Saturday, September 30, 2006


Just thought that i should mention that the Cardinals won last night. I'm actually not even sur why I am mentioning this. I mean, it's not like they're in the middle of a playoff race or anything.

Friday, September 29, 2006

So much pain...

I'm going to keep it short this morning and I don't care what you say about me (Greg). I severely jammed my the knuckle on my left index finger last night during my return to competitive basketball. Yep, that's right, in my first game back from a major calf muscle tear I managed to jam my knuckle bad enough that it's currently sitting somewhere in the middle of my hand. It's not anything that I haven't done a couple thousand times throughout my life but it still hurts like hell to type with my finger like this. If I was tough, I'd gut this one out for the team and soldier on with this post. However, as we all know, I'm not tough and I sure as hell don't care about "the team". It's all for the best any way because any post that I would've written today would've looked something like this:

Jesus the Cardinals suck. How the hell are we managing to continually find new and more pathetic ways to blow this once seemingly insurmountable lead? Oh, I forgot, because Albert Pujols can't play nine postitions at once. Maybe we can bring Joaquin Andujar, he was always good in the clutch and he can't be much worse than Jeff Suppan, can he?

I was going to ignore this subject in hopes of St. Louis turning this thing around on their own but now I've got to mention it in (futile) hopes of stemming the tide for the Redbirds. Sadly, I'm thinking its a case of too little, (far) too late. By the way, have I ever mentioned before how much I hate the Astros? I have? Oh, because I really hate the fucking Astros.

Okay. I've got to stop before I end up opening that package that Terrence Kiel sent me. That's for a special occasion (read: The birth of my third illegitimate child, Da'Quan)

Or maybe it would look a little more like this:

Wow. Alabama, huh? I really hate those goddamned inbreds. Sure not as much as the hillbillies in Knoxville but it's a strong hate. It stings the nostrils. Last year's 31-3 ass raping was one of the more embarrassing Gator games I've ever experienced. I would say it was the worst since the 1999 SEC Championship game. Who was that game against again? Oh yeah, Al-a-BAMA!!! I'm really hoping for a Spurrier-esque revenge game here. Those were always nice. Of course, the last time the Tide walked into the Swamp they walked out with a victory and Shaun Alexander was approximately $5 million richer (Does he send Keith Kelsey a Christmas card every year? Because he should). I'm just going to stop thinking about this game tomorrow before all the anxiety of it combined with the thought of the Cardinals' inevitable collapse makes me throw up...too late. Wow, I don't even remember eating corn last night.

Alright, that's it. My finger's throbbing and I've already thrown up once. That doesn't usually happen until at least 8 pm on a Friday. I'm gonna go lay down.

Florida will be wearing throwback uniforms tomorrow against the Tide. I'm hoping this is just a promotional photo.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rushed post = No Title

I've spent much of the past two days constantly refreshing the message boards of Gatorcountry trying to find some news, any news on Marcus Thomas' suspension. Well, that and banging my head against my keyboard over the thought of losing Thomas for the toughest stretch of football the the University of Florida has seen in many, many years. Not only is Thomas arguably the most indispensable player on the Gator defense, he also happens to occupy the position that I personally feel is most essential to a dominating defense. While there are plenty of different ingredients that make up a dominant defense (and surely more than one recipe for said defense), it is next to impossible to have a truly special defense without pressure from the interior of your defensive line. While the 2006 Gator defense possesses a number of weapons, none are as effective without Marcus (and Scoop) commanding a double team from the opposing O-line. We learned this much in the season opener against Southern Miss. Hopefully, the next thing we learn is that Marcus is returning for the October 7th tilt in Gainesville versus LSU. I'm going to be in Gainesville for this game and will gladly supply Marcus with anything he needs in order to be ready to play against the Tigers. Well, not anything...that's kind of what got us in this predicament in the first place.

Speaking of Gator games that I'll be attending, Florida takes on Kentucky tomorrow @ 7:45 and I'll be there. Normally I wouldn't even dream of attending a game of such little national prominence. However, I'm attempting to make up for lost time this year since last year was the first year since 1996 that I didn't attend one single Gator game. Tomorrow's game will be the first of a four (and possibly more) game tour for me this year that includes LSU, UGA and FSU. I'm hoping that tomorrow will serve as a nice "walk through" for me and my liver. You just can't jump right into a game like LSU or the WLOCP after a year off without a little preventive medicine. (Note: By "preventitive medicine" I mean Jack Daniels). With all of this in mind, I'm leaving work a little early today so I'm going to keep today's post short and limit it to some loose ends and random thoughts that have slipped through the cracks recently.

- A belated "thank you" to Jerry is in order. Jerry brought up his surprise last Saturday that I didn't possess a"go to" shirt for Gator games. I responded by referencing the Ron Zook era and citing it's destruction of most of the "lucky" Gator paraphenalia that I once owned. Of course, with Tennessee looming at 8 pm, this got my wheel's spinning. I realized that I did have a shirt that was, possibly, lucky due to it's absence during my second stint in Gainesville. I decided to bring it with me to Vitas'. With things still tight but looking less than promising at halftime of a 10-7 game I decided to make the switch for the second half. We all know what happened from there, Florida outscored UT 14-3 in the second half and pulled out the victory in Neyland. All thanks to Jerry and my awesome shirt.

- During last week's ND-Michigan game, Tom Hammonds mentioned that Mike Hart's actual first name was Leon. I haven't been that disappointed in an athlete since I found out that Troy O'Leary was black. There are millions of Mikes but so few Leons, Mr. Hart. It's time for you to take a page out of Albert/Joey Belle's, no not that book.

