Florida Gators Rise To No. 14 In Both Polls; We Just Might Have Something Here

The Florida Gators have moved up to No. 14 in both major polls. The Gators can attribute the move to a second half against the Tennessee Volunteers that was a thing of beauty. Starting the season at No. 23, the Gators have showed enough improvement over the first three games to warrant a top-15 ranking by the voters. Is this rise a sign of things to come? Or simply a matter of an early schedule that doesn’t scare many?

This time around, let’s plant ourselves firmly in the glass-half-full camp. Over the first three games, the Florida Gators have shown the world enough to lead us to believe this train is headed in the right direction. Jeff Driskel’s passer efficiency rating is 30 points higher than John Brantley’s was last season. Mike Gillislee has lived up to his lofty goals. Jordan Reed is starting to look like he could be an NFL tight end. And the defense is playing the final 30 minutes of games like it’s the last time they’ll ever set foot on a field. Things aren’t perfect, otherwise we wouldn’t have to marvel at halftime adjustments, but they may just be better than we thought they would be two weeks ago.

Take Driskel for example. Heading into the season opener against Bowling Green, the Gators were a joke to many because they hadn’t chosen a starting quarterback. Driskel got the nod (sort of, there was that whole first play thing) in the first quarter and came out for the second half as the Gators’ quarterback. He was named the starter for game two and there are few out there now questioning that decision. We’ll play the numbers game quickly:

143.0 – 166.3 – 195.0

That’s the progression of Driskel’s efficiency rating over the first three games. Even that 143.0 against Bowling Green is higher than Brantley’s 2011 (140.8). Driskel currently settles in at 170.2 on the season. He’s completing 71.2% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. Sure, he’s been sacked nine times, but one of those three games was against the team that lead the nation in sacks in 2011 – Texas A&M. Even in that aspect, he’s improving. Driskel appeared much more aware of the defense, the sidelines, of everything against Tennessee.

The Gators need more than a solid to good to great quarterback to lead them to more wins; they need an entire team. There are improvements to be made and penalties to disappear. There are coverages to improve and penalties to disappear. There are blocking schemes to get down to a science and penalties to disappear. There are crucial third downs to stop and penalties to disappear. And then there are the penalties that need to disappear.

It’s easy to get overly positive after a quick string of victories early in the season. Let’s not kid ourselves though, we aren’t thinking national championship or even SEC title at this point. We’re thinking of Kentucky and for a few days at least smiling about the future. There’s promise in this team and hope of renewed fire. The second half against Tennessee was one that allowed those of us fans to sit back and enjoy Florida football. The tile in front of my television thanked me as, for even just a few minutes, the pacing stopped. There’s plenty of season left, but, for now, there’s a little more excitement back in the air.

Football Recap: Florida Gators 27 – Bowling Green Falcons 14

We’ll run through the quick recap and start with a positive: it was a win. Is it time to just start cheering for wins and not have a desire for any style points? The Florida Gators defeated the Bowling Green Falcons 27-14 in the season opener for both teams. The Gators won; that is true. Otherwise, it felt like a deflating victory that didn’t answer many questions.

We know the name of next week’s starting quarterback. It’s Jeff Driskel. Driskel and Jacoby Brissett took their turns in the first half and Driskel came out on top, leading the Gators in the second half. There were moments of joy and moments of doubt. This we do know: Driskel needs to become more aware of the field. Be that making throws on the run, hitting receivers in stride, or knowing where the sidelines are. Overall, his performance was serviceable and those on Team Driskel are happy he’s the guy coming out of the first game.

The defense looked like it can be a good one and even a great one. It also looked like tackling from the secondary needs to improve. Marcus Roberson is a dangerous cover corner and Jaylen Watkins had his moments, but they and their unit mates need to wrap up the first time and not allow any additional yards. The first hit must result in the ball carrier hitting the ground. Among things we like from the defense was the pressure from the line. During passing plays, the line got into the backfield. During some running plays, it was a different story. The defense was solid, but can clearly get to the level of being an impenetrable rock. There’s something special there that comes out in bursts. We need it to be apparent on every down.

And then there were the penalties. And the penalties. And the penalties. And the penalties. They need to not just be eliminated, but whatever stronger word for “gotten rid of” we can find.

The star was Mike Gillislee. His lofty prediction for the 2012 season he would have doesn’t seem so lofty now. He’s good and can carry the offense. Gillislee is cleary the primary running back and we’re all okay with that. The Gators will rely on him to continue to put out performances like that. He’s gets our immediate reaction game ball and there’s a good chance he’ll hold on to it when we reevaluate the game in a day or two.

For now, the Gators have won and the rest of college football Saturday continues. It’s been a while since we’ve been calm watching Florida games. Every time a pass play develops, we sit on the edge of our seats and it’s been that way for two-plus seasons. That may not end anytime soon and it does make us all nervous. But we can relax for a few days at least. Game one is over; game two is on the horizon. More analysis will come in the next few days, but at this moment your to-do list should include having a great long weekend. It was rough at times, there were signs of maybe a little progress during others; all-in-all, Go Gators!

