Thursday, August 29, 2013

eViL G's Labor Day Weekend Picks

Just give him the Heisman so no one gets hurt.
Happy Labor Day Weekend Eve Everyone.

The first picks column of 2013 comes to you on location at a Dunkin' Donuts near the Orlando Airport.  The coffee is cheap and wi-fi is free. 

It's tough enough to meet a deadline with high profile Thursday night games, let alone Thursday night games starting at 6:00.  I have a day job ESPN...WTF?

Let's do this....


North Carolina at South Carolina
If you need a reason to leave the office early, beat rush hour traffic to get settled in front of your 50" flat screen TV by 6:00, it doesn't get better than watching Jadaveon Clowney go all Cloverfield against North Carolina's offense.  UNC's best chance to win this game declared early for the NFL Draft, and can now be seen on HBO's Hard Knocks driving his girlfriend's mother's mini-van to the Cincinnati Bengals practice facility.  South Carolina makes a statement tonight folks. 
Cocks - 37
Heels - 13

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech
Didn't we see this train wreck four years ago, at the same so-called neutral site?  Virginia Tech is trending in the wrong direction, while Bama's about to re-write history.
Tide - 44
Turkeys - 17

Toledo at Florida
Man, what a difference a year makes.  Around this time last year most of Gator Nation was in full-on Zook mode, right down to firming up New Years Day plans to attend another Outback Bowl.  I know a bunch of you pervs were looking forward to spending New Years Eve on Dale Mabry.  Thankfully we scrapped those plans after winning 11 games, at which point the entire UF fan base chose not to attend the Sugar Bowl...brilliant move in hindsight.  The 12:21 kickoff sucks for the fans, but it sucks worse for a bunch of oversized kids from Toledo not used to Gainesville humidity in August.  In true Muschamp style, UF wins ugly, but UF wins.
Gators - 28
Rockets - 17

LSU vs. Texas Christian
Both schools wear purple...that's about all I know about these teams.  Lots of new faces on LSU's defense, but they can all ball.  TCU was picked to finish 2nd behind Texas in the Big 12, which means they'd be looking up at no fewer than six SEC schools.  LSU is in the Top 6.
Tigers - 23
Frogs - 17

Florida State at Pitt
I've got no love for FSU, but I can't wait to see this hot shot freshman QB.  His last name is Winston (great name by the way), and from all accounts he's more Charlie Ward than Adrian McPherson...or Xavier Lee.  We won't know until FSU plays some real competition. 
Noles - 21
Panthers - 10

And finally...

Georgia at Clemson
This week’s marquee game features two fine programs with a rich history and tradition of underachieving on the game’s biggest stage.  My feelings towards Georgia are well documented; I hate them more than Kevin Hart hates Robin Thicke.  I have a tougher time fostering significant hatred towards Clemson, because at some point Clemson pulls a Clemson, at which point they cease being nationally relevant…out of sight, out of mind.

Very impressive Clemson.

The last national title for either school came within a year of each other…33 years ago.  UGA is the last SEC big boy program without a national title in the BCS era, while Clemson's resorted to recognizing co-A She She Atlantic Division Championships in Death Valley Junior…even though they lost head-to-head to eventual A She She champ Florida State.  It makes sense when you consider Clemson’s won the A She She title once in the past 20 years.

Last time we saw Georgia, they were busy pulling a Clemson in the SEC title game.  SPIKE THE BALL AARON MURRAY!!!  LOL!!!  UGA lost just about everyone on defense, but they return plenty of offensive firepower.  Todd Gurley is a beast.  Other than Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins I don’t know much about Clemson, other than they’re Clemson, and as such they’re good for about two inexplicable losses per season, in addition to the games they’re supposed to lose.

History suggests it’s too early in the season for Clemson to pull a Clemson, and they’re playing at home.  But I’m still not sold on Clemson, because they’re Clemson.

Worst case, the early season reverse mojo results in a UGA loss, in which case we all win...but I have faith in my enemy to get the job done.

Georgia – 28
Clemson – 27

Be good.

Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 Florida Gators Preview - Defense

Dominique Easley leads the team in an impromptu modern interpretive dance, loosely based on the life of Nature Boy Ric Flair.
 Last year UF had a BCS championship caliber defense to go with its Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl offense.  The result was an unexpected 11-win season.

This season the Gators have some huge shoes to fill at various positions, but there's plenty of young talent to go around.

Let's take a look at the Gators' 2013 defense...

Defensive Line
Shariff Floyd, Omar Hunter, Lerentee McCray and Earl Okine...all gone.  Back are rising stars Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard, who might be UF's best DE tandem since Kevin Carter, and that other guy.  Kevin Carter was just that good...Fowler might be better.

