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9 posts from December 2010

December 31, 2010

Gators take aim at Weis for OC job

Charlie-weis-gun-450sm Gainesville-area restaurateurs are popping open some wine bottles in celebration tonight. No, not for New Year's, but because Charlie Weis is rumored to be Florida's next offensive coordinator.

OK, cheap shot. But I'm just preparing you. Get ready for a lot of fat jokes from your friends.

First off, let's wait and see if this actually happens. Remember how Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was a "done deal" to take the same job with the Gators? Yea, well he said this week he never even talked to Will Muschamp about it. Then there was that whole Major Applewhite thing.

The bottom line is that we'll all know for sure in a few days. Muschamp and athletics director Jeremy Foley both said they'd wait until after the bowl game to announce new hires. After all, Muschamp technically isn't even coach yet. Until then, it's all "sources" and "hearing," and I'm not a big fan of all that.

But this does make sense, and Weis would be a great, high-profile hire, which goes a long way in a game where recruiting is everything. Muschamp said at his introductory press conference that he wanted a pro-style OC with experience in college and the NFL. Check. Weis coached Notre Dame (because Urban Meyer snubbed them) and is now with the Kansas City Chiefs, who are 10-5, playoff-bound and rank ninth in total offense and 11th in scoring.

If Weis does accept (if he's even been offered), he'll be pretty far behind in the recruiting game this year. He'd have to wait until after the Chiefs' season ends to get going.

No matter who Muschamp brings in, it's going to take a lot of work to revive this outfit. What do you think of Weis as offensive coordinator? It's a huge name, and I'd think that would sway John Brantley to stick around (which you may or may not want to hear).

Are you pumped about this or holding out for someone better?

 

December 30, 2010

The pressure is on for these Gators

35193641 When Urban Meyer quit, the thinking went that Florida would romp in the Outback Bowl to send him out with a win. But there's a bigger reason why the Gators should have some extra motivation against Penn State.

There's a new boss in town, and the players have to impress Will Muschamp to try and get on his good side. Muschamp observed some practices in Gainesville and hasn't been very hands-on here in Tampa this week, but he'll be watching on Saturday. As you'd expect from a team that's 7-5, there aren't a ton of people who've locked down jobs for next season, so everyone should be sitting up a little straigher in meetings and running a little harder in practice.

The pressure is really on for a few guys though. A fresh start will give some a chance to shine with a clean slate, but others need to step it up if they want to keep their places on the depth chart.

QB John Brantley: This is the big one. As is the case with several guys on this list, UF's current staff is very loyal to Brantley despite his struggles, and he'll have to do something impressive if he wants to win over the new staff. There isn't a reason to think Muschamp is excited about plugging Brantley into his offense, and at the same time, Muschamp may have to talk Brantley into staying. He said this offseason he wasn't sure whether he'd stay in Gainesville or transfer. How well Brantley and Muschamp's yet-to-be-named offensive coordinator hit it off will probably be the deciding factor.

WR Deonte Thompson: Another guy who won Urban's trust, then lost the ability to catch (it's debatable whether he ever had it, I guess). Deonte hasn't been as bad as he'll probably be remembered, but he hasn't played like a No. 1 or even a good No. 2 receiver. Fresh eyes in the coaches' booth spell trouble for Thompson, and he desperately needs to flash some potential. There isn't a ton of young talent behind him, but if Thompson isn't going to play like a veteran leader, Muschamp might as well play his backups to get them experience. I'd suggest Thompson brings his new coaches a tray of piping hot coffee every morning to display his steady hands. Hopefully there's First Aid nearby.

TE/WR/FB/QB Trey Burton: Not hating on Burton here, he's just an interesting case. He's obviously a unique player, and Meyer will no doubt talk him up to Muschamp. But where will he fit in? Burton does many things well but nothing spectacularly, and though he carved out a niche in Meyer's system, that role may not be present in the new offense. I have little doubt he'll impress the hell out of all his new coaches with his attitude and work ethic, and there's also an opportunity here for Burton. If he plays well enough, maybe he could even swing a full-time quarterback gig.

LB Jon Bostic: Bostic fell out of favor in the second half of the season, with defensive coordinator Teryl Austin criticizing his play and lightening his responsibility. By virtue of his size, Bostic needs to step up and be UF's middle linebacker going forward, but Jelani Jenkins & Co. aren't just handing that over. Muschamp is a defensive-minded coach, and he'll be looking for leaders on that side of the ball early. Time for Bostic to get himself together and seize the fresh start.

