Florida Welcomes Billy Napier

It’s that time again (unfortunately) to welcome a new head football coach to Gainesville.  Florida hopes that it finally has hit upon a long-term and successful hire with Billy Napier, after the mostly disastrous past 11 seasons under Won’t Misschump, The Swamp Donkey, and Dancin’ Danny.

Napier comes to Florida with a solid background as both an analyst, assistant coach, and head coach.  He spent a few years at both Clemson and Alabama coaching wide receivers and also as Offensive Coordinator at Clemson, watching what those programs did to build – and sustain – their current runs as elite programs.  He is also the son of a legendary high school football coach in Georgia, and has a ton of contacts in that state which should serve him well in recruiting.  His first head coaching job came at Louisiana, where he built a conference champion over 4 consistently-improving seasons.

Napier has a set way of building a program that includes both the infrastructure (assistant coaches plus staff) and the system to set them in motion and sustain them.  He is calm and methodical in explaining them, which I believe is how he was able to quickly gain the trust of the Athletic Dept. and University administration that hired him.  The success at those three schools obviously carried weight in the interview process, but it speaks to his ability to communicate his vision of success that he was hired so quickly and without a long search process. 

The staff he has put together is likely the most professional, hardest working, and best recruiting group since Urban Meyer built a mini-dynasty in Gainesville.  He has hired coaches from both the college and NFL ranks that have an established record of success, and also are already exhibiting desperately-needed hard work and energy on the recruiting trail.  He smartly negotiated a large bump in the salary pool for both his assistants and the support staff to rival the handful of recent winning programs.  Results are already being seen in recruiting – the list of players interested in Florida now comes close to the level of players that Meyer signed.  Now, we need to see if they can close on them and develop them (and the program) to where the Gators should be – among the nation’s elite.

Napier has instituted his “8-Phase” approach to the program.  These 8 Phases obviously lead up to the regular season, and it will be fascinating to watch the level of detail take hold in the process.  He is now up to Phase 3 – Spring Practice.  It will be refreshing to see open competition for every position and player, not the previous staff’s way of heavily favoring seniority over talent and productivity.  So many simple and basic points of coaching and the way you treat young men were warped by the Mullen Mafia it was professional malfeasance.  Part of the beauty of the massive army of employees he’s hired is in how no one person is overworked, and can apply 100% focus and energy on their specific responsibilities – including the players themselves.  And if they don’t?  They will be released from their duties……as it should be.

Ultimately, the final result – wins and losses – carry the most weight.  It’s hard to say what we will see this fall, as there are so many moving pieces – coaches, players, and new schemes.  It could be a bumpy ride during the season, but I believe the Athletic Dept. and the University have bought into Napier’s plan and vision, and will be patient with him to build the Florida program to his standard.  We will all be witness to his “process” and how it develops over the coming seasons.  Gator Nation is ready to celebrate returning to the conversation of being among the elite programs in the country and winning more SEC championships – it’s almost criminal that the last was all the way back in 2008.

Best of luck to Coach Napier and his “Army”.  Something tells me they won’t need too much luck with all of the hard work – and smart work – they put into the task. 

Florida $t. Review

In a game that was never as close as the final score, the Gators ended the regular season on a winning note, defeating the Criminoles 24-21.  Gator Nation could enjoy themselves again, and I am so happy for the players, as they were shafted by the former coaching staff.  They finally have something good to remember from this terrible season.

The Gator defense pretty much had their way all afternoon, less some sloppiness in the last 8 minutes.  F$U QB Jordan Travis could only hurt them with his legs, and he did when some players lost discipline and allowed him to break containment late.  But they did the proper things in shutting down RB Jashaun Corbin and containing Travis in the pocket for the most part, where he was never going to threaten them.  Florida’s D-line dominated the LOS for much of the game as expected – F$U’s O-line is worse than Florida’s, and was exposed.

It’s a shame Florida didn’t win by at least the 4 TDs they should have, but that can be traced directly to the horrific play of Emory Jones.  Despite his nice throw to Kemore Gamble for the opening TD, he had 4 additional chances in F$U’s territory in the first half to put the game away, and delivered 3 terrible interceptions and a blown option read.  It’s a shame it ended that way and led to him being benched, but at least the interim staff had the guts to put him on the sideline and let Anthony Richardson do some work.  AR didn’t have to do anything special – just be efficient and supply the occasional run to move the chains.  He made the throws he needed to, including a nice corner route to Justin Shorter in the end zone to make it 17-7 in the 3rd quarter and give the Gators some breathing room. 

