Thoughts of the day: December 9, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:


The easy part for Will Muschamp is to find an offensive coordinator. It’s the University of Florida and he’s got a big checkbook to work with. Finding someone with good credentials isn’t going to be a problem. Finding the right fit, however, might take some doing and to his credit, Muschamp doesn’t seem to be in a great hurry to make a decision. When I asked stud offensive tackle prospect David Sharpe (6-7, 310, Jacksonville, FL Providence) if there were concerns about the next offensive coordinator after his basketball game in Jacksonville Saturday night, Sharpe replied, “Coach (Muschamp) says we’ll know in January. I trust him. I know he’s going to bring in the right coaches.” Muschamp gets a couple of mulligans for the hires of Charlie Weis and Brent Pease. There will be no mulligan this time. This is one hire he has to get right which is why we should be encouraged that Muschamp is taking his time and doing a thorough search.


As Auburn coach Gus Malzahn proved this season, the difference between 3-9 and playing for the national championship is a scheme that maximizes the personnel on hand. This year’s Gators went 4-8 and bore a strong resemblance to those 2012 Auburn Tigers who went 3-9. The square peg was the NFL style power offense that Muschamp wanted to run, which didn’t fit into the round hole that was the skill set of the available quarterbacks. Both Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy were sitting ducks in the pocket and that’s where most of their bad decisions were made. Move them outside the pocket where they can take advantage of their mobility and both were far more decisive. It is not a necessity for either Driskel or Murphy – or incoming freshman stud Will Grier – to be a run-first quarterback like Auburn’s Nick Marshall, but it is important to get the outside where they make better decisions and have the option to make something out of nothing with their legs if nobody is open in the passing game.


If there is a silver lining to staying at home while 10 SEC teams go bowling, it is that Muschamp might not have felt the need to fire Pease and Davis had the Gators managed to finish 6-6 to become bowl-eligible. Sometimes it takes a good slap in the face to alert you to a problem that isn’t going to go away. I’m sure that Brent Pease and Tim Davis are fine people and I wish them well in their search for a new job in a situation that will maximize their talents. But, they weren’t getting the job done here at Florida and it took losing eight games for Muschamp to realize that something had to give. I’ve heard a lot of criticism about Muschamp this year but I give him credit for looking in the mirror and realizing that if there was going to be change it would have to start at the top. If he brings in the right coaches who do a better job of adapting their schemes to the talents of the roster they will inherit, then I have no doubt Muschamp can reverse the downslide and win at least 8-9 games next season.


I’ve been around too many coaches who would have looked at their roster first before taking any hard line disciplinary stance. I give credit to Billy Donovan for holding steady in his belief that Damontre Harris had to have the willingness to accept responsibility for his own actions and then the self-discipline to do whatever it takes to get back in the good graces of the coaching staff and teammates. Donovan gave Harris every opportunity to do what was necessary to get back onto the Florida basketball team, but he wasn’t willing to keep this charade going any longer nor was he willing to compromise his own standards just because Harris is 6-10 and could have been a vital cog in a deep run in the NCAA Tournament in March. I know of a dozen coaches right off the top of my head who would have coddled Harris and thrown ethics and standards right out the window.


The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have established Florida State as a 7-point favorite to win the final BCS national championship game over Auburn. Obviously, the oddsmakers have seen Auburn’s defense, which has given up 108 points in the last three games, and taken a good look at the talented offensive personnel packages that FSU coach Jimbo Fisher can put on the field. Then throw in the fact that FSU has given up fewer points this year than any Division I team in the country and it would seem on paper, at least, that the Vegas people have it right. But do they? Ever since that loss to LSU, Auburn has seemed like a team of destiny. They needed miracles to win against Georgia and Alabama and got them then won the SEC Championship Game with a 594-yard rushing performance against a Missouri team that boasted one of the best defenses in the country. Although Florida’s 2006 national championship team had a far better defense than Auburn’s, there was that miracle finish against South Carolina when the Gators needed three blocked kicks to win and then that win over Ohio State in Arizona to win it all. This Auburn team has that same feel. I like teams that seem to have destiny on their side.


In its last four games, Auburn ran for 1,608 yards, which is more than 27 Division I teams ran for the entire 2013 season. Florida ran for 2,051. Auburn averaged 6.46 per rushing play and 8.5 yards per pass attempt. The Tigers threw 18 touchdown passes in only 258 attempts. That’s a touchdown pass every 14.3 attempts. Auburn averaged 52 rushing plays and 19.8 pass plays per game. Auburn has two 1,000-yard plus rushers and two with more than 600 yards.


While the ACC sent 11 teams to bowls and the SEC has 10 playing the extra game, nine bowl-eligible teams got left at home including 8-4 Western Kentucky, coached by Bobby Petrino. Four bowl-eligible Sun Belt teams with 6-6 records will stay home (Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Troy and Texas State), while 7-5 Toledo and 6-6 Central Michigan from the Mid-American Conference didn’t get a bid. Both San Jose State and Florida Atlantic also finished 6-6 but didn’t get a bowl. I feel badly for Western Kentucky and Toledo, but I have no sympathy at all for the 6-6 teams. I don’t think finishing .500 merits the reward of a bowl trip and those extra practice days.


Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson interviewed for the Wake Forest job Sunday. He was supposed to interview for UConn Monday, but apparently he’s more enamored with Wake Forest where it seems it will be a choice between Clawson and Ball State coach Pete Lembo … UConn is probably going to hire Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi … Joe Schad of ESPN says that the contract extension signed by Jimbo Fisher at Florida State won’f have any effect on Texas should Mack Brown either retire or get the axe … FAU will name a new head coach today. It’s either Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers or Cincinnati offensive coordinator Eddie Gran … Dirk Koetter hasn’t interviewed for Boise State. Yet. Today is his day off from the NFL. He is expected to interview today. He’s the head coach who started Boise’s 16-year run of success … Former Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and offensive coordinator (now head coach at Arkansas State) also want the Boise job … Wyoming will pay North Dakota State’s Craig Bohl $750,000 a year.


“So May It Secretly Begin” is one of favorite songs by The Pat Metheny Group. Last year I got Pat’s “Upojenie” CD where I was introduced to Polish singer Ana Maria Jopek, who sings “So May It Secretly Begin” in Polish. I have not idea what the words are but she’s a great singer and there is never anything wrong with Pat Metheny on a guitar.

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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.