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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 30: Florida

The thrill wasn’t quite gone, but the fire was. Urban Meyer could have remained Florida’s coach in perpetuity: that’s what a pair of national titles in three seasons will do for a coach’s job security. So what happened? Quite simply, Meyer couldn’t reconcile his love for the game — his burning desire to win, win, win — with the lack of energy that plagued his final season, an 8-5 finish that saw him as hands-off as he’d ever been in his sterling coaching career. Looking for the fire that drove Meyer to such early heights with the Gators, the program went for a coach with a seemingly limitless reserve of get-up-and-go. There’s a reason Will Muschamp’s coaching philosophy can be summed up in a single onomatopoeia: boom.

SEC, East

Gainesville, Fla.


Returning starters
13 (7 offense, 6 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 10

2010 record
(8-5, 4-4)

Last year’s

No. 33

2011 schedule

  • Sept. 3
    Florida Atlantic
  • Sept. 10
  • Sept. 17
  • Sept. 24
    at Kentucky
  • Oct. 1
  • Oct. 8
    at L.S.U.
  • Oct. 15
    at Auburn
  • Oct. 29
    Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.)
  • Nov. 5
  • Nov. 12
    at S. Carolina
  • Nov. 19
  • Nov. 26
    Florida St.

Last year’s prediction

Altogether, the Gators will be pretty good: at least 9-3, though I’m tending towards a 10-win finish. Now, the bad news. This is Alabama’s league now. Florida’s reign — Urban Meyer’s reign — lasted three seasons, maybe. As noted before, Spurrier used his 1992 SEC title game game loss to the Crimson Tide as the foundation upon which he built his U.F. legacy. Now, I’m willing to admit the circumstances surrounding each loss was different; Meyer’s loss was devastating, Spurier’s expected. Nevertheless, Spurrier always showed resiliency: one year after being embarrassed by Nebraska, for example, the Gators took the 1996 national title. Meyer was humbled and nearly retired. Will his team have similar resolve in 2010?

2010 recap

In a nutshell It was not a fitting farewell for Meyer, Florida’s two-time national title-winning coach, as the Gators slid to a pedestrian 8-5 thanks to an uncharacteristically poor offensive attack. The architect of last year’s decline, Steve Addazio, took his utterly predictable play-calling north to Temple, which was great, great news for all involved parties. The damage was already done: Florida, home of premier recruits across the board, finished 83rd nationally in total offense, 88th in passing, 44th in rushing and 43rd in scoring — a headfirst nosedive that few could have seen coming, even if U.F. entered the year with some questions about its overall offensive philosophy. And sadly, this is how we’ll remember Meyer. In Gainesville, at least, as here’s betting he pops again sometime soon, and not just on ESPN. The Gators are moving forward with Muschamp, the former Texas defensive coordinator who jumped at the opportunity to take over one of college football’s elite programs. Muschamp may have a hard time taking his glance away from the defense, but his first order of business will be reformatting an offense without direction. And yeah, here comes Charlie Weis.

High point The wacky ending in Jacksonville. Interception? Yep. Touchdown? Not quite: Will Hill stepped out at the four. But the Gators earned a hard-fought 34-31 overtime win over rival Georgia at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, snapping a three-game losing streak and avoiding what would have been a devastating conference loss. The offense struggled against Penn State in the Outback Bowl, but the defense came up with five interceptions in a 37-24 win, Meyer’s last with the program.

Low point Would it be crazy to say the 10-7 home loss to Mississippi State was the low point of the year? You had the ragged offense, a solid defense, a loss in the Swamp and a loss to Dan Mullen, all of which made this one to forget. In terms of pure ugliness, we have a three-way tie: 31-6 at Alabama, 36-14 at home to South Carolina and 31-7 at Florida State. Perhaps the last, which signaled a changing of the guard in the Sunshine State, hurt worst of all.

Tidbit Not to continue to harp on last year’s offense, as it’s a new day in Gainesville. Still, one final item warrants mentioning. From 2005-9, Florida turned the ball over an F.B.S.-low 81 times. The Gators committed 27 turnovers alone last fall, 15 via interceptions and 12 via lost fumbles. In one year, Florida accounted for one-third of its total turnovers over the previous five seasons. And that’s really all you need to know about last year’s offense. At least the defense continued to do its job, forcing 29 turnovers, 22 via interceptions. The Gators had an F.B.S.-best 538 interception return yards last fall.

Tidbit (head coaches edition) With Dan McCarney and Addazio moving up the coaching ladder — or back up the ladder, in McCarney’s case — following last season, Meyer had 10 assistants move on to head coach positions over his decade at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. The full list: Gregg Brandon followed Meyer at Bowling Green in 2003; his offensive coordinator at Utah, Mike Sanford, was hired at U.N.L.V. in 2005; Kyle Whittingham replaced Meyer with the Utes in 2005; former Utah defensive line coach Gary Anderson was hired at Utah State in 2009; former Bowling Green defensive coordinator Tim Beckman was hired at Toledo in 2009; Dan Mullen moved to Mississippi State in 2009; former U.F. associate head coach Doc Holliday was hired by Marshall in 2009; Charlie Strong went to Louisville in 2010; and McCarney and Addazio are entering their first years at North Texas and Temple, respectively.