CB Jeremy Brown: Meyer seemed to like Brown a lot, and he returned from a serious back injury to land a starting job this season. But he also faded down the stretch, even losing playing time to Cody Riggs near the end of the year. Janoris Jenkins is likely headed to the NFL, but there's a lot of competition at corner, and Brown could easily land on the sidelines.

S Will Hill: If you need a good laugh, read the italicized words below. If you don't need a laugh, skip over it and save it for a rainy day. Will Hill may enter the NFL Draft. Yep. Wow. Mike Pouncey said this week Hill is probably going pro, which is incredible to me, mostly because Will Hill doesn't appear to be good at football. Sure, he's a great athlete and was a coveted recruit, but Hill has been living off that reputation for too long. He takes bad angles, regularly blows coverage and is in obvious need of more experience, but maybe he feels like he'd be better served learning on the fly. If he's coming back, Hill definitely needs to display some competence, or he could find himself even futher from his NFL dreams.

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OK, your turn. Who do you think needs to make a big splash for Muschamp? Who do you want to see take advantage of a fresh start? Got any good stories of someone desperately trying to impress a new employer?

 

December 23, 2010

What's your favorite Urban Meyer moment?

Urban Meyer began what's looking like his next career on Wednesday, when he showed up in studio to do SportsCenter and the halftime show of Boise State-Utah. In case you missed it, here's part of it.

He also broke down some film at halftime, and he seemed like a good fit in the analyst chair despite not being a natural on TV (I'm sure that will change the more he does it). Some of the highlights:

  • He admitted that his stance on the BCS depends on where he's coaching.
  • He said the one thing he wished he'd understood before coming to UF was the intensity of the SEC, something he expects Will Muschamp to be well-prepared for.
  • In a moment of unintentional humor, he said he plans to be "knee deep into my kids and my wife" after the Outback Bowl.
  • As you'd expect, he said Tim Tebow is "frustrated" with the way the Broncos' season has gone.

For me, the most interesting part was when Meyer was asked about his favorite moment as the Gators' coach. His pick came from the BCS Championship against Oklahoma, when he gathered the offense together after Ahmad Black's incredible interception. With 10 minutes left and a 3-point lead, Meyer told his players that if they could drive 76 yards, they'd be national champs.

Looking around that huddle, he said, was his favorite moment as coach. Almost seven minutes later, David Nelson capped the drive with a touchdown catch, sending Florida to a 24-14 win.

I like his choice. As a coach, what more could you ask for than being in that situation with Tebow, Percy Harvin, the Pounceys, Louis Murphy, Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper, etc?

And as Florida fans, I'd imagine there aren't many people you'd rather have coaching your team. So what's your favorite memory of Meyer? I'd take his reaction to the 2006 title, when he hoisted the crystal ball while wearing a leather jacket and smiling for what seemed like the first time in weeks.

UPDATE: Just came across this. Awesome:

Try to find video for your favorite moments.

December 15, 2010

Highlights from Muschamp's debut

Muschamp I'm about to hop on a plane for a week snowboarding in Utah, so sorry if this isn't my usual, well-thought-out, impeccably written post that provokes all the thoughtful discourse in the comments section that we know and love.

Anyway, Will Muschamp had his first press conference as Florida's coach Tuesday. Here are the highlights:

1. Offensive Coordinator

Muschamp said he doesn't plan to hire assistants until after the bowl game, and most likely in response to all those Kirby Smart rumors from Monday, he offered this:

"I have zero timetable on hiring a staff," Muschamp said. "It's not about doing the easiest thing, it's not about doing the quickest thing, it's about making the best decision, and that's what we need to do for the University of Florida right now.

"There has been no one offered a job in the country right now by the University of Florida to work on our football staff, regardless of what you read. There's one source in this football program, and that's me, and there's one guy hiring coaches and that's me. So nobody has been offered a job, and let me make sure everybody understands that before we walk out of here tonight."

Now, as to your biggest fear, it probably won't be Steve Addazio who gets the OC gig. When you're back from your naked victory lap around the block (and done thawing yourself), meet me at the next paragraph.

Muschamp said he plans to run a "pro-style attack" on offense and defense, and he prefers an OC with experience both in college and the NFL. It's too early to speculate on what will happen, but no matter whom he hires, the new coach will have to alter his scheme to fit the players who are there.

