The Back Nine: UF QBs impress at scrimmage

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The Back Nine comes at you after one last visit to St. Augustine to see my dad before the start of football season. Be sure to wish him a Happy 91st next Thursday.

10. It was hardly surprising UF coach Dan Mullen did not name a starting quarterback Monday and he may not until game day. My theory all along has been that he will play all three and then name the real starter for the Kentucky game, but he shot that theory down like it was the first wave of aliens on the old Space Invaders game. The starter against Charleston Southern will be the starter. Unless there is an injury. Or unless he doesn’t play well. All signs point to Feleipe Franks, but who really knows? What I do know is that people who watched the Sunday night scrimmage came away impressed with the quarterback play and the way they were handled and coached by the staff. It’s not surprising that there would be a big jump from the Monday scrimmage to the Sunday scrimmage because the quarterbacks are getting more used to the offense. My insiders tell me that quarterback will not be a problem for Florida this year. Is that smile on your face real or sarcastic?

11. What we did learn from Mullen on Monday is that he likes the “80s on 8” on Sirius. And that he is a big Howard Stern fan. “Howard will get you through a long drive,” he said. Exactly. That’s why I got Sirius in the first place, for all of those trips to Gator clubs. He also said he converted his wife, Megan, into being a “Parrothead,” as in a Jimmy Buffett fan. (I suggested a channel way down the dial to him called North Americana, but I don’t expect it to stick.) Why am I telling you all this? Because it was another illustration that Mullen is open to having normal conversations with the media. I don’t know how much he has changed from when he was here before. He blew off a question about that Monday. Maybe we didn’t have a chance to get to know him from 2005-08. All I know is he didn’t have a lot of people in his camp when this job opened after the 2010 and 2014 seasons and the biggest reason I was given was that he seemed aloof. All I know is that the guy Scott Stricklin hired is a lot of fun to talk to and really seems to be trying not only with the media, but the fans and everyone who is associated with the program. It’s a welcome change.

12. The first Associated Press poll is out and if you read Monday’s paper you know how I voted and if you didn’t it’s available online. Most surprising — I was the only person to put Kentucky in the Top 25. As I was last year. I’m also surprised at how little support Texas A&M got. Maybe it is the brutal schedule. And I also know this — Florida was 17th and Tennessee 25th in last year’s preseason poll. It didn’t go well for either.

13. So there was a big stink about a CBS Sports poll on its website asking coaches who the most overrated and underrated coaches are in college football. There was a stink because James Franklin at Penn State tied for first in the overrated category. This reeks of bitter jealousy (is there any other kind?) because Franklin has done amazing things at both Vandy and Penn State. Can he be a jerk? Yes. Blowhard? Yes. But overrated? That’s ridiculous. (By the way, Mullen placed in the underrated category.) And one coach accused Nick Saban of cheating. Anonymously, of course. It would be funny if that coach was Will Muschamp, who called out writers last week for quoting people anonymously. Will, I like you, but if you guys didn’t protect information about your teams like they were nuclear secrets, there might not be a need for so many stories having anonymous sources.

14. And Muschamp wasn’t alone in going after the media boys and girls, because Cranky Kirby Smart (hmmm, that was very presidential) was angry because of reports that came out after a scrimmage concerning freshman Zamir White’s knee injury. And he was angry even though the sources for most of the stories were boosters who were allowed to watch the scrimmage. And he was angry despite legitimate media not reporting the story because of Smart’s policy about not reporting injuries until after his meeting with the press. OK, that’s enough about the media and its relationships with coaches. I don’t want any coaches mad at me. While I don’t agree with every policy of Mullen’s — like how he will talk about season-ending injuries but not season-altering ones — it is a refreshing change to have a coach who is not a Saban-policy clone to deal with.

15. Let’s give NFL officials the benefit of the doubt during the preseason and assume they are calling every tackle that is made a penalty to try to clean things up before the real games start. As it is being called now, the NFL is unwatchable. I’m all for player safety, but some of the penalties called have been embarrassingly bad. I think the only way to tackle a guy in the preseason is to grab his leg and hold on for dear life. I keep waiting for an official to say, “15 yards, personal foul, tackling a player because he is on the other team, defense.”