Former players in the N.F.L.

42 S Ahmad Black (Tampa Bay), DE Alex Brown (New Orleans), WR Andre Caldwell (Cincinnati), OG Cooper Carlisle (Oakland), WR Riley Cooper (Philadelphia), DE Jermaine Cunningham (New England), LB Andra Davis (Buffalo), DE Carlos Dunlap (Cincinnati), WR Jabar Gaffney (Washington), OT Marcus Gilbert (Pittsburgh), RB Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay), QB Rex Grossman (Washington), CB Joe Haden (Cleveland), DE Derrick Harvey (Denver), WR Percy Harvin (Minnesota), TE Aaron Hernandez (New England), LB Brandon Hicks (Buffalo), OG Maurice Hurt (Washington), TE Cornelius Ingram (Philadelphia), OG Carl Johnson (New Orleans), LB A.J. Jones (Denver), DE Duke Lemmens (Arizona), DT Ray McDonald (San Francisco), C Drew Miller (St. Louis), DE Jeremy Mincey (Jacksonville), RB Emmanuel Moody (Buffalo), DE Jarvis Moss (Oakland), WR Louis Murphy (Oakland), S Reggie Nelson (CIncinnati), WR David Nelson (Buffalo), LB Mike Peterson (Atlanta), C Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh), C Mike Pouncey (Miami), DT Terron Sanders (Baltimore), LB Brandon Siler (Kansas City), LB Brandon Spikes (New England), QB Tim Tebow (Denver), DE Marcus Thomas (Denver), DE Justin Trattou (New York Giants), OT Phil Trautwein (Cleveland), OT Jason Watkins (Buffalo), S Major Wright (Chicago).

Arbitrary top five list

Washington Redskins’ quarterback options
1. Any free agent still available.
2. Rex Grossman.
3. John Beck.
4. Kellen Clemens.
5. Ben Chappell.


Will Muschamp (Georgia ’94), entering his first season. Muschamp eschewed the opportunity to be Mack Brown’s eventual successor at Texas for a shot at replacing a legend at Florida, taking on a premier program with mammoth-sized yearly expectations. Muschamp has slight ties to Florida, having attempted to walk on to the football team as a high school senior only to be rebuffed, but has very deep ties to the SEC. This dates to his playing days at Georgia, where he went from walk-on to team captain, and continues with a coaching career that includes stints at L.S.U. (2001-4) and Auburn (2006-7). Muschamp’s a Nick Saban disciple, as his tenure at L.S.U. suggests: he began as Saban’s linebackers coach in 2001, was defensive coordinator from 2002-4 and followed Saban to the Miami Dolphins in 2005. Auburn gave Muschamp the opportunity to return to his roots, and he responded by leading the Tigers to back-to-back outstanding defensive efforts in 2006 and 2007 — seventh in scoring defense in 2006, sixth in 2007, as solid, well-coached and fundamentally sound as any unit in the country. Texas made an offer no coach could refuse a year later, writing a huge check for him to become Brown’s coordinator in 2008 and then, in November of that fall, naming him the head-coach-in-waiting. For three years, it was simply assumed that he would eventually step into Brown’s shoes; the only issue was when, as Brown showed no sign of slowing down while countless premier programs offered enticing job openings. One school, Florida, had everything Muschamp was looking for: talent, prestige, fertile recruiting grounds, history and, perhaps most of all, a return to the SEC. Was he a surprise choice as Meyer’s replacement? Perhaps, but only because it was so widely assumed that Muschamp wasn’t going anywhere. Well, boom: he’s gone, in Gainesville, and Florida’s hit a home run.

Tidbit (coaching edition) Alright, so here’s the much-anticipated new staff. There are three holdovers: linebackers coach and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin, running backs coach Brian White and strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti — and yeah, Marotti’s done more than enough since arriving with Meyer in 2005 to be considered a vital part of Muschamp’s staff. Charlie Weis will run the offense after doing so with the Kansas City Chiefs; perhaps Weis isn’t made to be a college head coach, but there are few better coordinators in football, college or otherwise. Former Seattle Seahawks assistant Dan Quinn will lead the defense, former Texas Tech coach Tarvaris Robinson will coach the secondary and Bryant Young the defensive line after doing so for San Jose State in 2010. Former Notre Dame assistant Frank Verducci will coach the offensive line, bringing some familiarity with Weis to the table, with former Miami (Fla.) wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill doing the same for the Gators and former Minnesota assistant Derek Lewis coaching the tight ends. A very nice staff.

Players to watch

The official move to a pro-style offense will make John Brantley happy, as he’s found a system well-suited to his abilities and a new best friend in Weis, the quarterback specialist. No player suffered more from last fall’s muddled attack than Brantley, who is simply not a runner but a pure passer. He’ll flourish under Weis, who will rarely — if ever, ever, ever — ask Brantley to run the football but rather stand tall and deliver in the pocket. Whether Brantley has the skills to do so is not in question: whether he can regain his confidence, however, remains to be seen. It was torn to shreds in 2010, when the senior threw for 2,061 yards with more interceptions, 10, than touchdowns, nine. Again, he’ll finally be a round peg in a round hole, and Weis will put together a comfortable passing game tailored to Brantley’s abilities. Look for him to have a very nice final season. Depth is an issue, as the three contenders for the backup role, redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and true freshmen Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel, are nothing but green.

