A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
FOLEY WON’T CHANGE HIS MIND
I’m told by two people who know Jeremy Foley quite well that no matter what happens Saturday against Florida State – even if the Seminoles roll up some ridiculous score on the Gators – that the decision is set in stone and Will Muschamp will be Florida’s football coach in 2014. I asked both point blank what would happen if the week after losing to Georgia Southern that FSU wasted the Gators in The Swamp, making it three straight home losses, something that hasn’t happened since 1986. The answer from both, “There is absolutely ZERO chance he will change his mind.” I went one question further. What if enough of the big money boosters refuse to write any more checks. “Won’t change a thing” was the reply.
THERE WILL STILL HAVE TO BE CHANGES
Whether we’re talking basic offensive philosophy or coordinator here, something will have to give for 2014 or else the season will be an exercise in futility. Muschamp repeatedly said, “It’s on me” at his Monday press conference when talking about the offense. He also said repeatedly, “We’ll get it fixed.” Two things stand out about the defense. A close friend who is head coach at a BCS school, told me this on Sunday: “Once Muschamp gets 14 or 17 points, the offense goes line it up, knock the other guy off the ball and don’t make a mistake. He figures he’s got all the points he needs to win and that his defense will do the rest. It worked last year, but let’s be realistic here … he gives himself no margin for error. It worked for him last year. It didn’t work this year. Look at the trend these days when even bad teams can score points by spreading the field. You’ve got to give yourself some wiggle room with your offense.”
THERE WILL STILL HAVE TO BE CHANGES, PART II
So what changes next year? This is like asking which came first: the chicken or the egg? I think the change will have to start with the offensive philosophy. If not, then it doesn’t matter whether the coordinator is Brent Pease once again or someone else. If the head coach doesn’t change his philosophy, it wouldn’t matter if the coordinator is Art Briles. I will admit I’m not a Brent Pease fan. I never have been. The only really outstanding year he ever had calling plays was at Boise State and that wasn’t his offense. It’s the same offense that was brought to Boise by Dirk Koetter in 1998 and it featured Kellen Moore, who in the three previous years had established himself as one of the nation’s premier quarterbacks. When Pease was at Kentucky and Baylor, the average gain per pass attempt was in the 6.0 average and that is less than average. I also look at Florida’s quarterbacks in the last two years. I can’t see a lot of development at the position. My own logic tells me that Muschamp better come up a new offensive philosophy and supplement it with a new coordinator.
DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON’T
This is where the situation gets very tricky. If Muschamp eliminates Pease from the Florida offensive equation then who does he hire? Better question: who would come to Gainesville knowing that another season of mediocrity means uprooting your family for a second time in less than 13 months? So, yes, while most would agree that the offense needs more than what we’ve seen from Brent Pease, you have to ask can you do better under the circumstances? It’s damned if you fire him, damned if you don’t. I’ve heard people suggest Kerwin Bell as the perfect replacement for Pease, but (a) I can’t see him leaving Jacksonville University where he has plenty of security plus gets to coach his son Kade (quarterback) for two more years and (b) someone I trust told me Monday night that there are two chances Kerwin comes to UF as coordinator – no way and no how. There are two options already on the staff in Joker Phillips, who had powerhouse offenses at Kentucky in 2006-07 with Andre Woodson at quarterback and Brian White, who produced a Heisman winner in Ron Dayne and a consistently powerful offense in eight years of calling the plays at Wisconsin.
BACK IN 2004 …
Following consecutive 8-5 seasons, Ron Zook was 4-3 when he got the hook just after midseason following a loss to Mississippi State. Zooker finished the season and was 7-4, beating FSU in Tallahassee in his Florida swan song. In his three years on the job, the Gators never failed to score at least 336 points for the season (336 in 2002, 390 in 2003, 382 in 2004), he got swindled out of two victories by horrible officiating (FSU in 2003 and Tennessee in 2004), beat Georgia two out of three, and was the only team to beat LSU in the Tigers national championship season of 2003 (with a true freshman quarterback). His 2003 and 2004 recruiting classes were strong enough that Urban Meyer only needed a player here and a player there to supplement them to win the 2006 national title. Now Ron Zook never won 11 games in a season – Muschamp did last year – but he also never had a losing season and never lost six games in a row. But he was fired seven games into the 2004 season.
WELCOME BACK SCOTTIE
The way he played in his first game off a suspension that cost him the first five games of the season, you would think Scottie Wilbekin had been in the lineup all along. In helping the 13th-ranked Gators to am 86-60 win over Jacksonville University on the road Monday night, Wilbekin filled up the box score with 12 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals. He was 2-2 from the three-point line, committed only two turnovers and was a pit bull defender on the perimeter. With Wilbekin in the lineup, the Gators shot a torrid 59.6% for the game, hit 8-13 from the three-point line and put five players in double figures. Yes, it was just Jacksonville, but this is a Florida team that is only going to get better.
TOUGH FOUR-GAME STRETCH
Nobody can say Billy Donovan is ducking the big boys this year. In addition to two games against #4 Kentucky once the SEC season kicks in, Florida’s next four games are Florida State (5-1 and on the verge of cracking the top 25) at the O-Dome; #14 UConn on the road December 2; #2 Kansas at the O-Dome December 10; and #19 Memphis in New York on December 17. It’s not unreasonable to think that injured Kasey Hill (high ankle sprain) will be back by the Kansas game. Friends of Damontre Hill tell me that he’s got some classwork to make up and his head is getting back to the right place since an unexpected visit from his mom last week, so he could be back perhaps by the Kansas game, also. Then there is Chris Walker. He won’t be able to play in any of the four upcoming games, but a couple of people I know who know his situation well, tell me he will definitely be enrolled in school and with the team after the last final exam for the fall semester. Give Donovan those three with what he already has and this is a team that will challenge for a national title.
IF WINSTON IS CHARGED IT WON’T BE THIS WEEK
It’s interesting listening to talk radio about the Jameis Winston case. Today I heard that (a) there isn’t enough evidence to charge him; (b) the longer it takes for state attorney Willie Meggs to charge Winston with anything is a sign that Meggs is grasping at straws to he can have a high profile case; (c) that the alleged victim is a complete and total slut; (d) that the alleged victim is just mad at Winston because he had sex with her then went to the airport to pick up his girlfriend; and (e) that Winston will be charged next Monday, miss the ACC Championship Game, but charges will be dropped the week after and he will be able to lead FSU to the national championship. That’s what I heard. Is any of it true? That I can’t tell you, but what I can say with certainty is that the speaker in each of these points was an FSU fan/alum. What I can also say is that we won’t know for another week what is going to happen in this case. Winston will play against the Gators.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
With a coach catching the heat at the University of Florida and a quarterback at Florida State awaiting a decision from the state attorney in Tallahassee that could permanently alter his life, I couldn’t resist this song. It’s by The Fortunes, an English band best known for its upbeat harmonies, and it’s called, “You’ve Got Your Troubles, I’ve Got Mine.” It just seemed appropriate for today.