English: Steve Spurrier at fan day while coaching the Florida Gators, 1999 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Football is an odd sport, Gator Nation.
We celebrate multiple men on a field running into each other at high velocities and enjoy bone crushing events like they were the only thing happening on a Saturday. We get excited and high five when someone becomes so fluid and elusive that others buckle at the knees to keep up and watch as an individual trots into a big patch of green. The game of college football brings its ups, its downs and in all kinds of weather, Gator Nation. There’s nothing like it. Let’s talk some football…
Steve Spurrier is easily the greatest active college football coach in the SEC. Oh…you think Saban and Miles are better. Really? Want to go toe to toe with me on this one? Sidebar: Yes, I’m a big of the Head Ball Coach. End Sidebar. Many of you in my generation and before understand that the 8-5 record that Urban Meyer left us with and the 7-6 that Muschamp began his tenure with before Spurrier was THE STANDARD. I remember sitting in the stands in 1988 watching us unable to move the ball against Memphis State. Not Mississippi State. Not Florida State (that game was uglier…52-17). I’m speaking of team in southwest Tennessee that beat us 17-11. We finished 7-5 and guess who we lost to the very next week? Yes, Vandy. Another sidebar: Before you note the 9-1-1 seasons, understand those have been wiped from existence due to NCAA sancation and SEC buffoonery. End second sidebar. Before Spurrier there wasn’t the Florida Football we have known the past two decades. Before Spurrier the Gamecocks were who other teams scheduled for their Homecoming. Both Alabama and LSU were winning football games and National titles before Saban and Miles ever set foot on the campus and both enjoy a recruiting advantage in their home states full of football prospects. Spurrier built programs and won at places that weren’t winning before and is easily the better coach on the sidelines. He may not have the horses he had at Florida in the earlier years, but there is no denying he is always the better the coach. Oh yeah, I’m not a big fan of either ‘Bama, LSU or the Gamecocks for that matter, so there is some legitimate bias in this assessment.
SoCar is bringing in the better team. They score more points. Their defense is not that great, but neither is our offense. They have a good QB who is not out for the year with an injury, so that right there is a plus. They boast one of the greatest defensive players in the country in Jadeveon Clowney, who also is not out for the year with an injury. It’s actually interesting how good a team can be when they have most of their players suited up for each game. This game is at SoCar so that puts at least a few points in their favor for the game. It’s a night game and they have to win to keep pace in the SEC East which means they will bring a raucous crowd to the game. They have the SEC’s leading rusher in Mike Davis, a former Gator commit that we blew it with by trying to recruit another RB the same year after we had already signed him and Matt Jones. Best head coach, better team, better record, at the opposition’s home field…it doesn’t look good does it?
Whatever. No one ever said I wrote these posts for my health or for my sanity. Sure we have now have 10 starters out for the season after Antonio Morrison tore cartilage in his knee presumably not barking at a neighbors dog. We may have even lost our backup QB and will be, most likely, starting our third string QB, Skyler Mornhinwig, who has a famous father and no NCAA snaps at QB in his repertoire. The fact each of us who have been following Gator football this year know this is a blowout before it starts. Yet I’m not going there. Game time isn’t here and we still have a chance. Kelvin Taylor might break tackles enroute to a 200 yard game. Our third string QB may prove to be the best QB we have in the rotation. Has a knack for getting rid of the ball quickly and out to the receivers for big gains. Our secondary could conceivably intercept Conner Shaw four times and return a couple for Gator TDs. The fact is the ball still needs to be put in play and we have a chance…albeit slim…to win this game. Because of that, I’m still going with the Gators. I’ve never predicted a Gator loss and I’m not about to start now. Besides, this is a SoCar team that lost to Tennessee that we manhandled while losing our starting QB at the same time. Florida 31 South Carolina 29. Game time is 7pm EST and 4pm PST on ESPN2 which mean Verne and Gary are covering another set of SEC schools, thankfully. You probably haven’t been going to your local Gator Club recently, but this week is a good time to go because a Victory over South Carolina and possible continuance of a yearly winning record are best served with Gators. ‘Nuff said? Not quite.
