The Back Nine: UF football team taking shape

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File photo inside the UF Weight room. [File]

The Back Nine comes at you after a wild, crazy and sweaty weekend that included some time to stop and think about everyone who gave his or her life for this country.

10. So during the softball Super Regionals this weekend and last there were several Florida football players in attendance and I will tell you that they just look different. Strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage is doing an amazing job with this team. It reminded me of how Urban Meyer used to say that he couldn’t wait to see what the team looked like when it was delivered to him in August. (Ironically enough, Meyer’s strength coach Mickey Marotti was at softball last week because his daughter played for Ohio State.) I talked to Savage for our magazine story that will appear in the summer edition and one thing he said that was interesting is that he is not trying to develop weightlifters but athletes. We’ll see how this all plays out, but I have a feeling there are going to be some surprising stars on this team. I have no doubt Florida is going to be better — not only better than the 4-7 team, but better than the two teams that won the East — but as we know it still comes down to a handful of plays in a handful of games.

11. Janell Wheaton referred to Jordan Matthews’ walk-off homer Saturday evening as “a storybook ending” in that it was the last swing of the bat in Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium before the major renovations take place. The bigger question was where it ranked in UF history, both softball and otherwise. It was big, but I still think Ali Gardiner’s slam to beat Alabama nine years and five days earlier in the Women’s College World Series still ranks at the top. Especially because Gardiner went up to the plate mired in a 3-for-24 slump and it sent Florida to its first WCWS final. But I have no doubt Saturday’s game was the most exciting/best ever played at that stadium. I just know that anyone who was there is still talking about it to their friends who were not. You couldn’t help but feel for Texas A&M, which probably deserved to win the Super Regional and battled back from the most heartbreaking defeat one could imagine Thursday night. The seeding bit them as much as anything because A&M probably would have made it to Oklahoma City if it had played a non-conference team. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

12. Of course, Florida has to play another SEC team in its first game in Bricktown when the Gators tangle with Georgia on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how Kelly Barnhill fares against the Bulldogs, because, if you remember, her only real issue with illegal pitches came in the game in Athens where she was out of the inning before one was called and then she gave up three straight homers. We’ll see if the chirping by the Georgia coaches is heard by the umps out there or if Barnhill has truly overcome the issue. It has been a strange year for Barnhill in that she has allowed 18 homers and has only one loss (to Georgia). Those numbers don’t add up.

13. JJ Schwarz sent out a Tweet this weekend that conjured up the old Aaron Rodgers message — “R-E-L-A-X.” I assume this was directed at all of the people who are freaking out about Florida’s recent woes, losing six out of seven games. “You never know when adversity is going to hit,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. There is a lot going on with this team, including the looming draft. But when you miss your No. 1 pitcher for two straight weekends and lose your captain and hottest hitter and your second baseman gets the yips, things aren’t going to go well. Sully is calling on an old friend for help. Billy Donovan will take a break from a beach vacation at Crescent and address the team Wednesday. The 2007 national titleists have an amazing similarity to this year’s baseball team in that they were trying to repeat, rolled through a lot of the season and then stumbled at the end losing three of four games before righting the ship to win its last 10 and another title. Who better to talk to this team?

14. I could rant about the lack of integrity of the seedings in the NCAA baseball tournament or how Kentucky basically got left out because the SEC is too good, but none of those things will ever change. All that really matters is what Florida’s team is able to do here in Gainesville. We do get spoiled in that the Gators in both of the spring ball sports never have to leave town to play for the right to go to the big tournaments. O’Sullivan’s teams haven’t had to leave town for a regional since 2013 (Bloomington, Ind.) and Walton’s last team to travel anywhere but Oklahoma City in the postseason was a 2007 Super Regional trip to College Station. One thing that has to change for this baseball team is the errors that have crept up during this run of six losses in seven games. Florida has committed 36 in 52 games as it was celebrating another SEC title. In the seven games since that clincher, Florida has committed 10 errors, five by SEC Player of the Year Jonathan India. All Florida has to do is go back to the way it was playing before it clinched. Maybe the Gators did peak too early, but it sure is a different animal when you get to this point in the season, even if they throw familiar foes in your path (FAU, Jacksonville and maybe even Auburn in the Supers).

15. It would be easy to judge the SEC’s Baseball Tournament based on the weather issues, ridiculous schedule and say it was a disaster and needs to be changed. And it would be just as easy to look at a record crowd for the Sunday finale and say everything worked out. I just don’t get why softball can play a single-elimination tournament and baseball cannot. How much of it is that coaches want the opportunity to get as many high RPI games as possible and how much of it is the SEC Network wanting content? I’m curious.

16. I am writing this before Game 7 between Golden State and Houston. Because it doesn’t matter who wins. Cleveland is winning the title. LeBron James and his band of hangers-on will be celebrating when it’s over. He’s just too good and it is clear that the more people talk about how tired he is the more energized he gets. If you are a LeBron-hater, prepare to live with disappointment.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from my buddy Parrish Alford who covers Ole Miss for DJournal Now in Tupelo, Miss., during the SEC Tournament:

“SEC’s updated Saturday schedule

12 – Ole Miss-Texas A&M

12:05 – Play under review

1 – Lightning

3 – Frogs, locusts, diseased livestock

9 – LSU-Arkansas

9:05 — Play under review

9:30 – Sinkhole at pitcher’s mound

11 – Moon turns to blood, play suspended.”

Well, it was close to that bad.

18. So Samantha Walton, the wife of Florida softball coach Tim, and I have been having this great debate about people who back into parking spaces. It is a pet peeve of mine when you have to wait for someone to back in, then pull out and straighten it up. Your thoughts? Here’s a playlist while you ponder:

• “Criminal” by The Revivalists.