Props to the Gator RBs – they all played well when they were called upon, and Dameon Pierce’s disallowed TD run in the 4th quarter after his helmet was ripped off juiced up the entire stadium.  Here’s hoping he gets his shot in the NFL, as he was criminally underutilized at Florida.  Malik Davis had some nice 3rd down runs, and a clutch catch-and-run on 3rd and 21 that led to the TD pass to Shorter.  Nay’Quan Wright had a few good plays until his nasty ankle injury, which will sideline him at least through spring practice.

The Criminoles played true to themselves – a trash team with trash players and a trash culture.  Late hits, undisciplined play, penalties, trash talk……all while being handled by a team with an interim coaching staff, being gifted 3 turnovers that were the only reason they were still in the game at halftime, and simply terrible ACC officiating.  All the talk about them being a team on the rise was bullshit – the ACC was even worse than usual this year, and they still had their 4th consecutive losing season with no bowl game.  Conquered – again.

As of this writing, Billy Napier has been hired as the next head coach for Florida.  He will bring a desperately-needed infusion of work ethic, professionalism, organization, and an understanding that recruiting is the lifeblood of any program.  Dancin’ Danny and the MSU Mafia have left him with a very poor recruiting class.  He has essentially 2 weeks to try and salvage it by trying to get some kids that decommitted to return, get some new names that are still available excited about the Gators again, try and retain some current players, and then hit the transfer portal especially hard in order to try and fill out the 85-man roster.  He also has a lot of dead weight on the current roster that simply isn’t SEC-level talent.  It’s a monster challenge, but he and the guys he hires for his staff will be working with his overall plan and vision for the program.

It will be announced after Championship Saturday where the Gators will go bowling.  It won’t be a game of any real significance, other than the opportunity for Napier and some of his new staff to evaluate what they have to work with, and allowing the younger players that were ignored by the previous staff to get more reps in practice and possibly some live playing time in the bowl game.

Recruiting is already seeing signs of life, and Gator Nation is already emerging from under the dark cloud that followed Dancin’ Danny around the past 11 months – kind of like Pig Pen in ‘Peanuts’.  There is excitement and real hope for the future.  It will take time to rebuild the roster and brand that have been gutted, but Napier has boundless energy and work ethic, which is what it will take.

Go Gators!

Missouri Review / Florida $t. Preview

The last curtain has fallen on Dancin’ Danny’s Theatre of the Absurd, with another embarrassing loss to an inferior team.  The good news?  There will be no curtain call.

Florida lost at Missouri 24-23 in overtime, mucking around on offense the entire afternoon and finally losing on a throw-back 2 point conversion throw that easily should have been defensed.  Of course, it never should have come to that, but Mullen seemingly pulled his Kentucky game plan out of the trash can and thought, “Hey!  It’ll work this time!”.  What a buffoon.

The offense threw away a ton of points.  Emory Jones again missed open receivers and also struggled making correct reads on option plays.  You could see the physical toll the season has taken on him, as he has been asked to run way too often by Mullen.  The O-line was disorganized and soft, and even the RBs had a bad afternoon, missing holes and slipping on the field for some mysterious reason.  The WRs looked good when given infrequent opportunities.  In all, pretty much the norm for what Darth Mullen shoved down the throats of Gator Nation in 2021.

The defense actually looked competent for 3 quarters – they played the run lanes very well, and shut down the passing game.  Until……the 4th quarter, when some bad habits crept in and they started getting gashed in the running game, which was inexcusable as Missouri has NO passing threats.  That, in addition to the ridiculous wheel route TD allowed to the TE on a 1st-and-25 play in the 3rd quarter, were enough to beat a Gator offense that looked out of sync trying to execute a trash game plan.

Then, after the game, Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz clowned Mullen with his “May the force be with you” barb, and Gator Nation just has to sit there and take it.

Welp, at least Gator Nation won’t have Dan Mullen to kick around anymore.  He will dance off into the netherworld of coaching jobs with a $12 million termination package, and Florida can look for a competent, professional coach that is hard-working, recruits his ass off, can put together a professional and organized coaching staff and recruiting office, and doesn’t embarrass the school every time he opens his mouth in a press conference.

And now……unbelievably, it’s a bowl play-in game back at the Swamp against a bad F$U team.  Greg Knox for some reason will be the interim head coach, but thank god he’s not calling the plays – QB coach Garrick McGee gets that opportunity.  It appears that Paul Pasqualoni and David Turner have taken a lot more control of the defense, as they have shown some life the last 6 quarters of play.

