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9 posts from January 2011

January 27, 2011

How will Stan Drayton's departure affect recruiting?

Drayton After getting a late start, finally putting together a staff and having to wait on his coordinators to lose in the NFL Playoffs, Will Muschamp didn't need anything else to overcome on the recruiting trail. He got it anyway.

Muschamp's staff is incomplete once again, as running backs coach Stan Drayton leaves Florida for the second time, this time to be Ohio State's receivers coach. Drayton was also the Gators' recruiting coordinator, had been formerly honored by Rivals.com for his recruiting skills, and he was the guy with the most experience at UF.

So far, no reaction to this, but in the oh-so-fickle world of recruiting, you never really know. I know y'all have an isatiable thirst for recruiting news, and I'll be the first to admit that the whole business is a huge turn-off for me, being that it's the pinnacle of the rumor-driven, shady reporting that I've come to detest.

BUT, just because I love my blog readers so much, I made a phone call today. Monsignor Pace safety Jabari Gorman, a four-star safety who Drayton recruited, told me he'd known "for a while" that Drayton was leaving (to be closer to family) and that it wouldn't affect his commitment. This is important not only because Gorman is good, but he's also the only commit since Muschamp took over. Pulling a talented kid out of Miami was a good get for Muschamp, and if he loses Gorman without another solid pickup, he doesn't have much to hang his hat on with this recruiting class.

As for the potential fall-out from Drayton leaving, Ja'Juan Story seems to be the next problem. The 6-3, 190-pound receiver committed in June but is now playing the percentage game ("Don't worry, I'm still 64 percent committed. I'm 22 percent de-committed, 10 percent undecided and 4 percent sure that people who put legitimate stock in these numbers should be committed to an asylum").

Story is looking at the Buckeyes, where Drayton would now be his position coach. Drayton wasn't the main guy handling Story, but taking a familiar face away from School A and adding him to School B is not good news for School A.

Really, all we can do is sit back and see what happens in the coming days. Signing Day is next Wednesday, and while bringing in the current 15-man class with no changes would be a disappointment for a program used to No. 1 rankings, there's something to be said for Muschamp and his crew hanging on to the guys Urban Meyer brought in.

Check the paper and site Friday for my UF recruiting feature, and I'll have another post up soon with the big fish still out there that the Gators are chasing.


In the meantime, who do you want to see Florida close with? Worried about Story? Does Drayton leaving bother you?

January 24, 2011

Jenkins cited for marijuana: Muschamp has his first test

Janoris He won't be going high in the NFL Draft this year, but Janoris Jenkins will be damned if that's going to keep him from getting high in a Gainesville night club.

Jenkins was cited for misdemeanor possession this weekend after the fuzz spotted him rolling a marijuana cigarette in the bathroom of a club, giving new coach Will Muschamp his first bit of negative press. It's not an arrest, so I'll keep the Official Muschamp Arrest Counter at zero for the time being, but it's still a big moment.

Muschamp did a lot of talking about discipline during his introductory press conference, and his players will no doubt be interested to see how he handles this from a player like Jenkins, who'll be a team leader next season after putting off a pro career to return for his senior year. The crime is pretty tame. The fact Jenkins got caught is the bigger issue to me.

I (and most likely you) know people (certainly none of us would ever do it) who smoke weed and don't get busted for it. It's not a big deal when enjoyed responsibly, and the effects are far less dangerous than alcohol. At least that's what people I know tell me.

But here's Jenkins, bringing drugs into a club and having them out in the open where cops can see him. That just speaks to a general lack of common sense, a missing piece that I feel excludes him from the "top 1 percent of 1 percent" that Urban Meyer said he strived to recruit. He also got hit with a Taser and charged with fighting and resisting arrest in 2009.

A very small number of people would be able to avoid illegality in a four-year career in college football, but the art is in not getting caught. As a reporter said when Brandon James got popped for buying weed from a police informant a few years ago, "Doesn't he know there are people who can get that for him?"

In light of that, let's all pause and appreciate Percy Harvin. Harvin enjoys his marijuana, a fact proven by his failed drug test at the NFL Combine. That was incredibly dumb, and I wouldn't be shocked to know that a few of the games he missed for "injury" at UF were really because of drug issues, but in three years, Harvin didn't run afoul of Johnny Law. He was a big star who kept his nose clean and seldom disappointed on the field. Realistically, THAT is the top 1 percent of 1 percent, as far as college football goes.

