The Silver Lining for Thursday, September 25

By Adam Silverstein
September 25, 2014

Due to the off week and Will Muschamp’s only media appearances being scheduled for Wednesday, this week’s The Silver Lining was pushed to Thursday. It will next be published on Wednesday, Oct. 1.

Jelani Jenkins, the NFL’s Leading Tackler

It’s easy to forget how much of an impact former Florida Gators linebacker Jelani Jenkins had during his time with the team and some of that has to do with how often he was dealing with injuries in college.

Even the Miami Dolphins, which selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, did not appear to know what they had in Jenkins until they had no choice but to start him in Week 2 and 3 of this season.

Due to his performances the last two weeks, which have earned him back-to-back OnlyGators.com Player of the Week honors, Jenkins now leads the NFL with 25 total tackles and 35 combined tackles.

Not too shabby, huh?


Jenkins was drafted by the Dolphins for his coverage ability, and Miami saw him as a player it could groom to go up against pass-catching tight ends like New England’s Rob Gronkowski, an AFC East rival.

But with some high-priced veterans ahead of him, Jenkins did not get the opportunity to play on defense much as a rookie, which was not the worst thing because he likely needed some time to develop. He played about 21 snaps per game, according to the team, with only eight of those coming as a defender.

In fact, his best performance of 2013 came as a fourth-quarter substitute in the Dolphins’ second-to-last home game (against the Patriots) when he was instrumental in a game-ending drive that allowed Miami to hold on for the victory.

Jenkins did not start the Dolphins’ first game of 2014 either but did see an increased role as a reserve. Injuries to three linebackers forced Jenkins into the starting lineup in Week 2 and again in Week 3; all he has done is made the most of his opportunity by racking up 19 combined tackles (one for loss), a forced fumble, 1.5 sacks and a safety in those contests.

“Stats are just showing the hard work that I’ve put in since I got here,” Jenkins told Miami’s in-house radio show, The Finsiders. “I don’t want to change anything that I’m doing moving forward. I’m just going to keep on coming to work every day and everything else will play out. So far, it’s played out really well.”

When two of the Dolphins’ starting linebackers return from injury – the third is out for the season – Miami will have to make a decision about Jenkins’s role with the team. He is still playing special teams despite starting at linebacker, so that role will continue, but head coach Joe Philbin will have to decide if Jenkins has done enough to carve out a permanent starting role for himself on the defense.

In Jenkins’s mind, he’s prepared for the full-time responsibilities.

“I knew college was hard mentally, but these offensive coordinators in the NFL are just a whole ‘nother step. You really have to be on your toes and prepare completely. I think mentally has been the biggest adjustment from college. [Now I’m able to] see things before they happen, and I’m able to play fast,” he said.

Gators Making Waves in the NFL

While researching Jenkins’s stat totals, I came across a couple other Florida players who are currently standing out in some statistical categories.

» Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. leads the NFL in punt return attempts (11) and total punt return yards (149). He is grinding out 13.5 yards per punt return, the third-best in average in the NFL, and his long punt return of 47 yards is also third-longest in the league so far this season.

» Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap is fourth in the NFL with 3.0 sacks on the season.

» Indianapolis Colts cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy is one of 16 NFL players with two forced fumbles so far this year.

» St. Louis Rams CB Janoris Jenkins is one of eight NFL players with an interception returned for a touchdown through three weeks of the season.

» Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis is one of 13 kickers that has hit a field goal of 50+ yards this season, and he’s currently 12th in the NFL in scoring with 26 points on the year.

» New York Jets WR David Nelson is one of three players who has fumbled the ball twice this season (he coughed the ball up twice in Week 3).

» Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Solomon Patton has the second-most kickoff return attempts (nine) and total yards (201) this season, though his long of 27 yards is the shortest of anyone in the top-20 of either category.

Don’t Panic

I hoped thought my answering 42 questions posed during the Florida-Alabama game would satiate the need for me to weigh in on the current state of the Gators and future of both head coach Will Muschamp and redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Even now, five days after the game and in the middle of an off week, I am still receiving a couple emails a day ranting about the team and asking for my opinion on the situation.

Well, here it is: don’t panic.

I can and did – during the game – openly question Muschamp’s decision-making and Driskel’s play-making, or lack thereof.

As the de facto safeties coach, Muschamp’s position was arguably the worst on the field Saturday. Driskel, the signal caller whom both Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper praised throughout the offseason, completely folded against Alabama, playing the worst game of his entire career.