- Who's the biggest douchebag on TV right now? I'll tell you who. That fat guy from the Glidden paint commercial. He's obviously a huge sports fan because he wants to paint one of his rooms in the colors of one of his favorite teams (By the way, what is he 12 years old?). However, I'd like to hear the rational explanation for why his favorite teams include Oregon State, the Oakland A's and the Washington Redskins. Who's his favorite hockey team, the Blackhawks? I really wish Tony Stewart would just do us all a favor and reach up from the back seat and choke him out with some piano wire like a mafia movie.

- I know that it's been done a few times before but why isn't anybody, and I mean anybody, making a big deal out of Alfonso Soriano joining the 40/40 Club? I mean, he certainly has plenty of flaws (strikes out too much, poor defensively, bad tipper) but 40/40 is a pretty damned impressive accomplishment where I come from (the early 80s) and he managed to do it while playing his home games in RFK. I should probably just be quiet about this. I'm sure that most sports fans are much more interested in T.O.'s finger anyway.

- Am I the only guy who thinks that the name Prescott Burgess should only be given to people who are going to end up in a frat at UVA? When it becomes clear that isn't going to happen there should be some type of law that changes your name to something more appropriate. In this case I'm thinking something along the lines of...Damarneus Wilcox.

- When you're watching the 12:00 noon ESPN game tomorrow ask yourself if you think Pam Ward tucks her bird in between her legs or tapes it to the inside of her thigh when she wears skirts? I say tuck.

- During the Iowa-Iowa State game last Saturday, multiple stroke victim Mike Gottfried said this about Iowa tailback Albert Young, "He will tell you anything you want to hear." Up to that point I had been unaware that Albert Young was a prostitute. Knowing is half the battle, I guess.

- He doesn't get enough pub because, well, he plays at perpetually 7-5 Boston College, but linebacker/fullback Brian Toal is one of the more underrated players in the nation. He's the kind of guy who ends up going in the 4th round b/c of somewhat unimpressive measurables but still ends up starting by the middle of his rookie year. Seriously, if you can take the boredom of watching ACC Football this year (the conference is even more mediocre than normal, which is saying something) sit down and just watch Toal for a series or three. He's good.

- Direct quote from ABA Owner Ann Iverson on her team's new name (Richmond Ballers), "All our players better be Ballers because if they're whack, they're going home." Wow, who wouldn't want to suit up for an organization with a leader like that? Can't you just see Art Modell saying the same thing to Ozzie Newsome?

I probably won't post on Monday because I'll be pretty busy with meetings and such while also more than likely handicapped by the hangover that I'm sure to bring home as a souvenir from the long weekend in Gainesville that will conclude in Orlando on Sunday night at a concert I'll be attending at the House of Blues. The trip to Gainesville is exciting enough but when combined with the concert, this weekend has the potential to be one of the all-time greats. At this point you may be wondering who it is that I'm going to see in Orlando on Sunday. Frankly, I'm not really sure that any of you will have ever heard of them. Well, maybe a few of you. It's this little hip-hop group from NYC who call themsleves A Tribe Called Quest. See, I knew you guys wouldn't know who I was talking about.

I'll be back tuesday. Until then, Greg's new blog is sure to keep you entertained with his witty insights. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Unfortunately, Marcus Thomas believes in Rocking the Vote

To say today’s been busy would be a bit of an understatement. Actually, this whole week has been busy since I was out of the office for most of last week while attending a conference down in Miami. I really shouldn’t complain though since I spent the time in Miami shacked up in a hotel room with this view:

As for today, it hasn’t been anything other than your normal busy day, save for a couple of items. The first is that my girlfriend got in a car accident right in front of my office on her way in to see me this morning. Fortunately, she seems to be relatively unharmed and there isn’t a ton of damage to her car. She got in a car accident last year (nearly to the day) and ended up needing knee surgery so we’re kind of holding our breath right now because she banged the same knee against her steering wheel (again) during the impact. You see, my girlfriend is very short and tends to fly within the confines of a car when shes in an accident. The second less than pleasant item of the day is something I’ll get into in just a bit.

The time I spent in Miami was nice. My girlfriend and I spent most of the time drinking, hanging out on the beach and, generally, just taking in all that Miami has to offer. Somehow, despite living in Florida for the past 15 of the past 20 years, my girlfriend hadn’t ever been to Miami so it was a nice introduction for her (on the company dime no less). I’ve been to Miami more times than I can count (or care to) but it’s always nice to get away from this podunk town I live in and experience a taste of a more metropolitan city for a few days. I won’t bore any more than I already have with details of the trip other than to mention a couple things that happened and/or we noticed during our brief vacation.

- Actual statement from the gf: “Where are all the beautiful people?” Well, I’m going to assume a lot of them were sleeping, since many of the “beautiful people” who inhabit Miami also have sizeable cocaine habits that allow them to party in the finest clubs until around 7 am. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of beautiful people in Miami. It just so happens that there are also plenty of trolls as well. With a population that large, it can’t all be models and porn stars. It’s science.

- If you didn’t know that the gf was new to Miami, it would’ve only taken her reaction to nearly having her purse snatched to clue you in. As we walked down near Calle Ocho one evening (6ish) we passed a young Spaniard (probably Guatemalan actually) wearing some lovely bright pink Chuck Taylors. Once we passed him he began to follow us in a rather brisk fashion. At this point, it was clear to both of us (me and the Guaty) that he intended to snatch her purse. One problem here: As my gf came to this realization, she inexplicably switched her purse to her outside arm and began to walk away from me. Somehow this made sense to her. Of course, I quickly closed the distance between us and ushered my gf into a store where the Guaty would quickly realize that the duffle bag that my gf calls a purse would not be going home with him. I’m really hoping that my gf can figure out some better techniques for urban survival before our next vacation. Fucking Canadians.

