A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Okay, so Jon Harrison talks about a dysfunctional Florida football team that had some problems in the locker room last season. Harrison told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Tyler Dunne that as the losses mounted in Florida’s disappointing 2013 season that the locker room was divided, everybody was pointing fingers at each other and that the talk of coaches getting fired definitely took its toll on the team. Team discipline was so bad that players were sneaking girls into their hotel rooms or sneaking out on their own the night before games.
It is not as big a deal as it might seem.
This was a Florida football team without a whole lot of margin for error. There wasn’t much in the way of quality depth so when the team’s two best players – quarterback Jeff Driskel and defensive tackle Dominique Easley – went down with season-ending injuries a difficult season was all but guaranteed. If those had been the only injuries, then the Gators might have been able to do better than 4-8, but this was a snakebit team that was a shell of itself by the time they limped home.
When Harrison talks about how the frustration of losing got to the team and had them at each other’s throats by season’s end, it’s a whole lot easier to understand 4-8. Losing alone will put a team on edge but when injuries compound the situation, it erodes confidence and makes a team feel as if the playing field is no longer level. At full strength, the Gators would have been able to compete with anyone on the schedule and there would have been an air of confidence. By the time the Gators took the field against Georgia Southern and Florida State, confidence was gone and players were looking for someone to blame.
It also takes its toll on coaches. That the coaches were on edge isn’t a bad sign. What you would worry about is if the players and the coaches were resigned to losing. Whenever losing becomes less painful or even acceptable, you see a laissez-faire attitude in locker rooms. Teams aren’t at each other’s throats because nobody really gives enough of a damn to get upset. Take Kentucky, for example. They’ve been losing so long and so often that you never hear about a divided locker room or players screaming that they’ve had it with all the losing and the negatives that go along with it.
What Harrison said is not a sign that Will Muschamp lost control of his team, either. Did Muschamp handle the situation as well as he could? Maybe not, but there may be a silver lining of the dark cloud that hung over the Florida football program last year because it caused Muschamp to totally re-evaluate everything top to bottom including his own offensive philosophy. By bringing in Kurt Roper and Mike Summers, Muschamp showed that he’s willing to change and that’s a very good thing.
If losing continues in 2014 and the Florida locker room is once again divided, then there is reason to worry because losing is like Novocaine. When there is no pain, losing is easy to accept, which, in turn, breeds a culture for mediocrity or worse. If you don’t believe it, then look at Tennessee, which is the poster child for a formerly great program that let the culture of losing take over.
SPRING REVIEW: DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Let’s start with the obvious. There is no Dominique Easley. There is no Sharrif Floyd. Darious Cummings could be very good and Leon Orr is athletic enough to put together a really good season, too. But can either one of them command a double team much less split it and get into the backfield? Behind them are Jay-Nard Boswick and Caleb Brantley, long on potential but very short on experience and in the case of Brantley, maturity. Then there are the three freshmen who will arrive in late June: Thomas Holley, Khairi Clark and Gerald Willis. There is playing time to be had if they come in with the right attitudes because those guys in front of them really haven’t done anything to make you think they’re the kind of tackles that you better have in the SEC to stuff running backs like T.J. Yeldon (Alabama), Terrence Magee (LSU), Jerron Seymour (Vanderbilt), Mike Davis (South Carolina) and Todd Gurley (Georgia). Trending: Treading water.
NEW JOE PATERNO STATUE IN DOWNTOWN STATE COLLEGE
The Joe Paterno statue on the Penn State campus is a thing of the past, but two alumni have put up the $300,000 for a new statue of Paterno that will be installed in downtown State College. While Penn State officials have done their best to distance themselves from anything related to Paterno, fans haven’t forgotten nor are they going to forget any time soon. You just don’t wipe out 40-plus years of history overnight. So how does Penn State deal with the Paterno legacy? Does he deserve to be vilified as he was in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky trial? Or should he be treated with a bit more kindness? And, will time heal the wounds?
TEN IN A ROW FOR SOFTBALL TEAM
Now that they’ve got their mojo back and working again, the Gators are wasting anything that gets in the way. The Gators (41-8) made USF pay a dear price for the two-hour trip up I-75 from Tampa Wednesday night to the tune of a 17-1 5-inning run-rule game that was their 10th straight win. Kirsti Merritt continued her hot hitting with three hits including a home and five RBI. Hannah Rogers (21-6) gave up only two hits to get the win for Florida, which plays host to Missouri for a 3-game SEC series this weekend.
POYTHRESS, JOHNSON COMING BACK TO KENTUCKY
Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson announced Wednesday that they will come back for one more year of college basketball at Kentucky, leaving only the Harrison twins to make a decision. Kentucky is going to be top heavy up front with three 7-footers (Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein and incoming freshman Karl Towns Jr.) and four more in the 6-9 to 6-11 range (Poythress, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis and incoming freshman Trey Lyles). If Andrew and Aaron Harrison elect to return then Kentucky will have enough outside shooting next year to start the 2014-15 season ranked #1 but if they go to the NBA – some experts have them leaning that way – Kentucky will have only one legitimate outside shooter on the roster in incoming freshman Devin Booker.
QUESTION FOR TODAY
The question for today comes from Ryan Bell, who asks, “Do you think the coaches that are advocating compensation [for players] really believe it or are just posturing for recruiting purposes?
I’m sure there are some coaches out there who really don’t believe in the concept of players getting any sort of extra benefits or compensation but take a public stance in favor of it because they don’t want the negative backlash on recruiting when this issue finally comes to a vote by the NCAA. I do believe the majority of coaches who have come out in favor of players getting some sort of extra money really think it’s fair. When Steve Spurrier first proposes this at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin back in 2010, he offered to put up the money for his football players out of his own pocket. If you know Stevie Wonder, you know he can be pretty tight with a buck, so he wouldn’t make that kind of offer if he didn’t truly believe in it. Spurrier has often cited that during his playing days, scholarship athletes were given $15 a month for laundry and incidentals. In 1960s terms, this wasn’t a pile of cash but it was movie and burger money. That practice was discontinued in 1973 because the have nots of college football who said it was a financial burden on their athletic programs, ganged up and pushed a rule through to eliminate the stipend. The new term for this is cost of attendance, coined by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, and that is a call for scholarship players to receive a monthly cash allowance beyond tuition, room and board to the tune of $2,000-3,000 a year. Stretched over 12 months, that’s $250 a month. For a school like Florida with approximately 240 scholarship athletes, that’s $720,000 a year, which isn’t going to break the bank.
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MUSIC FOR TODAY
By the time Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was “discovered” he had already been making a name for himself in every club and dive from Texas to Florida and in between. It wasn’t until he moved to Nashville and struck up a friendship with Roy Clark of the TV show “Hee Haw” that Gatemouth’s career took off. He was 80 years old when he put together his final album in 2004. Today’s song is “Deep Deep Water” off Gatemouth’s first album on the Peacock level from 1972.