The Criminoles come in at 5-6 as well, and seemingly with momentum.  But the ACC is even worse than usual this year, so I’m not putting any real stock into that.  Their offense pretty much starts and ends with the arm and legs of QB Travis Jordan – he’s fast and athletic and can extend plays, but is still an inaccurate passer when forced to throw, and the Gator defense has to put him in situations where he has to do just that.  I would not be surprised to see McKenzie Milton play as well, but he lacks mobility after his horrific knee injury suffered 2 years ago while starting for UCF, and Florida’s team speed could prove problematic for him.  F$U’s O-line is as bad or worse than Florida’s, and the Gator front seven has to dominate them and own the line of scrimmage.  Jashaun Corbin is a very good RB, and is tied for the team lead in receptions as well with 22.  F$U has no real threats at WR, so the Gator secondary needs to shut them down on their own and allow the front seven to wreak havoc.

I’m not sure what to make of Florida’s offense coming into this game.  Jones incurred an ankle injury in practice on Tuesday, so Richardson has been taking all of the 1st team reps.  For now, it appears that he will start.  If so, that means more big plays……but will they be for or against the Gators?  He has to play better – and smarter.  The O-line needs to control Jermaine Johnson, who leads F$U with 10.5 sacks.  A solid performance by the running game would go a long way towards a win.  AR also pushes the ball downfield more, and I believe the Gator WRs have a decided advantage over the Criminole secondary – if given the chance.

It’s Senior Day, and a rivalry game.  Plus, the team, I believe, plays with some enthusiasm and juice with Mullen’s hang-dog attitude no longer around.  It’s a shame the Gators are playing so poorly and with little confidence, because if they were sitting with even 7 or 8 wins at this point, I think they would roll F$U by at least 2 TDs.  It could be another sloppy game by both teams, and another 4th quarter play could decide things.  It would be such a nice change to see Florida actually come out fast for once and get F$U in a hole early, as I don’t believe they have the team nor talent to recover from that scenario.  But that’s why they play the games.

Prediction: Florida 27 Florida $t. 24

Samford Review / Missouri Preview

70-52.

Quite the second-half turnaround.  The Gators got hot from behind the 3-point line, hit the boards hard, and…..wait……what?!

The descent into hell accelerated Saturday, as FCS Samford embarrassed Florida by taking a 42-28 halftime lead, making the Gator defense look, well, even worse than the previous week.  It took a record-setting day from Emory Jones and the Gator offense doing what it should have done anyway to get the win, dominating the entire afternoon and rolling up those 70 points on over 700 yards of offense.  The sad thing was…..they HAD to in order to win the damn game!  And, of course, with Jones close to the passing yards record in addition to the total yards record he had just broken, Dan Mullen pulled him for a few garbage-time snaps from Anthony Richardson.  He is completely oblivious.

At least dead-man-coaching Mullen put it in proper perspective, claiming it was a “hard-fought and ‘good’ win.”.  LMFAO – how clueless can you be?  And then, to double down, he leads a dance party in the locker room after this “big win” that’s released on social media……just to be completely ripped by the national media and other schools and coaches around the country.  That will definitely turn around the 2022 recruiting class.

Samford set records for a FCS school scoring on a FBS school, a SEC school, and Florida in particular.  Their 42 points was the most allowed in a half by the Gators……EVER.

Dance on, Danny Boy.

Mullen continued his string of good decisions by allowing Christian Robinson, coach of the terrible LB corps and Todd Grantham disciple (LOL) to call the defensive signals.  Yeah – that was gonna change things.  Thank god former Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni is on staff as a defensive analyst – it appears he put on a headset in the second half and “helped” with the defense.  That group was horrific – again.  No energy, poor tackling, and lack of effort.  As I feared, a lot of these guys have mentally and physically checked out over the past month.

And to think I always laughed at the crap defenses in the Big 12.  The past 2 weeks have made those Big 12 defenses of the past two decades look like the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers, or the 1985 Chicago Bears……or (sadly) the 2021 Georgia Bulldogs.

Ace RB coach and Special Teams coach Greg Knox, not to be outdone, limited Dameon Pierce to only 7 carries for “only” 78 yards, watched as Samford cashed in a 98-yard kickoff return TD, and then mind-numbingly didn’t have the kick team ready for an onside attempt in the second half after Samford cut the lead to 56-52.  Pierce has not had double-digit carries in a single game in 2021!  At least he’ll be fresh for the League when he’s drafted, and that team won’t believe their good fortune in getting such a solid player with so much tread still on his tires.  I can’t wait for Florida’s Pro Day, when teams will see Pierce up close, watch how good he looks in drills and catching the ball, and view the (limited) film from his career.  The comments will be pure gold – “Wow – where did they hide this guy?”  “He must have been the number 1 RB on the depth chart.  Wait……what?!”