I’m sure it will come to the surprise of nobody that the highlight of my weekend came on Saturday night. The annual Florida-Tennessee game is my favorite rivalry game of the Gator season. There’s some genuine hate between both the teams and their fans and this, along with a tugboat full of athletes on each team, usually combine to make for one hell of a college football game. Saturday night was no exception. In fact, it was one of the better games between these two schools in recent memory. I won’t go into the specifics of the game (it IS Wednesday after all) but I couldn’t let such a huge victory pass without dropping a few notes on the game.

- I was hoarse on Sunday. Noticeably so. No, I didn’t watch the game from the stands in Neyland. Nor did I watch it in a crowded bar. Rather, I watched it a Vitas’ house with no more than 6 other people in attendance. I’m a little too attached to the success of Gator football. As if you hadn’t figured that out already.

- Billy Latsko will never get enough credit for being suck an effective blocker and fullback. Jerry mentioned this on Saturday and after reviewing some tape (seriously, I slow down the clips via DVR when I watch the Urban Meyer Show every Sunday morning so that I can try and focus on things that escape my attention during the course of a normal Gator game. Things such as o-line schemes and blocking responsibilities as well as defensive calls and formations in specific down and distance situations. Mmm, film biscuits & gravy, only better).

As mush credit as DeShawn Wynn deserves for his performance in Neyland, none of it would’ve been possible without the yeoman’s effort of Latsko. He consistently took on defensive ends, tackles and linebackers and blew them up while opening holes for Wynn. A perfect example was Wynn’s clinching first down run. Latsko sealed the defensive end, which ended up taking out the middle linebacker, and gave Wynn just enough time (and room) to cut his run to the outside and gain the seven yards needed to seal the Gator victory.

- Brandon James, all 5'5" of him, is already the best return man that the University of Florida has seen since Lito Sheppard's sophomore year. I'll eat my hat if he's not the best that's ever graced the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in four years.

- I’ve already written at length about Reggie Nelson so I’ll try and keep this short. He is, without a doubt, the most talented safety to play for the University of Florida in nearly a decade. His range and closing speed in coverage are breathtaking to behold (How many people initially though Ainge’s first pass of the night was a sure TD?). Furthermore, his athletic ability, overall defensive awareness and knowledge of the scheme allow the Gator defensive staff to take a ton of chances in man coverage with their relatively inexperienced corners that they wouldn’t even consider without RFN playing center field.

- The UF O-line still has plenty of room to improve but they took the first steps toward being a dominant unit on Saturday night. To go into an environment like Neyland Stadium at 8 pm and walk out with not only a victory, but a victory based largely upon your ability to effectively run block and pass protect while only surrendering two false start penalties, (one of which was bogus) is something that no Gator fan would’ve predicted with any measure of confidence at any point in the last two seasons. They have many more tests in front of them, including the lightning fast defenses (is there something faster, b/c lightning seems too slow) of LSU and Auburn in the very near future so there’s plenty of time to regress. However, the season would not feel nearly as promising if UF’s O-line were coming off a performance similar to last year’s win against UT.

- While I'm writing about dominance, I might as well throw a tip of the cap to the Gator defensive line. Their ability to stuff the run and get pressure up the middle completely disrupted Tennessee’s offense and eventually wore down the Volunteer defense in the second half. Marcus Thomas lived up to his All-American billing and Ray McDonald once again looked like Ray McDonald before he tore both his ACLs last season. I’d still like to see more pressure coming from the ends but it’s tough to argue against the most dominating defensive line performance that Florida’s seen in a decade.

- Now, for the aforementioned second item that is ruining my day. I had a feeling that something bad was coming because, well, there was mention of losing a “key player” for an extended period of time on the Gator message boards last night. My first reaction was that the Gators would be without the services of uber-stud Percy Harvin for the next few weeks while he recovered from a high ankle sprain (I’m still pretty worried about this as high ankle sprains don’t generally heal quickly) suffered early on against Tennesee. While that was bad enough to send me into a mini-tailspin, it wasn’t nearly the devastating blow that the news of Marcus Thomas’ 5 game suspension is. Evidently, the most dominating defensive tackle to play at UF since Ed Chester (He was REALLY, REALLY good but shattered his leg against LSU in 1998. I also refuse to consider Gerard “Double Fist” Warren as a dominant tackle while at UF. He should’ve been but, in a sign of things to come, wasn’t due to a vexing combo of lacksadaisical attitude and what I’m guessing were epic hangovers.) decided that he’d rather get high than play football for the Gators while literally earning millions of dollars. Simply put, the Gators now look like they’ll enter their toughest stretch of the season (UK, Bama, Auburn, LSU, UGA) without their most indispensable defensive player. If the lack of pressure that the d-line generated (sans Thomas) against So. Miss. is any indication, the Gators shouldn’t expect to come out of October with anything less than two losses. I’d love to say that I’m being overly apocalyptic here but I really don’t believe that. Well, I guess I can keep my fingers crossed.

Come Sunday morning, I just wanted to sit down and watch a little ManU-Arsenal (which was lovely) and then transition into the Buccaneers’ suddenly very important matchup with Atlanta. I think we all know how that turned out. By the time Chris Simms overthrew a wide open Ike Hilliard in the endzone (from 5 yards out) with seconds left in the first half I decided that I could take no more. Anymore viewing of that rusty coat hanger abortion that Gruden calls an offense would’ve sapped all the joy from the Gator victory directly from my body. With that in mind, I went to my buddy Philly Phil’s house to take advantage of his six TVs, plentiful beer, and breathtaking spread .

