The Back Nine: Meyer’s judgment clouded by loyalty

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FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2016, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, right, and then-assistant coach Zach Smith, left, gesture from the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla. Ohio State expects to open fall camp as scheduled on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, but without coach Urban Meyer. Meyer was put on administrative leave on Wednesday, Aug. 1 over the handling of a longtime assistant who has been accused of domestic violence. Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day will be running the team while Ohio State investigates claims that Meyer’s wife knew about 2015 allegations of abuse against former Buckeyes assistant Zach Smith, who was fired last week. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

The Back Nine comes at you with the knowledge that we are inside three weeks before the first actual college football games are played, which should make you smile.

10. Like many of you, I keep digesting the news coming out of Columbus, Ohio, and try to keep an open mind. But the garage door is only an inch or two away from slamming shut. I still would bet Urban Meyer does not get fired even after his public statement was clearly positioning to keep Ohio State from being able to fire him with cause. The final verdict on him and athletic director Gene Smith is going to be huge news no matter what happens. (I am curious what percentage of Gator fans hope Urbs, the guy who won two national titles here, gets canned — 95 percent?) There is one thing, through all of the lies and possible cover-ups that I can’t shake. Meyer and Ohio State didn’t fire Smith because he violated a restraining order when he dropped his kids off at his ex-wife’s house. They fired him because it all became public. In other words, Meyer didn’t get rid of Smith because he knew he was a bad guy. He got rid of him because we found out Zach Smith is a bad guy. The latest incident happened May 12. It wasn’t until July 23, exactly 50 minutes after Brett McMurphy published his report detailing the 2015 incident, that Ohio State put out a news release that Smith was fired. Why would Meyer hang on to him for so long when he knew of the multiple accusations? I think Meyer’s judgment was clouded by his feelings for Smith’s grandfather, Earle Bruce, who was like a second father to him. Why would he so vehemently deny at Big Ten Media Days he knew about the 2015 incident? It’s part of his DNA.

11. OK, let’s talk some football. Last year on the day that Jim McElwain was fired, I had a conversation with a coach who knows a little about offensive football. Steve Spurrier told me that when he watched the Gators practice, the wide receivers were tipping their routes by looking where they were supposed to go. So I asked receiver Freddie Swain about it. “The drills we’re doing now is to work on our hips and how to get in and out of breaks,” Swain said. “We were peeking when we were running routes. We had a tendency, peeking a lot. Now it’s just getting in and out of your breaks. It’s going to help us get away from the DBs a little more.” That, my friends, is simple coaching. It goes back to what I wrote last week. I don’t think Florida’s lack of offense has been a talent issue. I think it has been a coaching issue.

12. Which brings me to your expectations for this season. Look, Florida is not a national championship contender. The Gators are barely an SEC East contender. We all know that. But what would you need this season to be satisfied? I ask this knowing that some of you were not happy with a team that went 11-2 in 2012 or back-to-back SEC East champs because those were offensively challenged teams. So here is what I see as the minimum that Florida needs to do to have a happy fan base when this season is over:

• Score some points.

• Score more points.

• Make something happen on special teams.

• Beat FSU.

• Score some more points.

The overall record isn’t what this season is about for a lot of fans except that they’d really appreciate a nice bowl game and at the very least not have back-to-back seasons under .500 for the first time since 1978-79. Gator fans want to enjoy watching their team play (and would really enjoy if nobody got in any trouble for a few months). And I believe that beating Florida State is crucial for this season for a lot of reasons. It’s been awhile.

13. I mentioned that college football is back in less than three weeks, but don’t get too excited because the best game on Aug. 25 is Hawaii vs. Colorado State. Hey, you can scout Florida’s Game 3 opponent. The first real weekend isn’t quite up to the level of last season’s epic build-up all summer, but it’s still good enough to make sure you are near a TV in the hours before Florida plays its 7:30 p.m. lid-lifter (does anyone still use that expression?) I am going to be an Associated Press voter again this year and I’ve been toying with the idea of putting Clemson No. 1 instead of Alabama simply because I think the Tigers are better. Man, where do we put Ohio State if the vote is required before a decision is made on Meyer?