We are witnessing criminal malfeasance perpetrated by most of this coaching staff.  I’m just glad there is solid, definitive leadership at the Athletic Dept. and at the University level to fix this mess.  Oops……

It’s on to Missouri, who somehow held last week’s juggernaut South Carolina to 28 points in a 31-28 win.  I pray Pasqualoni is allowed to take over the defense.  The main priority is to stuff the box with 8-9 guys to try and slow down RB Tyler Badie, who just racked up his 4th 200 yard game of the season.  It all starts with stopping the run – fail that, and it’s another loss, and more embarrassment.  If Missouri chooses to throw, then so be it.

Florida’s offense had better be ready to run the ball in the cold as well, if for no other reason than to keep the horrific defense on the sidelines.  The O-line has to open some lanes for whomever Knox deems fit for carrying the ball.  That should have been the formula at Carolina, but Danny Boy chose to go rogue and try “shock and awe” with Jones throwing almost exclusively the first half.  Missouri has one of the worst run defenses in the Power 5 – that trend has to continue this week.  Jones will start, and likely again go the distance barring injury or another blowout loss.  The Tigers are nothing special on defense, and the Gators should find success……if they care to play hard and are given a smart game plan by the smartest man in the room.

It’s hard to watch Mullen and the Mississippi St. Mafia continue to tear down what Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer built.  These clowns need to be shown the door ASAP, but I have zero confidence his buddy and fellow MSU stalwart Scott Stricklin has the guts to do so.  Maybe……maybe the defense can show some pride this week, and perhaps the team can rally.  It’s really hard to see it happening given the body of evidence to the contrary and the lack of coaching leadership, but since this season has descended so quickly into chaos, I suppose anything is possible.

How Florida can be favored on the road this week is just crazy to me, and shows (again) what a weak schedule they could have feasted on this season.  Missouri is just as bad as Carolina, which could be the death knell.  Referencing last year’s big fight at the start of halftime between these teams at the Swamp, of which Darth Mullen was a prime participant, Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz got in some barbs during SEC Media Days in August and specifically pointed to this game on the schedule.  What is the next act in the Theater of the Absurd?

Prediction: Missouri 31 Florida 24

South Carolina Review / Samford Preview

Rock Bottom.

Welcome to the new Gator Standard, courtesy of Dan Mullen and Co.  Florida completely quit on the coaching staff in its most embarrassing loss, since, well, last season against LSU, or going back to the 2013 debacle against Georgia Southern, or going back to……umm……let me step into the WayBack Machine……the end of the Doug Dickey era in 1978, perhaps.

The defense embarrassed itself and Gator Nation against a Lamecock team that had struggled to barely defeat Vanderbilt, Troy, and Eastern Illinois.  It allowed a 3rd string FCS QB to shred them, and also was gashed by the second-worst rushing attack in the SEC.  Wide-open WRs, wide-open running lanes, missed tackles, and no fight.

The offense was dismal as well.  Carolina came in with a terrible rush defense, yet they stoned a pathetic Gator O-line most of the night, and also got pressure on Emory Jones the entire game, along with a strip-sack for a score.  The Gators actually had some early success throwing downfield, but even that stopped for some reason after halftime.  Another fantastic game plan from Mullen.

It was a horrific game all around, and now it’s likely all over but the shouting.

There is a game this week, but it carries no significance.  The Samford Bulldogs come to the Swamp for a nice paycheck and the chance at (another) shocking Gator defeat.  It’s very unlikely, but I’m almost numb at this point due to the rapid descent into college football irrelevance, no matter what happens.

Honestly, there’s not much to be gained from what is essentially a controlled scrimmage.  Some kids actually may be energized with the two fat a**** gone, and perhaps can start to show what they can really do.  The crowd (what’s there) won’t be happy anyway, and I expect to hear them get their pound of flesh by booing Mullen.

I expect we will see more sloppiness on offense, while the defense outmans its opponent.  LMAO – we’ll probably see Mullen have EJ throw it all over the yard, while RB Coach (and Special Teams wizard – NOT) Greg Knox gives Damien Pierce another few carries while still using his weird rotation of guys.  Really, they should just pound away with the running game to get some timing back, and as prep for Missouri in cold weather, then F$U. If the O-line has any pride, they will take out some real frustrations on Samford.  Just get out of there with a comfortable win, and no injuries.

