Back Nine: Charlie Strong, Casey Prather are going places
Published: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 12:27 a.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a spectacular weekend of watching football and basketball. The weather even gave me a window Sunday to grill.
10. It seems like only yesterday that Charlie Strong and I were in Miami talking about why he couldn't get a head coaching job. It was actually 2008 as Florida was preparing to play for the national title. Strong didn't like talking about it publicly, but he was wondering what he had to do to become a head coach. Dan Mullen had just been named the Mississippi State head coach and it's only human nature to be a little ticked off when the other coordinator on a dynamic team gets a head coaching job and you can't buy one. Now, he is the head coach at Texas, one of the top five jobs in college football. The Back Nine couldn't be happier for Strong, who has a reputation for being standoffish with the media, but has always been great with me and a few other Florida writers he was comfortable with. There have already been columns written about the fit (one especially strong one from Pat Forde at Yahoo) because there are certain demands that the coach of Texas has with the Longhorn Network that you don't have anywhere else. I think Charlie has gotten better at dealing with the media. I remember we hacks were trying to talk to him when he was at South Carolina as defensive coordinator and Florida was playing the Gamecocks and he turned us all down. In the end, it's going to come down to winning games, like it does everywhere.
11. I know that this was a very difficult decision for Strong because he felt a deep loyalty to the people at Louisville. That's one reason it took so long to become official — Strong was leaning on a lot of people for advice. “I told him he was ready,” Urban Meyer told The Back Nine. And that's the bottom line. Strong is ready to be a coach at an elite program and one never knows when another opportunity is going to pop up. When I talked to him three weeks ago and asked him about Texas, he was dismissive and said he planned to coach at Louisville for another year and see what opened up then. At the time, I felt he was not interested in the job. In retrospect, I don't think he believed Texas would come calling. Maybe it's all that scar tissue he has built up from being rejected. Maybe it's because he was on the list but well down it. But the real irony is that Strong wouldn't have been on Texas' radar if not for the program-changing win at the Sugar Bowl over Florida, the school where he spent so much of his coaching career.
12. There are going to be a lot of people questioning why the Texas defensive coordinator is now Florida's coach and the Florida defensive coordinator is now Texas' coach. Florida could have hired Strong when Meyer quit for the second time, but he had only one year in at Louisville and almost certainly wasn't going to turn his back on Cardinals AD Tom Jurich. I know, Florida could have fired Muschamp and hired Strong this year. I think we've been through all that.
13. The greatest jump in the history of sports (OK, I'm being provincial here) was Joakim Noah's from his freshman year to his sophomore year. He went from being unable to get off the bench in big games to the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. I wouldn't begin to equate Casey Prather's junior-to-senior year jump with that one, but it is similar to Chandler Parsons'. They are different players, but Prather — to the national media at least — has come out of nowhere to average 17.3 points a game and lead the SEC in field-goal percentage. Prather had that breakout game against Virginia in the NCAA Tournament two years ago, but a pair of concussions and an ankle injury set him back last season. The great thing about Prather is he's not a guy a defense focuses on because he gets his points within the flow of the offense.
14. I have to confess that I missed the first part of the San Francisco-Green Bay playoff game because I was watching Amanda Butler's team knock off Kentucky. That was a big win for the program and an example of how gutty this team, which is down to eight players, has performed this year. The game included something I'm not sure I've seen when Florida scored four straight points on free throws without any time going off the clock. Cassie Peoples was fouled going for a rebound on Kayla Lewis' made second free throw and made two herself late in the game. Florida will face Arkansas on Thursday and then has three straight games against ranked teams, two of them on the road.
15. It wasn't enough that Florida's football season was wrecked by injuries. One of them is already hurting next year's team. Ronald Powell's decision to turn pro isn't based on draftability as much as it is based on seeing Dominique Easley go down with an injury in 2013. Florida has certainly lost a lot of players since the end of 2013 with seven transfers and three turning pro, but in the end if any of those players were not going to be committed to the 2014 team, Will Muschamp is better off not having them around. You look around the college landscape and players are leaving in droves. It's just the way it is today.
16. Dr. Football was pretty proud of his record during the regular season, but the bowl games have been another story. Sister Hazel's Drew Copeland, who is used to getting drubbed in our annual picks, blew me out. I wasn't even close. He was brilliant and I picked like I had never watched a game in my life. There, I said it. The check is in the mail for Stop Children's Cancer and I will soon be purchasing lunch for Drew at a wing place of his choice. Drats.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Tulsa World columnist John Hoover — “It seems very Texas of Texas to introduce the new head coach on the same day two other teams are playing for the national championship.” I was thinking the same thing. Hey, Charlie, after spending five days in Austin for basketball in March I have some great recommendations for you.
18. Music has kind of taken a back seat with the holidays and so much to watch and way too much time spent checking out Twitter and Facebook and emails. My new New Year's resolution is going to be to stop being so dependent on my iPhone. Anyway, try these out — “The Struggle” by Grizfolk. “One Minute More” by Capital Cities and for a deep old cut “10538 Overture” by ELO which is actually on the soundtrack for “American Hustle.” Nice choice.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.