(It is important to note here that while Driskel was panned for his performance against Kentucky – yes, he did make his share of mistakes – I actually felt he deserved to be praised for how he played under pressure in the second half and overtime.)

I also had serious issues with Muschamp’s decision to not try and score at the end of the first half with just under two minutes on the clock and three timeouts at his disposal. His explanations for not doing so confound me as well. It was cowardice, not coaching. And considering no offensive changes were made at the half, it was simply a missed opportunity. I would dive deeper into this particular subject, but the truth is that it no longer matters five days after the fact.

So Muschamp entered the first half with three timeouts in his pocket, and he ended the game the same way. Florida did not call a single timeout on Saturday yet Muschamp has discussed over and again how his defense was unable to get off the field during Alabama’s huge third-quarter drive and was exhausted during the remainder of the game, allowing the Tide to convert third down after third down. Maybe call a timeout?

Despite all of this, Muschamp was never going to lose his job for dropping a road game to the No. 3 team in the country, and Muschamp was never going to bench Driskel for his performance – neither during the game nor entering the next contest.

Driskel does indeed give the Gators the best chance to win week-to-week. He not only has the game experience but has been the leader of the offense and has the best grasp of Roper’s system. What you will see is not Driskel being benched but rather freshman Treon Harris receiving an expanded role, one which could expand to UF using a two-quarterback system depending how Driskel plays going forward.

And before you scoff at that concept, it has worked for plenty of teams before, including UF (which utilized three to salvage the 2010 season) and at Duke for Roper (as recently as last season).

You can type until your fingers bleed, but it your back-and-forth on Muschamp and Driskel is not going to matter until something catastrophic happens at Florida…like signs of a repeat of 2013.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley has said on multiple occasions that Muschamp does not have a set number of games he needs to win in order to keep his job. I believe that to be an accurate and honest statement from Foley.

But Foley is also keenly aware of Muschamp’s failings during his career: the 4-8 season (first losing campaign since 1979), dropping a game to an FCS opponent, failing to make a bowl game for the first time in forever, ending an extremely long winning streak to Vanderbilt, failing to beat Georgia in three tries, escaping Kentucky in three overtimes, giving up a school-record amount of total yards to Alabama.

Muschamp does not have a set number of games he needs to win in 2014, but you can bet Foley has a checklist of things he wants his head coach to accomplish: return to a quality bowl game, beat Georgia, beat South Carolina, show signs of returning Florida to the top of the SEC East.

The Gators still have all of their goals in front of them and so does Muschamp. Until those begin to fall, he’s not going anywhere.

Florida will not get better by firing his head coach three games into the season or benching its veteran quarterback for a true freshman who would have to go through the likes of LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri and Florida State before the year is out.

If you dislike Muschamp and do not think he is the long-term answer for the Gators, you should be much more concerned about him winning rather than losing. Either way, it will all work itself out in the end.

Not Only Gators: Big Brother 16

Those that read my personal Twitter account know full well that I am an avid watcher of the CBS reality program Big Brother – and have been since the very first season.

Season 16 came to a conclusion on Wednesday with Derrick Levasseur, a detective from Providence, Rhode Island, winning the $500,000 grand prize. It also featured a recent Florida graduate – and as it turns out, fraternity brother of mine – Zach Rance.

Rance played a solid game overall and was definitely entertaining on the program, at least for viewers at home. He even wore a Gators shirt basically every episode and did the Gator Chomp when evicting fellow houseguests. But Rance was definitely not doing everything necessary to ultimately win the game.

Levasseur, on the other hand, played a near-perfect game and became the first houseguest in the history of the show to never be nominated once throughout the season. In fact, the only time he even sat on the block was at the end of the show, when another finalist had to choose who to take with him to the end. That decision ultimately cost the other finalist $450,000.

CBS announced Wednesday that Big Brother has been renewed for seasons 17 and 18, which is no surprise considering it is “one of the summer’s top-rated original series” with an average of 7.6 million viewers (2.7 million adults 18-49), per The Hollywood Reporter.

It appears as if one of the next two seasons will be filled with all-stars. Long-time viewers of the program are well aware that the last all-star season brought with it plenty of unforgettable moments.

