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"Imagine a 650-pound Siberian tiger and he doesn't even have to be poised and ready to go," said McMillan, father of Gator sophomore defensive tackle Clint and one of the world's best known wild animal trainers. "From a sitting position that tiger can spring forward and do the 40 in 2.6 seconds --- seriously! And then he can stop on a dime and go straight up in the air 15 feet."
And that's on irregular terrain. It doesn't even have to be a fast track and of course, the tiger doesn't wear track shoes.
"I'm amazed at how fast some football players can run," said McMillan, "but if you really want to see speed, you've got to see a tiger going full bore. Now that's fast!"
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With Corey Hobbs of Oviedo making his commitment to the University of Florida public, the Gators now have five players who have announced their intention to play for Coach Urban Meyer in 2006. There are rumors swirling around that there are several more who have told the new coach that they will be Gators. Although it's just speculation at this point, all signs point to five to seven more high school studs announcing their commitment over the next few weeks.
Don't be surprised if the Gators have 60 percent or more of their recruiting class committed by the first game against Wyoming on September 3. Hollywood Bob Redman is sticking by his prediction that the Gators will sign a full class of 25 players, a class that will include a minimum of five offensive linemen, five defensive linemen and perhaps four defensive backs. He's also convinced that UF will have 15 commits by the first game.
The player to watch over the next few weeks is Myron Rolle of The Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey. Depending on which recruiting guru you talk to, Rolle is either the nation's top recruit or no worse than number seven or eight. He's 6-2, 216 and not only is he the best running back in the state of New Jersey, he's the best defensive back in the nation.
How good is Rolle? When he was a sophomore he attended the Oklahoma camp and Coach Bobby Stoops offered him on the spot.
Florida is definitely in the hunt for Rolle and a lot of experts think it will come down to Florida, Michigan or Miami. Rolle wants to do early admission and graduate three years so he can jump start medical school. Florida, Michigan and Miami all have top rated football programs and outstanding medical schools so it only figures that they will have a real shot at landing this superstar.
While Oklahoma's medical school can't compare with those at Florida, Michigan or Miami, don't count the Sooners out. Stoops can be very persuasive and as long as he's the head coach of the Sooners, they will be in the hunt every year for the national title. Rolle wants to play in the NFL too, and other than Miami, no one sends more defensive backs to the NFL than Oklahoma.
Florida's advantage is the combination of weather, academics and football. Rolle says that Florida's academic support programs are the best he's seen and that could be the deciding factor.
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Look for Florida to name a new softball coach before Friday. The name that keeps popping up is Tim Walton, who's turned Wichita State into a powerhouse in just three years. Walton is 123-54 since he arrived at Wichita State from Oklahoma, where he was the hitting coach for the powerful Sooners for four years.
In 2005, Walton's Shockers went 46-18, capturing the Missouri Valley Conference championship before losing in the Oklahoma Regional. The Shockers set numerous conference and school records in each year that Walton has been at the helm. This year's team hit 52 home runs in 54 games, a very impressive number in a game where pitching is dominant. The Shockers set a Missouri Valley Conference recrod for home runs in 2003, Walton's first season, and they broke it last year, then broke it again this year.
Walton may be best remembered in the Midwest for pitching the NCAA championship game in 1994 when he beat Georgia Tech to lead Oklahoma to the national title.
The other two names that we keep hearing to replace Karen Johns are Ken Erickson (South Florida) and Laura Watten (Bethune-Cookman). South Florida and Bethune-Cookman squared off for the regional championship in Gainesville back in May with Bethune-Cookman winning to advance to the Austin Super Regional. Watten and Johns are considered the finalists for the vacant head coaching job at the University of Virginia, also.
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The great run that the Florida baseball team has turned in has allowed the entire nation to discover Pat McMahon. Florida's baseball coach is the nicest and most decent human being on the planet. In my 38 years as a sports writer, he is the single most polite and caring coach I've ever encountered in any sport. If there is anyone deserving of the accolades and great publicity, it is Pat McMahon
If you are looking for a reason why the Gators have rallied from the brink of a so-so season to being on the verge of competing for the NCAA championship at the College World Series in Omaha, all you have to do is consider how the team is such a reflection of the coach.
This Gator team never gets too high after a win, and they never get too low after a loss. As a group, they are approachable and polite and they don't make excuses when something goes wrong. They make themselves accountable to both their teammates and to the press which is quite refreshing. You won't hear them blaming anyone but themselves when things go bad and you won't hear them bad mouthing an opponent.
The perfect chance to fire out a few zingers for the Gators was in Florida's opener in the College World Series against Tennessee. When UT Coach Rod Delmonico pulled a last second pitching switch to bring in his ace, Luke Hochevar, no one was buying Delmonico's rambling discourse on how he'd tossed and turned all night long before deciding at the last second to replace James Adkins with Hochevar. Delmonico was selling for all he was worth and maybe some folks back in Dollywood were buying, but certainly not the Florida Gators. Florida jumped on Hochevar, scoring the most runs the number one draft pick gave up all year.
After the game, when Florida had won and no one would have blamed the Gators for sticking the needle in Delmonico, the Gators just shrugged it off and moved on to another subject.
They get that kind of composure from Pat McMahon. Watch him when he goes to the mound to change pitchers if you want to see how he commands the respect of the team. He asks the pitcher for an honest answer and if the pitcher says he can go another batter, McMahon will trust him. I don't recall more than one or two situations when McMahon's trust in his pitcher didn't pay off this past season. That's a prime example of trust and respect for players and the coach.
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The Wyatt Sexton situation in Tallahassee is one that deserves prayers and concern. From every account, Sexton is polite, thoughtful and not the kind of kid to end up nearly naked in the middle of a Tallahassee street proclaiming that he is God. His dad, Florida State running backs coach Billy Sexton, has said emphatically that there is no pattern of drug abuse here, and if that's the case, then we have to wonder if there is some sort of bipolar disorder.
Either way, whether it is drugs or something like a bipolar disorder which can cause normally sane people to do the most outrageous things, Sexton should be the object of our prayers and not our ridicule. He's 20 years old and has to think about the rest of his life. Let's hope that the doctors and his family make all the right choices. This isn't about playing football again. If he can, more power to him. It's about having the ability to get on with a normal life.
Here's hoping he makes it.
Sexton's problems on top of the arrest of star linebacker AJ Nicholson a week earlier complicate things at The School Out West. They've already lost a few of their top recruits to grade issues that won't allow them admission in the fall and they've lost their top defensive tackle, Clifton Dickson to grades as well. There is the possibility that there will be one or two more academic casualties among the incoming recruits and a possibility that at least one more defensive starter will not make up the necessary coursework in Summer A.
The School Out West has a lot of talent, perhaps even enough to make up for all these distractions. They also have enough distractions and problems that it's not impossible to see another three or four losses.
Should they lose three or four, how long will Bobby Bowden be able to defend his ongoing experiment with son Jeffy as the offensive coordinator? In the past four years with Jeffy at the helm, they've lost as many games as they did in the previous 15 years. For all these years since 1976, we Gators have thought of Fourth and Dumb as Doug Dickey's decision to go for a first down against Georgia inside the UF 30. Seems to me that we should retire that phrase at UF and send it over to the folks at the School Out West. Four years of Jeffy as the OC is indeed The Real Fourth and Dumb.