Swamp Ball: The Dawg Sports Interview

Toward the end of my run at Kyle on Football, as I was making arrangements for my move to SportsBlogs Nation, I was looking forward to becoming the first S.E.C. weblogger on the masthead, joining Michigan's Schembechler Hall, Ohio State's Around the Oval, Texas's Burnt Orange Nation, and U.C.L.A.'s Bruins Nation.  

Alas, it was not to be . . . some Gator fan flying under the handle Swamp Ball beat me to the punch by a little under three weeks:  the Florida blog debuted on February 2 and Dawg Sports officially set up shop on February 22.  

Bill Murray wasn't the only one who had a bad day on February 2.

Naturally, upon the basis of its collegiate affiliation and its timing, I was fully prepared to hate Swamp Ball.  Unfortunately, the fellow who runs it---David is his name, by the way---is a good guy who runs a quality weblog, so it was no use trying to dislike him.  Consequently, inspired by the Georgia Sports Blog's series of spring team previews, David and I decided to swamp---er, swap---interview questions.  

My responses to his questions appear at Swamp Ball.  His responses to my questions appear below.  The pictures and captions are mine, but the answers are David's:  

The big news coming out of Gator training camp this spring is Urban Meyer's dissatisfaction with Florida's running backs.  He has even gone so far as to threaten to put Chris Leak in an empty backfield if no one steps up to claim the starting role at tailback.  While, obviously, this is just a "tough love" motivational ploy on Coach Meyer's part, it speaks to his annoyance with the lack of production from his supremely talented team.  Will Coach Meyer's frustration fuel a Florida renaissance as his spread option attack begins to click in his second year, as it did at his previous coaching stops, or will his intensity become his undoing as he shatters the confidence of his players and proves too rigid to accept the fact that his gimmicky offensive scheme simply will not work against top-tier teams?

Meyer's spread option offensive attack relies on shovel passes, reverses, and the ability of the QB to take a hit for the sake of the play to work.  This type of offense requires a QB committed to making it work and last season Leak showed that he still would still like to be a drop back passer.  Leak looked lost in this new offense and made you wonder how this was the same kid that broke all those records at Independence High in Charlotte.  I think this offense can work in the SEC.  However, you just have to have the personnel in place that is capable of running the spread option.  The good thing about this year is we have an alternative when Leak falters.  To me it's not an IF, but a WHEN Tebow takes over.  This whole offense relies on the decision-making at QB position and Leak has not shown he is capable of being that guy.  There is a lot of pressure on Meyer to win so it sort of makes you think that Gators might be better off going with the QB that is a better fit for the offense right away.  We have heard the tune that this offense would work if Meyer got the players he needs to run the offense.  Well, Tebow may be that guy.  The key is if he can run the option effectively making defenses put in considerable focus to stopping it.

Maybe not so much the future of the program.

Let's say you could arrange a straight-up player-for-player trade of any Gator for his counterpart on an opposing squad Florida will face next fall.  (By "his counterpart," I mean not only a guy at his position, but also a guy at the same place on the depth chart.  No fair trading your third-stringer for another team's starter.)  What U.F. player would you trade, what opposing player would you take, and why?  

If there ever were a trade to be made that Meyer would agree to, it would definitely be centered around the running game.  The Gators have a bunch of running backs currently in the mix.  So in the world of one-sided trades, I would have to start out with the best RB out there.  I'd go with Kenny Irons of Auburn.  Irons could hang around with ex-Auburn star RB Cadillac Williams of the Buccaneers who is just 120 miles down road in Tampa.  They could have any RB of their choosing.  I'd bet they would prefer Deshawn Wynn.  Hey, I'd even throw in Leak.  In fact, I'd take one year of Irons for any RB currently on our roster.

Now let's say I have the same option of trading the Bulldog who worries me the most for the Gator I most wish we had signed.  If you had the ability to declare a Florida team member your "franchise player" to protect him from a trade, which player would you choose and why?
There is no question about this answer.  It has to be Tim Tebow.  I mean, the guy was named to Urban's leadership committee and he has not even taken a snap yet.  He can run the spread option offense for at least three years guaranteed.  I am glad it's not like the basketball with one solid year and they're gone.  It's quite obvious there will be a QB rotation going on in Gainesville.  How long it lasts, we'll see.

