A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning:
Today marks the five-week anniversary of what most fans deem the darkest day in Florida football history since the entire Gator Nation held its breath and awaited the verdict from the NCAA in August of 1984. On this day five weeks ago, the Gators did the unthinkable and lost to Georgia Southern. As bad as that was, it wasn’t the end of the world nor was the end of the world the next week when Florida State took a rubber hose and beat the Gators into submission leaving pain that will last an entire year but no permanent scars.
Here is what we know five weeks later:
1. The sun still rises in the morning and sets in the evening. The world did not come to an end just because the Gators suffered their first losing season since 1979, didn’t go to a bowl game for the first time since 1990 and lost to Florida State, which is playing for the national championship. No, the world did not come to an end although it will probably seem that way until August 30, 2014.
2. Will Muschamp is still the football coach with the full blessing of athletic director Jeremy Foley and University of Florida president Bernie Machen. A larger than you would like to admit portion of the Gator Nation probably isn’t happy with that, but it was the smart thing to do. You have to give a coach four years. At the end of four years, he’s playing with his own guys and can’t blame the previous coach for all that ails him and his football program. Plus, if he has built the program the right way he should be able to look at the two-deep roster next year and see that most of the holes are plugged and there are SEC capable athletes two-deep at every single position. We’ll have a much better idea what kind of coach Will Muschamp is and is going to be after next season. Giving him four years was the right thing to do. How many more he gets beyond four will be totally up to him, which is only fair.
3. The offensive coordinator and offensive line coach – most fans would emphasize the words offensive before the titles given the departed Brent Pease and Tim Davis – have been fired and replacements are on the way. Since they departed there have been all sorts of rumblings that Pease and Davis never got along which may or may not explain why Shands is studying Florida’s 2012-13 offense as a contagion that causes narcolepsy. Whatever their personal relationship, they didn’t work out at Florida and replacements are on the way. Calls and inquiries have been made to several potential coordinators and line coaches and within a few days we’ll know which ones are coming to Gainesville. If you have been known to wager on occasion, put large amounts of money on Muschamp saying that he got exactly who he wanted when he formally announces the new guys.
4. There is a new special teams coordinator. We don’t know exactly what happened to the last one, but he’s gone. There was a lot of speculation that Jeff Choate wanted to get back to the Pacific Northwest where he went to college and coached most of his life, but let’s face it, how we found out that Coleman Hutzler was the new special teams coordinator and that Choate was out of a job was downright bizarre. The way this and just about every other major announcement has been handled with the football program the last few years makes you think the people handling Florida football media relations took their course by mail order and the mail was late.
5. It wouldn’t be shocking if there is at least one more change in the coaching staff. We have no way to know that for sure, but if you look at player development the last three years then it would seem rather obvious that some guys are coaching kids up pretty well and others got their coaching lessons from the same mail order house that handled media relations. If you there is further change on the staff – and at this point it’s pure speculation – put your money on a new offensive assistant.
6. A bunch of players who were injured last year are a month closer to being healed and okayed to participate in mat drills and spring football. This is as critical a spring practice as the Gators have had since 1990 when Steve Spurrier was sorting through six quarterbacks in search of the star he didn’t know he had – Shane Matthews. The new offensive coordinator won’t have six quarterbacks to choose from, but if he’s got a healthy Jeff Driskel and freshman phenom Will Grier does his best sponge impression and takes it all in, then it will be productive 15 practices, particularly if some of the passes actually travel more than 15 yards downfield to open receivers such as Quinton Dunbar. If the new special teams coordinator can get the snakes out of the heads of Austin Hardin and Kyle Christy – how else can you describe what happened to them this year – then things will be better there, too. And, if the new offensive line coach has healthy tackles who can be convinced that there is no rule prohibiting them from impeding the progress of fast defensive ends coming off the edge, then that will also be reason to call it a successful spring. The key word this spring will be healthy. Will Muschamp needs a healthy football team to start the spring and needs to emerge 15 days later with as many healthy bodies as he started with.
7. And, recruiting could go from extremely good to dance all night until your feet give out and your lungs collapse crazy if Dalvin Cook decides he wants to be a Gator after all. Dalvin Cook is an extremely talented kid. He is not the savior of Florida football and anyone who would put that kind of pressure on the kid is dead wrong. But, should he announce for the Gators and early enroll in January, then it is the kind of recruiting victory that tells you that in spite of all the bad luck, bad karma, bad Feng Shui and maybe just a little bit of bad coaching thrown in, the kids who are the future of Florida football haven’t given up on the Gators or on Will Muschamp. Muschamp is going head-to-head with Jimbo Fisher for Dalvin Cook. This is a win he needs. This is a win the Gator Nation might need even more.
8. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Things are not good but they might not be anywhere close to as bad as they seem. There are small victories to be had in the immediate future, the kind that when stacked one upon the other can represent a bigger victory and a sign that things will get better. A marvelous Christmas present for the Gator Nation would be a strong dose of hope that the small victories are on their way and they will grow into bigger ones the closer we get to August 30, 2014.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
One of the things I love about the music of Jerry Jeff Walker is that it doesn’t matter my mood, Jerry Jeff has a song for it. You want trashy, nobody does it better. You want it sensitive? Jerry Jeff Walker is as good as it gets. This one definitely isn’t sensitive but it’s only borderline trashy. The song is “Jaded Lover” which is one of the great country bar sing-along songs of all time. It’s also a requirement for every Jerry Jeff concert.