Ack's Insights - 12/9/02

The Gator football team has been back at work getting ready for their Bowl Game vs. Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Inside, we look at their game week preparations and take a sneak peek at the offensive game plan. Other football notes include a look at some possible position changes, a tidbit on Reggie Vickers, and a look ahead to next year. There are a couple basketball notes and the Rex-O-Meter (where he stands on going pro). Plus much more!

Running off at the keypad... Florida accepted the bid to the Outback Bowl and has begun preparations. One positive is the fact that the extra work will allow UF to open it's offense back up, plus give the coaches a long extra look at what will be there in the spring. One problem, they must also get ready for a tough Michigan team whose three losses were to 10 win or more teams-Notre Dame, Iowa and Ohio St. We will preview Michigan as we go this month but they are real excited to be playing the program of Florida. In looking back at Florida's last game it was not the best performance for Ratliff. Expect to see his role at receiver increase versus Michigan and possibly experiment in the spring at receiver full time.

I don't believe Reggie Vickers will be with the team next season. Academics could be a cause for concern so that will open up a spot. I do think some of the receivers could be candidates for position changes, as the young guys become a factor. Matt Jackson to defensive back makes sense and maybe Antoine Sharp could also be a candidate for the secondary. OJ Small who has really come on this fall could beef up and get into the tight end rotation with Ben Troupe and Kenner, the JUCO transfer.

If wondering who is going to be in the secondary with Guss Scott, the McCollum twins who were not highly recruited had a good fall and Daryl Dixon was red shirted. Florida is recruiting a pair of JUCO defensive lineman and hopes to roll them into the rotation in place of Lafavor, Oquendo Johnson and Rolle.

The offensive side of the football will also be affected greatly by what Grossman decides but certainly the line of scrimmage must improve. Run blocking must get better and the influx of a couple of JUCO prospects may do that. Mo Mitchell who has been widely criticized (rightfully so) for his immature actions in the Florida State game, yet he has been UF's best offensive lineman down the stretch. Randy Hand has gotten so much better that Colon may once again be a candidate for a position change.

For the Bowl game I expect the offense to have a game plan very similar to one we saw against Kentucky when UF would no huddle and try to tire out a big Michigan defense.

One final thought on special teams as well. Matt Leach finished strong and really seems to have solidified his position as the kicker. Remember Brian Stone who was the holder left in the preseason and that certainly contributed to early season struggles. Leach who is somewhat "aloof personality" grew up as the season went on and has the strongest leg on the team. The punting situation could fall into the hands of signee Eric Wilbur next year. He has attended Florida's camp and Zook has seen him in person. For the bowl game Morton or Hunter could get another chance in front of Ingle Martin. Kick returns were much better statistically as the season went on with penalties and dropped returns hurting the average. More depth in personnel will help all the special teams with names like Taurean Charles, Steven Harris, Channing Crowder and Jemalle Cornelius all added to the mix next season.

Florida will prepare for the game to win and will not spend the time in Tampa languishing in the fun of Florida. Expect a focused and more poised team in its preparations.

Snippets and Tidbits... This is the 30th bowl appearance for Florida and it's first ever meeting with Michigan. The Gators are attempting to win 9 games in a season for the 13th straight year and have the longest active streak in the nation. With statistics in the Bowl games counting this year, Earnest Graham needs 35 yards to become the eighth back in school history to go over the 1,000-yard mark in a season. UF is 4-1 versus the Big Ten in Bowl games with the loss to Michigan State in the Citrus Bowl. Zook was 2-3 in Bowl games as an assistant at Florida, his last game as a coach was the debacle against Nebraska in Tempe. Florida's regular season schedule ranked 7th toughest in the country. Florida's 6-2 conference record was tied with Alabama for the second best overall record in the league. Florida will have three seniors graduating in December-David Jorgensen, Lester Norwood and Chris Reynolds, this will allow for some scholarships to open up for JUCO Spring Transfers. Field position will be a key in the bowl game and as it was all season long. The Gators ran more plays than 10 of it's 12 opponents and had the most first downs in the conference. Problem, they had the worst starting field position in the SEC. Michigan has a 1,000 yard back in Chris Perry while Quarterback John Navarre has 20 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions, 4 of which came versus Iowa. Both teams won 1 overtime game this season UF vs. Auburn and Michigan vs. Penn St. Those two teams could be playing in the Capital One bowl.

Hoops update... Florida is completely out of sync on offense right now as they try to fit everyone into the system. The win over FSU was critical for the team's pre conference psyche and give credit to Matt Bonner who has taken over down the stretch for the Gators.

Finally... Rex-O-Meter is holding strong at a 3.

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