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.
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 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.
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.