weight last year and lost a step in my opinion. He got up to what he believed was the best size to play in the NFL and combine that with team's scheming against him he struggled to make big plays. He is much lighter and by coming back to school he will receive a lot of praise in the preseason. Pollack made plays to win games two years ago and if he has that kind of season this year his name will surface with two or three other guys from the defensive side of the ball on many Heisman lists. His shot is long at best and if David Greene can up his touchdown numbers his name will become more popular with the national folks. I was not kidding but I do think it is very unlikely that he will be in New York at the end of the season.

As you know, the Posse is always looking for a reason to rip Coach Zook & company - today's reason du jour is the failure of four members of the 2004 class to qualify. Which brings me to my question - while the coaches decide which kids to offer, do they also decide which kids can be recruited? If they don't, who makes those decisions - and are those decisions made any differently today than they were during the tenure of Coach Spurrier? .

Thanks for the question and it is a good one. Florida coaches "prospect" kids based not only on athletic ability but core grades and test scores as well. They then turn in their prospect list and transcripts to the recruiting coordinator for additional mailings. Any kids that may be offers or possible visits prospects will then have there academics sent to the academic advisor for football. UF will then decide if the kid projects out to be a qualifier or not. If a prospect does not look to have any chance he will be re-flagged and not brought in for a visit. Coaches usually submit guys that have a good core GPA and then hopefully will project to pass the test. This was essentially the same process prior to Zook's arrival with Steve Spurrier. For example Jon Colon, Mo Mitchell and Dallas Baker were all Spurrier recruits who had to go through some hoops before getting on campus. UF had four guys not make it last week and I can tell you that at least three were a bit of a surprise to many. All four of these kids were worth taking a flyer on just like Reggie Nelson two years ago. UF was in a position this season because of last year's class to take a few more chances than they normally would have. If all the kids end up on campus in the next two years this will be an afterthought. If none of them end up on campus then this becomes a bit of waste for this recruiting season.

Ack, in my opinion our whole success this season will come down to how our inexperienced secondary plays. I think we will be fine up front and our LB's will be good yet thin. Our weakness will be defending the pass against teams like UT, LSU, UGA and FSU. Can we do it?

I certainly think the season comes down to how UF fairs in those four games as well. The Gators must avoid the upset in certain other games , but I do agree that these are the four toughest on paper for UF. Tennessee is a big play passing team and I am not sure they have a quarterback who can do that right out of the gate. They do have a scary big play receiver in James Banks. The front seven must pressure Leak or Rick Clausen and force quick decisions. LSU will have a new quarterback who will have some seasoning by the time UF faces them. The crowd will be a big factor and I also believe LSU has some inexperience at the receiver spots as well. Georgia and Florida State bring back experienced quarterbacks and if the secondary has shown weaknesses prior to those games these teams may expose those deficiencies. UF will play more varieties of man because they want to get pressure and get off the field quicker than a year ago. They have depth up front and by game seven the secondary should be seasoned enough.

If you had to pick one freshman that will win a starting job this season, who would it be?
--James C, Gainesville

Good question although I don't think one freshman will start this season unless a position encounters some injuries. UF has a load of young talent and should use freshman for special teams and depth. I will take the bait however and say Dawayne Grace at cornerback. He is fast and physical and has one quality you look for in all young corners, he is fearless. I would put Javier Estipinan right there for playing time along with both safeties Kyle Jackson and Tony Joiner. A couple of young lineman Jason Watkins or Drew Miller could get in the mix as well.

What's the deal with Gavin Dickey? I've heard that some people think he is going to transfer and other that think he is going to play just baseball? do you know anything on this?

Gavin is participating in summer baseball and is expected to report to fall camp with the other team members. I don't think he is looking at transferring as much as he is toying with the idea of baseball full time. His battle with Justin Midgett is a camp showdown that will be fun to watch.

Hey Brady,  I'm curious about what sort of 'community service' work gator athletes are involved in. can you give a run-down of some of the service projects/programs gator athletes are currently doing for the community? thanks

Gator athletes in general give a lot back to the community of Gainesville. The Goodwill Gators program has been one that has been in place for awhile in which athletes go out in the community twice a month and read with young people. They also share their experiences and emphasize how important reading is to students. Goodwill Gators also has a community service aspect in which they go to Shands and Va Hospital to volunteer their time and services. It is a very popular program in which athletes take time out of their day to give back to the community. Former Gators are involved as well with James Bates and Chris Doering each having Golf Tournaments to benefit the area youth in Gainesville. I will be having mine in September before the Kentucky game to raise money to help build a football press box and locker room for the boys and girls clubs of Alachua County. More than 3,000 youth use the boys and girls clubs and it is an honor for me to give something to these kids because I was able to benefit from Gainesville and attend the University of Florida.

Concerning the defense, now that we have a bit more experience and depth in the front 7, do you anticipate we will be more aggressive this year in getting to the QB? This too may help our DB's which means less coverage time. Concerning Strong, is he a learner? That is, he has a system he believes in, but does he try to learn from others, new wrinkles in blitz packages, ect? I believe a great defense has talent but also keeps offenses guessing. If a QB isn't sure where pressure is coming from, or he thinks he knows what coverage but then it changes, that's effective. Am I wrong? I know our offense will be good but we will go only as far as our defense will take us. Thanks, Ack.

I do think UF will more aggressive not because of experience but because of numbers. To attack an offense you must be able to roll numbers at them because of the energy it requires to bring constant pressure. UF has those numbers this season and should be able pressure more. I agree with the theory on the secondary and coverage time. Charlie Strong is the consummate professional when it comes to learning and has spent some time this off season looking at wrinkles of the 4-3 defense especially down in Miami where the Dolphins are able to bring pressure while keeping the numbers in the secondary in their favor. Disguising coverages is paramount to confusing a quarterback but so is pressure. If a man is in his face he cannot read a coverage. No one disguises better than LSU and that is because of Nick Saban. It took his kids a while but their system is treated much like Steve Spurrier's offensive system when facing it. College kids must have athleticism and ability plus a high football IQ for you to disguise coverages as well as you like. UF had this last year with the four seniors. Defense does win championships but the offense must help this young defense out this season by scoring and answering scores of other teams. I think the defense may give up some big plays early but to avoid losing confidence they must look up and see a win or even score on the board.

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