1. FIVE THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE NEXT WEEK AGAINST TENNESSEE
(1) Find a way to incorporate Valdez Showers’ speed into the offense. He has the gear none of the other backs have. (2) A tight end who can actually catch the ball. Through two games there isn’t a complete pass to a tight end. It would be nice if the tight end were actually a threat even if it’s a 5-yard route. (3) It would also be nice to see at least a few throws in the direction of Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood. We know they can catch and have after the catch skills. Let’s see them incorporated into the offense. (4) Keep moving Ronald Powell up and down the defensive line. He’s so dangerous that opponents have to adjust their entire blocking schemes to account for him and that means some other Gator will benefit from the confusion and only one man to beat. (5) Pressure off the edge from Loucheiz Purifoy. The Gators have only three sacks in two games. One way to free up Ronald Powell is to make sure the fullback or tailback has to be concerned that Purifoy might be coming on a corner blitz. Purifoy has the kind of speed and physicality that he could amp up the pass rush.
2. KEIWAN RATLIFF IN UF ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME
Most of you remember Keiwan Ratliff for making All-America in 2003, a season in which he played on both sides of the ball and ran back punts on his way to SEC Defensive Player of the Year. I remember him best for wanting to be a Gator so badly that when he didn’t qualify academically in 1999, he never lost focus on his goal to play for Steve Spurrier and the University of Florida. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider Keiwan’s home was Columbus, Ohio and he grew up in the shadows of Ohio Stadium. When he didn’t qualify to get into UF, Ohio State applied the kind of pressure that most kids would have caved under, but Ratliffe kept his word and became a Gator.
3. TOUGHENING UP FOR MARCH
The pre-SEC schedule for Billy Donovan’s basketball Gators is ranked #8 nationally by ESPN (1. Kansas; 2. Memphis; 3. Georgetown; 4. Duke; 5. Michigan; 6. Arizona; 7. Kentucky; 9. Colorado; 10. North Carolina) and includes games with Wisconsin (November 12) and UConn (December 2) on the road, Kansas at home (December 10) and Memphis in Madison Square Garden (December 17). Also on the schedule are Florida State (November 29), Middle Tennessee, which made the NCAA Tournament last year (November 21), Fresno State (December 21) and Richmond (January 4). This is a schedule that is conducive to a very high RPI at the end of the season, something that will play into Florida’s seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
4. MACK BROWN’S FUTURE COULD BE DECIDED THIS WEEKEND
This is one of those games that didn’t figure to be such a big deal back in August, but when Ole Miss visits Texas this could be one of the spotlight games of the week because if Hugh Freeze and the Rebels upset the Longhorns in Austin, it’s probably curtains for Mack Brown. Mack fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on Monday, which is akin to trying to stop the bleeding with a bandaid after you have severed your leg with a chainsaw. BYU, which netted 109 yards on 42 carries the week before against a pitiful Virginia defense, ran wild for 550 against the Longhorns last week. Compared to BYU, the Ole Miss backfield looks like the reincarnation of The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame. Even though Texas isn’t the formidable opponent it was supposed to be, beating the Longhorns in Austin would be a signal that Hugh Freeze and the Rebels have arrived. In Austin, it would be viewed as a sign that Mack Brown has had an out of body experience – his mind and soul departed long ago but his body remains on the sidelines.
5. SOME PSYCHOLOGY FROM NICK SABAN
Did you happen to catch Nick Saban’s Wednesday press conference on You Tube? On a good day, Nick can seem rather surley, but he outdid himself Wednesday when he looked and sounded like a guy who needs a visit by the Phillips Milk of Magnesia lady when he got seriously perturbed with those pesky reporters who kept asking questions about D.J. Fluker instead of Texas A&M. You might think that’s Nick Saban with his game face on a few days early, but it’s all part of the Saban mental game. This is a high pressure game with national championship implications for a Bama team looking to avenge its only loss last year but instead of talking about all the pressure on the players, the media will be focusing on Saban’s mood when it isn’t talking about Heisman QB Johnny Rotten. Mission accomplished, Nick.
6. IT’S GOTTA BE THE SHOES
If you think the shoe companies wield way too much influence on college sports brace yourself this weekend when Nike and adidas will go head to head for your heart and wallet when Alabama (Nike school) and Texas A&M (adidas) face off in College Station. Word is we will be totally bombarded with an unprecedented number of commercials for the two shoe giants. Alabama, by the way, is in the second year of an 8-year extension of its deal with Nike that will pay the school $30 million in shoes, uniforms, equipment and cold hard cash. The Aggies take in a similar amount from adidas, which hopes to capitalize if Johnny Rotten manages to upset the mighty Crimson Tide for a second straight year.
7. IT’S GOTTA BE THE SHOES, PART II
As part of his compensation package at Ohio State, Urban Meyer is paid $1.4 million personally from Uncle Phil in Beaverton, Oregon. Ohio State has a separate deal with Nike from the one Urban has and it’s rather hefty. LSU gets more from Nike than any other SEC school, $3.1 million in shoes, apparel and equipment plus another $1 million in cash. Under Armour, which supplies all the equipment, shoes and apparel to South Carolina, pays Steve Spurrier $750,000 yearly, which is more than 39 Division I coaches make. That money is part of Spurrier’s $3.6 million yearly compensation package. When you read those kind of numbers, you know that Mars Blackmon was right when he said, “It’s gotta be the shoes.”
8. YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN
That was the title of the posthumously published novel written by Thomas Wolfe that was published in 1940, which tells the story of novelist George Webber who is reviled and rejected upon his return to his hometown. At Grambling, they loved Doug Williams when he was an All-American quarterback for Eddie Robinson and they loved him again when he coached the Tigers to a 53-14 record from 1998-2003 that included an undefeated 11-0 record in 2001. Williams should have stayed gone. He tempted fate one too many times, coming back to Grambling in 2011. After an 8-4 first season, he was 1-10 last year and 0-2 out of the chute this year. Williams was fired Wednesday.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I became a Steve Winwood fan in the 1960s when he wrote and sang the lead for “Gimme Some Lovin” with the Spencer Davis Group. He was 16 years old when he wrote it. I started listening to Carlos Santana in the late 1960s when “Evil Ways” became a big hit. The moment I came across this collaboration between Steve Winwood and Santana doing this old Timmy Thomas hit, “Why Can’t We Live Together,” I knew I had my music for today. Outstanding vocals by Winwood and the terrific guitar of Santana along with the impeccable Latin rhythms of his band … what a great combination.