14. Count me among the people who thought it was pretty cool to hear what Jalen Hurts had to say at Alabama’s media day Saturday. He sees the handwriting on the wall, which is why he went public with his hurt feelings. We can’t demand honesty from the people we write about and then bristle when they tell the truth. Alabama fans are upset Hurts said, “So now it’s like when we try to handle the situation now, for me, it’s kind of late, it’s too late. The narrative has already been created.” I totally agree. We all walked out of the Nick Saban appearance at SEC Media Days and said as much. The drama of college football could make this such a great story if Tua Tagovailoa flops or is injured and Hurts has to come in and save the day. I will say this — Tagovailoa makes Alabama a more dangerous team than any quarterback Nick Saban has had. But let’s not forget it was one half of football.

15. I saw where ESPN had a list of the top 50 players in college football and Ed Oliver of Houston was No. 1. He might be the best player, but I can’t see him being a true Heisman Trophy contender just because not many voters will see many games he plays and defensive linemen have to be ridiculous to get that kind of attention. On that top 50 there were no Florida Gators, but that’s a reflection of 4-7 more than anything. When you are coming off a season like that, it’s difficult for people to see if you are any good and it’s easier to say you must not be special or you wouldn’t have allowed 4-7 to happen. Anyway, preseason honors don’t come with a plaque or a scroll. They’re just for the Interweb.

16. I get the feeling Tiger Woods is turning into the Big Teasy. He gets in contention and we all get into it and then he fades away into the background. If anyone thinks he’s going to win the 100th PGA with the tight fairways of Bellerive, they probably believe in the Easter Bunny. My pick is the same guy who won last year and won last week — Justin Thomas. I just love the way he’s hitting the ball off the tee. Mostly, I’m hoping for a great finish to the major season as I make my way through northwest Florida speaking to Gator clubs this week. Looking forward to seeing old friends and telling some new stories. But my McElwain impression is probably not going to work anymore.

17. With the Urban Meyer scandal and the Hall of Fame and so much else going on, there were plenty to choose from, but this is the one that made me laugh the hardest (which always is a tiebreaker) from someone called Intern Pete — “What’s your favorite sports rivalry? Mine is Ed Orgeron vs. the closed captioning on YouTube.” He included some examples and this was one of them: “we had we were security cold Tracy West phenomenal.” Hee hee.

18. Well, it was a rough week at the gym, because someone stole my fairly new sneakers from the locker room. If you see someone with forest green size 11s, well, tell him those shoes climbed a trail at the Grand Canyon. Meanwhile, I can relax to this playlist:

• “Happy Man” by Jungle.

• “No More Darkness, No More Light” by Amos Lee.

• “You Can Count On Me” by Trophy Eyes.

• “When the Curtain Calls” by Greta Van Fleet.

• And for an old one because my oldest daughter was getting on me on the road for not being a bigger fan, “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin.

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

43 COMMENTS

  1. You may have given up on U.F. vs. U.G.A., Pat, before the season even starts (from your expectations segment: ”beat FSU”, but NO UGA comment?), but I HAVE NOT! As I have I’ve seen stranger things happen in college football. Coach Dan Mullen may pull a damn Orange & Blue rabbit outta’ black, magic hat, who knows!
    But I think your writing that Meyer was basically ”too loyal” brought back the 2010 U.F Football season, ring a bell? Coach Urban Meyer only ”came back” to FLORIDA FOOTBALL for 1 more year, 2010, for his Asst. Coaches’ paychecks. But to all the supporters of Urban, have you EVER been a supporter of the ”me too movement” also? Can’t have it BOTH WAYS!

    • I was a little surprised too about not mentioning UGA, GI. When you think about it, even loosely, there are three teams that fall into the “gotta beat” category every year: Tennessee, Georgia, and FSU. That doesn’t change just because we’re coming off a lousy season and are being disrespected by the sports media at large.

      Myer? I can honestly say I have no preference, even tho all the virtue signalers known to man are calling for him to be drawn and quartered. Either way, it’ll probably be “too bad”.

      • Yea, Gator-6, it seems some have already written off U.F. Football in Mullen’s 1st year w/ regards to U.G.A. But I am not one of ’em! And with regards to Urban, ”My Bologna has a 2nd name, it’s MEYER! ”Old school, for the old fools” -like me! Go Gators!

