Which one of you asked for rain? Try to be a little more specific next time, Noah. The Back Nine still had a great weekend that included gymnastics, baseball and too much to eat. To quote Steve Martin’s Festrunk Brother, “I buh-lame uh-myself.”
10. Grades are in for the NFL Draft and they are to be ignored. The draft is like recruiting in that the guys who give out grades are basing them on their own evaluations rather than the people making the decisions. Any draft and any recruiting class can only truly be graded after three or four years. In which case, I guess we should give out high marks for Urban Meyer’s 2006 and 2007 classes. He had 10 players from those two recruiting classes drafted (nine this year and Percy Harvin last year), four of them in the first round. And there are as many as eight others from those classes who could be drafted next year. This draft was a tremendous recruiting tool that will be used by Florida’s coaches. Because among the criteria a high school senior uses for choosing a school is, “Can you get me to the next level?” Clearly, Florida coaches have shown they can. Especially if Bill Belichick stays in New England. Three picks from UF and he signed Gerard Warren. The SEC had 49 players taken, the most of any conference by 15, as the league continues to flex its muscle.
11. Hey, I’m not going to be critical of the Jacksonville draft because they know a lot more about the players than I do. But it does seem curious that after taking a controversial first-round pick that hardly got the fan base excited, the Jaguars drafted players from Louisiana Tech, Central Arkansas, Murray State, Southern Illinois and James Madison. Where do I line up to buy season tickets? Look, you draft the players you feel are the best fits. I get that. But for a franchise whose fans are already staying away it would seem like you’d try to put a little excitement into your draft. Just saying.
12. The Back Nine is excited for next season in the NFL because there are so many players who were so much fun to watch in college spread around the league. I can’t wait to see how they fit in. This was supposed to be one of the best drafts in 20 years in the league and I think it will be reflected in the quality of play next fall. And don’t worry, peeps, about all the hate coming Tim Tebow’s way. Some of these guys who cover the NFL take it as a personal insult when you don’t agree with them.
13. Almost lost in the draft hoopla was the report that the NCAA appears headed to a 68-team NCAA Tournament in basketball. The NCAA insists no decision has been made but it appears that clearer heads have prevailed. More than anything, the Back Nine thinks that when CBS and Turner upped their offer and blew ESPN out of the water, they also told the NCAA they weren’t that excited about 96 teams. We still could get there eventually, but your bracket is safe for now. The big question that I still want answered — are these going to be 16 vs. 17 play-ins or will the last eight at-large teams play for the final four spots. That would be much more interesting, and if they do it right by having mini-tournaments at neutral sites it could make the tourney even better. The best thing about the 68-team field is that it won’t water down the regular season and still make conference tournaments important. Yay!
14. If you were among those of us who lasted through the 2 1/2 hour rain delay to see Florida and Arkansas play their rubber game Sunday, you saw one heck of a pitcher’s duel punctuated by some amazing defense. Florida got a break from the umpires in the ninth to get the win as the picture in The Sun showed Monday morning. But the bottom line was that Florida’s freshmen pitchers Hudson Randall and Brian Johnson limited the league’s best-hitting team (.348 average in SEC games) to nine hits and no earned runs in 12 2/3 innings. One thing that makes the light-hitting Gators a dangerous postseason team is that they can come at you with three quality starters.
15. Friday was not the best of days for the Gator program with baseball losing, gymnastics stumbling to a fifth-place finish and softball blowing a seventh-inning lead to lose to Tennessee. But Sunday was a special day with baseball capturing the series and women’s tennis winning the SEC Tournament. The softball team now needs some help to win the SEC and will be rooting for the Vols this weekend when they travel to Alabama.
16. Former Florida golfer Chris Couch was in position in New Orleans to take a big step toward securing his PGA Tour card for next year. Couch, on a major medical exemption after playing in only eight events the last two years because of a recurring shoulder problem, needs to make $796,087 in 21 starts to keep his card. That’s what No. 125 on the money list made a year ago. Had Couch shot even par in the final round Sunday, he would have pulled within about $20,000 of that goal. Instead, an early double-bogey sent him scuffling to a 77 and he made only $28,160. Couch has 11 more starts to win a little more than $190,000 (he’s at $605,837 right now). If he does, he’s got a chance at the Tour’s Comeback Player of the Year.
17. Rivals.com on its Web site ranked the top 10 college basketball teams of the decade. Florida’s 2006 team was ranked 10th but the 2007 team came in at No. 1. Uh, weren’t they pretty much the same team? I get that it was much tougher for the ’07 team to repeat, but 10 seems a little low for a team that whacked UCLA in the title game.
18. In honor of the draft, your downloads are as follows — “Rough Draft” by One for the Kids, “We’ll Never Know” by The Drafts and “Busted” by Matchbox Twenty.
19th hole: In a column this past weekend, I wrote that the only retired number I knew of at UF was Neal Walk’s. Maybe I had just blocked from my mind the terrible tragedy of Steve Georgiadis, who passed away 20 years ago in March during a routine surgery. The former pitcher’s No. 19 has not been worn since.