Fixation on Urban Meyer Continues as Former Florida Coach Speaks Out about Aaron Hernandez

As we near the start of the 2013 college football season, many of us need to come to the realization that Urban Meyer last coached the Florida Gators in 2010. Two full seasons have passed since Meyer ‘resigned’ as the head coach of the Gators’ football program. Since that time, Jeremy Foley hired a new coach–Will Muschamp–and that coach led the Gators to a BCS bowl following the 2012 season. While that particular game started and ended on a sour note, our focus should be firmly on the man in charge of the Gators now, yet we can’t seem to let go of the fascination with the man that used to coach the Gators. And that fascination is largely a negative one.

Urban Meyer - Florida Gators

I’ll always remember Meyer fondly for two things–the 2006 national championship and the 2008 national championship. You could expand that to bringing certain players to Gainesville as well, but let’s stop with the championships because it’s difficult to accurately predict which players would have gone where had Meyer never taken the job as the head football coach at the University of Florida. Remember, some very bad coaches are great recruiters too. What Meyer did (although some would go as far as to give credit elsewhere even in these instances) is lead the program to two national titles during his six seasons at the helm. The Gators’ football program claims three titles today, two of which were won under Meyer.

There you have it; that’s where Meyer begins and ends for me these days. He was the coach for six seasons and brought two titles. The man now coaches the Ohio State Buckeyes. End of story. Or so you would think

Following the 2008 season, many fans began to sour on Meyer. Once offensive coordinator Dan Mullen left to become the head coach at Mississippi State, Meyer’s offense began to stall. He would produce a 13-1 season in 2009, but fans wondered just how good the Gators really were that year. The following season would be Meyer’s worst as a head coach. The Gators would finish 8-5 and before heading to the Outback Bowl, Meyer would announce he was resigning (for real this time).

Since he’s been gone, fans have continued to grow their hatred for the former Florida head coach. The championships do very little to put him in their favor. They feel he quit on them, on the Gators. If he had truly needed to get away from coaching for an extended period of time, fans may have accepted that, but after only one year off, he ended up in Columbus. Taking over for a program in its own period of turmoil. One season at Ohio State, one undefeated season at Ohio State, and the feelings haven’t changed–Urban Meyer has become the enemy.

The last week did absolutely nothing to get him back into the favor of Florida fans. Gators’ running backs coach Brian White was turned in for illegally ‘bumping’ a prospect–running back Curtis Samuel. The school that turned in White? You guessed it–Ohio State. But then the plot thickened. Not only was it the Buckeyes that turned in White, but it was also supposedly Urban Meyer. A ‘source’ said so, so it has to be true, right? Meyer has denied turning in White and has even gone as far to say he didn’t even know it had occurred, but those pesky sources say he was aware and, if he wasn’t the one that did it, he was at the very least in favor of it.

And we care. For reasons beyond explanation, we care. We care that a man that IS NO LONGER AFFILIATED WITH THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA supposedly (according to those ever-reliable sources) turned in a Gators’ coach for violating an NCAA recruiting rule. Why do we care? Are fans to expect better from someone they can’t stomach? And that right there is why they care. They want to continue to believe Urban Meyer is the bad guy and this story furthers their cause.

Then there’s Aaron Hernandez and a situation completely unrelated to a minor recruiting infraction. A situation in which we should actually side with Meyer. The media has been quick to place blame on what could have caused Hernandez to become the man he is today. The alleged murderer must have had something push him toward his accused actions. Something that couldn’t actually be his fault, right? Enter Urban Meyer.

Known for the high number of arrests during his time at Florida, Meyer was thought by many to care little about discipline when it came to his star players (or in some cases, all of his players). The reality could be that he was attempting to give his players second, and sometimes third, chances. There’s an argument for both sides and one that is raging on again with Hernandez not leaving the headlines in the near future. The truth could be either or a little bit of both, but to place blame on Urban Meyer, the Gators’ coaching staff, or the University of Florida is ridiculous and irresponsible (as Meyer himself has said).

Aaron Hernandez may be a very, very bad man. If he did what he is being accused of doing, Hernandez is not a good person. If that’s the case, the blame is on Hernandez himself. To say his time at Florida turned him into an (alleged) murderer is grasping at every straw you can find. Meyer didn’t cause this and the Florida Gators didn’t cause this. If Hernandez is found to be the one the did in fact kill Odin Lloyd, he did this. If we discover that he was the one that pulled the trigger, that’s a decision he made. The desire to place blame elsewhere is the media’s attempt to enhance the story to unbelievable levels. In other words, it’s a way to get more readers and more page views. It’s also a joke of the worst kind.

