When, in the course of Internet events, things get so hectic as to require a single post about Florida football stand in for what could've been several posts split up, I'm gonna call that post Hot Reads.
Tim Davis refers to Nick Saban "the devil himself," compares him to Will Muschamp
You know how I know it's basically summer? The only news items coming out of college football programs are stuff that can get blown out of proportion and arrests. Tim Davis talking to the Space Coast Gator Club (321, represent, I guess?) and using a familiar term to refer to Nick Saban, as 247Sports' Luke Stampini reported on Tuesday, definitely provided the former on Wednesday.
"Will and I go back to the Miami Dolphins," Davis said. "I've always wanted to work with Will. Will's got a plan. Will coached under the devil himself for seven years. I only did three. He did seven. And his DNA is not any different than Nick."
Later, Davis brought up Saban again, laughingly referencing the head coach he worked for with the Miami Dolphins for two years and for another year at Alabama.
"[Muschamp's] like the other guy, only he's got a personality," he said. "He'll smile at you. He'll talk to you. You understand? That's what he's all about. That's Will. I'm proud to work for him."
That this somehow managed to overshadow the fact that Davis also said "We're going to win one here with Will," in which "one" means "national championship," is as much evidence as you need to understand why it's the circus that surrounds sports that is so much fun for so many. It's also possible that Davis has a point.
Davis worked under Saban for three years as the Miami Dolphins' offensive line coach from 2005 to 2007. Saban flailed as much as he ever has as a head coach there, strugging to put a winning team on the field and treating most of the people he interacted with poorly, even once reportedly practically ignoring a convulsing player after two-a-days. The portrait of Saban's Miami days is of a man raging against a machine he could not, for once, control.
Saban has reportedly mellowed since then — though not entirely, because he was still calling agents "pimps" in 2010 and still making whiny arguments in his lobbying for Alabama last fall. But Davis knew and worked for Saban, and, more importantly, did so when he was likely at his Sabanest.
There's been enough Internet yapping and misunderstanding of how these remarks got reported to muddy the waters here, too: Yes, Davis said something that was perfect for a message board, but he was talking to boosters, where it's his responsibility to fire up the base, and it wasn't a message board poster who reported this, but Stampini, who works for 247. (That 247Sports doesn't have Stampini's name in the byline of its story, despite crowing about its popularity, does not escape my notice; surely, it has nothing to do with a recruiting service or its reporter not wanting a name visibly attached to a story that became a headache for the coaching staff that provides vital information to that service, right? Update: I've been told that there's no byline because it's a collaborative effort between Stampini and Thomas Goldkamp, so there goes one conspiracy theory.)
Davis is a gregarious coach, and he says interesting things — Muschamp does, too. Florida seems to have a few of these guys on staff. If every appearance before boosters by every college football coach in the country is now fair game to be reported — and, frankly, given the prevalence of Twitter-capable smartphones, coaches should definitely assume that they are — I'd imagine those coaches will start clamming up on what they say to fans, even the ones that pay $50 a head to feel a little closer to their favorite teams, very shortly. And that would be a shame, because even though it's on Davis and every other person to communicate things effectively, there should be a reasonable assumption that remarks that are made won't be twisted by people looking for an angle.
Davis might have to apologize for the joking comparison, like James Franklin did for his "Nicky Satan" comment, but he accomplished his purpose by throwing red meat to Florida fans: Comparing Saban to the devil, saying Muschamp has the same DNA, and then noting Muschamp's more approachable personailty is painting his current boss in a better light than a guy few don't have a dim view of, but also indicates that Muschamp, like Saban, has the potential to one day be so inarguably massively successful that other people are cursing his name.
And as for Mark May, who said something stupid and beneath even his usual low standards for reason about Davis on ESPN's College Football Live on Wednesday afternoon, I liked this take a lot:
Mark May just called #Florida OL coach Tim Davis a "Classless, backstabbing coward" on CFB Live for his "Devil Himself" crack at Nick Saban.— Bryan Holt (@Bryan_Holt) May 15, 2013
Mark May has clearly A - Never attended a coach speaking tour. And B - Never met Tim Davis. The latter, he admitted.— Bryan Holt (@Bryan_Holt) May 15, 2013
For the record: "I don't know [name]" is always the best way to start a sentence that ends with "[name] is a CLASSLESS COWARD." Sheesh.— Bryan Holt (@Bryan_Holt) May 15, 2013
The Florida-Miami series is probably ending
ESPN's Andrea Adelson wrote today on Miami athletic director Blake James saying during the ACC's spring meetings that there are no current plans to renew the rivalry between Miami and Florida beyond this September's meeting in South Florida. You're shocked, right?