As you might guess by his name, Philly Phil is an Eagles fan. He’s also exactly what you’d expect from an Eagles fan. Slovenly, drunk, tasteless, classless and a multiple felon. As you also might guess, Phil was enjoying himself by the time I walked in just after halftime of the Eagles-Giants game, saying things like “Championship!” (think the TJ Who’s Your Mama commercial). Well, we all know what happened from there. Sadly enough, Philly Phil had invited our friends Kurt, Matt and JJ (Giants fans and brothers) over to watch the game as well. By the time the game reached OT, the entire living room had swelled with people (all the people watching other games on the porch were now inside) and Phil was quickly beginning to look like a candidate for domestic abuse. Now, I could care less about the entire NFC East and all its “tradition”. To me it’s just another reason to hate people from the northeast who consider themselves superior to the rest of America. However, I can empathize with a heartbreaking loss, which is exactly what Sunday ended up being for Phil. When Plaxico Burress finally drug Shelden Brown into the endzone and yelled, “Get that shit outta here!!” I glanced back to see Phil close his eyes and drop his head in horror, or shame, or maybe a little of both. Whatever it was, I’ve been there before and seeing it made me all the more thankful that I wasn’t in his place the night before. Football is awesome, there’s no denying that. It also stings like a kick to the taint sometimes too.

Sadly, she's sporting a fresh black eye these days. I blame Plaxico.

Friday, September 15, 2006

You know I don't speak Spanish.

I was really planning on doing a post about tomorrow's Tennessee- Florida matchup this week as well as some other picks of what promises to be one of college football's most enjoyable and draining weekends in recent memory. Unfortunately, I just got back from three days in Miami at a conference. I'd like to say that I was too busy attending education sessions and symposiums to sit down and write anything worthwhile. However, I was actually too busy laying on the beach and drinking copious amounts of Patron to do anything other than swim, sleep and occasionally eat a terribly overpriced meal. I know, I know, its a tough life I lead but somebody has to attend these conferences on the compnay dime so it might as well be me.

I'm back in town now and I don't have nearly the energy required to write anything other than what you're currently reading. You can rest assured that I'll be intently watching all of tomorrow's many marque matchups while I bite my nails down to the cuticle out of Orange Sherbet related anxiety. Suffice it to say, 8 pm Saturday cannot come soon enough for this guy. Hopefully, I'll have some time to write come Monday. If so, I'l be back with a wrapup on the trip to Miami as well as my assorted thoughts on Separation Saturday, or whatever the schmoes at the Worldwide Leader are calling tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend.

Oh yeah, I did manage to catch a little of Mayland - WVU last night and I think it's safe to say that Ralph Friedgen probably owes about 15% of his current salary to former pupil Joe Hamilton. Remember when everybody thought that fat fuck was an offensive mastermind and potentially great coach? Feels like decades ago these days.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Who's world is this? Well, that's a silly question.

It’s Friday morning, the NFL Season officially kicked off last night, the Gators play their final game before their SEC Opener ( next Saturday in Knoxville @ 8 pm…yes I’m already scared) in just over 24 hours and Season 4 of The Wire debuts on Sunday. Yet, all I can think about this morning is the impending release of Ron Artest’s solo debut. I can’t be the only one...can I?

Sadly, I’ll have to wait until October 31st (Don’t worry TJ, I’ll try to get an advance copy for Jacksonville) to hear it in its entirety. Though I am pretty sure that the lead single (Fever) should be pretty riveting even if it already pales in comparison to its accompanying b-side Working the Pole. Ron Artest, ladies and gentleman. If you’re looking for something to hold you over until Ron-Ron arrives to save the music industry as we know it, I highly recommend the new releases by DJ Shadow and The Roots.

Now, onto some more pressing issues. I was going to write some college football predictions this morning but it always feels a bit disingenuous to make my predictions on Friday morning when every other writer out there has already released their prognostications for the weekend. I’ll pick a couple winners for tomorrow’s bigger games later in this post but I’m going to touch on some other things while I’ve still got the energy.

College Basketball:

- With all the build-up towards this weekend’s college and NFL games you may have missed this article on Reggie Theus and the impact he’s making on the program at New Mexico St. It’s a fairly interesting article about challenges of rebuilding a program in a remote location. One thing I don’t understand about the article is the writer’s initial doubt about Theus’ ability to be the head coach at the Division 1 level. Of all the things to be worried about when it comes to Reggie Theus (Will his hair leave grease marks on the back of his suit? Is he going to play the Gameboy version of NBA All-Stars that features him during games?), his ability to coach basketball should never be in question. I mean did you see what he did with that team of misfits on Hang Time?

- In other coaching news, the University of Memphis has hired (wait for it) Rod Strickland to be their new Director of Basketball Operations. What’s next, hiring the Three Six Mafia as the team’s strength and conditioning coaches? I can’t envision any scenario where this is a good idea for the University of Memphis. Unless of course, the Director of Basketball Operations primary job is to secure massive quantities of liquor, strippers, and steak gorditas at 3 am on a weeknight.

The Three Six would like you to work on your core strength this offseason.