Moving forward, this is mostly a non-issue to me. The deadline to declare for the NFL Draft has passed, meaning there's no chance Muschamp cracks the whip, Jenkins gets upset and bolts for the pros. It would seem a bit harsh to suspend him for a game seven months from now, but even if that happens, it's just FAU.

But for a struggling program largely relying on young players, leadership will be a constant battle. This issue isn't likely to crush Jenkins' credibility with his teammates, but it does cast doubt about whether he's the kind of guy you want atop your roster's power pyramid.


Anyone really upset about this? Do you care? What do you think Muschamp will do?

January 20, 2011

Did you want the Gators to hire Mike Leach?

Mike Leach Great column from SI's Stewart Mandel today about the plight of former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach trying to find a new gig. Check it out and meet me at the next paragraph.

Those of you who did the required reading can print and mail this to me as a prize, but since most of you probably didn't, here's the rundown: Leach is down in Key West doing a radio show, occasionally working as an analyst, and of the 21 Division 1-A schools that had recent coaching vacancies, Maryland was the only one to contact him.

Mandel talked to an anonymous administrator whose school recently passed on Leach, and the source said Leach's 84-43 record with 10 bowls in 10 years at Tech isn't enough to make up for the headache that comes with the Adam James fiasco and Leach's pending lawsuit against Tech, not even when you throw in the fact that Leach had the nation's best graduation rate when he left the Red Raiders.

That administrator did say Leach would probably be met with tons of excitement from fans, but media attention and complaints from the higher-ups at a university would be the problem. Would you have been OK with Florida hiring Leach instead of Will Muschamp? For that matter, would our guests from Coral Gables have chosen Leach over Al Golden to run Miami's program?

I want to hear your thoughts on this. I can see it going both ways. Muschamp and Golden were both questionable hires because neither has been the top dog at a bigtime program, but Golden can't be punished for being successful at Temple, and Muschamp is intriguing because of his familiarity with the SEC.

If it's me, I'll take Leach all day. When Skip Holtz left my favorite team for South Florida, I wanted East Carolina to hire Leach right away. He's an offensive genius (and maybe a real-life genius. he also holds a law degree), he's funny, he's really funny, and he's obsessed with pirates, making him a natural fit at ECU.

Instead, they hired his hula-hoop-waisted defensive coordinator, Ruffin McNeill, who brought along Leach understudy Lincoln Riley to run the TTU offense, which made ECU one of the best attacks in college football this season. It's hard for me to imagine the Pirates wouldn't be better with Leach at the helm. Let's not forget, he was the man behind one of the best moments in recent college football history.

I have little doubt Leach would be a good head coach should be find a new job, so the next question is all the attention that athletic directors and school officials feel he'd bring. In a word, I'll refer to those people as "idiots," since it fits them so well. This can be taken care of with a press conference or two. Hire him, come out and support him. This isn't an ongoing scandal. He may or may not have locked a kid widely regarded as a prick in a closet. There's a decent chance one of your coaches did worse to you in pee wee football.

Sports is all about redemption stories. Tear them down, build them back up and call them heroes. It's a cycle of BS, if you ask me, and no portion of the cycle is more absurd than the part Leach is stuck at. He'll land somewhere, and Tom Rinaldi will show up with his piano for a tear-jerker ESPN piece letting everyone know that "Leach is, once again, the captain of his ship."

I can't believe no one in charge feels that way, and it's especially shocking that Leach can't even get interviewed. It's one thing to fear hiring a guy who just sued his last employer (with good reason) and may very well be smarter than you, but no one has cited that as a reason that I know of.

And I don't want to hear anything about how a coach is supposed to be a molder of men. This isn't middle school. It's college, it's crooked, and everyone is pretty much going to do what they want. (See: Hill, Will). For real, click that link and remember that at the very time he was Tweeting those things, UF coaches were telling reporters about how mature Hill was.

Leach is a great coach and a captivating character, and I'd love to see what he could do with a program like Florida or Miami. Would you? If you don't think he'd fit, is it because of on- or off-field issues?


January 17, 2011

Blakely out for spring, what do you expect from Gators RBs next year?

Blakely AAA It's raining and it's a Monday, so bad news is fitting. Freshman running back Mike Blakely will miss spring practice due to shoulder surgery. That's a real bummer, as it'll just about negate the head start he hoped to get by enrolling early.

