Thoughts of the day: January 26, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning. 


The knock on the Florida basketball teams of the past few years is that they have difficulty with tough, physical teams. Following Florida’s 67-41 win over Tennessee Saturday, Patric Young talked about how Tennessee “kicked our butts” the last two years and how important it was for the Gators to be the more physical team. When asked about the previous two years, Scottie Wilbekin responded, “We’re a different team now. We’re a tougher team than we were the last two years.” They are a bunch of tough guys. We saw that Saturday when they were every bit as physical as Tennessee to the point that the Vols were the team that backed down, not the Gators. This is a Florida team that can sense how close it is to playing at a championship level. Asked post game if this is a Florida team that’s on a mission, Wilbekin grinned and responded, “Yeah, you could say that.”


Billy Donovan has the Gators poised to take their game to the next level with defensive schemes that continue to disrupt and create havoc. Donovan turned on the full court pressure against Tennessee and while it didn’t force the Vols into a staggering number of turnovers, it forced them out of their comfort zone. Under normal circumstances, the Vols like to get into their offense about 10 seconds into the shot clock but by the time they solved Florida’s press and got things set up, they usually had only 17-18 seconds to go and that’s not enough time for a deliberate offense. The result was constantly having to rush shots late in the shot clock which played right into Florida’s hands. The Vols also had their issues with Florida’s constantly changing defenses. The Gators would show man then go zone or vice versa, which confused the Tennessee point guards and forced numerous re-sets of the offense. The Vols never could figure out where the next double team was coming from. Florida is definitely a contender for the national championship in large part because the guy calling the shots is the best coach in the country.


With 10 days until National Signing Day, Will Muschamp and the Florida coaching staff are pushing hard to finish the class with a rush of momentum. The Gators are still very much in it for stud defensive end Lorenzo Carter, wide receiver/athlete Isaiah McKenzie, corner Adoree’ Jackson and FSU commitment/quarterback Treon Harris. Offensive lineman Andrew Mike and FSU commitment wide receiver C.J. Worton were seen hanging around the Florida basketball locker room after the Gators kneecapped Tennessee at the O-Dome Saturday. Muschamp has a chance to close fast and bring in a recruiting haul that will rank too five or six nationally.


Every time I see Jamie Luckie calling another basketball game, I cringe and wonder how is it that this guy keeps getting booked to call games in major conferences. He called the Florida-Tennessee game Saturday and was at his usual inconsistent best, calling touch fouls on the perimeter while letting the guys in the paint slug it out. It blew my mind that this game featured one of the four or five best officials in college basketball – Ted Valentine – matched up with the guy I think is the single most inconsistent, thin-skinned official in the game today. Ted deserved better. So did the two teams on the floor.


Former LSU offensive line coach Greg Studrawa was hired by Maryland. He is an upgrade. At LSU, Studrawa and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron didn’t see eye to eye … Georgia hired former Auburn All-American and Tennessee Titans defensive line coach Tracy Rocker … Major Applewhite is interviewing for the quarterbacks job at North Carolina … LSU could be losing special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey to the New York Jets …  Trooper Taylor was hired as the cornerbacks coach at Arkansas State … Former UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni has been hired by the Chicago Bears … Charles Kelly is the new defensive coordinator at FSU. Sal Sunseri has been promoted to associate head coach … Georgia is looking to hire one more defensive assistant … Dan Mullen has a dilemma on his hands at Mississippi State. Does he promote former UF wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales to offensive coordinator or does he go outside and hire someone new? Gonzales left Florida for LSU when he was passed over by Urban Meyer.


The Golfer Formerly Known as Tiger Woods shot a 79 that included seven straight holes of bogey or worse Saturday to miss the final round cut at Torrey Pines, where he’s won eight times before. This is the first time in his career that Eldrick – he’s not Tiger anymore – missed a final day cut (more than 78 players made it to the weekend so per PGA rules there was a cut to narrow the final day field to 54 golfers). Tiger won five tournaments in 2013 and finished in the top 10 in three others. He won Player of the Year on the tour, but he also made it five full years since he won a major. In three of the four majors, he was in the hunt until the final day and then collapsed. At the PGA he finished 40th.  This is no longer the golfer that won 14 majors by the time he was 32. Oh, he might win another one before he calls it quits and he’ll probably break the record for wins on the tour, but you can pretty much figure his era of dominance has come and gone.


When he was at his peak, I always thought the Tiger Woods intimidation factor was worth at least one or two strokes in the first three rounds and maybe three or four in the final round of a tournament. When he was good, Tiger was at his brilliant best in the first three rounds. If you saw him in the final round, he was typically just trying to keep the ball in the fairway and make par. He didn’t have to take any chances because the other guys had to do that. The combination of pressing to catch up and the Tiger intimidation factor was typically all it took. Things have changed since the divorce. A lot of folks might say no way to this theory, but I think the incident with his former wife and all the revelations afterward that showed what a dog of a husband he was, eliminated the fear factor and that brought Tiger back to the field. I think the other guys in the PGA Tour see him as just another golfer. Nobody seems overly frightened or backs down anymore.


I am not a hunter. I never have been and I never will be. I might change my mind someday if Bambi or one of her offspring leap across the road and crash into my car. That happened to a friend of mine. He thought his Volvo was a scaled down tank. He discovered that his car was no match for a 250-pound deer. My friend wasn’t a hunter, but after six months of shoulder rehab and discovering that when you set your deductibles high you have a lot of out of pocket expense, he decided that God had called him to buy a deer rifle, take some shooting lessons and join his cousins in the woods. About three weeks ago he looked Bambi in the eye, squeezed the trigger and missed. Bambi took the miss as divine intervention from God himself and bolted into the woods, perhaps to be shot at some later date by another hunter. Meanwhile, my friend is taking more shooting lessons, determined to avenge his Volvo. He is says he is determined to love his new sport. I told him that if it were a real sport they would give the deer guns and let them shoot back.


The late Laura Nyro was always known as a brilliant song writer who inspired others, but her voice and style were so unique. I started listening to her in 1969 when she came out with the “Eli and the Thirteenth Confession” album. Her personal life got in the way of songwriting and recording around the mid-1970s and she only recorded two more albums although there were some live sessions that were released as albums posthumously after her death in 1997. The last studio album was “Walk the Dog and Light the Light” which featured this very cool song, “Art of Love.”


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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 Donovan, if he’s not the beat, he is in the same room with anyone else. What he has done at UF is astounding because he has taken a school with zero basketball tradition and made it into a national contender, that’s hard to do. It’s a lot easier at a Kansas or North Carolina that oozes tradition, but to win consistently at UF is very difficult. He also does it the right way, there hasn’t even been a hint of scandal at UF regarding the basketball team during his tenure. He might have a Final Four team this year. Regardless, it’s easier to win it all periodically than to maintain a high level of play for years on end and Donovan has put UF in that position.

  2. Debilitating injuries probably contributed to more of what we are seeing from Tiger than the divorce and his womanizing. His last major was won if I am not mistaken while playing with a broken leg. He has more majors than the top 5 on the tour combined. He will always be Tiger to them.