The backfield has enough talent to take some of the pressure off of Brantley’s shoulders, though Florida’s depth is tempered somewhat by the lack of a proven, every-down back. That’s not a real issue, not when the Gators have speed to burn in seniors Jeff Demps (551 yards, 3 scores) and Chris Rainey (366, 2 scores) and a few younger options capable of earning tough yards between the tackles. What Florida will do in 2011 is run the ball far more out of the I-formation, which may prevent Demps and Rainey from spending as much time in open space but should allow for a larger role for backs like Mike Gillislee (325 yards, 7 scores) and sophomore Mack Brown. It seems like Weis will use do-everything sophomore Trey Burton (349 yards, 11 scores) as an H-back, taking advantage of the athletic ability he memorably flashed in his six-touchdown performance against Kentucky. One prerequisite for playing running back in a Weis system is an ability to make plays in the passing game; Demps and Rainey have proven they can do so, and Burton looks like a nice intermediate option for Brantley to work with.

Yeah, Florida’s still waiting for a receiver to step up. The quest for a top target — if not three or four — becomes even more vital in the new offense, so it’s about time that senior Deonte Thompson (38 catches for 570 yards) become the presence he was expected to be a year ago. Thompson still led the team in receptions and receiving yards, but the consistency was lacking; he had a nice spring, according to Weis, but U.F. needs a far better showing. He’s the most experienced receiver in a group deep on talent but short on proven commodities. The list of options is a long one: Frankie Hammond (22 for 276), Omarius Hines (20 for 281), Andre Debose (10 for 96), Quinton Dunbar, Solomon Patton and Ja’Juan Story, among others. All will play until Weis can form a concrete rotation. This offense also loves the tight end, so look for Jordan Reed (328 yards passing, 252 yards rushing) to play a big role as a sophomore.

I can think of one reason to be excited about the future of this Florida defense: Muschamp. I can think of several others, like the potential of a sophomore-heavy defensive line that may, if the youngsters play up their potential, be one of the most improved groups in the country. Much does depend on these sophomores, especially those along the interior of the line who need to embrace this opportunity on the field and off, displaying the sort of maturity that seemed to be lacking a year ago.

Sophomore tackles Sharrif Floyd (23 tackles, 8 for loss) and Dominique Easley may be the key to the entire defensive puzzle. There’s no doubting this pair’s ability; each entered the program with lofty expectations, thanks to their five-star status and heated recruitment. Floyd, who has lost some weight since the end of the last season, produced enough in batches to be considered an all-SEC candidate heading into the fall. Easley, who has gained some weight since January, never ingratiated himself to the coaching staff as a rookie, flashing more immaturity than promise over his 10 games of reserve play. This duo, along with injury-prone junior Omar Hunter and senior Jaye Howard (29 tackles, 12 for loss), make up your two-deep in the middle. If Easley puts his nose to the grindstone, if Floyd continues to blossom, if Hunter remains healthy and Howard continues to produce, the interior of Florida’s defensive line could dominate. That’s a lot of ifs, but the potential is there.

Another sophomore, Ronald Powell, has slimmed down to 245 pounds in advance of his permanent move to the buck position, a hybrid end-linebacker spot that will play well to Powell’s pass rush talents. Powell, like Easley, simply needs to harness his talent to make an impact: he was part of the mix last fall, making 25 tackles and a sack, but Powell — the nation’s top recruit last February — can do so much more. There’s the opportunity for a former reserve to step into a starting role on the opposite side: William Green’s seniority may give him an early edge, but he’ll have to produce to hold off challengers like Lerentee McCray, Kendrick Johnson, Earl Okine and a handful of true and redshirt freshmen. A lot hinges on Powell’s development.

U.F. will line up in a 3-4 on occasion, with Powell standing up as a rush outside linebacker. The Gators have the meat at tackle to make this move work, so this could be a very interesting alignment if all goes according to plan. But it’ll be the 4-3 more often than not, which is a good thing considering Florida’s lack of proven quantities at linebacker. You know about two of them: sophomore Jelani Jenkins (76 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception) on the weak side and junior Jonathan Bostic (57 tackles, 3 interceptions) in the middle. These guys are good, to put it as simply as possible. Jenkins is better than good; athletic, violent and opportunistic, Jenkins has all-SEC written all over him. But the line of experienced linebackers ends there, which is troubling. Dee Finley, a junior, enters the fall atop the depth chart on the strong side, but don’t be surprised if he gets pushed aside by sophomore Darrin Kitchens or a freshman like Michael Taylor, Clay Burton or Gideon Ajagbe. It’s a work in progress.