In most cases, we want Urban Meyer to be the bad guy. It makes it easier for us to go about our daily lives. He left when the going got tough and Florida fans don’t want to like him anymore. A source said he turned in the Gators. GREAT! Screw that guy! Ohio State loses a game in the future. WOO HOO! Go Michigan! But Aaron Hernandez? No. We must draw the line somewhere and it’s far before that point. The University of Florida isn’t to blame. The Gators’ football program isn’t the blame. Urban Meyer isn’t to blame.

SEC Coaches And Their SEC Backgrounds

SEC Media Days are currently happening. You already knew that because you are a good fan that follows everything there is to follow about the SEC. You know that during these days, we hear a lot from the head coaches at the 12 SEC programs. We hear their thoughts of the state of the SEC, what the future of the SEC might bring, and how they like SEC. Basically, it is a lot of SEC.
12 coaches in all and plenty with experience in the SEC before their current positions. Whether they were a head coach at another SEC school in the past, an assistant somewhere else within the conference, or actually played in the SEC, they have been around the conference’s block. Did you know that only three of the current 12 SEC head coaches – or 25% – are at their first SEC stop? Of the remaining nine – which would make 75% – seven are with their second SEC program in one capacity or another. The remaining two have been at three or more places with Florida’s own Will Muschamp leading the way with four stops (for those liking the percentages, that means Muschamp has played or coached at 33% of the SEC programs). The current SEC head coaches average ties to exactly two SEC schools.
I will admit that is a lot of numbers. And there are more. For instance, four coaches (33% again) have ties to the Gators. But that is enough of that. Trying to keep up with it all can leave you scratching your head and just wishing the season was here so you no longer had to find others things to fill your brain. We at The Bull Gator are here for you. To eliminate the confusion of the numbers and who coached or played where before they became the head coach at a particular SEC school, we have created the chart below. It should clear everything up and paint you a perfect picture of which SEC head coach has ties to which SEC programs. You are very welcome.

Swamp Talk: Incoming Gators And The 2012 Recruiting Class

I don’t like hearing my own voice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.

For the upcoming college football season, I’ve joined Swamp Talk – which you can find on Upon Further Review Sports. Swamp Talk covers Florida and the ins and outs of the Gators football program. As the season gets going, we’ll get into game previews, reviews, etc., but for now Wil Bradley and I are talking recruiting.
In the first episode, we discuss the new coaching staff led by Will Muschamp, we get into the incoming freshmen, and we even take a look at the Gators 2012 recruiting class. You can hear my thoughts on Urban Meyer and what was missing when Dan Mullen left Florida, but other than that, we’re moving ahead and not looking back on Swamp Talk. There’s plenty to be excited about when it comes to the Gators and Wil and I will be discussing it all from this first episode all the way through the bowl game – whatever game that might be.

