The Back Nine: Lack of experience may have hurt Pineiro in NFL draft

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Florida place kicker Eddy Pineiro (15) sets up for the kick during the Tennessee game last season at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of baseball and softball and a prom for one special young lady and a great Stop Children’s Cancer Gala at the Cade Museum. It was a busy weekend. I like busy weekends.

10. No, I don’t get it either. Eddy Pineiro was the best kicker in college football percentage-wise, declared early for the draft and wasn’t selected. Sometimes, that’s a good thing because you get to pick your team instead of the other way around, but it had to be deflating for the Florida kicker. My theory is that NFL teams know that there are plenty of kickers out there to choose from and you can get one as a free agent or recycle one who has already kicked in the league. The only kickers chosen in the draft were Daniel Carlson of Auburn and Jason Sanders of New Mexico by Miami. Perhaps it was Pineiro’s lack of experience as a kicker with only two seasons at Florida and only a few kickoffs his senior year of high school. Maybe it’s just the Roberto Aguayo effect (second round pick who busted at Tampa Bay). Pineiro signed as a free agent with the Raiders and I will be stunned if he doesn’t have a great pro career. The guy is just too good, but kickers are a dime a dozen. I guess that’s it. I still don’t get it. I asked former Gator great Judd Davis, who has worked with Pineiro, about it and he was surprised, as well. But he also pointed to that lack of experience. “That’s the only thing I can think of, that he really only had two seasons of live-game kicking,” Davis said. Davis, by the way, is competing with partner Dan Mullen in the Chick-fil-A golf tournament that puts current coaches with former players. They have been paired with the Georgia team. Mullen vs. Kirby Smart, Round 1.

11. People get the wrong idea about me when it comes to recruiting. No, I don’t slobber all over commitments or spend too much time worrying about recruiting rankings, but I do understand the importance of getting the best players possible. The development part of it is just as important as getting players with a lot of stars after their names. The NFL draft is a good example in that half of the first-round picks were rated as three stars or lower. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to get five stars, but if you see potential in a player and can bring the best out of him through weight training and coaching, you’re going to be fine.

12. Florida’s win in baseball Saturday was huge when it comes to the SEC race because it gave the Gators a three-game lead over Arkansas and four over Georgia and Ole Miss with nine conference games to go. The conference in baseball feels a lot like it did in basketball with a lot of teams bunched up in the middle. In fact, there are eight teams with SEC records between 12-9 and 10-11. One of those 10-11 teams is LSU, which made the CWS final last year (duh) but is struggling mightily this year, especially away from home where the Tigers are 3-12. Here’s a look at the records (in order by wins) of last year’s College World Series teams:

• Florida 36-10.

• Oregon State 32-7

• Texas A&M 32-12

• FSU 31-14.

• Louisville 29-14.

• LSU 26-19.

• TCU 22-18.

• Cal State Fullerton 22-20.

Cal State started the year 1-7 and is fighting to get back to a regional. It just goes to show that it can be difficult to maintain success and illustrates the job Kevin O’Sullivan has done with his program.

13. With only a series at Missouri remaining in the regular season, the Florida softball team needs only one win or one Georgia loss to clinch at least a tie for another SEC title. Sunday’s come-from-behind win was huge in that respect. Florida has also basically clinched home field for the regionals and super regionals, which is the goal when the season begins. And the Gators are tough to beat at home with a 28-2 record. Still, there are no guarantees.

14. If you are like me (which means you have to find parking at Gator baseball and softball games), you probably have wondered what it is going to be like starting in 2020 when both baseball and softball will be in the same general area and have home games on the same days and sometimes (because of TV) at the same times. And it will be a bigger issue when lacrosse also has a match one of those weekend days at home. “A lot of shuttles,” Florida AD Scott Stricklin told me. The good news is that when softball is playing and baseball is not, there will be more than 300 available parking spaces at the baseball stadium. The bad news is when all of them are at home at the same time. A little help, SEC office. In the last two seasons, both baseball and softball played at home 11 times on the same weekend.

15. The LeBron legacy certainly grew with the Game 7 performance against the Pacers by LeBron James and it’s why it feels foolish to pick anybody but the Cavs to go to the Finals. When he decides to take over an important game, there’s not much anybody can do. And it’s why any comparisons to Michael Jordan when we’re talking about the greatest ever are premature until LeBron’s career is over. It’s not just about stats. It’s about championships.

