As Tuesday Musings is a column for me to just sort of expound on things, so will Thursday Takeaways be a column that will distill opinions about news involving Florida to its essence.
Florida football could learn a lot from Florida basketball
One reason — of many — I am optimistic about Florida's 2014 football team and season? Those Gators have lived through this Florida basketball run just like we have.
Some of those Gators mix and mingle and call each other friends; others don't. Some of the football Gators have gone to Florida basketball games; others haven't. But there should be a sense of pride and envy that bubbles for much of the football team with each bit of praise — and each slight to football — that comes for Florida basketball this spring and summer.
To a degree, that might not mean much: Any slight can be motivational in the right player's mind, or the right coach's toolbox, and Will Muschamp does not lack motivational skills. But it's rare to have both plenty of reason to feel slighted and as fine an example of the worth of hard work, teamwork, and unselfishness as Florida has right now.
And it's not just basketball, either, though basketball is clearly the best and most powerful example: The Gators have only to walk across their campus to see championship-caliber teams, and can't help but fraternize with fellow champions.
I don't know if it will burn them to see rings and things on their friends' hands. But I can tell you it would burn me — and that I would be trying to pick up tips wherever I could.
Florida's new offense will help its defense, too
There's a good read on Kurt Roper's challenge from Jeremy Fowler at CBS Sports today, and while it's light on details, the ones in there are good — Roper bought a house in Gainesville! Roper's made fun of that Gator-blocking-Gator moment, too!
There's also this explanation of Florida's offense, straight from Roper:
Early on, Muschamp had a clear message for Roper, who first called plays for Cutcliffe at age 29: More up-tempo, more shotgun formations, utilize Jeff Driskel's dual-threat ability.
So this is what Muschamp is getting, according to Roper: "Spread formation team with spread run game principles with pro-style drop back pass game."
For the Cliffs notes version: "Speed in space."
All of that sounds like something Florida has the personnel to do; many of the things Florida's 2013 offense tried to do under Brent Pease were things it could not do because of personnel limitations. So, in that one sense, Florida's already got a better offensive approach than it had last season.
But I think another thing is sort of going unmentioned or underreported so far: Florida now has an offense that can prepare its defense for hurry-up tempos and smart short passing attacks, two things that have consistently given even the really good defenses Muschamp has put on the field trouble.
There are good reasons that both Alabama and Florida, two of the schools with the finest defenses in the country, have made public overtures toward more up-tempo and spread-based offense — it's where football is going. Getting to scout your opponent by scouting your own offense is one of them.
How to handle #EverythingSchool trolling
It's a shame that, largely because I've been running around and not stoking the fire, #EverythingSchool has mostly become a jab for Florida State fans to use in the endless Twitter war between the bored lawyers and law students of #FSUTwitter and the Florida fans who still haven't totally learned how to find a Zen-like state of balance between teasing FSU fans and thanking our lucky stars that we're not them.
But Florida's also been putting together close-but-no-cigar performances of late. Florida's men's and women's track team entered the NCAA Indoor Championships as the nation's No. 1-ranked teams, and finished third. Florida's women's gymnastics team faltered on its final rotation — on the floor, of all apparatuses — and took second at the SEC Championships. Florida's men's swimming team finished third at the NCAA Championships last weekend, tying their best performance under Gregg Troy, after entering as the nation's No. 1-ranked squad.
And Florida softball has lost its grip on No. 1, and just lost to Florida State (surprisingly good this season) at home, and Florida baseball managed to work its way back into the national rankings (with a bullet!) by beating Florida State twice and sweeping LSU, then lost to Florida Atlantic on Friday night. It's been a rough few weeks for the #EverythingSchool mantra...
...you know, except for the No. 1-ranked men's basketball team making the Final Four, the men's and women's track teams moving on to the outdoor season that plays more to their strengths, the No. 1-ranked gymnastics team still being in great shape to defend their national title, the consensus top-five lacrosse team putting the American Lacrosse Conference in a familiar stranglehold, that baseball team frustrating Florida State, Florida's oft-criticized women's basketball team winning an NCAA Tournament game, and Florida's men's and women's tennis teams hanging out in the top 15 and top 10 of their respective polls.
It is much easier to throw out hashtags sarcastically than to exhaustively cover all of Florida's good programs. Mea culpa on the latter.
Recruiting, politics, and Twitter
As I've been getting deeper and deeper into recruiting over the last few years, I have come to realize that recruiting boils down to politics in many ways, and that coverage of recruiting is a lot like political coverage. Every college is vying for what amounts to an endorsement from the high school player, and the best way to stay on a recruit's mind is to either a) be in the recruit's ear whenever possible and build a relationship or b) catch eyes of both recruits and national writers who provide valuable publicity for free by writing about your recruiting.
The latter is what Georgia's done this week with its ingenious "hand-drawn" portraits mailed out to recruits; they've been written up and passed around Twitter ad nauseam. It's what Florida did, if somewhat inadvertently, with the lower-quality images it made last year.
The former is harder, though, and it requires being "on the ground," or in players' minds on a daily basis. You can't do that like you can in politics, by buying ads and such, because the NCAA regulates recruiting better than the United States regulates political campaigning — the irony should not be lost on you — but you can do that by being where the recruits are. Increasingly, that's Twitter, which is why Florida seems to be ramping up its Twitter presence.
Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has a new Twitter account. Tight ends coach Derek Lewis is using his more often. Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson tweeted that it was "his" "first day on Twitter" just the other day:
Welcome to the 21st century, my first day using twitter. Y'all overwhelming me right now lol— Travaris Robinson (@UFCoach_TROB) March 31, 2014
And then there's @_Gators_, which I would bet any amount of money is the brainchild of new Florida director of player personnel Drew Hughes, and not just because Hughes retweets it all the time and it links to Muschamp's official site, currently being overhauled.
Whether Florida's coaches stay on their Twitter grind — I have my reservations and suspicions — remains to be seen, but it's clear that Hughes will be on his, and grinding. That's already a big, big upgrade over Jon Haskins, the little-liked former director of player personnel Hughes replaced, akin to trading in some two-bit no-name for Olivia Pope as your fixer du jour.
Twitter mastery alone won't land recruits; Florida has to do things the old-fashioned way, too. But given that Florida's doing things to make itself memorable for recruits via Twitter, it's likely that Florida won't miss out on any players because of its presence on the tweets — or a lack thereof.