Thompson hire began with call

Published: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 12:00 a.m.
By ROBBIE ANDREU Sun sports writer BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Florida coach Ron Zook revealed something new Wednesday about his hiring of defensive coordinator John Thompson back in February. Thompson, as it turns out, was not Zook's No. 1 target early in the search.
In fact, Zook initially called Thompson just to ask about another potential candidate.
But it didn't take Zook long to realize Thompson was the guy he really wanted.
"As we talked more and more I sensed this guy's personality is a lot like mine," Zook said. "He likes to play fast and wide open and have fun and play with emotion.
"By the end of the conversation I said, 'Coach, would you have an interest (in the job)?' He said, 'I might.' I called (Arkansas) coach Houston Nutt and it went from there."
  • TRAINING CAMP TV: Zook was quick to dispel one rumor about the Gators' training camp setting at the team hotel during two-a-days.
    He's not having the television sets pulled out of the players' rooms.
    "No, we're not going to do that," he said. "There's not going to be a lot of time to watch TV, any way."
    Speaking of two-a-days, Zook said the first week of practice, which begins Aug. 12, will be open to the public and the media. The no-sitting rule will still apply.
    The Gators will practice from 8 to 10:15 a.m. and from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m.
  • WILD-AND-CRAZY GUY: With his thin build and full head of gray hair, new Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson is almost a dead ringer for comedian Steve Martin.
    At booster meetings this spring and summer, one of the first questions he was always asked is: "Do you know you look like Steve Martin?"
    His answer: "Yes." "That's the question I'm asked the most," Johnson said.
    Johnson then told a story about being in San Francisco recently and being mistaken for Martin by a bus full of Japanese tourists.
    "They thought I was Steve Martin," he said. "They jumped out and wanted me to sign autographs. They all said, 'Hollywood, Hollywood.' I got my picture taken and signed a few Steve Martin autographs."
  • TOUGH ROAD: Florida certainly has a difficult schedule this season away from home, with games at Tennessee and Florida State. But the most difficult road schedule may belong to Ole Miss, which plays at Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU in four of its last six games.
    The two home games in between aren't very easy, either - Auburn and Mississippi State.
    "I was looking at it and thinking, 'That's unbelievable,' Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe said. "I know I've never been involved with a team going to four places like that in your last six games, with two other tough games at home. It's very difficult and makes me thankful I'm able to focus on one game at a time. Depth is going to be increasingly important."
  • REBEL DEFENSE: After struggling to stop opposing offenses a year ago, the Rebels are excited about new defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach and what he brings to Oxford.
    He installed a new 4-2-5 scheme in the spring and the defense got the better of the offense.
    "Our defense set the tempo for the first time since we've been here," Cutcliffe said. "It's a new system and our players embraced it. We've got a lot more people around the line of scrimmage and I think it's a good scheme against all the spread offenses in the league now.
    "We don't have any reasons why we can't stand up (defensively) this season. Physically, it could be the best defense we've had."
  • TRYING OVERTIME: After his team went through a seven-overtime game with Arkansas last season, Cutcliffe was hoping other college coaches would consider changes in the college overtime format at the coaches' meetings in February. But he seemed to be the only one who liked the idea of going to an overtime like the NFL uses, where there's a coin toss and the first team to score wins.
    "It brings all facets into the game," he said. "When you put the ball on the 25, it's just a different change in the game. I'm really surprised we didn't get more discussion about it in February. I think it's something we've got to study and look at."
  • AU UNSETTLED AT QB: Heading into fall practice, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville still isn't certain who his starting quarterback will be.
    Daniel Cobb and Jason Campbell were very inconsistent last season and finished the spring in a dead heat.
    "I have no clue who the quarterback is going to be," Tuberville said. "I'm looking for some leadership. Both have the same athletic qualities and both have had their good times and bad times. Hopefully, they've learned from both.
    "Now, we need to find someone who is going to be consistent. Whoever the quarterback is, he's going to have a better supporting cast to make him look better. It's going to be a lot easier for our quarterback to be successful this season."
    Tuberville said the Tigers will be better on the offensive line, have more speed and skill at receiver and have a big-time tailback in Carnell Williams.
    "I'm excited about this offense," he said.
    You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at or by calling 374-5022.
  • Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

    ▲ Return to Top