Urban Meyer Resigns…Again

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

If it seems that we were at this same point not too long ago, it’s because we were.  Less than one year ago actually.  Urban Meyer resigned last December saying the toll on his health was too much and he needed to step away from the pressures of running a powerhouse program.  Now Florida is in the same situation and it’s probably for good.  Meyer has resigned. Resigning for a second time in less than a calendar year makes it seem as if it’s the real thing this time around, not for just a day or two.  Meyer is gone and someone new will be on the sidelines when the Gators open their season in 2011, someone heading up plenty of talent, but also someone that needs to provide the answers to oh so many questions.
The first reaction from Florida fans has to be disappointment.  At least it was from this Gator supporter.  We’re fresh off of a number of press conferences in which Meyer stated how committed he was to turning around the program after a disappointing 7-5 season.  He was going to focus on recruiting and rebuilding an offense that had gone stagnant.  Meyer would be there to get the ship headed in the right direction and get back to a championship level of football.  Not so fast.  Not long after making those statements, he’s gone.  Resigned.  Retired.  Quit.  Call it what you want.  Feel how you want about it.  The man is no longer the head football coach at the University of Florida.
If Meyer’s health is a factor, I’m not alone in wishing him well.  He deserves to make the decisions that are best for him and his family.  All of us do.  But if there’s another reason, I’m not sure Florida fans want to hear it.  We want to believe that he realized he’s just not in it 100% and with last year’s health scare now was the best time for him to step away and let the program rebuild itself.  Even so some will be shaken at the thought that rebuilding will happen without the man who produced two National Championships in his first four years with the program, while others are excited at the thought of a fresh start after an undesirable season in many aspects.
Besides his health and over commitment though, what could it be?  There are rumors about the Denver Broncos’ job.  It’s available and they have a backup quarterback by the name of Tim Tebow.  I can’t say I believe Meyer will be in Denver for the 2011 NFL season – he never seemed like the type that would make that move especially in such an abrupt manner – but these types of things have happened before.  Does anyone remember Nick Saban?  (That yell you just heard was Gator fans cursing me for having the gall to compare Meyer to Saban.)  It may seem highly unlikely and most of us wouldn’t want to believe it, but you just never really know.  First guess is that Meyer can’t commit to what is truly needed to run a program like Florida when even just last week he thought he could.  He had a change of heart (no play on words intended), even if that change feels like a stomach punch at the moment.
It’s hard to imagine and many don’t want to believe it, but not everyone is cut out to be Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno.  Some aren’t even cut out to be Steve Spurrier.  There are those who can only do it for so long.  Even Bowden and Paterno had the support they needed over the years increase dramatically as time went on.  Meyer may be one of those that was good at what he did, but never truly loved it.  Or, on the other side of the coin, he loved it too much.  Some live by the philosophy that if you can’t devote your all to it, then don’t do it at all.  This may be true of Meyer.  He’s a dedicated family man by all accounts and that is more important to him than his job.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s his choice to make and he’s made it.  Most of us would do the same.  To that I wish him the best and hope he can get out of life exactly what he wants from it.  His run was a great one which we won’t soon forget.
But at the moment, it’s painful.  It’s painful for many reasons.  As mentioned earlier, he won’t be there to rebuild.  2010 isn’t the ideal season to go out on.  For Gator fans, we’ve been through similar situations with Meyer and Billy Donovan and aren’t sure what to think.  Is Meyer really out?  Will we be hearing different tomorrow?  As I said, my guess is no.  This is it for Meyer at Florida, but we have seen the switch happen before.  And finally, who’s next.  If Meyer is leaving for health reasons and to be with his family, we want to think about that and not immediately turn our attention to the next in line, but as fans we can’t help it.  Our passion for our team pushes us forward.  We want to know who the next Gator head coach will be.  You want to start planning the future.  Bob StoopsDan MullenCharlie StrongChris PetersenGene Chizik?  It’s anyone’s guess, but with the timing on Meyer’s announcement, there can be no waiting.  Meyer is out and the next guy can’t be far behind.

A Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs at Florida Gators

We’ll start off with a quote from contributor and frequent commenter One Eyed Willy, which puts an interesting perspective into the Steve AddazioDan Mullen dynamic and more than likely echoes the thoughts many Florida fans currently have.

