Thoughts of the day: November 11, 2013

A shout out of thanks to the unpaid debt we owe our veterans as we jump start our Monday morning:


The early line from Las Vegas has established South Carolina as a two-touchdown favorite over the Gators next Saturday in Columbia. After watching the Gators lose to Vanderbilt by 17 over the weekend, it’s a bit surprising that the opening line is just 13-14 points. Nobody really expects the Gators to win this one – it’s not impossible but highly improbable – but this team needs to show that it’s ready to play from the opening whistle. Besides the 4-5 record, probably the most disappointing aspect of Florida’s season has been its lack of focus at the beginning of games. For once it would be nice to see the Gators play like the best-prepared team on the field.


Freshmen Ahmad Fullwood and Chris Thompson made their presence felt in the second half against Vanderbilt. Fullwood made the catch of the season for a touchdown when he one-handed a ball that caromed off the foot of a Vanderbilt defender in the end zone. Thompson showed speed and moves with a couple of nice catches off of drag routes. For a team with pedestrian speed on the outside, you have to wonder why these kids haven’t been part of the offense all along? And where is Demarcus Robinson? It’s pretty obvious that player development has not been a strength of this coaching staff – at least on the offensive side of the ball – the last three years.


Injuries certainly have been a setback for the Gators this year, but other teams suffer injuries, too. Georgia, for example, has been hit harder than the Gators, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They’ve been down to their fourth string tailback and walk-on wideouts for a good portion of the season yet the Bulldogs are still averaging 478.6 yards and 35.6 points per game. When James Franklin went down at Missouri, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk stepped in and performed admirably. It’s not his fault the Tigers lost in overtime to South Carolina. FSU’s redshirt freshman quarterback could win the Heisman this year. UCLA is ranked 12th nationally and averaging 436 yards and 36 points a game with three freshmen starting on the offensive line. If other teams can develop their players and get them ready to play when they are freshmen or redshirt freshmen, then why can’t Florida? Moving forward, this is an area where Will Muschamp and his staff have to improve. At some point it is going to start costing the Gators recruits who will go places with a solid track record of player development.


When Billy Donovan takes his eighth-ranked Gators to Madison to face Wisconsin Tuesday night, he has to be hoping for serious improvement defending the perimeter. The Gators were one of the best teams in the country at stopping opponents from knocking down threes last season, but in their exhibition game and season opener, they have given up 22 threes. Wisconsin, ranked 20th and with a season-opening win over St. John’s, will seriously test the Gators’ ability to defend the three-point line. The Badgers will have three or four shooters on the floor at all times (11-23 from the three-point line in the win over St. John’s).  Bo Ryan typically goes with a three-guard lineup and two bigs, which isn’t all that different than the lineup Donovan will play but the Badgers are certainly stronger and more physical than either of the teams the Gators have faced so far. Given Florida’s short-handed lineup (Scottie Wilbekin, Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris still suspended), it will take a tremendous effort for the Gators to come home with a win.


This is complicated so bear with me. Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC East), South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC East) and Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC East) still have a shot to make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. If Missouri wins its final games (roadie to Ole Miss, home with Texas A&M), Missouri goes to Atlanta. If Missouri loses one, South Carolina beats Florida and Georgia loses one of its remaining games, then South Carolina goes to Atlanta since the Gamecocks own the tiebreaker with Missouri. If Missouri loses once and Georgia wins its last two games, the Missouri goes because it owns the tiebreaker with Georgia. If Missouri loses twice, South Carolina beats Florida and Georgia beats both Auburn (roadie) and Kentucky, then Georgia goes to Atlanta since it owns the tiebreaker with South Carolina.  PREDICTION: Missouri loses to Texas A&M, Georgia loses to Auburn and South Carolina beats Florida and goes to Atlanta.


There are several quarterbacks who have better overall statistics than Alabama’s A.J. McCarron although 159-229 (69.4%), 2,041 yards and 19 touchdowns (only three interceptions), but no quarterback in the country has a better winning percentage (he’s 34-2, 94.4%) and no quarterback has led his team to two national championships. The Heisman Trophy is supposed to go to the best player, not the one who has the best stats. The ultimate stat is winning and no one does that better than McCarron, and it’s not like he’s been racking up stats against bad teams. The bigger the game, the better McCarron plays. If I were voting for the Heisman this year, he would get my vote.


There are reports that Tim Tebow is perhaps resigned to the fact that he’s not going to get another shot at the NFL so he’s preparing himself for a career in the booth, which seems a favorite landing place for former Heisman winning quarterbacks these days. Andre Ware and Gino Toretta have both found a home in the booth. Having listened to Ware and Toretta too many times and having interviewed Tebow what seems like 500 times while he was playing for the Gators, I would say he’s got a shot to be pretty good. I still think that given the right situation with a spread offense that Tebow could make it in the NFL, but I’m not sure anyone is going to give him that shot.


Is there a more inflated ego in all of professional sports that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones? The Cowboys are 5-5 this year, which isn’t all that different than most seasons since Jones forced Jimmy Johnson out as the Cowboys’ head coach in 1993 after back-to-back Super Bowl wins. Since then, the Cowboys have won one Super Bowl (1995) with players left over from Johnson and they’ve missed the playoffs 10 times. Since the 1995 Super Bowl win, the Cowboys have not made it past the second round of the playoffs. Jones considers himself on par with any general manager and player personnel director in the NFL but if that’s the case, why are the Cowboys mired in mediocrity? As my grandmother once said, some people have more money than they have brains. She never met Jerry Jones but it does seem she was talking about him.


Between gigs with The Yardbirds and Cream, Eric Clapton spent a couple of years playing with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. The Bluesbreakers were pretty famous on the club circuit, but nobody really knew who they were until they released their album that featured Clapton after he had left the band to form Cream. This cut is “Hideaway” from that first album. If you avidly listen to the blues, then you’ve probably also heard Stevie Ray Vaughn’s version, which is also outstanding.

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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.