The Back Nine comes at you after a lot of driving, a lot of watching golf and a lot closer to the start of football season. It’s coming and hell’s coming with it.
10. Which is, of course, a line from one of my favorite movies “Tombstone” and seems to be appropriate for college football right now. Because no matter how much optimism flows from every camp in the SEC (maybe not so much in the scandal-ridden Big Ten), there are going to be teams that have hellish seasons. Somebody has to lose every time toe meets leather. There are teams that have more talent than others, but it comes down to more than just talent. There are injuries and breaks and officials’ calls. And there is the hunger factor. How bad do you want it? There are true hunger pains and there are those that are more like, “I’m not hungry, but it is lunchtime.” The truth is that we don’t know who is really hungry and who just could eat. Am I making any sense? Or did the humidity during a tree-trimming session Sunday get to me? Florida is the perfect example of this. Are these Gators really hungry after the disappointment of last year? They all say they are. Four wins isn’t a whole lot of fuel for a football team. They should be starving. But we’ll see if it is true hunger or just a bunch of stomachs making noise.
11. Because that’s what none of us know. We know the fans are hungry. They’d like a second helping of offense. Heck, they’d settle for an appetizer just to get something in their bellies. But as I make the annual tour of Gator clubs and talk shows, the truth is that I don’t know what this team has in store for us. Yes, special teams have to be better. So does the offense. The defense should be. How does that translate into a won-loss record? And will the mighty Gators lose another sure win to a hurricane for the third straight year? These are the things that we have to wait to see. I think I’ll have a sandwich.
12. I do know this — I’m hungry for the season to start. This summer has flown by more quickly than the last few for some reason, so it feels like the season is bearing down on us quickly. This is how hungry I am — on Sunday, I actually mapped out the 10 games I will be using for The Picks for the first two weeks of the season. That made me start salivating. Think how much more we will know after Auburn-Washington, LSU-Miami, Michigan at Notre Dame, Georgia at South Carolina, Kentucky at Florida, Clemson at Texas A&M, USC at Stanford, UCLA at Oklahoma. On Sunday, I also submitted my Associated Press ballot for the preseason. I stuck the Gators in there at the end (No. 24) and ranked seven SEC teams. One of them was not LSU. It’s going to be a crazy season and it can’t come quickly enough.
13. When D.J. Durkin was the defensive coordinator at Florida, we really didn’t get to know him because of the tight media policies of Will Muschamp until Durkin was the interim head coach for the bowl game. He came across as a good guy and got a team with every excuse to mail it in to play incredibly hard in the Birmingham Bowl win. Now, he is on paid administrative leave after the death of a player during training and the stories that keep coming out paint the program as toxic. I can’t see him keeping his job at Maryland because the terrible things that happened were under his watch. And that program may take a long time to recover. That’s unlike Ohio State, which can overcome it if Urban Meyer is let go. But I still think Meyer will keep his job.
14. There was a lot of flap after the PGA that more attention was paid to Tiger Woods than winner Brooks Koepka. Tiger is Tiger and he is the only golfer who can take the attention away from a guy who just won his third major out of the last seven. It’s always difficult to tell from TV whether it’s the position of the microphones or the actual crowd, but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard louder roars than I did Sunday when Tiger was charging. (And the TV ratings were the highest for a final round since 2009, a 69 percent increase). I did like this quote from Koepka — “Other than me and my team, I think everybody was rooting for Tiger. As they should. He’s the greatest player to ever play the game. (Woods) is the whole reason people of my generation are even playing golf.” Koepka is a different cat who seems almost emotionless, which you have to be to be a great golfer. Talk about fuel, he is fueled by what he considers slights throughout his career. That includes not being able to go to Florida, where he wanted to go, and instead playing for Florida State. Alan Shipnuck from Golf Magazine pointed out the time Koepka tried to throw the writer out of a news conference for not including a picture taken with his caddy on the cover of the magazine. Hey, if bitterness is the fuel that makes you play like he has over the last seven majors, go with it. It’s working.
15. There was a lot of star power at UF’s graduation over the weekend. Both Keiwan Ratliff and Ike Hilliard graduated and are to be commended for coming back and getting their degrees. I texted them both and Hillard wanted to know how my family is doing. Class act. If you were doing an all-time Gator team, it would be difficult to keep either of them out.
16. Strange doings at the Jacksonville Jaguar camp. Dante Fowler and Jalen Ramsey are both suspended for a week. Ramsey is trying to intimidate the media? Sounds like someone is a little too full of himself. This is what he tweeted to reporter Phillip Heilman (a UF grad) who caught a fight Ramsey was involved in on video — “you know you done messed up right? Lol if y’all want war, we got sum for y’all. & I know the rest of y’all (you know who you are) gone read this too so just know.” It will be interesting to see if this is a team suffering from a hangover or if the Jags will overcome those hot camp days and play at the high level they showed last year.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from former Gator softball star Kelsey Stewart — “This moment is so surreal to me. USA has qualified for the Olympics. That moment I’ve dreamt of as a kid is real. All the blood, sweat, tears has come full circle. Everything has come to this point. But, the journey has just begun! #Tokyo2020 still have business to take care of!” Stewart is one of four former Gator players and one current (Kelly Barnhill) who led the USA to the gold in the World Championships and a berth in the Olympics.
18. There were a lot of tunes going to the Emerald Coast and back and a good amount of sports talk as well. I started recently keeping a pad in my car so I can jot down songs I like (I wait for the stoplights) and this playlist came up after I-10, America’s most boring highway:
• “Hard Times” by Guster
• “Nice Libres at Dark” By Ben Howard.
• “For the Wind” by The Magpie Salute.
• “In The City” by Cocktail Slippers.
• And for an old one “A Groovy Kind of Love” by the Mindbenders.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.