        • A A Ron, You’re not wrong. FSU needs a heapin’ helpin’ of humble pie. But I don’t like to give little brother FSU the promotion to full rival status. As much as Nole fans salivate and yearn for that status and that passion (hate?), I just don’t have enough left after my SEC checklist. I am of an age where I remember looooooonnnngggg win streaks against the Noles. I love those times. But not as much as I love winning the SEC. The Noles care so much about beating the Gators because they get precious little joy from winning their soft basketball conference. They NEED to beat the Gators.

          Winning the SEC is first and foremost for me. Beating FSU is nice. But it doesn’t feed that goal. I have seen too many good seasons and good teams (in all sports) go down with inexplicable losses to Dawg Scum. Vince Dooley and Hershel Walker will ALWAYS be the monsters under my bed. Likewise, Steve Spurrier is the monster under a lot of red & black (dis)comforters.

          I’m looking to hang both skins on the wall this season. But if I can only have one, it’s Dawg Scum every time. Go Gators

          • Couldn’t agree more. ACC pfft…SEC games beget nostril flareage. Georgie particularly after the end zone chickenfecal move Richt orchestrated a few years ago.
            Every Gator knows why the St. John’s River flows north!

    • I think Pat’s point when he said “it has been a while” was that we just beat UGA the year before last.. not beating FSU since 2012 – that streak needs to stop. I’m a Beat UGA first guy but that streak to FSU has gone on for too long.

    • I would rather beat FSU this year, if we could only beat one of the two. I am sure there are other fans out there that agree. Not that I wouldn’t love to beat UGA, but it has been way too long since we beat FSU, and I am tired of seeing it. So, yes, I agree with Pat.

      • Me too, AA. Deliver a beat down of epic proportions on FSU, in fact. But I’ll settle for a win by any score. I’ve already got us beating UGA 25-23, and am so confident that I’m willing to place all of Gator65’s paycheck on it to cover!

        • @ Gator-6 …Agreed 110%. I feel that we sneak up and BITE the Dawgs this year, not because we are better, but maybe because we have enough and they are over-confident. But, yes FSU, prepare for an epic beatdown soon, might not be this year, but soon! Go Gators!

          I will bet on that too, Gator-6!

          • You know, 65 is gonna declare bankruptcy if we’re wrong, don’t you?
            But we’re all socialists at heart — with other people’s money, I mean.

        • 6 when I left the military a E5 didn’t make 250.00 a week. After taxes it was really dismal. That was some time ago. I’ll bite for a theoretical 250.00. I agree with you and GI. We are going to be better and if injuries don’t hurt us somewhere we have the potential to be very good. UGA lost some key players and as Tampa has said they out recruited us but * are a ranking of potential that is often not attained. We have a fairly veteran list of talent hampered with sh-t coaching the last few years.
          Charleston So. if we lose we are in trouble
          Kentucky getting better every year wants to break streak
          Colorado St Unless there is a major slip or I’ve read the wrong history
          Tennessee Two new coaches going at it. Away game guys learning new schemes on both sides. W their dumpster fire was bigger than ours.
          Miss St. Mullen left them loaded with talent and they were well coached they will want to bring their A game. If we are hitting on all cylinders we should win this.
          LSU my biggest concern is they may have some momentum> It will hurt to lose to them twice in the swamp. undecided QB situation is the key. LSU coach coaching for his job.
          Vandy history says they will not beat us
          UGA we’ve owned them of late but they are a lot tougher in big games than they used to be. Could be a Slobber Knocker with the better defense winning the game. I’ll be there. 21-17
          Missou they could be good been up and down season to season away still think
          South Car Muschamp is evolving I don’t think he will be as good as Mullen but they might have us if the team is not developing an identity and coming off a UGA game. I say we win this one.
          Idaho if we lose that I am not going to watch football the rest of the year.
          Fl St. Yes win this one but again two new coaches with new systems and FSU isn’t settles at QB with some off field issues. This is gonna be the most interesting of the year.
          Not saying a loss anywhere as I don’t like that word. But we are not going undefeated.
          Since 6 is betting my paycheck these are my feelings going in. toughest matches. Kentucky we may not be a cohesive team by then. Miss St, LSU UGA FSU. All winnable. maybe 3-2 on these.