What CBS must still decide is how the show will be formatted going forward. The 16th season of the show included two Heads of Household, a weekly Battle of the Block competition and a surprise twist – Team America – all for the first time. Whether any or all of those show features return for season 17 very much remains to be seen.

Overall, season 16 was a bit of a downer. Nearly all of the eviction votes were unanimous, there was very little controversy on the show and one alliance dominated the entire game. For those of us who are avid viewers, let’s hope season 17 has more fun in store.

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

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22 Comments

  1. Frank says:

    Always the voice of reason. Thanks Adam.

  2. SW FL Joe says:

    Somehow I don’t think Muschamp believes the number 42 is the ultimate answer. Unless, of course, the ultimate question turns out to be “How many points will Bama score on my defense?” As for me, I’m going to keep my towel handy, either for crying into or for throwing in when the time comes.

  3. Gatoralum88 says:

    Great work as usual Adam. I do not feel Muschamp is the long-term answer for the Gators & I expect he’ll keep adding to his ever growing list of failings and be gone at seasons end. The tougher question for me, unfortunately, is who can they replace him with? There doesn’t seem to be an obvious Meyer or Sumlin possibility out there this time around. Personally, I wouldn’t mind Mullen considering the job he’s done in God forsaken Starkville. He’s only had 1 losing season there (his first) and seems on his way to his best season yet. Go Gators!

    As for Big Brother, Derrick was quite the puppet master this season similar to Dr. Will Kirby on season 2 IMO.

    • Michael Jones says:

      As an example of Mullen doing more with less, you need to look no further than their current stud QB, Dak Prescott. You would think that everybody was after him in H.S., right? And that Mullen won some epic recruiting battle to lure him away from LSU, since he played H.S. football in Louisiana? No, not the case at all. He was rated a 3 star in H.S. and was only the 33rd rated player in his home state.

      Guys like Mullen, Pinkel at Missouri, and Franklin when he was at Vandy, only get the leftovers from the Bamas, Texas A&M’s, Georgia’s, LSU’s, Auburn’s, Florida’s and even South Carolina (although I would argue that Spurrier’s recruiting challenges mirror Mullen’s more than Saban’s). Then they bust their butts coaching them up and developing them to their fullest potential, and every so often enough of those recruits “hit” and develop into studs that those coaches and their teams catch lightning in a bottle and for a season or two they’re riding high until the inevitable disparity in recruiting returns to bite them on the butts.

      So when a guy like Mullen, Pinkel or Franklin can field a team that’s even COMPETITIVE in the SEC, that’s a hell of a coaching job. Same thing goes for schools like Louisville, Boise State, East Carolina, Southern Miss, Cincinnati, and others like it when they have a magical season that includes knocking off some of the big boys. Those guys are the REAL football coaches. Spurrier used to do the same thing at Duke.

      It was said of Bear Bryant (might’ve been Vince Dooley who said it, but not sure) that “he can take his players and beat yours, then take your players and beat his.” Now THAT is a football coach, baby! But that level of coaching skill is legendary and maybe too much to ask of anyone not named “Bear Bryant.”

      Glad to hear you endorse Mullen. Say it loud, say it proud!

      I’ll tell you another guy who has done an unbelievable job for years now: Head Coach Chris Klieman of the North Dakota State Bisons. I’m sure you folks have heard of him if you’re a football fan who hasn’t been living in a cave.

      • Gatoralum88 says:

        Interestingly, a ground swell of support for him has already begun among the national media. Clay Travis, perhaps Fox Sports main college football beat writer, threw Mullen out there as his FAVORITE to eventually get the job in a column he wrote online just two days ago. So, we’re not alone!

        Everyone knows MSU is one of the worst jobs out there yet the way he’s been able to sustain some moderate success is impressive to me. I just read this: He’s led them to 4 straight bowl games for the first time in school history and is the ONLY coach there to win just 3 bowl games. What’s that say about that school’s sorry history & how hard it is to win there! He also has the highest winning % since Darrell Royal was there for just 2 years in the mid-50’s & he’s 4-1 against their main rival Ole Miss. His track record helping quarterbacks is proven (Josh Harris, Alex Smith, Tebow, & now Prescott). They’re on their way to a 5th straight winning season for the first time since the 40’s! If they win 10 games this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if they make a statue for him to put in front of their stadium.

