We’ve Made It to August; College Football (and Hope) Commence

We wait far too long for college football to begin. The fan starts to wait the moment the national championship game comes to a conclusion. There are other sports to fill our time, but they don’t fill the void. They are stopgaps and as much as we love them, we always come back to college football. (Unless you’re a college basketball fan first, but then I can’t explain your existence.)

Jeff Driskel Florida Gators

There are countdowns upon countdowns–100 days, 50 days, 1 month. The real one begins in August. Fall camps have started and games are on the horizon. It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year. Or it would be if it weren’t for this infernal heat. I love Florida and all it has to offer (even its copious amounts of crazy), but even I have my limits when having to walk outside in a button-down and khakis. My Canadian blood curses me every time. (Insert obligatory Jesse Palmer mention here.)

So here we are–August. It’s full of practice reports, predictions, trash talk, and apparently appendectomies. You don’t want to enter August with the news that one of your players will miss a few weeks of practice due to the removal of his appendix. You don’t want that player to be your starting quarterback. You don’t want the quarterback to be the only one on the roster with experience because that other guy now calls one of the Carolinas home.

It’s an entirely different article in itself, but this is the year of Jeff Driskel. Not in a year of Chris Leak sort of way, as Leak had on his way to a national championship in his final season. But in the way that Driskel could be made or broken during this, his junior season. Driskel could be on his way to that Chris Leak year. He could also go the way of a, let’s say, Terry Dean. For those keeping score at home, 2006 Leak > 1993 Dean. So maybe just maybe it is in a year of Chris Leak sort of way, or maybe Driskel is one season away from that 2006-type run. On the other side of the coin, maybe there is a youngster in the wings waiting to pounce and take over.

(To be clear, Dean was not a bad quarterback by any stretch of the imagination. However, there was someone else on the depth chart that became the legend Dean did not. Driskel could end up with a historical significance very close to that of Dean’s–a serviceable QB on teams with heaps of talent. That’s not an awful thing, but it’s also not what we want and most likely not what Driskel wants. While the Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow spots are reserved for, well, Wuerffel and Tebow, Driskel has a shot at putting himself alongside someone like a Leak. It’ll take a leap of sorts and even more than the heaps of talent the Florida Gators may already possess, but let’s be clear that 2013 Driskel would much rather resemble 2006 Leak than 1993, or even 1994, Dean. It’s more than just the individual numbers, it’s the end result of the season.)

There will be others to watch on offense, and defense as well. The Gators are sure to produce a star or two or ten, but there is also the opportunity for disappointment. We don’t take disappointment well here in Gator Nation. We never have, but we used to be better at it. Actually, that’s not true at all. The truth is that we used to be quieter about it. All fanbases did. Before the Internet explosion and message boards and Facebook and Twitter, we complained to our close personal circle of family, friends, etc. Today, we live in a world in which we complain to everyone. Disappoint came against Georgia and again against Louisville last season, and we let the world know about it.

It could come again this season. While an undefeated season is a possibility, it’s not likely. I would venture a guess that no one out there fully expects an unblemished record. As much as we all may hope for it, we are realistic and think 11-2 is entirely possible again. If those two at the end of that record come, you’ll be sure we’ll talk about them. There’s nothing wrong with that–every fanbase does it (even if at times it feels like we may do it more)–but for now we ignore the possible disappointment. We ignore it because it’s August and we have hope.

Hope is a dangerous thing in sports, but it’s also what makes a fan a fan. Every season I have hope; some seasons more than others, but hope all the same. But look at it this way for a moment: I was 33 years old at the end of the 2012 season. In those 33 years, the Gators won three national championships. Not a bad percentage at all (unless you’re Alabama of recent years), but three ultimate prizes in 33 years. In that same time, FSU took home only two trophies and Tennessee managed only one. Yet, we fans have hope.

Hope despite a quarterback with a future that could go in either direction. Hope despite a largely new running game (although, let’s be honest, we’re all pretty excited about it). Hope despite a group of receivers that need to step up possibly more than any other unit on the entire squad. Hope despite plenty of new starters and faces on defense. Hope despite a talented kick returner lost for the season.

