Thanx, Ray (Nashville, TN)
First of all, I think you will be impressed with the "look" of the new defensive front. Steven Harris at the nose is looking as big as John Henderson did at UT. He is a bit lighter but standing at a solid 6-4 he could emerge as a terrific inside threat for UF. Florida's overall size on the front is much better than the last five years. First of all, they really hit it hard in the weight room and secondly, the stars of the front are in their third season of college football. Tennessee's offensive line is going to be good this year and that matchup will probably decide the game on Sept 17th. As for the quarterback, Leak is plenty big enough to play football and you can already see in recruiting that Meyer is looking at 6-2 or taller, athletic guys.
Brady: I heard that the Gators are having new uniforms this year. Do you have any idea what they will look like? And how many games do you see the Gators winning this year?
That is the million dollar question and to this point I can't see new uniforms. At media day they wore the same style uniform that they have in the past. A player was quoted with a media member that he had seen the new design which has set off this discussion. I would not be surprised if the Gators wore a "special" uniform for one game this season. Schools are always looking a marketing and sales of merchandise to shore up the budget and maybe a new look jersey would become a hot seller for the excited Gator fans. The SEC is going to have a throwback game for hoops teams that will be wearing older style uniforms at least once during the regular season and possibly once during the SEC Tournament. Next year will be the celebration of 100 years of Gator football so expect something special for that as well. Including the bowl game, I see the Gators with 10 wins this season.
Brady: What will be the difference between this year's defense and last year? Last year it seemed like they couldn't stop anybody when they really needed to. Was that due to Zook meddling in the calls or players just out of position or tired?
The first difference is the scheme. This year UF will pressure more and play more man coverage. Pressure does not always mean blitz and blitz does not always mean man-to-man. Look for UF's defense to attack with five and six players on most downs. I think the rotation of players and the lack of trust in some backup players led to fatigue for the defensive line. Last year the coaches did not trust the backups enough to play meaningful snaps and that wore out the starters. Ray McDonald and Marcus Thomas played too many snaps and also played hurt last season. A tired team is an "out of position" team as you mentioned. One other thing to mention, this year's offense will help the defense more because of the running game. Fason was special, but Meyer's running scheme can shorten the game for a defense.
Ack: After reviewing the opponents of the top 15 teams in this years pre-season coaches poll, I would like to know how teams such as USC (Trojans) can be ranked #1 when they only play two top 25 teams; whereas teams like LSU and UF have to play five each (assuming they stay ranked). I understand that the coaches are looking at their talent levels but I just don't understand how they put them at #1 without the team being testing against top 25 opponents. Could you explain your theory on how the coaches come to this conclusion?
Thanks Gator Country, tschmitt
In college football, schedule makes up a big part of the championship decisions. Remember the 90's when Miami and FSU were in there own conferences? They always finished in the top five unless they were on probation. UF was always in the top five because the SEC while the toughest conference had two "elite" teams. The SEC is tougher than ever and the Pac-10 is much like the ACC of the 90's. USC has the best chance to go undefeated so it makes sense to put them number one. They have also won 33 of 34 and return the Heisman Trophy winner. It is a no-brainer, but I would have like to have seen LSU (two years ago) and Auburn (last season) get a crack at the Trojans. I think UF has the making of a title schedule this year because Tennessee and FSU are at home, but at LSU and at Alabama will be two huge games. If we had a playoff system scheduling might not mean quite as much.
Hey Brady: Obviously not much activity yet to speak of, but from the few practices that have taken place so far how do you compare those under Meyer to those last fall? Compare and contrast I guess is the question here.
The only difference in the way practices are run is the fact that Meyer and his staff correct more mistakes on the field than Zook's staff. Zook was a big believer in practicing fast and teaching off tape. Meyer's unit will spend more time correcting on the field than in the classroom. Also the way Meyer begins practice reminds me of my days as a player and the way things used to be in the 70's and 80's. He get right to the contact with his bull in the ring and sets the tempo for a physical practice. Meyer also treats some special teams as live during practice on which we saw Gavin Dickey provide the hit of the week on kick return.
Brady: With our cornerbacks now playing a tight man-to-man coverage, how confident do you feel in our defensive ends getting enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks?
They better be able to get to the quarterback or the other team's band will be playing alot against the Gators. I like the move with Ray McDonald to end and I like the scheme with regards to where and how the defensive line attacks. For me to feel confident that would be a stretch at this point and time. I do however think the scheme should provide and exciting style of defense that kids want to play in. The ends are the biggest question in my opinion on defense.
Brady: How do you think Ron Zook will do at Illinois and do you think he has taken shots at UF fans?
Ron Zook's team does not return a bunch of talent so they will have to coach their butts off to generate some wins. I think Mike Locksley will emerge as very good offensive coordinator and that will keep them in a lot of games. They are also recruiting well so I can see a bowl game in their future. As for Zook taking shots at fans, I think that has been misinterpreted from some in the media. He is trying to build up his fan base and by comparing the support it gets his supporters excited. He took plenty of shots from fans and media members during his three years to last any coach a lifetime. I think Zook still appreciates fans and knows that Meyer will do a great job and it is all water under the bridge now.
Ack: Are you seeing any depth created on the offensive line this first week? Jim
I think there is some depth developing. Drew Miller has had a nice week and Carlton Medder and Phil Trautwein have gotten some quality work in with the offensive line. Steve Rissler can play two spots if you need him so I think the Gators have eight they can go play with today if they need them. The next two weeks and scrimmages could help define the depth but I think the first week was real positive.
Brady: The last couple of seasons we have seen some interesting two-point conversion attempts. It was always said there is a "card" that coaches go by when deciding. Does Meyer have this card? Hopefully he won't follow it like Zook did against Miami and other games.
There is a card that was designed in the early 70's by Tommy Prothro at UCLA. His offensive coordinator was Dick Vermeil (now with the Chiefs) and it was used to make quick decisions easier. To me you have to take in variables, such as the time of the game and the flow of the game. Some coaches stick directly to the card, while others feel there way through a football game. I am not sure if Meyer has this card, but I am sure he has a plan for when to go for two and when not to. Here is some data from the card that UF had the last three years. When behind by 2, 5, 9, 12 and 16 points go for two. When ahead by 1, 4, 5, 12, 15 and 19 points go for two. I am not sure I agree with 15 and 19 because if it is late it is tough to get two (two point) conversions after a TD to tie so I may go up 16. The toughest calls appear to be when trailing by 1, 4 and 11. Early in a game you should kick in all these situations especially in the first half.
Brady Ackerman Espn Radio Gainesville-Ocala http://www.bradyackerman.com 352-318-3444