VETTEL: Time to Liven Up Spring Football

Let my apologize in advance to those of you who watched the Orange and Blue telecast. We hoped to give you a preview of the 2006 Gators, but that's hard to do without Brandon Siler, Earl Everett, Marcus Thomas, Jarvis Moss, Reggie Nelson…. Need I go on? OK, without Ray McDonald, Stephen Harris, Avery Atkins and Johnny Demps. Not enough yet? Well than the telecast will also be without Jemalle Cornelius, Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker and Kestahn Moore.

That's a baker's dozen (13) potential (if not probable) starters who did not take place in The Swamp. It wasn't our fault, but it does point out the need to consider one of three significant changes to spring football, particularly the Orange and Blue game that draws tens of thousands of Gator partisans back to campus.

Move the Game up a Week

It's a shame most Gator fans didn't get to see the scrimmage the previous Saturday. That was as complete and physical a day's work as I've seen in a long time. It was extremely competitive, fast-paced and feisty. It was the kind of scrimmage that gets coaches heading back to their offices thinking they have a pretty darn good football team.

So why not make the spring game the second major scrimmage of spring practice. That way the fans get to see the veterans at their best and the youngsters facing the greater challenge. And the coaching staff also benefits by having the final week of the spring to turn their focus to the youngest members of the squad and you could still have some sort of "rookie" scrimmage to wrap up the spring.

Make it Offense versus Defense

One reason the spring game is not played at a particularly high level is breaking up the units the way they do. Be trying to split the squad 50/50 you end up with offensive lines and defensive backfields that have not been practicing together. That leads to confusion, busted plays and coverages and general sloppiness.

Instead let the Orange be the defense and the blue the offense. Let fans choose which side of the ball they want to root for. You could even come up with a prize promotion for the winners. Offensive scoring is clear, but let the defense get two points for a three-and-out and let's say four points for a turnover.

If you don't like that, then keep units together by letting one squad be the first team offense and second team defense and let the other have the opposite. At least then the level of competitiveness would increase.

How About Some Outside Competition

What would the crime be in letting NCAA schools have a competitive spring game with another school? I wouldn't advocate having another game against a major rival. In fact I think that would be a disaster. Better that UF play South Florida or FAMU or Florida Atlantic. It would make it more of an event. You reach a gentleman's agreement to pull starters after the first half.

If you want to upgrade the event, you could reach a two-year agreement to home and home a quality team for spring ball. Someone like Georgia Tech or Clemson might make sense. You would need to make a big deal about a rookie scrimmage if you played your spring game on the road, but that's not the end of the world now, is it?

I fully recognize that the purpose of spring football is not to create an extra football game. But the fact of the matter is that is precisely what spring ball hath wrought. So you might as well do it right. Fans deserve a spring game with the best, or at least most of the best players taking part. Any of these three adjustments would better ensure a better game of the masses.

And a much better telecast, too!

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