        BTW, FYI, your quote is actually a famous one made by late great former NFL head coach Bum Phillips in the 70’s referring to both Don Shula AND Bear Bryant (who he coached under in the 50’s) & it actually goes “”He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.” Again, I’m with you!!! I think we both foresee disaster ahead for our beloved Gators so it’s time to make some noise for his future replacement! DAN MULLEN! Go Gators!

  4. sjkoepp says:

    Best part of my week, Adam. Gator nation is just going to have to wait and see re: Driskel and Muschamp. Everyone else on our schedule (even FSU, though I doubt it) is beatable or can be a competitive game. We’ll either bounce back or regress. One way or the other it’ll all shake out.

  5. 5wideU says:

    Agree with your thoughts 100% Adam.

  6. Ken (CA) says:

    Catastrophic = loss or bad loss at UT?

    Don’t forget the best 2 QB system – Leak/Tebow

    Interesting, have iPhone and iPad and never even heard of those 5 apps.

    • Yes. That would count.

      Tweetbot is the best Twitter app. MyFitnessPal is a very popular website – that’s the supporting app. Calm I just downloaded. Rotoworld is great if you play fantasy sports.

  7. gatorboi352 says:

    “I also had serious issues with Muschamp’s decision to not try and score at the end of the first half with just under two minutes on the clock and three timeouts at his disposal. His explanations for not doing so confound me as well. It was cowardice, not coaching. And considering no offensive changes were made at the half, it was simply a missed opportunity. I would dive deeper into this particular subject, but the truth is that it no longer matters five days after the fact.

    So Muschamp entered the first half with three timeouts in his pocket, and he ended the game the same way. Florida did not call a single timeout on Saturday yet Muschamp has discussed over and again how his defense was unable to get off the field during Alabama’s huge third-quarter drive and was exhausted during the remainder of the game, allowing the Tide to convert third down after third down. Maybe call a timeout?”

    Sorry for the huge copy paste, but those two paragraphs right there are a microcosm of why Muschamp is just not fit to be a head coach. Those are two GLARING example in YEAR FOUR of his on the job training fiasco.

    “Driskel does indeed give the Gators the best chance to win week-to-week. He not only has the game experience but has been the leader of the offense and has the best grasp of Roper’s system. ”

    He certainly has the game experience; no question there. The questions (i.e. doubts) come into play in regards to being the leader of the offense and the one that has the best grasp of Roper’s offense. And quite frankly, even if he does have the best “grasp” of it, if he can’t execute it on game day then what does it matter? Oh, but he looed so good all week in shorts running it! Please…

    Anyone else notice how Driskel didn’t even throw for 1800 yards in his senior year of HS? That’s rather pedestrian and it looks like he was bumped up to a 5-star simply because Urban was recruiting him at the time. Dude was/is tailor made to RUN (pun intended) Urban’s offense, showcasing his legs first and foremost. For the last 3 years, Will has stubbornly been trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. Poor Jeff. Hopefully he succeeds down the line in baseball.

  8. Ks Gator says:

    That movie looks amazing. Cant wait.

    Glad I get a dose of pop culture while getting my daily sports fix.

  9. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    2 Possible Replacements Mullen and Mike Leach? Magic Number for me is 8~9 Wins But one if them must be at WLOCP…… No excuse for losing 4 Years in a row. IF that happens Foley should ask for Clipboard and Whistle on Bus at JVILLE. Foley should do what Jacobs at Auburn did to Barber and Haden did to Kidding at USC… GO GATORS!!! Thoughts on Leach and possible Foley moved IF WLOCP is Lost

  10. Brian says:

    It remains to be seen if this offense is really going to work or not. I like Roper as an OC, he seems to have his head on straight. Could it be that this loss could have been avoided if Jeff Driskel would have hit on a few of those big throws? Hard to say, but if he were good for 2-3 passing touchdowns a game it would really change the complexion of the game. The surprise to me is the poor play of the secondary. If the secondary can correct itself (possible but highly questionable) and if Driskell can go on a hot streak of the next five or six games with no turnovers (also highly questionable), then this can be turned around. Unfortunately I get the Driskell is Terry Dean 2.0. Good physical skills, but just too many mistakes.

