Thoughts of the day: April 12, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning.


How do we measure a successful spring practice for the Florida Gators? If we measure by the Orange and Blue Debut this afternoon (1:30 p.m.) then we can probably reach 100 different conclusions and a majority of them won’t be anything close to reality. We’ve gotten some glimpses of the team in the eight open practices that fans and reporters were allowed to attend, but the heavy lifting was done behind closed doors. The coaches know who has and who hasn’t improved so we probably aren’t going to be able to conclude too much from what constitutes a game at The Swamp.

Even though we shouldn’t expect Will Muschamp to fire all his guns in broad daylight for the whole world to see in The Swamp today, expect a concerted effort to make the game exciting to give fans something to hold onto in the dead period that is May through July. That means we’ll probably see more of the offense and a lot less of the defense. In the two previous springs in which Brent Pease was in charge, the offense we saw in April looked an awful lot like the offense we saw in the fall, which is to say short on excitement. With Pease, the feeling was always that the Gators lacked speed and playmakers at the skill positions. Kurt Roper has made it abundantly clear that he thinks the Gators have speed and playmakers. Florida certainly has more than he ever had at Duke and in his scheme, the ball will indeed get spread around so defenses won’t be able to focus on one guy.

Since there won’t be any blitzing and quarterbacks are wearing non-contact jerseys, you won’t be able to tell much about the line play in passing situations, but the running game is a different story and will be a fairly decent measure of how things have progressed under Mike Summers. First thing on the agenda will be clean shotgun snaps to Jeff Driskel and Will Grier. That’s been a problem all spring. Second, watch the interior of the offensive line since it’s all brand new with Max Garcia moving over from guard to center and two new guards. On the defensive side, it will be a chance to watch how the tackles handle their gap assignments. If they are consistently getting into the gaps and stuffing the run, then we’ll know there is a ton of work that has to be done between now and August 30.


Missouri coach Gary Pinkel sent a strong disciplinary message when he permanently dismissed stud receiver Dorial Green-Beckham after release of a police report that accused Green-Beckham of forcing his way into a female student’s apartment and pushing her down a stairwell. Green-Beckham caught 12 touchdown passes last year … Vanderbilt hopes its spring game Saturday will give either Patton Robinette or Johnny McCrary a leg up in the quarterback battle … Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee was arrested Thursday on a DUI charge … Texas A&M is expected to be better on defense after a year in which the Aggies finished 109 among Division I schools … South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson can make all the throws, but he hasn’t proven himself as a leader … Ole Miss is counting on a healthy Bo Wallace at quarterback. Wallace, who says he’s only played two games in his career when he’s fully healthy, says his shoulder is 100% for the first time in two years … Former Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons is transferring to Louisville … Georgia’s defense has been overhauled but the Bulldogs will show pure vanilla at their spring game today.


Former Gator Corey Brewer had a career night Friday in Minneapolis when he went off for 51 points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 112-110 win over the Houston Rockets. Brewer, whose previous career high was 30, got that many at the half, which ended on a Brewer bomb of a 3-pointer from beyond half court. Averaging 11.7 points per game coming into the contest, Brewer hit 19-30 from the field, 2-6 from the 3-point line, 11-15 from the foul line and chipped in with six steals, an assist and a blocked shot. Over on the other side, former Gator Chandler Parsons did his part to keep the Rockets in the game, scoring 27 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists.


Even before spring practice began at North Carolina State, former Gator Jacoby Brissett was named the starting quarterback. Since taking over the reins, Brissett has wowed Wolfpack coaches, teammates and fans alike with his take charge attitude and his ability to make plays down the field in the passing game. Up at Boston College, a healthy Tyler Murphy is running a spread offense similar to the one he was originally recruited to run at Florida back in 2010. Steve Addazio isn’t going to turn the Eagles into a chuck and duck offense, but he is planning to let Murphy run a lot of read option and throw on the move outside the pocket.


Former Texas A&M star and 2013 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel had the second highest score on the Wonderlich among draftable quarterbacks. Only Cornell’s Jeff Matthews (40) scored higher than the 32 Manziel turned in on a test in which scores above 30 are considered outstanding. Here’s where Manziel’s score rates among some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks: Eli Manning (39); Tony Romo (37); Andrew Luck (37); Aaron Rodgers (35); Tom Brady (33) and Peyton Manning (29).


