Hello, Gators. I hope everyone had a great holiday season. The Report family ventured to Montana where Timmy and Percy had their first encounter with snow. I'm happy to report that we all survived and they did great, for Florida girls. Thanks again to Stumpy Harris, who has a PhD in Gator, for allowing us to enjoy Big Sky.
This is the last report on the season and I intentionally took some time between the bowl games before I wrote this because I didn't want to overreact to any of results. I know you all look to me as your voice of reason and overall moral compass, and that is a weighty responsibility I take very seriously. So, here goes-
- We sucked ass on the field of the Super Dome. Gainesville High School might have given the Ville a better game. I'm not sure why we didn't want to be there, but clearly we were more interested in getting back to Bourbon Street than finishing the year strong. I knew we were in trouble when I started reading all the quotes about the players spending their nights bonding in the hotel. That was clearly bullshit as anyone has ever been to the Big Easy can attest. So either they were sneaking out, or the coaches were just lying. You pick. The offense's woes weren't surprising. We haven't been good all year. I thought we got away from the run way to early and didn't let our best offensive players (Gilly and Driskel) do what they do best: run. Sure it would have been predictable to start the game off with 2 runs, but predictable won us 11 games. Instead, we threw a bad pass after 4 weeks of downtime to a receiver who hadn't played in months, and found ourselves down 7-0. We'd been down before so I wasn't worried, but when Teddy Bridgewater did his best Charlie Ward impression and it was 14-0 I knew it was bedtime. Our secondary, who had blanketed better receivers all year, suddenly couldn't cover for more than 2 seconds. Our linemen and linebackers would stuff a run and then repeatedly give up a long second or third down. Defense, in its most elementary form, is a combination of talent and effort. We had the talent, but the effort was absent. I think Coach Boom knew it, which was why he was willing to gamble with the fake field goal to end the first half and the onsides kick to start the second. But when just one player stayed to sing the traditional fight song at the end of the game, you knew that the coaches had checked out sometime during the second half as well. All in all, a putrid effort.
- Note to the Florida defense- If we're down 14 and you make a tackle for a loss, its not ok to celebrate like you're auditioning for Dancing With the Stars. How about instead trying to stop the other team from getting a first down when its 2nd and 17.
- That being said, this will give strength coach Jeff Dillman plenty in terms of off season motivation, and at the end of the day, this game didn't matter much in terms of 2013. Sure, Louisville will get an unreasonable bump in the polls and Bridgewater's Heisman chances went way up. But for the upcoming year, I'd rather see us not start out in the Top 5 as I'm not sure we can handle the expectations and hype that would come with a 12-1 season. More on that later.
- The Championship game was a predictable laugher. ESPN spent a month hyping the chances of the Domers simply to sell commercial spots. They couldn't have honestly believed that Notre Dame had a chance against the SEC Champ. If ND played in the SEC, they probably would end up 6th or 7th in the league, if not worse. ND's biggest win was at Oklahoma, but after the Sooners were waxed by Johnny Football and the Aggies, it was clear that Okie simply lost to every single decent team on their schedule.
- Everyone is going bonkers over Musberger's remarks about AJ McCarron's girlfriend, but for me his best quote was in the second quarter: "Folks, if this was a prize fight they'd call it off." Preach on, Brother.
- Bama has obviously earned the status of being a modern day dynasty. 3 titles in 4 years in this day and age is simply unbelievable. Their facilities are unmatched and Saban is a pure winning machine. As long as he's there and they stay out of trouble with the NCAA, there is no end in sight to what they can accomplish. I think the quintessential moment of that game was when Barrett Jones almost got into a slugfest with QB AJ McCarron in the fourth quarter. The game was over and yet they're so focused on perfection they almost came to blows over a delay of game penalty. Meanwhile, their coach is about to kill a ref on the sideline for not granting a timeout. That's hunger, folks. And I frankly don't see it at that level anywhere else including Gainesville.
- Here's a scary thought- If Ohio State hadn't been on probation, they would have played Notre Dame for the National Championship. Sure, maybe some AP voters would have given Bama the title after crushing Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, but it is absurd that one of those teams could have been given the BCS title when neither would stand a chance against the Tide (or Georgia or maybe even more SEC teams). Thus is the state of college football for at least one more season until we get to the 4 game playoff. If there was any sanity in the world, next year's SEC Champ would be granted automatic status in the BCS Title game. Instead, as it stands now, the only thing that could prevent an 8th straight conference national title is a loss inside our own conference, which is widely recognized as significantly better than everyone else. Goofy.
