A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
AND THE NEW OFFENSIVE LINE COACH IS …
The new guy is Mike Summers, whose 33-year coaching career includes time on the staffs of Bobby Petrino at Louisville and the NFL, Houston Nutt at Arkansas, Joker Phillips at Kentucky and Lane Kiffin/Ed Orgeron at Southern Cal. It’s highly doubtful that Summers was Will Muschamp’s first choice all along, but that really doesn’t matter. The only things that matter are that Summers can (a) coach the offensive line better than predecessors Tim Davis and Frank Verducci; (b) get along with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper better than Davis got along with Brent Pease; and (c) help create a strong chemistry between players and the coaching staff. If he can accomplish those three things, then the Gators should have improvement on the offensive side of the ball.
DID WE ALL GET IT WRONG ABOUT STACY SEARELS?
It’s possible but highly improbable that so many people had confirmation that Stacy Searels was set to join the Florida staff were dead wrong and that was everyone from Florida recruits to people who have coached with and against Searels for years. The job was Searels for the taking, so why didn’t he take it? The answer is in something Charlie Strong said in his introductory press conference at Texas. “I want to make sure the coaches on this staff have Texas ties,” Strong said. His O-line coach at Louisville, Dave Borbely, spent two years in Texas during the 1980s at Rice, but that was a long, long time ago. In the last couple of years, Searels has landed two classes of outstanding O-line recruits to Texas. Expect Searels to be announced as Strong’s O-line coach in the next day or two. Another factor could have been salary. At Texas, Searels makes $451,000. Florida was paying Tim Davis $310,000. He will probably get a raise to remain at Texas. It’s possible, but doubtful Florida would pay an offensive line coach $451,000.
FROM A PUBLIC RELATIONS STANDPOINT
I’ve met very few people who don’t genuinely wish for Will Muschamp to succeed at Florida. I’ve also met very few who are not genuinely concerned that Muschamp is an absolute disaster from a public relations standpoint. Now, there is no requirement for Will to consult the media any time he wants to hire a new coach or conduct an interview. That’s a ridiculous notion. What isn’t a ridiculous notion is Muschamp’s contempt for the media and the fact that he really doesn’t seem to give a damn that there is this gigantic disconnect between Florida football and the fan base. Now, in Muschamp’s defense, it’s a disconnect that Urban Meyer began in 2009 when he began to circle the wagons, allegedly to protect Tim Tebow. It continued in 2010 and that made it convenient for Muschamp to lock things down further, to the point that Stalin’s gulags seem like London’s Hyde Park on a Sunday. Now, I have no complaints with how Mike Summers’ hire was announced, but the fact the Gators haven’t had a bowl game to prepare for and it’s a dead period for recruiting, it’s absolutely ridiculous that there hasn’t been some sort of press conference for Muschamp to talk about Kurt Roper, a time in which he could have casually mentioned that the O-line search was going well, or something to that effect.
THE STREAK COMES TO AN END
The Southeastern Conference saw its string of national championships come to an end. You knew it had to end sometime, but when Tre Mason scored on that 37-yard touchdown run with 1:19 to go in the game, it did seem that destiny was on the side of the Tigers once again. Give credit to Florida State for persevering through a difficult first half to mount the comeback, but this will go down more as a game that Auburn lost than one that FSU won. There is no question in my mind that Gus Malzahn knows his team left a win on the field. Auburn had a 21-10 first half lead, but it should have been at least 31-3. There was that missed 31-yard field goal and a dropped pass on the first series that would have been a touchdown. Auburn was effective defensively in the first half with a great blitz package and jamming the FSU receivers at the line. There were fewer blitzes and the defensive backs gave more cushion in the second half, which turned into a recipe for an end of the game heartbreak. As for special teams, Malzahn isn’t going to sleep for weeks thinking about that first half fake punt and the kickoff return for the touchdown in the fourth quarter.
GIVE JIMBO CREDIT
If you need proof that Jimbo Fisher is an outstanding football coach then consider this: he had to replace seven of his nine assistant coaches in the offseason. That Fisher could get an entire staff on the same page in such a short period of time is a remarkable achievement. Developing staff chemistry and then getting so many new assistants to bond with the talent on hand says a lot about the head coach. I know a lot of Gators are going to grit their teeth when they read this, but Jimbo Fisher is the real deal as a head coach and it’s going to take some serious recruiting and coaching for Florida to pull even with the Seminoles any time soon.
THE BIGGEST LOSERS THIS BOWL SEASON
The biggest loser of all is the Big Ten, which is trending into an irrelevant conference. Sure, Michigan State won the Rose Bowl, but that was almost a gift considering the bonehead offensive strategy employed by Stanford. The Big Ten finished the bowl season with a dismal 2-5 record and you could think of it as 2-7 when you add in Maryland and Rutgers – both bowl losers – who will join the conference next year. The biggest loser of all in the Big Ten? That was Ohio State, which, in losing to Clemson, was exposed for its lack of speed. Urban Meyer wants to win national championships with the Buckeyes but that’s not going to happen without a serious infusion of speed. If Ohio State had played in the SEC, the Buckeyes would have been 6-6 or 7-5 at the very best.
NEXT YEAR WE GET A PLAYOFF
Consider me among the many who will not miss the BCS. While the BCS did give us a few great games, I can think of years like 2004 when Auburn went unbeaten and didn’t have a chance to play for a national title, or 2009, when I think Florida would have met Alabama a second time to play for the big trophy. A four-team playoff is simply a start. What I would really like to see is for Division I to go to an eight or 16-team playoff. I know how purists will say that will render the regular season irrelevant, but whether it’s the current system or a playoff, you still have to win games to get in. At least with a playoff championships are decided on the field and not by computers.
FINAL BOWL STANDINGS
SEC: 7-3; Pac-12: 6-3; ACC: 5-6 ; Big 12: 3-3; Conference USA: 3-3; Mountain West 3-3; Sun Belt: 2-0; Independents: 2-1; American Athletic: 2-3; Big Ten: 2-5; MAC: 0-5
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I always loved the harmony of Crosby, Stills and Nash, but sometimes I think it obscured the fact that Stephen Stills is one of the great guitarists of our time. This is “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” which is my favorite CS&N song of all time in a mostly acoustic version that really shows off what Stephen can do with a guitar. The last three minutes building to t is absolutely off the charts. These guys are all getting up there, but if they tour this spring and summer and you are anywhere close, buy the ticket. It’s a night you will remember. They’ll be at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on March 21 and at the Fox Theater in Atlanta on March 22.