I posted a great article on why the situation for us will get worse before it gets better on the TGN Facebook page. The problems started under Meyer and were exacerbated under Muschamp. We’ve had all these great recruiting classes that did have skill players develop, did not provide us depth at QB and absolutely obliterated the offensive line. We didn’t realize that a 12-1 Gator squad in Tebow’s last year was operating very thinly and it was only because of who we had at QB and the recruiting class that came in with him were we able to get through the season. As much as Urban Meyer has fell out of favor with me for how he left the program, I have to admit he is a better coach than Muschamp and better at recognizing opportunity and assistant coaches. He said the program was broken when he left. He should know, he broke it. The fact that Ohio State opened up with plenty of quality players and no SEC schedule was only a bonus. Muschamp for his part made the situation worse with poor coaching selections and his overall bull headed approach to fitting round pegs in square holes. Right now Jacoby Brissett should be our pro-style QB, but that was never going to happen because we needed Jeff Driskel to scramble around due to a very weak offensive line with no depth. No receivers to throw to also means that Driskel is scrambling A LOT. We are taking athletes and shoving them into positions that they are not used to playing while Muschamp builds his stable and to his credit he has recruited a significant number of offensive lineman last year and this year. The injuries this year just brought the house down and now we sit at 4-5 and looking at our first losing season since 0-10-1 in 1979.
Our AD, Jeremy Foley, came out in support of Muschamp this week. Frankly, Gator Aaron had the best response on Facebook this week with “Actually, I think the only valid reason not to fire him is the lack of anybody on the current coaching staff who can step up in his place. Brent Pease? COME ONE!” No truer statement can be said. Muschamp is here for the remainder of this season and will be the coach next year. He went 11-2 last year and one bad season….and this is a really bad one for Gator fans…will not be enough to get him fired. It is quite likely we may have a second bad season next year, but should have a winning record. Muschamp has to find some quality assistant coaches who can develop player talent. He then has to identify what is happening in his program that is resulting in so many injuries. This season is abnormal in terms of injuries, but it has been a continual problem since he came on campus. He has to decide that some games are more important than others. He has one Victory over FSU on his resume that he can claim as a rivaly Victory. We haven’t beaten Georgia and are more than likely going to go 1-2 versus FSU this year. His statement when he first took the job that he didn’t believe in rivalry games speaks volumes as to why I don’t think he’s the best X’s and O’s coach we could have, but he is who we have for the time being. So, I’m going to work with it. With this year’s recruiting class getting shakier by the week (see De’shawn Hand choosing Alabama over us this week—it gets worse if we lose Dalvin Cook at WR), Muschamp will have to do his best to reassess and get everything back on track. In all kinds of weather we all stick together, Gator Nation. This storm is going to last a bit longer. Hang in there. It might just all work out for us in the end.
The bright spot in all of this is that Gator basketball is starting and I will say up front that November and December will be a trying time. We just lost to a ranked Wisconsin team with seven scholarship players and a walk-on playing 21 minutes, nearly winning the game in the final minute at Wisconsin. We get Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith back from their team suspensions this week to get a bit more size on the floor. Eventually, Will Yuegete, Michael Frazier and Eli Carter will recover from their surgeries and illnesses. We will get Scottie Wilbekin back in a few weeks to allow us to have more than just a freshman at point guard. Chris Walker is also set to join the team in December which will allow us to see the highly touted big man in action. Come mid-January, I suspect you are going to see a very good Gator basketball team and probably the only one who can compete with Kentucky in the SEC. This is a Gator basketball team that is lying in wait. Have some patience, but most importantly tune in and watch the games because they are going to be good. Lastly, the 5th ranked Lady Gator Volleyball team plays the 7th ranked Misouri Tigers this weekend. This the first time Mary Wise has had a Top Ten game in the SEC since her first season in 1991. I have great expectations for this Volleyball team. I’m looking for a Final Four appearance this year.
Ok. ‘Nuff said.