• “Sweet Home” by Mad Hatter’s Daughter.

• “Into Your Arms” by The Lemonheads.

• “Pinball King” by Terra Lightfoot.

• And for an old one, “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” by the Traveling Wilburys. And it is dedicated to Florida basketball coach Mike White (inside joke).

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

24 COMMENTS

  1. Pat, your ”pet peeve” is legit, and a small part of mine. Hogtown has some of the nicest people, face to face (in-person), but put some of them behind the steering wheel of a car, and they lose their minds. MY EXAMPLE: some of them go interstate speeds on 43rd Street and 39th Ave they think the left lane is for ”faster traffic only” and they get up on your car bumper, ”AS IF” that will make me want to move over, like on the INTERSTATE (try turning LEFT onto either of those roads, too). ”City driving” is NOT like driving on I-75! There I feel much better! Now I have to get in my car & drive… damn!

    • Well, since you took the dare first, I’ll go ahead and vent my spleen too, GI. Leavenworth, KS is the only town where drivers go below the speed limit and still put their brakes on while going UPHILL. And, Orlando, FL is the only town where natives sit at a traffic light after it has turned green, and debate whether or not it is green until it turns red again. And you think Hogtown has problems?

      Gee, you’re right—-it does feel better now!

  2. Agree on the backing into a parking spot. Only time it might be acceptable is if you are parking in a parking garage for a concert or a sporting event – which means that person is probably insane anyway.

  3. #1, 90% of the drivers I come across in Gainesville cannot drive. PUT DOWN YOUR PHONES. #2, backing into a parking place lets me see better when I’m pulling out, looking for the drivers on their cell phones who are not watching where they are going. If I’m backing out of a parking place, I have limited view and cannot see someone not paying attention, who then blows the horn at me as they race through the parking lot. #3, the on ramp onto I-75 is for getting up to speed. NOT 45 MPH! Get up to 70 mph and blend in with the traffic! Same thing when exiting I-75. You don’t have to slow down to 35 mph on the interstate to exit. That’s what the off ramp is for. You may post your inconsequential and irrelevant replies below.

  4. I back in when nobody’s around so I don’t have to back out from between 2 behemoth SUV’s. I don’t like backing out when there are pedestrians and shopping carts and baby strollers. Just playing the percentages here.

    • Agreed! Park away when you can. Shade is priority #1 anyway. also imo the entire state of Florida is pretty bad for driving, no one drives the same speed.

      the baseball team illustrates the point about being prepared for things to go bad. Its not that you can avoid losing games (sorry coach dickey), its that you cant allow too much unraveling when adversity pays its regular visits. I’m optimistic about these guys again this year.

      I hope the offseason program goes well but its pretty hard to tell as a fan. I am curious about what time of day the scheduled workouts are – “when” seems to be a new buzzword

  5. I suspect that all of the aforementioned driving ills are universal as I see them here in K-Town as well. It seems that the “slower traffic driving in the right lane” courtesy (and law in many places) is a thing of the past. And don’t get me started on tailgating (not the fun kind).

    And yes….would it hurt to put down the stinking cell phone for the length of your drive??????

      • Gator-6, I love your posts; keep them coming. I just turned 65, and while aging physically can be a pain in the (name your body part, or all of them for that matter), I enjoy the freedom to take the wisdom and experiences gleaned from those 65 years to be myself, enjoy the views of others, even if I have a different view, and not sweat the small stuff, even a losing streak by my Gator baseball team. Also, I still like to drive fast on the interstates! Go Gators.

        • Me too! Especially when my wife’s not in the truck. Which she actually never hardly is, since I generally keep it so dirty that she’s afraid to get into it without a tetnus shot. Yessir…..there’s a certain brilliance that comes with old age…..”ick, ick, ick, you’re a piggy wig”, says she. My bloodhound, on the other hand, doesn’t complain at all!

  6. Interesting driving talk. In the various places I’ve been, I find that the worst drivers are from New York, Virginia, Iowa, and (it’s been awhile, but) Kansas. The best drivers are in Maryland, Georgia, and Florida drivers aren’t bad (we just have to contend with northern drivers). Backing in also seems like a northern thing (or a boat thing if you’ve ever docked a boat in a marina). I understand the logic about pulling straight out and being able to see better as you leave, but backing up as you initially park messes up the parking traffic flow and causes everyone to wait while too many people of questionable eyesight try to park between two vehicles.

  7. Pros to backing in are: Less accidents backing out, easier and faster to depart.
    Cons to backing in are: Slower parking, Impatient drivers waiting behind you, nervous or scared drivers who can’t back up in a space properly and the dirty looks from the people who think you think you’re better than them because you backed in your car….HAHA. The only people who should be backing in their cars are officers of the law and owners of vehicles that go 0 – 60 in under 3 seconds. Go Gators!!

  8. I’ve got to back my truck in a lot because of its turn radius relative to tight parking lanes, but I won’t if someone is on my tail. Don’t want to make anyone wait 10 seconds. A lot of very important people out there. One thing to consider is that often the backer-inner has to deal with cars poorly parked on either side, which is why I ever have to re-back in. Surprising, I know, that many are inconsiderate. How about a shout out against the diagonal-in-perpendicular-space people, or the two-tires-on-the-line people? Pat’s was only before a closet parkist. Now he’s out in the open, and and I feel oppressed.

  9. No idea if Dooley is joking about Cleveland winning the NBA title. Unless Golden State suffers a letdown, Cleveland won’t even win one game!

    James is one of few superstars I can remember where this runaway semi rumbles into the lane, bowls over a few cars and goes to the bucket – time and time again, especially when they need a score. Refs seldom call anything – they’re probably directed to whistle very, very few charging calls on Super Truck.

    Best player ever? Not even in the top five.