The Back Nine: Chiozza playing like an MVP

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File — Florida's Chris Chiozza takes a shot during a game against Cincinnati in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

The Back Nine comes at you after a wild weekend of NFL playoffs and college basketball that I hope you enjoyed. And you probably did unless you are a Jags/Kentucky fan.

10. There is no reason to look at the statistics. No comparisons needed for who is lighting it up on the scoreboard in the SEC. If you watch the games, you know the league is at a different level and that’s not going to change with so many top recruits heading to the league. But this is about this season and something that I think most Gator fans already know. If I had a vote on the player of the year in the SEC, I could make a great argument for Chris Chiozza. His numbers aren’t overwhelming — 12.3 ppg, 6.1 assists per game, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals — but tell me who is a more valuable player in the league right now? There is still a long way to go, but all that means is that “Cheez” has a chance to make more big plays. And he is working his way into the hearts of all Gator fans as one of their favorites who have played at UF. I hope I haven’t jinxed him.

11. What made Florida’s win over Kentucky so impressive was that the Gators have been the team that had to shoot well to win and then they didn’t and they still won at an arena where teams just don’t win. Kentucky fans aren’t happy with the officiating at the end of the game, but I already wrote my essay on things evening out over a season last week. Who knew the debacle at Ole Miss would need only one week to come around the other way? Were either one of the last two blocked shots a foul? Not if they were not called. And let’s not act like there weren’t other calls during the game that could have gone the other way instead of against Florida. It’s just the way it is.

12. But it’s not like it gets easy for the Gators this week. The good news is that both South Carolina on Wednesday and Baylor on Saturday are at home. I watched both of their games Saturday and you can see how much better both of those teams are now. They are two scrappy teams who will make you work for everything. This weekend is the last chance for the SEC to improve its RPI and overall resumes with the SEC/Big 12 challenge. I think this league would take six games in the 10 games right now and be happy. Anything more and we could seriously be looking at a record number of conference teams making it into the tournament. Joe Lunardi currently has eight getting in and Florida has six wins over NCAA teams (as we speak) with opportunities to face several more not to mention bubble teams Georgia (twice) and Baylor. Buckle up. It’s going to get really interesting.

13. Once the dust had settled and the Super Bowl teams were established, it left me wanting something else. New England, again. Philadelphia, meh. But those were two of the best teams all season and they got it done when they had to. The New York Post headline read “WORST. SUPER BOWL. EVER.” And I guess it is if you are a fan of either New York team. The Pats are a six-point favorite, but do you think the Eagles care after being underdogs throughout the playoffs? Besides, the team wearing white has won 12 of the last 13 Super Bowls if you are looking for a betting edge. It’s the Super Bowl, so you know we will watch and I guess I have to root for the underdogs.

14. Of the four Gators in the Super Bowl (the second most behind Stanford), the most amazing to me is Trey Burton. It’s not that Burton is without talent, but he struggled to find a position at UF after Urban Meyer left and even called Meyer at one point to plead his case with Will Muschamp. I just never thought he’d be a guy with a career in the NFL, but he’ll be lining up in the ultimate game.

15. Doesn’t it feel like it’s really a new era for Florida football. There just seems to be a lot of momentum, probably more than we have seen from a first-year coach on the recruiting trail in a long time. I caught a lot of heat when I didn’t have Florida in my preseason top 25, but I still don’t know what the situation will be at quarterback and Florida has to show me it will be better at wide receiver. There is no magic wand. If there was, the previous two coaches would have used it. That said, Dan Mullen may have a little something for all of us doubters. One advantage that he has over Jim McElwain as a first-year coach is he has been recruiting in the SEC for a long time. McElwain might as well have been coming in from Lithuania. The kids he was trying to recruit in his first year didn’t have any idea who he was.

16. I don’t watch a lot of NBA during the regular season, but I did flip it over to watch Billy Donovan’s Oklahoma City team put up 148 points on the Cavs this weekend. A quick glance at the stats shows that only the Lakers and Suns are giving up more points than Cleveland this year. How long would it have taken Florida and Kentucky to get to 148 points on Saturday night? Yikes.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Sports Illustrated superstar Peter King — “Man, hats off to the Jaguars. What a great performance in defeat.” That was the consensus after the game. Nobody questioned how good that team was this year. I’m not a Jags fan, but I was impressed with how hard those guys hit as much as anything. They’re not going away either. Just not going to this year’s Super Bowl.

18. If you can get it on Netflix I highly recommend the documentary “The Wrecking Crew” about the session musicians who dominated the music scene in the 1960s. Really first rate, just like this playlist:

• “Nervous Young Inhumans” by Car Seat Headrest.

• “I’ll Be Your Pilot” by Belle and Sebastian.

• “Way With Words” by Bahamas.

• “Take Me For a Ride” by Caitlin Canty.

• And for an older one, but not really an oldie, “Zombie” by The Cranberries. Rest in peace, Dolores O’Riordan.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

19 COMMENTS

  1. 14. Trey Burton – I never understood why he did not get the ball more under Champ. He was an obvious talent. One of the reasons Muschamp is no longer our coach.

