Thursday, July 14, 2005

Evaluating Florida (or Michael plays Wedding Counselor)

A Florida booster friend of mine is apparently having last-minute wedding jitters about Urban Meyer. I'm playing the role of wedding counselor, assuring him that he has picked the right woman to father his children (i.e. beat Georgia and Florida State) and keep him satisfied with tasty food (i.e. win the SEC) and crazy sex (i.e. win the national title). Here's the exchange:

I can't believe that I'm the one that has to convince you of the merits of your new coach, but here it goes:

The Florida fan writes:

Unlike you, I think Florida needs to be ranked about #15 until they prove they can win the close game. Since when has Chris Leak played well enough on a consistent basis to be considered a "David Greene" type of QB? I'm also somewhat concerned about the co-defensive coordinator roles for Mattison and Strong. Charlie didn't get it done the last two years and I don't remember Notre Dame being that great a defensive team either when Greg was the coordinator for Bob Davie. This will also be the first time that Dan Mullen has been the offensive coordinator and QB coach in this offense (other than the Fiesta Bowl). I remember Randy Sanders making his debut
against FSU in the '99 Fiesta Bowl and he struggled somewhat the next couple of years. The bottom line is that there are questions regarding Florida's program that it is entirely too difficult to answer without seeing them in the heat of battle, and those questions include Meyer's abilities as well.

In regards to Meyer, no coach except for Charley Pell ever fired up the Gator Nation like he has. We needed that after the Zook fiasco and I think it will pay dividends in fund raising and recruiting for years to come. What concerns me about Urban is that this is a big step up for him in competition. When you scrutinize his record you come away concerned as well. Consider this:

In the regular season, he has ONE win against a team with fewer than 4 losses (Toledo 2001) in his entire career. He has ELEVEN wins against teams with winning records (8 of those 11 lost 5+ >games) in his career. In the 38 Div.I football games his teams have won, the combined record of the teams he's beaten is 190-257. So, the team's he's beaten are playing .425 football in awful conferences.

Frankly Michael, this scares me. Urban has never faced a league of coaches so determined to literally destroy him (SEC plus FSU). I just hope he is ready for the big-time because they have been preparing for him since the day he was announced as the 40th coach in UF football history.

And here's my response:

1. Good point that his teams have never played very good opponents, but that it almost invariably going to be true in lower level conferences. The key fact to look at, in my mind, is the margin of victory. Utah was the first mid-major that I genuinely respected because they didn't just squeak by other average teams, they dominated them. They put up the kind of scores against their opponents that you would expect Oklahoma or USC to put up. That makes them different from Boise State, '98 Tulane, '99 Marshall, etc. It's more fair to say that there are unknowns about Meyer than it is to say that you should be concerned that he hasn't played that many good teams.

2. They did play a couple good opponents last year and they beat the ever-living piss out of them. They beat A&M worse than either Texas or Oklahoma did. They clobbered a UNC team that ended up beating Miami and playing in a bowl game. They annihilated a decent Pitt team. We'll never know how they would have done against another top five team, but we know that they beat decent teams by margins consistent with a top five team.

3. Yes, there are going to be a lot of smart coaches looking to teach Urban Meyer a lesson. The same was true with Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, and every other touted coach who came into the SEC from the outside. Meyer developed his own offense, so it's not unreasonable to think that he can't tweak it based on his talent, so that Tennessee's summer of studying Utah tape will be mostly useless. He's not a one-trick pony who had a great idea for an offense and will be exposed when opposing defenses catch up to it. He's tweaked it enough over the years to create the impression that he's genuinely smart, not unlike Spurrier or Friedgen.

4. Don't underestimate the bounce that Florida will get going from a poor coach who tried to be the players' friends to a smart coach who cracks the whip on them. Meyer will get far more out of these players than Zook did.

5. Don't fret too much about Greg Mattison. He did great work at Michigan in the mid-90s. Most discerning Michigan fans give him a lot of credit for laying the groundwork for the record-setting, national title-winning '97 defense. He's especially good teaching defensive line technique, so expect immediate improvement there. Charlie Strong, I can agree with you there. He didn't do very good work after being hired by Zook, which makes me think that he was a one-trick pony with that 3-3-5 at South Carolina that was eventually decoded by SEC defensive coordinators. Maybe he was kept for recruiting reasons? Maybe Meyer wanted a little continuity and he was the most likely bet? Maybe Zook interfered with his defensive preparations and he's actually better than the Florida defenses of the past two years reflected? All interesting questions.

1 comment:

Senator Blutarsky said...

I've really enjoyed your CFN/Pigskin Post articles over the past couple of years, so I'm pleased to see your blog.

As to UF, I agree with your point that the Gators will benefit from the discipline that Meyer brings to the program. There was simply no excuse for Florida losing a game last year to a team that lost to Maine, for God's sake. I don't think that happens under the new regime.

Ironically, though, the biggest question I have about Florida this year is Chris Leak. I just don't see him as the right kind of QB to run Meyer's spread option attack. If Leak is encouraged to run as much as Smith did last year, I just don't see him making it through the season unscathed. I also wouldn't be surprised to see him leave after this year for the NFL.

As a Dawg fan, I'm sorry to see Meyer at Florida - he's the real deal. I just think the Gators are a year away from the greatness many are predicting for them this year.

Keep up the good work.