“I feel like Addazio is Mullen’s little brother who he taught how to play basketball back in the day.  Mullen taught him his signature sky hook and his behind the back dribble.  Problem is that when Addazio tries to use those moves against Mullen, big brother is already two steps ahead.  But maybe Addazio’s stupidity pays off.  Maybe Mullen thinks ‘well, if they were smart they would run a play action pass here since they have been setting it up all day long.’  And since Addazio isn’t smart he runs an option to the short side of the field that happens to work because the entire defense is thinking play action pass.  One can only wish.”
One of the biggest concerns heading into Florida’s matchup with Mississippi State is that Mullen knows the Gators.  He was there.  He helped create the offense and he is also aware of what can stop it.  Addazio was the replacement.  The next choice.  He learned it from Mullen and very rarely does the student become the teacher.
Could the Bulldogs hold the upper hand because of what they know of the way the Gators play?  It’s a valid possibility and one that has fans worried.  They aren’t confident in Addazio’s abilities – just take a look at the quote again – and are hoping that sheer luck and Mullen overthinking is what saves the day for them and gives Florida the victory.  Ah the ups and downs of being a Gator fan in 2010.
What pulls the whole thing together is how Willy ends it: “One can only wish.”  That might as well be the theme for the rest of the season for Florida.  No one is exactly sure what was expected out of the 2010 season, but for Gator fans whatever it was wasn’t enough.  A step back due to a number of new players at key positions sounds fine and reasonable, but when it actually happens fans hit the panic button.  Now Florida faces something it hasn’t had to deal with since 1999: back-to-back-to-back losses.
Breathe.  It’s okay.  Breathe.  We’ll get through this together.  That hasn’t happened yet and the Gators still have to be considered the favorites in this matchup.  The Bulldogs are an improving team and have the Mullen factor going for them, but before you grab a paper bag and have to put your head between your knees look a little deeper.
MSU has looked great in three big wins against lesser opponents.  In their last outing, they rushed for over 400 yards.  They held the ball for 39:02 of the game.  That’s scary good, especially when you consider the fact that the Gators haven’t played a linebacker for a single down for two straight games (okay, so that’s a little much, they’ve played, but they’ve been invisible).  The Bulldogs have scored 47 or more against the likes of Memphis, Alcorn State, and a Case Keenum-less Houston team.
Now look at their SEC games.  The games MSU is 1-2 in.  In losses to Auburn and LSU, the Bulldog offense only managed one touchdown in each.  In a win over Georgia, they put 24 points on the board.  Not bad in that final game, but overall the offense is averaging 12.7 points per game against SEC opponents (yes, there was another TD in there against Auburn, but the defense scored it).
So what you really have to wonder is which MSU we’ll see.  The one that is a well-oiled machine?  Or the one that struggles to put points on the board?  And then you have to ask the same question about Florida.  Do we get the Gators who looked like they had put it all together against Kentucky?  Or the Gators with a frustratingly confusing offense and a leave-the-middle-of-the-field-open defense?
If there ever was a trap game for Florida, this is it.  You see, the Gators still control their destiny in the SEC East.  Florida has two conference losses and the only teams without three already are South Carolina and Vanderbilt.  Both have one SEC loss and both still face the Gators.  But this is the game.  The game where Florida can’t experience a letdown.  It’s too hard to say if they’ll bounce back after losses to Alabama and LSU or if they’ll still experience the same issues they did for 120 minutes.
You’ve heard it a million times.  This is a good football team.  And that’s true.  This team has as much talent as any team in the country.  The problem is the utilization of that talent.  Sure John Brantley doesn’t fit perfectly into the offense, but what happened to “we tailor our offense and play calling to the personnel we have?”  Really?  You do?  Then why is Jeff Demps constantly running the ball inside the tackles and Emmanuel Moody is getting plays called that take him to the outside.  And, oh yeah, screens only work if you set them up effectively.  You can’t just keep going to them over and over and hope for them to eventually work.  Well, maybe Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio can hope, but something is not clicking and it may have to do with that fact that Percy Harvin isn’t the one catching those screen passes anymore.
There are problems and MSU knows that.  They have some of the same problems when it comes to facing the tougher teams.  Because of that, this one could really go in either direction.  The average fan doesn’t like to think a program like Florida could lose to one like Mississippi State, but the have-nots have closed the gap between them and the haves.  They have athletes as well.  Players that can step up in big moments.  Florida may be nervous going into every game the rest of this season.  They have to worry about this one first.
Get the play calling issues figured out (because if you think the yelling for Addazio’s head is loud now, just wait).  Utilize the talent you have (PLEASE!).  Occasionally simplify things (blocking schemes don’t always have to be this guy pulling here and this guy moving there, they can be just “block”).  Stretch the field (the occasional incomplete deep pass is okay as long as you’re taking a shot).  Pressure the opposing quarterback (and don’t stop).  Get the linebackers involved (they can be great).  Force turnovers (this is a big one).
It all seems awfully simple.  On paper.  In the past two games though, there have been issues with some or all of those things.  If it’s not fixed against Mississippi State, it’s anyone’s guess what the rest of the season will bring.  We’re only halfway through and I’m already out of “ughs.”
Who Do You Have?

Urban Meyer Resigns; What Happens Next?

We woke up this morning and it was still true.  Hanging on to the hope it was all just a bad dream wasn’t enough.  Nothing changed what we all found out yesterday.  Urban Meyer will be the Florida head coach for only one more game.  The Sugar Bowl and then no more.  The man that lead the Gators to two National Championships, two SEC Titles, and another SEC Championship Game appearance has 60 minutes left to roam the sidelines in orange and blue.  If you’re still shocked, you’re having the right reaction.  No one saw this coming from a mile away.

