The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of pool time, golf, grilling and generally laziness. I’ve had my down time. Let’s start football season.
10. We talked about this on one of our Daily Football Fixes (when we finish those this week there will have been almost 70 at Gatorsports.com) and I talked about it on an out-of-town radio show, but it keeps staying with me so I thought I would mention it here. I truly believe the MIP — Most Important Person — in the Gator camp when they start back in August is receivers coach Billy Gonzales. Everybody can talk about the quarterbacks and we know how important they are, but Florida must be much better at wide receiver. Guys can’t be rounding off routes or mailing it in and somebody has to climb the air once in awhile to go get a high pass. The talent isn’t there like it was the last time Gonzales was the Florida receivers coach with a bunch of guys who played in the NFL like Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, David Nelson and Louis Murphy. But those players got better for a reason. If he can work some magic with this group, it’s only going to make the quarterbacks better and the offense will naturally be improved. Here’s the thing — everyone thinks Florida will be better on offense, but it’s only because Dan Mullen has an offensive reputation. There are reasons to think this is going to be a long-range project because:
• We need to see the wide receivers get a lot better. I believe I mentioned that.
• The offensive line has a lot to prove. A lot of experience, but block somebody.
• Quarterback is a total question mark.
Not to be Debbie Downer, but the truth is that we don’t know if this offense THIS YEAR is going to be any good. A massive improvement from the wide receiver position — which I think is possible because of how mediocre it has been — would go a long way toward getting the Gator offense out of the dumps. So, Billy G., no pressure. Just know I’m watching your guys.
11. The funny thing is that summer technically isn’t very old and yet all of us who really love college football want it to be over. Relax. It’s coming. And then when it gets here it will rush by you like Tyrie Cleveland behind the Tennessee defense. In the meantime, find some of the old games they are playing on different networks and you will discover that things actually happened differently than you remembered them. OK, maybe that’s just me. All I know is that it has been 27 years since Florida’s first official SEC title and that makes me feel old. So try to enjoy the rest of the summer and don’t get too worked up over preseason rankings in magazines or lists that compare the best teams at every school or the Vegas over/under win projections. Real ball isn’t as far away as it looks.
12. I give my dad a hard time because whenever he asks me if I remember someone who lives in St. Augustine the punchline is always a kick in the gut, “He died.” Well, as I get older, I feel like the big news of every day is someone passing away and it makes me sad. The news about former catcher Todd Johannes was rough, especially because I talked to him when he was here for the 1998 reunion just a couple of months ago. And then I hear that James Richards left us a couple of weeks ago. I went to school at UF when Richards was part of Florida’s wishbone backfield, more of a blocker than anything, but a really good guy. He ran for 858 yards in three seasons (1973-75) and averaged 5.6 yards a carry before settling down in his hometown of Marietta, Ga., to coach football. Just sad.
13. So I finally figured out how to get really into the World Cup. I went to an old standby — negative rooting. It certainly worked during the Croatia-Russia quarterfinal, which had loads of drama late. And, yes, I celebrated the final penalty kick. The trouble with the four teams remaining is I don’t really dislike any of them. How can you root against Belgium? Another thing I discovered is that it’s way more interesting if you watch in a bar where people really care and I have volunteered to take that task on later this week. Now if I can only find a way to make Wimbledon interesting.
14. I tell you what was not interesting this weekend and that was golf. Kevin Na blew away the field so there was no drama at all except that he has had all kinds of psychological issues in the past so the shank was in play down the stretch. Nobody who watches golf can forget The Players when he was in the lead and couldn’t make himself hit the ball, kept balking halfway through his swing and was getting booed by the spectators. There is a fascinating piece in Na by Alan Shipnuck of Golf Magazine that you can find on his Twitter or just by Googling it. If you are like me, you’ll come away hoping he wins a lot more.
15. Oh, you know what I will be watching? The All-Star Game. It is always the same week as SEC Media Days and I always find myself ignoring it and that was when it meant home field advantage for the winner. But there are four Braves in it this year, including two starters and we will be in Atlanta. The Braves have pulled me back in and it will interesting to see how they do in the second half. I know Tampa Bay fans are upset Blake Snell, who has the league’s best ERA, wasn’t selected by the players, but two things — 1. Players should never vote on anything because they aren’t going to put the effort in; 2. He’s going to be in the game anyway because two AL starters are pitching Sunday. It’s cool.
16. Among the many examples of trying to come up with summer fodder was a thing that ESPN did ranking all athletic departments based on their draft picks in the last 10 years. North Carolina was No. 1 while Florida finished eighth. That said, North Carolina finished No. 1 because it had 32 men’s lacrosse players drafted. Impressively, Kentucky was the highest rated SEC team at No. 4 and not just because of basketball. The Wildcats have had a lot of baseball and football players drafted (43) as well. You know who didn’t make the Top 25? Alabama, despite 77 NFL draft picks. In a way, it’s an unfair poll because there are no drafts in sports like gymnastics, swimming, tennis and golf. But it’s the summer.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Peter Burns of the SEC Network — “I’m happy that Russia advanced so far in the World Cup so their defeat could be even more crushing. I’m still not right for what Ivan Drago did to Apollo Creed, I’ll never get over that. #DragoWasJuicing.” See, it wasn’t just me.
18. So one day last week my daughter Kelsey grabbed an old Ipod I keep charged up for emergencies on the back porch and decided to make a playlist. She called it “Songs The Made Me Love Music.” There are more than 50 songs on it, but I give you these five and, yes, it is my favorite playlist of all time:
• “American Idiot” by Green Day.
• “Somebody To Love” by Queen.
• “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers.
• “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Beatles.
• “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.
— Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.