Thoughts of the Day: March 3, 2020

THINKING OUT LOUD ABOUT THE UF FOOTBALL COACHING STAFF

Do you ever grow weary of the complaints about Dan Mullen’s choice of assistant coaches? Every time a recruit signs or commits somewhere else, it’s so simple to blame an assistant and question Mullen’s sanity or reasoning for keeping said assistant on the staff.


Maybe I’m a bit of a simpleton, but I tend to trust Mullen’s judgment on matters of coaching and support staff. I’ve been writing about college football for more than 50 years and I’ve had opportunity to have some close relationships with head coaches and members of their staffs. What I’ve learned is that the good head coaches tend to strike a balance when it comes to their assistants and it’s not always about being the best recruiter or on the field coach.


A couple of examples. The FSU dynasty began gasping for air when Jim Gladden retired and Chucky Amato became the HBC at North Carolina State. Gladden wasn’t a great on the field coach nor was he a decent recruiter but he was like Father Confessor for kids with problems and a second dad for quite a few of the kids who grew up in single parent homes. Amato was a so-so on the field coach and only a slightly better than average recruiter, but he was a force in the locker room. Bobby Bowden never recovered from losing them on his staff.


Another example. Zach Azzani became the replacement for Billy Gonzales in 2010. When the hotshot freshmen basically revolted in August because they didn’t like being called pansies by Mike Pouncey, Maurice Hurt and some of the players who understood the hard work and sacrifice it took to be great, Urban sent Azzani to bring them to practice. Bad decision. Azzani was too young at the time to handle it and a trend was set that UF never recovered from that year. That would not have happened with Billy Gonzales nor would it have happened if Meyer had the same coaching staff he won the national championship with in 2008.


My point is this: Maybe you don’t like the way some of the UF coaches recruit and maybe you think we’re losing recruits because they think they can get coached up better at another school. In some respect you may have a valid point, but are you at the Florida practice field or in the locker room to see how the coaches interact with players and what their functions are? Do you have a clue what the big picture is and the way Mullen wants everything to come together? Do you know how Mullen balances his staff with recruiting, coaching and the off-the-field stuff that we never see or are privy to?


I try to look at the big picture and what I see is a head coach with a cohesive staff that has completely restructured the Florida program in two years. In spite of an inherited roster with gaping holes at critical positions, Mullen has transformed the Gators into one that’s built for the long haul. Now he’s got the momentum of consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins, consecutive top ten finishes in the final poll and two New Years Six bowl wins. Considering the state of the program and roster he inherited, what Mullen has done is quite remarkable.


I’ll add one more thing. Adding Tim Brewster to the staff was huge beyond the obvious reason that he’s a great recruiter. He’s an outstanding position coach for a potential Mackey Award winner in Kyle Pitts, but most important, he fits in with what Mullen is building here at Florida. We only see the obvious reasons why the Brewster hire was important. I can guarantee you Mullen had reasons for hiring Brewster that went well beyond the obvious.


GATORS IN GOOD SHAPE IN BASKETBALL’S MOST IMPORTANT POLL

At this time of year, the rankings to pay attention to aren’t the ones found in the Associated Press or Coaches polls, nor are they found in the RPI rankings. The Gators are unranked in the AP and Coaches polls and realtimerpi.com has UF at #40 with a #23 nationally strength of schedule. The rankings the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is paying attention to are its NET Rankings, which factor in overall record and strength of schedule plus how well teams fared in home, road and neutral site games. Additionally, the NCAA has divided the nation’s schools into four quadrants. Quadrant one wins are worth four points with quadrant one losses minus one. Quadrant two wins are worth three with losses minus two. Quadrant three wins are worth two with losses minus three and quadrant four wins worth one and losses minus four.


Heading into the final week of the regular season the Gators (18-11, 10-6 SEC) have a #33 NET Ranking. The Gators are 4-8 against quadrant one teams, 4-3 against quadrant two and 10-0 against quadrants three and four. Translation, while Florida might not have an abundance of quad one and two wins, there are no bad (quad three and four) losses and that counts for something.


Because of the expanded field, 68 teams will be playing in the NCAA Tournament. There are 36 automatic bids to conference champs which means there will be 32 at-large selections. With that in mind, Florida should be solidly in the NCAA field although they can’t take anything for granted. Beating Georgia on the road and Kentucky at home this week would certainly enhance UF’s NET Ranking but a 1-1 record would likely leave the Gators in the exact same position they’re in now.


The NET rankings have a top four of Kansas, Gonzaga, Dayton and San Diego State. Here is how the SEC teams rank: (14) Kentucky; (27) Auburn; (32) LSU; (33) FLORIDA; (42) Alabama; (47) Arkansas; (52) Mississippi State; (65) South Carolina; (69) Tennessee; (83) Georgia; (92) Missouri; (93) Ole Miss; (124) Texas A&M; (169) Vanderbilt.

