Back Nine: OC hire will have to wait until after holidays
Published: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 23, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you as we prepare to celebrate our second Christmas (this one in between St. Augustine and Jacksonville) with one still to go. It has already been a great time to understand how important family is and how sports are just a diversion. Wait, was that a fumble? His knee was down. Where was I?
10. While the speculation continues to swirl, aimlessly in most cases, Florida football fans are going to have to be patient when it comes to the Gators hiring an offensive coordinator. Multiple sources told me that it will be after the Jan. 1 bowl games before an offer is made to anyone. Which is basically what Will Muschamp said weeks ago. A source also told me there have been no offers made to anyone and that, while Muschamp has talked to several possible coordinators, including Duke offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Kurt Roper in Gainesville on Monday, he still has others to talk to and they won't be freed up until after the Jan. 1 bowls. Muschamp is looking for a coordinator who knows what he is doing when it comes to employing a quarterback who can run the ball, so any pro-style guys can pretty much be eliminated. The point is that about 75 percent of the speculation you have read is exactly that and while North Carolina's Blake Anderson was someone Muschamp wanted to talk to, he knew the chances were decent that Anderson would get the Arkansas State job. So it wasn't as close as some people would have you believe.
11. It will be interesting to see who ends up coming to a staff that will have four new coaches and more than one coach has told me the same thing. “We know the deal is that you can either come in there and be a savior or moving your family in a year,” one BCS head coach told me. I'm not sure it is that cut-and-dry, but it was definitely one of the negatives of cutting Brent Pease loose after a 4-8 season. People keep asking me for magic numbers with Muschamp, but there are 9-3 or 8-4 seasons that are different than others. I don't think there is anything like a minimum number of games he has to win next year. Athletic director Jeremy Foley believes in Muschamp and it might help next year's team if the Gator Nation followed suit.
12. So when you're trying to fall to sleep and it just won't come sometimes a lot of strange thoughts float through your head. Here is one that I had — take these three iconic plays in Florida history and tell me if you know what they have in common. 1. Lawrence Wright's hit on Joey Kent in the 1995 Tennessee game; 2. Terry Jackson's game-sealing long touchdown run punctuated by a dive into the end zone when Florida won its first national title against FSU. 3. Earl Everett losing his helmet, but still chasing down Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in the national title game in 2007. Nice memories, eh? All would be 15-yard penalties today. It just shows you how much the game has changed.
13. I have to say that the first big day of the bowl season was perfect for me because I watched just enough to know what happened, but because of family and Gator basketball, I was never in one of those comas where you don't move for a while and your foot falls asleep. Washington State showed you don't have to have balance to score points, but you might need it to close out games. That was one of the great chokes of all time. And while Gator fans were salivating over the media-generated prospects of getting Clay Helton while the Trojans were putting up 35 first-half points, understand that Fresno State was a good team, but not because of its defense, which was ranked 85th in points allowed.
14. Just because the Gators are not going bowling doesn't mean I'm shut out. I have been wanting to do this for years and the opportunity was never there, but the SEC and Commissioner Mike Slive are going to let me ride along with him to the three New Year's Day bowl games in the state — the Gator, Capital One and Outback. The story will appear in the Jan. 3 Gainesville Sun. I told you I was bowl eligible.
15. Gator fans are getting fired up about this basketball team and they should be. Some will tell you this is Billy Donovan's best chance to get back to another Final Four. Of course, the last three Florida teams were a game away, but that is easily forgotten the following December. I think the bigger thing right now is that this team has a real chance to repeat as SEC champs. I think the league is better, but Florida is clearly the best team in the SEC right now. We'll see how Kentucky matures, but it's there for the taking for the Gators. Then, we can worry about the NCAA Tournament.
16. So with my fantasy team losing last week by a point I was able to not worry about my players (although I had a few choice comments for them while we watched at the Smiths in Port Orange) and just focus on the games. Think about how great next week is going to be with the New Year's games and the start of the NFL playoffs leading into the BCS title game and the SEC basketball season starting. Well, I'm fired up anyway.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from my buddy Mike Strange of the Knoxville News Sentinel — “Wow. SEC hoops scores nice win (surprise!) as South Carolina (3-5) knocks off unbeaten Saint Mary's in Hawaii.” That was a very late Sunday game that I watched for a bit and I could see that the Gamecocks could play with the Gaels. I'm not sure that win will resonate across the landscape of college basketball, but it was a nice change as so many SEC teams keep coming close in non-conference games, but are still seeking cigars. Alabama's loss to Xavier is going to be one that stays with the Tide all season. Tennessee continues to come up short in December and then can't understand why it's in the NIT in March. Still, the league has five teams in the top 35 in the RPI, so it could be worse. I know. It's early. But the December games are often the difference for a team playing in the Big Dance or the NIT.
18. There have been a lot of Christmas songs being played in the car and in homes across Florida's East Coast this week so I'll give you three you can add to your annual playlist — “Christmas At The Zoo” by the Flaming Lips, “Christmas TV” by Slow Club and for an oldie “Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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