          • the Gators and UGA have three of the same opponents before we meet. Tenn, LSU, Vandy. Tenn gets UF the UGA back to back. LSU gets the same back to back. That some serious nut cuttin. With UF getting both first either we win and are on a roll or UGA sees what it takes to beat them. UGA has LSU going into the bye. We have Vandy. There is something interesting in that but my mind has been dealing with the hole 6 put me in. LOL really there is something to that but it escapes me.

          • Rog, I do try to be an optimist. Bottom 3-2. I think we can go 10-2 if we play to the strengths we have.
            Down at bottom jaws talks of the beat downs. I was there for both of those. Embarrassing to see your coaches not have a clue what to do. Don’t like losing never have but if we lose a battle that goes the distance and we gave it all the players can hold their heads up. Get ready for another day. Our coaches had no balls and they coached our players like that. Another post some where said Mullen got burned every now and then on 3 down defense. It happens, we got burned on a lot of downs under Mac.
            Rog in my dreams we go 12-0 and win out. My dreams are my goals. I hope that is with the team. If you want to take a business approach to it if we win 8 we have improved 100%. We were a better team than 4-8. Still going with 10-2. As 6 has bet my paycheck on the UGA game I’ll let someone else pick the losses.

  2. Just ask Richard Nixon: It is the cover up/lying that counts. they will keep him at OSU – — but they shouldn’t.

  3. The comment of “score some points” is awesome. This article coming after a press conference where the new head coach says, “if the defense allows 6 points the goal is to score 7.” Then he goes on, “well, now I’d like to score 60, but the goal is to score more points than the opponent.’ All these Gator fans looking for points and passing, get ready. You’re going to see Muschamp 2.0 offense. Ground and pound, run the quarterback 15 times a game, bubble screens, slip screens, and shovel passes. Now, that doesn’t mean that one of those goes for a long play. Sometimes they break loose and go for a 50 yard score. A 50 yard TD pass only has to go 3 yards downfield when caught. Dan Mullen runs an offense that grounds and pounds, and he has the running backs to do that. The most points I see this team scoring in a game is 35, against Charleston Southern. If you’re looking for flash and dash, the Fun and Gun coach has retired.

  4. Peaking or peeking? You are facing a brutal decision – where to put Ohio State in the preseason rankings. This from the man that tells us preseason rankings are meaningless. I don’t know how you sleep at night with this weighing on you.

  5. It is simple at Bama every position is a competition, we could only hope that our team was as that. If anybody is afraid of winning their job they need to find some other team to play for. Now it was only one half against a team that was not prepared for his skill set, don’t read that much into it.

  6. Meyer is a great recruiter and game day coach, the second best in the nation. He is also a very deceitful, self-involved phony-values preacher and all-around bad guy. His stench still lingers around our program, and all Gators would do well to admit what we bought into.

    I’m glad Coach “Family Time”took his Bible-study, couple’s counseling facade up north and hope we never, ever put this jerk’s name up in The Swamp. Whatever the Wins-Losses tally, his rep is a permanent stain.

      • Jaws. Winning at all cost including giving up your integrity. According to the article Smith was fired after they were caught which almost means that they knew or know there is meat to this. I have left this alone because I do believe in due process. But I want to lay an ‘IF’ on things. IF Meyer reported it to TOS and according to their rules it was required investigation and IF it was found without merit they would have been all over this in the beginning saying it was investigated and there was no or insufficient evidence. TOS hasn’t said that. So IF it was known that Smith was abusing his wife and IF it was covered to protect a friendship TOS is now in a real quandary going forward. IF there were no laws broken and it is only a title IV rule of not reporting does Meyer’s wife take the hit ( I mentioned this before) to save him. Even if this scenario happens TOS may have sanctions and a huge shiner.

