The Gator baseball opened it's season with convincing wins over Mercer this past weekend. The Gators improved to 34-9 at home under McMahon and delivered him his 400th and 401st victories. The Florida team showed surprisingly good power and got solid starting pitching.
Justin Hoyman who pitched Saturday may end up being the ace of Florida's staff. Stephen Barton got the nod as the designated hitter and delivered 6 hits and a home run. UF had 12 extra base hits in two games and 10 different players made their debut for the Gators. Between Falkenbach and Hoyman the Gators only surrendered 1 walk from their starters.
This is vintage McMahon baseball as he implores his pitchers
to throw strikes and be in the zone. Miami comes in this weekend and is off to a
3-1 start taking 2 of 3 from Campbell this weekend.
Florida used "early involvement" by various players scoring early as they defeated Alabama handily. The Gators have been very good following a loss in the Billy Donovan era going 43-21. Three point shooting is the key Florida made 9 on Saturday compared to only 5 against Kentucky. The Gators had19 assists and only 8 turnovers versus the tide. Bonner and Hamilton returned to their old form giving the Gators hope that they can still catch and pass Kentucky in the SEC East.
Florida still has road games with Georgia, Vandy, Tennessee
and Auburn. Billy would take 3-1 in that stretch right now. It is apparent
Christian Drejer is not going to be a major factor on this year's team. Unless
foul trouble or injuries surface the one time projected starter will be a spot
player at best. He has done a nice job of trying to fit in, but I think he needs
to be more offensive and try to get his shot in his limited minutes on the court.
Still Donovan has to like the fact that a player of his caliber is on the bench
as they go down the stretch. UF has won twelve straight games at home against
West opponents. Ole Miss comes to town on Wednesday night.
The main talk since signing day has been "negative recruiting" and most of the words have come out of Tallahassee. I find this quite amusing considering the rate at which the Seminoles have dominated recruiting the last decade. Ron Zook did defend his staff by re-enforcing the positive attributes of the University of Florida.
The funny thing is that it is possible someone else sent press clippings to some of the potential recruits for the Seminoles. As for comments made by some of the nole coaches during the Ivan Maisel article on ESPN.com, those FSU assistants have since denied making those statements.
The bottom line is Ron Zook went after guys and went head to head with Miami and FSU. He won a lot of battles, despite the fact those teams beat Florida on the field. UF did not back down and even though they lost out on three panhandle recruits (Sims, Norris, Cromartie) they were in the mix up until signing day.
UF did finish with 10 players in the top 100 on TheInsiders.com and many will have the opportunity to play right away. LSU had 8 and Georgia 4.
The Gators are still looking to fill the position vacated by Tyke Tolbert who left for the NFL. I mentioned last week one name to consider is Bill Schmidtz the former head coach at 1-AA Austin Peay. I do think UF will juggle some staff responsibilities for spring practice once the staff is in place.
The secondary will take on an interesting look in the spring with Guss Scott and Kewain Ratliff returning. I believe Reynaldo Hill will start so that means both the McCollum twins and Nick Brooks will have the spring to prove the can get into the rotation. This is also the final time for Tre Orr and Deshaun Carter to emerge as contributors.
The Spring will also be the welcoming back of Daryl Dixon at
Free Safety, Daryl redshirted last year and did travel with the team and
absorbed the defensive calls and coverages.
Snippets and Tidbits…Florida signed 16 kids from the state, in comparison Georgia signed 21 from Georgia, LSU 15 from Louisiana, Mississippi St. got 15 from Mississippi and Alabama 13 from their home turf. These numbers are pretty good in comparison to others in the SEC, considering UF has to recruit not only against the conference schools, but also the likes of Miami and FSU.
Florida will spend the next month getting ready for spring practice by going through conditioning and weight drills with strength coach Rob Glass. The freshman/Redshirts will be on the spot. The most significant goal is to gain increase in size and strength. Several of the veterans have some work to do. The junior college lineman must get into better aerobic shape as they prepare for Zaunbreaker's offense. This was a weak point last spring because the returners were not use to running and pulling as much. Griffin, Washington and Guerrero must maximize their conditioning the next month to get peak results in the spring. To that end, Max Starks and Mo Mitchell could lean up as well in the next month.
Speaking of offense Ron Zook said at his signing day press conference the UF set school records for attempts and completions in the passing game. Hmm. . . this must mean that players must take the plays and turn them into bigger plays and scoring plays. Quarterbacks and Receivers are throwing on their own, and Ingle Martin obviously has the best grasp of the offense to help develop the young receivers. Dallas Baker has formed a nice relationship with Quarterback Gavin Dickey. This is carrying over from last season on the scout team. One source told me last year's secondary which finished 5th in the country in pass defense struggled often against Baker and the some of the other young wideouts.
Finally on paper the Ron Zook Era began last season against UAB and his coaching record will include the 8-5 season. In my mind the true "Ron Zook Era" begins this year with San Jose St. He will have young coachable athletes that take on his personality. They will be a faster team with more "big -play" capability. It will definitely be fun brand of football to watch. Recruiting is done and now it is time to work towards spring ball and begin the initial depth chart. There's no question some names will be in pencil awaiting the challenge of the '03 class in August.