Football Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Bowling Green Falcons – September 1, 2012

Football is back. More important, Florida Gators football is back. We were patient – as much so as we could be. We waited and waited and waited until we couldn’t wait anymore. The Gators are finally back in action today, home at The Swamp hosting the Bowling Green Falcons. Pre-outcome, it’s a very good day. A great one. Post-outcome, we hope for the same. College football and our beloved orange and blue are back.

The Facts

Opponent: Bowling Green Falcons
When: Saturday, September 1, 2012 – 3:30 PM (Eastern)
Where: Gainesville, FL
Television/Radio: ESPN2, ESPN3.com, Gator Sports Network, GatorVision
Records: Season opener.
Rankings: Florida: 23/23, Bowling Green: NR
Current Streak: Season opener.
Point Spread: Florida -29
Over/Under: 48
Calculated Score: Florida 38-9/39-10
Points Scored: Oh yeah, season opener.
Points Allowed: IT’S THE SEASON OPENER!

The Preview

It’s year two for head coach Will Muschamp. This is the one that could make or break his career as the leader of the Florida Gators. Muschamp needs his team to take a step forward from 2011. Most coaches get three seasons these years and that’s the guess with Muschamp, but another rough go of it in 2012 and athletic director Jeremy Foley could begin a new search. The record doesn’t have to be perfect, but the play on the field has to be close. The Gators have stumbled through the last two seasons and that’s more than enough for the school, the coaches, the players and the fans. This is a defining season for more than just Muschamp, but for the entire program.

The quarterbacks are the biggest topic of discussion. Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will each get a quarter during the first half. The rest of the game will be figured out from there. This game may or may not give us the answer of who will carry the Gators through the rest of the season. It’s a true QB battle and one carrying into the regular season. We aren’t the only ones watching with anticipation. Everyone wants to know how good the Gators will be in 2012 and if both or either of the quarterbacks can bring a spark back to the offense.

Of course, that also means the running game has to improve and the wide receivers need to step up (well, more than step up). There’s talent at running back, wide receiver and tight end, but it’s largely unproven. With plenty of questions, we hope Saturday brings answers. What will Brent Pease’s system bring? Can Mike Gillislee really rush for 1,500 yards and cross the goal line 24 times? Can the Gators find a go-to receiver? Can the converted defensive linemen contribute at tight end? Can the offensive line hold up and stay healthy? So many questions and the answers will soon start pouring in.

Defense could be what gets us all the most excited about this season. Plenty of the “experts” believe the Gators have one of the nation’s best defenses. We like to hear that, but we’d love to see it. The defense was the strength last season and kept the Gators in some games, but when you post a final record of 7-6, it’s hard to be too excited about the play of any unit. Regardless, the defensive talent (and potential) keeps us going. This could be a special season for the Gators on that side of the ball. There are, however, to big musts: LIMIT MISTAKES and CREATE TURNOVERS. The Gators need to do both to truly move to the elite level.

And then there’s special teams. Many think this unit is the best in the country. The Gators have one of the nation’s top kickers in Caleb Sturgis and most dynamic kick returners in Andre Debose. If the punt team can get a feel to it of the Eric Wilbur and Chas Henry days, things could be special. And then there are the blocks. Under Urban Meyer (GASP! I said his name!), the Gators brought the pressure time after time, to great results for the most part. A block can change the entire outcome of a game. We know this. We’ve experienced it.

We’re getting close. The game is mere hours away. Enjoy the day. Enjoy the season. Enjoy the Florida Gators.

Florida Gators Hire an Assistant Coach, Possibly Lose Another

When Florida lost Charlie Strong to Louisville, the Gators didn’t just lose their defensive coordinator, they also lost their linebackers coach.  It looks like Florida has filled at least one of those openings with the hiring of D.J. Durkin to coach the linebackers and special teams.  The defensive coordinator position is, of course, still up in the air.
Durkin comes to Florida from Stanford where he coached defensive ends and special teams.  He’s yet another assistant with previous links to head coach (to be I guess) Urban Meyer.  After playing defensive end at Bowling Green from 1997-2000, Durkin joined Meyer’s staff as a graduate assistant for two years.  In 2001, he was part of a staff that produced the MAC’s top defense.
In 2003, Durkin went to Notre Dame for two years where he continued his work as a graduate assistant before returning to Bowling Green.  During his second stint with the Falcons, Durkin coached defensive ends in 2005 and linebackers and special teams in 2006.  In 2007, he left for Stanford where he spent the last three seasons leading defensive ends and special teams.
Durkin seems like a great addition to the staff.  He’s a young coach with a lot of fire who has worked his way up the ladder fairly quickly.  He inherits a linebacker unit rich with talent despite the departure of leaders Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper.  As for special teams (which Meyer oversaw himself), Durkin will have his work cut out for him not having Brandon James in a Gator uniform for the first time in four seasons.  The return jobs will be wide open when spring practices begin.
On the other side of the ball, rumors are spreading rapidly that running backs coach Kenny Carter may be out.  Carter is rumored to have told Florida commit Mack Brown that he is moving on for another opportunity.  Immediate speculation has Carter joining Strong at Louisville, but at the moment nothing seems definite.  With the Carter’s possible departure and the rumors surrounding cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford, the Gators could be looking for more assistant coaches very soon.
 

