Larry Vettel - The state of football in Florida

Before I begin let me just say thanks for reading. Thanks to Ray and everyone at Gator Country for this opportunity. And thanks for caring so much about college sports. I will try and make good use of this space to inform and entertain. My hope is; sometimes I'll make you laugh, sometimes I'll make you mad and sometimes I'll make you think.

If you sat down at a table with Rod Shafer, Steve Gilbert and Lamonte Massie, what would you talk about?

No, they're not members of the ACC officiating crew that wouldn't know a fumble if it bit them on the butt.

Nope, they aren't top prospects for the 2007 recruiting class either.

Those three gentlemen are all college head football coaches in the state of Florida. Shafer is at Webber, Gilbert at Jacksonville and Massie coaches at Edward Waters College. Now I know the state produces a lot of high school talent, but when you have 12 college teams… that's at least a few too many.

This weekend's state football coaches media days were headlined by Ron Zook getting quizzed about discipline (more on that later) and Billy Joe from FAMU being grilled about the NCAA mess in Tallahassee. On day two Bobby Bowden and Larry Coker talked about their Labor Day extravaganza which will kick off their seasons. Some observations:

1. Ron Zook is excited. I know this because he said so 11 times during his time at the microphone. After he was done, the Gator Coach was whisked away from the assembled media like a presidential candidate headed for a fund-raiser. For those of you who wonder why the Gators seem to get less margin for error with the state's media folks than other programs, this is a perfect example as to why. While most coaches, including Bowden and Coker made extra time available, Florida's Head Coach was out of there. It's not a big deal, but it is a clear example of the way different schools view media relations.

2. Jim Leavitt at South Florida and George O'Leary at UCF are going to be big plusses for football in the Sunshine State. Leavitt has been doing a fine job, and now has better on campus facilities and soon will enjoy much improved exposure in the Big East. O'Leary has recovered from his much over-blown resume' snafu to bring professionalism to the approach in Orlando. Both will be conference title contenders within three years.

3. Where is the All-State team? Seems to me that you could get the media to pick an All-Florida team. One problem, is it is almost impossible to put someone from a school other than the big three, and an All-Florida team from three teams would be boring. But there are two good questions,

Who is the best quarterback? Chris Rix, Brock Berlin and Chris Leak have all had fine performances and lousy ones. All have quarterbacked big comeback victories and made crucial mistakes. If the pick was for the future, Leak is a no-brainer, but I think Rix will have the best numbers.

Who is the best tailback? Florida has had some remarkable runners in recent years including Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Greg Jones et al, but this year's crop lacks the clear, healthy number one guy you are certain will be a big-timer. I go with Ciatrick Fason, but you could argue that one for hours.

Discipline is one of those issues which is a big discussion point this time of year. Mostly because college athletes tend to screw up the most during the summer time when they have fewer responsibilities and less time with their coaches. And whenever any high profile athlete gets in trouble there is a rush to judgement as to what the appropriate discipline should be. Then various "insiders" come up with details, which invariably put the offending athlete in a more/less favorable light depending on the point of view.

I believe Channing Crowder got a break with only one game. Not that his latest escapade was more serious than the first, it wasn't. But I come from a perspective that once you reach the level of game-related suspensions, ALL succeeding suspensions should be longer.

Taurean Charles is a very different story. I have no tolerance for committing violence on others. If he in fact did, as the police say he did throw a keg on top of a prone individual he had already beaten up, he can't be allowed to remain at UF. Spare me the excuses of alleged taunting, provoking or whatever. A student-athlete must walk away. If you don't, and you choose to use your physical superiority to injure another, you must be sent away.

Finally, Willie Williams is virtually certain to be admitted to the University of Miami for the upcoming semester and Sunday, Coach Coker was unapologetic of his efforts to get Williams in. The guy has been arrested 11 times in the past five years, yet "deserves a chance".

Nonsense! If it was really about the young man, Miami would mandate a red-shirt season to give this habitual criminal the chance to prove himself OFF the field before ever allowing him ON it, but that won't happen. U-M knows "Freed Willie" is far more likely to get arrested in the next year than he is to maintain a clean record, so they'll want to get playing time out of him from day one. And make no mistake about it; the kid is an unreal talent.

Still, U-M is in for one serious lawsuit when (not if) "Freed Willie" strikes again.

Gotta run, am at Birmingham for SEC media days…. Thoughts on the league, the All-Conference teams and more on Friday.

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