It’s Friday morning and as predicted by forecasters, clearly Hurricane Matthew has caused wind and rain damage up the east coast of Florida. There will also be storm surge to contend with over the next 24 hours, flooding, power outage, along the coast, etc. Hundreds of thousands evacuated, and no one is minimizing the current fear and damage.
But, also as predicted, the storm has not come ashore doing more horrific damage to the state, so far.
Now onto college football.
And, as we learn more about the apparent bumbling of how outgoing Athletic Director Jeremy Foley and other University officials from Tuesday through Thursday afternoon’s decision to cancel Saturday’s game with LSU. we at F.F.I. are more and more dumbfounded.
Here is the late Thursday afternoon news conference where Foley recapped the previous two days almost blow by blow and the decision to not play the LSU-Florida game at all due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew. It was both confusing and contradictory:
— GatorVision (@GatorVisionTV) October 6, 2016
In that news conference, Foley correctly says that everyone’s safety and security is paramount. However, the confusing and contradictory part is that he and the University were adamant for two days to the SEC that the game could and would be played in Gainesville. And apparently, were unwilling to discuss or plan for any other contingency.
Foley’s own words were “we were only going to play this game in Gainesville.” How did the SEC on Wednesday and relatively new commissioner Greg Sankey, not step in and make a contingency plan?
Like, for example use Tampa 90 miles to the southwest and Raymond James Stadium, which was being inquired about for the movement of the FSU-Miami ACC game. Or, even telling both schools Wednesday to head to neutral site like Atlanta or Birmingham, or somewhere, to be ready to play Saturday or Sunday?
The league could have easily told LSU Tuesday night or Wednesday morning to send their equipment 18 wheeler towards Gainesville as planned and wait for updates along the way. And then, told the Tigers to “stand by” on flying their charter to Gainesville, Tampa or the neutral site on the day of the game.
This would have bought time and is exactly what the SEC and then commissioner, Mike Slive, did with the LSU game with Tennessee in 2005. Due to Hurricane Rita that September weekend, the conference told Tennessee to wait for constant updates and the Vols ended up coming in on Monday to Baton Rouge and playing a Monday night game.
And worse, if Foley and the Gators believed in their discussions of the last two days that LSU would somehow be cooperative and agree to a make-up date, that isn’t happening. And it could have an effect on the SEC East race eventually, too. The scenario exists that Tennessee could finish 6-2 in the East, Florida finishes 6-1 now and wins the division/goes to Atlanta.
The leverage that Florida and conference had was to force LSU to come somewhere safe to play this weekend while there was time to do so, or else. And it didn’t happen.
Twice in that presser Thursday, Foley quoted the cliche’ (that he says he and his staff operate by) “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.”
But clearly, by his own words, Foley was only hoping that Hurricane Mathew would not come close enough to North Florida and when the forecast didn’t change, they had no other plan.
So, they “threw their hands up” on Thursday afternoon and now LSU and Florida likely do not play at all in what could be a very significant game later in the standings for both.
Gators QB Feleipe Franks playing for his place in history
Feleipe Franks is playing for history this year in Gainesville, Florida, but more than history, he is playing for a place in the hearts of Florida Gator fans. He might not characterize his journey that way, but viewed from a distance, that is the poignant center of Franks’ story as Florida’s starting quarterback.
Go through the history of Florida quarterbacks since the start of the Steve Spurrier era. The stories of these quarterbacks are very different. There is room for Feleipe Franks to fall between various extremes.
Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow are the ultimate immortals who lifted the Gators to the mountaintop. Rex Grossman deserved the Heisman Trophy in 2001 but didn’t get it. He played well against Tennessee that year, but defensive coordinator Jon Hoke coached poorly, and Alex Brown got owned by the Vols’ offensive line. Nevertheless, Grossman brought the Gators many richly satisfying moments. He isn’t in the Wuerffel-Tebow pantheon, but he was a great UF quarterback.
Shane Matthews has a special place in Gator lore. He is the man who started it all, the first special Spurrier quarterback who gave birth to the golden age of Florida football. College sports fans cherish the young athletes who built a foundation for a treasured part of their lives. Matthews was that foundational figure for Florida football fans, much as the 1994 basketball team showed Gator Nation what was possible in college hoops, catching the attention of a man named Billy Donovan, who would come to Gainesville a few years later.
Wuerffel and Tebow live eternally on Mount Olympus. Grossman and Matthews will always be treasured with great passion as all-time-great Gators.
Then the stories become a lot more complicated.
Terry Dean’s biggest sin was that he wasn’t Shane Matthews or Danny Wuerffel. Sandwiched between the two, it was hard for Steve Spurrier — trying to cement Florida’s powerhouse status in the SEC — to accept Dean’s limitations and push him to become even greater. The Spurrier-Dean relationship was memorably fractured and scarred. Since Spurrier is the most important figure in the history of Florida football, the friction which defined his relationship with Dean inevitably affected the way many (though not all) Gator fans felt about Dean.
If you were to argue that Dean was the most complicated Florida quarterback of the last 30 years, many would agree with you.
If Dean was the most complicated Gator signal-caller of the past 30 years, Doug Johnson would probably rate as No. 2.
Florida did keep winning under Johnson. It beat Florida State and knocked the Seminoles out of the national title hunt in 1997 (“BEHIND THE DEFENSE!”). It won a BCS bowl — the Orange Bowl — in the 1998 season. It won the SEC East in 1999. Yet, after the Wuerffel years, those three seasons felt like a huge letdown… and in truth, they were.
