IAKOW Mailbag 7/24: Friday Night Lights, future football opponents and Mike White’s first season

Welcome to our second mailbag! To submit a question for the next one, simply email it to me: neil@inallkindsofweather.com. I’ll run it in the next mailbag episode I do, whenever that is.

So, here goes:

Q1: Devon from Augusta, GA asks: People seem to think that the defense will drop in Geoff Collins’ first year, that Muschamp is irreplaceable as a defensive mind, etc. What do you think is the reason for this?

A1: First, I think the idea that Muschamp is irreplaceable as a defensive mind is hilarious. He isn’t even the best defensive coordinator in the SEC (Kirby Smart is). But more importantly, Geoff Collins is a highly underrated defensive coordinator. And he inherits a defense with three possible first round picks (Vernon Hargreaves, Antonio Morrison and Jonathan Bullard) in the 2016 NFL Draft. Losing Dante Fowler is the only possible reason I could see for thinking this defense will decline.

Q2: Alex J. from Tri-Cities, TN asks: Who is on “flip alert” at Friday Night Lights tonight?

A2: If I had to pick one, it’s gotta be Sam Bruce. He’s friends with a lot of current Gator commits, some of whom are high school teammates of his. But take your pick between the three Miami Hurricane commits: Bruce, Tyler Dunning and Tre McKitty.

Q3: Greg asks: What do you think it means that so many kids committed to other schools are attending Friday Night Lights?

A3: The answer is different for each one. Some, like Georgia commit Chris Barnes, are merely going to work on techniques and get some reps against other top talent. But I think many others have legitimate interest in Florida as a school, and are either hoping to get an offer (like Clemson QB commit Zerrick Cooper) or want to learn more about the school (like USC WR commit Velus Jones).

Q4: Terry B. asks: I loved your piece on the Gators’ scheduling, and what a hypothetical six year span could look like. But question: whatever happened with South Florida? Don’t we owe them a return trip for coming to Gainesville in 2010?

A4: That’s a good question, but I don’t think there’s an answer to it. Here’s what I know. The two schools signed a contract to play twice in 2002. But two different places reported the whole thing two different ways. FBSchedules reported that Florida and USF were originally supposed to meet in 2008 and 2009, both in Gainesville. However, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the games were scheduled to be in 2009 and then 2011, but never explicitly stated where the second game was supposed to be played. However, the TBT did mention that USF AD Doug Woolard hates scheduling road games in which the team doesn’t agree to make a return trip. My guess as to what happened is that the language in the contract the two schools signed wasn’t clear about where the second game was supposed to be played, and now they’re still arguing about it 13 years later. Personally, I wouldn’t care if Florida does play a road game in Tampa, because of the huge Gator community there, the recruiting opportunity of playing a real game in Tampa, and playing in an NFL stadium. It would be almost exactly like playing in the Outback Bowl. But in any case, I do know that Florida and USF are contractually obligated to play again… someday, somewhere.

Q5: Austin asks: Do you think Florida will ever play Miami again in a regular season game? I live in Miami and it’s so annoying, all Canes fans say is “WE WON THE LAST ONE”. I know the possibility of facing them in a bowl game exists, but we don’t really control that, but we do control regular season.

A5: Do I want to play Miami again? Absolutely. Do I think we will? Maybe once in the next decade if we’re lucky. The schools are at least discussing a neutral site game, which isn’t the best way to do this, but it’s better than nothing, I guess. If it’s going to happen, it would likely be a one game neutral site deal in Orlando or Tampa.

Q6: Steve D. asks: In your opinion, which Top 10 recruit in both 2016, 2017 classes do the Gators have the best shot to get a commit?

A6: You’re asking a lot to get a top ten recruit, in my opinion. But Florida could still land some studs in each class. The rankings of the top 50-100 kids in any given class are generally a wash, anyway. For 2016: I wouldn’t give up on flipping WR Nate Craig-Myers and QB Dwayne Haskins, but those are long shots. I do think Florida has a real shot to flip Sam Bruce- in fact, I’m borderline expecting him to. As for 2017, it’s too early to tell. I’d keep an eye out for Jerry Jeudy, if you want one name above the rest.

Q7: Maggie from Silver Spring, MD asks: I hope a basketball question is OK. What are expectations like for Mike White in his first season? Gotta think better than what last year was, right? Win total expectancy? Tournament appearance/round expectancy?

A7: Of course it’s OK. And yes, this season has to be better than last season if only because it may not be possible to be any worse. Florida gets DeVon Walker back from injury, and Devin Robinson and Chris Chiozza should be much more polished as sophomores. The key is Kasey Hill. He has to play better than he did last year, or this team is in trouble. But making the NCAA Tournament is a real possibility. I wouldn’t bank on winning a national championship, but I think this team could get in as a 10 or 11 seed and maybe even win a round or two depending on the matchup.

Q8: Ian asks: When can we say that we are over the Muschump era? What has to happen before we either forgive him or can say that the program survived his idiocy?

A8: Honestly, it’s going to take some time. I would say that reaching the SEC Championship Game twice, winning the SEC, one of the six major bowl games or reaching the College Football Playoff would do it. Muschamp caused some serious problems for Florida, the most long term of which is damaging the program’s prestige by losing so many games. Recruits saw what was happening and jumped off the ship, and now Florida’s working on its second straight sub top 20 recruiting class. And as Muschamp proved, even an awful coach can win 11 games with a lot of luck. So if and when McElwain either accomplishes a milestone that Muschamp didn’t or matches his 2012 success over a longer period of time, I’d say we’re over him. If McElwain can achieve a milestone that Muschamp didn’t and then subsequently falters, it’s on him, not Muschamp.

Q9: Amy asks: I’m a Louisiana Tech fan. What can I expect from Jeff Driskel as our starting QB? And are you rooting for him going forward?

A9: Good luck, is all I can say. Driskel’s a great human being. A great person. A great guy to be around. And he has serviceable mid-major talent. But I dunno about him as a starting QB. You may be dealing with broken merchandise there. Will Muschamp and his coaching staff killed his confidence with three different offensive coordinators, putting him in an offense he wasn’t comfortable with, and providing him with iffy blocking. Can he resurrect his career at LT? Sure, it’s possible. But I wouldn’t expect much. Anything good he gives y’all, good for you. Take it as a bonus.

Q10: Robert from Charleston, SC asks: I live in South Carolina, so getting to Gator games is tough for me. If you could pick one game in the Swamp to attend, which game would it be?

A10: Easy. Florida-FSU. The Noles are down this year, and they have to come to the Swamp. This may be one of those years in a rivalry where the team that’s down erases half a decade of frustration by delivering a major beatdown that nobody sees coming, kind of like the Gators did in 2005. It’s impossible to guarantee that now in July, but the potential fun that you could experience is worth the trek.

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