I, personally, hope for Driskel’s progression. I hope for big things from Matt Jones and an explosive rookie campaign from Kelvin Taylor. I hope for a go-to receiver or two. I hope for a dependable offensive line. I hope for a frightening defensive line. I hope for consistent tackling from the linebackers. I hope for All-American seasons from Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy. I hope to finally be able to spell Loucheiz correctly on the first try. I hope for 10 wins, at least. I hope for an SEC Championship Game appearance. I hope for a season to be proud of. I hope. We all do.

It’s August 21, Do You Know Who Your Starting Quarterback Is?

The Florida Gators don’t. Or if they do, they’re not telling us.

Speculation has reached new levels as everyone eagerly awaits the announcement of the starting quarterback. For years, it has been a clean handoff. From Chris Leak to Tim Tebow to John Brantley, it was obvious (painfully at times) who the next starter would be. That appeared to be the case when Jeff Driskel originally committed to Florida; one day the job would be his. Then Jacoby Brissett committed as well, opening up a flood of questions for when the time came.

That time has come and, if you’re like me and subscribe to far too many Google Alerts, your inbox is full with speculation. Until Will Muschamp announces his choice (or Brent Pease’s choice, depending on what you want to believe) we’ll have to answer the question ourselves.

So who’s your guy? Which one do you want to see take the first snap? The majority of snaps? Who you got?

Who do you have starting at QB for the Gators?

    Jeff Driskel (42%, 48 Votes)

    Jacoby Brissett (31%, 35 Votes)

    Tim Tebow (12%, 14 Votes)

    The Combo with Fries and a Coke (12%, 13 Votes)

    Just Run the Ball (2%, 2 Votes)

    A Player to be Named (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 113

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Chris Leak To Host College Football Radio Show On Sirius XM

Former Florida Gators quarterback has signed on for a second job. In addition to playing that football thing in the AFL, Leak will now co-host College Sports Coast-To-Coast on Sirius XM. Leak will appear with co-host Chris Childers from 7:00-10:00pm on multiple nights during the week. The show can be heard on College Sports Nation which is available on Sirius XM 91.

It’s unclear how polished (I guess that’s the right word) Leak will be on the show, but being a fan of the former Gators QB, I’ll definitely give listening a try. As someone that regularly changes his listening lineup (read: I have a short attention span), I’ll give anything at least a shot or two and this time around it doesn’t hurt that Leak is involved.

The only real downside is that this particular timeslot isn’t ideal if you live on the East Coast. While no one expected someone with limited (or no) real radio experience to be given one of the more coveted timeslots, 7:00-10:00 at night is a rough spot to build listeners.

Chris Leak Signs With AFL’s Orlando Predators

Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak is back in the AFL after signing with the Orlando Predators. Leak began the season with the Jacksonville Sharks, but was released earlier in April. He could find himself as the starting quarterback for the Predators as early as Saturday.

Leak started a game earlier this season with Jacksonville and performed admirably. He was replaced in the next contest though and was later suspended for showing up to a team meeting late. Leak was then released, leading to his pick up by the Predators.

Florida fans will never forget Leak as a national championship winning quarterback. He came to the Gators with all the hype in the world and despite early ups and downs and numerous coaching changes, finished his career on a high note as the MVP of the title game, which would also be his final performance in a Florida uniform.

Leak continues to keep the dream of playing professional football alive and we wish him luck in his latest venture.

Heroes Of The Series: Reggie Nelson – Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Heroes of the Series explores some of the stars of past. These players either excelled for Florida or the Gators’ opponent of the week – in this case Alabama. They may have been the star of the game or provided a spark that shifted momentum. They might be remembered for their entire careers or just for that single game. To get you riled up and more ready than you already are for the week’s matchup, it’s a two-part series with part one covering an opposing player and part two highlighting a Gator. For part one highlighting Freddie Milons performance in the 1999 SEC Championship Game, click here.

