Wednesday, September 14, 2005

You make me want to puke Pt. 3

So I've finally reached the conclusion of my own personal football trilogy and much like "The Godfather", the third part is going to be far less impressive than the first two installments of the series (impressive being a relative term, of course). There aren't alot of other bases to cover just the special teams and the coaching of these two talented ballclubs. That's the funny thing about both of these categories, they traditionally receive far less attention than their respective counterparts. That is until something goes terribly wrong, at which point the media begins to blather incessantly about the importance of solid special teams play and sound coaching.

Special Teams: It's tough to accurately judge a special teams unit at this point in the season. As an example, during the 2001 season the Gators had the worst overall Special Teams unit that I had ever personally witnessed, as evidenced by Ingle Martin's stint as the starting punter as well as a 300 yard return day by none other than Derek Abney versus Florida at the Swamp that nearly resulted in a Gator loss to Kentucky of all schools. As bad as this unit was (believe me...they were AWFUL) the signs of this debacle didn't begin to rear it's ugly head until after the Tennessee game. Sadly, this year's version of the Gator Special teams has looked similarly unimpressive thus far. All told, Florida has kicked three kickoffs out of bounds, missed three extra points and had one semi-impressive retrun of any kind. Not good times. In games like this it is often special teams that make the difference between winning and losing. Tennessee on the other hand traditionally has fantastic special teams and I expect this year to be no different. I can't say that I know anything about this year's unit other than the Vols have yet another Colquitt kid as their starting punter. He's the younger brother of former All-American Dustin Colquitt and is said to have the same type of ability as his brother. By the way, this whole Colquitt as a punter at UT has gotten downright ridiculous. This is the fifth Colquitt (counting uncles and such) to punt at UT. It's like Fulmer is genetically engineering clones and giving them each a different first name. Have I mentioned that I hate Tennessee?

Advantage: Tennessee

Coaches: This is a bit tricky as well. We all assume that Urban Meyer is a good coach, but have any of us really watched enough of him in action to know what kind of gameday instincts he possesses? I know I haven't. That's the thing with coaching. You can be a hell of a recruiter and prepare your kids as well as anybody in the country, but if you don't have the ability to change and adapt on the fly you will end up losing the really tight games against your best opponents. For further proof see: Ron Zook, John Cooper, etc. On the other side of the coin, I have never really viewed Fat Phil as a great coach. Sure he wins alot of games but that has as much to do with the talent that he brings to Knoxville as anything else. His game plans are rarely inventive and he has never been accussed of being a great tactician on either side of the ball. If I had more personal experience watching Urban Meyer on a gameday in the big moments then I'd be much more confident in his ability to outcoach the Great Pumpkin. As it stands now, I will nervously give the nod to Mr. Meyer.

Advantage: Florida

Pick: I am going with the Gators by a touchdown in this one. I'm sure some people would look at my breakdown and wonder how I can choose the Gators even though I've given the edge to Tennessee in the categories of Offensive Line, Defensive Line, and Special teams as these are the areas where the tight games often turn.

My reasoning is this: I believe that Florida is very close to the Vols in the matchup of the lines, though Tennessee is still superior. I also believe that Florida has a decided in advantage in the secondary and wide receiver categories. The matchups in these areas as well as the increased maturation of Chris Leak will be the deciding factors in Saturday evening's much ballyhooed showdown. Unfortunately, this will be the first Florida-Tennessee game at the Swamp that I won't be attending in eight years. I won't get to feel the excitement in the air when the Gators come flying onto the field. Nor will I get to tackle a complete stranger after Chris Leak connects on a 40+ yard strike. Worst of all, I won't be able to use my full arsenal of cousin banging and dental hygene jokes on the pack of inbreds who will most assuredly make the trek from Knoxville to support their beloved Vols. Normally I would be heartbroken by such circumstances, and I am still a bit sad to know that I'll miss the first big game of the Urban Meyer era. I'll get over it I assure you. I'll get over it because I'll be watching the game from a bar in the Bahamas. As much as I love Gainesville (I went back for my Master's in order to get two more years of student tickets) it doesn't quite compare to the Carribean. God help me if there's a Tennessee fan anywhere near me come Saturday night. I'm not the kind of guy who was meant to do time in a foreign prison.

Florida 27
Tennessee 20


Jerry said...

That 2001 team was really good -- the clear cut #2 team in the country IMO and the only team that had a chance to beat Miami.

Fulmer is not even close to a great coach. He's an unbelievable recruiter and a very solid, mistake-free coach. They win because they have great players.

The one thing you left off is home field. In the NFL it's worth 3 points, in college it's usually 7. In this game I think it might be worth 10.