- I’m not, nor have I ever been, a big Daunte Culpepper fan. The last time I could count myself as a fan of his was during his time at UCF, which was more a matter of state pride than anything. Despite his extreme physical gifts, he lacks many of the most important qualities that I like in elite NFL QBs. Maybe I’m just a picky Pete but it’s my opinion that he is average (at best) when it comes to things like pre-snap reads, going through his progressions, looking off his primary receiver, and use of double ended sex toys. That doesn’t even begin to take into account the completely gay platinum pepper that he wears as a charm on his necklace. He showed many of these weaknesses during last night’s fourth quarter as Troy Polamolu and Joey Porter made him look like Tony Banks after a night in Big Boi’s “boom boom room”. With that said, Culpepper is an enormous upgrade over every QB who has suited up for Miami in the 8 years since Dan Marino retired. His arm, pocket presence, and leadership ability alone will be enough for an extra 2-3 wins this year. Despite my doubts about Culpepper overall, I think his addition will be enough to push Miami over the top in the AFC East.

- I might as well get this out of the way now. I’ve become increasingly convinced over the past week that my main fantasy team is completely and totally fucked. Normally I wouldn’t panic so early in the season. In fact, I think it’s ridiculous to panic about your team at any point before week 5. However, there’s another factor at play here: Steve Smith. Two years ago, I picked up Steve Smith as my #1 receiver only to watch him go down in Week 1 with a broken leg. Despite this setback, I finished second in my league. Burned like Hildebrand after a trip to Tijuana, I stayed far, far away from Smith in last year’s draft. I think we all know how that turned out. Finally, this year, as I was debating what receiver I’d select in the third round (after nabbing Larry Johnson and Willis McGahee in the first two rounds) I had Steve Smith fall into my lap. As much as I wanted to stay away, the vision of him torching secondary after secondary last year was too much for my feeble little brain to overcome. So, reluctantly, I selected him. Of course, now Smith’s hamstring problem seems like a much bigger deal than anybody had imagined at this point last week and I’m convinced it’s something that will hamper his health and effectiveness throughout the season. Thanks a lot Steve Smith, for ruining my damn fantasy season before it ever got started. (Anybody with access to Steve Smith’s email should feel free to copy and paste the prior paragraph into a message titled “You, Steve Smith, suck like nobody has ever sucked in the history of sucking.”)

- I’m as excited as I’ve been in four or five years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season to get underway. In the time since their glorious Super Bowl victory there’s always been some lingering questions going into the season. Last year there were a couple of major concerns. Most notably, how the hell are they going to score when Brian Griese gets drunk and trips over his dog again? My answer was generally something like, “They won’t. Not with that fairy pants Chris Simms running the show they won’t.” By the time the Bucs went into San Francisco sans Simeon Rice (after that memorable incident involving a chinese hooker, some firecrackers, and a ham sandwich) and dropped one to a pathetic 49er outfit I was ready to throw the season away. Then something completely unexpected happened, Chris Simms figured out how to effectively quarterback. I certainly never saw that coming as I’ve been denigrating the abilities of Phil’s son ever since he stole Major Applewhite’s job at Texas.

Despite my extreme skepticism, I finally became convinced that Simms was capable of leading this franchise during the Bucs’ thrilling regular season victory over Washington in Tampa. By the time the season ended, the Bucs had Cadillac back in form, a young QB growing with each game and the same stellar defense that’s been a fixture in Tampa since Trent Dilfer was tripping over his center’s feet. Other than the aforementioned Super Bowl year, last year may have been the most enjoyable Buccaneer season of my adulthood (There were no enjoyable Buc seasons during my childhood).

With a new season about to kickoff, I am (as are most NFL fans) full of optimism. Sure, the Bucs play in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions (second to the NFC East) and the offense is still fairly unproven. However, this team has a chance to be as complete an overall unit as any that’s graced the fields of Raymond James Stadium. There’s never been a Tampa offense with this many weapons. Both Cadillac and Joey Galloway are legit gamebreakers who have also shown the ability to carry an offense at times. Simms should continue to develop into a good NFL QB. The o-line, for years a weakness, came together late last year and seems to be improved. Michael Clayton, Alex Smith, and Doug Jolley are all very capable receivers in the middle of the field who can cause matchup problems. Hell, even David Boston has shown some signs of life in camp (Unfortunately he’s not shown anybody those purple contacts he used to wear around like some kind of gay). If the Bucs defense can hold up (an increasing concern as the defense continues to get older and older and older) to it’s lofty standards there is no reason why this team shouldn’t make the playoffs and even challenge Carolina for the division title. Of course, all this goes flying out the window if Brooks, Rice or Barber (or maybe even Brian Kelly) go down with a major injury.

Gator Football:

As much as I love the Bucs, they consistently take a back seat to my allegiance to the University of Florida, except for a good chunk of the Ron Zook era (shudders). I’m going to keep my thoughts on the Gators to a minimum this week as it’s safe to say I’ll be doing plenty of writing about next Saturday’s showdown with Tennessee during most of next week.

Florida takes on UCF tomorrow at 6 pm for the first time since 1999 when Steve Spurrier coached up the boys in Orange and Blue to 712-3 victory (or at least something very close to that). UCF is a much different program these days. George O’Leary has instilled the program with some much needed discipline after the Mike Kruczek era. The school is set to open a new on-campus 45,000 seat football stadium (replacing the ancient, and far from centrally located Citrus Bowl) next year against Texas and they are fresh off the school's first ever appearance in a Bowl game. As different as the program may be, I’m still not giving the Knights much chance tomorrow. I’m envisioning something like 37-13. Just good enough to keep Gator fans from going on a suicide watch and just enough problems to give Urban Meyer material to get his troops motivated for Tennessee. I have one more prediction for tomorrow night’s game: I’ll be drunk. Very, very drunk. A few more notes:

- In last week’s preview I called Tony Joiner "a linebacker in a safety’s body". I wrote that based more upon practice reports than anything I’d personally witnessed. Luckily for me, I couldn’t have been more on the money. When I saw him up close last Saturday I immediately yelled out, “Tony Joiner is fucking huge!”. Seriously, the guy has arms the size of my thighs. Additionally, he seemed to acquit himself well in coverage, only giving up one reception that I noticed while also grabbing a pick en route to garnering defensive player of the game honors. If Joiner can continue to play cromulently in coverage, the secondary at UF should evolve into one of the team’s strengths.