One of the more remarkable streaks in University of Florida sports history stayed intact Friday when the #11 women’s tennis team blanked #5 Vanderbilt, 4-0, to extend home court winning streak to 130 wins. It was the 82nd straight home win against SEC teams and improved the Gators to 191-1 all-time at home against the SEC. The streak is the longest active home winning streak of any NCAA Division I women’s team and the second longest home winning streak of any NCAA Division I team – men or women – trailing only the Ohio State men’s tennis team.


South Carolina’s 4th-ranked Gamecocks (28-5, 8-5 SEC) knocked off #13 Florida (21-13, 7-6 SEC), 4-1, in the first game of the weekend series in Columbia. The Gators pushed across a first inning run on an RBI single by Taylor Gushue but were shut down the rest of the way by starter Jordan Montgomery and two relievers. Other than a difficult fifth inning when he gave up three runs, Florida’s Logan Shore turned in a strong pitching performance in absorbing the loss … Men’s tennis (12-8, 7-4) dropped a 4-3 decision to Vanderbilt (14-8, 5-6 SEC) in Nashville … Delanie Gourley (12-1) pitched a 1-hitter in a 9-0 run rule win in five innings over Florida A&M, a game that featured the third grand slam of the season by Taylore Fuller. It was the fifth straight win for Coach Tim Walton’s 6th-ranked softball team (36-8).


The story of the day was the middle hole of the Amen Corner. Bubba Watson got to #12 and went into a Masters Coma, starting a run of five straight birdies that took him to a three-shot lead at -7 for the tournament. Last year’s champ Adam Scott turned a round heading south into a strong finish with the first of three birdies on the last seven holes to get within striking distance of Watson at -4. Phil Mickelson was seen hiring an exorcist for his entire bag after taking a triple bogey at 12. Phil’s approach on the par 4 went into the trap, then his sand wedge flew the green into the trap on the back side. His next wedge rolled off the green back into the original trap. Phil followed up the 76 he shot on Thursday with a 73 which caused him to miss the cut at +5.


Today’s question is from Brett Harrison: There’s been a lot of speculation about Driskel’s ability to read defenses and his overall mental abilities as compared to his obvious physical gifts.  Do you think the 2.8 second rule is partially so that Jeff doesn’t have to go through a long progression for reading the D?  Do you think that rule might inhibit Jeff from developing as a pro QB if he’s trained to look at the 1st and 2nd receiver and then tuck-and-run (my thoughts on what you’re able to do in that short amount of time) because you only have 2.8 seconds?  Is there adequate time to read all the route trees in 2.8?  Does 2.8 cause us to not have many longer routes run?

The 2.8 rule is a staple of a David Cutcliffe offense. It doesn’t mean the ball has to come out of Driskel’s hand in 2.8 or fewer seconds on every single snap because there will be deep routes that require more time to set up, but for the most part, the idea is get the ball out of his hands in a hurry. That is to (a) save the quarterback by reducing the chances that he will get hit and (b) pressure the defense since it’s a lot harder to get help on the quicker developing routes. That 2.8 rule was in place when Cutcliffe was coaching the Manning boys, so I don’t think it will hurt Jeff’s chances of developing into an NFL quarterback. NFL scouts are looking for quarterbacks who can find the open guy and get rid of the ball since the guys coming off the edge are typically much quicker than the guys in college.

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I’m not stuck in the 1960s although if you were in the car with me the last couple of days you might think so. As I drove home to Gainesville today, just as I got to Micanopy, the CD switched to “At Last,” the incredible album by Etta James that debuted in 1960. “At Last” has become a true rhythm and blues standard, but the album has so much more including “Stormy Weather” and the great Willie Dixon’s blues classic “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” The song that just blows me away, however, is “All I Could Do Was Cry.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.


  1. Aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves? The first thing to concern me is whether Driskel will develop to be a college quarterback, the jury’s still out in that matter. Second, who cares if he develops into a pro quarterback? I think Tebow was a great college quarterback who failed as a pro quarterback, I think that’s enough to make me happy.