THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; SEPTEMBER 10, 2018
A few thoughts to kick start your Monday evening:
1. When Kentucky can come into Florida Field and not only leave with a win, but also looking like the bigger, stronger and faster team, it points a long, bony finger at the previous head coach and staff. Dan Mullen did not inherit a complete and total disaster, but it’s not like Jim McElwain left a full cupboard either. Steve Spurrier left Ron Zook with a roster that had a few holes, but there were also 26 players who spent at least one year in an NFL uniform. From Zooker, Urban Meyer inherited 25 players who would find their way into an NFL jersey for at least a year. Meyer left Will Muschamp with 34 and Muschamp left McElwain with 24. And understand this: there are still players on the UF roster that Muschamp recruited so that number could go higher. Mullen inherited a few players who will play on Sundays someday, but not nearly as many as the previous coaches left behind. And, what was left behind will have to have more than one year with Nick Savage and get a huge boost on the recruiting trail to fill all the holes. What the loss to Kentucky told us is beyond the fact that Dan Mullen and his staff have a massive rebuild on their hands is that maybe the 4-7 record last year wasn’t a fluke. Certainly coaching – or lack of – was a serious issue but so was personnel. Too often it seemed the Gators were bringing a butter knife to a gun fight. That has to change for Mullen to right the Good Ship Gator.
2. You don’t have to be Captain Obvious to notice: (1) The offensive line isn’t a disaster but it’s whatever is next; (2) there isn’t nearly enough depth on the defensive side of the ball; and (3) Mullen and Brian Johnson need to accelerate the development of Emory Jones. There are other problems, for sure, but these are glaring issues that have to be addressed sooner and not later. After Saturday’s close encounter with Colorado State of the Mountain West Conference, the Gators will play seven consecutive SEC games so things Mullen and his staff might need a ton of smoke and a whole bunch of mirrors to make this work.
3. Keep a close eye on what John Hevesy does with the O-line Saturday against Colorado State. If he sticks with the current starting five it’s a sure sign that there is absolutely zero confidence in the backups and his hand is more or less forced. The Kentucky game told us that (1) it’s time for Martez Ivey to move inside to guard because he just isn’t quick enough to handle someone off the edge; (2) Fred Johnson has been here four years and he still makes the same mistakes he was making when he was a freshman; and (3) Nick Buchanan might be the nicest kid in the world, but he was manhandled by Kentucky’s nose tackles. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see Hevesy shake things up by inserting Stone Forsythe at LT (he can’t be any worse than Ivey), move Ivey to LG (he played there at the end of last season), move Tyler Jordan to C (he’s played there before), insert Brett Heggie at RG and keep Jawaan Taylor at RT. Even if Hevesy keeps Ivey on the outside, something has to be done about C and RG. Jordan can play all five O-line positions and he is capable of handling a NT one-on-one, something neither Buchanan nor backup T.J. McCoy can do. Heggie might not be ready just yet to play center, but he could step in at one of the guard positions. He started at right guard last year, so he would be a natural fit there.
4. The defensive depth is going to be a problem all year. Getting David Reese back on the inside at linebacker will certainly help, but the loss of Marco Wilson for the year (ACL) depletes an already thin secondary. Depth aside, the Gators have to tackle better than they did against Kentucky. If the Gators simply wrapped people up and put them on the ground, the streak continues. Florida’s inability to tackle made Terry Wilson look like the second coming of Lamar Jackson. Wilson is a fine athlete and he’s certainly elusive, but not that elusive. Most of Bennie Snell Jr.’s 175 yards came after taking an initial hit. The initial hit didn’t work all that well and neither did the second and often the third. A disproportional number of Kentucky’s 303 rushing yards came after missed tackles. It’s been said that Florida was tired because of the depth issues, but it’s entirely possible to compensate for a lack of depth if you’re a great tackling team. Case in point, Florida’s 2006 national championship defense, which basically ran 5-6 linemen, 5-6 linebackers and 5-6 in the secondary. It helped that injuries were avoided all year, but that was a sure tackling team that put people on the ground, something the 2018 Gators better figure out before we get much further into the season.
5. Okay, is Feleipe Franks better than he was in 2017? The answer to that question is unequivocally yes. Has he proven he’s capable of playing at a high enough level to win consistently in the SEC? The answer to that is a flat out no. And the third question: Is Feleipe Franks the answer at quarterback? The easy answer to that is to say no, but to say no discounts the fact that Franks has come such a long way already. Who’s to say Mullen and Johnson can’t turn Franks into the kind of QB that nearly everyone in the SEC would love to have? Of course, who’s to say they will, either? And given that there is nothing that assures us they will be able to perform something just this side of a miracle, accelerating the development of Emory Jones is an absolute, positive must. If Franks goes the entire season without making constant improvement and Jones isn’t getting on the field to develop confidence and get a feel for playing in the SEC, the Gators are going to be in deepest and darkest next season. We have to hope for the best with Feleipe Franks. We have Mullen will hedge that bet by getting Emory Jones ready to take on a meaningful role ASAP.
