Weekend Thoughts

Since a great deal of people are going to be enjoying a (hopefully) nice and relaxing four day holiday weekend, I thought I would opine four quick thoughts for Gator Country readers to ponder and consider while at a BBQ, parade, or honoring America.

Single Digits

We are now less than 100 days from kickoff at The Swamp in Florida versus Idaho. Yes, this will be a long summer—especially for red-blooded football fans like me that just can’t, try and they as they might (even in the heart of “Braves County” in Atlanta), get into baseball. But, don’t fret Gators, there is a great deal to get you through the next few months. You can look to see part of Kurt Roper’s offensive playbook, or to watch Florida beat Tennessee for the 9th consecutive time in preparation for a 10th in Neyland Stadium this October, or maybe you want to see new TE transfer Jake McGee and what he can bring to the Florida offense this fall.  Yes, last year was a long year, but it was just last—last year. It’s time to get behind the team, support our coach, and remember why we all stick together in all kinds of weather. So while the dog days of summer are here—but, soon to be right around the corner are the days of “Go Gators, come on Gators, GET UP AND GO!”, “The Swamp….Only Gators Get Out Alive…”, and Will Muschamp showing his emotions to report how his team is faring at halftime. Soon Gator football fans, very soon.

Recruiting for 2015

The future is bright for the Florida Gators on the field this upcoming season—this much we know. But, it has the potential to be explosive in 2015 with could turn out to be a class to rival even Alabama’s. On first glance to most recruiting “rankings” from recruiting analysts out there, Florida has not cracked the top 25. I use the quotes when I mention rankings, because to me, rankings don’t mean much until the players hit the field—-need I need to remind anyone of the #20 recruit of the 2007 class, former Gator QB John Brantley? But, regardless, Rivals has the Gators at a #28 class overall, 247Sports has Florida at #28 as well, and ESPN does not rank beyond the top 25. It is the deep promise of this potential class that could commit to playing their fall ball in The Swamp that makes me quite excited, however  The Gators are in the hunt for a whopping 10 of the top 50 recruits in the ESPN300, including eight of the first 15. They have already positioned themselves well with a handful of them and even hold an early lead for some. After a 4-8 season, that’s pretty damned impressive, folks.

The crown jewel of the 2015 Florida target list (to me, anyway) is ATH/WR George Campbell.  I follow this guy on Twitter, and he has openly rooted on Florida there (and on other social media platforms), and from everything I’ve read, grew up a Gator fan as well. His highlight reel is quite impressive, though has some work to do with his hands. He reminds me of Andre Debose (and before you scoff, I’m very serious) in that he has all the raw potential, but has mechanical work to do with the Gator football staff. He has the natural build, the body frame, and the blazing quickness of a receiver, but has had some trouble when bringing the ball from the air into his gloves. Some time with Receivers Coach Joker Phillips assuredly will fix that. Muschamp is continuing to hit the recruiting trail hard for offensive firepower as well, working to get OT Martez Ivey and and WR Deon Cain to commit to the Gators as well. Cain has the speed of Percy Harvin, but I haven’t seen enough tape of him to commit fully to that statement. Muschamp has made several improvements this past year at offense (hiring Kurt Roper and the early enrollee status of QB Will Grier), and flipping ATH/QB Treon Harris from FSU in the last recruiting class. He’s continuing the trend next season, and that is good news for Gator fans (like me) that are sorely missing playmakers to light up the scoreboard.

Overall, being one of the big three programs (with FSU and Miami) in a talent-rich and tradition proud state like Florida that has captured nine of the last 25 football national championships, in fact, does means something. Playing in the best conference in the country, with some of the best fans in the country,  and playing a competitive schedule every year are attractive to recruits both in and out of the state.  Add in the fact that the Gators staff can tell in-state recruits that in some years (like 2014) 9 of 12 games will be played in the state of Florida; making it much easier for family and friends to watch you play on Saturdays, and it’s a real winning combination for the Gators as they look to lock down their top commits for 2015 and beyond.

SEC Stadium Expansions

Hooks, ladders, and cranes are going up and working hard all around the SEC.

Just when you thought Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge couldn’t get any bigger, louder, or more daunting, think again. LSU is in the process of completing an expansion to the stadium, which will seat over 100,000, raising it to the 4th largest stadium by capacity in the SEC. LSU is one of the most intimidating venues in college football, as I learned from having lived in New Orleans for 2 years as a Gator fan in enemy territory. From the fans tailgating, to the distinctive “Bum bum bum bum!” fight song echoing across the stadium, to the roar that once caused an earthquake in Baton Rouge—this place is an amazing experience for all college football fans. Tiger fans know how to rile up (and always welcome) opposing fans, and the expansion to this stadium will only serve to further to LSU/Florida rivalry into an even more intense and exhilarating experience. The Gators will take on the Tigers in Baton Rouge in 2016.