16. It was a pretty profitable week for former Florida golfers at the Wyndham Championship, where Brian Gay, Billy Horschel and Brett Stegmaier combined to shoot 44-under par and won $432,500 among them. But the hottest golfer among former UF players might be Tyler McCumber, who has won three of his last four tournaments on the Mackenzie Canada Tour. The guy is throwing out 65s rolling out of bed. He is 122-under par in his last six tournaments. That’s crazy. Check out this quote from the guy who finished second Sunday, Michael Gellerman — “This must have been how those guys felt in 2000 when Tiger was playing or something. I’m happy for him. But I want to beat him. I’m sick of losing to him.” Two more events for McCumber to try to break the all-time record for winnings on that tour. One cool thing — his cousin, Josh, also a former UF player, was his caddy for one of those wins (in Edmonton) and will be on his bag for the Tour Championship in a couple of weeks. “Impressive run he’s on,” Josh told The Back Nine. (Just as a side note, Brian Gay’s daughter, Mackenzie, will be a cheerleader at Florida this year.)

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Matt Smith of Southern Pigskin — “Over/under CFB/NFL win totals (my numbers):

Wisconsin/Packers: 20.5

Georgia/Falcons: 20.5

USC/Rams: 19.5

Washington/Seahawks: 18.5

Texas/Cowboys: 17.5

Stanford/49ers: 17.5

LSU/Saints: 16.5

Michigan/Lions: 16.5

Pitt/Steelers: 16.5

Tennessee/Titans: 14.5

Colorado/Broncos: 12.5”

Hmm. If Vegas has this bet available, which one would you take? And what would the Florida/Jaguars over-under be? Maybe 19? Anyway, I found this interesting.

18. So I took my old little iPod out to the pool and because I can’t figure out how to get the songs over to my iPhone it was like listening to a Pat Dooley oldies station and now I have a bad sunburn. It was worth it. Anyway, I also compiled this playlist:

• “I Hope You’re Happy” by Blue October.

• “I Don’t Know” by Paul McCartney.

• “Long Distance Runner” by Matt Nathanson.

• “Bad Habit” by Your Smith.

• And it was a sad week because we lost the Queen of Soul so I went with my favorite “Baby, I Love You” by Aretha Franklin.

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

57 COMMENTS

      • Jaws. Both Muschamp and McElwain were considered by most people in college football and in the media to be very competent coaches when Foley hired them, but both turned out to not be competent at leading the Florida program. Muschamp has since started to prove that he is a competent head coach at South Carolina. McElwain will not have a chance to prove that he is a competent wide receivers coach at Michigan. But the biggest mistake Foley made concerning football head coaching hires was not hiring a proven head coach from a Power 5 conference when Meyer got indigestion from all his lies and left for ESPN and then Ohio State, where he is now suffering from indigestion and lies again. Clearly, the Florida football program should have not been and should never again be a head coaching training ground for former assistant coaches. Thankfully, Florida now has a head coach that has been a proven success at another Power 5 conference team, as well as in the SEC. Go Gators.

        • Zookoepooh, Mushbrain and McTeeth all sucked. All got fired. All were Foley hires. Reality does not lie. Foley sucked at hiring football coaches. If he wants to point fingers and blame his terrible hires on the media, that is only further proof of why he sucked. Is it a coincidence that an AD who refuses to accept responsibility for his bad decisions hired coaches who refused to accept responsibility for their coaching failures? I don’t think so. Foley attracted people who were just like him.

          • Jaws. How about this reality. The Florida football program won three national titles and a ton on SEC titles while Foley was the UF athletic director. And Foley directed as AD one of the top collegiate athletic programs in the country during his tenure, which also included numerous conference and national titles in basketball, track, softball, baseball, swimming, tennis, golf, and soccer. Not many ADs can make that claim. Now, continue with your insults of a very distinguished and nationally respected AD. Jeremy Foley.

          • And Foley attracted Billy Donovan, the current baseball and softball coaches, and the coaches of all the other highly successful athletic programs at Florida. Yes, successful, just like Foley. And I left out from above the highly successful gymnastics program at Florida that Foley help build. And the golf teams. And the….

  1. Oh that we had seen through our alleged perception of Mullen’s personality sooner….but then, timing may not have been right anyway.

    80’s on 8? I keep forgetting Mullen is only 46 and doesn’t dig 60’s on 6 like us O-R-F’s! But then, I don’t care if he likes hip-hop or Gregorian chants as long as he returns the Gators to glory. 10 days and a wake up! (Or, as 65 would say, 🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊+1 …… Just Do It!)

