Thoughts of the day: January 23, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning.


Antonio Morrison played in eight games last season and was credited with 56 tackles, second best total on the 2013 Florida football team. There is no question he would have led the team in tackles except a season-ending injury caused him to miss the final three games. He also missed the first game of the season because he was suspended due to an offseason arrest for barking at a police K-9 in an incident in downtown Gainesville. When you survey the stats, the number that sticks out about Morrison is one – as in one tackle for loss. That’s not an acceptable number for a middle linebacker in the Southeastern Conference and it tells you that Morrison either overran a lot of plays or else wasn’t quick enough to the hole to make hits before running backs got to the line of scrimmage. Morrison doesn’t lack for ability, but he’s got to become a bigger leader, both on the field with more aggressive play that results in more contact at or behind the line of scrimmage, and off the field. He is a leader on this team and leaders don’t get arrested for barking back at dogs.


Last spring, the Florida State quarterback job was a neck and neck battle between redshirt freshman Jameis Winston and redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker. Winston won the battle, went on to win the Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to the national championship. Coker, 6-5 and 230 pounds, threw for 250 yards in mop-up duty before he tore a knee against Wake Forest. He has been released from his FSU scholarship, will graduate in the spring and will probably transfer to Alabama where he could very likely take over as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback in the fall. His chief opposition will be Blake Sims, who has been around three years and has yet to wow anyone, sophomore Alec Morris, a couple of redshirt freshmen and incoming freshman David Cornwell. If you’re the type to wager a few bucks, put money on Coker emerging as the starting quarterback in August.


The knock on Florida State in its run to the 2013 national championship was the Seminoles didn’t play anybody. They won’t be able to say that in 2014 if they pull a repeat. Florida State opens with Oklahoma State at Jerry’s World and has non-conference games with Notre Dame and Florida, both in Tallahassee. The Atlantic Coast Conference portion of the schedule includes a homer with Clemson and roadies at Louisville (on a Thursday night) and Miami. This is probably the toughest schedule the Seminoles have played in years.


Originally estimated at $90 million, Notre Dame’s new deal with Under Armour, which officially takes over as the supplier of shoes and apparel for the Fighting Irish in June, also includes stock and state of the art training and development assistance. Because Under Armour is a growing presence in sports science and technology, this deal is cutting edge and could be the deal that sets the pace for future contracts throughout the shoe/apparel industry. Under Armour recently acquired MapMyFitness, a digital fitness technology company that produces applications to help people track the efficiency of their training process and apparently there are plans to use this software and other Under Armour researched training methods to ratchet up the training programs at Notre Dame. Shares of Under Armour stock rose 3.4% ($2.85 per share) Wednesday.


The Under Armour deal with Notre Dame won’t make Nike quake in its boots – Nike has deals with 79 Division I programs including seven of the top ten most valuable football teams according to Forbes Magazine – but it could have immediate impact on adidas, which loses the #2 most valuable college football franchise. Of the top ten, Nike has deals in place with (1) Texas; (3) Alabama; (4) LSU; (6) Florida; (7) Oklahoma; (8) Georgia and (9) Ohio State while adidas has (5) Michigan and (10) Nebraska. While Nike has plenty of high profile programs under contract and Under Armour is making impressive gains for a young company, adidas only has a handful of big name schools. Beside Michigan and Nebraska, the only real high profile programs are Tennessee, Louisville, Texas A&M, Indiana, UCLA, Kansas and Wisconsin. Losing any one of those schools would be a serious blow for adidas.


In the Southeastern Conference, there are nine Nike schools (Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt), three adidas schools (Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M) and two Under Armour schools (Auburn and South Carolina). LSU’s deal with Nike runs through 2022 and pays a combined $4.1 million yearly in cash and shoes/apparel. Florida’s Nike deal runs through 2017 and is good for $3.91 million yearly. Alabama’s deal is for $3.4 million through 2018 while Kentucky’s is also $3.4 million through 2017. Tennessee is in the final year of a five-year, 19.3 million deal with adidas while Texas A&M has one year remaining on a $3.72 million a year deal with adidas. Tennessee isn’t likely to re-sign with adidas so that could turn into a bidding war between Nike and Under Armour. Auburn is thought to be re-negotiating a lengthy deal with Under Armour that will greatly exceed the current $2.5 million a year. South Carolina’s nearly $3 million a year deal with Under Armour included a $750,000 cash payment to Steve Spurrier that was requested by the university.


Eric LeGrand, the Rutgers defensive tackle who suffered a devastating spinal cord injury while making a tackle on a kickoff return against Army in 2010, announced on Twitter that he has completed all the requirements to graduate from Rutgers this spring. Confined to a wheelchair, LeGrand hasn’t allowed his circumstances to stand in the way of living a productive life. He has a contract with IMG, has written a book and plans to get into broadcasting. He has also started a foundation to assist people who suffer spinal cord injuries. When life handed Eric LeGrand a treeful of lemons, he made gallons of lemonade. If this guy doesn’t inspire you, then you are beyond help.


Tuesday, 11.5 inches of snow fell on MetLife Stadium where the Super Bowl will be played on February 2. AccuWeather is predicting that a major storm front will be blowing through the New York area Super Bowl weekend but no one will go out on a limb to predict if the snow hits before, during or after the ball game. NFL commish Roger Goodell commented, “I can’t control weather.” Glad he cleared that up for us.


“Meet the Beatles” debuted in the United States 50 years ago this week, a record album that changed the course of rock and roll music as we know it. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” were two of the four #1 hits on the album that is credited with starting what became known as The British Invasion. In September, The Beatles played at The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville two days after Hurricane Dora. Ringo’s drums had to be secured to the stage because wind gusts reached 45 miles per hour. My favorite cut off the “Meet the Beatles” album is “This Boy.”

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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.


  1. You’re right about Morrison. You were very charitable to him. He played poorly last year and was a reason the Gators never stopped anyone when needed. The defense went south when Easley was injured. A big part of that was the lack of leadership, someone needs to step up and show leadership this year. It needs to start with the head coach, he needs to hold the defense accountable as well. It was shameful for him to throw the offense under the bus after the Georgia Southern game when the defense was mauled to the tune of 459 yards on the ground. If Muschamp doesn’t learn that it’s the whole team that’s responsible, then his departure won’t come soon enough.