6. SOME SEC FOOTBALL THOUGHTS: Through two games, Alabama QB Tua Tagavailoa is 25-35 passing (71.4%) for 455 yards (13.0 per attempt) and six TDs without an interception. He is also 9-46 rushing with one TD. He’s liable to throw for 500 yards Saturday against an Ole Miss secondary that couldn’t cover two-man routes with eight defenders … Although we’re only into the third week of the season, either Auburn or LSU will be on the brink of elimination from the SEC West race after Saturday. Auburn has the home field advantage and is a 9.5-point favorite … The nice thing to do is to point the finger at those two missed field goals to explain why Texas A&M lost, 28-26, to Clemson. The not so nice thing – but correct thing – is to point the finger at the zebras who absolutely, positively blew that call at the goal line and called it a touchback. And since we’re on the subject of the Aggies, QB Kellen Mond is going to be a force to be reckoned with now that he’s getting coached up by Jimbo Fisher … Mississippi State ran for 384 yards on the road at Kansas State last week with sophomore RB Kylin Hill picking up 211 and senior QB Nick Fitzgerald going for 159. How many teams have ever run that well on a Bill Snyder defense? … There is no QB controversy at Georgia and there isn’t going to be as long as Jake (from State Farm) Fromm stays upright. So far he’s 27-34 (83.3%) for 351 yards (10.3 per attempt) and three TDs. Justin Fields is really, really good but he’s not going to start at QB unless Fromm gets hurt … Ole Miss can’t play a lick of defense. Good thing they have QB Jordan Ta’amu, who is 45-65 (69.2%) for 784 yards (12.1 per attempt) and seven TDs without a pick through two games. Of course, none of those defenses he’s faced is named Alabama … Everybody knows Missouri can score plenty of points. The big shocker through two games is the defense, which has given up only 27 points and 525 yards … Last week Tennessee got an easy win at home against a D1AA team (East Tennessee State). This week they get UTEP, which could probably go 1-11 against a D1AA schedule … Vandy has looked really good against a couple of non-Power Five teams. This week the Commodores go to South Bend. This might not be pretty … Arkansas ran for 299 yards on Florida’s next opponent, Colorado State, and still found a way to lose. Another long season is in the cards in Fayette Nam.
7. UCF QB McKenzie Milton all but played himself out of Heisman Trophy contention against South Carolina State. You don’t throw three first half picks against a D1AA team and win the Heisman … Bryce Love is going to have to do a whole lot better than 136 yards against Southern Cal to become the front runner in the Heisman race again. Stanford is winning with defense and passing so Love’s contributions haven’t been all that necessary … Remember when everyone said Arizona State is nuts to hire Herm Edwards as its football coach? Those same people are rather quiet after Herm’s defense got the job done against Michigan State (16-13 win for ASU) … Beating Western Michigan 49-3 isn’t going to make folks think Jim Harbaugh has it going at Michigan. He still hasn’t beaten anyone that’s any good … Even without Urban Meyer, Ohio State is scary good. The Buckeyes are averaging 64.5 points per game and QB Dwayne Haskins is 42-53 (79.2%) passing for 546 yards (10.3 per attempt) and nine touchdowns … Florida State is in serious trouble as evidenced by needed a fourth quarter rally to beat D1AA Samford at Doak Campbell Stadium. It’s got the feel of a long, long season for the Seminoles.
8. SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gator Billy Horschel took home $522,000 for finishing in a second place tie (one shot off the pace) at the BMW Championship, won in a playoff by Keegan Bradley. Horschel shot a final found 64 to finish -19 for the tournament … Tiger Woods carded a final round 65 to finish three shots off the pace … The Boston Red Sox have the best record in all of Major League Baseball but I just don’t see them winning the World Series. Now that the Houston Disastros are healthy again, I think they’re going to take the AL championship and then win the World Series … It only seems like the Reagan administration the last time Becky Burleigh’s Florida soccer team scored a goal. Actually, it was August 24. It has been six games since the Gators last scored a goal, five of them losses. The latest loss is a 3-0 roadie to UCF … Serena Williams managed to blame everyone but the person she sees when she looks in the mirror for her US Open finals loss to 20-year-old Naomi Osaka. Sure, the official might have made a mistake, but even so Osaka won in straight sets and beat Serena in every phase of the game … I didn’t watch a minute of the NFL this past weekend. It has nothing to do with politics, either. I watch all the football I want on Saturdays and I just happen to prefer a college game that has so much diversity in its offensive and defensive schemes to an NFL where nearly all the offenses and defenses look the same.