At first glance, the basics of this are eerily similar to January 4, 2002.  On that day, most college football fans were going about their day when they turned on the television, checked the latest sports reports online, or got a call from a friend with the news Steve Spurrier had resigned.  It was a stomach punch to Gator fans.  Like Meyer, they didn’t see it coming.  Unlike Meyer, Spurrier wanted to take a shot at the NFL.  He wanted to see if he could succeed at the next level.  Not long after, we would find out Spurrier would be the next head coach of the Washington Redskins.
With Meyer, the situation is different.  It’s one that has many Florida fans not nearly as concerned about the future of the program, but more about the future of their, now former, field general.  Health concerns are being cited as the reason for Meyer’s resignation.  In only a few short hours, we heard everything from serious heart problems, to stress-related issues that aren’t life threatening, to different brain problems that could be present.  We now know Meyer experienced chest pains as well as dehydration when he was taken to a hospital following the SEC Championship Game.  Beyond that, we’re still not all that sure.  At the very least, we can keep Meyer in our thoughts and hope he is able to get through whatever health issues there are.
On that note, Meyer is doing the right thing.  As much as we never wanted him to leave Florida, he had to.  There are more important things in life.  The stress and pressure put on the head coach at a major university is something none of us can really comprehend.  We all have jobs where stress is present and some of us may even have more than Meyer depending on what we do, but you never really know how anything affects another person.  The pressure on Meyer had obviously gotten to him over the years and when stress goes from emotional to physical, it’s time to make a change.
So for Meyer, next appears to still be at Florida.  He won’t have a coaching role, but early reports are saying he will remain with the program in some capacity.  We can imagine some sort of advisory or operational position.  It’s hard to say at this point, but Meyer appears to want to remain involved.  Good news for those not wanting to see Meyer leave completely, although there should be hope he doesn’t overdo it.  Meyer’s health and his family need to be his number one concern and if he can keep it that way with reduced responsibilities, great.  If he can’t, then he needs to step aside completely.
Although hard to think about the football side of this, the program will move on.  It has to.  The unfortunate side effect of jolting news such as this is that business must go on.  Florida needs a head coach.  They need someone to continue recruiting.  They need to immediately start thinking about 2010.  Who is on the short list?  How will Jeremy Foley and company proceed?  What are recruits thinking?  Could any current players leave?  Does this impact the decision a number of juniors have to make?  There are no answers yet.  Thoughts, yes.  Answers, no.
Starting with potential replacement candidates, you’ve already heard a number of names and will probably continue to hear the following: former Meyer coordinators Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong, former Florida assistant and current Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Arkansas head man Bobby Petrino, Boise State leader Chris Petersen, and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.  You don’t have to be happy about any of them, but at the same time, don’t be surprised if one of them is the next Gator head coach.
Mullen and Strong are up there for obvious reasons.  They both have coached under Meyer and the past few years have been two of the hotter names among assistants across the nation.  Mullen had some success in his first season at Mississippi State and appears to be building something there.  Strong is headed to Louisville, but reports state he has only signed an offer sheet at this point, not a contract.  Although unlikely he won’t end up in red and white, it’s not out of the question his Louisville stint could be very short-lived.
Stoops may be the gold standard.  He has the most experience and has had the most success of any of the names being mentioned.  Stoops has been on the short list each of the last two times Florida needed a head coach.  Rumors even had him saying he would like to coach the Gators someday, but the timing just wasn’t right.  He would bring a 116-29 career record with him.  Of the other names, Petrino would seem the most unlikely, and the one Florida fans would want the least.  Offensive genius has been said in the same sentence as Petrino, but he isn’t exactly the sought after name he was a few years ago.  However, his name will be mentioned because it was the last time the Gators needed a head coach.  As for the other two, Petersen will be brought up with any opening at a major program (a 48-4 record over four years will do that) and Whittingham coached under Meyer at Utah and followed him as the head coach there.  Whoever it is, rest easy Florida, there are some very good candidates out there.  None of them are Meyer, but this isn’t a Ron Zook situation either (you know his name had to be mentioned sooner or later).
As for recruits and players, well, who really knows?  A number of recruits have come out and said they are still Gators.  A number have also said they have to see what happens next.  And even more aren’t saying anything yet.  We could see some current players look into transferring, although it’s hard to imagine the Florida program falling off the map.  The Gators were already preparing for a transition year in 2010.  This could definitely amplify that, but those that think Florida is done need a reality check.  And if Meyer is still involved with the program, recruits and players will both know that and be aware that his mark will still be felt.  Those considering leaving early for the NFL, we have to think their decision was just made for them.  Why go through the transition to a new coach, and possibly new philosophy, if you have a chance at being a relatively decent draft pick now?  You don’t.  You say thank you to Meyer, the rest of the staff, the university, and the fans and move on.
So there it is.  It wasn’t a bad dream.  It’s very real.  On January 1, 2010, we will see Urban Meyer coach his last game with the Florida Gators.  We’ll wonder what happens next, but at the same time we’ll keep Meyer and his family in our thoughts and hope all is well with him and know he made the right decision.

