Count me in the group that thinks Georgia’s linebacking corps is an obvious team strength. (Seth Emerson lays out what he calls the team’s ice cream here.) Some of my optimism is based on improved coaching in that I believe Pruitt is going to do a better job of deploying the talent than Grantham did – I doubt we see Floyd dropping back in coverage very much and I’ll be shocked if Herrera and Wilson are on the field together in obvious passing situations nearly as often as they were last season – but most is due to having all four starters back. Experience, talent and better coaching is a nice formula for quality play.
And here’s some context for you to digest. South Carolina is making noises about shifting from the 4-2-5 scheme it’s run as its base for several years to some version of the 3-4 (per Lorenzo Ward, “At the end of the season I would be shocked if we didn’t play two-to-one 3-4 to 4-2-5…”) because the strength of the defense is at the linebacking position. And that strength is reckoned as top five in the conference by SB Nation’s SEC bloggers.
They rank Georgia second, three spots ahead, and a hair’s breadth behind what’s been the conference standard, Alabama. I’ll gladly take that.
Let’s just hope And The Valley Shook hasn’t delivered a 2014 epitaph for them: “This is a deep, talented unit surrounded by, unfortunately, the rest of the Georgia defense.”
It’s just that I’m starting to hear some of the same “why Florida will be good this year” talk that I questioned before the start of last season. It’s not that I don’t think the Gators won’t be improved; a better health situation will take care of that. But that offense, with its third coordinator in four years, a quarterback who missed most of last season and has no experienced depth behind him, a lackluster receiving corps and an offensive line with its own depth issues, looks like it’s as big a hot mess as it was a year ago. So, while a certain amount of optimism may be warranted, it seems to me that there’s an element of wishful thinking in play, as well.
Take, for instance, this piece, entitled “Five Reasons Florida Will Win the East”. Here are two of the five:
2. Jeff Driskel – Though Driskel has yet to live up to the lofty expectations with which he entered college, he is still an athletic signal caller with tons of potential. The schematic changes on offense will benefit no individual player more than Driskel, who appears to be an ideal fit for Roper’s style of play-calling. Lining up in the shotgun and having more opportunities to use his legs as a weapon, Driskel should be able to increase his production of explosive plays exponentially. Bouncing back from a season-injury leg suffered in just the third game of the 2013 season, Driskel will be helped along by his clean bill of health, in addition to the fact that this is fourth season at the collegiate level.
3. Team Health – While injuries were a major issue for numerous SEC teams last fall, there is no question that the Gators were bit worst by the injury bug. According to Phil Steele, Florida lost by far the most starts due to injury in the conference in 2013 (51). That equates to nearly 20 percent of the Gators’ starts being lost due to health problems, the third-highest percentage in the country. The overall lack of depth and experience made life difficult for the Gators in 2013, but the team has the vast majority of its players at 100 percent health heading into fall camp. The likelihood of Florida experiencing a rash of injuries similar to last season is exceptionally rare, meaning that it should expect to take serious strides forward in 2014.
Maybe it’s just me, but putting your hopes on Driskel using his legs more while brushing off the chances of serious injuries seems like a weird juxtaposition.
Amari Cooper, with the best one-sentence criticism of amateurism you’ll ever read: “I don’t know if it’s ever a bad idea for people to want to get paid for something they do.”
Amen to that.
If you’ll recall, Joe Alleva seemed mighty pleased at how inhospitable the last expansion of Tiger Stadium would make the place for visiting fans.
It looks like his master plan is working. A month before the start of the 2o14 season, six of seven visiting teams – Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Kentucky and Ole Miss – all returned tickets to LSU.
He’s a regular marketing genius, alright. The sad thing is that he’s one of the people whose job it is to figure out how to keep attracting fans to attend games.
Smack dab in the middle of a fun interview you can read over at Dawg Post, Todd Gurley names Isaiah McKenzie as one of the freshmen who’s caught his eye this summer.
Interesting exchange between LSU and Florida beat writer brought something to mind I hadn’t thought of before. Start with this observation:
On paper, the move to Roper’s scheme seems to be a no-brainer, raising the question of why Muschamp did not do it until now.
That one’s easy – Boom’s a branch off the Saban coaching tree, where fast paced offense is anathema. Controlling the game is a defensive coach’s mindset.
The better question is why Muschamp is making a dramatic scheme change now. I’m not sure if this is being offered as an explanation for that, but I can’t help but wonder if something like this is running through the back of his head.
What is the mood toward Will Muschamp? Do Florida fans want him to fix the program or are they ready to move on?
Based on feedback during Will Muschamp’s speaking tour in the spring, Gator fans respect his passion and commitment but want results this season – or else.
Most fans, as well as UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, are giving Muschamp a bit of a pass for 2013’s 4-8 finish. Florida’s lost 17 players to season-ending injuries, including quarterback Jeff Driskel and star defensive tackle Dominique Easley in September.
But the Gators’ struggles on offense have been persistent and created a boring brand of football not seen in Gainesville since the Doug Dickey Era in the 1970s.
Muschamp hired a new offensive coordinator, Duke’s Kurt Roper, and hopes the move from a pro-style offense to a up-tempo, shotgun-centric attack pays immediate dividends. Anything less than than eight wins and a lot more offensive fireworks will lead to calls for Muschamp’s job from all corners.
So a four-game improvement in wins won’t be enough to mollify the fan base and Foley? There needs to be a little offensive pizzazz in the mix? Even if it cuts against the grain of Muschamp’s instincts? Hmmm… this is starting to remind me more than a little of the way Tuberville went through offensive coordinators until he crashed and burned with Tony Franklin.