CIRCLING THE WAGONS
That’s what Will Muschamp says the Gators need to do in the next five weeks as they try to dig their way out of a hole that threatens to get deeper with a daunting schedule on which there are no gimme games, not even D1AA Georgia Southern which runs that funky option offense that is difficult for any team to prepare for in one week. When he met with the media Wednesday, Muschamp stood up for his coaches and reminded folks that these same coaches took Florida to an 11-2 record last year, which is true. It’s also true that Florida was offensively challenged last year, too, and is on course to be worse this year than last. You can’t blame Muschamp for standing up for his coaches in public, but behind the scenes he needs to remind some of his staff that unless they do a better job it might not be a good idea to invest in real estate in Gainesville any time in the near future.
IMPROVEMENT STARTS WITH THE O-LINE
While fans want to see radical changes to an offense that even Muschamp called “inept” after the loss to Missouri, the offense might look 100% improved if the line coached by Tim Davis would simply carry out assignments. From whiffs on the edge by the tackles to missed assignments in the middle to a lack of discipline which shows in false starts and holding penalties, the line has been in a downward spiral since game one. Of the 17 sacks the Gators have given up, 12 have come in the past three games – two against Arkansas, four against LSU and six against Missouri. A former Gator offensive lineman texted me today with this question: “Who calls the blocking assignments? Sideline or LOS by (center Jonnothan) Harrison? Watch the tape. So many guys don’t block anyone I think bad communication.”
The talk at Texas is that the first call of the new athletic director – expected to be Oliver Luck of West Virginia – will go to Nick Saban and that money will be no object. Currently, Saban makes $5.65 million at Alabama while Mack Brown, who is expected to either quit or be fired at Texas, makes $5.4 million. The talk in Texas is that Nick could be the first $10 million a year coach in college football and that there would be other perqs to make this the offer he couldn’t refuse. Saban is also expected to get the first call from Southern Cal athletic director Pat Haden, but as a former Saban staffer told me earlier in the week, “I doubt he goes anywhere, but if he leaves Alabama it will be for Texas.”
MONEY WARS, PART II
When it comes to football salaries, Florida lags way behind the rest of the Southeastern Conference. Head coach Will Muschamp got a raise to $2.8 million after last year’s 11-2 record, but even that lags way behind the rest of the SEC. Muschamp is now the eighth highest paid coach in the league. Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M all report higher salaries for their head coach. Until he got the raise back during the summer months, Muschamp trailed James Franklin of Vanderbilt and Dan Mullen of Mississippi State. The disparity also extends to assistant coach salaries. Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease makes $590,000 while defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is paid $490,000. Alabama, LSU and Georgia all pay their defensive coordinators more than $1 million while LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is paid $1.15 million. The rest of Florida’s assistant coach salaries range from $215,000 to tight ends coach Derek Lewis to $390,000 for defensive line coach Brad Lawing. The lowest paid Alabama assistant makes $300,000.
SO MANY ACL INJURIES
Not only at Florida (five knee injuries, four of them ACL), but throughout college football there has been a rash of season-ending ACL and other knee injuries. While many would question training and conditioning, part of it might have something to do with something Steve Spurrier described a few years down at Tarpon Springs during the annual Silver Sixties weekend of Gators who played for Ray Graves. Spurrier explained, “The players are bigger, faster and stronger than they’ve ever been, but the field is the same size. They come at you faster and hit you harder. There’s no place to hide on the field.”
FSU WILL HONOR BOBBY BOWDEN SATURDAY
It has been four years since Bobby Bowden was forced out as head coach at Florida State, but apparently the rift between college football’s winningest coach ever and the school has been healed. Bowden will be honored Saturday with more than 400 former Seminole players there to pay homage to the coach who went 304-97-4 at FSU, winning two national championships. As a departure from the norm where Chief Osceola plants the flaming spear in the midfield logo, Bowden will have that honor Saturday when the Seminoles face North Carolina State.
THE HEISMAN TROPHY RACE
Per ESPN, if the Heisman Trophy vote were held now, it would be a Marcus Mariota (Oregon)-Jameis Winston (FSU) down to the wire finish with everyone else lagging far behind. Last year’s Heisman winner Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) is a distant third in the ESPN poll of a select number of Heisman voters. It is interesting that Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron is seventh with only some fourth and fifth place votes. McCarron is 33-2 as a starting quarterback and has a chance to lead Bama to a third consecutive national championship. His stats aren’t bad, either – 1,587 passing yards for 14 touchdowns and only three picks through seven games. In his career, McCarron has thrown for 7,543 yards, 63 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. You would think he would have more support than seventh.
THE HEISMAN TROPHY RACE, PART II
Mariota has the best chance to seal the Heisman because of a more demanding schedule. Great performances against #12 UCLA (Saturday) and #6 Stanford (November 7) and #25 Oregon State (November 29) could do the trick. Mariota has thrown for 2,051 yards for 19 touchdowns with no interceptions plus he has run for 493 yards (10.1 per carry) and nine more touchdowns. Winston’s numbers are outstanding – 1,885 passing yards with 20 touchdown passes and only three picks, plus three rushing touchdowns – but the lack of formidable opponents down the stretch could sway the vote to Mariota. Seventh-ranked and unbeaten Miami (November 2) is the only team in the top 25 remaining on the Seminoles’ schedule.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I’ve never seen Mayer Hawthorne in concert, but I’m looking forward to seeing him live sometime in the future. I discovered him on a Palladium TV episode of “Live at Daryl’s” and that got me listening to more. He’s very talented His music is really a throwback to the blue-eyed soul days of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some of his influences are Barry White, Isaac Hayes and Smokey Robinson. He also performs rap under the moniker “Haircut.” This track is called “The Walk.”