First Thoughts: Florida Gators vs. Cincinnati Bearcats, Sugar Bowl

So it’s not exactly where we as Florida fans want the Gators to be, but it sure as hell beats the Outback Bowl (which I’ve been to way too many of in recent years).  If you can’t play for the national championship, you might as well head to a BCS bowl with a chance to knock off one of the few remaining undefeateds in Cincinnati.
The biggest story leading up to this game will of course be that this will be the last time we get to see Tim Tebow play college football.  There are only somewhere around 60 more plays in which #15 will be on the field.  Like him or not, he is one of the greatest to play the game.  People tend to get upset at Tebow himself for how the media portrays him.  He’s a Heisman Trophy finalist again and somehow that’s his fault.  I’ll never understand that, but then again I had an extreme dislike for J.J. Reddick when he was at Duke for no good reason either.  No one is completely sure what Tebow will do at the next level or even what position he’ll play, but take in this final game for what is it.  One more chance to see one of the greatest in the history of college football and one Gator fans will surely miss.
You’re also going to hear a lot about Urban Meyer being a Cincinnati alum, but that really doesn’t affect much.  He has a great amount of respect for the school and for the program Brian Kelly has been able to build in a very short time.  You’ll hear that a lot and it’s a very good thing.  These two coaches seem to have a good deal of admiration for one another and are both happy to be in this game (even if deep down inside they’d both rather be playing in that other game a few days later).
Unless something is finalized before then, and even if it is, you’re also going to hear about two other schools not involved in this contest: Notre Dame and Louisville.  If Charlie Strong ends up being named the Cardinals’ next head coach, he could still run the Florida defense in the Sugar Bowl.  After all, Dan Mullen did is last season.  Of course that was the national title game.  Louisville may want Strong to come in immediately if he does in fact end up being their choice.  And on the other side, you have Kelly and the Fighting Irish.  Meyer to Notre Dame is a dead issue for the time being.  That’s not to say he might not end up there sometime down the road, but right now, he’s staying put.  So that puts Kelly as the one that could be on the move.
This game is really a defining moment for both teams.  For the Bearcats, they can prove their worth.  Unfortunately for Cincinnati, they were in a situation this season where they really couldn’t win.  Too much had to happen for them to get a realistic shot at the national title.  They weren’t in a position Alabama, Texas, or Florida was where they just had to win out and were almost guaranteed a shot.  For the Gators, it’s erasing memories of the SEC Championship Game.  Florida has had a very successful season and can put an exclamation point on it by ending it all with a win.  We already tend to forget exactly how good Alabama was last season due to what they followed up their SECCG loss with.  The Gators don’t want the same to happen to them.