Commonwealth Stadium

Commonwealth Stadium in Kentucky is undergoing a facelift, as well. In bucking the trend of other schools in the conference, Kentucky will actually be reducing the capacity of the stadium to 61,000 in order to increase the size of luxury boxes and create a more fan-centric experience. Kentucky has not has much to cheer about in recent years, as their team has not won an SEC contest since 2011. Their stadium has always been bigger than the needs for that particular team, so it’s good to see the administration at UK recognize and make changes to adjust. The fan experience at any sporting event in Kentucky is always friendly, and you have to admire the fans that show up to games on Saturday in Lexington. While it is certainly a basketball school, their fans are dedicated and loyal, and  look forward to experiencing the more fan-centric intimate environment when the Gators travel up the the Bluegrass State in 2016.

Texas A&M’s modernization and expansion to Kyle Field is going along swiftly, as well. I am blown away by the magnitude and the promise of this MASSIVE undertaking here, folks. The $450 million expansion, while not completed by next season, will increase capacity at the stadium to over 102,000, and sport the largest football  video boards in the NCAA (everything is bigger in Texas, remember?) The field will be lowered 7 feet, giving fans and visitors to Kyle Field closer access to the field, and adding to the considerable home-field advantage to the Aggies’ 12th Man. This stadium renovation will be the largest undertaking of the five currently occurring in the conference. Though Florida will not play Kyle Field again until 2022, I know I am already all-in for what promises to be a memorable and exciting road trip to a quality facility.

Missouri and Mississippi State are making improvements and adjustments to their stadiums as well.

Nope, we’re not Alabama…

In Etowah County, Alabama  local authorities were conducting a drug raid recently, when this gem of a video surfaced of an arrest of a local accused of dealing methamphetamines in a rural part of the state.  Being from (and having lived in) a town with some pretty rural stretches, drugs are a big problem in towns and area like that. Sadly, when all you have to do on a Friday or Saturday night is either go to the movies, enjoy the chocolate waterfall at Golden Corral, or go watch the eligible bachelors and maidens shuffle out from Bingo at 7 PM, it doesn’t lend to much good happening. But, as bored as I ever may get, as broke as I ever may be, and as big of a Gator fan as I am, I can guarantee that you’ll never catch me at a meth lab Volusia County (where I am from) in Florida Gator pajamas—much less saying “Go Gators” with a reporters’ microphone shoved in my face. Though, kudos to the guy for stating his allegiance to world in handcuffs, and hats off to the deputy who smiled and nodded his head as the alleged meth dealer/buyer exclaimed  (in handcuffs), “I’m innocent. Roll Tide!”

This is indeed one of those times where, “It’s Great To Be A Florida Gator”

I would be remiss to not pause, remember, and say thank you to all members of the Gator Nation (and even those not in the Gator Nation) for their service to their country. I am able to wake up, I am able to breathe and live free, and be an American Gator fan because of your sacrifice. God Bless you, your family, and God Bless America.

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Casey Hampton
Casey is originally from New Smyrna Beach, Florida and has called Atlanta home since 2013. He loves sports (especially the Florida Gators) since he was old enough to sit and watch ESPN with his father and grandfather. His favorite sports pastimes are to cheer for the orange and blue (either in person or screaming at the television) and have his heart broken by the Orlando Magic in the playoffs. He currently works in higher education at Kennesaw State University. If you have any story ideas, suggestions, comments, or just want to be cool, drop him a line at casey@gatorcountry.com.


  1. I really, really like the idea of what Kentucky is doing with their stadium — shrinking it the seating capacity and making their seats bigger, more comfortable, etc. I think this is the wave of the future and the way to go… Make the stadium a more comfortable, enjoyable experience. Also by reducing capacity *and* taking steps to enhance the experience, I believe you’re bringing more value and scarcity to tickets, therefore making it a more valuable experience.

    Good job, Casey!


  2. I think you’re drinking the Kool-Aid when you think UF may have a class to rival Alabama’s. There is a eason UF is not doing well in recruiting this year, it’s last year and the fact that the coaches have about the highest probability of anyone in the country of losing their job. Don’t you know that the first thing recruits are told by other schools is that the coaches at UF aren’t going to be around in 2015? When I look at the schedule, it’s hard for me to optimistic that UF would be a good bet go over the 7.5 wins that is the Vegas line. I know seven wins would be an improvement over last year, but will that be enough to save this coaching staff, if it includes losses to Georgia and FSU? Butch Jones is doing well recruiting because the kids know he’ll be there in 2015 no matter what the record is on the field in 2014. Recruits don’t know if UF’s coaches will be around, so thinking that UF is going to match Alabama in recruiting is a pretty unrealistic expectation right now. It will make more sense if UF beats Alabama on the field, until then UF is going to struggle to get the best players to pledge to come to Gainesville.

