The Back Nine: Zaire will improve QB room


By Pat Dooley
Sun sports columnist

The Back Nine comes at you after a week of vacation if by vacation you mean going from restaurant to restaurant picking up prizes for The Bob. You people in this community blow me away with your generosity. You know who you are.

10. So I have been trying to figure out why people are making such a big deal about Malik Zaire and I think I have it figured out — they’ve heard of him. They know he played at Notre Dame. They remember a couple of nifty runs. They also know Florida has a bunch of quarterbacks with no college football experience and some damaged goods in Luke Del Rio. So they put two and two together and get three. I think there is a misconception that taking Zaire is an indictment of the quarterbacks on the roster. All Jim McElwain is doing is making that quarterback room a little better and a little older. Don’t forget this is a guy who got burned in his first year because he only had two real quarterbacks and one of them got popped six games into the season. My gut feeling is Feleipe Franks starts the opener against Michigan. But it’s nice to have some insurance. Let us also not forget that Florida wasn’t the only team in this conference pushing to have the graduate transfer rules tweaked so it wasn’t so punitive. Commissioner Greg Sankey said months ago that the SEC would likely change the rule because it put the league at a disadvantage and they expected other conferences to put a similar rule in place. But they didn’t.

11. Have yourself a day Austin Langworthy. The freshman went all Brad Wilkerson on us Monday with the huge three-run homer and the relief stint Florida had to have to survive the regional. Remember the first weekend of the season when he hit a homer and threw 2 ⅔ scoreless innings? We thought we were going to see those kinds of performances all season but the broken hamate bone injury changed that. In fact, he hardly pitched after that weekend and only hit one homer before Monday’s bomb. Florida obviously is going to have to hit better against Wake Forest to advance to Omaha, but that’s a story for another time, Give credit to Bethune-Cookman for being both gritty and entertaining. The Wildcats simply ran out of pitching. Florida did not.

12. One of the dumbest rules in all of sports is that Florida or any other top seeds would be the visiting team in half of the four regional games despite being the No. 3 national seed. I don’t care about your formulas or your theories, I only care that college baseball is dumb when it comes to that rule. What’s the point of the regular season? It’s amazing how much smarter college softball is in so many obvious areas than baseball.

13. My buddy John Adams stirred things up when he wrote a column saying that Tennessee shouldn’t have to play Alabama every year. The third Saturday in October used to be a big deal until Alabama won 10 straight. Is it fair the Vols play Alabama and LSU this year while Kentucky gets Ole Miss and Mississippi State? Of course not. But it’s not a fair system. (Really, Tennessee, does it matter who you play because you are 4-22 against the West over the last 10 years?) The only way it would be fair would be if it was a 13-game conference schedule which is not going to happen. Heck, we can’t even get them up to nine games in SEC play. Maybe if Auburn moved to the East and made Alabama its permanent West opponent Tennessee could drop Alabama. But that’s not going to happen either. It makes too much sense. And judging by Sankey’s remarks in Destin last week, there must be little support for an Auburn switcheroo outside of the Plains.

14. OK, so I don’t watch a lot of NBA games and Sunday’s game was the first I have watched from start to finish. But it’s almost unfair what Kevin Durant is doing for Golden State. When the Warriors didn’t win 73 games again during the regular season, there was talk that they missed some of their departed big guys. Not so fast. How many teams have a 7-footer who is deadly from 3, can be your point guard and gets a lot of tip-outs to waiting teammates on the offensive end? The answer is one. I never count out LeBron James, but this feels like a series that won’t last long.

15. So last week it was announced that former UF tackle Lomas Brown is on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame and the first thing I thought was, “What took so long?” It’s hard to compare eras but for my money Brown was the best offensive lineman I have seen at UF. The class isn’t announced until January so it will be awhile until he gets in. I know Brown was guilty of NCAA violations when he was at Florida (he was hardly alone) and perhaps that contributed to the tardiness of his inclusion. But if I was in charge of the Ring of Honor, he’d be the next guy in. He was that good.

16. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Thad Matta gets canned by Ohio State on June 5. That makes little sense. Not that Ohio State cut him loose but that they did it now. The timing is surprising, especially for the assistant coaches. Gator fans have fond memories of Matta being on the opposing sideline because of the 2007 national title game. But it was the 2016 game against Florida that may have signaled the beginning of the end for Matta. Remember that Florida went to Columbus, Ohio, and ended the Buckeyes’ season in an arena that was less than half full in the second round of the NIT. Matta followed that up with a season with no postseason and a 7-11 Big 10 record. He was once considered one of the top coaches in the country, but in the last four years Ohio State was barely above .500 in the conference and was definitely trending down. That included the spring recruiting period. Think there are a lot of nervous athletic directors around the country?

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Tim Mickelson, whose brother made some news last week — “Family SHOULD and WILL always take precedence over a golf tournament. And I know how much you want that one. Love you Bro!” Lefty skipping the U.S. Open to see his daughter graduate is a bold (and smart) move and the tournament won’t be the same without him. But we managed to trudge through the Masters without Dustin Johnson.

18. Well, it’s good to be back. I know you missed my playlists. What? No, you didn’t? OK, I’ll try to do better.

• “Everything Now” by Arcade Fire.

• “Wall of Glass” by Liam Gallagher.

• “The Night we Met” by Lord Huron.

• “Boyfriend” by Marika Hackman.

• And for an oldie but goodie “It’s All Too Much” by The Beatles. Yes, I am obsessed with the new Beatles channel on Sirius. I’m serious.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at