Neil Blackmon

Neil Blackmon covers Florida football for SaturdayDownSouth.com. An attorney and two-time graduate of the University of Florida, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. You can follow him on Twitter @nwblackmon.

Recent Comments
Weagle99 - Aren't you more mad at Virginia, and not Blackshear??
Definitely better for the SEC when the Gators are humming and Kentucky has consistent competition. Cats will always be king, but for a couple decades, there was a fun battle at the top.
Respectfully, Joe, This article doesn't have "hearsay." It is well-sourced as to what Steele's concerns with Jones were and well-sourced as to what the reaction from the staff was. I think Mullen is a good guy and a great developer of players, but if a kid asks you to change roommates because he has a character concern, you do it. You deal with the ramifications of the fact it may happen frequently because you put player concerns first. The article isn't "ridiculous", and if it were any coach but Mullen, you'd likely agree with it.I appreciate your comments on most my writing- agree or disagree- but this one misses the mark.
It was close for a while. But Georgia won by 19. Florida's staff should feel like they didn't play well and were still in the game in the fourth quarter, but the better football team won.
DWILS: Great catch on Cleveland. My fault. As to the other two points: 1) Dean has said himself nickel is an adjustment, especially b/c Grantham moves the nickel around a great deal. He is definitely talented; he also took his lumps last year at times (see, Michigan game in the first half). 2) Ivey graded out as Florida's best OT. Doesn't mean Taylor wasn't terrific. Just hard to lose a 4 year starter and captain.
There's no "grudge", but thanks for acknowledging you misread by argument and distorted its premise. Empirically, improvement is linear under Mullen. You make bad criticisms of my columns a great deal- it's not a grudge, just odd. Have a good one!
... just can't get enough! Florida was a USC touchdown against Notre Dame away from playing for the BCS National title game in 2012. The Irish made a stand and went themselves.
And yes, I see that my editors also "numbered" the piece. So fair game on that one- but just wanted to clarify I didn't intend the "five things to watch" to be ordered.
OL and DT. Can't get gashed against the run by good teams (Michigan aside) again.
Exactly. People forget how good a guy like Freddie Swain is (Joshua Hammond is open a lot too) b/c Florida has so much depth. I used to think Jefferson was the only pro in the group, but it seems pretty clear now that Grimes is a pro, Swain is a pro and Pitts will be too because how do you deal with 6'6, 245 and that kind of speed?
There you go again distorting arguments. The argument presented is not "that he needs to improve but that he has has already improved"; it is that "he has improved and has even more room to improve and Mullen's history suggests a second-year jump." Improvement is linear. The inclusion of one year of Tebow was a choice by my editors. Presumably it was made b/c Tebow had far fewer attempts year one because he played behind All-SEC QB Chris Leak. The list wasn't in any particular order of importance. It's just "five observations." Had it been titled "Top Five things to watch" instead of "Five things to Watch" I would understand this criticism. Have a good day!
More incoherent arguments. Not sure where to begin. I'll settle for: you advance a poor reading of an article that presents Pearl as a complex figure with a sordid past in a sport that is messy, one that makes room for characters like Pearl so long as they win. Whether Pearl-- a gregarious personality who kids love because he loves them and helps them get better- is "redeemed" is a question for the reader, not one I make any genuine conclusion about, beyond suggesting that winning is a form of redemption. Winning = redemption is hardly my argument; it's more a societal one, and it's up to readers to decide if they approve. As far as the "strawman" about the system- it is hardly one as advanced. I'd advise looking up what a "Strawman" is. I argue- correctly- that Pearl's sordid past, including Deon Thomas and the backyard BBQ- is a Will Wade like example of cutting corners that should be evaluated against the backdrop of the amateur myth. Readers can decide whether that "Excuses" Pearl's behavior- I don't think it does and neither did the NCAA. Your last claim, that I "portray Pearl's past as purely a product of loving his players" taxes the credulity of the credulous. It isn't what I did and it isn't what the article does. Again, I appreciate criticisms of my writing. It's just so much more fascinating when the criticism is coherent. Final Fours are forever, or else you wouldn't have to point out Cal's are vacated, or Louisville's, etc.
