Welcome to the second part of three articles highlighting an otherwise drab preseason for the no. 1 ranked Florida Gators. You can see Part I here. Here are questions 10-6 (no particular order) facing the returning BCS champs. Enjoy.
Question #10: Wake up the echoes
If Notre Dame wins less than 8 games this year, will Charlie Weis be fired and Urban Meyer take the Notre Dame job?
I hate this question and it makes me realize how hurt Ole Miss fans were when Tommy Tuberville said, “The only way I’m leaving this job is in a pine box” and in a heartbeat he was Auburn’s head coach. In Meyer’s book, “Urban’s Way”, he talks about him and his wife’s affinity for Notre Dame and all of the great friends they met there. However, Coach Meyer needs to remember that being the wide receivers coach for Notre Dame is a million light years away from being the Head Coach in South Bend. For example, I was able to sit and have a brief conversation with Gators WR coach Billy Gonzales this summer at a local restaurant. Nobody bothered him (except me, most likely), he showed me his new championship ring… even let me put it on. He and his wife finished dinner, said goodbye and moved on. Urban Meyer could never do that in Gainesville and he certainly couldn’t do it in South Bend, Indiana. Those memories of good times were in a totally different life than he has now.
From a practical standpoint, and the reason he chose UF in the first place; Recruiting at UF is much easier than it is at Notre Dame. It’s just a better deal from every angle, including lifestyle. Florida primarily recruits in state, while Notre Dame recruits very heavy nationally. Meyer can recruit better athletes, more suited to his system, and more likely to want to play for his school in Florida and be home to spend time with his family by that night, no planes and less overnights. Any man worth is salt will tell you: Happy wife, happy life. Two titles in three years helps too.
Meyer is not going anywhere. When his prototype quarterback Tebow leaves, he’s got former Gatorade High School player of the year John Brantley waiting in the wings. In case you’ve forgotten, Meyer won a title with a less physical drop back passer at quarterback in 2006.
Question #9: An embarrassment of riches
How will the Gators coaching staff get all the defensive talent on the field?
How obnoxious is this?: The starting Strong Safety going into camp in 2008 was Dorian Munroe. He got injured and freshman Ahmad Black took his place and ended the season tied for first in the nation in interceptions (including a HUGE and spectacular one in the BCS title game). Munroe returns this year knowing that he’ll have to fight for playing time and his surgically repaired knee is not responding well, Ahmad Black is also nursing an injury and now sophomore Will Hill may step into that starting position and just about everyone you ask is saying, “Will is one of the best athletes on this team. We won’t miss a step and will be better in some aspects”. Really?! Really?!?!? Your starter goes down, the backup leads the country in interceptions, he goes down, and HIS backup may be better than him?!? Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Florida Gators.
In earnest, coaches are having a difficult time getting talented players on the field for enough reps. There is a huge logjam at linebacker. Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper are written in stone, however rotating in the likes of AJ Jones, Brandon Hicks, Dustin Doe, Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins (wait til you see those two full time as sophomores!), will be difficult. It’s also a crowded secondary with Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins anchoring the corner positions, and Jeremy Brown, Wondy Pierre-Louis, and Markiehe Anderson all vying for nickel positions. Major Wright, Will Hill, Ahmad Black, Dorian Munroe (if healthy), Dee Finley, and Josh Evans are all trying to stay on the field. While the so-called skill position battles get most of the attention, like the quarterback battle at Southern Cal, Florida has their own battle for PT going on at several positions on the defensive side of the ball.
Question #8: Don’t taze me bro
Can the Gators stop getting arrested long enough to take care of business?