Now all Mullen can do is open up the ‘Embattled Head Coach” playbook.  Cast blame on the flu, the weather, the noise, and fire, years too late, an incompetent Defensive Coordinator and OL coach.  Todd Grantham and John Hevesy stole money from Florida, and I hope they never get another job.  Mullen, however, hired these clowns and stuck with them out of blind loyalty or stupidity – neither of which reflect good judgment from a head coach.  This was simply an offering to keep his job for another few weeks and to cover his ass, and I hope it fails.  Any Athletic Director with a spine would have seen through all of Mullen’s recruiting laziness, arrogance, Immaturity, and petulance, and shown him the door, but his buddy Scott Stricklin is on his own hot seat and has shown to be nothing but an empty suit.  What a disaster.

It’s up to the University leadership, UAA leadership, and someone out there who wants to be the head coach at The University of Florida to get sh*t right.  The 2022 recruiting class will likely fall outside the Top 25 with little help on the defensive side of the ball.  Mullen (if he survives) will pray to the transfer portal gods once again, which is not the way to sustain and build a program.

It could potentially be an even uglier ride to the end of the 2021 season, so buckle up……it could be a bumpy ride.

** Note:  This is my 3rd re-write……I hope it gets by the Editor……LOL.

Prediction: Florida 48 Samford 13

Georgia Review / South Carolina Preview

I’m not sure where the program is headed after a humiliating 34-7 loss in Jacksonville, but I’ve got a good idea if history is a guide.  I’ve seen this show before, both at Florida and at other big schools, and it very rarely ends well.

Dan Mullen’s playcalling for the offense was uninspired and lazy.  He gave Anthony Richardson precious little of the misdirection plays and long pass opportunities seen earlier this year, and all of that can’t simply be blamed on the mediocre O-line play.  It was a crapshoot to have AR get his first start in this scenario against what may prove to be a generational defense, but Mullen certainly didn’t give him much help.  The O-line struggled in pass protection all afternoon, and more penalties crept back in.  I don’t see anything Mullen can hang his hat on after that performance.

As bad as the offense played at times, they still put some good drives together, and were in the game until the fateful last 3 minutes of the first half.  Instead of playing it smart with poor field position and trying to get into halftime down either 3-0 or 10-0, Mullen still had AR passing, and the kid admittedly made some bad throws.  But instead going into halftime down no more than 10 points and getting the second-half kickoff, the competitive phase of the game had effectively ended.

The defense played hard, but eventually, their spirit waned after the turnover debacle.  The secondary played perhaps it’s best game of the season, as it should, given Georgia has no one to really scare anyone at receiver or TE.  The D-line had it’s moments against the run, but the lack of talent and size at linebacker was exposed……again.  The LBs again missed tackles and were out of position at times filling their run gaps – Christian Robinson has proved to be a bad position coach, and hopefully, he leaves along with DC Todd Grantham at the end of the season.  The defense gets credit for not laying down and giving up, especially after the offense had essentially given the game away by halftime. 

This was certainly not the performance to have given the terrible losses at Kentucky and LSU.  Gator Nation is restless (again), and Mullen is just adding fuel to the fire with both the coaching performances from him and his staff along with his dreadful press conferences.

It’s on to South Carolina and a program that is struggling badly right now under new head coach Shane Beamer.  Their problems at QB make Florida’s issues there look rosy.  They will likely start Luke Doty or Zeb Noland, who originally was supposed to be a graduate assistant coach.  Neither has the arm strength or running ability to stress a defense.  Their offense has no real threats other than RB Kevin Harris with only 236 yards rushing, and WR Josh Vann, their best weapon.  Their O-line is terrible, and the Gamecocks average only 119 yards per game rushing.  It looks like Won’t Misschump ruined another school’s offense, and his legacy lives on.  Florida’s defense should feast on this overmatched group all afternoon……if they are focused and play hard, which may or may not happen given the state of affairs right now.

Carolina’s defense, especially against the pass, is solid.  They have 11 interceptions, led by CB Javian Foster with 5, which is one of the better totals in the country.  Their front seven has struggled against the run, however, and the Gators must re-establish a physical running game this week.  This should be a good matchup, but, again, it’s hard to say what the mental makeup of the team is right now.  Given the struggles of both Jones and Richardson throwing the ball, I’m anticipating a large dose of ground-and-pound, unless the situation is dire.  Jones will start and likely play almost all of the snaps, given Richardson’s injury status coming out of the Georgia game.  Mullen will have to have at least one of the true freshmen – Jalen Kitna or Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, ready to play.

Mullen and his staff have a tough task ahead trying to keep players engaged and focused.  I fully expect more lackluster and inconsistent play the rest of this season, as the coaching has let the players down, and some are going to mentally check out.  There is no juice left in the schedule these last 4 games – all against bad teams.  Perhaps some individual leaders will step up and rally the team, but I’m in wait-and-see mode.