  11. Michael J. says:

    I wonder if you’ve been paying attention. I know this is the silver lining but to say to wait happens until something catastrophic happens at Florida…like signs of a repeat of 2013 is baffling. What do you think we have just witnessed the past two weeks? The offense is still horrible and the defense is awful. This team looks like it is a worse team than 2013. I think catastrophe is an appropriate adjective for the Gators right now. Last year’s debacle was written off as due to injuries and a bad offensiveness coordinator and offensive line coach. Even with those excuses, that team easily beat Kentucky. You can’t cure what ails Jeff Driskel. It’s not the first time he has only thrown for 93 yards. He did the same against South Carolina a couple of years ago and the Gators won 44-11. The Gators had a great defense then, now they are atrocious. If Florida loses to Tennessee, UF is staring straight at another four win season. Is that “catastrophic” enough for you? Will you then advocate sending Driskel to the bench where he belongs? By the way, if UF does lose to Tennessee, you could see two true freshman quarterbacks named Harris be the starters the following week when LSU comes to Gainesville. I could be wrong, but I still think Kentucky is a bad team and Alabama isn’t a great team. If I’m right, then Florida is a bad team, not a “very good” team like Will Muschamp still claims after getting waxed on the field.

    • Yeah Michael, I wonder if I’ve been paying attention to this team. All I do is run an entire website about it.

      Silver Lining is just the name of this column, it is not indicative that the topics in here are putting a positive spin on things. And if you think those comments about Muschamp and Driskel were positive, well…

      Now the rest of your comment:

      Florida going 1-1 in a two-week span, with its loss being on the road to No. 3 Alabama, is not a catastrophe. You can disagree with that if you want to, but you’re grossly exaggerating if you think that’s the case.

      Kentucky is still not a good team, but if you don’t think it’s vastly improved from last season, I’m not sure what game you were watching two weeks ago. And coupling an improved UK with what is on its way to being one of the worst secondaries in UF history results in a game becoming much closer than it should be – going to three overtimes, in fact.

      The Gators losing to the Vols would indeed be the start of the catastrophe that I’m referring to, yes. I didn’t think that had to be spelled out, felt it was pretty obvious to anyone who was reading this column.

      I will not be going back-and-forth with you on this. Those are my final comments.

      And, by the way, you’re welcome for me providing you with a forum where you can endlessly complain about this team without being censored despite the requests of many to not allow you to do so. Perhaps have a bit more respect when you disagree with me, which you are certainly allowed to do.

      • Michael J. says:

        I don’t think it’s being disrespectful to point out that that the game with Kentucky was enough to see the signs of a repeat of 2013. The Alabama game just reinforced it. Maybe Kentucky is a better team this year, but isn’t Florida supposedly better too? Saying if this or if that happened doesn’t remove he fact that Florida struggled mightily on their home field to beat a team they won handily over in 2013. Kentucky is a team that Florida should have destroyed. The game wouldn’t have been close if Florida had an accurate quarterback. Florida’s receivers were getting behind Kentucky’s secondary with ease, but UF finally gave up going vertical because they didn’t have a quarterback that could hit the side of a barn. I’m just pointing out that we don’t have to wait to see the signs of a season like 2013 happening again, we’ve already seen ample evidence of it from the last two games.

  12. Michael Jones says:

    Guys like Leach and Kiffin are very talented but have too many weird personality/character issues to work for us. There’s a bit of a loose cannon and ticking time bomb element to them that makes hiring them too risky, although I have to admit that I do pull for Leach. Kiffin. . not so much. That dude is hard to love.

  13. Sam Andreu says:

    Adam,

    Wouldn’t blame you a bit for not putting up with this clown, MJ.

    I quit reading his bs long ago. I tune in multiple times a day to your perspective and enjoy the comments.

    Hey MJ, control what you can, Broski.

  14. Michael Jones says:

    So it’s okay for a piling-on brown-noser to call a guy an “assclown” but putting “catastrophic” in quotation marks is disrespectful? Hmm. . interesting.

    Compounded by the fact that as outrageous as he can be sometimes, I’ve never read MJ call anybody any names.

    • Nope. It was not OK. But I do not sit and read every single comment that comes in here word-for-word. And I’m also not the only person approving comments. Thanks for pointing that out; it has been edited.

      And perhaps you may not realize this, but I’m not a commenter on this website; I’m the owner, editor and person that writes the majority of the articles. The way I expect to be treated is not the same as the way I expect you all to treat each other…though I dislike how you treat each other too, at times.

      You really need to calm down, Michael.

  15. Shannon Snell Shannon Snell says:

    Hey, maybe we all need to go have a beer. Some of the testosterone needs to certainly be turned down.

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