Doug Johnson, who did play with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL for a brief while, had the physical tools of a top quarterback, but he simply didn’t process the game the way great QBs do. This irritated Spurrier to no end, and it clearly wasted some of Florida’s best defenses, chiefly the 1998 group, which deserved so much better than what it got. Doug Johnson elicited the words “what might have been” in Gainesville, a frustrated litany of almosts and coulda-shoulda-wouldas.
The man who replaced Johnson in 2000 wrote a different story.
Yes, Rex Grossman played for portions of the 2000 season, but after a thoroughly ineffective first quarter in a pivotal SEC game against South Carolina, Spurrier called on Jesse Palmer — who had won in Knoxville against the Vols earlier in the year — to rescue the team. Palmer did just that, throwing for three touchdown passes and leading a 28-0 second-quarter surge which wiped away a 21-3 deficit created by two South Carolina touchdowns off blocked punt returns.
Florida won, 41-21, clinching the SEC East and setting the stage for the program’s first SEC championship since 1996 under Wuerffel.
Palmer did not have a lengthy Florida career, but in his year of truth as a Gator, the future college football commentator (whose greatest contribution to humanity was saving the life of Chris Fowler a few years ago during a Pinstripe Bowl broadcast at Yankee Stadium; Fowler had choked on a dry chicken sandwich, and Palmer successfully Heimliched the piece of poultry out of Fowler’s pipes) brought UF back to its rightful place atop the SEC.
Palmer was not an overwhelmingly great quarterback. He never dominated college football the way Grossman, his successor, did in 2001, but he stepped up when his coaches and teammates needed him most.
When considering where Feleipe Franks fits into the larger story of Florida quarterbacks, he is playing to be remembered in a vein similar to Palmer, and to avoid being remembered as a Johnson-like figure. The Johnson and Palmer comparisons aren’t exact and will never be easy fits with the example of Franks, nearly two decades later, but they represent larger portraits of careers and the paths they follow.
The mention of Doug Johnson’s name elicits a cringe or a wince in Florida football circles. His time under center was painful for Gator fans. Mentioning Palmer within a Florida football context would call forth many happy memories of a redemptive season and a year when Florida restored something which had been missing.
Isn’t this what Franks — under head coach Dan Mullen — is trying to chase down in 2019?
Franks has had his Johnsonian bad boy moments. He has lived through his own periods of considerable friction with the Florida fan base. Yet, at the end of the 2018 season — chiefly in the Peach Bowl win over Michigan — Franks showed that he was capable of evolving, that he could process the game at a higher level, the way Doug Johnson never quite achieved two decades earlier.
If Franks can turn the corner this year and give Florida an SEC East title — which would almost certainly mean a win over Georgia in Jacksonville — the way he has been thought of in Gainesville will give way to a distinctly different identity.
Yes, Feleipe Franks is playing for history, but more than that, he is playing so that he can be remembered in the right way and for the right reasons. It is a personal aspiration, but it is connected to team success.
Another powerful and complicated Florida quarterback story is about to be written in 2019.
We will see how happy the ending turns out to be.
Gators land Georgia transfer Brenton Cox
UF football is finishing up Week 2 of Gator Camp with a new addition to their roster. It was confirmed Friday that former Georgia edge rusher Brenton Cox will playing in Gainesville this fall.
The transfer was confirmed on Twitter by Gator beat reporter, Thomas Goldkamp.
100 percent confirmed, done deal. https://t.co/f9qGB0OEAy
— Thomas Goldkamp (@ThomasGoldkamp) August 9, 2019
Earlier this month, the former 5-star recruit put his name into the NCAA transfer portal, after spending just one season with the Bulldogs. In his freshman season, Cox played in 13 games and ended the season with 20 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack, and three pass breakups. He also got the start in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Texas where he made a career high, six stops.
Sources have informed Swamp247 that Cox visited Florida’s campus on Thursday, and enrolled at UF later that day. He reportedly began practice after officially enrolling. Cox is listed at 6-foot-4, 247-pounds, and will wear No. 6 for the Gators.
Originally from Stockbridge, GA, Cox was listed as a five-star recruit by ESPN.com, No. 11 in ESPN’s top 300, No. 5 DE nationally, No. 3 prospect in Georgia.
But, its not a done deal that he’ll be making an impact for Florida this season. Before he can officially see the field as a Gator, he’ll need to be granted an NCAA waiver, if not he will have to sit out a year at the school of his choice due to NCAA transfer rules. Unless he’s granted the waiver, he will only be able to practice with the team during fall camp and throughout the season.
With all of Florida’s transfers from the program this summer, Cox will bring some much needed support on the defensive side of the ball. After Brian Edwards announced his departure last month, Florida has had nine players now leave their program through transfer or through dismissal for disciplinary reasons this off season. It also means that the Gators currently only have one defensive back on their roster with significant playing time, previously.
Another potential addition to the Florida roster is former LSU cornerback, Kelvin Joseph. The former 4-star 2018 recruit announced his decision to enter the transfer portal last month, and visited UF shortly after.
— Kelvin Joseph || (@bossmanfat1) July 27, 2019
It’s believed that Florida is likely going to be where he lands, but nothing official has been announced so far.
These additions are a bright spot in what has been a disaster of an off-season for Dan Mullen and his staff. This could be the catalyst they need as they enter into the season where they’ll face off against Miami in just over two weeks.