There is so much negative press and energy around Mullen right now that it has to be affecting the team.  I just hope the talent gap is so great the last month of the season that the Gators can put together some wins and try and salvage whatever little they can out of the 2021 season.  Maybe the Gators can finish 8-4 with a win over a bad F$U team in Gainesville.  The problem is that recruiting has taken some big hits the past few weeks with decommitments, Mullen is getting trashed on the recruiting trail and in the national media for being lazy (no real surprise), and a mediocre bowl game isn’t going to energize the players or fans.  Once again, the worst thing is that all of this could have been avoided – it’s self-inflicted damage due to Mullen’s arrogance, lazy recruiting, and immaturity in dealing with adversity.

Prediction: Florida 27 South Carolina 17

Georgia Preview

Florida limps into Jacksonville on the heels of an ugly 2 game losing streak, coaching turmoil, player unrest, and recruiting troubles.  But, “All is well!”, just like Kevin Bacon’s character said in ‘Animal House’.

A beleaguered Dan Mullen brings the Gators into this game with seemingly not enough coaching fingers to plug all of the leaks in the dike.  The first issue will be how many snaps does Anthony Richardson get at QB?  It’s likely he trots out Emory Jones to start……but does Mullen hope to just keep the game close enough to let Jones play most of the game?  At this point in the season, it’s likely time to let AR-15 get more reps and show during the rest of 2021 if he can develop enough to be the man in 2022.  But it’s Mullen, so nothing can be assumed.

The Gator O-line has to return to something at least close to it’s form earlier in the season.  Florida has to have some semblance of a running game for some balance and to give either QB the chance for success throwing the ball.  Injuries have been blamed by Mullen for their recent struggles, but I’m not completely buying it – the lack of elite talent is as big of an issue.  And now they get the best front seven in the country for a challenge.  Georgia’s D-line has been dominant all season, led by DT Jordan Davis, a sure 1st-round NFL pick.  Their LB corps is fast and talented, led by Nakobe Dean and Nolan Smith.  Their secondary hasn’t been challenged much.  There could be opportunities for Florida’s WRs if the QBs give them some chances.  This isn’t to say the Puppy secondary is bad, but the Gators have some underutilized talent at WR that needs opportunities to show what they can do.  It seems when AR-15 is in the game they show out, so by default that may determine what Mullen does.  I don’t expect Georgia to allow the Gator RBs over 200 yards in receiving like last season, but the RBs really need to make some explosive plays running or receiving.  They have the talent – but will they get the chances to show it?  

Florida’s defense was completely embarrassed at LSU, allowing almost 300 yards rushing to a poor rushing team, and now faces a Georgia offense that relies on it’s power running game and talented O-line to control the LOS and dictate the action.  The Puppies have their own excellent RB rotation of Zamir White, Kendall Milton, and James Cook.  If the Gators can’t at least slow this group down, it will be another long afternoon, and likely another bad loss.  Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said he plans on playing both Stetson Bennett and J.T. Daniels at QB, but I believe at least part of this comment is a direct poke at Mullen and his reputation as a QB whisperer.  I expect Bennett to start – he has the past month as Daniels has been nursing various injuries.  Neither QB has been especially impressive throwing the ball when playing any kind of decent defense……but we’re talking Todd Grantham here, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see either of them go off, things have become so dysfunctional in Gainesville the past 1 1/2 seasons. Georgia has been plagued by injuries and lack of production from the WR position, and have had to rely more on TE Brock Bowers and slot receiver Ladd McConkey than expected.  Neither target is one that the Gator secondary can’t handle…..if the scheme allows them to play aggressively.  The Gator secondary has to handle it’s business, as the front seven will have it’s hands full trying to slow down the running game.  I just hope the coverage is close and aggressive the entire game – they match up well athletically.

This is not the game to play it safe – the season goals are already gone, so (sadly) the team has to try and play the spoiler role.  I just hope the coaching staff allows the players the opportunity to do it.  Mullen is starting to really feel the heat, and I have seen no evidence that he’s willing to make any meaningful changes.  Winning this game could go a long way to staunch the bleeding, of which it’s mostly been self-inflicted.  I’ve seen everything in this rivalry, and the Gators could pull off the upset like they did in 2014, for example.  The difference is……again……Todd Grantham, the anchor that is weighing down the entire program.  Because of that alone, I don’t see Florida winning, unless they completely flip the script, get turnovers, and at least significantly slow down Georgia’s running game.