Let me say this first… an arrest is an arrest and if you have to go home and tell you parents, wife, boss, etc… that you were arrested, it’s embarrassing, it’s a pain in the neck, and it’s just not acceptable. That being said; MUCH is being made of the 25 arrests since Urban Meyer took over the program in 2005 and it’s the silliest non-story ever. As someone who lived and worked on campus for several years prior to Meyer’s arrival, the mood and culture is not any different than before, if anything the players are more respectful, visible, and all around nicer to be around. They are just being held accountable now. That’s no knock on Zook… it’s been five years now, Gator fans need to get off him. While some arrests are for more major incidents like Ronnie Wilson several years ago, Jamar Hornsby’s despicable incident, and some others… many of them are very small issues. I’ve vowed not to talk about much player off the field stuff, but you can look it up on your own to see what’s been dropped, found not guilty, or never adjudicated.
It’s difficult. Some of the traits that make someone a phenomenal football player and competitor can also make you a difficult person to deal with in the “regular world”, and one must be balanced with the other.
All that being said… I’d appreciate it if Florida would stay out of the police blotters for a while.
Question #7: Was the Citadel not available this year?
Could Florida have gotten an easier schedule?
As I called the first article in this series, “Perfect Timing”. Tennessee is down. Arkansas played for the SEC title three seasons ago… they’re rebuilding. LSU and Georgia, perennial SEC powerhouses both have major questions at QB. Kentucky and Vandy are what they are, they’re pretty good just about every election year or so. And Florida State? Well… let’s just say that the 14 wins they are fighting over keeping for ol’ Bobby? Took two years to get… that used to be a 12-13 win per season program. Florida always schedules a cupcake and a non-BCS bowl caliber team in their first two games (although last year they played the Sugar Bowl champs- Hawaii, a layup, and the Miami Hurricanes). When the 12th game was added, they decided that the SEC schedule was tough enough and they didn’t need to do a home and home vs. Texas, or Utah, or Cal. It’s not necessary for their SOS… the timing of this year’s schedule is remarkable, however, if they should happen to drop a game (see the SEC West manifesto in my previous post), I’m not sure they can pull back into the top two with that schedule unless Ole Miss or Bama lives up to their hype and Florida beats them in the SEC title game.
Question #6: Strong like Bull
When will Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong get a head coaching job?
Seriously? I don’t have an answer… but c’mon. What’s a brotha got to do? In his one game head coaching stint, an unmotivated Florida team got routed by Devin Hester and the Hurricanes in the Peach Bowl (mostly by Hester though), but give the guy a break. Zook was fired in midseason and played out the regular season. Florida looked like it was more interested in getting to Buckhead and downtown Atlanta before midnight than playing Miami on that New Year’s Eve. That may have hurt him, but he’s been part of the culture change that Meyer has taken on and deserves a shot.
Some say he’s holding out for the “right” job (not saaaaay…. Mississippi State- oops did I say that!?) that he has a chance to succeed in, rather than just taking a head coaching gig. If that’s the case… good for you Charlie. We’ll take you for as long as we can.
A quick revision from part I. A reader Matt commented and asked why give Tim Tebow credit for only half of the 2006 title, just because he wasn't the starter. You wouldn't do that with a running back or receiver. He's got me on that! Tebow did A LOT that season to help Florida to that title... including a great title game. Just cause he didn't take 80 snaps doesn't mean he shouldn't get credit for it. I just don't want history to forget that Chris Leak was the starter on that team and made a lot of "marginal" Gator teams look better than they were in his early years. I hope history doesn't wash him away in the gigantic wave of awesome that is Tim Tebow.
It made me think of the late Senator Ted Kennedy who passed away early this morning. While a younger generation (myself included) may remember him, or only know him because of scandal or as the butt of some (pretty funny) jokes. Yes he comes from "THE" Family name in politics in the United States, but back in the day ol' Ted stood up for what he thought was right, even when not many others would. I don't pretend to know much about politics (nor care), and this is not the site for that, but I thought I would give a small shout out to Senator Kennedy, a huge sports fan, for without him and people like him, we wouldn't be able to enjoy many of the sports that we do in the way we NOW know them. I hope history remembers him kindly and that he's not washed away in the wave of awesomeness that is "Kennedy". We salute you.
That’s it for today… the Final five questions are coming on Sunday. Just over a week til kickoff!!!!