Thoughts of the day: November 20, 2013


The last thing the Gators can afford to do Saturday is to come out flat emotionally against Georgia Southern. There is just too much at stake from a pride standpoint and from the standpoint of keeping alive the streak of non-losing seasons that dates all the way back to 1979. Sure, no one with any measure of sanity is figuring the Gators will knock off Florida State Thanksgiving weekend, but strange things happen in rivalry games. FSU came to Florida Field in 1979 unbeaten while Florida was doing a reverse run of the table (0-10-1).  It took FSU recovering an onside kick with about two minutes left in the game to knock off the Gators that day. It’s not totally out of the question that the Gators could spring the upset, but first they have to take care of business Saturday against Georgia Southern.


The Eagles will run that same funky option offense you’ve seen Georgia Tech run. It’s the same offense that Erk Russell ran when he started the Georgia Southern program from scratch in 1983. It has its origins with Florida high school coaching legend Tom Perrin, who called it “The Flying T” because there is motion on every play from either the slotback or wingback. The single back behind the quarterback is called the A-back and he will get the bulk of the carries between the tackles. The slot and wingbacks will take pitchouts or option pitches. There is a lot of trap blocking and the guards and center pull on a regular basis. Georgia Southern only throws nine passes a game so everybody stacks the box and still has a hard time stopping the running game. The Eagles average 360 rushing yards and 90 passing yards a game.


This is the last go-round for Georgia Southern in Division IAA. The Eagles take the plunge into Division I next season, joining the Sun Belt Conference along with Appalachian State, which, along with Georgia Southern has won D1AA national titles. It’s an ambitious move for Georgia Southern and probably the right one to make. Not every move up is the smart one, but there is a rabid fan base, a stadium that will easily expand from the current 18,000 to 30,000, and enough talent within a four to five hour radius to easily supply the additional 22 scholarships (D1AA is limited to 63; D1 gets 85). And, with the likelihood that D1AA teams won’t get those necessary paycheck games in the future, GSU’s move up will allow it to schedule over its head in exchange for large paydays in the future.


X-rays came back negative Tuesday for Florida freshman point guard Kasey Hill, who suffered a high ankle sprain early in the second half against Southern University Monday night. Although Billy Donovan speculated that Hill could be out a month after the Monday night game, but others (Al Horford in 2006; Casey Prather last season) have made it back in as little as two weeks. Probably the best guesstimate right now is that Hill will be returning to action either December 2 for the road trip to UConn or December 10 for Kansas. If it’s UConn, he only misses the Middle Tennessee, Jacksonville and Florida State games.


Winning isn’t the only thing Ed Orgeron is using in his quest to have the interim label removed at Southern Cal. Since taking over for Lane Kiffin, Coach O is 5-1 including an impressive win over then #5 Stanford last Saturday. He’s got the Trojans ranked in both polls again and has players and fans lobbying hard for athletic director Pat Haden to give him the job. Now he’s got recruits singing the same song. Viane Talamaivao, one of the top offensive guards in the country who was committed to Alabama, dropped Bama and committed to Southern Cal Tuesday. If Coach O keeps reeling in the prospects, it’s going to be very hard for Haden to say no.


The investigation into a possible charge of felony sexual battery against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is not over even though there have been conflicting reports. This is a case that began last December, was buried and now has resurfaced at the state attorney’s office. There have been reports that the case was dropped because the alleged victim says she doesn’t wish to press charges only to discover that she was reluctant to press charges and that the case moves forward. The state attorney has the case and says it has to move forward in a fair way. A Tallahassee city councilman says the case has to move forward and be handled as any other case would. It would seem there is a three-ring circus in Tallahassee.  Under our system of justice, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty so we should assume – and hope – that Winston was as pure as the driven snow, but with the many twists and turns this case has taken just in the past few days casts a shadow on the entire procedure.


Is there a more embattled athletic department right now than Rutgers. First, basketball coach Mike Rice was fired last spring for bullying his basketball team, something that factored in leading scorer Eli Carter transferring to Florida and also led to the dismissal of athletic director Tom Pernetti. Then information surfaced that Pernetti’s replacement, Julie Hermann, was accused of bullying players and using abusive language when she was the volleyball coach at Tennessee in the 1990s. Now Rutgers defensive coordinator Dave Cohen has been accused of bullying defensive back Jevon Tyree, who quit the team over the alleged abuse. Of course, Rutgers denies everything, but that’s about what you would expect. You might expect these kind of accusations at a school which actually enjoys athletic success, but other than women’s basketball it’s hardly the poster child for winning.


The “experts” spent the offseason drooling over Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Julius Randle (Kentucky) and Jabari Parker (Duke) and general consensus was that one of them would earn national player of the year honors. All three freshmen have been impressive so far, but the best player in the country is Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and second isn’t even close. We’re not talking about the player the NBA scouts think has the most potential although Smart will be a top five pick when he leaves school after this season. We’re talking about the best player. Against Memphis Tuesday night, Smart singlehandedly made the Tigers his whipping boys with 39 points, four rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocked shots. There will be more where that came from this season. I would pay to see this guy play.


The Righteous Brothers spawned the term “blue-eyed soul” back in the 1960s but when Boz Scaggs went solo they had to come up with a new term to describe his style, so the term “white soul” was coined. Boz earned a Grammy for best R&B song in 1976 with “Lowdown,” which still gets plenty of airplay today. That came from the “Silk Degrees” album, which produced seven songs that made the top 40. This is one of my five favorite albums of all time.

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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.