Prediction: Georgia 41 Florida 20

LSU Review

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham completely gutted the 2021 season with another upset loss to an outmanned LSU.  Repeating the same mistakes from the 2020 fiasco, the Gators turned the ball over 4 times, one, a pick-six, and reverted back to their horrific defensive play, allowing the Tigers to run through them like swiss cheese to the tune of 300+ yards.  This coming from a team ranked next to last in rushing in the SEC.

It’s already appearing as if some players have checked out mentally, as I feared.  Kaiir Elam started at CB, but looked tentative as if he’s saving his health for the Draft.  No one on defense really stood out.  The D-line embarrassed itself by getting pushed around all afternoon.  The LBs missed tackles and continually looked lost trying to fill their run gaps.  The secondary played touch with LSU’s WRs all afternoon, allowing too many easy 3rd down conversions.  Brenton Cox regressed back to blindly rushing off the edge, allowing LSU to easily run right by him for huge gains – again and again.  Once again, the Gators made weak-armed Max Johnson look like Joe Burrow at times.  And……again…..Grantham couldn’t figure out how to stop the same counter-run play for an entire game.

The Gator offense lost it’s identity, failing to run the ball effectively against a bad LSU front seven.  Emory Jones looked completely lost at times, and threw 2 terrible interceptions, the second being the pick-six that gave LSU a 35-21 3rd quarter lead and getting him benched.  From then on, Anthony Richardson came in and rallied the Gators back time and again, making a handful of spectacular TD throws and keeping drives alive with his legs.  Yes, he also had 2 interceptions, but the last was a desperation throw with under 2 minutes left and with a defender (again) bearing down upon him.  The O-line played it’s worst game of the season, getting abused physically, and blowing a lot of pass protections.  LSU was down 5 starters on defense, including both all-SEC candidate cornerbacks.  And……once again……Mullen laid more than just an egg……an entire omelet.

And in the largest bit of irony, even winning this game wasn’t enough to give Ed Orgeron any more time, as he’s been shown the door by LSU.  Partially for a poor win-loss record since the end of 2019, but also for covering up rape allegations, a Title-IX investigation currently ongoing that includes some actions of the football program, and for personal indiscretions off the field, some of which are well-publicized.

Sadly, we’re right back at the same place where Won’t Misschump and the Swamp Donkey were.  Mullen has shown zero propensity for changing his staff, and Grantham is the anchor around his neck that is dragging the entire program down.  Mullen likely survives and gets another year in 2022, but he has exhausted all equity he built up his first 3 1/2 seasons with last year’s late collapse and now the latest two disasters.

Here are the ugly truths:

– Florida is now 4-6 in it’s last 10 games, 3 of those wins against FAU, USF, and Vanderbilt

– The Gators are 2-6 in their last 8 games against Power 5 opponents

– Mullen is 0-2 vs. Alabama, 1-3 vs. LSU, 2-2 vs. Kentucky, 0-1 vs. Texas A&M, and soon to be 1-3 vs. Georgia

All of his talk about “The Gator Standard” is lip service – he shows no passion or care when losing (which he’s getting a lot of experience with); he goes with seniority over ability at many positions; he continues to employ bad coaches like Grantham and John Hevesy, who most teams wouldn’t even interview; he continues to provide meaningless comments to the media and fans when pressed for details on what he’s going to do to change the program’s fortunes; and, finally, he shows no ability for self-reflection, believing he’s always the smartest man in the room.  The only reason he gets another year in Gainesville is because his buddy, Scott Stricklin, is the AD……and I hope the mess he helped create within the women’s basketball program gets him fired.  That seems to be the only way to make Mullen feel any heat and possibly make some LONG overdue staff changes.

I said in my season preview that the floor for this team was 7 wins – at this point I’m just hoping the Gators don’t fall right through that floor.  Mullen has frittered away the huge advantages he could have had recruiting in-state players vs. Miami and F$U, who both stink, and now has to try and hold the 2021 class together.  Important targets and some commits are looking around now, and the decommitment of Shemar James, the top LB prospect in the country, is a killer – he likely flips to Georgia.

It seems those who feared that Stricklin and Mullen would turn Florida into Mississippi St. east may have been right.  Now, Gator Nation has to go through the ringer (again) for 2 weeks until the Georgia game in Jacksonville, which right now looks like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid vs. the Bolivian Army.  It looks like a long, drawn-out 5 games to go for the 2021 season, with rumors of player and coach movement throughout and into what will be a rough offseason.

And the worst thing of all?  It all could have easily been avoided if Mullen had the guts and humility to make changes during and after 2020.  This is self-inflicted damage.  He’s choosing to ride-or-die with the Mullen Mafia.

On that happy note, I’ll be back next week with a preview for the Georgia game.  