- If you’re watching the game tomorrow, look out for freshman Jarred Fayson. Fayson is a former high school QB from Tampa who was an All-American last year as an athlete. He’s worked his way into the rotation at receiver already and should see some time tomorrow. Reports from practice have him being nearly as fast and just as elusive as Percy Harvin. If he’s even close to that, the Gators offense may set an NCAA record for the number of reverses and wide receiver options run in a year.

- One more thing to watch: Kickoff coverage. Gator freshman linebacker Dustin Doe is a freaking missile on kick coverage. He hit a guy so hard last week that the entire group of people we were watching with (at Vitas’ house) yelled “Boom!” in unison. I even high fived Vitas and I hadn’t high fived somebody since OJ was acquitted.


Oregon vs. Fresno State: I think everybody is getting a little ahead of themselves with Oregon. Yeah, they looked good against Stanford but it was Stanford and this wasn’t Men’s Volleyball. With that said, I think Jonathan Stewart is a future All-American at tailback. His size/speed ratio (thanks Jerry) is amazing. When was the last time you saw a 234 lb. guy return a kickoff, on purpose? Stewart does that and just about everything else Oregon needs him to do. I’ll take Oregon by 6.

South Cacalack vs. Jawja: This game seems to go the same every year. UGA starts out slow. USC takes advantage of UGA’s sluggish play and stakes itself to an early lead. Eventually UGA and Mark Richt take their balls out and make a few plays on offense with their vastly superior talent. All the while UGA’s defense if suffocating a USC offense that can’t seem to take on more than 3 guys rushing at a time. If this were a passing camp or a seven-on seven drill I’d go with SOS and the Cocks. It’s not and Georgia may have the nations best d-line (Hello Quentin Moses!). Georgia takes the lead in the fourth and wins by 10.

Notre Dame vs. Penn State: I’d really, really like to pick Penn State here. I try to make it a rule to pick any coach who rolls up his khakis. However, I think that Notre Dame’s passing game is too strong. Sure, it’s not as strong as Joe Pa’s bifocals, but what is? The inexperienced Penn State secondary will be tested early and often in this one with unfavorable results. Penn State will hang tough but inexperience and the crowd in South Bend will prove too much to overcome. ND wins by 7.

Related note: After PSU QB Anthony Morelli threw his first TD pass last week against Akron, he was stalking the sidelines while talking shit and gesturing to his teammates. That is, until Paul Posluzny walked up to him and made the cut it out gesture (hand back and forth under the chin, not the one popularized by Dave Coulier). Morelli immediately stopped and walked back to the bench. It’s seeing things like this that make watching football all day worth it.

Ohio State vs. Texas: I could care less who wins this thing. All I want from this game is something as exciting and close as last year’s matchup in Columbus. Troy Smith always seems a little shaky to me when he’s forced to be primarily a pocket passer. He’s much better when he’s rolling out or scrambling. Texas’ defense was really overlooked last year because of Vince Young and that offense, but they were a dominant unit last year. While the loss of Tarell Brown hurts, the defense is still loaded with speed, experience and size upfront. I’d love to take Texas here but it’s tough for me to put my faith in a young QB who has never faced the kind of talent (albeit inexperienced talent) that OSU possesses on defense. Even if he has a name that makes him sound like the title character of a porn set in the wild west (Colt McCoy’s Bronze Buckaroos?). Pay special attention to OSU linebacker and former Gator signee (shaking fist at UF admissions department) Larry Grant as he’ll be a focal point of the OSU attack. The verdict: THE Ohio State University wins by 4 and we all get our goose on, well at least I will.

Finally, I wish good luck to John and Duper on theri quest to consume 40 beers while watching sixteen hours of college football in Montana tomorrow. I hate you both. No really.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dude, he can fly?

Apparently all the praise being heaped upon Tim Tebow over the past eight months was warranted. Because, well, the dude can fly.

In all seriousness, Tebow looked exactly like the nervous freshman that he is during most of his brief appearance on Saturday night. That is, until he stiff armed the shit out of an unsuspecting Southern Miss. linebacker on his way to the endzone pictured above. I've never seen a gorilla play QB before, but that's always how I'd imagined it would look. At this point I'm hoping that Timmy throws his poop at George O'Leary after he scores a TD against UCF on Saturday night because that would be, well, funny.

I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only Gator fan who is daydreaming of Tebow running the spread option with Percy Harvin at UF for the next couple of years (b/c there is NO WAY that Harvin is going to be in Gainesville for the full four years). If the chants of "Let's go Tebow" (dum, dum, dumdumdum!) that were heard throughout the Swamp on Saturday night are any indication, it appears as if the Gator Nation has itself a new sweetheart. A huge, beast of a sweetheart, sure, but a sweetheart nonetheless.

With apologies to Mr. Tebow, the unquestioned highlight of Saturday evening for Gator fans (or fans of mind blowing open field running) was the debut of another similarly touted freshman, Harvin, who managed to wow the home crowd with the kind of creativity with the ball in his hands that the Swamp hadn't seen since Peter Warrick was reversing field all over our asses while en route to a National Championship and one hell of a Dillard's discount.