This can be said about almost every position for the Gators next season, but the running back spot is going to be really interesting to watch. Charlie Weis will have his work cut out to run a pro-style offense with a bunch of spread scatbacks, and I felt like Blakely could have a shot at early playing time with a good spring.

At 5-foot-9, 194 pounds, Blakely isn't a big bruiser or even an Emmanuel Moody (who gets big bruises), but he runs tough and could be a great every-down back if he adds a little size. If the surgery and missed spring cause him to redshirt, he should be ready to blow up in 2012, but that'll leave this as the RB depth chart for next season:

Jeff Demps (SR, 5-8, 190) Career: 269 carries, 1,901 yds (7.1 ypc), 17 TDs
Chris Rainey (RSR, 5-9, 178) Career: 174 carries, 1,237 yds (7.1 ypc), 9 TDs
Mike Gillislee (JR, 5-11, 198) Career: 89 carries, 592 yds (6.7 ypc), 8 TDs
Mack Brown (RFR, 5-10, 193) Career: 3 carries, 23 yds (7.7 ypc)

Demps is obviously "the man," and he and Rainey should both be looked to as the big play guys, but if Weis wants more of a consistent pro-style threat out of the backfield, I think Gillislee might be the better option. I'd expect to see all four play next year, and it'll be really interesting to see how they're used in an offense that isn't as shotgun-heavy and with an inexperienced offensive line.

Will Muschamp gave the ever-popular "we fit our offense to our players, not the other way around" line when he was hired, but I'll believe that when I see it from Weis. If that's truly the case, next year's offense would have to still feature the spread.

What are you expecting out of this bunch for next year? Who do you want to see leaned on as the main rushing option? Any of these guys have 1,000-yard potential if given the chance?

January 13, 2011

Jeff Driskel is on campus, what do you expect from him?

Driskel UA Check out this video from the UA All-America Game, which includes plenty of screen time for Jeff Driskel, who most Gators fans hope will be to Florida's offense what Keanu Reeves was to The Matrix.

Driskel's 67-yard touchdown run is at the 2:40 mark, followed by defensive tackle Gabe Wright razzing him on the sideline by calling him Tim Tebow and Cam Newton. Driskel handles that pretty well, but I'm sure he'll get tired of those comparisons and expectations eventually (if he isn't already).

Andre Debose bucked the notion that he's the next Percy Harvin when he came in, and Driskel will probably want to carve out his own legacy too.

Speaking of Debose, here's a funny moment from this season. He was talking about the praying mantis-like technique he uses to catch (and drop) kickoffs, and he was smiling until a reporter said, "You know, Percy catches kicks like that too." Debose shot him a death stare and said, "Yea, well I don't know how Percy catches kicks." Oops.

Anyway, back to the video, Driskel also gets interviewed around the 5-minute mark, and there's some footage of the pregame speeches and a Haka dance as well. I know most of you are fiending for recruiting talk about now, and I promise to have more on it in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, what are you expecting from Driskel this spring and in the fall? Given John Brantley's apparent lack of skill, Jordan Reed's apparent lack of playbook study skills and Trey Burton's apparent lack of an arm, would you rather just throw Driskel in right from the start and get him seasoned? I know there's value to letting a player observe from the sideline and ease into it, but that sure as hell didn't work with Brantley.

As far as expectations go, Driskel is going to have the world on his shoulders, and that's no easy thing to handle. The guy is good and I expect him to be successful, but he's not Tebow, and unfortunately that's what many will demand of him. It'll be fascinating to see how he deals with all that in the spring.


Let me know what you think. Do your best to stay on topic. Pretty, pretty, pretty please.

January 12, 2011

OT win gives Gators five in a row

Tyus vs Tennessee Florida is starting to look like it deserves the hype that had it pegged as favorites to win the SEC this year. With an 81-75, overtime win at Tennessee, the Gators improved to 13-3 and 2-0 in the conference, taking their fifth straight since that head-scratching loss to Jacksonville on Dec. 20.

The Vols have had some really questionable losses, and coach Bruce Pearl had to sit out because he's a bad boy, but they also beat Villanova, Pitt and Memphis, and a win at UT is never something to scoff at.