Look for Muschamp to be very hands-on with the secondary, and he’ll have his hands full molding a group without three of last season’s key contributors. One, leading tackler Ahmad Black, took the traditional route: four years, N.F.L. paycheck. A second, Will Hill, took an untraditional route: three years, uncalled on draft day. The third, all-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins, took the disappointing route: unable to walk the straight and narrow, Jenkins was dismissed from the team in April. Yeah, Muschamp’s going to need to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

Matt Elam’s not going to follow Jenkins to the F.C.S., but he needs to get his act together after committing another violation of team rules a week ago. The sophomore is penciled in as Black’s replacement at strong safety, where he served as the understudy in 2010, making 22 tackles and a sack. Elam, a late recruiting coup for Florida last winter, has the tools to be an impact player; he’s stepping into some large shoes, as Black had an outstanding senior season. The lone returning starter, junior Jeremy Brown (15 tackles, 3 interceptions), will be joined at cornerback by sophomore Cody Riggs, who has earned nothing but praise by the current and last staff. Moses Jenkins isn’t a starter, but he’ll be a fine third cornerback as a senior. That’s if that his would-be role isn’t usurped by youngsters like De’Ante Saunders, Jaylen Watkins — who can also play safety — Marcus Robertson and Valdez Showers.

Position battle(s) to watch

Offensive line Four linemen who combined to make 48 starts last fall must be replaced, and there’s reason for worry as you consider Florida’s youth, inexperience and lack of depth. Those are issues, but it’s important to note that last year’s starters were far from world-beaters, and if the Gators can remain healthy along the starting lineup there’s no reason why this line can’t be better than it was a year ago. Easier said than done: Matt Patchan may start the season opener at tackle, but it’s a fairly safe bet that the injury-plagued junior will miss at least a game or two at some point during the season. The Gators need as much as possible from Patchan, not to mention junior tackle Xavier Nixon — him most of all — and sophomore guard Jon Halapio. The never-ending talk about Nixon’s lack of size being a detriment is getting tiresome: Nixon is 290 pounds, not 260, and that’s enough size, along with his athleticism, to be an all-conference left tackle. In short, don’t lose sleep over a 290-pound lineman being too small, especially on the weak side. Instead, lose sleep over the lack of experience elsewhere. Sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, who started the Outback Bowl, should get the nod at center — but recent addition Dan Wenger knows the offense from his time at Notre Dame, and could be a factor along the interior of the line if he’s recovered from his concussion issues. There are several candidates at left guard, including one, senior James Wilson, with past starting experience. He’s certainly in the mix, but he’ll have a hard time unseating sophomores Ian Silberman and Nick Alajajian, two former high-profile recruits battling for the starting role. At worst, Wilson provides some much-needed depth; if Halapio moves outside to tackle, either because Patchan is injured or can’t cut it, Wilson could easily step into the lineup at right guard. There’s a reason Muschamp and Weis have highlighted the offensive line as a position of enormous concern: there just nothing proven outside of Nixon, and the Gators will need a handful of sophomores to seamlessly push into the starting lineup to have this offense run at full capacity.

Game(s) to watch

In order of intrigue: Alabama, Georgia, Florida State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida Atlantic. In order of importance, however, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State stand above the rest. Tennessee and Alabama are there as well, but U.F. should begin with an East title before taking on the SEC at large. As touched on yesterday, the Gators need to reclaim some momentum against the Seminoles.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell Florida and Michigan are in roughly the same boat: new coaches, oodles of talent and tweaked philosophies, Florida perhaps less so in the latter category than the Wolverines. What U.F. does have that Michigan doesn’t, however, is an SEC slate unkind to teams undergoing this sort of rebuilding process; not full-scale rebuilding, but enough changes to ensure at least a slight learning curve for the new coach, incumbent starters and new-look freshmen and sophomores dotting the depth chart. The talent remains high enough to guarantee at least seven wins, and the coaching is good enough to guarantee steady improvement throughout the season. But this is still a program in flux, one that has the talent and coaching to be successful yet is far too inexperienced — both in terms of on-field experience and in time spent in the new systems — to see making a one-year jump from the middle of the SEC to the top of the East division. So that’s the bad news: Brantley will be better but has a lot to prove; the wide receiver corps is long on talent but short on consistency; the offensive line is dangerously young and thin; the linebacker corps lacks proven depth; and the secondary breaks in three new starters. Here’s the good news: it’s going to work. Maybe not to a title-level degree in 2011, but this whole thing is going to work out. Muschamp’s going to tear a hole in any player who doesn’t deliver, not just on the field but off. Weis is maligned, and perhaps for good reason, but he has a track record of success as a coordinator. The staff as a whole has on-field acumen and the ability to make waves on the recruiting trail. It’ll work, though not to the tune of more than eight wins during the regular season in 2011. The fan base should know this, embrace the challenge and look forward to happy returns in 2012 and beyond. To draw back to Michigan, and not to get ahead of myself: you could say the same thing about the Wolverines.

Dream season And just like that — boom! — Florida returns to the top of the SEC, taking down Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia, with Florida State thrown in as a bonus, in an 11-1 regular season.

