Pat Dooley’s Back Nine: January 18

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of a lot of football and a lot of basketball and even a little golf. Not that I played any of these. And sorry for the delay. Technical issues.

10. If the summer if “talking season” as Steve Spurrier calls it, this time of year is definitely moving season with coaches coming and going. Charlie Strong will join Urban Meyer in Jacksonville, but he talked with Mullen and then with Todd Grantham about being a co-coordinator. I’m hearing Strong did not feel comfortable after that phone call with Grantham and Strong is expected to sign his contract with Jax today. That’s a shame. Strong is great defensive coach and if nothing else, Mullen could have won the offseason with his fan base. But what do I know? I just wanted Charlie back in our community. And clearly, there were a lot of people who did not want Jeremy Pruitt back in the Knoxville community. What a mess that place is and has been for more than a decade.

11. It’s going to be a different Alabama team that comes into the Swamp on the third Saturday in September and I hope that we are at the point where a full stadium gives Florida one advantage. But that is still going to be an excellent Tide team no matter which players Nick Saban loses or which coaches move along. It’s a machine that had no plans to slow down. And for all of you who saw two straight blowout losses in the playoffs as the beginning of the end for Clemson, safety Nolan Turner’s decision to return means the Tigers will return all 11 starters.

12. So, here is my tentative top 10 (nice alliteration) for 2021:
1. Clemson.
2. Alabama.
3. Oklahoma.
4. Georgia.
5. Ohio State (this is starting to sound familiar).
6. Cincinnati.
7. USC.
8. Indiana.
9. Notre Dame.
10. Texas A&M.

No Gators? To me, Florida is one of the biggest mysteries in college football next season. I’m not sure how the offense will look and we all know the defense has to be better after being historically bad in 2020. Grantham can blame it on the pandemic as a lot of coaches did, but this defense must be better (a ton better) for Florida to be great. Kyle Trask isn’t around to bail the Gators out anymore.

13. Anything I can say about the basketball team’s performance in Starkville will sound like the exact thing I wrote last week. It’s like déjà vu all over again. Florida was demolished on the boards (47-26) and that problem is not going away, especially with Colin Castleton’s ankle an issue. Tennessee comes to town tonight and you might want to avert your eyes. It could be ugly.

14. And yet, here they were fighting to the end with the ball and a chance to tie the game. Of course, if you saw it, it did not end well with Tre Mann trying to draw a foul on a three-point try. With no time-outs remaining, Mike White couldn’t draw up a play and Florida looked to get the ball to Mann no matter what. Not having Keyontae Johnson affects this team in so many ways and then you add in Scottie Lewis being out and this feels like a team that is running in place. They’re trying hard, but not getting anywhere.

15. But congratulations are in order for the women’s team getting its first SEC win of the season and to gymnastics for beating Georgia (that’s never a bad thing). See, it doesn’t all have to be negative.

16. I think a lot of us thought Brian Gay was just biding time until he could join the Champions Tour (he’s 49), but the former Florida gator golfer is ranked 20th in the current Fed Ex Cup standings. He’s also made $788K so far this season, just ahead of Billy Horschel’s $704K. And they both just got to spend two weeks in Hawaii playing golf and making money. That, my friends, is a pretty sweet gig.

17. I have been thinking about dropping the Tweet of the Week for months and I think the events of the last couple of weeks make this the perfect time (you can read whatever you want into that). Instead, today I wanted to tell a quick story about the time I met Bruce Bennett, who passed away Tuesday from pneumonia and COVID-19 complications. Back in 1996, we selected the greatest Gator team of all time in the 100th year of Florida. Bennett was the safety on the team. I saw next to him at the lunch we arranged and we talked the whole time. He was such an unassuming star (he played for years in the Canadian Football League) and seem almost overwhelmed to be remembered. He actually asked me to introduce him to some of the players. Me? Bruce Bennett was one of my favorite Gators ever.

18. Today’s “Florida Four” is about the defense that was so putrid last season and the four things it must do to get better. So here are the four stats that have to change:

* Florida allowed 28 touchdown passes last year. That was the second worst total in the nation. So, the Gator secondary allowed 28 touchdowns and only had seven interceptions. That ratio is pathetic.
* Florida averaged four defensive touchdowns a season from the first day of Urban Meyer through the first season of Todd Grantham. During the last two seasons, UF has had a total of two. One last year, one this year on Zach Carter’s fumble return against Arkansas.
* Florida allowed 366.9 yards per game, just missing the record (set in 1992), but did get the record for most first downs allowed at 274.
* This is the most important one – you can’t let teams average 30.8 points a game. In the end, football is like all sports (except golf) in that you have to score more than the other team. Out of curiosity, I looked it up to see what Florida’s record would have been post-Meyer through Mullen’s 2019 season. The Gators were 73-41. Round up what they allowed this year and say UF allowed 31 points in every game. Florida’s record would have been 40-74. I think that says it all.

But make sure you catch the Front Nine on Friday and Another Dooley Noted Podcast Monday’s and Fridays.

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