By now, Florida has had time to get over the loss of head coach Steve Spurrier. By now, they’ve even hired a new coach, Ron Zook. By now, Spurrier has landed the NFL job that everyone knew was coming his way. But what concerns the Florida fans is the way the 2002 Gator football team will shape up. With the departure of Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, Mike Pearson, and Lito Sheppard, some Florida fans don’t know what to expect next year, especially after the departure of their offensive genius, coach Spurrier. But the player losses can be attributed to the loss of Spurrier. At this point, the Gator faithful should be thankful QB Rex Grossman decided to stay in school rather than join some of his teammates in the NFL draft.
Although I would have considered Florida a national title contender in 2002 if Spurrier and a couple of the departing players hung around, I still wouldn’t count them out of the SEC race. The talent pool to begin with is already deeper at UF than a lot of other schools. Tennessee and Georgia, however, should be much improved in ‘02, which will keep Florida from winning the East next season. And of course South Carolina will be around the 8 win mark once again. Unfortunately for coach Zook, anything less than an SEC Championship is not acceptable for the University of Florida. The recruiting class about to be signed will be an important one for the Gators. These will be the players who will be beginning to make their mark when crunch time comes for Zook and his staff in a few years. I think most people expect the Florida football team to take a small step back next season, but past that won’t be easy for UF faithful to handle.
And so another question that comes up is what will Spurrier do in the NFL? I’m not a big NFL guy, but I know it’ll be fun to see a personality like that of Spurrier on the NFL sidelines. The guy is just funny to watch. His system will be different than others in the big league, but I think he will be a successful NFL coach. Anything less than success is not acceptable by Spurrier. He even said his reason for leaving UF was that it wasn’t fun anymore because he was supposed to win. He wants to be in a challenging situation but also in one in which he thinks he can succeed. Spurrier doesn’t accept defeat, and neither will the Washington people.
More than 30 players have decided to leave college football before their eligibility
expires to take a chance in the NFL draft. A lot of these guys had good reasons to move
on, but there are always a few decisions that are hard to understand. Below is the list of college players who are moving on.
|Joe Burns||RB||Georgia Tech|
|TJ Duckett||RB||Michigan State|
|William Green||RB||Boston College|
|Julius Peppers||DE||North Carolina|
|Derek Ross||CB||Ohio State|
|Darnell Sanders||TE||Ohio State|
For guys like Buchanon, Portis, and Shockey of Miami, what more can they accomplish? I can’t argue with their decisions to head to the NFL early. Also, there are the guys who just seem to have accomplished as much as they can in the college level. Guys that I feel are in this situation include Antonio Bryant, Toniu Fonoti, William Green, Ashley Lelie, Julius Peppers, Josh Reed, Lito Sheppard, Luke Staley, Jerramy Stevens, and Roy Williams. These guys probably took an early exit for one of two reasons: (1) There’s nothing left to prove, or (2) They had problems in college with the coaches, players, etc. and there was just no reason to deny the NFL money to put up with that. I would consider Bryant and Green to fall under number two. The others have just been fabulous college players. For Lelie and Staley, they can’t get much more publicity due to their school. The remaining half-dozen or so can move on and will be missed.
Then there are those who are leaving for some unknown reason. There’s even a player or two on here I had never heard of. Obviously they’ve been told that they have some money waiting, so they’ll take it and go. I’m a huge fan of the college game, so I never like to see the guys go pro early. There are always those each year who take the early step up, and there will continue to be. I want to wish them luck ahead and thank them for providing us with a show while they were in college.
Here’s a look at a few basketball notes and opinions:
Everyone knew Duke was going to lose a game this year and that the talk of an undefeated season was crazy. I, for one, didn’t think the loss would come from the Florida State Seminoles though. FSU is, to be honest, horrible on the hardwood. Duke obviously just didn’t play well, while FSU played excellent. Duke will likely lose a few more games this season, but don’t expect a slip-up against a completely inferior opponent like Florida State.
Who would have thought that Ohio State and Indiana would be atop of the head of the Big Ten standings after 2 weeks of conference play? The favorites, Iowa and Illinois, are 2-3 and 3-2 in the conference, respectively. Both the Buckeyes and the Hoosiers are 4-0 in conference play. This sets up a brilliant game for Saturday, when Indiana pays a visit to Columbus, OH to take on the Buckeyes. Thanks to the home court, I’ll take OSU by 3-5 points. Should be a great one!
There are several teams who have traditionally been hoops powerhouses but are struggling this season. North Carolina (5-9), Michigan State (10-7), and Tennessee (6-9) have played poorly at times so far this season. The Tar Heels have lost games they shouldn’t have lost, and the same can be said for Michigan State. Tennessee has had as much luck as anyone can expect for one season, only it’s all been bad luck. They’ve lost 8 games by a total of less than 20 points. One of these days they’ll win a close game, but if they’re going to make a run for the NIT, it better be soon.
Looking ahead to this weekend, there are two out-of-conference games that should be very interesting. Syracuse will visit Tennessee Saturday afternoon. In this one, I look for the Vols to finally win a close game, getting a win over the ranked Orangemen. In the other game, Kentucky visits Notre Dame. The Irish have not been overly-impressive as of yet, while Kentucky has played better over the last week. I look for UK to win by about 10 points.
Speaking of Kentucky, who could have possibly expected the tremendously slow conference start the ‘Cats had? After actually talking of going undefeated throughout the rest of the regular season, Kentucky dropped close decisions to Mississippi State and Georgia, before defeating South Carolina and Mississippi back-to-back and reaching 2-2 in conference play.
If I had to guess today, here’s who I think would make the NCAA Tourney for six of the major conferences:
--ACC: Maryland, Duke, Wake Forest, NC State, Virginia
--Big Ten: Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, (one of these three: Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan State)
--Big XII: Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech
--Big East: Connecticut, Miami, Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt
--PAC-10: Southern Cal, UCLA, (two of the following: Oregon, Arizona, California, and Stanford)
--SEC: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi State, (one of the following: South Carolina, Mississippi, Arkansas, and LSU)