16. I’m looking forward to seeing Billy Horschel at The Players next week although we have already decided most of our talk will be about Gator football. The former UF golfer notched his fifth win on the PGA Tour playing with Scott Piercy in the team format. Horschel said he wasn’t a big fan of the way they did the tournament this year at first, but he warmed up to the idea. Then, he got hot. His putting was the difference. Could not be happier for one of the really good guys in sports.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from author Matt Haig — “I’m bored of the perpetual anger of Twitter. I’m bored of finding something to be angry about within five minutes of logging on. I’m bored of all the preaching and screeching to the converted. I want to see sunflowers instead.” This hit me where I live. Twitter has become so vile that I am going to ease away from constantly checking it for breaking news. I will continue to Tweet, but maybe the answer is to purge a long list of followers. I just know I have to do something.

18. I’ve had several people ask lately where I get the songs that I use in this column. Some of them are suggested, some I hear on Sirius (usually on the Spectrum or North Americana channels), some I find on iTunes, some I hear on TV or movie soundtracks and look them up. A long time ago, I had a self-realization that if you only like the songs you already like, you never get to enjoy any new music. This is a really long way to introduce my latest playlist:

• “Fiddlers Green” by The Tragically Hip.

• “Sugar” by The Why Oh Whys.

• “Hey Ma” by Family of the Year, a song that hit me hard because it would have been my mother’s birthday this weekend.

• “Waiting for the Sun” by The Jayhawks.

• And for an old one, it doesn’t get much better than “Shelter From The Storm” by Bob Dylan.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Pat. If you are a head coach of a major college football program and you want to win a national title, you had better recruit a lot of 5 and 4 star players and sign a ton of them over a span of two or three years. Check the data, sir. If you do not recruit at that level, you do not have much of a chance of playing for or winning a college football national title anymore when Bama and Clemson walk out rosters filled with 4 and 5 star recruits two and three deep at every position (sometimes 4 deep at Bama). A perfect recent example: Georgia making it to the NC game last year after big years of recruiting a lot of 4 and 5 star HS players. Many more came their way again this cycle, and I fully expect Georgia to be in the hunt for the NC again this year. Florida will be competing for NCs again when Mullen and staff start to sign many more 5 and 4 star recruits and less of the 3 star variety. In addition, the percentage of former five star recruits getting drafted and making it in the NFL is far higher than any other star rating. There are just a lot more 3 star recruits out there who get better over time.

    • I’m sure Pat and everyone else understands that without your condescending lecture pointing out the obvious. He never said recruiting 4-5 star athletes was not important. But his point on development is completely valid. Plenty of examples of good recruiters who were not particularly good at player development and didn’t win championships. Eventually their good recruiting will go down hill too. The two things feed off of each other. If Mullen has a good year and it looks like he has things moving in the right direction then Florida will likely do better in recruiting, which will in turn make the following reason more likely to be a success, and then even better recruiting, and on and on. If he bombs and things do not look to be improving, then recruiting will probably not improve, and it will be a struggle.

      • The example of Georgia was just the opposite of what Tampa may have intended. Last year and the year before were not the best recruiting years in Ga history , nor were they the only years they have had great classes. Richt was a great recruiter. Smart is looking like a better player developer. On another note, another year would have helped Eddie. That’s easy to say now. This may be another example of guys getting bad advice from the NFL and others supposedly in the know. God bless him for wanting to help his family. In the end, though, I think he’ll be just fine once the
        Raiders see this guy kick live. He should be in the League a long time.

        • mkfgator. Georgia and Smart had the number one ranked class in the country last year, including the five-star, freshman QB who led them to the final game of the playoffs. And Smart recruited a top five class the year before. Both classes were loaded with five star prospects and their contributions to the team was one of the main reasons for Georgia’s drastic improvement this past season, along with the top recruits that Richt had brought to Georgia previously. So, actually, my reference to Georgia clearly makes my point. And I never said coaching does not make a difference. It does.

          • Sorry, not the number one class. That was this year with Justin Fields and a bunch of other five star recruits. But he did have a great class the previous year, including Fromm and also a bunch of other five star recruits.

        • mkgator. For the record.
          2016 – 3 five stars and 11 four stars. Number 6 class in the nation.
          2017 – 3 five stars and 17 four stars. Number 3 class in the nation.
          2018 – 7 five stars and 15 four stars. Number 1 class in the nation.
          Those are the “not so good years” for Georgia.
          Please note, as a result, the rise of the Georgia program as it relates to competing and winning championships.