Vanderbilt Review / LSU Preview

Florida showed again that it can dominate in glorified scrimmages, putting away Vanderbilt 42-0 despite playing an uneven game on offense and defense.  It was a happy Homecoming against an outmanned opponent that allowed the staff to clear the bench in the second half with the outcome never in doubt.

The offense used this game to work on the deep passing game.  However……while Emory Jones had some success, I am not buying into that fool’s gold until it’s proven against SEC competition that has a pulse.  The O-line has some players banged up, but it’s stil concerning to see some of the stupid penalties from the Kentucky game still happening – that has to get cleaned up now.  The running game has become ragged, as opponents will simply dare Florida to throw the ball the rest of the season.  You could see the lack of intensity from the start of this game, but, again, that just shows how bad the Commodores are – on the field, not in the recording studio.

The Gator defense gave fans some bad flashbacks to 2020 in the first half.  They allowed Vandy to dominate time of possession while racking up 50(!) plays.  Fortunately, they self-destructed, missing 2 easy FGs and losing a TD on a reversed replay review that easily could have stood.  Why Todd Grantham can’t simply play aggressively from the start of a game remains a mystery.  The defense tightened up in the second half, and fortunately didn’t seem to suffer any injuries of note.  There were some good individual performances from Zach Carter and Gervon Dexter on the D-line, Ty’ron Hopper at LB, and Trey Dean at safety.  But some of last year’s issues are starting to crop up again – poor tackling, soft coverage, and some bad run fits by the LBs.  Hopefully most of that was due to the (lack of) ability of the opponent.

It’s on to LSU, for what I had hoped earlier would be THE BIG PAYBACK.  But, with the weirdness that is a Dan Mullen game plan (see Kentucky), I’m just hoping to get out of Baton Rouge with any kind of win.

The Tigers have been gutted by key injuries the past 2 weeks.  Star WR Kayshon Boutte, all-SEC DB Derek Stingley, all-SEC candidate CB Eli Ricks, and starting DE Ali Gaye are all out, leaving some big holes at those positions.  They are coming off of getting beaten down 42-21 at Kentucky, and it’s gonna be interesting to see if Mullen shows the guts to go for the kill for 60 minutes, or coaches not to lose……again.  Tiger Nation is screaming for Ed Orgeron’s head, as he is 8-8 after selling his soul for the 2019 National Championship season.  The SEC is an unrelenting grind, and LSU has certainly underperformed since then.

Florida is still a running team first, so I still expect Jones and the RB rotation to get their chances early and often to control the game.  The Tigers were gashed for 330 yards by the Wildcats, and the Gators have some serious issues if they can’t run the ball.  It looks like the Gator O-line should be in decent shape after shuffling some guys in and out due to injury.  We’ll see if the vertical passing game actually gets it’s chances, as the Gator WRs should be able to make some plays……if given some opportunities.  LSU has depth and experience issues in the secondary that have to be exposed.

Florida’s defense made Max Johnson look like Joe Burrow last season, in the most embarrassing home loss at the Swamp in decades.  The D-line is much improved, and needs to make a statement this week and deliver some punishment.  It’s been another week of empty statements from Mullen on the health of Kaiir Elam, again saying he should play this week.  I’ll believe it when I see it – he’s been missed.  LSU features only one RB, Tyrion Davis-Price, and I expect him to get a lot of work as long as the game is close.  Johnson does not have good arm strength or running speed, and is missing his primary receiving weapon, so the Florida front seven needs to apply pressure and get some hits on him early.

There’s not much left to play for this season.  Avenging the embarrassment of the 2020 loss to LSU is at least something, but so is showing some real intensity and grit on the road in the SEC and playing a complete game.  Mullen is starting to feel some real heat from Gator Nation, and deservedly so.  Again, we’ll see if last week was just some lip service on the field and to the media, or if he’s realized you need to coach every game hard.

I picked LSU to win this game in my preseason preview, but I’m going to go with Florida in a do-or-die, save the season situation.  It’s telling that this game gets a noon kickoff, as there is no buzz around this matchup, with both teams in a fight to simply get their respective seasons back on track.  It will actually be an 11:00 am local kickoff, which is the best scenario for the Gators, as LSU’s fan base will not be liquored up (at least as much as usual), and has been muted with the mediocre performance of the Tigers so far.  I just hope they have more to complain about and are even quieter after the game is over.  Amazingly, Florida is a 10.5 point favorite – I’d love to see the Gators rush out to an early lead and curb-stomp the Tigers, but that doesn’t seem to be Mullen’s make-up right now.  I can only hope that changes for the better.

Prediction: Florida 27 LSU 24