Morning Reading: Dan Mullen’s Offense and Mississippi State

With the first BCS Standings being released, there’s a lot of debate over who should be #1.  The AP Poll (which doesn’t equate into the standings) says it should be Alabama.  The ones that count say Florida.  Regardless, any team outside of the SEC should really just be gunning for the #3 spot currently held by Texas.  #1 versus #2 couldn’t matter less when both teams are from the same conference (well, at least from a conference that has a title game).  They will eventually get the chance to determine which one of them belongs up there and which one doesn’t.  But #3 is a battle.  Odds are, if the Longhorns keep winning, they hold on to the spot.  But there are plenty of teams right behind them ready to jump in if they falter.
Although it may seem like a tough road, Dan Mullen appears to be making some progress at Mississippi State.  The former Florida offensive coordinator has the Bulldogs at 3-4, or one game better than they were at this point in 2008.  Although MSU has compiled more losses than wins, the Bulldogs are beating the teams they should and have fought hard in many of the losses.
What’s most impressive is the change in the offense.  While the passing game produces largely the same results, and interceptions are still an issue, the rushing game has been transformed.  After only seven games, the Bulldogs have rushed for 1,533 yards.  To put that into perspective, in the four years prior to 2009, MSU only surpassed that rushing total once OVER THE ENTIRE SEASON!  In 2008, the Bulldogs had three players total 20 or more carries.  In 2009, they already have six.
The differences are making an impact.  MSU currently ranks 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game.  Far from typical for the Bulldogs.  And despite a big loss to Auburn, MSU is staying in most games until the very end.
As the offense continues to improve, Dan Mullen will be recognized and recruits will come.  MSU may never be a national power (they face a battle every week in the SEC), but with a potent offense they should compete.  It’ll always be tougher for the second tier SEC teams than the second tier teams in most other conferences, but an upset here and there and you can find yourself in Atlanta at the end of the season.  Maybe not this year, but it could happen in the future.

Morning Reading: Charlie Strong’s Resume Continues to Get Stronger

I’m a TV sleeper. You know the kind of person that has to fall asleep with the television on. From time to time this causes problems because I become engrossed in something and end up losing sleep because I just couldn’t miss a Different Strokes marathon. But I may have found a cure. Last night while flicking through the channels, I came across the UFL. That’s right, another new football league. We might as well do the list: USFL, XFL, AAFL, even the Arena Football League eventually met its demise. The UFL is a decent idea – shorter schedule during the NFL season so players are ready if NFL teams need to fill roster spots – but these leagues always miss the point. People don’t care. Count me among them and now I have something that puts me to sleep within minutes.
I would be perfectly happy if Charlie Strong remained Florida’s defensive coordinator forever. Any Gator fan would. Besides the secondary debacle of 2007 and some questionable years during the previous regime, Strong is as talented a coordinator as they come (we’ll go ahead and blame 2007 on youth and the pre-Urban Meyer era on that guy Illinois will be firing any minute now). He’s fired up, passionate, knows how to game plan, recruits as if committing to Florida means you’ll be bringing peace to the world, and is on the short list of every athletic director looking for a head coach.
What’s that? He’s not considered for most head coach openings??? You’ve got to be kidding! The race side of this discussion is always brought up even though it shouldn’t be. So Strong is black. So what. If he were purple with green stripes it wouldn’t change the fact that he’s a great coordinator and definitely qualified at this point to be considered for virtually any opening in the nation.
What made former Florida assistant “Iron” Mike Locksley more qualified? What made current “head coach in waiting” Jimbo Fisher more qualified? What made Dan Mullen more qualified? Nothing. Strong has experienced success similar to all of those individuals. But he’s passed over for every opening. Something’s not right. You can say Strong being a black man is the reason, but at this point, you’d have to think some athletic director out there was able to look past that. Is there something else? Is Strong a bad interview? Does he not play nice with others?

Whatever the case, Strong will eventually get what he deserves and it may come soon. After Florida’s performance against LSU, people are taking notice again of his impact on the Gator defense. Where he’ll end up is a mystery, but Strong’s next job will be as a head coach somewhere. What about South Carolina, where in 1999 Strong became the SEC’s first black coordinator? When Spurrier steps down, the Gamecocks would be crazy not to consider him.  (H/T: One Eyed Willy)

Arkansas @ Florida and Florida @ Mississippi State Game Times Announced

Arkansas will bring it’s lots of offense with little or no defense attack to Gainesville to face Florida at 3:30 on Saturday. The game – homecoming for the Gators – will be televised on CBS. While 3:30 is not as bad as 12:00, those of you who live in the state like I do can imagine how hot it’ll be. Middle of October and we’re still in the 90s. AWESOME!

On October 24th, Florida travels to Mississippi State to face former offensive chief Dan Mullen. That game will kick off at 7:30 and be televised on either ESPN or ESPN2. The exact station will be decided after this weekend’s games. Auburn at LSU will get whichever one the Gators and Bulldogs don’t.

And finally, it looks like 12:30 will be the kick off time on November 21st when Florida hosts FIU. Oddly enough, the game will be on pay-per-view. I could’ve sworn we were told this would no longer happen. Finding a bar for that one it is I guess.