SEC BASKETBALL

Tuesday’s games Mississippi State (19-10, 10-6 SEC) at South Carolina (17-12, 9-7 SEC), SEC Network Vanderbilt (9-20, 1-15 SEC) at Alabama (16-13, 8-8 SEC), SEC Network Tennessee (16-13, 8-8 SEC) at #6 Kentucky (24-5, 14-2 SEC), ESPN Wednesday’s games FLORIDA (18-11, 10-6 SEC) at Georgia (15-14, 5-11 SEC), ESPNU Texas A&M (14-14, 8-8 SEC) at #17 Auburn (24-5, 11-5 SEC), ESPN2 LSU (20-9, 11-5 SEC) at Arkansas (18-11, 6-10 SEC), SEC Network Missouri (14-15, 6-10 SEC) at Ole Miss (14-15, 5-11 SEC), SEC Network


GATORS CAN BREAK BASEBALL RECORD TONIGHT With a win tonight against Florida Atlantic (7-3) at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches (7 p.m.), the Gators (11-0) can take sole possession of the best start in school history. Ranked #1 nationally in the Baseball America, D1Baseball.com, NCBWA and USA Today Coaches polls, the Gators tied the school record of 11 straight to start the season Sunday when they finished off their sweep of Troy, 7-1.


As of Monday afternoon, Kevin O’Sullivan hadn’t yet named a starter to go against FAU. This might be a good place to get lefty Jordan Butler (0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 2-1/3 innings of relief) a start or some innings for David Leuthje (1-0, 7.50 ERA in six innings of work). FAMU comes to Gainesville Wednesday night so it’s likely O’Sullivan goes with one of the freshmen such as Brandon Sproat (0.00 ERA in two innings of work).


Florida Atlantic began its season with eight straight wins but lost to Texas Tech and twice to Florida State over the weekend.


Other sports: The Gators remain a fraction of a point behind top-ranked Oklahoma (197.898-197.747) in the latest gymnastics poll. Florida is undefeated this season and has won all its meets in blowout fashion, the latest a thrashing of Georgia in Athens. Trinity Thomas ranks 1st nationally in all-around, 2nd in floor exercise and 3rd on the balance beam. As a team, the Gators rank 3rd on the vault, 5th on the bars, 1st on the balance beam and 2nd on floor exercise … In lacrosse, the Gators moved up three spots to #5 after beating then #2 Stony Brook … Florida’s men’s tennis team is ranked #6 nationally … The Florida men are ranked #22 in the latest Golfweek poll … The Florida women are #10 in the Golfweek poll.


TUESDAY TRIVIALITIES

(1) The New York Post reports that before signing Tony Romo to a new contract valued at more than $18 million per year, CBS offered Peyton Manning a contract worth $10-12 million. Manning wouldn’t make a decision right away and with free agency looming for Romo, CBS reacted quickly to sign Romo to a big deal, knowing that ABC/ESPN was coming in with an offer of 10 years at $14 million per year. Expect ABC/ESPN to make a huge play for Manning but to get him they’ll have to offer Romo money.


(2) Georgia Tech has elected to drop its appeal of NCAA postseason sanctions. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. The Yellow Jackets are 15-14 and they’re not going to make the NCAA Tournament anyway. Georgia Tech is still appealing the loss of a scholarship in each of the next four years and a ban of official visits during home games the next two years. The real question for Georgia Tech is how long before AD Todd Stansbury pulls the plug on HBC Josh Pastner, who’s about as sleazy as it gets?


(3) A federal judge in South Carolina has ruled against Adidas and others in its efforts to dismiss a lawsuit brought on by former Louisville signee and South Carolina redshirt freshman Brian Bowen II. Bowen never played an NCAA game because an FBI investigation found evidence that Adidas and others came up with a scheme to pay Bowen’s dad $100,000 to have him sign with Louisville. Bowen’s lawsuit claims that Adidas and other shady characters violated the RICO statutes by engaging in bribery, fraud and money laundering. Bowen played a year in Australia and now averages 15.6 points per game in the G-League on a two-way contract with the Indiana Pacers.


GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY

From Andrew Marchand of the New York Post on Tony Romo’s new contract with CBS, which pays more than $18 million per year: “Romo’s average of $18 million per year is higher than the average salary of the NFL’s 32 starting quarterbacks this past season, which comes in at $16.3 million. This includes signal-callers such as Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton, who missed significant time due to injuries but are the clear starters for their teams.”


From Josh Bean of Al.com, Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was not satisfied with his performance at the NFL Combine in spite of running a 4.27 time in the 40: “I did okay. I could have done better. I’ve still got things to prove before the draft.”


RANDOM THOUGHTS: When the New York Knicks schedule a March 21 celebration of the 50thanniversary of their 1969-70 championship team, they didn’t invite Marv Albert, who was the radio voice of the team in those days. How petty of the Knicks … Although he’s only played 15 games, Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans is making a case for NBA Rookie of the Year. He’s averaging 24.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and has 20 or more points in nine of his last 10 games. Right now, the favorite to take home the honor is Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 17.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game ... A mistrial was declared in the trial of Christopher Hawkins, accused of breaking North Carolina’s sports agent laws back in 2010 when he allegedly provided cash to three UNC football players.

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