I'll be back with more game commentary tomorrow as well as some highlights from a glorious weekend of football, booze, beach and, um football. For now there's work to be done though. Of course, by "work" I mean scouring Gator message boards and designing plays that will be anonymously (and drunkenly) faxed to the Florida Football offices at approximately 3:30 am one evening.

Friday, September 01, 2006

2006 Florida Gator Football Preview, Part 2

I’m aware that I originally promised pictures in the first part of the Florida Football preview but between the hurricane (HA!) and the catch up I had to play yesterday after missing work on Wednesday, it just seemed to be a case of too little, too late. I have no doubt that some well placed pics would’ve added something to the quality of the post, but the post itself is more about my analysis of this year’s Gator Football team than it is about pretty pictures of a bunch of kids who most of you wouldn’t know if they walked into your office right now.

So there’s my excuse for the lack of pictures in Part 1. We’ll see if we can’t get some pictures up for Part 2. Speaking of Part 2, let’s get started. (note: I’m not going to review the special teams until after this weekend’s game when I have a chance to at least see what the Gators are trotting out for the all important third phase. If I had to guess I’d say that the kicking game will be much improved in all aspects other than punting, because Punter Eric Wilbur and his coverage team were both pretty solid last year already. I do not expect that to change.)

Defensive Line: You have to go back to the 1998 team (possibly further) to find a D-Line at Florida with this much depth and talent. In fact, one could make the case that this line has the potential to be the best defensive line in the 100 years of Florida Football.

The line is anchored by All-American candidate Marcus Thomas. A starter since he was a true freshman, Thomas is coming off his first completely healthy off-season since he entered UF. Already a first team all-SEC player, look for the 6’3”, 300 lb Thomas to be a dominating force on the interior of the line with his unusual blend of power and quickness. If he can stay healthy, look for Thomas to become the first Gator All-American D-Tackle since Gerard Warren in this, his senior year.

Another player who has started at UF since his freshman year is DE Ray McDonald. McDonald originally began his career as a DT next to Thomas before being moved to DE by Urban Meyer’s staff before the beginning of last year. All signs in the pre-season pointed toward the Gator legacy (his dad, Ray, Sr. was a WR at UF) having a monster season off the edge last year before he went down with an ACL tear against Tennessee in early September. Amazingly, McDonald rushed back from injury and was back on the field by late October. Unfortunately, McDonald rushed back too soon, which resulted in him tearing the ACL in his other knee shortly after his return to action. McDonald is now back and completely healthy after a rigorous offseason of rehab on both of his reconstructed knees. Though he’s been held out of many of the fall drills, expect McDonald to return with a vengeance in his final campaign.

Pairing up with Thomas at DT will be a combination of seniors Joe Cohen and Steven Harris. Harris started every game alongside Thomas last year but missed most of spring (and much of fall) camp with what Meyer deemed "personal issues". It’s recently come out that Harris is the father of two four month olds from different mothers and the speculation is that Meyer wanted Harris to take care of his newfound family business before he rejoined the team. In Harris’ absence, Cohen finally seems to have begun to realize the enormous potential scouts saw in him as a senior at Palm Bay High. Though he was originally recruited as a running back, the now 6’2”, 300 lb. Cohen spent the last two years at DE where it seemed he lacked the necessary burst to be a dominant rusher off the edge (the fact that he spent most of last year recovering from hip surgery is thought to have contributed to this lack of explosion). With his squat build and natural power (reportedly the strongest player at Florida), Cohen always seemed like a natural for the tackle position. His play in the spring and fall has done nothing to diminish this notion and many (including me) expect Cohen to have a big year. Besides these three, Florida also boasts outstanding depth along the front four with Ends Derrick Harvey, and true freshman Jermaine Cunningham as well as the undersized (but extremely agile and active) Clint McMillan backing up either tackle spot. Who am I missing? Oh yeah.

Breakout player: Jarvis Moss. Get ready to see (possibly) the most dominating defensive end in the country this year. Moss was the nation’s #1 rated end coming out of high school in Texas three years ago. However, when he arrived on campus in Gainesville he was unable to gain any weight whatsoever. In fact, he was actualy losing weight. Getting down to 215 lbs, despite being 6'6". It got so bad for Moss that he nearly gave up football altogether two springs ago. Luckily for Moss, Urban Meyer wasn’t ready to let him quit just yet. Meyer ordered a battery of tests to determine what was wrong with Moss. Eventually, Florida’s medical staff discovered that Moss was suffering from an infection in his groin that resulted from a cortisone shot during his senior year of high school (um, owww). Once his condition was discovered, Moss began to gain weight and was soon on track to becoming the player he’d been touted to be. Though he didn’t start a game last year and didn’t even play until mid-October vs. LSU, Moss finished the season as the team sack leader with 7.5. Reports from practice have Moss being completely unblockable this fall and most experts are predicting that Moss will break Alex Brown’s single season sack record (13) at UF. From what I’ve seen (and heard), I have no reason to disagree.

Linebackers: While there is no shortage of depth or talent along the Gator defensive line, there is a serious lack of depth at linebacker in Gainesville. The Gators will come into fall with two of the SEC’s best, and most experienced, linebackers in junior Brandon Siler and senior Earl Everett. However, after these two the drop off is precipitous.

There isn’t another proven backer in the entire group. Senior Brian Crum is slated to start WLB but any Gator fan who tells you they are comfortable with that is either insane or a pathological liar. Crum has all the physical tools you could ask for, but has never shown the toughness or mental capacity to adequately handle the duties of a starting linebacker in the SEC. Most observers expected him to eventually cede the starting duties to sophomore Jon Demps, but that was before Demps went down with a torn ACL for the second consecutive season a few weeks back. The backups at linebacker for UF now consist of three true freshman (AJ Jones, Brandon Spikes, & Dustin Doe) and a former walk-on (Darryon Robinson). If there’s one place where the Gators must stay healthy on defense, its at linebacker where an injury to either Siler or Everett would be catastrophic.