  2. I always thought Trey Burton was a “good football player” as they say. One of the kids I liked to watch. He’s a utility infielder – plug him in anywhere and he can produce. Not surprised at all that he made it in the league.

    • I always considered Trey a “Master Gator”, and really enjoyed watching him play. The guy had more heart than a roomful of lions, he had both natural and developed athletic talent, and as Swampsnake observes, you could plug him in and get results anywhere. Always gave his best. We don’t forget men like that very easily, do we?

  3. Paragraph regarding Chioza being an SEC POY candidate would have been better had the writer compared Cheez’s stats with another recent Florida point guard who did win SEC POY. Scottie Wilbekin way, way back in 2012-13 was SEC POY.

    So here….. Scottie ppg=13.1, Cheez=12.3, Sc fg% = 40.2 Ch = 44.4, Sc 3pt%=39.0 Ch=39.1, Sc FT% 72.5, Ch = 89.5, Sc Reb/game=2.4, Ch= 4.3, Sc assists/game=3.6, Ch=6.1, Sc steals/game 1.6, Ch = 2.0, Sc turnovers/game= 1.7, Ch=1.8

    Of course Cheeze isn’t competing against 2013 Scottie but he’s currently doing better than Scottie did in his POY season

  4. One thing Dan Mullen doesn’t have on the recruiting trail is defensive lineman. The only thing Will Muschamp got right is, “this is a line of scrimmage league.” You have to win the line of scrimmage and you have to recruit it strong! We need 5 OL and 7 DL recruits every year. Now, Mullen has some really talented Offensive Lineman in the 2018 class. We’re getting set for Jones left, Jones right, and Toney jet sweep. Don’t look for downfield passing. This offense will be 4 yards and a cloud of dust. But if it wins………who cares?

    • Muschamp knew it was a line of scrimmage league on the defensive side of the ball. He forgot about offensive line completely. He left us with 5-7 scholarship OL, or something like that. I agree that we need some OL and DL every single year, but Muschamp’s biggest issue was that he completely ignored the offensive side of the ball. I think Mullen will do what is necessary to win and luckily in the spread, we can get the balls in the hands of our play-makers and take advantage of mismatches. In Mac’s offensive (term used loosely), the QB had to win the battle with the defense every time and our QBs last year definitely would not make the list of play-makers on this team. When you needed to rely on Franks to outsmart a defense and make the right reads, you knew you were in trouble.

  5. For once KY did NOT get call after call to go their way, and ONLY had about the SAME number of trips to the line as the visitor in Rupp. Cry me a river.

  6. Re: DLinemen If you look ahead to 2019, this year we are fielding a roster with five seniors and three juniors on the OL, with a senior and four juniors at receiver spots. We need to address those areas as major priorities in this current recruiting class. Next year this time we’ll be loading up on more OL and more DL signees, along with LBs and CBs, plus a couple more QBs, a tight end, another RB or two, two-three receivers. But much more emphasis on DL and LB.

  7. At what point in time will the total lack of understanding as to how completely incompetent Muschamp was and is with regard to the offense end? Pat, enough with these half hearted apologies about the Muschamp era. He was a sorrowful judge of talent on the offensive side of the ball. South Carolina in two years will have a new HBC. Burton is a very unique and gifted player. NFL coaching gets that.

    • You know, Ludi, I really want Muschamp to do well and sincerely wish him the best. I do think he’s a good man who wasn’t ready for the job here. But the truth remains, as you pointed out, he has offensive deficiencies which need to be remedied before he’ll ever be the head coach I think he can be. He made his bones as a defensive guru only, and if he ever finds the balance he needs, he probably has more potential than any of us give him credit for. Sure, anyone can hire a studly OC, but that alone doesn’t cut it as many programs have found out the hard way. And sure, defense wins championships…..but only when the offense can score more points than the other guys!

  8. Chris Chiozza made a great first impression on me when I got to see him live in the Orange Bowl Classic. I’m watching a true freshman, a guy my size, play fearless, ferocious, effective defense (and rebound) against much bigger players. He immediately became my favorite guy on the team and has remained so since. Cheez has a LOT of Drew Moten in him.

  9. Pat, have to admit “Zombie” is the Cranberries signature song. Yet, they (really she), recorded some fantastic songs (on par with U2). Go on line, particularly vintage concerts, and see what a talent she was. I will miss her dearly.

  10. one last comment on fouls. don’t like it, even when it breaks the gators’ way. refs swallow their whistles at the end of games way too often. a foul with 10 minutes left is a foul with 10 seconds left. realize i’m not saying anything groundbreaking, but would have liked to see florida beat kentucky without their fans grumbling about the non-call at the end of the game. it was a fluke that kentucky had even made it close by that point, making two of their three three-pointers in the final minute just to get close. they’re not that good this year, and they probably wouldn’t have won anyway.

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