Thoughts of the day: December 6, 2013


The chatter that I’m continuing to hear is that Will Muschamp is going to make his best pitch to land Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. Coaches I have spoken to tell me that the offense Norvell learned under Gus Malzahn at Tulsa adapts well to the Southeastern Conference because it combines power running along with a vertical passing game from a no-huddle, up tempo spread scheme. A coach friend who is quite familiar with Norvell from the Tulsa days, told me to check Tulsa’s 2008 offense and said that if Muschamp can emulate that offense the Gators will do just fine next year and in subsequent years. Here are the numbers for Tulsa, 2008: 87 touchdowns (47 passing, 40 rushing); 301 passing and 268 rushing yards per game; 10 yards per pass attempt, 5.57 yards per rushing attempt, 7.27 yards per play and 47.2 points per game.


The bad news first: (1) Norvell is extraordinarily close to Arizona State head coach Todd Graham; (2) He makes $500,000 so he’s not going to pack his family and haul them across the country for peanuts; there will have to be a substantial raise; (3) If he stays another year at Arizona State he could be in line for some jobs that are likely to come open in the Pac-12; and (4) He’s got a sure thing at Arizona State and Florida isn’t such a sure thing.  Now for the good news: (1) He’s a southerner (from Arkansas and a graduate of Central Arkansas, same school that produced Charlie Strong and Malzahn); (2) He talks to Malzahn regularly and there has been chatter that Malzahn is telling Norvell go for it; (3) He’s well aware of the talent pool of skill position athletes that is available within a 4-5 hour radius of Gainesville; and (4) He could be on a fast track to being a head coach in the SEC with a couple of extraordinary seasons.


I was in London on that day in 1995 when the Springboks beat the All Blacks from New Zealand to win the Rugby World Cup championship in Johannesburg. Sitting in a Mayfair pub with me that day were a couple of South African friends I had met on an earlier business trip. We watched the entire match on television and that marvelous ceremony at the end when Nelson Mandela strode onto the field to congratulate the national team of South Africa. As the people in the stadium started chanting “Nelson! Nelson!” my friends joined in, too. When they played “N’Kosi Sikeleli” (South African national anthem) close ups showed white South Africans singing in Zulu together with tears streaming down their faces. My friends sang along, too. I would have too if I had known the words. It was an extraordinary moment made possible by an extraordinary man. A sport and a man who chose love to conquer the hatred that put him in prison for 27 years truly united a country that day. I wasn’t there personally, but I feel that I shared a truly great moment in sports. We lost a great man yesterday. God rest your soul Nelson Mandela. 


Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who was a longtime devotee of Don James, his college coach at Kent State and the coach who led Washington to the 1991 national championship, has politely told the folks at U-Dub that he’s content to stay right where he is at Missouri. Washington offered a boatload of money and has incredible facilities, but Pinkel has Missouri playing for the SEC championship in just its second year in the best college football league in the country. Missouri is planning to jack up his $2.53 million salary, and there are plans in progress to expand the stadium to 80,000 and beyond. After Pinkel said no, Washington wasted no time interviewing Boise State’s Chris Peterson. Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will also interview.


Wake Forest has its sights set on Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to succeed Jim Grobe. Morris turned down North Carolina State last year. Why would he choose Wake Forest, which has a small stadium, below par facilities and a small fan base, when he could hold out for a big time job? Backup plan is said to be Ball State coach Pete Lembo. That makes sense. Wake Forest is a serious upgrade to Ball State … Former California coach Jeff Tedford is rumored to be the replacement for Dave Christensen at Wyoming. Backup plan is thought to be Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritts … Norm Chow might step down at Hawaii and June Jones might leave SMU to return to the islands … Ron Turner is considering resigning at FIU after a disaster of a 1-11 first season … West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen and Virginia’s Mike London have been saved by their enormous buyout clauses … Cincinnati offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is expected to get the Florida Atlantic job.


Jameis Winston will not be charged with a crime, which shouldn’t come as any surprise and not because State Attorney Willie Meggs is bowing to any pressure. In an interview with ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, Meggs said there were just too many holes in the alleged victim’s story to formally charge Winston with some form of sexual misconduct and he also pointed out that the Tallahassee Police Department’s inept handling of evidence compromised any attempt to get a conviction. With Winston certain to play in the ACC Championship Game, you can pencil the Seminoles into the national championship game.


The perception is that Jameis Winston is the best football player in the country, therefore he is going to win the Heisman Trophy, marking two straight years that a freshman has captured college football’s top award. Winston is an extraordinary talent, no question about it, but is he really the best player in the country? It was easy to make the case for Johnny Manziel last year. He beat three ranked teams including eventual national champion Alabama in a season in which he accounted for 26 passing touchdowns, 21 rushing touchdowns and 5,116 yards of total offense. Winston’s signature win is over a Clemson team that would probably lose five games in the SEC, but it’s not his fault that Florida State played a schedule that included three convents, two orphanages and a nursing home. All Winston could do is play his best against whoever was out there each week, and he’s done that, leading FSU to an undefeated season and a chance to play for the national championship.


Remember 2001? That’s the year the Heisman Trophy voters, in their infinite wisdom gave a lifetime achievement award to Nebraska’s Eric Crouch rather than give the award to the best player in the country because he was a sophomore. Crouch was a fine player but he wasn’t the best, nor was he even the second best. The best player in the country that year was Florida’s Rex Grossman, who threw for 34 touchdowns in a sensational sophomore season,  and the second best was Miami’s Sean Taylor, who didn’t even make the top 10 because he was (a) a defensive player and (b) a sophomore.


In honor of the great Nelson Mandela, today’s music is from South Aftrica. I started listening to South African music in the 1960s from exiled trumpeter Hugh Masakela and Miriam Makeba. In the 1980s I started listening to Johnny Clegg and Savuka, whose racially integrated band during the time of apartheid introduced me to this very cool concept of mixing rock and roll with Zulu music. Then came Paul Simon’s incredible “Graceland” album which introduced Ladysmith Black Mambazo to the world. What a treasure they are. I found this video of Paul Simon performing “You Can Call Me Al” with Ladysmith Black Mambazo at late 1980s concert in Zimbabwe.

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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. G & F–my, my. I took my girlfriend (now wife of 43 yrs.) to see Johnny Rivers at Spring Frolics in Alligator Alley in 1965-66??? Well, right before the concert, it was announced that Johnny had become ill from some shots and that HE COULD NOT PERFORM! Everyone was furious when they announced a previously unheard of group would play in his place–Simon and Garfunkel. Who we screamed? So, there they were facing a furious and drunk crowd. And then, while tuning his guitar, Paul Simon turned around to his back-up and asked: “Who’s been F—–g with my guitar?” Well, the place went nuts and the rest is history. The Sound of Silence album was released several weeks later.

    • I think the fans are too hung up on a “style” of offense instead of dynamic players. Look at FSU, nothing exotic, no hurry-up, no constant bubble screens and misdirection. Just great players with a good line and great QB making plays. THAT’s how you get a wide open offense. Don’t fall for the “system” crap. You really want to be Oregon? Or Clemson? Putting your defense in jeopardy every game against an equal foe? Driskel will help change the perception of the offense. The line may not help much so it could be ugly again.