University of Utah alumni include the inventors of Gore-Tex, the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, the Marriott hotel chain, and the video game "Pong," but it remains to be seen whether it is "the cradle of coaches," as well.

Which will happen first:  Urban Meyer being hired away by the N.F.L. or Urban Meyer getting the boot for failing to meet Gator fans' lofty expectations---or is Coach Meyer in Gainesville for the long haul?

I think Urban is here for the long haul.  Besides, I don't see this offense working in the NFL.  It will be like we have seen so far with Billy Donovan, he has a pretty good situation going on in Gainesville, so why even entertain other possibilities.  In the end, Steve Spurrier did us a favor by doing what's best for the long term in not returning to Florida.  Urban was going to get a big time job, and we should be glad he chose the Gators.

Every couple or three years, there is talk of moving the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party out of Jacksonville and arranging a home and home series between the two schools.  Clearly, the trend is away from neutral site games, for financial and other reasons.  Alabama and Auburn no longer play at Legion Field.  Georgia and Auburn no longer play in Columbus.  Texas fans, at least, are questioning the continued wisdom of keeping the Red River Shootout in Dallas.  Personally, I like keeping Georgia's annual showdown with Florida in the Gateway City, where we have an established tradition of playing, a unique game day atmosphere, and a site that allows Bulldog fans from South Georgia to attend what amounts to a "home" game (in much the same way that the Arkansas games played in Little Rock serve a particular geographic segment of the Razorbacks' fan base).  What's your take on it?  Do you want to see the Georgia-Florida game remain in Jacksonville or would you like to see the Bulldogs and the Gators alternate contests between Athens and Gainesville?  Now that you've told me what you want to see happen, what do you believe will happen?
I like the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville and I would hate to see it end.  With the creation of SEC East division, the game even has more meaning.  The timing of the game is usually at a point of the season, where the winner of the game not only has bragging rights, but there are national implications as well.  I hate to mess with tradition.  That one year where the game was moved due to renovations in Jacksonville, it just felt wrong moving the location of the World's Largest Cocktail Party.

P.J. O'Rourke said it best:  "Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut."

Steve Spurrier's return to the S.E.C. East shook up the division, to say the least.  The Ol' Ball Coach's Gamecocks came within two points of upsetting Georgia in Athens in their first conference game under the Evil Genius and South Carolina managed to beat both Florida and Tennessee.  It was clear well in advance of the Gators' trip to Columbia that Steve Spurrier was inside Urban Meyer's head and some of that carried over into basketball season, during which the Palmetto State Poultry defeated the superior Sunshine State Saurians twice.  How many of those demons were exorcised in the S.E.C. roundball tourney, when the Big Lizards exacted their revenge on the Big Chickens?  Have Darth Visor's Gamecocks turned the corner to respectability, making it a four-team race in the Eastern Division year in and year out, or is Urban Legend going to knock the East Coast U.S.C. down a peg in Gainesville next November 11?  How much grumbling will there be in Gatorland if Florida once again goes 9-3 and wins a January bowl game but loses to South Carolina?

It will be interesting seeing the Visor Guy in Gainesville next season on the visitor's side.  How weird will that be?  I expect that game to be a huge game once again.  Don't remind me of that South Carolina game in Columbia.  I was at a family event that weekend, and before I could get to a TV the Gators were down big.  That game was a hard one to swallow.  Until we finally beat the Gamecocks in the SEC tourney, I was joking around that we had experienced the "Spurrier Curse".  It was sort of like when Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.  Or like Superman with kryptonite.  But, luckily we put an end to that.  I see Gators taking care of business this year against the Gamecocks.  The SEC East is certainly strong.  It's going to be a tough competition for each team in the division.  Meyer has a lot of pressure as he gets lumped in with the Zook years as far as the drought in going to a meaningful bowl.  It will be fun to watch how it plays out in the SEC.

I'm not looking to have any property destroyed tonight or anything, but winning more than once every eight years would be nice.

My gratitude goes out to David for his willingness to take part in this exchange as spring practice gets underway in Athens and in Gainesville, offering the first inklings of another football season in the rugged S.E.C. East.  

I don't know who'll come out on top next fall, but two things are certain:  2006 ought to be a good year for Southeastern Conference football and you can read all about it at Swamp Ball and at Dawg Sports.  

Go 'Dawgs!  

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