Ack's Insights: July 31, 2004

In this week's column, I discuss the good and the bad of Ron Zook's first two season's as Head Coach of the Gators. Also, check out news and notes about many of the players as they prepare for fall camp.

This past week was the SEC media days and we hope you have enjoyed our coverage. From Phil Fulmer not electing to come, to Georgia dodging Florida questions it was once again a media circus. The Gators quietly came and went and look to be a team that inside the locker room believes it can have a special season. Once Ron Zook can get through answering questions about off the field issues and his own job security he can focus on preparing his team for the season.

The next two weeks will be critical for the preparation of fall camp. Players must finish summer workouts strong and begin to pay very close attention to what they are doing socially because there is a big spotlight in Gainesville on them. Zook and his staff will finalize their practice schedules and on August 9th practice will begin.

The Zook has done some good things.....

Here is one man's view of Ron Zook's resume in his first two season:

  • He is 12-4 in the SEC and tied for the eastern division title in year two.
  • In 2003 he beat both teams that played for the league Championship and did that away from the Swamp.
  • He is the third coach in SEC history to take a team to consecutive January Bowls in his first two seasons.
  • He has five ranked wins in two years -- more than anyone in the country.
  • Florida is 9-1 vs SEC East Rivals and 2-0 vs legendary rival Georgia.
  • Ron Zook has put together two straight Top 8 recruiting classes.

These are some of the positive things Ron has done in the first two years but the bottom line is wins and losses:

  • He has five losses at home in two years and Gator fans cannot stand it and are not used to that.
  • He must reclaim the Swamp and win all his home games.
  • He has lost two in a row to FSU, the top rival on UF 's schedule.
  • He has had two bowl losses -- one was ugly and the other ended ugly.
  • The final thing that may ultimately stick with fans the most is two straight losses to Ole Miss after Florida had a double digit lead. The Gator Nation is difficult but this is the one thing I agree with and that is Florida should beat the Ole Miss's of the world more times than not. Ron must win the games he is supposed to and if he does then UF can get to nine wins or maybe more.

Again this is one person's view and with practice getting ready to start, I will turn my focus to  he daily and weekly preparation of Gator football. I have been around Ron the last two weeks at media gatherings and so forth and feel he has handled it very well. Once the season gets started, I believe he will put the Gators back in elite company.

Snippets and Tidbits...
No word on whether Earl Everett is going to have any disciplinary action or anything that would keep him out of the opener. If he can play look for UF to use him some inside at Channing Crowder's spot. The key to that position for UF is to be able to go sideline to sideline. Everett has great range and is as fast as Channing Crowder.

Estopinan and Siler are obviously going to have to play in game one. Siler could see a lot of action at the outside linebacker spot.

I think there will be heated competitions for the kickoff job and the kickoff return job. Zook wants more production both ways in regards to returns and touchbacks.

Not sure how many Gators will be suspended in game one but I doubt it will be as many as 1995. Twelve scholarship players were left out of the opener and the Gators not only won the game but went 12-0 and played for the National Championship.

Skyler Thornton is a key player for UF as well. He is an outstanding special teams player and was UF's best short yardage and redzone back in spring practice.

Speaking of backs, DeShawn Wynn has had a terrific summer in the weight room. Wynn has dropped almost 20lbs and could report in the mid 220's. Gator fans hope to see the same guy who ran away from first round pick Sean Taylor in Miami for a touchdown.

Right now I think Tony Joiner may be the most ready to play in the secondary, but there is a chance all three guys could play. Any sort of injury or minor bump and bruise for the back seven of linebackers and defensive backs and we could see a whole lot of true freshman.

Finally, Marcus Manson may be the best athlete at Florida. I did not say best freshman, I mean the best athlete on the entire team. Joe Wickline thinks he may be one of the best athletes he has ever signed in the recruiting process.

Stat of the Week: 4. Four times in the last five years Florida has finished outside the final top ten football rankings. A nine win season in the SEC will get the Gators back to there rightful place among the nation's elite.

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