- The only non-SEC team that could have given Bama a game in Miami was Oregon. They lost a heartbreaker to a good Stanford team but would have beaten Notre Dame by 3 touchdowns. I'm not saying they would have beaten the Tide, but it would have been more entertaining.
- The National Championship hasn't resided outside the state of Alabama since Tim Tebow and the Gators beat Oklahoma in January of 2009.
- Te'o is Hawaiian for overrated. Look it up.
- The best play of the postseason was undoubtedly Clowney's hit on the Michigan running back. If I was a running back facing South Carolina next year, I'd have some sleepless nights in the next 8 months. If Clowney sustains a career ending injury in his mandatory last year in college, I think he'd be set up well for a great lawsuit against the NFL. If the rules weren't against it, he'd be the unquestioned top pick in the draft in a few months. Truly a generational talent at D-End.
- My favorite blogger is "Outkick the Coverage" founder, Clay Travis. Travis is an unabashed Tennessee fan and had my favorite quote on the debacle that was the Tennessee coaching search- "Dave Hart (UT Athletic Director) couldn't get laid in a whorehouse with a fist full of hundreds". Classic, and dead on. The Vols ended up with Cincy's Butch Jones, who was an underwhelming 23-14 at Cincinnati. Their QB and best skill players have declared they're leaving early for the NFL draft. I predict that the long winter in Knoxville continues for a few more years.
- Charlie Strong's team looked great against the Gators and should be a heavy favorite to win the Big East next year. Seminole fans may want to enjoy this year, because if Charlie stays at Louisville he's going to be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC starting in 2014.
- The Jacksonville Jaguars decided to fire their head coach after one season and just brought on a new GM whose first act after firing his coach was to declare that they don't want Tim Tebow. Look, I know that Tebow isn't ever going to be an elite NFL quarterback and even though he won a playoff game at Denver whereas Peyton Manning could not, I know he's not in Peyton's league. That being said, one problem with living in God's Country is that we are subjected to watching Jacksonville on every. single. Sunday. Adding Tebow wouldn't make them an automatic Super Bowl contender, but it sure would have made the Jags more interesting to those of us who might become fans if he was there. Now I couldn't care less if they pick up and move.
In the first Report of the season I said I wanted to see one thing this year- Improvement. Against any measure we clearly achieved that goal. My goal for next year is escalated, I want to see us win the East. To do it, we'll have to beat Georgia. The Dawgs lose a good chunk of their defense as well as their long time D-line coach but returns almost everyone on offense save their top two receivers. They start the year at Clemson and then host South Carolina and LSU in September, so we'll know all there is to know about the Dawgs very early. We'll have to beat South Carolina again as well, who also loses a good bit on defense in addition to Marcus Lattimore, but we have to visit Columbia while they'll have a bye week before our arrival. They also have the luxury of avoiding Bama, LSU and A&M on their schedule. The rest of the East shouldn't be tough assuming we handle Vandy at home.
On offense, our line should be nasty next year with an infusion of new talent. Driskel has to stop staring down his primary receiver and has to find a new top target with the loss of Jordan Reed. One of the younger running backs has to fill the huge shoes of Mike Gillislee. Most importantly, as I've said all season, we have to have a big play threat at receiver. I didn't see one on campus this year, but maybe one of the freshmen from our top rated recruiting class will fill the void. Further, I'm hopeful that the addition of Joker Phillips at receivers coach will provide a much needed shot in the arm. Without it, we're not beating UGA next year as we won't be able to score with them.
On defense, our front 7 is being decimated by graduation and early departures. I'm very happy with our young D-ends who played this year and hopefully Ro-Po can return and be the player that we've always thought he could be. I'm very comfortable with Antonio Morrison replacing Jelani Jenkins, but question marks remain at the other two linebacker spots. We also have to replace the best player on this year's defense, Matt Elam. We've recruited very well in the secondary, but All Americans are tough to replace.
On special teams, Caleb Sturgis might be the best kicker we've ever had, and certainly was from long distance. Finding his replacement is crucial. I go back to playmakers as we haven't had a consistent threat on punt returns and kickoffs in a long time. And no, I don't count Debose. Again, we'll have a great recruiting class that should add talent to the special teams units.
Early on, I'm setting the bar at 10-2 next year but we can't lose a third year in a row to Georgia. I'd caution against setting expectations higher as we don't have elite skill players and our QB isn't accurate enough to be great without some help at receiver.
Enjoy the time off, Gators. It was a very good year and next year is going to be a fun schedule. I'll be back in late August to kick off 2013 but until then, thanks for reading and Go Gators!