    • 6, thanks for the ORF reference. Hadn’t heard that since we left Florida 12 years ago. For the uninitiated to the term, it stands for Old Retired Farts. Side note: the “F” was used for another word by some that we won’t publish here. People always make fun of Florida natives, saying the state has no culture, but we love our old people, especially now that my wife and I have become part of the gang. In North Carolina, we have “Half Backs” These are northerners who moved to Florida, couldn’t stand the heat/humidity/skeeters/pythons and fellow yankees, and moved back north, only to stop half way back and stay in the Carolinas, hence “Half Backs”! We so love our “southern culture” just as it is. Go Gators!

      • Hey Dan. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of you when I wrote it…..65 will verify this, but in our previous world it always meant, “Operational Ready Float”, which was a joke more than a reality — but since you introduced me to the
        REAL meaning of the term, I’ve shamelessly passed it off as my own and now all my buddies out here are using it too. Who said you don’t have nationwide influence?

  2. I’ll take James Franklin and Nick Saban and their attitudes towards the press any time over Mullen. Wonderful he’s great to get along with. I’m hearing from Tuscaloosa that their coach is a jerk, but the championships are a perk! I’ll be here all week. Been watching Florida football for 40 years straight. The mediocrity of the 70’s and the program destruction of the 80’s was washed clean and a beautiful bright sunshiny spot was brought in for the decade of the 90’s and into the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Even with the total destruction of the program by Meyer (championship perks aside), we have been able to endure and persevere. Now, we wait to see if the coaching hire we’ve made stands up to the hype and the hope, of the Florida Gator Football fans, and of course, the press. Take a look back at 1990-1996. Take good hard long looks at the production, the scores, and the change of the program. Look at it. Then, tell me, what do you expect from Mullen, after you look at his time as a head coach at Mississippi State? We’re about to find out, aren’t we.

    • Grump, there sure are some teeth on your remarks, but at the end of the day you’re right about one thing for sure: We’re about to find out. Your thinly veiled hostility notwithstanding, there are a lot of us who have done exactly what you are asking us to do, taken a look, and come to a set of expectations different than what yours apparently are. You mention “hype and hope”, neither of which are of course a strategy, but we both no doubt agree that strategy lies in the hands of Dan Mullen, OUR head football coach. Let’s just not pick him apart at this late date, before he even has a chance to prove you right or wrong. Fair enough?

      Go Gators….

    • Grump E I’d rather take a look at 2006-2008 when Mullen was calling plays and winning more national titles than 90-96. That was also the last and only time anyone beat #1 Bama/Saban in an SEC Championship game. What we expect from Mullen after looking at his time at MSU, is to be able to beat the top teams he couldn’t beat there, but was highly competitive with when he had half the talent of the teams he was facing. He was giving top teams like Bama more headaches than the Gators ever did since he left, and the Gators were consistently out recruiting them. I don’t know how you can look at his time there and the fact that he was the most successful coach in history and be critical of it. That program is historically impossible to recruit to and win at and he had a .667 winning percentage. Anyone who knows even a little about college football, knows what he did there was pretty remarkable. He was consistently voted as one of the top coaches in the SEC and is now at a program that’s much easier to recruit to and win at.

    • Grump….. does someone need a hug? Time will tell but Rog suspects that Coach Mullen is the perfect coach for the 2018 Gators. Rog would take Dan over Kirby 10 out of 10 times. Unless we all are just dead wrong, watching this year’s team is going to be SO much different than watching last year’s debacle.

    • Hey Grump, I’m with Joe on this one. First, that Mullen run offense and play calling was a beautiful and very productive thing to behold. Secondly, looking at Mullen’s time at MSU proves to me the guy can coach and develop players at a very high level even in a God forsaken place such as Starkville. Therefore it follows he can do wonders with the resources available at a beautiful paradise such as The University of Florida.
      Maybe once the games begin we can change your name to Happ E. Gator

  3. I was also of the Not Mullen crowd. Because I perceived him to be anti-Gator and generally not “A Gator”. And I do think it had something to do with his relationship with Jeremy Foley.

    However, as it turns out, I am very happy to have Coach Mullen back at UF, and I wish him HUGE success and a long stay.

    I am also one of the crew who believes that Foley, whatever his shortcomings, was The Best AD GatorNation has ever had. But I also wish Scott Stricklin to not only continue the successes Foley founded, but build upon it.

    Yes, I am an optimist!

