The Back Nine has seen enough vertical jumps, 40-yard dashes and nasty press room sandwiches to last a lifetime. Home has never looked better.
10. That was my first NFL Scouting Combine and it won’t kill me if it is my last. Don’t get me wrong. It’s invaluable for the people who cover the NFL and made a lot of sense for us to be there with 10 Gators including the Great One. (Think Tim Tebow isn’t already a star? The NFL Network teased to his broad jump on Sunday). But it’s really boring. It’s kind of like going to cover a bowl game and you get every player on both teams to come into the media room and then there’s no bowl game. No payoff. And I had to watch Florida lose to Georgia on GameTracker. Indianapolis was cold and wet, snow piled up everywhere. Luckily, they have these things called Pedestrian Pathways that get you from one place to another. Back home we call them sidewalks.
11. While most of the Gator talk up in Indy was about Tebow, there was a nice buzz about Riley Cooper. The team that drafts him is going to love him because he’ll play his rear off on special teams. Remember that he was a special teams star for two seasons at Florida. “I love to play special teams,” he said. There’s no end of the bench in the NFL, but you can play a long time in this league if you excel at special teams. “Riley tried to get off the kickoff team last year,” Brandon James said. “I gave him a hard time. We needed him there.”
12. After spending four days at Lucas Oil Stadium (which is nice) and talking to all kinds of people (coaches, GMs and reporters), here’s where I think the 10 Gators who were at the Combine will go — First round: Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey and Carlos Dunlap; Second round: Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, Riley Cooper, Aaron Hernandez; Third round: Major Wright; Fourth round: Jermaine Cunningham; Seventh round: Brandon James. I wonder if someone will draft Ryan Stamper. If 11 players are taken it will break the UF record set in the 1978 draft.
13. In Indianapolis I couldn’t help but think of the symmetry of what may well be the best two classes ever at Florida. There were five players from the 2006 recruiting class and five from the 2007. You can make an argument that the latter was the better class because five players were good enough to come out early, while only one (Percy Harvin) came out early from the 2006 class. The ’07 class also had less attrition (‘the ’06 class had seven players leave UF). But the Oh-Sixers can come right back with this — more rings. That usually ends most arguments.
14. Florida’s basketball loss should not come as a big surprise to anyone. That’s what the Gators are. There is no team in this league — and maybe in America — that Florida can’t beat. And there are very few that Florida can’t lose to. The margin for error is that small. Florida beats Vanderbilt tonight and they’re in. They don’t and lose at Kentucky, and the SEC Tournament will decide their fate. Just like last season. One thing is clear — these Gators play better with less rest than with more.
15. After the third round in Phoenix, there were four Gators among the top 10. Three of them finished there led by Chris Couch, who has had a solid West Coast swing. He was the only Gator to shoot under par Sunday and finished in a tie for fourth. The way Couch is playing, he might be the comeback player of the year, an award won by another former Gator golfer Dudley Hart two years ago.
16. Cool scene in Indy — when the United States scored to tie the hockey gold medal game with 25 seconds left, the press room erupted in cheers. There were guys banging on tables. I thought someone had rolled out a keg. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived celebration. It didn’t bother the Back Nine that Canada won because, well, they needed it more and the Olympics had so many things that went wrong at least Canada had its moment in the sun. And a Back Nine shout out to my man Steve Mesler, who was part of the gold medal U.S. bobsled team. The former Gator decathlete spent a lot of years working for his special day.
17. The NFL is talking about changing its overtime rule for the playoffs. A team would have to score six points to win so they could not win with a field goal. I love the way college football settles overtime games, but that’s as a fan. As a player, it can be brutal if a game goes five or six OTs. But it’s funny how the NCAA puts “student-athletes” in position to play marathon games, but the guys who get paid and don’t have to go to class can’t be asked to stay on the field for too long.
18. Believe me, the iPod made the Combine tolerable between interviews. Try these out and thanks to the readers for keeping those suggestions coming — “Little Lion Man” by Mumford and Sons, “Kick Rocks” by Alkaline Trio and for the old-schoolers “Bell Bottom Blues” by Derek and the Dominoes.