  7. Well I didn’t think Auburn was national contender a few years ago or Florida State for that matter. I didn’t hear much about Washington two years ago at the start of the season. USC was ranked #1 and fell out of the rankings by mid-season when bad publicity head was their coach. You can always count on Bama and Clemson to be contenders these days. And it looks like Georgia finally found a coach who could count to 4. But it is wide open every year. Every year some team comes out of nowhere to be a contender. I think God does that just to humble sports writers. The Gators have talent. They have better coaches. So far , pretty healthy. We’re getting some breaks with the news about Grimes and Jefferson. And two things we don’t have is the past and Old Yeller standing on the sideline day dreaming about pretty whales. Who knows? Crazier things have happened than for Florida to be a contender this year. The popular , middle of the road, easy and safe prediction is no. But college football is often anything but safe and easy.We’ll see. Go Gators.

  8. Pat….your narrative that many Gator fans were not happy with those 3 teams because they were not good offensively is a little weak. I think it was more that Gator fans could see there was not a good long term plan in place to win and were not fooled by pulling a few extra wins out of a season. Muschamp intentionally tried to throttle the offense in an attempt to bring glory to his defense. McElwain got completely obliterated by the better teams on the schedule. In the end, the Gator fans were correct in their assessments of each coach.

    Sure…score some points, play some defense, but most importantly, let the fans know that you have a clue and a plan to maintain success long term.

    If Mullen works the QB position out this year, UF can win he East and be in the top 10 this year.

    • Good post. The getting blown out on national TV in the SEC title game may have played a roll of those two east “champions” being seen as the products of less than amazing coaching. It was very obvious we had made no improvement at all during those years, and I seem to recall even Pat saying the separation between Bama and UF had only gotten bigger– but, of course, only spoiled Gator fans expect a coach paid among the best in the nation to produce actual results.

      All the other fans at all the other schools love getting the living hades beat of them on national TV, and their coach smiling with his deformed, yellow teeth, pounding his chest screaming, “We’re #2!!!! We’re #2!!!!” In fact, we were not even #2, because a couple teams in the West were better, so even the sad and pathetic act of running around bragging about getting slapped around by Bama was a lie.

      The fans said Yellow Teeth and his pitiful collection of mediocre high-school coaches were garbage even when the Sun was running articles a few weeks before he was fired proclaiming him the next Steve Spurrier. Now, week after week, another article comes out showing how poorly coached the team was and the fans are proven right again and again and again. Just like always, we know what we see, and we do not praise incompetent boobs. But hey, maybe having eyes that actually work and can see what is obvious to everyone in America is part of being a “spoiled fan.”

  9. Check out the Project Veritas undercover piece on Urban while at Florida. Say what you will about secretly video taping the former players—along with some hard-to-hear stories—but there has got to be a cleaner way to win. Coach Spurrier, maybe?

  10. As much as I hate UGA I think I’d have to agree that if I could only have one win this year, it would have to be FSU. I think this would be a bigger recruiting bang for the buck and I just plain don’t like Free Shoes U anyway.

    Now my 2nd choice would have to be UT. I have to live with these guys and the thought of having another loss to the Vols (or Kardashians, as Pat likes to say) would just be too much to bear for another year (they had the nerve to re-decorate my office after their latest win and I had to stare at Peyton Manning on my wall for the entire season. I almost quit) We won last year and we need to keep it going and build another 11 game winning streak.

    Urban….well, I like most of you, have no love here. He’s a great football coach but a sketchy (and arrogant) human. I’d be happy with true justice. If he’s guilty, pay the price. If he’s not, let him be and move on. I don’t want to see our society go down a path of convicting people without due process. I served this country to protect freedom….not just for people I like.

  11. What I need by NWIA TB

    I need the Gators to stay close against UGA. I need the Gators to be dominating or in every other game until the end. No drubbings. In close games down the stretch, I need to feel like the Gators are going to make a stop to win and to score when they need to. I need to be surprised by an offensive play, to see the opposing D out foxed. I need to see sacks on 3rd down and punt blocks and turnovers. I need for the Gators to go for the jugular, to go for it on 4th down, to give better than they get. I do not need high scores. I just need to feel as if the Gators want to win.

    Toughness, confidence, creativity.

  12. Meyer’s “dirt” at Florida and now this current thing at Ohio State? How in hell can he keep his job?! It’ll be fun when Mr. Chest Pains sues OSU for wrongful termination.

    “I should have this QB situation figured out by…well, mid-season anyway!” — Dan Mullen, just adding a little smack

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