Nightmare season The road isn’t smooth for Muschamp and company: 6-6, 3-5 in conference play.

In case you were wondering

Where do Florida fans congregate? If you’re interested in U.F. football chatter with a dash of recruiting coverage, look no further than Gator CountryGator Bait and Fightin’ Gators. For added coverage, check out the Web sites of The Gainesville Sun and The Orlando Sentinel. There are more than a few blogs, like Alligator Army and Every Day Should Be Saturday.

Word Count

Through 91 teams 279,262.

Up Next

Who is No. 29? The head coach at tomorrow’s university was once an assistant on the F.C.S. ranks under a coach who went on to post the only double-digit win season in an F.B.S. program’s history.

You can also follow Paul Myerberg and Pre-Snap Read on Twitter.

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  1. John says:

    BYU or Utah is my next bet…

  2. Eksynyt says:

    Impossible clue lol.

  3. Tyler says:

    I think the only way this clue works is if Paul is talking about double-digit *regular season* wins. If that’s the case, then Stanford is next–current Stanford HC David Shaw was an assistant under Jim Harbaugh at FCS San Diego in 2006, and Harbaugh, of course, led the Cardinal to a 12-1 record last year. (Stanford also won 10 games in 1926, 1940, and 1992, but in each of those years one of the 10 wins came in a bowl; only in 2010 were the Cardinal able to break into the double-digits without the aid of postseason play.)

    Fantastic clue.

  4. M Meyer says:

    Was any current coach an assistant for Bob Stull at U Mass? That’s about as far as I got.

  5. Dave says:

    As usual, an embarrassing OOC schedule. Florida Atlantic, UAB, and Furman? Come on, at least replace one of those with Miami.

  6. Kevin says:

    Funny how people refer to UF’s OOC scheduling as weak. Do you see who they play during regular season?!! October alone, they will play 3 of the last 4 winners on the BCS title (they 4th is 2x winner UF themselves). The SEC has proven winners with excellent coaching. Look at last years Bowl season with SEC blowing out top ranked teams: Alabama/Michigan State, Mississippi State/ Michigan, LSU/ Texas A&M.

    I guess you would like UF to validate themselves by scheduling the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts for their OOC games, huh?

  7. Gotham Gator says:

    And Dave, like many others, continues to pretend that Florida State is not an out-of-conference game for the Gators.

    On average, Florida plays 1.5 “BCS” teams out-of-conference (including, on occasion, Miami; see 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2013). That may be less than many people like, but it’s not out of line with your average BCS-conference program. Between FSU and the SEC, Florida’s strength-of-schedule will rank among the nation’s toughest, just as it always does.

  8. Gotham Gator says:

    This is a terrific summary, and (as I mentioned in the USF preview) I can’t complain about the overall ranking.

    To me, it is less the question marks at key positions than the turnover in the coaching staff. Yes, the Gators are young and lack depth at several key positions. But, the talent is definitely there, and some of these guys were pressed into service last year.

    No, the real problem is that even the best coaches need around a full season to implement their system. Jimmy Johnson inherited the defending national champs and took them to 8-6 in his first 14 games before finishing 44-3. Pete Carroll went 9-8 in his first season-and-a-half at USC before winning 33 of his next 34 games. Jim Tressel’s first season at Ohio State was 7-5, a game worse than the season that got John Cooper fired the year before. Ohio State won its next 19 games after that.

    These coaches needed anywhere from a half-season to a season-and-a-half to get their teams playing well, at which point they lost only very rarely. And, that pattern repeats itself with guys named Stoops, Saban, Meyer, Holtz, Paterno, Bowden, Stallings, etc. etc.

    What does this mean for Florida? It means that as good as Weis is, the Gators almost certainly won’t have the efficient offensive attack that they will in 2012 and beyond (and that prediction has nothing to do with Brantley). It also means that as good as Muschamp is on the defensive side, the Gators won’t be locking people down right out of the gates.

    2011 is a transitional year for Florida. At best, the team will figure out and buy into the new system sometime during the season. That would mean Florida would have a good shot at beating Georgia (game 8) and South Carolina (game 10) and finishing atop the S.E.C. East. Despite Paul’s prior post about the importance of beating the School Out West (F.S.U.), getting to Atlanta is always the bigger goal, but it’s going to be a very difficult task for the Gators this year.

  9. Zach says:

    Bob Stull does look like the coach referred to in the hint, but I’m trying to figure out who was his assistant in 84-85 at UMass.

    His assistants that I’ve been able to find are Dirk Keotter, Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Spagnuolo, and Steve Telander.

    Its not BYU, Utah, Air Force, WVU, Nebraska, Mississippi State, Missouri, or TCU. Frustrating clue.

  10. Pete says:

    For non-Florida fans, let em explain about OOC scheduling – we have a quirky schedule because we play Georgia in Jacksonville each year so we have one less home game than most other teams every other year. So we generally can only use one OOC slot for a home and away game, and that is FSU. There are years when the schedule breaks favorably and we like to use that for a home and away series with Miami.

