Each week, former Gator football player and now sports talk radio host Brady Ackerman will answer your questions about the Florida Gators. Whether it’s this week’s game or the game just played, no question is too hot for Brady to handle.
Brady: What do you think about UF being SEC East Champs?
All is back to normal in the Gator Nation and give Urban Meyer, his staff and players all the credit in the world for getting it done. I spoke this summer at the Volusia County Gator Club and told them to purchase their tickets to Atlanta and if UF did not go, I would come back and speak for free in 2007. Well if they ask me back I guess I will get an honorarium now but I just felt like the talent and the dedication would pay off. So many people spent the summer focusing on the schedule but my take has always been this is Florida and people should worry about playing you. Meyer has defended the home turf and shown the team how to win close games and that is why the Orange and Blue is headed back to Atlanta.
Brady: I am glad we won but the game (Vanderbilt) was still closer than I would have liked. Why can’t we run the ball better?
Urban Meyer alluded to some nagging injuries on the offensive line with guys playing through them right now so that may be part of the problem. The other part is DeShawn Wynn, who is UF’s best back, can’t seem to rip off any of those long runs that break a defense’s back. In watching him I think he is just not at his best running behind the zone scheme. He is thinking too much and sometimes it is causing him to cut off the wrong foot and he is slipping. He is at his best when going down hill out of the I-formation. Either way he is giving UF just enough on the ground for Florida to get respect from a defense. UF abandoned the receiver runs from last week which took away their wide outside running game.
Ack: How will the loss of Marcus Thomas affect the rest of the season?
I first want to say as an ex-Gator I have no ill feeling toward Marcus for not choosing to uphold his end of the agreement with Urban Meyer. I know he was fortunate to get a second chance but as a young man he obviously was asked to do a lot and maybe just getting his life in order is all he can handle at this time. His departure will hurt against a team like Arkansas and Auburn. Those teams specialize in running down hill and that does not happen when Thomas is in the game. Ray McDonald who may have had the play of the game on Saturday will have to raise his level of play while Steven Harris needs to return to his 2005 form. I think UF can win out and get to the BCS without him but UF’s inside seniors need to step up and pick up the slack. FYI, the Gators are 5-0, I believe, without Marcus Thomas.
Brady: What did you like about the Gators on Saturday and not like so much?
First how about Ryan Smith? This guy lost his job at Utah? Man he is so solid and along with Derrick Harvey, Reggie Nelson and Jarvis Moss they should all be first team conference. Heck you could make a case for All-American with regards to Ryan Smith. The special teams looked good with a field goal made, two blocked punts and a nice return by Brandon James. I also liked Dan Mullen’s play calls on the two Chris Leak touchdowns. I did not like Chris Leak’s interceptions or his deep balls. He seems to be off when throwing the ball down the field. His red zone interception was the fifth turnover inside the red zone this season. I also thought the defense got a little bit into the passive in the fourth quarter.
Brady: What do you think of the BCS title chances now?
I think Louisville has to lose or they will be there. I have no problem with that because they are in a BCS conference and look they have been building this program with Florida kids. They may lose Thursday to Rutgers or to USF who beat them last year but this is not Utah, Boise State or TCU. They are in a BCS conference. With that said Florida may need some help with Texas. I could see the Gators needing Arkansas to show up 11-1 to maybe vault UF back over the Longhorns in December. Remember, if Texas wins the Big 12 South they will play Nebraska again with three losses. Florida has played just two teams with losing records this season while Texas has played four. By the way if Florida can win the SEC you either get the National Title game vs. Ohio State/Michigan or Notre Dame/USC in the Sugar Bowl. That’s pretty good for me.
Brady: Do you have any early thoughts on Steve Spurrier coming back with South Carolina?
It sure seems like coach has been back a lot lately but this time it’s for real. He has had some gut wrenching losses but you can be sure his team will be ready to play Saturday. UF needs to come out with great purpose if they want to keep the home win streak alive. The motivation this week should be payback for the embarrassing loss last year up in Columbia. I think Spurrier will start Blake Mitchell which should be good for Harvey and Moss.
Ack: Did the offense get any better this week?
Yes it did. I like the plan of throwing the ball down the field and in the intermediate areas. If you have Dallas Baker one-on-one then that is one you have to take advantage of a bunch. Leak missed seven throws all day and three were intercepted and at least one was dropped. He was not overly sharp but productive and the play action was very effective even though the Gators were out rushed for the first time all season. The Gators were 4-5 in the red zone with one turnover and that is good. I liked the balance and the effort the Gators just need more big plays in the run game.
Please check out College Kickoff on Friday Night on SunSports at 7 p.m. for a preview of the game. Our post game show with interviews and Coach Meyer’s press conference follows the conclusion of Saturday’s game. Join me along with Whit Watson, Terry Norvelle, David Steele, Nat Moore, Steve Babik and Todd Lewis for all the coverage on Sun Sports this weekend. You can hear the Brady Ackerman Show from 7-10 a.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN Radio 900 Ocala/1230 Gainesville.