2. Brantley's future uncertain

The biggest question remains: Who will be Muschamp's first quarterback? Rumors have been flying that John Brantley wants to transfer after the season, and he did little to dispel that Tuesday. He said he'll talk to his family and make a decision, and it sounded like he was waiting to see who gets hired as the coordinator.

Now, losing Brantley isn't a huge deal based on his play this season, but who knows if he'd be better in a different system? And a lot will also depend on Jeff Driskel, who's due to enroll at UF in the spring.

3. Muschamp is waaaaay different from Urban Meyer in terms of personality

I can't express how bizarre it was to see someone other than Meyer at the lectern today, and Muschamp really owned it. He's a very polished public speaker, and he went for 40 minutes including a 20-minute opening statement.

That long-winded debut was a big departure from Meyer's style, and he has the southern accent and demeanor to match an SEC coach. He cracked me up when he told a story about his mom wanting "to get her picture made" with Cris Collinsworth back in the day. Good ol' southern boy.

With that said, Jeremy Foley talked about the similarities he sees between Muschamp, Meyer, Billy Donovan and Kevin O'Sullivan. Foley saw each of those guys as "perfict fits" at Florida, and that's why he was so quick to hire Muschamp.

“Everybody was expecting him to be the next head coach at Texas, so I don’t think it’s a gamble,” Foley said. “I think he’ll fit here. He reminds me a lot of Billy, he reminds me a lot of Sully, and he reminds me a lot of Urban. Time will tell, and at the end of the day, he has to win some football games.”

4. Muschamp wants Meyer around the program

Before he accepted the job, Muschamp said he felt like he needed to talk to Meyer. He did, and since meeting him, he wants Urban to stick around once the bowl game is done.

"The more I’ve talked to him, the more I like him," Muschamp said. "I can tell you this right now, as long as Will Muschamp is the head coach at the University of Florida, Urban Meyer is going to be involved in this program.

“He’ll be a great sounding board for me, and he needs to be involved in this program for our players because he’s the one who recruited them all.”

Oh yea, Muschamp uses third-person too.

5. This transition won't be easy for the Gators

A few players were brought in after the press conference, and it's clear they still aren't quite over the shock of losing Meyer. He's still their coach til the Outback Bowl (Muschamp will be observing), but the thought of life after hasn't really sunk in yet.

“I had to look at the screen a couple of times, like, ‘Am I seeing things?’” defensive tackle Jaye Howard said of observing the press conference.

“I kind of had a gut feeling this whole year that it was possible (for Meyer to retire)” Howard added. “He wasn’t the same coach. He used to be yelling at everybody and all that. I took it hard because I love coach Meyer to death, but I know he had to make the best decision for his family.”

Muschamp had his first meeting with the team today, and Frankie Hammond made it sound like it was a little awkward at first, as you'd expect.

“A lot of us were pretty standoffish, but he got us going and let us know that he was the head coach nothing was pretty much going to change,” Hammond said.

6. Two quick stories

You probably heard about this by now, but Muschamp and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher co-own a beach house together from their days coaching at LSU: “We haven’t negotiated what will happen with that yet.”

And when Muschamp was trying to find a place to play college ball (he was a promising HS safety before a leg injury), he arranged a meeting with Steve Spurrier to discuss a walk-on spot at Florida. Spurrier was a no-show: “He was 2-under at the turn,” Muschamp joked.

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So what'd you think of Muschamp's debut? Did you catch a glimpse of me in my fly purple shirt on TV? Feel like testing my vigilance as a comment-deleter? I'M WATCHING YOU.

December 11, 2010

Gators hire Will Muschamp. Cool, now about that offense...

Will-muschamp-mugjpg-ff17c8652806d721 "Florida coach Will Muschamp." It sounds weird because it's not Urban Meyer, but this is a good hire for the Gators.

Rumors started swirling tonight that Muschamp would be the next coach at UF, especially after Trey Burton tweeted "Welcome to the Gator nation coach!!" and then promptly deleted it. UF confirmed the news on its website, with athletics director Jeremy Foley saying Muschamp was the only candidate he interviewed.

Muschamp comes to Gainesville from Texas, where he's been defensive coordinator since 2008 (he held the same position at Auburn in 2006 and 2007). The Longhorns like him enough that they named him Mack Brown's successor, but the 39-year-old won't be sticking around long enough in Austin for that to happen.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Muschamp, who spent part of his childhood living in Gainesville before returning to Georgia, his birthplace. He's an SEC guy, a good recruiter and a solid defensive coach, which is all great, but that still leaves that giant elephant in the room: the offense.