    • As I said, it would be IF the potential irons out. Kids will go where they know they will play, and know where they are being seen. You look at Miami for example; they’ve been down for the better part of last decade but still have produced NFL caliber talent. Ron Zook recruited well and he was on the hot seat from the day he arrived in Gainesville. Sure, kids want to know they’ll eb coached well, but at a program like Florida, you’ll be noticed no matter what you do.

  3. If enough big name recruits however commit to us, it almost guarantees the coaching staff’s return for fear of losing them if they are fired. So it is easy to get around the claim that a coaching staff might not be back so therefore you should not commit to them.

    The key is demonstrating a higher level of competitiveness than the past 3 years on offense. Even the year that we went to a BCS bowl game with Muschamp, our offense was suspect. What has to concern other programs is that we even won 4 games with one of the worst offenses in America playing in the toughest conference in America.

    That is a major selling point for recruits to come here. We can only get better. We can’t get worse, and better starts with super athletes that are coachable and coaches that really know what they are doing. We have already replaced Pease who was on the hot seat at the middle point of last season, and we still brought in top flight guys on both sides of the ball.

    • Ah, but we can get worse. Watch Vandy this year for an example. A dizzying rise to the top, and what I predict to be a meteoric fall back to Earth. Florida will get the recruits, Muschamp as coach or not. I have no doubt we’ll have a top 10, possibly top 5 class next year.

    • There’s nothing remarkable about UF winning four games in 2013. The wins came against two of the worst team in college football,Arkansas and Kentucky, a win over a mediocre team, Tennessee that finished 5-7, and the only win against a team with a winning record, Toledo, not exactly a powerhouse in college football. So I doubt that the 2013 season will be mentioned at all, if possible, because there is absolutely nothing that can be positive, unless you want to brag about beating Toledo. All the other things you said can be used to entice players to come, but recruiting is about building relationships, and if the coaches are canned, I don’t see how anyone could come in and salvage a top ten class. Maybe the following year, then the new coach can do the same thing that Butch Jones is selling at Tennessee; the chance to be part of the resurgence of Florida football. I disagree with the hypothesis that it doesn’t matter who is the coach. For a lot of kids, that is their biggest concern. For example, UF got two players this past recruiting cycle because the coach that recruited them was no longer at the school. I’m speaking of Thomas Holley, who had pledged to Penn State, and Kavaris Harkless, who was enrolling at Louisville when Strong left for Texas. So, yes, who the coach is does matter in recruiting and it normally takes a couple of years to develop the relationships necessary to be successful.

  4. P.S. Casey, I’m not blaming you but the rumor is that Deon Cain is going to commit to Clemson very soon. Maybe it’s best to not name names because it’s hard to get excited and then be let down.

    • No worries at all.

      Recruits are just that though, recruits. You win some battles (Treon Harris flipping from FSU) and you lose some battles (Dalvin Cook). It’s the nature of high school kids to change their mind twice as much as changing their underwear. If it wasn’t, then we’d allow them to buy a cocktail and a home or buy property! Haha. Deon Cain or not, we are well-placed right now with all the prospects at least leaning our way. Butch Jones has 2-3 more years to repair the KIffin/Dooley era, whereas Muschamp had an injury-plauged year after an 11-2 season. Georgia Southern was inexcusable, but give the guy some slack. If he loses to UGA this year, I think his goose is cooked—but he’s our coach, and we’ve all pledged to stand together in all kinds of weather. Let’s hang crepe with Muschamp later—right now, let’s rally behind what looks to be a much-improved offense, a stellar defense, and an improving special teams. That;s where our energies are needed

  5. Good stuff Casey! Welcome to GC and I look forward to reading all of your contributions…

    Oh and it looks like you’ll get to inherit SnowPrint’s dribble after every article. Good luck! Next time, add some thoughts about FSU, that’ll get him going. ; )

    • I think Muschamp is a good coach. The 11-2 season was a remarkable feat and he was deserving of SEC Coach of the Year. I just don’t feel confident that UF has the players to save his job. I know the recruiting rankings say that UF has recruited better or as well as anybody not named Alabama, but There is too much of a question mark at the most important position, quarterback. I guess it all comes down to Driskel, if he becomes a good quarterback, then UF has a chance against anyone, if he doesn’t improve, UF is in for another disappointing season. I could have it all wrong, UF did win 11 games with Driskel, and he wasn’t a good quarterback then.