Mark said...

I actually meant to reference the 2002 team when I was talking about the special teams.

The 2001 team was absolutely the clear #2 team. I've always been bitter that Florida lost that game and wondered if Graham would've made a difference. Even though our run defense was by far the biggest problem in the December matchup against Tennesse. The other major problem was that Florida couldn't rush the ball with Robert Gillespie filling in for Graham. Earnest wasn't great but he was always able to grind out enought tough yards to keep defenses honest. Which, with that passing attack (better than '96) was all you really needed.

It would have been surreal to see Florida play Miami in The Rose Bowl, of all places.

As for Fulmer, you hit the nail on the head. He keeps it simple and let's his talent take over eventually.

CFunk28 said...

I'm very torn about Saturday Night. On one hand I want to watch my boy, Urban Meyer, the man who turned my alma mater's football program around. And on the other hand Blackalicious is playing at UVA. This is a close call. I'm torn. And tell Carl Weathers to bring it, I know my boy Chad "Action" Jackson will have my back.

Jerry said...

Yeah, I think Graham's absence was a factor in that loss along with the terrible run desense and pass protection.

That game may have been one of the most important in school history. A win would have most likely landed them in the national championship game and they could have ended up with a title. A win, IMO, would have kept Spurrier around for a while longer. Grossman would have won a Heisman. No Urban Meyer. Florida would be in a much different place if they could have scored 3 more points.

Plus it was in December, which was kind of weird.

Jerry said...

I mean Grossman would've won a Heisman eventually -- not in '01, when he should have won, but they wouldn't give it to a sophomore.

Mark said...


I'm going to go ahead and tell you to go see Blackalicious at UVA. As somebody who has seen them live twice, I would still pass on MOST football games to attend another one of their shows. Just a great live band.

Mark said...

Grossman not winning that Heisman always burned me. Not so much that he didn't win (the underclassmen factor) but that they gave it to Eric Crouch of all people, in large part due to the TD recption he had agaisnt Oklahoma earlier in the year. I would've been ok with Dorsey winning that year, just not Crouch as he was completely undeserving.

Jerry said...

That year was the official end of the Heisman trophy. No longer the best player -- it just became an upperclassmen QB on a top 3 team.

Mark said...

I know its really shallow to say this but I'm going to hell anyway so why not. Sept. 11th really cost the Gators that shot at the National Title. The Vols weren't half the team in September that they had become by the time the first week of December rolled around. Plus, the Gators were pretty banged up after the FSU game just a week earlier.

As an aside, I think Spurrier rides off into the proverbial sunset if he had been able to win a second National Title. Though he would've given Foley more warning thus allowing him to find a more suitable replacement for SOS. Alot of people forget what a time crunch Foley was on due to the timing of Spurrier's resignation. Foley absolutely HAD to get somebody in place in order to get a decent recruiting class in the fold that year.

In the end, it all seems to have worked out for the best. Gator fans will be more appreciative of all Meyer will do after having experienced some lean years under Zook. Spurrier had also lost some of his zest for all that comes with coaching college football (specifically recruiting)and would not have been able to keep Florida at as consistently high a level as he had in the mid-90's. Just look at the team's record in the later 90's. As hard as it was to go through, all of that set Florida up for the revival that they are currently experiencing. Win or lose on Saturday, the Gators are in better shape for the future than they've been in quite some time.

Mark said...

Yeah, the Hiesman lost what credibility it had left in 2001, no doubt.

Jerry said...

I agree. Spurrier's recruiting fell off badly, and it was part of the reason that Zook struggled. But I think Spurrier could have pulled off 1 or 2 more great seasons with the remaining talent if he had stuck around.

Also agree about the rescheduling. That's a much tougher game for UF coming off an emotional game against FSU than for UT (I assume coming off a bye, Vandy, and/or Kentucky).

I suppose Zook was the perfect patsy coach to follow a legend. I'm not sure if you've written about it, but it might be worth a post at sometime. It's nearly impossible to fill the shoes of a legend in CFB. The bumbling super-recruiter is the perfect guy to keep the seat warm for the next real coach.

Mark said...

Good point. If Spurrier could've convinced some of the guys from the 2001 team to stick around (Gaffney, Caldwell, Sheppard, etc.) and I think he could have. He would have had a real good shot at another title or two.

I have never really written about the patsy coach corrollary, but it's absolutely true. You get a sacrificial lamb in place that will stockpile talent while still being unable to put all the neccessary elements together. When he is replaced, your new coach gets a much longer leash as well as a boatload of talent to work with.