      • Patrick. That is your view of my post. Not mine. I have a lot of respect for Pat as a journalist, as well as his opinions. Always have. I just made the point that winning championships depends of getting a bunch of five star recruits and you cannot minimize the importance of recruiting the top players each year if you want to compete and win championships. Florida has not been getting them and it is related to the decline of the program. Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, and Ohio State have been signing them in recent years. And it was also not a criticism of Mullen and his future at Florida. I think he will get Florida back on track in the recruitment and signing of the top players around the country. I agree. Just a matter of time for him to accomplish that.

        • Just curious, how many 5* recruits did UCF have last season? Clemson won the championship in 2016, you know what their previous 4 classes ranked? 2012 #20 with 0-5* recruits. 2013 #15 with 1-5*, 2014 #16 with 0-5* and 2015 #9 with 3-5* but clearly that championship team was loaded with upperclassmen from the previous 3 classes. By the way last I checked, UGA hasn’t won a championship since 1980. Urban Meyer signs more 5* players than anyone and only has 1 title in the last 9 years. Saban is the only coach you can claim has had consistent championship success with great recruiting and based on that it’s safe to say that coaching is a hell of a lot more important than star ratings. I’m not saying it’s not important to sign a bunch of elite recruits. That certainly makes it much easier on the coach, but you need the right coach to get the most out of them. Urban Meyer signed some pretty great classes his last few years here, including 2010 which was arguably one of the greatest classes ever and we all saw how that talent turned out under Muschamp. We’ll find out this season how Smart does without Richt’s players and whether he can develop all that talent.

          • My bet is that he can (Smart). My bet is also that so can Mullen and Pruitt……and maybe even Muschamp now that he’s got some seasoning under his belt.

            That’s why I think in 2-3 years the East is going to be one hot division, and the Florida will be looking at a 4th NC in about 4 or 5. God willin’ and the creek don’t rise (sic).

          • Joe. I never said coaching does not matter. Just that getting a lot of 4 and 5 star recruits do. And just how many NC titles would other teams, like OSU and Meyer or even Georgia last year, have won if the lethal combination of Saban and all that 4 and 5 star talent was not involved in the equation. Coaching and top tier talent wins titles. Saban proves the point clearly. But his coaching is often better than other team with similar talent, but not always, as with two years ago. But more times than not over the last 10 years.

          • “getting a lot of 4 and 5 star recruits does” is the above post. Wish GS had an edit tab to correct typos.

  2. I blame Jim McElwain for not giving Pineiro more opportunities – like at the end of the first half against Texas A&M. 3 more points may have won that game for UF. Mac kept saying “we’ll find out what Eddy’s range is”, but we never did. It’s one of many reasons why Mac was a TOTAL BUST at Florida.

    • He was 5-5 from beyond the 50 while he was here. Not sure what you mean when complaining opportunities weren’t given. Mac was a bad coach here for a lot of reasons but complaining because he wouldn’t let Eddy kick one from 60+ as one of them is a little silly.

  3. Piniero thought too much of himself. With only two years kicking for a bad team, he should have stayed in school. To each his own but It does not surprise me that he went undrafted. He didn’t prove enough to the NFL. Regarding the recruiting, Ron Zook was a heck of a recruited but couldn’t do anything with talent. Urban Meyer won a national championship in two years with Zook’s players because hsi staff could develop them. I think Mullen can do both – recruit and develop. It will take a couple of years but they will get there.

    • I think that Mullen will do both too….recruit and develop. That goes for his staff too, Ocala.

      I think Piniero took a calculated risk in knowing he was short on experience coming out, but as I understand it he was facing a family situation and needed income stat. He did manage to get that, one way or the other—I sure as hell would have liked to see him stay in a Gator uniform tho—but I don’t think he was motivated out of arrogance.

  4. Pat knows a lot because he has seen a lot. I think he means you need some if those 5 star guys to be 5 and a half stars like tebow and Al horford…guys who brought humility, doggedness, good communication, that nonverbal way to reach the teammates, an edge, and things like emotional control..talent is necessary but not sufficient.

    • Pat knows a thing or two, because he’s seen a thing or two. Just sayin’.

      And brother, you are so spot on that “talent is necessary but not sufficient” (alone). Heart. Guts. Perseverance. And not the least of them all: C-T-M (coaching, teaching, and mentoring).

  5. “it’s not about stats it’s about championships” Pat says In the paragraph about LeBron James. Well, would that apply to Dan Marino, one of the best ever and never a championship. How about Udonis Haslem, he has the same amount of rings (3) as D-Wade, and as much as I love Haslem, he is nowhere near Wade in talent. My point….there are many great athletes out there who never got the brass ring, so we shouldn’t also through around “where’s the championship?” to evaluate greatness.