Florida fans have understood that the Gators' trip to see Miami this fall might be the last one in the long-standing rivalry series for quite some time, but Florida fans have been well-conditioned to hang on Jeremy Foley's every word and understand his process, especially the part that brings fans to The Swamp seven times a year. Florida fans also know how hard Florida's schedule is even in years that don't feature two games against in-state teams that love nothing more than to beat up on their Sunshine State brothers, and remember the 2002 beatdown and 2003 collapse against Miami much better than they do the Florida Flop and the games between the two teams back when there was an annual series.
There will be a large number of Florida fans who will bemoan this series ending when the week of the game arrives, and I'll be in that number, but I'm also absolutely certain that no more than about five percent of Gator Nation thinks that Miami is Florida's greatest rival. And I'll bet the same is true about Miami fans' opinions of Florida. Florida and Miami have played enough games, and enough good and memorable games, for this rivalry to get mourned, but it is simply not particularly sensible for either team (and especially Florida, which already has one non-conference home-and-home with Florida State etched in stone) to risk national title chances on a big-time non-conference series with another good team, much less an in-state team that has zero chance of coming out flat for a game like this.
Wistfulness about the fate of a good rivalry against a storied program isn't exactly productive, but it does, at least, serve a purpose. Shock about the inevitable ending of something that didn't make a lot of sense in the first place does not.
Chris Leak will help defense, not offense
The news that Chris Leak will return to Gainesville as a quality control coach with the Gators this fall heartened me as much as it did you, I promise: I love Chris Leak, and think he has a very smart football mind, and I think it's a great sign that Will Muschamp embraces the history and tradition of Florida football. Muschamp's local roots have been played up since he was hired, but the contrast between his clear comfort with being the head coach of the Florida Gators and the frustrations of Urban Meyer when it came to criticisms lobbed by Shane Matthews gets clearer and clearer with each new figure from Florida's past that Muschamp embraces.
The news that Leak will be a defensive quality control coach is more interesting, though. Leak can't work with players as a quality control coach, so he wouldn't have been able to revamp Jeff Driskel's mechanics or demonstrate how Brent Pease's plays should be run had he been working on the offensive side of the ball — but as a defensive coach, Leak can help shore up Muschamp's knowledge about the best offense to use against his defense.
Florida runs what amounts to a 3-4 defense with man coverage principles that is devoted to limiting big plays down the field and predicated on discipline and keeping the ball in front of defenders. That defense will bend far more often than it breaks, but it can be nibbled at by a similarly disciplined offense with an effective short passing game and run-pass options. This is how Texas A&M beat Alabama in 2012, how A&M taxed Florida in 2012, how Louisville aerated Florida in the Sugar Bowl, and so on.
Leak, you'll recall, ran a spread offense in almost the same vein in 2005 and 2006, and ran it very, very well, despite being first, second, and third a passer. Teddy Bridgewater is better than Leak — Tebow forgive me for my blasphemy — but Leak could probably have picked apart Florida's defense on that night, too, and Leak can certainly help show Muschamp, D.J. Durkin, and Travaris Robinson some of the ways in which an offense will attack Florida.
It never hurts to have more quality control coaches, and for Leak, who is switching streams from strong radio work for Sirius/XM to coaching, this is an ideal entry-level position, as good quality control coaches tend to rise swiftly through the ranks. And it's not as if the possibility that danced in Florida fans' heads on Monday — that Leak would join Florida's staff, be groomed as an offensive coordinator, and someday replace the upwardly mobile Pease — is totally off the table if he spends a season working with defensive coaches. Triggering an offense as well as Leak did at Florida leaves a bedrock of understanding that doesn't ever really erode.