The Back Nine comes at you with the sudden realization that we’re inside four weeks until the start of the college football season. Who needs a long summer?
10. It’s a fine line and Dan Mullen hopes his Florida football team understands which side of it to be on. We’re talking about enjoying yourself on the football field and Mullen on Monday was talking about how Feleipe Franks had to learn how to have fun instead of being so uptight. “I’d tell him, ‘You don’t have to be so uptight. It’s just a game,’ ” Mullen said. It wasn’t until this spring that Mullen saw a guy who was having fun being the Florida quarterback, but that came with knowledge and maturity. “Going into spring ball, he was a lot more relaxed,” Mullen said. “Knowing what you’re doing has a lot to do with that.” Look, I’ve seen some Florida teams that had a blast that weren’t very good. It goes back to the old saying that you want football to be important to your players rather than guys who just want to be football players. There’s a right time for everything. Nothing bothers me more than a player celebrating a touchdown when his team is getting blown out or doing a dance because of a big hit even though the opponent just picked up a crucial first down. Now, get off my lawn and turn that music down. “There’s a big difference between having fun, being confident, and being silly and goofy as a team,” Mullen said. “As you grow and mature, guys learn that difference. They should have fun embracing the game and playing hard. The best way to be is to be confident and relaxed and having fun.” Of course, nothing is more fun than winning.
11. The vibe out of camp and throughout the summer has been that we had better not sleep on Malik Davis. The redshirt sophomore is coming off his second season-ending knee injury in two years, but told The Back Nine last week he is better than ever. “It was hard,” he said of playing only three games last season. “But it made me love the game even more. It made me work 10 times harder.” Davis was impressive as a freshman (526 yards on 79 carries) before a serious knee injury knocked him out against Georgia. He was showing signs of being a pass catching option out of the backfield in 2018 before another knee injury ended his season. “It was devastating,” he said, “because it was the second time. I was pretty upset but I couldn’t feel sorry for myself.” Instead, he threw himself into getting better. “Every day, all day,” he said. “But it’s a mental thing more than anything. As long as you attack the rehab, you’ll be fine.” You can’t help but find yourself rooting for Davis.
12. One area where the number of transfers could hurt Florida is on special teams where a lot of freshmen and redshirt freshmen are going to be counted on to cover kicks. Evan McPherson, Florida’s sophomore placekicker, knows some of the responsibility falls to him this year. “Coach Mullen has talked to me about increasing the touchback percentage this year,” McPherson said. “Last year, we had the No. 1 kickoff coverage team so I wasn’t worried about hitting it out of the end zone. This year, he’s talked to me about it, so I’ve been working on driving it a little bit more.” With the help of strength coach Nick Savage. “Coach Savage has definitely helped me improve my leg strength a lot since I’ve been here,” McPherson said.
13. We always hear about Gators taking care of Gators. Well, here’s an opportunity for the Gator Nation to really step up. Former UF linebacker Neiron Ball is in bad shape after suffering a ruptured blood vessel in his brain and his family has started a GoFundMe account to help get him into a rehab center. He can only communicate with his eyes and needs special care. Neiron missed a season at Florida while dealing with his rare medical condition and one of my favorite interviews was sitting down with him and having him educate me about what was going on in his brain back when he was a player. To think of him as a quadrapeligic with no parents to help makes me want to cry. It shouldn’t be that hard for Gator fans to raise $50,000 (and it’s off to a good start) for the care of one of their own, one of the real good guys. Please, help Neiron Ball.
14. The Pac-12 last week floated the possibility of starting games at 9 a.m. as a way to give more people (which translates to voters) an opportunity to see their teams. Of course, this caused an uproar from people who feel like it’s unfair to ask student-athletes to get up at 5 a.m. to prepare for a game. Another plus of playing the games that early would be to allow fans to get home at a reasonable hour. Yada, yada, yada. The only reason this is being discussed is because Fox is launching its own version of GameDay and they want to be able to go right from the show to a game. Any responsible voter (see: Dooley, Pat) stays up to watch those late games or at least records them. It’s about TV and it’s always about TV and what it wants. Never forget that.
15. I guess, technically, football season begins Thursday with the unwatchable Pro Football Hall of Fame game between Denver and Atlanta (for those of you with a problem, the Falcons are favored by one and the over/under is 34.5). I think this is going to be a fascinating season with so much player movement (I mean, not like college football, but that’s another story). I certainly prefer college football to the pros, but at least we know it won’t be Alabama-Clemson in the Super Bowl. I’m waiting a couple of weeks to make my predictions. There’s only one thing I know for sure. Stay away from the Raiders. Those teams on Hard Knocks the last three years have a combined 16-31-1 record. But it should be must-see TV with Jon Gruden involved.
16. I’m taking the Brooks Koepka approach to golf. Show up 50 minutes before my tee time, hit a few balls, roll a few putts and go out and dominate. The guy is scary good, but we’ve seen players look unbeatable before only to stumble a bit. I’m just not sure Koepka cares enough to let pressure bother him. He’s a different cat.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Super 70s Sports, if only because it made me feel nostalgic — “This week in 1997, Greg Maddux tosses a 76-pitch complete game. I believe this is also known as ‘4 innings’ to most current starting pitchers.” Baseball is such a different game now, but there was nothing like being a Braves fan in the 1990s and watching the man my dad called “The Surgeon” go to work.
18. I leave you with this playlist before I talk a few final vacation days. One programming note, there will be a Dooley Noted podcast on Thursday of this week and then it starts again on a weekly basis on Tuesday next week. Football season is coming down fast.
• “I Buried a Bone” by Blind Pilot.
• “Alligator” by Of Monsters and Men.
• “Forgive Me Friend” by Smith and Thell.
• “Oh Mexico” by Jeremy Zucker.
• And for an oldie, “Mainline Florida” by Eric Clapton
— Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.