    Georgia has the same issue, and lately they have gone ahead and used another OOC slot to schedule a series with Colorado for instance, but they are just deciding to take the hit to their budget because they need the TV attention. Florida does not, and as a whole the athletic program is one of the richest and best managed in the country. No, it’s not exciting to play the likes of FAU and Furman, but it is what it is because of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

  11. David says:

    Stull’s assistants can be found in pictures from the UMass Football Blog — http://umass74.blogspot.com/ — look down the right side of the page for the scans of historical programs. I don’t see any current FBS HCs.

    Another possible mentor is Joe Morrison — HC at UTC, UNM, and S. Carolina. He’s the only HC to lead UNM to a 10-win season AND the only coach to lead S. Carolina to a 10-win season.

    Yet another is Grant Teaff — HC at Angelo State before he went to Baylor.

    But I can’t figure it out.

  12. Patrick says:

    Joe Morrison coached New Mexico AND South Carolina to its only double-digit win seasons (1982 at UNM, 1984 at USC). He was an assistant at Tennessee-Chattanooga from 1973 to 1979. If the answer to the clue is one of Morrison’s assistants, he would have to be one of the older coaches in FCS.

  13. Dave says:

    @ Gotham Gator –

    No doubt UF’s OOC schedule is roughly in line with that of “your average BCS conference program.” But that’s exactly the problem – this is a team that has won 2 BCS titles in the last 5 years. For a team with that kind of pedigree and that kind of talent to schedule 3 cupcakes is just pathetic, FSU notwithstanding. See Paul’s note in the USC write-up that USC and Notre Dame, love ‘em or hate ‘em, have NEVER played an FCS opponent. Ever.

    I’ll give you that UF’s in-conference line-up THIS year is as tough as anyone’s in the country; I would, however, note that most years they do not play LSU, Auburn, AND ‘Bama.

  14. Patrick says:

    Jim Dennison coached Akron to its only double-digit win season in 1976, but never coached at the FCS level. I bring him up only because at the age of 73, he’s the HC at Walsh University, an NAIA school.

  15. Gotham Gator says:

    It’s certainly not “pathetic” to play 3 easier teams out of conference, unless you consider most BCS conference teams to be pathetic.

    Florida doesn’t have to apologize to anyone about its schedule. Take a look at the number of games Florida has played against teams that finished the season ranked in the top 25.

    2010 – 5
    2009 – 2
    2008 – 5
    2007 – 4
    2006 – 5
    2005 – 5
    2004 – 5
    2003 – 6

    That’s an average of 4.6 ranked teams each year, and these numbers include the SECCG, but not bowl games, which would inflate the totals more. Compare that to any team you’d like.

    I have great respect for USC and Notre Dame and their scheduling, but it’s not fair to single out Florida when there are several dozen other BCS teams that fail to match those standards; and it’s especially unfair when Florida plays more top 25 teams than anyone in the country.

    I hate to seem defensive, but this type of criticism gets leveled at Florida a lot – and often because people forget to include Florida State as an out of conference opponent.

  16. Zach says:

    Grant Teaff doesn’t fit, Angello State and McMurry are D II and III (soon to be DII), respectively.

  17. [...] Florida preview from Paul Myerberg.  Brantley and Weis are going to get most of the attention, but the o-line and [...]

  18. Brandon says:

    I look at OOC scheduling as helping those smaller teams. They get a substantial pay day and their guys get to come play in the Swamp, giving them something to tell their grandkids.

    I am two for two on Paul’s SEC ranks. Auburn & UF

    Shoulb be followed by: Miss St, Arkansas, UGA, USC, LSU, Bama

    Good write-up Paul. I was hoping UF would be ranked ahead of Air Force. Maybe UF will leap frog them once you do your re-rankig mid-season.


  19. Dave says:

    @ GG – Again, the comparison is not to “most BCS conference teams” – it’s to other teams that have had a period of sustained excellence like UF has experienced over the last decade or so (last year’s blip notwithstanding; we all know they’ll be back in the BCS hunt very soon). I wouldn’t criticize, say, UK or Vandy for scheduling weak OOC teams because they’re, well, UK and Vandy. UF gets held to a higher standard by virtue of being in the nation’s elite.

    @ Brandon – I doubt many Furman players will be proud to tell their grandkids about how they got blown out 63-0 in the Swamp and played the entire second half against UF’s 3rd-stringers.


  20. Blake says:


    Name the teams you believe have had the success you refer to and tell us how many ranked teams they average per year and how they shame the Gators.

    I believe this is the comparison you are referring to.

    Give us those numbers (which means you may have to factually back your weak OOC statement) and you will realize that you can’t (factually back your statement).

  21. Wizardhawk says:

    The gators, bama, and the other SEC teams who schedule very weak OOC can continue to stand behind the theory that their conference schedule is tough enough, but there is a difference between scheduling Fresno State and Furman. Most fans out of the SEC market will never respect a NT team from the SEC that goes to such seriously low depths.

    As someone pointed out, you never saw Pete schedule that level of cream puff in all of his years of dominance and it is embarrassing to see teams that call themselves elite do so under the arrogance of their perceived conference dominance.

    ‘We play SEC ranked teams every year so we need to schedule teams no one has ever heard of to compensate’. Really?

