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October 25, 2013
Holt-Simonton: Second half of the season
With a tip of our cap to USA Today political pundits Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel, staffers Bryan Holt and Jesse Simonton go back and forth trading barbs, insults, observations and maybe even a couple of roundhouse rights and submission attempts as they debate the world of Florida football.
HOLT: Florida's bye week is less break and more small child scurrying rapidly into shelter and trying to slam the door before the fire and brimstone of an apocalyptic world gets inside. If you're not in a whiskey -induced coma from trying to get through two straight weeks of Brent Pease offense fun, you know what has happened. The Gators are 4-3, 3-2 in the Southeastern Conference and just happen to have four possible losses on the other side this loss-free weekend. Jesse, I know you have some told-ya-so's to pass out, so just get them out of your system now so we can get back to making bad pop culture jokes.
SIMONTON: HOW DARE YOU. BAD JOKES? The last entity to wreck a ball this much was Miley Cyrus. BOOM! Duck Dynasty's fearsome-foursome is better looking than Florida's offense. BOOM AGAIN! Not even Pharrell in a club on Friday night gets luckier than opposing defenses that face the Gators. Ok, I'm done. But honestly, Florida's whole season has turned into a running joke -- and I understand that's devastating for the once mighty (and proud) Gator Nation. And with five games remaining on the schedule, the jokes are likely to keep on coming. Will Muschamp's "simplify the offense and figure out what we do well," sounds a lot like a wishful, yet hollow sound bite. Florida's list of things it does well offensively is shorter than Chumbawamba's career, only when Tyler Murphy gets repeatedly knocked down, he has a hard time getting back up again (Watch the video, but seriously, I'm done now). So what would you do moving forward and what did you think of Muschamp's emphatic endorsement of UF's assistant coaches?
HOLT: I know this is exactly what everyone in the Sister Hazel fan club, I mean, Gator Nation wants to hear. Florida needs to get more boring offensively. It's possible, I think. Seriously though, the Gators' offensive line is a disgrace to fat people trying to block everywhere. It's not a long-term solution, but in order to get through this season with a backfield full of attached limbs, Florida has to find ways to help out its struggling front-five, whoever that may be. That means (gasp) max-protection and two wide receivers and an offense that depends entirely on freshman 28-carry phenom Kelvin Taylor to produce in order to open up something -- ANYTHING! -- for whoever Florida decides its two best receivers are. Sure, Florida's wide receivers might not be talented enough to pull it off, but at least plays might have a chance. As for the "endorsement," I think it's more delaying the inevitable until after the season than an actual vote of confidence. Public-shaming usually isn't the best way to deal with men in their 40s and 50s. The question turns to goals, and what exactly do the Gators have to play for moving forward?
SIMONTON: Pride? 2014? Avoiding Birmingham, or gulp, Shreveport? Motivation won't come easy for such a disappointed group, but there're enough uber competitors on the team one would believe they won't just lay down. And yet, with an obvious lack of (developed) talent, depth and a natural feeling of snakebittenness, who knows? I do agree with your assessment of Muschamp's vote of confidence. I'll be surprised if there isn't a change(s) at season's end, but either way Florida's proverbial fork in the road falls on Muschamp's shoulders. Does he want the Gators to be Virginia Tech or an annual national championship contender? Recently, I joked Muschamp wants Florida to score more, but only in homage to Herman Boone. Over the past three seasons, the Gators bludgeoned the "six plays, split-veer, just like Novocain, just give it time, always works" offense to deathly exhaustion. It failed, 11 wins or not. Whether Pease is or is not the answer moving forward, Muschamp's philosophy on offense -- and as a CEO altogether -- must transform if the Gators are going to be great good again.
HOLT: Oh c'mon, Jesse. You know Shreveport is delightful in the [coughs], um, [loses breakfast]. It's like almost where Britney Spears was raised. Brown rivers, snake charmers, a surplus of wild dogs to bark at -- what more could you want in a New Year's Eve destination if you're Florida? Plus, the whole "Duck Dynasty" thing. Could there be a more fitting end for Pease? But you're right. Muschamp has some serious directional thinking to do in between politely handing an assistant or three one-way plane tickets and figuring out exactly what the hell this team is going to look like in 2014. These next five weeks need to be more about evaluation than wins and losses, and I know that cuts right to the saddest part of Boom's stubborn heart. Who can the Gators move forward with from this pitiful offense? Do they have any interior defensive linemen they can trust to be "the guys" next year? Is this a fluke season for the linebackers, or is this group just not any good? Is it time to pair this defense up with a different brand of offense? Florida shouldn't have to tolerate three or more losses in a season too many times. ... Where would you start rebooting this thing, AD Simonton?
SIMONTON: [Stares blankly at a computer for 10 minutes]. Three or more losses? HAVE YOU SEEN THE 2014 SCHEDULE? And lest we forget -- for as young as the Gators are -- Florida's roster next season likely won't include three of its top four cornerbacks (Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, Jaylen Watkins), its two most reliable offensive weapons (Solomon Patton and, yeah, Trey Burton), the lone dude on the offensive line WHO CAN BLOCK (center Jonotthan Harrison), but it will have a rebooted quarterback controversy! YAY. UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley faces one hell of a pickle and is in an extremely unenviable position. He must decide: Did injuries cripple a potentially solid team or was Florida destined for a major regression from 2012 and similar results anyways? We don't know. We'll never know. And this is actually my perfect opportunity for some I-told-ya'-so's, but even I never prophesized a doomsday season. Every question you asked above is legitimate. The answers??? That's why those boys get paid mucho dinero. Obviously the most pressing dilemma is what to do with the offense? With three top-five recruiting classes in the last four years and a COMBINED 20 Under Armour/Army All-American offensive prospects (2010-13 classes), the Gators should never be the fourth-best team in the state and perpetually a bottom-20 offense nationally.
HOLT: The offense has to change significantly this offseason after going through the next five weeks in survival mode. I'm not saying Florida needs to be Oregon, but the Gators felt like they were behind the curve in adopting a pro-style offense in reaction to Alabama's success, and something about the entire relationship is just off. I know we live in a world where Steve Spurrier is a run-first coach, but something about a boring, ball-control offense doesn't click at a school that once set the bar for SEC offense. As you mentioned, the thing that has to have Foley banging his head against a wall is that next year looks like a death trap, too. If he's truly confident in Muschamp as a head coach, he might have to publicly defend him through another season like this one. That will go over like a pro-ObamaCare rally in rural Alabama and could end in folks calling for both to lose their jobs. Before we go, I guess we should kind of address what's left of the 2013 season. Aside from whatever development is possible, it's a lost cause and I'm not sure I see these next five games being anything but grueling for the Gators. I'll set my prediction at 6-6, with a win against Georgia Southern and an escape job in one game they shouldn't win -- I'll guess Vandy. What say you? Why do I get the feeling that 6-6 seems generous at this point?
SIMONTON: Well let's see: Florida can't run, can't block, can't pass and, suddenly, can't really play defense, so yeah, 6-6 is probably generous. But I too believe that's where the Gators will ultimately land. Florida could trip up a wounded Georgia team, but if Todd Gurley is back, that becomes a dubious proposition for a rush defense gashed the past two weeks by lesser (albeit talented) tailbacks. Normally, facing Georgia Southern's triple-option is all about exiting the game healthy, so naturally, the Gators will suffer another 36 ACL injuries. A Florida State beatdown appears inevitable, as does another road defeat to the Old Ball Coach. It's a lost season -- and not for just the coaches and players. This has been a brutal year to watch, cover and write about the Gators for the UAA spin-doctors. And that's the saddest thing of all.