Vettel: Questions Remain After Scrimmage

The Gators really got after it Saturday in front of a large crowd in The Swamp. It was a solid, physical scrimmage but didn't do a lot to answer some of the questions about this team.

Chris Leak led the offense effectively and is beginning to show signs of establishing a special connection with Chad Jackson who may well be the Gators' best player. Andre "Bubba" Caldwell probably had his best day of the spring, which is a very good sign, while Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius were solid. Florida's top four receivers are going to be just fine. I thought the running game was good and DeShawn Wynn continues to produce.

Offensive line depth remains a major concern as the Gator backup quarterbacks were running for their lives most of the day. They didn't have a chance to show much in the pocket because they were rarely able to stay there for more than a couple of seconds. While the young signal callers showed their athleticism, nobody could put that in perspective better than Head Coach Urban Meyer, " someone made the comment, boy your quarterbacks run well. A lot of that is because they are behind a very poor second-team offensive line. Some of them were designed runs, but a lot of them were just awful plays that the quarterback is scrambling for his life. I made the comment to them all the time that I wouldn't play quarterback behind that line. I'd ask the coach, why don't you like me? What are you doing to me to make me stand back there?"

Defensively I have to say Brian Cum is a very pleasant surprise… at least to me. The junior linebacker turned tight end turned linebacker has always looked the part, but now he's playing the role. At 6-3, 232, Crum has matured physically, but now he seems to be able to avoid the pile and stay in space so he can run to the ball. Crum got a lot of extra playing time with Earl Everett missing due to a funeral and appeared to make the most of it. A strong final week of practice should establish Crum as the number four guy in the Gators linebacker picture. That's an important step for Crum since he'll be busy fighting off some impressive rookies in the fall.

NCAA Semi-Final a DUD

After four exhilarating games in the Regional Finals it was unrealistic to think Saturday's NCAA semi-finals would generate anything close to that drama… but the two one-sided games were still quite disappointing. Louisville played scared, especially hot shot guard Francisco Garcia, in their loss to Illinois. A mediocre game became kind of a laugher as the Illini pulled away in the final eight minutes.

North Carolina/Michigan State was more interesting at least. The Spartans led by five at the half but were playing Carolina's pace and couldn't sustain it. A Carolina run midway through the second half put the Tar Heels up 65-49 and it was never in doubt after that. As I indicated in this space two days ago, the key was Raymond Felton versus Drew Neitzel. Felton outscored the Spartans rookie point guard 16-2… representing almost the entire 16-point margin between the teams.

So we get what most feel are the two best teams in college basketball playing Monday night for the National Championship. A 65-team field whittled down to two. Shoot, if there was a BCS for basketball this is likely the game we would have gotten. Unlike the BCS, however, the NCAA Basketball Tournament does not ignore three unbeaten teams. It gives everyone a chance to win it on the floor.

What a concept!

For what it's worth, I like Carolina 80-77.

SEC Finishes Tournament in the Middle

The Southeastern Conference's 5-5 record in this year's NCAA tournament won't do much to help the league's reputation in regards to other conferences. As usual Kentucky had to carry the league's banner posting three of the five wins the SEC picked up. First round losers LSU and Alabama did the most damage, falling to an eleven seed and a twelve seed respectively.

It continues a pattern of mediocre NCAA results for the league. Since the 2000 tournament in which the SEC went 11-6, the conference has a cumulative record of 27-29 in "The Big Dance." The SEC has not had a Final Four team since the Gators' run in 2000, and only three times has the SEC sent a team to the elite eight (Kentucky in 2003 and 2005 Alabama, 2004). If the SEC wants national respect and higher rankings and seedings, tournament performances must improve.

Monday's title game will decide which conference gets bragging rights for 2005. The Big-Ten (11-3) has a slight lead on the ACC (10-4). Conference USA is next at 6-3 and every other conference but one is within a game of the .500 mark. That one is the Missouri Valley Conference, which continues to get respect from the selection committee far in excess of its accomplishments in the tournament.

From the E-Mail Bag

I have done a lousy good job of posting some of the better emails and my responses, but those who have written at least have gotten personal responses. Now lets get a good one in here.

John writes, "Why have we not heard more pessimism regarding the offense and our potential for the 2005 season? Throughout Zook's tenure we repeatedly heard from either the staff, the journalists or pundits that it takes time to install a new offense for it to work."

First of all, I think there was a ton of optimism about the Gator offense entering 2002. Florida returned eleven guys who had started at least one game in Steve Spurrier's final season, and that '01 squad averaged 43.8 points and 405.2 yards per game. Heading the list were quarterback Rex Grossman, tailback Earnest Graham and receiver Taylor Jacobs. New Offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher had high-scoring offenses at Marshall where he had tutored Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich. It wasn't until meltdowns against Ole Miss and LSU that pessimism started to take hold.

There is some skepticism but little pessimism about this offense because of the combination of talent on hand and the track record of this scheme. Sure, it takes time for things to click and the 2006 offense should be better than 2005. Still there's every reason to expect this year's attack to be productive.

Keep those emails coming!

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: vettel@gatorcountry.com .

I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)

Have a great week.


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