Dominique Easley's crazy ass moves inside to DT, but he'll play all over the place.  I'm predicting he'll get at least one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for twerking in between plays.  I expect big things from Damien Jacobs, who didn't get much pre-season press because all of his sacks and tackles last season were credited to punter Kyle Cristy, who also wears #4.

The only question mark in an otherwise solid defensive unit.  If Coach Muschamp can keep Antonio Morrison from acting a fool, we might be okay.  Ronald Powell is back, and like Matt Jones his dreadlocks have the promise of  Clowney-like greatness, but that trick knee has to hold up first.  Darren Kitchens, Neiron Ball and Michael Taylor will get plenty of PT, but there's not much proven depth behind them...unless you count the three years the true freshmen started in high school.  No injuries please....

"UF's secondary is deep, it put that ass to sleep."
- Ice Cube

Loaded...absolutely loaded.  No issues here, other than Louchiez Purifoy getting more pre-season hype than Marcus Roberson.  Purifoy's next interception will be his first, and he got picked on repeatedly by Teddy Bridgewater, but he's making pre-season All-American teams.  That said, Roberson and Purifoy are easily the SEC's best corner tandem. Add in the nation's top freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, some talented youngsters losing their redshirt (Brian Poole) and some grizzled veterans (Jaylen Watkins and Jeremy Brown), UF boasts the best group of corners in the nation.

EDIT:  I just learned Jeremy Brown sprained his left wrist signing autographs after practice today.  This injury is all the more baffling, considering Brown is right-handed.  Originally the coaching staff expected Brown to only miss 8 games, but the injury worsened, and doctors at Shands were forced to amputate Brown's right leg.  Brown mailed in his petition to the NCAA for a 7th year of eligibility, but suffered a nasty paper cut when sealing the envelope.

Replacing Matt Elam won't be easy.  Keeping teammates safe from Matt Elam's blindside celebratory attacks following big plays...much easier.  Coaches are raving about redshirt freshman Marcus Maye, and there's a handful of freshmen who will get thrown into the fire early, namely Keanu Neal and Orlando native Marcell Harris.  In spite of looking up to Cee Lo Green and the world's shortest construction attorney Brian Heald, 5'6" Cody Riggs will start and thrive at free safety.  Somewhere Ahmad Black is smiling.

Defensive Outlook:
Bad news:  UF lost a shit ton of NFL studs from its 2012 defense.
Good news:  Over the past two seasons UF recruited a shit ton of future NFL studs on defense.

(If my mother is reading this, "shit ton" means an excessive amount...and I apologize for saying shit four times before the season starts, let alone three months before Hate Week.)

I've got my doubts about Will Muschamp, but I don't question his ability to assemble and coach up championship caliber defenses.  UF won't have the SEC's best defense again this season, but they'll be damn good.  Ronald Powell's knee, Antonio Morrison's head and the interior defensive line hold the key to what could be another elite defensive unit.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2013 Florida Gators Preview - Offense

Jeff Driskel attempts a rare pass with no opposing defenders in sight.  I'm guessing Tennessee was the opponent.

There's no need to sugarcoat it.  UF's offense flat out sucked last season, finishing 12th in the SEC in passing offense and dead last in total offense.

But that was last year; brighter days are ahead. 

In my less than expert opinion, here's a breakdown of UF's 2013 offense by position.   

Against Tennessee last season Jeff Driskel looked like the second coming of ol' what's his name currently playing for the New England Patriots (soon to be the Saskatchewan Roughriders).  Little did we know at the time Tennessee fielded its worst defense since man discovered fire.  Against legitimate competition Driskel looked lost at times...locking onto primary receivers, waiting until they were open instead of throwing to a spot, not sensing pressure worth a damn and for whatever reason REFUSING TO THROW THE BALL AWAY...WHAT THE F**K JEFF?!?!  WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA?!?!?

Good news is Driskel's a year older, he doesn't have Jamarcus Briskett breathing down his neck for playing time, and he's shown a greater command of the offense.  For the first time in his UF career he's got the same offensive coordinator two years in a row, and thankfully his last name is not Addazio. 

UF sinks or swims with Jeff Driskel, and Lord help us all if he gets injured.

Running Back:
Matt Jones has dreadlocks, a beard and gold teeth...all of which are essential for long-term success in major college football.  Unfortunately he also has a nasty viral infection keeping him sidelined indefinitely. 

UF legacy Kelvin Taylor looked to be the heir apparent, but according to Coach Muschamp he's currently FOURTH on the depth chart behind Mack Brown, Charlie Brown and Bobby Brown.  Hopefully this is all a motivational ploy by the coaching staff, because I'm not convinced anyone named Mack Brown can take a program to the next level, let alone keep it there (like that other Mack Brown in Austin). 