  22. Blake says:


    When you only have at most 1 or 2 other worthwhile teams in your conference then you have to schedule someone to prove you belong with the elite.

    5 out of 5 National Championships is not “perceived” conference dominance. Ha. Laughable accusation.

  23. Mendenhall4Pres says:

    BYU definately is not next – Bronco Mendenhall was only an FCS assistant once (NAU def. coordinator in 1993-94), but the head coach was Steve Axman who has never had another head coaching position at any level.

    I don’t think it’s Utah either unless the head coach at Idaho State from 1988 to 1992 fits the bill, but I haven’t been able to find out who that was.

  24. Pixel13 says:

    @ Blake…
    It’s not just UF–though their OOC schedule of 3 (gack) ultracreampuffs is absurd–seems like a lot of the SEC is allergic to playing intersectional games. I’ll give the Bayou Bengals credit–they’re playing the whoregon waterfowl this year, and have played Washington recently too. What’s wrong with playing one creampuff, and one intersectional decent team? Say a midrange Big 10/Pac 12 team, or even a Mountain West team. Add one like that instead of the 3 patsies–and yes, it’s fun when UF does play Miami in addition to FSU. Methinks you doth protest a bit too much in defending the Gators’ OOC schedule.
    (I should look and see if ‘Bama plays a similar collection, or UGa–I already know LSU doesn’t)

  25. calmer than you are says:

    Half of this schedule will start the season in the top 25, including three teams in the top and likely four in the top ten. Auburn’s on the road. This is nothing even close to an easy schedule, even with the soft start.

  26. calmer than you are says:

    *three teams in the top FIVE

  27. DaUUU!!!!!!!!!!! says:

    I hate the Gaytors.

  28. Eksynyt says:

    @ Pixel 13. Enjoy #8 in a row this November ;-).

  29. Burnt Orange says:

    All time toughest clue for next team. I did learn many interesting things searching in vain for an answer this evening like the Tennessee Tech coaching staff had Gary Darnell, Gary Patterson, Dennis Franchione, and Dick Bumpass one season and won two games. Or how about this one- Mississippi State and New Mexico have each had one ten win season and they had the same defensive coordinator in the applicable season – Joe Lee Dunn. And with all of the great coaches in the history of the Big 10, the Coach of the Year award is named for former Wisconsin coach Dave McClain.

  30. Kevin says:


    Are you mad from the 2008 beatdown or the fact that the Gators awful 2010 spanked USF and the Canes got beat by them. It’s not the 80s anymore!

  31. M Meyer says:

    I’m a little confused by the result to the clue. The closest thing to an FCS team that Hoke was an assistant at was Grand Valley State, but it doesn’t look like Bob Giesey went on to coach an FBS team. Can someone fill in the blanks?

  32. Zach says:

    Actually the clue makes sense, but only if Brady Hoke was hired by Jim Harkema, who left Grand Valley State in 1982. Hoke was the DL coach at GVS in 1983, not 1982, but there’s a possiblity he was under Harkema for a short period and retained by Bob Giesey. Harkema went on to lead Eastern Michigan to its only 10 win season.

    Am I right Paul?

  33. gtwrek says:

    Florida’s scheduling is pathetic. Look at USC under Carroll. They usually played 12 BCS teams. No excuses. Florida is just scared to man up and play serious OOC competition. Florida is scared to even man up enough to play a school like Virginia or Fresno State, much less Texas or Ohio State.

    And conference SOS is nonsense. The SEC is a giant media-hyped shell game. They have the last 5 or so titles, but in each year there’s usually only 1-3 strong teams, who are probably cheating like there is no tomorrow, followed by a bunch of average ones. But according to SEC ‘logic’, a title team from 4 years ago is still a title team today. Your schedule is sooo tough because you play Auburn this year. Right. Just dumb.

    Bottom line is Miami is playing Ohio State, FSU is playing Oklahoma, and Florida is playing UAB. And that’s how it is every single year.

  34. Blake says:

    Do the factual backup and let me know who plays more ranked opponents than SEC teams and I will instantly agree that our schedule is pathetic compared to theirs.

    Check out SOS at this site for the last five years and let me know how USC matches up with UF.


    as well as this site


    These are the first two that show up on Google with historical SOS.

    Like I said, show me the facts and I shall concede the argument. Until then, you just seem like 4 year-old nanny-nanny-boo-booers.

  35. Blake says:

    @ gtwerk

    Of those 5 title teams we play 3 that are ranked preseason. We can’t play the other two because WE are the other two. Ha.

  36. Dave says:

    @ Blake –

    You completely missed the point of the argument. Nobody (at least not me) is arguing that UF doesn’t have a tough CONFERENCE schedule, and hence a tough OVERALL schedule. UF’s SEC lineup this year is clearly among the toughest in the nation (although I’d again point out that it is rare for them to play Auburn, ‘Bama AND LSU all in the same year).