Pretty balanced game for UF, as all five starters scored in double-digits, and the Gators shot a blazing 52 percent from the field, including hitting 8 of 16 three-pointers. Good to see Alex Tyus lead the way with 18 points and seven rebounds after putting in just two points and three boards against Ole Miss. Florida really needs Tyus (pictured) to be a threat and he hasn't shown that consistently, but let's all stop and applaud him for finally putting an end to one of the worst hairstyles of all time last month.

Also of note, Chandler Parsons went 4-for-5 from downtown, and Billy Donovan played each of his starters for more than 30 minutes. He came close to doing the same in the SEC opener against Ole Miss, where only Tyus came up short at 27 minutes. This is a departure from the sub-happy scheme Donovan used earlier in the season, and it'll be interesting to see what he does as conference play heats up.

Wilbekin and Weezy Forward/center/beast Patric Young had seven rebounds off the bench, and guard Scottie Wilbekin (pictured rapping alongside Lil Wayne) came in and had three assists and three steals. Both were turnover-free.

Next up is a home meeting with South Carolina on Saturday, and a win there should be enough to get the Gators back in the rankings.

Thoughts on the game? Gotta say that "play" for a winning shot at the end of regulation was pretty pitiful, but other than that it's a good result.

January 10, 2011

Jenkins returning to Gators for senior season

Janoris-jenkins1 Year 1 just got quite a bit easier for Will Muschamp. Shockingly, cornerback Janoris Jenkins will come back to UF rather than enter the NFL Draft, where he was expected to be a first-round pick.

“After careful consideration, I’ve made a decision to return to school for my senior year,” the All-SEC selection said in a statement. “I spent some time with my family and coach Muschamp and came to the conclusion it was in my best interest to return to school. Coach Muschamp was very supportive throughout the whole process, regardless of my decision, but he wanted to make sure I had all of the facts. I’m looking forward to working towards my degree, completing my rehab and getting back on the field with my teammates.”

Damn right Muschamp was supportive. He gets to keep a shut-down corner who can hold the opposing team's top wideout in check, as he did to Alabama's Julio Jones (four catches, 19 yards), South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery (six catches, 53 yds) and Georgia's A.J. Green (four catches, 42 yds, TD) this season.

And this has a major domino effect. Now, the No. 2 corner spot will be settled through some intense competition between Jeremy Brown, Moses Jenkins, Cody Riggs, Jaylen Watkins and a few others this offseason, and Jenkins plus the winner of that battle is a much more formidable pairing than the alternative.

It's also a great sign that Muschamp got him to stay. If Jenkins wasn't sold on the new coach, there's no way he'd turn down the NFL to return. Surely the torn labrum that held him out of the Outback Bowl played a role as well, but considering the fact that he played well this season with the injury, I can't imagine it would have scared off too many teams, unless they wanted him to pitch.

“I’m excited that Janoris has made a decision to come back to school,” Muschamp said. “I would have supported him in whatever decision he made, but I commend him for making a mature decision. It would have been real easy for Janoris to make an emotional choice and leave early, but with our contacts in the NFL, we were able to assist him in understanding his draft status and he made an educated decision that will be beneficial to him in the long term.”

Schad on Janoris Great day for Florida here. Jenkins was considered a sure thing to make the jump; Mike Pouncey even said so before the Outback Bowl, and intrepid ESPN reporter Joe Schad tweeted it last week, which should have been the first clue Jenkins was coming back.

If anyone's upset about this, it's Jelani Jenkins, because this means he has to keep that awkward-looking "Je. Jenkins" on the back of his jersey.

And another reason to be happy: this sets up what would have to be the funniest moment of the year in UF sports, where Will Hill declares for the draft and Jenkins doesn't. If Hill leaves while Jenkins stays, that's the best news Florida's secondary has gotten in a long time.

January 06, 2011

What'd you think of the Tebow documentary?

Tebow documentary

"Tim Tebow: Everything in Between," a documentary chronicling Tebow's path to the NFL Draft, just wrapped up on ESPN. I missed the first 15 minutes (which a friend tells me was the best part, of course), but from what I saw, there wasn't anything too groundbreaking.

It airs again later tonight if you missed it, but I'd like to hear your thoughts. Here are some of mine:

-Tebow gave Matthew McConaughey a run for his money in that. Every time I turned around, he was taking his shirt off. I'm sure that was fun for some viewers though.