Muschamp will be introduced at UF on Tuesday, and all the talk will likely be centered around whom he'll choose as his offensive coordinator if he hasn't announced one by then. For all the Steve Addazio haters (read: everyone reading this), this is good news. Muschamp's hire probably means a shake-up on the staff.

Muschamp isn't an offensive mind and most Gators fans are offensive-minded, so all eyes will be on what happens next. If you're Muschamp, which current assistants do you keep? I'd hang on to Chuck Heater for sure and maybe Teryl Austin, but beyond that, I'd probably clean house.

How do you feel about this hire?

 

December 09, 2010

After years of talk, Urban finally did the right thing

Urban with kids I've heard Urban Meyer preach about what it means to be a man and the importance of family for the last four years, and while I took what he said to be a good lesson, it always lost some strength since he didn't seem to be following his own advice.

He almost did last year, but his resignation lasted just 24 hours. I'll never forget his daughter Nicki talking to reporters after the Sugar Bowl, and it was crystal clear how much she missed her dad and was worried about his health.

Her fears and Meyer's own worries weren't enough to pull him away from coaching, but that changed Wednesday, when he put family before football. He gave up his bigtime coaching job, giant salary and the spotlight for his children.

He's going to serve as an assistant coach for his son Nate's baseball team this spring, and he plans on seeing his daughters Nicki and Gigi play college volleyball next season.

This was the decision that fit the lines he always fed the media in press conferences and his players in the locker room, and he deserves a lot of respect for it.

To be honest, I never really liked Meyer as a person. Granted, the coach-reporter relationship doesn't provide enough insight to judge someone's character, but in my almost daily interactions with him from 2007-2009, he rarely provided any reason for me to like him. He was often condescending, terse and, well, an asshole.

That changed this season. Maybe it was because he relaxed a bit in light of his health scare. Maybe it was because he scaled back his media appearances by two days per week. Or maybe it was because the Gators weren't good. At any rate, he finally flashed a personality and let loose some of the dry wit that his players always talk about. A few of my favorite moments:

  • Early in the season, when reporters were hounding him to find out what responsibilities he had dropped to reduce his stress, someone asked about a player changing numbers. Meyer said he didn't know because he doesn't coach the numbers, then paused and said, "I delegated that" and started laughing, which he doesn't do often.
  • He left his shades in an interview room after the three-game losing streak, and when he came back to get them, a reporter told him he almost stole them and put them on eBay. Meyer: "You would have gotten more for them last year."
  • When a reporter kept asking leading questions that basically insinuated the reporter felt he knew how to give a better pep talk than Meyer, he smiled, took off his whistle, tossed it to the reporter and said, "Here, you coach them."

None of these are going to put you on the floor rolling with laughter, but the fact that I remember them tells you how rare it was for him to crack jokes before this year. This was the first season I'd seen him say and do things for the sole purpose of being funny, and that signaled a major change in attitude to me.

All in all, he's going out a millionaire with plenty of life ahead of him. He said he wasn't ruling out coaching again, but he wouldn't think about that right away.

By virtue of his two national titles, he should be remembered as Florida's greatest coach (I know plenty of you will argue that, but two is more than one). He gave the Gators all he had for six years, and if he's truly going to put that same effort toward being a husband and father now, he deserves nothing but respect and admiration for the decision.

Of course, he could end up coaching again in the next three years and ruin all these nice things I just wrote about him, but I'm hoping he doesn't. I'm hoping he's really going to walk the walk.

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What are your thoughts? Angry at Meyer for leaving or do you think he did the right thing? Is anyone happy he's gone? If you are, you're going to need to back that up pretty strongly. I'll be deleting the nonsense. You know who you are.

December 08, 2010

He gone: Gators coach Urban Meyer steps down

Well, you got your wish. Steve Addazio is probably out as offensive coordinator, but Urban Meyer is gone too.

According to a UF release, Meyer began thinking about retirement over the weekend, and he and athletics director Jeremy Foley finalized it Tuesday. There will be a press conference at 6, and until then, it's pointless to do a ton of speculating. Meyer will coach the team through the Outback Bowl.

Gator Clause founder Joe Goodman and I had this talk at the beginning of the season, and we both felt this would happen after this season if things went badly. He can't bring UF back to national prominence without going back to his former workhorse coaching style, and it isn't worth it to him for the costs to his family and health.