    • Tom Buttram. Foley was a very good AD when you look at the overall development of all the athletics programs at Florida and the success so many of those different programs had during his tenure as AD. But Foley failed at two important elements of leadership and strategic planning while the Florida AD. 1. He allowed the football facilities to fall way behind almost every program in the SEC other than Vandy and Missouri. That should never have happened and the football program is now in recovery mode as a result. 2. He failed miserably in the hiring of Muschamp and McElwain, as Foley was unable to hire a successful Power 5 program head coach like Stoops at Oklahoma (probably because of the facilities issue) and settled for an unproven in Muschamp and McElwain, who had no experience leading a major Power 5 program. And he overpaid for McElwain when he hired him, resulting in Florida overpaying McElwain when he was dismissed. Clearly, Stricklin is aggressively working to correct the deficiencies in the football facilities, and Stricklin only considered and interviewed successful, Power 5 head coaches after recognizing and dismissing the incompetent McElwain. And Gator Nation IS optimist about the state of the football program once again. It is now in very good hands, both with the AD and the head football coach. Go Gators.

      • I agree with every word.

        Foley did a wonderful job at AD for UF and along with the Administration, helped build UF into a nationally respected University. But it is more than a little puzzling how the Muschamp and McElwain hires went so badly. How did Jeremy miss the mark so badly. Muschamp was the big name flavor of the month, so I sort of get that, but McElwain???? (and I suppose you could add Mr. Zook to this list). How did he get these so wrong?

        And why did Jeremy allow the facilities to fall so far behind everyone else? Did he not take the football program seriously enough or was he just arrogant enough to believe that UF could beat everyone else and not spend the fortunes that everyone else was. If so, this obviously was proven false.

        • Tampa, Rog, Muschamp was never going to get the Texas job. Think we were played by Texas and Champ. And we were looking at his defense which in the no defense Big12 looked better than it likely was. Don’t feel he’d have gotten the job when Brown left. My opinion which isn’t worth much. Some one else pointed out he is a good DC maybe a great DC might be a fair HC but never a great HC

          • Well, all I can add is that, living about 45 miles north of Austin, he seemed like a shoe-in to me. I think he was going to get the Texas job, but couldn’t wait any longer with Mack Brown looking like he might turn it around. But DC to SEC HC? Sure enough, good maybe, but not one of the great ones.

  4. I complained about Muschamp’s cloak and dagger act when he was Florida HC. I live in South Florida and saw up close how Randy Shannon froze out the local beat writers. Paranoia and secrecy is NOT good look. The local guys, in every market, are either bald faced homers or at least benevolently symbiotic with the HC. It’s good business for both to see positive stories and positive reporting. Writers can’t get a coach Ws or Ls. But they can spin the Ws & Ls in a way that keeps seat cool. There’s no good reason to be preemptively frosty or antagonistic or closed up/paranoid. Saban can get away with doing or saying whatever he wants. He’s famously opposed to any outsider – ever. But you never hear much from the inside (Jalen Hurts is a rare exception). I think Saban does a good job of creating an “Us against the World” mentality. But his win total gives him latitude nobody else can have. There’s no harm in Coach Mullen peeling back the onion a bit. But 80s on 8? pfft! 60s on 6 and 70s on 7, man! Beatles Channel, Margaritaville Channel, No Shoes Radio. That’s worth paying for.

  5. Great comments Mark. I lived in south Florida when Saban had his very short stint with the Dolphins, and during his final months, he ripped into anyone in the press who had the temerity to question him about the rumors that he was leaving to go to Alabama. He was adamant in his denials, right up to the evening news on TV one day that showed a large moving truck with the University of Alabama painted all over the trailer parked in front of his house. He is certainly not well liked in South Florida or other places that he deserted, but as you state, winning, especially winning BIG, covers all sins. Paranoia and secrecy run in that profession, no more so than Bill Belicheck and his clones in the NFL. And as for the music, very few of the 150 or so songs in my i-phone are from past the late 70’s (Buffett and Eagles excluded).

    • Dan F – Yeah, Saban was ugly with everybody down here – especially when he was lying about the Alabama job. And his name is poison here. I don’t think he can even recruit So. Fla. If you believe the reports, he was mean enough to have a secretary chastised for saying “good morning” to him. But again, the guys who played for or coached for him exhibit a lot of solidarity/loyalty to him. That has to go beyond just winning. I think he treats “his” guys differently. You rarely hear a discouraging word from anybody in Saban’s “inner circle”. The outlier – Lane Kiffin – falls in the “what do you expect?” category. If they’re in the same room, Kiffin’s still the biggest sleaze.