-The draft-day stuff was pretty cool to watch. Seeing his agent, Jimmy Sexton, working the phones and predicting what would happen was the most interesting part of what I saw. Also, Sexton's reaction to Dez Bryant getting drafted (thus making Tebow a more likely pick) was awesome, and his quote "I still wake up and see Michael Crabtree in the room across from me" about a similar situation was priceless.

-Lots of Tebow working out, and while it's neat to see the work he puts in, that's part of what'll make people leave that documentary saying, "God, I hate Tebow." Plenty of players work themselves into the ground getting ready for the draft, but Tebow is the type of guy who always gets more credit for doing that. He's obviously a really hard worker, as evidenced by him working out with linemen when he got to UF, but that was pretty much the focus of what I saw tonight, and I can see why that leaves those with "Tebow Fatigue" feeling nauseated.

-Also, it's important to keep in mind the source. Sexton was an executive producer, as was UF booster Bill Heavener, who was Bob Tebow's college roommate. Heavener's son made the documentary, and as a kid with a journalism degree, I'm naturally very skeptical of the objectivity of the film. It's not like they have footage of Tebow with strippers and didn't run it, but the film is basically an hour-long ad for Tim Tebow, Inc.

-Still, none of the above is Tebow's fault. He's the kind of player every fan wants on his or her team, and this documentary backed that up. Boy, were the Gators lucky to have him.

-I still have to watch the beginning on the re-run, but from what I saw, I'm keeping the first Tebow documentary ranked above this one. Here's a clip, beginning with my all-time favorite Tebow line: "BIG NUTS!"


January 01, 2011

Gators couldn't have scripted a better ending

SprintPhoto_bhbcfd The perfect player made the perfect play to give Urban Meyer a perfect ending to his career at UF.

Ahmad Black's 80-yard interception return for touchdown sealed the Gators' 37-24 win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl, earning him the MVP and stopping a promising Nittany Lions' drive with a minute left in the game.

Black was the best player on this team all season, and I'm happy to see his career end on this note. He came to UF as an undersized safety, an add-on to a recruiting class that included high school teammates Chris Rainey, John Brown and Mike and Maurkice Pouncey.

Black said safeties coach Chuck Heater even told him as much during the team's senior tackle ceremony this week, when he joked that the Gators only took Black to get the others.

Four years later, he's the best of the bunch in my book (Maurkice certainly has a claim there too). Black made a laundry list of huge plays in his career, most notably that crazy pick against Oklahoma in the BCS Championship.

He led the team in tackles this year and had two picks Saturday. He returned the first one 49 yards to the 15-yard line in the first quarter, putting UF's offense in a situation where it was a huge challenge to not score. Never fear, they prevailed with a fumble.

Meyer and Black deserved to go out winners, and they both wanted the win for someone else. Meyer gave the game ball to Ian Lockwood, a senior at Navarre High (pictured in orange beanie). He met Lockwood while he was receiving treatment for brain cancer in Gainesville, an illness that cut short his high school football career. Navarre had its best year in school history this season, going 11-2 while using Lockwood for inspiration.

The Gators did the same thing, partly playing this game for Lockwood. Black hugged him and gave him the game ball at a postgame press conference, a scene that had Lockwood choking back tears.

“I asked these guys to do whatever we could to get a game ball to Ian Lockwood," Meyer said. That meant we had to go four quarters as hard as possible and find a way to get that ball and brighten someone’s day.”

This game was very, very sloppy and mostly poorly played, but that's not how I'll remember it. I'll remember watching Black go streaking down the sideline after jumping a drag route. And I'll remember the scene on the field afterward, watching Meyer celebrate with his family (he either wasn't emotional or did a great job hiding it) after I snuck into the background of his postgame interview to get on TV looking like a super creepy stalker.

Sure, I'll also remember all the times Florida played LIKE THIS, but Black at least put a positive spin on the end of the year. Winning the Outback Bowl against a mediocre Penn State team doesn't mean much, especially not for a team that started the year with BCS hopes, but take a step back and look at what this game meant for the three people on the right side of that photo, and suddenly things change.

Meyer also made the point that the win makes life a lot easier for Will Muschamp, as a team coming off a win is much different in the offseason from one that ends with a loss. Now, it's all about Muschamp's staff coming together, and I expect they'll have all that set in the next few days.

What'd you think of the game? Does this make up for any of the sorrow from the rest of the year?

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