On September 30, 2006, Alabama visited The Swamp in a game that quickly became a classic. The Gators had jumped out to a 4-0 start in Urban Meyer’s second year and the Crimson Tide were 3-1 under then head coach Mike Shula. Alabama would take a 10-7 lead into the locker room at the half, but the second frame would be all about Florida.

With 6:47 left in the fourth quarter, Gator quarterback Chris Leak hit Dallas Baker on a 21-yard touchdown pass that would stretch the Florida lead to 21-13. Still very much in it, Alabama began to drive down the field. Fortunately for the Gators, the drive wouldn’t last very long.

Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson completed his first two passes of the drive for a total of 17 yards, moving Alabama to their own 37. After an incomplete pass and a four-yard run by Tide running back Kenneth Darby, Wilson hit D.J. Hall for 13 yards on third and six. Now in Florida territory, Alabama looked ready to make things interesting.

Wilson’s first pass on the Gators side of the field would fall incomplete. His second wouldn’t, but it definitely didn’t go to the receiver he intended. Florida All-American safety Reggie Nelson would do what he did best (well, one of the things he did best). Nelson read Wilson and jumped in front of the pass. 70 yards later he would finally fall to the ground, but not before getting to the end zone. That would be it for Alabama. 28-13, the Gators would hold on and get the win to improve to 5-0. A few months later, Nelson would help Florida win its second national championship.

Nelson provided plenty of must-see moments for Florida over his career. In 2006, he would become a consensus first-team All-American and turn himself into a first-round NFL Draft pick. After three years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Nelson was close to being labeled a bust by many that expected much more out of the safety. New life with the Cincinnati Bengals was the goal and early in the 2011 season he seems to have found it. Nelson will always remain a TBG favorite and this great moment will live on in Gator history.

Friday Night Links: Recruiting, The SEC, John Brantley, And More

Back because we do have some consistency around here. Not a lot and nothing I would ever recommend you put money on, but some from time to time when the mood strikes us right. This is one of those times. We’re less than two weeks away from the start of the 2011 college football season, which means there’s giddiness all around. You should start practicing this weekend if you haven’t done so already. It’s the perfect opportunity for you to get all the kinks out of your game day routine. Do it now before it’s too late and you’re being yelled at by your friends because you forgot the ice on the first real Saturday. And they will yell. And ice is not even the most important item of the tailgate. Don’t disappoint them. Don’t disappoint yourself.

Let the links begin…
Recruiting roundtable? Don’t mind if I do. (Rivals)
Some SEC forecasts; among which we hear that John Brantley will improve, but Florida fans will cheer louder for Jeff Driskel. Sound familiar? Chris Leak and Tim Tebow?  (Dr. Saturday)

One of the mysteries of this recruiting cycle: Nelson Agholor. (Big County Preps)

Tuesday Morning Quarterback has returned, which means there is a lot of reading in your future…minus the parts you really don’t get or the ones that don’t interest you. (Tuesday Morning Quarterback)
A Gators’ video preview. (SEC Digital Network)

And some Will Muschamp to go right along with it. (Gator Vision)

Terrelle Pryor suspended for the same number of NFL games as he would have been for Ohio State games…okay. (SB Nation)
Yes, the Gators have played schools in the state of Florida not named FSU or Miami. (Alligator Army)
You can decide what you think SMU’s new locker room looks like. (Lost Lettermen)
There is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming weeks. One of them is high school football. (Rivals)

Got through that without a single link to that situation involving that school and that booster. You know the one I’m talking about. You didn’t need links from me to find out about it for the first time.

The EA Sports NCAA Football Collection

Once upon a time, I might have considered myself a “gamer.” That is not as true anymore, but I still purchase one game every year without fail – EA Sports NCAA Football. With the addition of NCAA Football 12 to the family, I now have 20 in the collection all the way back to Bill Walsh College Football. Some will find this to have an incredibly high nerd quotient. Others will believe it to be cool. I am pretty sure it is a little bit of both, but I am fine with that.
A few things you will notice:
1. None of the Sega Genesis ones have cases. I have absolutely no idea where these went over the years. All of them are missing, yet I still have PGA Tour II box and all.