    The argument, however, is that of the dozen or so schools which can legitmately claim to be national powers, UF’s OOC schedule this year clearly ranks at or near the bottom. Please try to tell me with a straight face that Furman, Florida Atlantic and UAB are not creampuff teams. I’ll spot you one Sun Belt or C-USA patsy for a tune-up game to start the season, and MAYBE one more in recognition of the strength of FSU – but for a team with 2 BCS titles in 5 years to be playing an FCS team is just sad.

    Replace that game with an annual game against the ‘Canes and I’ll never make another peep about UF’s OOC schedule.

  37. Blake says:

    We sign up the Canes every time they are willing to play us. Outside of an in state powerhouse (using the term lightly) like UM, we really don’t want to go home and home with anyone due to the Cocktail Party that precludes us from having a home game every other year like everyone else. We sign up those willing to give it a one time shot. We also pay them rather heftily. If USC, Notre Dame, or whoever it is you are wanting us to play would take the payment and come, we would schedule them as well.

    Other than that, I do not believe we would need to guarantee ourselves the number 1 SOS every year by signing up for home and homes with BCS schools. As I pointed out our SOS is on average as high or higher than anybody. Show me the team that averages considerably higher and I will concede the argument to that teams fans.

    The problem is that team and their fans are non-existent.

    Your argument defies logic by looking at, not the whole schedule, but two games. By dissecting the OOC and IC schedules and dissecting even further by considering only certain OOC games you can set up the straw man argument that UF is not actively signing up teams that have a shot at beating them.

    When you play a schedule that gives you a potential loss with the majority of IC games and with your in state rival you don’t have to actively sign them up. (Although we would if teams would take payment instead of a home and home). No teams that do schedule a tough OOC can say that they have that type of schedule before they even attempt their annual active scheduling.

    Until you argue the big picture, it appears as if you are ignoring all of the major issues of an argument that don’t suit your purposes, and you are actually creating this beef out of thin air.

  38. Kevin says:


    You argue the Miami plays Ohio State and FSU plays Oklahoma….

    UF played both of those teams. Just happened to be for all the marbles.


  39. John says:

    @Blake – Here’s my opinion. Shouldn’t Florida at least try to get out of Florida? They haven’t had OOC game outside of Florida since 1990 at Syracuse.

    That makes no sense.

    While I realize Florida always has only six or seven home games due to WLOCP, Texas has a neutral site game against Oklahoma every year and they go on the road to play UCLA this year. Texas also went to play UCF in 2007. UCLA and UCF are no means Ohio State or USC, but they’re much better opponents than UAB and Furman.

    If you can’t go out of state, heck, sign home-and-home with UCF and USF or pay them to play at your house.

    BTW, that 2006 data is skewed because you guys played Ohio State in the bowl game that year. Before the bowl game and the SEC championship game, your SOS rank that year was 22nd, lower than those of Rutgers.
    According to the site you have mentioned, last year’s SOS for Florida was 27nd, lower than those of Utah, TCU and Miss. State. Not counting the bowl game and the SEC championship game, Florida ranked 18th.

    Also, you complain how people don’t give you credit for a tough SEC schedule, but look at LSU. They play against Oregon at JerryWorld and West Virginia on the road. South Carolina plays against an in-state rival Clemson every year, and they have played against some quality BCS teams over the years. Even when you compare the SOS of Florida to SOS of other SEC teams, my guess is Florida would rank in the bottom half out of all SEC teams in most years.

    I’ll leave with two comments from TigerDroppings that I found interesting:

    “Bottom line is you need to schedule a quality OOC BCS opponent every year. No matter what you say, you cannot gauge strength of schedule if everyone in the SEC plays only SEC schools and weak OOC opponents. At some point this will come back to bite you when your conference is having a down year…which will happen believe it or not…”


    “This is THE reason AU got left out in 04. Not only did AU not sched any decent OOC opponent, the conference as a whole didn’t beat any good OOC team (didn’t schedule many either). The best regular season victory was over a 7-4 team. There are too many here who can’t accept that incest is not a good thing.”

  40. Blake says:

    We sign up the best “willing” OOC every year. The reason we don’t get ucf/usf is because they do not want to sign up for anyhting except a home and home.

    When they need more money for a stadium improvement/coach payout/etc. they sign up for the one year payday. Outside of that they want a home and home and we just are not willing to do that.

    Texas has to do that. Texas can win the Big 12 Championship and go undefeated and still not go to the championship game. Florida cannot.

    Texas can finish the season with the least losses in the country and not go to the championship game. Florida cannot.

  41. CH says:

    Lets make up rules about which games we consider and then re-examine the data.
    “Take the FSU game off the schedule and UF plays a weak OCC schedule.”
    Take Clemson from Auburn’s schedule and they play a weak OCC schedule.
    Take ND from Michigan’s schedule and they play a weak OCC schedule.
    But lets not stop at minipulating the data by removing one game – take Boise St and Ga. Tech from UGA’s schedule and its pathetic.
    This is so much more fun when anyone can make up the rules to play by.
    It’s pointless to argue with people that only look at the information THEY want to and not the full picture. And the reason we don’t go out of state to play OCC teams – is because we don’t have to. We can play UM or FSU and still stay in-state. No other program has the luxury.

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