Whither those vaunted classes of '03 and '04?


Published: Saturday, August 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 19, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Florida coach Urban Meyer has talked about his team being front-loaded and back-loaded - a lot of seniors and a lot of underclassmen. In between, not so much.
It's not that the highly rated classes of 2003 and '04 didn't produce special players still on the team - Chris Leak, Andre Caldwell, Earl Everett and Brandon Siler to name a few - and a majority of the starters.
The problem is that of the 49 players signed those two years, there are only 23 still in the program.
The result is that the two classes signed by Meyer are providing almost all of the depth on the 2006 team.
Of the 26 players who are gone, five failed to qualify. Eight of them were junior college players signed in a questionable move by Ron Zook and his staff. Two left early for the NFL.
The other 11 came to Florida under Zook but are gone for one reason or another. Certainly, anytime there is a coaching change, there is going to be some attrition. Some players left voluntarily, some were sent packing because they had issues with the core values Meyer demands.
In many cases, Meyer has given the players the option of playing for a semester without a scholarship, as wide receiver Kenneth Tookes is doing during Summer B. Some have chosen to stay, others have bolted.
This again goes back to one of my core values - never take recruiting rankings too seriously. OK, my core values are a little more serious than that, but it's definitely a rule of thumb.

The game

How many times do those of us who are big college football fans have to defend the sport to those who think it's a bunch of thugs on steroids taking chair-stacking classes and money from boosters? And we try to explain to them that things are different now, that coaches don't cheat the way they used to and players go to school for an education, not as a tool to play football.
And then you have an offseason like this one.
How many players have been in trouble? ESPN's ultra-talented columnist Pat Forde put together an all-star team of players who have had off-the-field troubles. And he had no trouble filling the offense, defense and special teams.
You know it's bad when we're asking questions about gun policies at SEC Media Days.
But there is also a school of thought that coaches and administrators are less lenient and, as a result, players who mess up get punished.
The truth lies somewhere in between.

13th game

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden recently suggested that college football look at the idea of allowing schools to play scrimmages against other schools. He brought up the possibilities of a scrimmage game against Tennessee in Charlotte or Auburn in Atlanta.
Obviously, NFL teams do it throughout August.
I like the idea a lot better in the spring.
Meyer said he is not in favor of playing other teams during the summer.
"Not with a 12-game schedule," he said. "Too many injuries."

Storming the field

Hey, guess what? The NCAA is actually addressing the post-game celebrations at football games that too often result in injuries.
"Post-game celebrations may be well intended but end up in serious injury," Dennis Poppe, NCAA managing director for football said this week. "We must continue to do all we can to minimize the potential for catastrophic events."
NCAA chief Myles "Turtle" Brand sent a memo to all of the schools last month including a checklist for all of the precautions that should take place.
"You know how we feel about that," Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said, "and you know how hard we work at it."

A recount

This week South Carolina declared safety Brandon Isaac ineligible because the school messed up his transcript. He was also ineligible last year when he played in all 12 games.
Wait a minute. Does that mean South Carolina forfeits all of its games? And if it does, isn't Florida the champ of the SEC East?
Let's order the rings and prepare for the trophy presentation.
Naw. Could you imagine if a school led a charge to vacate a title for something like that and demand to receive something it didn't earn? OK, other than Tennessee in '84?

Sweet home

There is a possibility that half of the 12 football teams in the SEC will have quarterbacks from the state of Alabama, especially if Chris Smelley takes over the job at South Carolina.
Of course, there is also the possibility that by the middle of the season the only quarterback starting from the state of Alabama will be Auburn's Brandon Cox.
We already talked before the season about how volatile the quarterback situations were heading into camp around the conference. It appears that two-a-days have only muddled the picture more.

He loves L.A.

The first order of business for new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, according to some, is to get a franchise in Los Angeles.
Why? I know that it seems silly that the king of sports does not have a franchise in the second-largest market in the country? But the NFL increased its per-team TV revenues by more than $70 million without Los Angeles under Paul Tagliabue.
Franchises left there for a reason. I say leave it alone.

Cruising

One of the best events in Gainesville takes place tonight at the Reitz Union when the 14th annual Caribbean Cruise kicks off at 5:30 p.m.
The incredible event has so many silent auction prizes it will make you dizzy, plus a plethora of other activities.
This year will also be a farewell of sorts for James Bates, who hosts the event along with UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh. The two have done a remarkable job over the years, but Bates is moving to Colorado.
Florida baseball coach Pat McMahon will take over for Bates next year.

Junior golf

It's such a good idea you wonder why every course doesn't try it.
Haile Plantation on Sunday will open junior tees on the course in conjunction with its Junior Golf Fest Weekend.
The "Kids Club" tees range from 2,200 yards for nine holes to 3,800 yards. The idea is to keep youngsters from getting discouraged by the length of a regulation golf course.
Makes sense to me. Especially because I have a 5-year old.

Pat-pourri

Who would have thought we'd ever see Bubba Dickerson and Tom Watson doing a commercial together? ... Or that Joe Buck would do every sporting event on Fox? ... Can it be any stranger with Maurice Clarett? Remember, this is a guy who committed to Notre Dame as a junior and told the coaching staff he would skip his senior year to come to South Bend early. ... In his new book, Lou Holtz takes credit for Steve Spurrier being at South Carolina because of the great situation Holtz left behind. No, Spurrier went there despite the mess Holtz left behind. ... Some schools are in danger of losing D-I status in football because they can't draw an average of 15,000 fans per game. I say boot 'em and invite some Texas high school programs which regularly do that. ... Two weeks, baby. Just two weeks until it's here. ... Be safe.
Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or dooleyp@gvillesun.com. Dooley's columns appear Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

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