2. 2004, 2005, and 09 all look better with Florida players on the cover. Guss Scott, Chris Leak, and Percy Harvin were the choices.

3. There is both an XBOX and an XBOX 360 version of the 07 game. The XBOX version had spring drills, it was a must buy at the time. I do not know why. I actually also had the PSP version for a day before I discovered the ball carrier glitch. The glitch would occur every time you ran the ball. You were marked down where you were first touched, not where you were tackled. So yes, for a brief period of time I had three versions of the same game. I am completely aware there is something seriously wrong with me.

4. Mrs. TBG has been with me for the last six versions of the game at this point and yet she sticks around. Bless her.

5. I am not the world’s greatest photographer.

LSU Tigers 33 – Florida Gators 29

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Offensive coordinator and interim head coach Steve Addazio (C) of the Florida Gators stands on the field before the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

I’m the glass half full guy when it comes to Florida football.  I tend to find the positive in every loss and look at what the Gators can learn from each mistake.  This recap will not be like that.  If you’re an always look on the bright side Florida fan who has no problem with the currently state of the offense, you may want to turn back now (or read anything anywhere written about the orange and blue recently).
If there is any positive to take from the Gators’ 33-29 loss to LSU, it’s that Florida somehow managed to be in the game until the very end.  Talent will do that.  Remember that as you read the rest of this article and any other Gator article out there.  Florida has plenty of talent, more than enough to win each and every game they play.  That’s part of what makes the last two weeks so frustrating.
What we saw on Saturday was a team that still doesn’t have an identity or even knows what that identity might be.  An outsider might think John Brantley just isn’t what many expected him to be, but he isn’t being used to his strengths.  How many more times will he be called on to run an option play?  Some might say the offensive line is playing at an unacceptable level, but injuries and a lack of stability in its lineup haven’t allowed the unit to get into a rhythm.  It’s anyone’s guess how many different rotations have been used this season.  Others might look at the play calling and laugh.  They should.  There’s no better reaction to that aspect of the Florida offense.  It’s either laughs or downright anger.
There are two distinct problems with the play calling.  Two that seem to contradict each other so you’re going to have to bear with me as I get through them.  One is simplicity and one is complication.  Simplicity in that offensive coordinator Steve Addazio seems to have a handful (a VERY small handful) of plays that he sticks with.  It’s almost as if his playbook was developed in Twitter; however many plays fit into 140 characters is how many he’ll call.  No more.  Situation and score don’t matter, Addazio calls what one can only guess he figures are his “safety” plays.  The issue in that is that they aren’t working.  Money plays work more often than not.  In Addazio’s case, those plays are getting his quarterback killed, aren’t spreading the field, and tend to see the offense run out of steam when it gets close to the goal line.
The other problem is that despite a lack of variety in play calling, the plays being called are too complicated.  When you have an offensive line that is struggling to stay healthy for even four straight quarters, you end up with numerous lineups and players trying to get used to one another, but never getting the chance to do so.  In that case, blocking schemes need to stay fairly simple.  With players moving from tackle to guard and back again consistently, complicated schemes end up with Brantley finding himself on the ground or running backs gaining a yard at a time.  Some may say Brantley rarely makes a second read when dropping back to pass.  I would argue he rarely has the time to do so.  Six games in and there has yet to be an adjustment made to stop the pressure teams are getting in the backfield.
