Well gang, another college football season kicks off Saturday with one of the nation's top teams on display. Southern Cal will take on Virginia Tech. The Trojans will be without Mike Williams, but still have more than enough talent to have a great team. They do have to re-build their offensive line, but when you have a quarterback like Matt Leinart and a great stable of running backs, that job becomes a whole lot easier. The defense is loaded.
I rarely wonder about early-season betting lines, but 18 ½ points seems like a lot to give a Frank Beamer coached team. The Hokies normally run the ball well and have exceptional special teams. Add in quarterback Marcus Randall and you have a team that should be tough to blow out. I guess the odds makers are looking at that Virginia tech defense which gave up an average of 35 points a game over the last 5 contests last season.
A final word on the Mike Williams saga. The NCAA is taking a public flogging in the national media, but most of us who cover COLLEGE sports on a local basis agree with the decision. Mike Williams violated virtually every student-athlete guideline after he decided to turn pro. Pandora's box would have been opened and it would have been free season for agents if the NCAA turned away from its rules and reinstated the Tampa native.
BUT BASEBALL AGENTS ARE WELCOME
Where the NCAA bothers me most is its hypocrisy. You can be a pro in one sport and "amateur" in another, as long as you are paid a salary rather than having sponsors compensate you. You miss games and can lose eligibility if you have an agent, unless you are a top baseball prospect.
This issue comes up once again as Florida State baseball stud Stephen Drew prepares to re-enroll at FSU. Drew, like his brother J.D. is not happy with the money he's being offered, and is threatening to reject the pros and play his final year in Tallahassee. In the middle of it all is baseball super-agent Scott Boras. However, Boras is called Drew's "legal advisor" rather than his agent. He was also J.D. Drew's legal advisor before becoming his agent.
What a crock! Yet the NCAA continues to look the other way at this blatant violation of the rules. And don't get the idea this is an FSU complaint. Florida had similar situations during the baseball careers of Brad Wilkerson, Matt McClendon and others.
DEAR ABBY IS THE GOLDEN GIRL
More Gator excellence in the Olympics came when Florida soccer star Abby Wambach headed in the game-winner in the Gold Medal game against Brazil. Wambach was sensational in Orange and Blue, scoring a school record 96 goals with 50 assists. It was also great to see Heather Mitts (well, yeah it's always great to see Heather) get a gold as part of the US team.
Another ex-Gator Bernard Williams picks up silver in the 200-meters and showed a lot of humility and class in the aftermath of the race. It was a far cry from the tacky self-aggrandizing show he put on after winning gold in 2000 as part of a US relay.
Will someone please stick a cork in the brainless chowder heads that are calling for Paul Hamm to return his gold medal? Start values are just that in gymnastics judging and the score is the score factoring all elements together. There was no fraud; there was no misbehavior. Hamm has his gold and that should be that. He should simply go out to dinner and celebrate. I wonder if there's a good Korean restaurant in Athens?
ANOTHER EUROPEAN SNEAKS OUT FOR CASH
Christian Drejer may have established a new trend in college athletics. Another basketball player has walked out on his college team to play professionally in Spain this year. The Florida Times-Union reports that Jure Lozancic, a 7-footer from Croatia did not return to Jacksonville University, and like Drejer has signed on to play pro ball. Lozancic averaged 9.3 points and 5 rebounds for J-U last season. Not great numbers, but something for a team which doesn't have very much. Just one less thing for the Gators to be concerned about in their season opener November 19th.
Memo to college basketball coaches….. stay away from Europeans!
FROM THE E-MAIL BAG
ForrestGator writes in part: "A lot of people are questioning Zook's ethics in redshirting. I've heard people say Zook is doing these kids wrong by burning a year of their eligibility by throwing them on special teams."
Ethics is certainly not the issue, and I don't think you can do a kid wrong unless you play him/her when he/she is not healthy. However, the wisdom of playing some guys can be argued. My rule of thumb is, don't play freshmen unless they are likely to get 100 snaps on offense or defense, OR they will significantly improve your special teams. Dee Webb got 196 plays, but only 68 on defense, but I think playing him made sense. Skyler Thornton was in on just. 122 plays, only13 on offense, but he, too helped special teams.
Last year's biggest "mistake" was playing Steve Rissler. The talented lineman got just 70 snaps all season, and 66 of them were against San Jose State and FAMU. We won't know for three years if that decision comes back to haunt UF. David Kenner saw just 22 plays. If he emerges as a quality tight end, those snaps could prove costly, too.
I remember Charley Pell telling me in the early eighties that the best teams in college football were always loaded with fifth-year seniors. And it was absolutely true. But that changed when the NFL began taking players that still had eligibility remaining. Since then, redshirting has become much less important. I argued with everyone in sight including UF coaches that it was NOT a mistake to play Brock Berlin… but I was right, it didn't hurt UF at all. I thought they wasted a year for Ben Troupe, but do you honestly think he might have come back this year as a fifth-year senior? Fuggettaboutit! So "saving" that year would have accomplished nothing.
The era of the standout fifth-year senior is over. While some guys will help you in their fifth-year (OJ Small, Kenny Parker comes to mind), your better players won't stay in college that long.