      • I believe Saban and his staff have recruited South Florida well, as with much of the state of Florida. Recruits want to play at Alabama from all over the country because of the success Bama has had winning championships on the field and sending players to the NFL, as directed by Saban. Saban is clearly a controlling, ego maniac, but he is also clearly the best head coach in college football history. He was not a very good NFL coach. But not many head coaches of the Dolphins have been successful because of poor and inconsistent ownership since the 70s and 80s. And, by the way, Steve Spurrier was a total bomb in the NFL as well. Go Gators.

        • TampaGator Saban is mostly hated by Dolphins fans because he lied about seeking the Bama job in the 1st place. And then blamed it on his wife “not liking” the lifestyle in So. Fla. He is the Heavyweight Champ of college coaching. And I remind my Dolfan buddies that if he piled up Super Bowl trophies in Miami the way he’s piled up National Championship trophies, no one would care what he said or how he acted. Probably wouldn’t even care if he lied on his way out the door.

        • CO, Mark, Tampa, in terms of Saban recruiting south Florida, he was briefly banned from the campuses of several high schools down there by the school coaches and AD’s for a variety of reasons, among which was his history of pulling some offers late in the cycle to some players down that way who had committed to to ‘Bama, leaving them hanging. However, I’ve heard from my “sources” down there (my 4 brothers), that has passed. It certainly didn’t keep Saban from signing south Florida kids, as he didn’t have to be on their school grounds to still be able to still get most any player he wants. There is no questioning his coaching acumen and place in college pantheon of great coaches. Many college coaches have not been successful in the NFL as Tampa noted. It’s a whole different business model. Ironically, one coach having the most recruiting success down there, especially at my old HS, is Urban Meyer. Time for the Gators to reclaim their share of the talent hotbed.

          • Dan F. With that South Florida high school hotbed, unfortunately, comes a lot of South Florida recruit hot heads and dumb heads. It seems to me that Mullen is selectively recruiting South Florida now and trying to build a more national recruiting model with high character and fit being more of a priority now. Not a bad thing.

          • Tampa, speaking from my having grown up there, I have to agree with you on this point. Several of the high schools down there, my own included, have become nationally prominent with their high profile games around the country against other national powers, all of which are shown nationwide on ESPN. These schools now have shoe and equipment contracts with Nike, Under Armour and Addidas and have facilities that you and I would have never even dreamed of playing in. Upwards of 40-50 schools are offering them the free ride, and these 17-18 year olds announce their decisions in nationally televised press conferences in front of full auditoriums of their peers. With all this, should we be surprised when they hit campus with a sense of entitlement and inflated sense of self ? I am among those of us who have expressed concern about the lack of the big 5* dudes coming to Gainesville, but I am beginning to look at it differently. Mullen has been around long enough to read the character of some of these, and I too believe that he will be selective when recruiting from some of these hot beds, but bring in the young men who will win and make Gator Nation proud in the process.

  6. Rog. But it did bring a smile to my face. Hope eternal. Franks is a great and very likeable young man, and I have my fingers crossed that he develops into a great college QB under the leadership and guidance of Mullen as his head coach, as well as Johnson as his QBs coach. Go Gators.

    • Think what you want but it is a fact that once Mullen left, Meyer’s team had a marked decrease in offensive production and couldn’t get past Saban with most of the same players from the previous year including Tebow.

      • You are being kind and generous. When Mullen left, the offense, with lots of NFL talent Tebow, stunk up the place. The OC who replaced him was so unimaginative and lack creativity that he even managed to neutralize Tebow’s talents, by predictably calling Tebow right, left, up the middle and then punt. It was pathetic. It really showed by comparison how brilliant Mullen was . . because the HC didn’t change.

  7. CO Jones. That 2009 Gators team was better than that Alabama team, no doubt. But Percy Harvin was a huge playmaker and he was in the NFL by then. So was the older Pouncey brother. And Carlos Dunlap was suspended for that game, and that really hurt the team defensively. And, then, you also had that Billy G. thing going on between him and Meyer (Billy G. resigning right before the SEC Championship game that year) which was a major disruption going into that game from a coaching perspective. The team went into that game not prepared to win it due to those distractions. And Tebow played poorly in that game, missing a lot of wide open receivers with Bama playing a close up 8 man front to stop the running game. But Addazio was a very conservative play caller in comparison to Mullen in the 2008 game vs. Bama. And he got more conservative the following year, and things continued to go downhill from there until now, with Mullen’s return to Gainesville. Go Gators.

    • You make some great points about that game Tampa, but I think you left out the most important one, and that was those damn white helmets with the “F” on them and the white uniforms. Tebow just didn’t look like Tebow in that outfit! I’ve felt that the white helmet should be banned since that game. Other than that, you pretty much nailed it.