Although play variety is on the painfully simple side, those plays are too complicated for an offense in a state similar to how Florida’s is currently.  Variety keeps defenses honest, but if plays take too long to develop that doesn’t matter one bit.  In most circumstances, you would say “well then, change it and move on.”  Good luck with that.  Addazio and change are the worst of enemies.  For some reason, he thinks that for the most part everything is fine and the Gators will triumph by sticking to the plan.  I wish I could have that attitude and make what he makes.  Addazio can go through his game routine, change nothing, collect his check, and be perfectly happy with the decisions he made or didn’t make.  That was okay albeit frustrating when Florida was 4-0.  Now the Gators are 4-2 and saw a team with less talent upset a team they lost by 25 to.  I see a problem amplifying.  Addazio sees no issue whatsoever.
On that note, there’s yet another reason why he should no longer be the Florida offensive coordinator.  The offensive line needs help and Addazio can be the person to help them.  He is a great offensive line coach.  He is an awful offensive coordinator.  I have no problem with him being part of the Gator coaching staff, but Urban Meyer has to see that Addazio is in the wrong position.  It’s actually shocking that Meyer doesn’t.  Unless he does behind closed doors.  We can only hope.
In today’s game with all-world athletes at every position and teams playing a variety of defenses, an offensive coordinator must be innovative and willing to mix it up from time to time.  Addazio is digging his own grave because he refuses to change.  He’s the definition of playing to not lose when he should be playing to win.  Playing to not lose only works when you don’t lose.  Florida is past that point.
There are two questions that have to be asked: 1) why is he still in charge of the offense? And 2) what happened to adapting to the players you have?  Both require changes and in this case changes would be good.  Everyone says Tim Tebow was the perfect player for Meyer’s system.  That could very well be true, but I’m staring at a framed Sports Illustrated hanging on the wall in my sports room.  On the cover is Chris Leak, MVP, a crystal football, and the words National Champions.
Brantley has looked pedestrian, a ridiculous collection of talent along the offensive line can’t buy a block, and extremely good players are hidden.  It’s not their fault.  There’s someone to blame and we all can point a finger.  The coaches need to take responsibility and not just sit back and hope the players step up come game time.  You don’t keep calling the option with a non-option quarterback and just keep your fingers crossed that he’ll figure out how to make it work.  Well, at least you wouldn’t think you do.  Apparently I’m wrong about that though.
As a fan, I don’t always see what the coaches do.  Meaning they know a lot more than I do.  That’s pretty obvious.  My football coaching resume includes one stop, a sorority flag team 12 years ago.  I’m not a coach and never will be, but if I (and hundreds of thousands of other fans) can predict what the next play will be, don’t you think the defense can as well?  If I know before the game starts that Trey Burton is going to be overused because of his performance against Kentucky, don’t you think they other team knows that?  If I can see before the snap that it will be a run up the middle with Mike Pouncey left to block not one, but two defensive tackles, doesn’t the blitzing linebacker know the same thing?
The loss to Alabama wasn’t as bad as the final score would indicate.  There were times when the Gators drove only to have turnovers or play calling ruin chances of a comeback.  The fact that Florida was in the LSU game until the very end proves this team has the ability to win every game it plays.  Then Addazio gets in the way.  The Tide and Tigers beat the Gators, but the offensive coordinator did as well.  It’s time to make a change.  Not for the fans.  Not for the media.  Not for the guy writing his blog.  For the players.  They’re the ones that deserve more.