Central Michigan’s Zack Azzanni Joins the Florida Gators’ Staff

Wide receiver coach leaves.  Wide receiver coach comes.  And just like that Florida has replaced LSU-bound Billy Gonzales with Zach Azzanni who has Central Michigan in the rearview mirror.  CENTRAL MICHIGAN?!?  What in the world?!?  Hold on there just one second.  Bear with me on this one…
A Central Michigan alum, Azzanni was a graduate assistant under Urban Meyer during his two years as the head coach at Bowling Green.  In 2003, he became the Falcons wide receivers coach and held that position until 2006.  At Bowling Green, Azzanni coached Charles Sharon who, in addition to having the dreaded last name that sounds like a woman’s first name problem, holds just about every important Falcon receiving record you can imagine.  At CMU, Azzanni coached two of the best receivers in the school’s history in Bryan Anderson and Antonio Brown.  Brown has had at least 93 catches in each of the last three seasons and he and Anderson combined for 188 receptions in 2007.
What Azzanni brings to Florida is an understanding of the offense run under Meyer.  He’s worked in an offensive scheme where the quarterback has more than the average numbers of runs designed for him (although that may not be the case with John Brantley assuming QB duties in 2010).  And he’s been part of an offense that has no problem putting the ball in the air.
So before you wonder why the new wide receiver coach didn’t come with a bigger school name on his resume, realize Meyer knows Azzanni and is very comfortable with what he can bring to the Gators.
 

Lane Kiffin is Better than Urban Meyer

In a comment on this site, I was recently told that Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin is better than Florida head coach Urban Meyer. At first I was shocked to the very core of my soul. There was no way a claim so carelessly made could be believable. Kiffin better than Meyer?!? Surely you jest! I might as well have been told the sky wasn’t blue!

But as any good fan would do, I calmed myself down and thought “maybe this person is on to something. Maybe I’ve been so blinded by my own Gator bias that I wasn’t seeing straight.” So I took the time to painstakingly research the facts, and you know what? It’s true! 100%! You are now saying to yourself there’s no way, but here are the reasons why Lane is better than Urban. All verified using the internet as a reliable source:

His wife. I’m a big fan of Shelley Meyer. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet her, but she seems like a stand-up lady. She’s got personality. Isn’t bad to look at. And seems to absolutely love the fact her husband is the head coach at the University of Florida. But she doesn’t hold a candle to Layla Kiffin. I mean WOW! Gorgeous and a former Gator. How can you go wrong with that? Kiffin clearly wins this one by killing two birds with one stone. Beauty and Florida ties.

Age. In the game of life, the winner dies last. I don’t care how many toys you have, if you’re six feet under, those still standing upright got you beat. Well, Urban turned 45 this year, while Lane only clocked in at 34. Meyer is clearly an old man when compared to Kiffin and it’s not even close. 11 years is an eternity. Again Lane takes home the trophy. Baring a catastrophic accident, Kiffin will be around longer for all of our enjoyment.

Losses. As a college coach, Meyer has 17 losses. Kiffin has none. Zero. ZILCH! That’s as good as you can get people. Urban has tasted defeat 17 times, while Lane laughs at the prospect of losing. Every other coach should model themselves after the man who has yet to drop a single game. If the goal is to not lose games, then Kiffin holds the advantage. National championships or not, 17 losses is unacceptable when compared to zero.

Climbing the corporate coaching ladder. It took Meyer 15 years in coaching to get his first gig as the head man. And it was Bowling Green. No offense to any Falcon fans out there, but it isn’t exactly big conference football. Kiffin, on the other hand, only took 10 years. And his first head job was in the NFL. That’s the pinnacle. The pros. The big leagues. Not just anybody gets those jobs. Add that to the fact that Kiffin is 11 years younger and you have a winner.

Nu’Keese Richardson. I didn’t know this, but apparently Richardson was committed to attend Florida originally. Well then, Kiffin got hired at Tennessee and was able to convince Richardson to change his mind and become a Vol. He actually pulled him away from Meyer. To me that means he’s the better recruiter. Kids NEVER change their mind during the recruiting process. It’s unheard of. But that Lane was able to “steal” Richardson from Urban proves he is victorious yet again.

I was going to continue to conduct further research on this, but I believe five verified reasons are proof enough. I mean really, what more do you need? Ladies and gentlemen, Lane Kiffin is better than Urban Meyer.