The Back Nine comes at you after a busy weekend for all kinds of sports and the knowledge that we weren’t that far away from having a guy named Bubba win both the PGA Tour event (Watson did win) and Daytona 500 (Wallace finished second).
10. There was a story this weekend that had a scout comparing Antonio Callaway to Percy Harvin and I say this. “Sir, I covered Percy Harvin and Antonio Callaway is no Percy Harvin.” I’m not sure we will ever see another one like Harvin. You want to compare Wes Chandler to Harvin and we can discuss. As Florida gets ready for spring practice, the Gators have plenty of wide receivers on the roster and as big a deal as it is to find a quarterback, getting a handful of receivers you can trust to go get the ball and make plays is one of the biggest goals. Florida has a much better chance of finding another Callaway than it does another Harvin. And that would be fine as long as he stays away from trouble, whoever he might be. I understand that some of this can be attributed to quarterback issues and play-calling, but Florida hasn’t had a receiver catch more than 60 passes in a season since Aaron Hernandez in 2009, hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Taylor Jacobs in 2002 and hasn’t had a receiver catch double-digit touchdown passes since Dallas Baker in 2006. And Harvin — in 2008 — is the last non-tight end receiver to make the All-SEC first team. It’s more than the accolades and stats. The Gators need receivers who they can count on and they start their search next month.
11. The vitriol toward Mike White after Florida lost a pair of tough games and blew two more second-half leads has been, well, football-like in its intensity. I call it “Gator Angry.” When folks get Gator Angry, it’s not pleasant around here. It does seem that these Gators haven’t been able to get a break lately whether it’s mediocre free-throw shooters making all their free throws or 3-point shooters who suddenly can’t miss. I get some of the gnashing of teeth. Nobody likes to lose even if someone loses every game. The bottom line is that this team has it all laid out in front of them — four finishing games against teams with RPIs of 15 (Tennessee), 8 (Auburn), 33 (Alabama) and 18 (Kentucky). You want to play in The Big Dance, a split locks it in. One win may do it. Because when you take a close look at the teams on the bubble, Florida may not have the sparkling RPI, but it does have more quality wins than anybody on the bubble. Joe Lunardi still has Florida as a six seed, while Jerry Palm has the Gators in a play-in game as an 11. One of them is way off. Most of the bracketologists have Florida somewhere in between, but they all have the Gators in. So all is not lost. This team needs to find the clutch gene that seems to have deserted it.
12. Bob Huggins may be my new favorite coach while also being the world’s biggest whiner. He was upset that Kansas shot 35 free throws to West Virginia’s two on Saturday night, so upset that he got thrown out of the game. When you play that style of defense, you’re going to get called for more fouls, but there is a track record of that kind of disparity at Kansas. Whatever, it was what Huggins said after the game that I loved. “Why aren’t (the referees) in here answering your questions?” Huggy Bear asked. “We’re gonna bring 19-to-21 year olds in here who don’t get paid and you’re gonna ask them questions … because (the referees) don’t want to get asked ‘why didn’t you call this?’ ” You know how I feel about college basketball officials. You have to play around bad officiating, but the overall quality has decreased drastically. It would seem that at least having a pool reporter to ask about calls would make sense, but I think the biggest reason nobody gets to talk to the refs is that we would despise their answers more than their game-changing calls. You can’t say there is no accountability, because officials who do the best jobs get the best assignments in the postseason, but because it feels like there aren’t enough really good ones, it’s not that hard. OK, enough about the officials for the rest of the year. Just grin and bear it.
13. So Jim McElwain is the new receivers coach at Michigan and will have input into the game plan. That’s pretty cool and yet, there are a lot of people in the Michigan media and fan base who are questioning the move. Maybe it’s because McElwain’s offenses scored 10 offensive points in two games against Michigan. Maybe it’s because McElwain took shots at Jim Harbaugh on more than one occasion. But the guy wants to be a coach and he got a pretty good job at an elite Power Five school so more power to him. A Florida-Michigan match-up in the Outback Bowl feels inevitable.
14. Congrats to Gregg Troy and the men’s swimming and diving team for another SEC title on Sunday. Six in a row and 39 overall SEC titles is pretty heady stuff for any program (only Kentucky basketball has more) and SEC championships are still a big deal around here. I think we should do one of those things like Rich Eisen does at the NFL Combine when he runs the 40 and they show it with a head start against really fast guys. You give me a 30-meter head start and see if I can beat Caeleb Dressel in the 100 freestyle. Oh, and he has people doing their breaststroke workouts in his lane. I still have no chance? Anyway, well done.
15. That’s the thing about this time of year is that you can get so many emotions in one weekend. You had the glory of the SEC swim title and a sweep in the opening baseball series coupled with the heartbreak of a softball loss on the road in 11 innings and a basketball loss in the final minute plus a rout of Georgia in gymnastics (never bad), a ton of birdies by the UF golf team and a special senior day for the women’s basketball team. It’s your choice to pick and choose. All I know is my computer got a workout trying to keep track of everything. And this week in our town all you have is a home men’s basketball game against the SEC leader, a men’s tennis match against Georgia, the last home game for women’s basketball, two baseball games in the Mac, a lacrosse match against a ranked team, a gymnastics meet against a top 11 team, eight home softball games and a partridge in a pear tree. So don’t tell me there’s nothing to do in Gainesville. And, by the way, congrats to Gator J.D. Tomlinson for winning the Wildwood Open on the Florida Golf Tour. Dude can smack it.
16. Ah, the glamorous life of a college athlete, right? Take the young men from Siena, who were led to slaughter this weekend against the nation’s No. 1 baseball team. The highlight was three days of perfect weather. But Siena went the bus route to get to Gainesville and then jumped on another bus for the 20-hour ride (1,144 miles) home with — get this — no stopping. On Wednesday, they get back on a bus to go play Gardner-Webb (12 hours) and have road bus series at UNC-Charlotte, Central Florida and Iona before the first home series. Good times.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Barrett Sallee of CBC Sports concerning the lawsuit filed by Arkansas State against Miami for not playing last year — “Miami should work to reschedule the game, but good Lord Arkansas State. You expect to win a case — or public acceptance — by saying Miami should have left and worried about a football game while its campus was in the path of a hurricane? Awful.” And later — “It’s like Arkansas State saw how LSU mismanaged the Florida hurricane game from two years ago, and said, ‘hold my beer.’ ”
18. So I was not in the mood to watch basketball Saturday night and I instead rented Ron Howard’s “Eight Days a Week” which is a documentary of the Beatles touring years. I really didn’t expect much because I felt I had seen it all. But I was wrong. It’s really good and I highly recommend it. I also recommend this playlist (with a get well soon shout-out to Russ Divine):
• “I’m A Cuckoo” by Belle and Sebastian.
• “Electrolite” by R.E.M.
• “You Go Down Smooth” by Lake Street Dive.
• “Moonshiner” by Uncle Tupelo.
• And for an old one, I heard this the other day and really liked the version. Then I found out it was the first Beatles song ever covered by another artist — “Misery” by Kenny Lynch.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.