The Bull Gator (4/6/10)

I realize now, when I said I was back, I may have been lying.  The TBG comeback (if you can call it that, I was gone less than two weeks) is in its infancy.  I’m currently (unsuccessfully) coming up with new story ideas and getting myself prepared for the long haul now that both football and basketball are over.  The NBA and NHL playoffs with peak my interest briefly and I may even pretend to attempt to follow baseball once again, but mostly, I’ll be waiting patiently for the 2010 college football season.
It sounds like the 2006 Florida football squad could make a reappearance as the 2010 Florida football squad.  Urban Meyer has said he plans on using a two-quarterback system similar to what the Gators used during the 2006 national championship season.  And it makes sense.  John Brantley will handle the majority of the quarterback duties (and perform admirably mind you), but we may see others take snaps in short yardage situations.  Think Tim Tebow during his freshman year.  A first down on third and three wasn’t nearly as likely if Chris Leak had the ball as it was if it was put in Tebow’s hands.  The same theory goes into play with Jordan Reed and maybe even Trey Burton.  While Brantley will be shredding SEC defenses through the air, Reed and Burton may be doing so on the ground.  An interesting idea and one we should have expected.  While I’m sure Brantley has the ability to do some things with his feet from time to time (Leak surprised Gator fans on occasion during that 2006 season), we all know that’s not what he’s suited for.
Wide receiver Carl Moore returned to practice and still has a chance to become one of Florida’s biggest junior college transfer success stories.  More often than not, JUCO transfers don’t make huge impacts at programs like Florida.  The odds are against them because of their limited time to acclimate to the system and overall bigger experience.  Typically year one is spent learning and year two may be spent trying to earn whatever playing time is available.  From time to time you’ll get a star, but the window is much smaller.  With Moore’s return, he still has a chance.  A lot was expected when Moore joined the Gators before the 2008 season.  He had flashes that season (although few and far between), but missed 2009 due to injury.  All was thought to be lost when he missed a few practices last week, but he is back and should be given every chance to contribute.  Maybe Florida will finally have their JUCO gem.
Auburn is definitely an SEC team to look out for in 2010.  No Florida fan ever likes facing the Tigers and luckily they won’t have to worry about it during the upcoming season.  But those SEC teams that do better be ready.  Gene Chizik was basically laughed at when hired as the Auburn head coach before the 2009 season.  The former Florida linebacker was 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State before being offered the head job with the Tigers.  Not much was expected of a head coach with that career record, but Chizik delivered and has Auburn fans excited for the future.  After going 8-5 with a bowl win in 2009, the Tigers are ready to take the next step.  While Alabama is the class of the SEC West, Auburn is the team to watch.  Don’t be surprised if they’re ranked at the end of the season.
Montez Robinson – one of the nation’s better prospects in 2009 – has been dismissed from the Georgia football team.  Mark Richt released the soon-to-be sophomore defensive end/linebacker after his arrest on a battery charge.  Robinson played mostly as a backup during his freshman season, but was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after a two sack performance against Tennessee Tech.  His role in the Bulldog defense would have been expanded in 2010 had he not done whatever it was he went and did.  Details are scarce at this point.
The List: Last night I treated myself to a gloriously wonderful movie.  A movie featuring all-world badass Samuel L. Jackson and a bunch of man-eating dinosaurs.  That’s right, Jurassic Park.  I mention it because it’s a fun watch that doesn’t make you think too much.  Man vs. beast basically.  Too many people get caught up on what a movie offers intellectually these days (read: too many people want to make themselves out to be better than everyone else and won’t let themselves enjoy something that’s not meant to stimulate their intelligence, but instead just be enjoyable).  Well, I won’t have it!  Some movies are just fun and remove you from having to spend too much time thinking about characterization or plot.  Jurassic Park was one of these and so are the following.  But if you still like to consider yourself a movie snob, go ahead and continue.  Those of us that enjoy “big budget studio garbage” don’t judge you nearly as much as you judge us.
1. Starship Troopers.  Killer bugs and Neil Patrick Harris.  What more do you need?
2. It.  If you want to confuse your friends, have them watch tape two before tape one.  My bad!
3. Grandma’s Boy.  One of the funnier “stupid” movies of recent years.
4. Demolition Man.  I don’t know what it is about this movie, but I have seen it way more times than I care to admit.  Probably shouldn’t be on this list due to its relation to one of the more well-known novels ever written, but take that out and it’s really just all good fun.
5. The Pledge.  Okay, this one was thrown in there just to see if you were paying attention.  Could be one of the worst movies ever.
The Sixth Man: The basketball season came to an end last night in thrilling fashion.  At least thrilling if you are a bigger college basketball fan than I am.  While Butler and Duke played a good game, I can’t help think it was Butler and Duke.  In no means is that meant to diminish them to their respective fans, but for me, my involvement in sports other than college football the last few seasons has been decreasing.  If there isn’t a Gator or a Bull participating, I become more casual than the most casual fan.  I used to never miss it when the Blue Devils took on UNC.  Used to get psyched if a Saturday offered a top-five matchup.  But lately, not so much when it came to basketball.  I may change that, but don’t expect much from the site (like my failed foray into baseball).  It’s a long time before I’ll even have that chance.  Last night was the end of the season and therefore the basketball part of my brain goes into hibernation.  Recruiting, continued talks of a 96-team tournament, and hopes for next season may keep it going.  We’ll see.