The Back Nine comes at you after a wonderful weekend in my old home town of St. Augustine that included time with family and a visit to Barley’s Pub in downtown. Try the lamb burger. And tip your waitresses.
10. There are still a few spring games to be played around the country, assuming weather doesn’t cancel any more, but for the most part the football attention now turns to the summer magazines which will be coming out to see where your favorite teams will be ranked. A day doesn’t go by when someone starts out a conversation with, “So what kind of team do you think Florida will be?” Most preseason mags will have Florida in the bottom of the Top 25. Some will exclude the Gators. Those that don’t pick them to finish second in the East will have them third. And none of those predictions will truly matter. The bottom line is that we have no idea what is in store for these Gators. We’re not even sure about the roster yet because of the pending eligibility of the two wide receivers who could play a key role. We don’t know who the quarterback will be. A lot of it, as Dan Mullen said, will come down to the offseason and whether or not his staff will have to re-teach the players who went through a crash course in the spring. We only know that this team will be in shape and that is an improvement. All we know for sure is this — at SEC Media Days in July, all 14 coaches will tell us that their team had the best summer they have ever had. And not all of them will be telling the truth.
11. Except maybe Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt. After the Vols spring game, he called out players who quit and fans who didn’t show. That’s a bold move, Cotton, let’s see how it works out (“Dodgeball” reference). I’ve said that Gator fans need to show a little patience with this new staff, but Tennessee fans may need a lot. The Vols open with West Virginia in Charlotte and there is a lot of hype for former Gator Will Grier being a Heisman Trophy candidate. Later, there is a five-game stretch where they face Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina with a bye week in the middle of that gauntlet. I don’t think it will be 0-8 bad, but this first year under Pruitt will be a struggle. I’m seriously considering picking Tennessee seventh in the East. Oh, wait, I forgot about Vanderbilt.
12. It was disappointing for the No. 1 Gators not to finish out the series with Kentucky with a sweep, but baseball is an unforgiving sport. The way Twitter was reacting after Florida’s first two blowouts of a Top-10 team, you would have thought the College World Series was a given. But Florida won the series and hasn’t lost one all season, which is why the Gators have a commanding four-game lead in the SEC race with 12 games to go. Florida is 14-4 and there are four teams at 10-8. One reason the Gators are where they are is a 10-5 record on the road. That’s the sign of a veteran team. It will be an interesting week after Tuesday’s game with Mercer when Auburn comes to town.
13. And Florida’s softball team doesn’t have the breathing room that the baseball team has, but we are down to the last two SEC series with Florida leading Georgia by two games. First, UF faces nemesis FSU on Wednesday night, then a series at home against LSU before finishing up with Missouri. It’s funny how there seems to be this feeling that pitcher Kelly Barnhill isn’t having the dominant season we expected from her this year. She’s 21-1 with an 0.82 ERA. I think coach Tim Walton will take that.
14. Those of us who thought Florida’s gymnastics team was not going to be a contender when Kennedy Baker went down with a season-ending injury did not count on the spirit and grit of the gymnasts who make up Jenny Rowland’s roster. They were so close to pulling it out in St. Louis and should be applauded for their efforts. A third-place finish with all things considered was tremendous. The sad thing is we have seen the last of senior Alex McMurtry, who has to be in any arguments for Florida’s best gymnast ever. She was also one of my favorites to interview during her four years at UF. Just a delight. Her emotions as her career came to an end said it all.
15. And a sport that often gets overlooked with all of the baseball, softball, gymnastics and spring football going on is lacrosse, but Mandee O’Leary’s team won another conference title over the weekend. And that one doesn’t even count in the All-Sports standings because women’s lacrosse isn’t an SEC sport. That doesn’t change the season they had with the Big East Tournament and NCAAs still to come. But first, it’s senior day Saturday. Meanwhile, women’s tennis made the SEC final. I’ll say it again, if you are a fan of all kinds of sports, I can’t think of a better place to be than Gainesville.
16. So this is another big weekend around here with baseball, softball and lacrosse. Oh, and if you are not fatigued by all of the nonsense, the NFL draft is this week. Prepare for a deluge of stories and tweets about the SEC because it’s still the conference’s unpaid advertisement for the dominance of the league. You’ll likely see 7 to 9 SEC players taken Thursday in the first round, including Florida’s Taven Bryan.
17. The Tweets of the Week came almost consecutively on Twitter. The first from Tuscaloosa News columnist Cecil Hurt — “Alabama announces 74,732 as A-Day attendance. Some of those are here in spirit only.” And the second from Knoxville News Sentinel beat writer Blake Toppmeyer — “Tennessee announces a spring game attendance of 65,098. A lot of them are disguised as empty seats.” Never get too caught up in the announced attendance for spring games.
18. It was a wild weekend for the Dooley family, because I bought a new phone because of a dying battery (some of your numbers were erased in the transition and I apologize) and another car. Three dogs, three cars. They each get one. And I came up with this playlist:
• “Old Mythologies” by The Barr Brothers.
• “To Chicago” by Ciaran Lavery.
• “Blinds” by Nectra.
• “last words” by isaac gracie.
• And for an old one, I went back and watched the old send-up of the Beatles by Eric Idle and friends and forgot how great it is so “Piggy In The Middle” by The Rutles.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.