Thoughts of the day: December 4, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday:


Remember the name Mike Norvell, a Gus Malzahn protege. His name keeps popping up in the search to replace Brent Pease as Florida’s offensive coordinator.  A graduate of Central Arkansas (same school that produced Charlie Strong), Norvell has been working with Arizona State head coach Todd Graham for six seasons, first at Tulsa, then at Pitt and the last two at Arizona State. It was at Tulsa that Norvell worked under Malzahn for two seasons. In 2012, the Sun Devils averaged 464.5 yards per game with 205 on the ground, producing 58 touchdown drives that required three minutes or less to score. This season, the Sun Devils are averaging 43.2 points, 187.8 rushing yards and 285.4 passing yards per game. They’ve scored 60 offensive touchdowns with a 3,300-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver. Arizona State will play Stanford Saturday in the Pac-12 Championship Game.


In 2007, Oklahoma State gained 3,161 rushing yards and 3,161 passing yards, the most perfectly balanced yet prolific offensive attack in the modern era of college football. The only year since 2007 when Oklahoma State didn’t average at least 35 points and more than 444 yards was 2009 when the team was beset by an unprecedented number of injuries. It’s Mike Gundy’s system and it doesn’t matter who coordinates the offense – he’s been through four since 2007 (Larry Fedora, Dana Holgorsen, Todd Monken and Mike Yurcich). The Cowboys run a spread offense that goes no-huddle most of the time. This is the first season since 2007 that the Cowboys haven’t had a 1,200-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver but injuries have had a lot to do with that. I question that the Baylor and Oregon offenses can win in grind it out situations, but Oklahoma State has shown it can pound it or spread it. That’s the kind of offense I hope Muschamp will try to emulate next season at Florida.


Heading into the spring, I think the Florida offense will look something like this: QB: Jeff Driskel; RB: Kelvin Taylor or Mack Brown; FB: Hunter Joyer; TE: Clay Burton; WR: Quinton Dunbar and Ahmad Fullwood; OT: D.J. Humphries and Chaz Green; OG: Max Garcia and Tyler Moore; C: Trip Thurman or Cameron Dillard. With a new offensive line coach, particularly if it’s Stacy Searals of Texas, I would expect that unit to be the most improved on the team, particularly if the right fit can be found at center.


Will Muschamp isn’t the only coach who can’t catch a break this year. Scottie Wilbekin sprained his ankle against UConn and while it’s not considered as serious as the one suffered by Kasey Hill in Florida’s fourth game of the season, it’s serious enough that his status for next Tuesday night’s game with Kansas is in doubt. Hill is out of a boot but will be brought along slowly and won’t play against Kansas unless he shows that he is moving without any affects of that high ankle sprain. DeVon Walker hasn’t played the last two games after spraining an ankle against Jacksonville a week ago. That means Florida could be playing Kansas without a true point guard. In the event Wilbekin, Hill and Walker are all out, Dorian Finney-Smith and Billy Donovan III will have to share the ball handling responsibilities against a very quick and athletic Kansas team.


The Orlando Sentinel’s George Diaz isn’t the only Heisman Trophy voter whose ballot is being influenced by the potential for felony sexual assault charges to be leveled against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. While admitting that Winston is the best player in the country, Diaz wrote that “he is also the only guy on the ballot who could be facing sexual assault charges” and adds that “character should come into play.” I hear so many of the talking heads ask, “What if he’s innocent?” and they say if he’s guilty you can always take the trophy away, but is that fair to the people who had great seasons who kept their noses clean and their pants zipped? Perhaps the best question of all is how did Winston’s DNA get on the woman who has leveled rape charges? Until that question is answered I don’t think he should be in the Heisman discussion. Heisman ballots are due in New York a week from today and Tallahassee State Attorney Willie Meggs isn’t sure his investigation will be complete by that time.


Because he plays at Northern Illinois, there is no chance Jordan Lynch will win a Heisman Trophy. In leading Northern Illinois to a 12-0 regular season, all Lynch has done is rush for 1,755 yards and 20 touchdowns while throwing for 2,457 yards and 22 scores. Those numbers will get better because Northern Illinois plays Bowling Green Friday for the Mid-American Conference championship. Last year, while leading the Huskies to a 12-2 record and a berth in the Orange Bowl against FSU, Lynch threw for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for 1,815 and 19 more.


Kudos to former Gator Matt Patchan, named second team All-ACC offensive tackle on Tuesday. Boston College coach Steve Addazio says that Patchan was one of the chief reasons that tailback Andre Williams rushed for 2,102 yards this season. Patchan didn’t miss a single game for the Eagles this season, amazing considering he never made it through a full season without injury during his five years at the University of Florida. Given a sixth year by the NCAA, Patchan went to grad school at BC and made the most of the opportunity. If he can stay healthy, he’ll make some NFL roster next year.


Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is three years removed from high school, could bolt for the NFL but instead has decided the Ducks have unfinished business so he will return to school as a fourth year junior next season. Mariota will probably be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremonies although it’s doubtful he will win. His numbers: 3,412 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and only four interceptions; 582 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Another player who could certainly benefit from another year of coaching is last year’s Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel, but that isn’t going to happen. The way he ended this season, looking dazed and confused against good defenses in the last couple of games, tells me he’s not ready for prime time. He’s got the talent, but I do question if he’s got the head for it.


For the past 20 years, Fourplay has consistently produced quality, innovative jazz with a four-piece group (Bob James keyboards, Nathan East bass, Harvey Mason drums and a new guitarist every few years, most recently Chuck Loeb). “Westchester Lady” is an old Bob James classic that has been retooled for Fourplay. I found this cut of Fourplay with the added horns of Boney James and Kirk Whalum on sax and Rick Braun on trumpet and some extremely cool wordless vocals from Nathan East.

Previous articleEasley’s success at UF inspires Holley
Next articleThe Ephesians Bartley Report: Ending on a downer
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.