Please get well soon Matt Jones...please?

Wide Receiver:
Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony aren't walking through that door.  However Quinton Dunbar and Solomon Patton are back, in addition to heralded freshmen Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood.  Robinson has been tearing it up at practices and scrimmages, and barring injury it's a safe bet he'll start every game of his UF career.  Fulwood comes to us from high school football powerhouse Bishop Kenny in Jacksonville, where eViL G graduated around the time Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. 

Loucheiz Purifoy and Latroy Pittman should provide much needed depth.  More on Purifoy later...

I'm torn on the loss of Andre Debose.  Coming out of high school five years ago, just about everyone compared Debose to Percy Harvin, and Debose absolutely hated the comparison.  Now we understand why.  I hate to bang on a kid who blew his knee out before getting a final chance to silence the critics...but damn Andre, you only had three more catches than my grandmother last season, and that lazy work ethic drove the coaching staff crazy.  Here's hoping rehab goes well and he's on schedule to graduate.  And if Debose decides to come back for a 6th year to make me eat my words, I'm cool with that too.

Robinson and Fulwood give Joker Phillips all the job security he needs.  Throw in recent verbal commitments from some stud WR recruits, and the future is extremely bright, with or without Debose.

Tight End:
Jordan Reed's departure is arguably the Gators' biggest loss on offense.  Clay Burton is currently listed as the starter, which brings a smile to opposing defensive coordinators across the country.  Burton is a decent enough blocker, but he's got banana fingers as a receiver.  Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor are also in the mix; one is a better receiver than blocker, the other is a better blocker than receiver. 

BIG dropoff at this position relative to 2012.

Trey Burton:
Back for his 9th and final year of eligibility, Trey is too versatile to be mentioned under one particular skill position.  He'll play anywhere from fullback to slot receiver to wildcat QB, and Tennessee's defense will no doubt find some new and creative way  for Trey to score multiple touchdowns.  Hell he might even complete a pass to his brother.  We can dream right?

Offensive Line:
Jeff Driskel got sacked once every seven pass attempts last year, which sounds worse than it is when you consider Driskel's internal clock was stuck on snooze when dropping back to pass, and in at least five games it seemed like UF didn't attempt seven passes. 

With the "loss" of Xavier Nixon and addition of transfers Max Garcia and Tyler Moore, UF's offensive line might be one of the more underrated units in the SEC.  Chaz Green, Jon Halapio, Jon Harrison and future star D.J. Humphries are all back. 

I'm expecting great things from this bunch.

Offensive Outlook:
The loss of UF's leading rusher and receiver should be a cause for concern.  The silver lining is Brent Pease's return as offensive coordinator.  UF hasn't had a competent offensive coordinator stick around for consecutive years since Dan Mullen.  Pease earned his paycheck last year, and he'll do it again this year. 

Demarcus Robinson replaces Jordan Reed's production, a healthy Matt Jones/Kelvin Taylor combo surpasses Mike Gillislee's production, and Jeff Driskel figures out how to read a corner blitz before half the stadium sees it coming.

UF is a year away from being downright dangerous on offense.  This year we'll see steady improvement as the young receivers develop.

Matt Jones, please get well soon. 


Monday, August 19, 2013

It's that time again....

A cripple, murderer, fullback and a racist all walk into a bar...actually the cripple limps into the bar...stop me if you've heard this one before....
 Welcome Back Everyone!

Where did the time go?  It seems like just yesterday Charlie Strong was busy sticking his foot up the collective ass of Gator Nation in front of a national television audience.  Now it's time to kick off another football season, and not a moment too soon.  Anything to take the focus off Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper and Alex Rodriguez...I'm all for it.

Speaking of Riley Cooper, I found his drunken comments disturbing, but I give him credit for hedging his bet.  How many black people not named Darius Rucker go to Kenny Chesney concerts?  Cooper could have done worse threatening to fight every Heisman Trophy winner from Tennessee.

Looking back at that Sugar Bowl debacle, Louisville did our coaches a huge favor.  Muschamp and his staff have plenty of teachable moments and motivational ammunition from a season where UF dominated national contenders LSU, South Carolina and FSU, but easily could have lost to lowly Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette. 

And while Muschamp earned some respect for a surprising 11-win season, he won't completely win over the unwashed masses in Gainesville until he wins the East AND beats Georgia.  Until that day I choose to believe he's a UGA double agent with homicidal tendencies, hell bent on destroying UF's football program from within.

Man it's good to be back.  Stay tuned for my preview of UF's offense, defense and special teams. 

Until then, be good.

- eG