I haven’t written much about either Siler or Everett here and that’s a testament to their consistency and durability. They were Florida’s two leading tacklers last year and will have to step up their play to an even higher level if UF’s defense is to be the truly dominant unit that it can (and should) be this season. More specifically, Everett needs to make more “big” plays than he has up to this point in his Gator career. Everett has the speed and size to be a difference maker in the passing game with both his pass rush and coverage ability and will need to better utilize these gifts if he’s to fulfill all the potential he had when he first started for the Gators as a 195 lb. freshman. As for Siler, he the league’s best middle linebacker and the undisputed leader of this team. He’s been an impact player since he replaced an injured Channing Crowder as a true freshman. Now a junior, Siler has to become the kind of linebacker who changes the course of a game with his hits and defensive aptitude. He’s been building towards this year since he first stepped on the field at Florida. Now is the time for him to cement his legacy in Gainesville.

Breakout player: ?????. I’d love to say Brian Crum but I can’t say I really believe that. Freshman Brandon Spikes (6’3”, 240) is already physically ready for the SEC. Can he catch up mentally quick enough to be an impact freshman for this defense? I hope so but it’s all up in the air as of now. I’m going to go with both Everett and Siler here for all the reasons I named earlier.

Secondary: Just a few weeks ago many Gator fans would’ve described this as the weakest and most shallow unit on the entire squad. Luckily for UF, the NCAA’s new transfer rule brought in some much needed talent at corner that helped solidify a secondary badly in need of some player makers on the perimeter. Ryan Smith has come in from Utah and grabbed one of the starting corner positions on this team where he has reunited with his former head coach and position coach (Chuck Heater) at Utah. Smith was a freshman All-American during Utah’s undefeated season two years ago. Somehow he fell out of favor with new coach Kyle Whittingham and ended up out of Utahs’ starting lineup by mid-season. Once Smith decided to transfer, he sped up his course load and graduated Utah this summer. The aforementioned new NCAA rule allowed Smith to transfer to any school he chose to attend graduate school while not having to sit out the year that normal transfers must. This couldn’t have happened at a better time for the Gators who lost their top three corners off last year’s team through a combination of graduation (Vernell Brown), early entry (Dee Webb) and dismissal (Avery Atkins). Without Smith, UF would be faced with the prospect of starting two corners with precious little experience. A prospect that didn’t bode well for a Gator defense that employs man-to-man almost exclusively.

Starting opposite Smith will be senior Reggie Lewis. Lewis is a converted wide receiver who had never played a down of defense before last spring. While he struggled for much of last season, Lewis rebounded by stepping up in the absence of Brown (broken leg) late in the season with a some solid performances against Vandy (game saving interception in OT) and FSU. The light came on for Lewis late last year and has only continued to shine throughout the off-season. While going against one of the nations most talented wide receiver corps, Lewis has consistently held his own and received praise from Meyer for his ability and toughness throughout fall camp. Lewis will be tested early and often by SEC offenses and how he responds will go a long way towards determining the effectiveness of this defense.

Florida’s safeties will be junior Tony Joiner and junior Reggie Nelson. Joiner is a linebacker in a safety's body. Joiner is one of the hardest hitters on the entire squad and a player who has become one of the unquestioned leaders of this defense with his heady play and fiery persona. Joiner is still a relatively unproven safety (1 career start) and will need to prove he can handle the responsibilities if he’s to hold off former All-SEC freshman Kyle Jackson who is trying to recover mentally from an awful 2005 campaign. As for Reggie Nelson, well…

Breakout player: It may seem odd to simultaneously label a player as the team’s best defender and a breakout candidate but that’s precisely what I’m saying about Reggie Nelson. Florida fans have been waiting on Reggie Nelson for years. Ever since he teamed with Joe Cohen at Palm Bay High, Gator fans have been pining for the freakishly talented athlete to make his presence known at the Swamp. He did just that last year and should be expected to do that and more this season. Many scouts considered him the state’s best player when he came out of high school. Unfortunately, low test scores forced Nelson to junior college. There Nelson redshirted his freshman year (in order to preserve eligibility) and then became a JUCO All-American in his second year. He arrived on campus in Gainesville with as much hype as any player in Gator history and quickly made his way onto the field as the Gator’s nickel back early in the season. Meyer and his staff wanted to ease Nelson into a starting role before they threw him into the fray at Safety. It wouldn’t take long. Actually, Nelson's play wouldn't allow it to take long.

Though he wouldn’t start until the Georgia game, hesoon made his presence known to all the SEC. Nelson’s decapitation of Mohammed Massaquoi (right at 2:10) ranks as one of the more vicious hits of the entire 2006 college football season. Nelson ended up second on the team in sacks and tackles for loss. So exceptional is Nelson’s talent, that he was actually starting at corner for UF early in the fall before the emergence of Ryan Smith. Nelson will be all over the field this year for the Gators, starting at safety, lining up in the slot in nickel situations and even returning punts. It’s my expectation that Reggie f’n Nelson (as posters on Gator message boards have taken to calling him) will become one of the SEC’s (if not the nations) biggest stars this year.

If that comes to fruition and the linebackers and corners can avoid major injuries then a Gator defense which ranked in the nations’ top 10 last year may end up as the nation’s very best by year’s end.

The season kicks off at 6 pm tomorrow night in the Swamp vs. Southern Miss. I'm not sure if I can make it that long.