Here's what Meyer had to say in the release:

“I have been a Division I football coach for the last 25 years and, during that time, my primary focus has been helping my teams win titles,” Meyer said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, and I am a fierce competitor to my core. At this time in my life, however, I appreciate the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field. The decision to step down was a difficult one.

“But after spending more than two decades motivating and celebrating the young men I’ve been so proud to coach, I relish the opportunity to cheer for my three terrific kids as they compete in their own respective sports. I know how fortunate I am to be in a position to make this choice and to have a family that is as loving and supportive as my amazing wife and children have always been.”

I'll have more later today.

December 05, 2010

Record be damned, Gators are Outback Bowl-bound

Outback_Bowl_Logo Really, why do we pay attention to college football? This system is a joke.

The latest example of why: Florida is headed to the Outback Bowl to play Penn State, thereby leaping over South Carolina (Chick-fil-A Bowl) and Mississippi State (Gator Bowl), two teams that finished with better records (UF 7-5, USC 9-4, MSU 8-4) and beat the Gators. Shockingly, I was completely wrong.

Now, this is great for UF. Instead of settling into the Gator Bowl as deserved and taking an expected payout of about $2.7 million, they'll get about $3.5 mil to play in Tampa, and if I'm not mistaken, I get a free bloomin' onion.

There is absolutely no way the Gators deserve to be there, but as Snoop from The Wire said, "Deserve got nothing to do with it." Money does. The Outback Bowl chose them for financial reasons, hoping for better TV viewership and more fans in the stands. This is all allowed and probably a smart business decision, it just reinforces that this sport isn't really about football or entertaining you, it's just about the dolla dolla bills, y'all.

Here's a look at the bowls for UF, USC and MSU, in order of prestige. Overall records, conference records and place in the SEC standings are in parentheses:

Outback Bowl: Florida (7-5, 4-4, T-6th)
Chick-fil-A Bowl: South Carolina (9-4, 5-3, T-4th, beat Florida, East Champs)
Gator Bowl: Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4, T-6th, beat Florida)

The Gamecocks and Bulldogs both got screwed here. Like I said, great news for Florida to get into this game. But at the same time, this bid solidifies my opinion that no one should pay any attention to bowls.

How do you feel about this? Does it hurt your excitement for the game knowing the Gators didn't earn their spot? Or are you so used to the crooked-ness of this sport that it's all good?

December 04, 2010

What bowl matchup do you want to see the Gators in?

It sure feels like Florida's season is over, but don't worry, there's still one more chance for the Gators to frustrate the hell out of you before next year.

There's no marquee bowl appearance to cap 2010 for UF, but there are still a few intriguing possibilities out there. As of me writing this, it looks like the best quarterback in Florida history is going to lead Auburn to an SEC title, and this is good news for the Gators' bowl projection. An Auburn win puts the Tigers in the BCS Championship and leaves an at-large spot for another SEC team (Arkansas), thus bumping all the mediocre teams like UF up a spot.

Here's the breakdown of what I expect:

The Sugar, Capital One, Cotton and Outback Bowls are all out of reach, leaving the Chick-fil-A, Gator and Music City Bowls as the three most likely destinations (in order of prestige). People-who-supposedly-know-things have been saying it'll be Florida-Penn St. in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, and the Gator Bowl certainly seems to be the favorite.

I know, I know, all you're really wondering is "CAN FLORIDA PLAY MIAMI SO WE CAN ALL STOP FIGHTING IN THE COMMENTS SECTION AND FIGHT IN REAL LIFE?!?!?!" Unfortunately, it doesn't look likely. The Chick-fil-A and Music City Bowls are both SEC vs. ACC, but the chicken-themed one is a bit lofty for both Florida and Miami, while they're both a tad too good for the trip to Nashville.

An Auburn loss could get the Gators closer to the Music City Bowl though, so pull for that if "The Battle For The Title Of Florida's Second-Or-Third-Best Team" is what you want to see.

So, if it's going to be the Gator Bowl, which Big 10 powerhouse do you want to see UF go up against? No question in my mind that Illinois would be the most fun (ZOOK!), but the Nittany Lions would be a good draw because they suck too, and Florida could close out the season with a win against a big name.

Also, let's say you're Urban Meyer and you get offered a Music City Bowl spot against a .500 Georgia Tech team. Any chance you try to reject the bid and send a message? Meyer won't (and UF wouldn't let him), but would you?

P.S. If Miami and Florida do end up playing each other, I'll pick a bar and we'll have a Gator Clause get-together. I'll have police on standby.


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