Ack's Insights: July 23rd, 2004

Florida has endured some negative publicity this week due to some off the field problems with its players. This is the age old question of "what can you do to control this?"

In my opinion the only thing any university can do is to continue to educate and deal swiftly in disciplining all matters. Channing Crowder and Jarvis Herring were suspended for one game this week and while I think that is fair, I believe the University of Florida made sure it had all the information and input before Jeremy Foley released these suspensions.

Unfortunately for Ron Zook it was released the same day as the arrest of the Taurean Charles the gator linebacker. Foley has suspended athletes before at the University including players for Steve Spurrier and Billy Donovan. This is a process in which the Athletic Director takes some of the decision making away from the individual sport's coach and deals with players who break the law. Each sport also has its own team rules in which players can violate and earn discipline from the head coach.

The athletic department's recent decision is one that is becoming more prevalent around the country. Colorado just instituted a new chain of command very similar to one Florida had in place and FSU has gone through some restructuring over the past few years. I personally believe the athletic department and universities have the right to step in on discipline when it involves crimes with the law, especially felonies. I also think football coaches can administer their own disciplines within the program for things such as late meetings or as is the case in Tennessee with James Banks' first suspension which he shouted vociferously at a university employee.

I applaud Foley and the athletic department for getting all the facts on the Crowder situation and handling it on its own merits.

Snippets and Tidbits... The Taurean Charles story does not look good at this time. But like many other cases with athletes the entire story was not told in the paper. However this is the second "serious" charge against Charles and in my opinion I think Zook should look long and hard at dismissing Taurean. There are many ways to dismiss a kid. If he is a bad guy with no remorse you let him go immediately. But if he has just made some mistakes in judgment and you as a coach believe he is a good kid you may help him transfer to a smaller school. This is usually the case when an incident is too much bad publicity for the program and university to take on.

Florida has a lot of kids doing the right things and feel like they can have a big year. This team is too young and inexperienced to deal with distractions. The leaders of the team must tighten up and begin to discipline themselves. One other thing to remember in the Charles situation: If Ron Zook gives up on him and he feels he's innocent of some charges the perception will not be good back at Northwestern High School in Miami. This is a problem many coaches face when getting kids from football hotbeds and that is keeping the relationship harmonious. They have to know that you did everything you could for their kid to help him stay out of trouble. Whether it's right or wrong it could be awhile before UF goes back into Willie Williams' high school and gets a kid.

More thoughts on Crowder and Herring... SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has made it known to the university presidents that he is going to have the conference clean in four years. Foley, with respect to new UF President Bernard Machen, continues to show his leadership by being an active athletic director in the decisions made concerning student athletes. Foley's resume alone is sterling when it comes to titles, revenue and popularity among fans and boosters for Florida's athletic programs.

I still think it is important for Jeremy to continue to show his leadership in tough situations under the new university leader. Florida has had these similar policies in place in the past which is why a "Colorado" situation could never happen. There is a chain of command and a policy in which the athletic department deals with troublesome student athletes. One other reason for the timing of the suspensions is this is a big media week for Zook. The football writers association of Florida will convene with all the state's head coaches this weekend, SEC Media Days is next week in Birmingham and UF's media Day is coming in the second week of August. The time is now to put off the field questions behind you and look toward the season. Look for Zook to be very positive, upbeat and anxious to get the season started.

Other Tidbits...

Chris Leak visited with the media this week and said he has received some tips from Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Hopefully for Gator fans it won't be the way he read coverages against Florida's pressure! Leak is a quiet leader but appears to be ready to handle more of a vocal role on the field. The one thing Leak has worked on this summer is reading coverages on the drop. He is comfortable in the pre-snap part of the offense, but when teams disguise or roll their coverages, he can get confused. By recognizing this on film and during workouts this season it should become second nature to him this fall.

The Gator offense will be looking to improve its redzone efficiency this fall by getting into the endzone more. In 52 trips last season, they only scored only 26 touchdowns. Too many field goals or missed opportunities kept teams in games. Chris Leak will be much better this year in the redzone because of his experience. The one thing he must continue to do and did very well last season is not turn the ball over. Last year the Gators only had six turnovers in their 52 trips inside the redzone. To break that down further one was the Wynn fumble vs LSU (he was in the endzone) another was the pass to Baker at the end of the Miami game, and the other four were against San Jose State (fumble and victory) South Carolina (fumble and victory) Vanderbilt (int and victory) and Arkansas (int and victory). If Leak and the offense can keep this number down and make the touchdown number go up it could translate into more victories.

On the flip side the defense did not create turnovers in the redzone. While Keiwan Ratliff was setting a UF record in the open field with interceptions, teams were scoring some points at will in the red zone. Charlie Strong's defense only caused two turnovers inside the red area last season. They did hold Georgia out and also force them to kick field goals but look for that number to go up this season.

Stat of the Week:20 Punts. During the Gators' memorable three game winning streak last year at LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia, Eric Wilbur was probably the MVP. He punted 20 times and eight were over 50 yards, seven were downed inside the 20 and five were caught fairly. That was a key component to field position and three big wins for UF last season.

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