Thoughts of the Day: September 19, 2013

1. TENNESSEE FLASHBACK, 1999: Tee Martin still hears Alex Brown’s footsteps in his sleep after Brown turned in the most dominant defensive performance by a Gator since Wilber Marshall made Southern Cal’s Sean Salisbury his personal whipping boy back in 1982. Tennessee was the undefeated national champ in 1998 and the Vols came into The Swamp 1-0, ranked #2 in the nation. It was one of those 99-degree September nights at The Swamp, but The Great Pumpkin (Phil Fulmer) had the Vols prepared. You’ve never seen such an array of cooling devices on one sideline as the Vols paraded out that day. The one they needed to cool down was Alex Brown, who finished the game with five sacks of Tee Martin, a forced fumble, an interception and two passes deflected in Florida’s 23-21 win.

2. CHANGING UP THE DEFENSE: Florida’s defense is ranked third nationally (208.5 yards per game) but that doesn’t mean the staff is standing still. The major change this week against Tennessee will be the move of Jaylen Watkins to safety, moving ahead of redshirt freshman Marcus Maye. This is a good move and long overdue. Safety is a more natural position for Watkins, who gives the Gators a very capable cover safety. Although he doesn’t hit like Maye, Watkins won’t bite on play a play fake and give up a touchdown over his head. Also, Antonio Morrison is back as the starting middle linebacker although Michael Taylor will continue to see action at middle and weakside. Tackling will be Florida’s primary concern on Saturday because it’s no secret that Tennessee will come into the game with a ground and pound game plan. It’s the only way to keep that putrid UT defense off the field.

3. GATORS BY THE NUMBERS: In addition to being #3 in total defense, the Gators are #3 in rushing defense, #12 in pass efficiency defense, #1 in third down defense, #2 in fewest first downs allowed, #16 in fewest passing yards allowed, #119 in penalties and #107 in penalty yardage. Also, the Gators rank #64 in total offense, #54 in rushing offense, #71 in passing offense and #98 in scoring offense.

5. WES SANDY CHANDLER, SEC LEGEND: Wes Sandy Chandler will be honored as a Southeastern Conference legend at the SEC Championship Game weekend this year. Chandler made All-America as a wide receiver at UF in 1976-77 even though the Gators ran the wishbone and everybody in the stadium knew if they were going to throw the pass was heading in Chandler’s direction. In his UF career he caught 92 passes for 1,963 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also made first team Academic All-American in 1977. This raises the question: Why isn’t Wes Chandler in the College Football Hall of Fame?

6. JOHN FEINSTEIN RIPS MARK EMMERT: About the only people who haven’t spoken out about NCAA President Mark Emmert are his wife and kids. Give them time and they might also. The latest is author John Feinstein, who says Emmert is on the outside looking in on nearly every critical issue. Feinstein takes issue with the NCAA stance on transfers, noting that scholarships are for only one year and renewable at the school’s discretion yet a player who wishes to transfer has to sit out a year. It is indeed a one-way contract that only benefits the school. Feinstein says that alone is reason why Emmert and the NCAA should take a different stance on cost of attendance above the scholarship. Feinstein writes,
“Why are the presidents against paying players? Because why pay for something you’ve been getting for free for years?” He nailed it.

7. TRENT RICHARDSON TO THE COLTS?: The former Alabama All-American was the #3 player taken in the 2012 NFL Draft but the Cleveland Browns traded him to the Indianapolis Colts Wednesday for the Colts’ #1 draft pick in 2014. Richardson does have a history of injury in the NFL plus he has averaged only 3.8 yards per carry, but have you seen Cleveland play lately? Maybe the reason he gets hurt so much and averages so little per carry is because the Cleveland offense stinks and its O-line ranks with the worst in the NFL. The Colts have the O-line but they lost starting running back Vick Ballard to a season ending ACL tear and backup Ahmad Bradshaw has taken too many hits over the years to carry a team at this point in his career. If Richardson gets healthy, the Colts might have made a steal. As for the Browns, they hope the trade will help them move up in the first round so they can draft Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater. But, what happens if Teddy elects to stay his senior year. He might not win the Heisman this year given Louisville’s cupcake schedule, but against ACC competition next year, Bridgewater could be the overwhelming favorite. I think Indianapolis probably got the best of this deal.

8. THE DREADED VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Last week, Mack Brown got the dreaded vote of confidence from University of Texas President Bill Powers. Mack and the Longhorns promptly went out and got stomped by Ole Miss. This week, Bo Pelini gets the dreaded VOC in a joint statement from the Nebraska athletic director and vice chancellor. Fortunately Pelini doesn’t have to beat a capable team like Ole Miss – South Dakota State this week – but unless he weirds out and does the unthinkable, like develop a defense that can win the Big Ten this year, you can figure he will be job shopping by late November.

MUSIC FOR TODAY: Butch Trucks was one of the original Allman Brothers Band members and while people may not know that name and the association with the Allman Brothers, they do know his nephew.  Derek Trucks has been blowing people away with his guitar work since he was 12. The comparisons with Duane Allman are not only inevitable but deserved. Now an adult with his own band, he married singer Susan Tedeschi and their bands merged into this rather terrific rock-blues-soul group called the Tedeschi Trucks Band. They’re incredible in person and if you’re lucky when you catch them live, they’ll do the old Stevie Wonder classic, “Uptight.”

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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.