Great story CrankE. Thanks for sharing.
This critique of my column, well doubtlessly well-intentioned, misses the mark, badly. Pearl's redemption isn't about the Okeke incident, though that was "the moment" where his love for his players shined through above and beyond the sordid details of his past. And the questions as to whether he loved his players before are wholly irrelevant, though, as the column suggests, of course he did. The piece does't advance the argument: Pearl loves his players, so he's redeemed. A reading of it that way is bizarre. The piece does advance the argument that Pearl is complicated, like college basketball. It argues that it's wholly understandable to view him poorly, and links pieces and isolates incidents that would support that view. It also argues that there is a redemption narrative as part of his leading Auburn out of perennial basketball exile. It argues that he stayed the course as a coach and built a team as relentless as his work ethic. Auburn basketball was Person and Barkley and misery before Pearl. Exiled to "starting again" at a program that had never won, Pearl got to work. Because the FBI is swirling, there's plenty of space in the column to read it as "good or bad," which, as the critique suggests is "a matter of perspective." But what's also true is Pearl's infractions have usually been targeted at the heart of the amateurism myth: the idea players like Okeke should receive only tuition and a pizza stipend while schools and the NCAA make billions. An education is a valuable thing, and there's fair space to debate whether coaches like Will Wade should be able to play by a different set of rules just b/c the rules are bad. But it's precisely because Pearl cares for players in a system that often doesn't that makes the Okeke story compelling. As for "elevating sports and the issues and discussions surrounding them to such a level of importance", I'd argue the issue of whether players should be able to profit from their likeness in a business that generates billions off their labor is an important discussion, regardless of whether it happens in sports. Anyway, it's a bizarre and largely incoherent critique. And Final Fours are forever- it's why Calipari gets to claim all the vacated ones at Memphis every time a graphic comes up. Asterisks don't mean much.
The joke is having all those good players and not winning a natty since 1980.
Great Spurrier quote except that was about your boy Ray Goof.
The only team on that list: LSU, A & M, Auburn where Florida has "less" blue-chip talent is LSU. A & M and Auburn both have less than 50 percent blue-chip players on their current rosters. Florida is now at 58. Three programs in the SEC are higher: Bama, Georgia and LSU.
The gap has closed based on percentages of players on roster who are/were blue-chip recruits. Even with Georgia's amazing class, the number of "total" blue-chips per scholarship is still at about 80 percent (78.5). At Florida, it was 41 percent heading into 2018. The Gators will enter 2019 with 58 percent of the roster as "blue-chip talent." Hence why my editors chose the headline "close the gap."
Steele is a four-star per the 247 Composite (aggregate of all major services). Clayton was too. Florida will not have a single 5 star player on its roster next season with Ivey and Jefferson gone. There were no errors.
I think Kirby's take here is a bit more measured and reiterates some of the points in the piece. He's absolutely correct that Florida needs to recruit better to compete consistently with Bama and Georgia. Kirby, of course, needs to coach better than he did down the stretch too, and will have to do so without a lot of pieces that were vital to this year's team. Mullen should finish with a top 10 class this season and is well-situated for a Top 5 group in 2020 at present. If that happens, it's on. But for now-- as the article states-- Florida is still chasing Georgia. They are just doing so with a head of steam instead of a head full of dreams.
How? The article literally says Georgia is the team Florida is chasing and they aren't going away. Terrible take PC717. Read better. Comment less.
The Mizzou point is a strong one. Florida better figure that out if they want to compete nationally. The piece notes however that Florida has been a different team since that debacle.
Crazy how many people didn't read the piece and only read the word "reeling" in the headline (which the author didn't use, ever). The reality is Florida has more momentum entering the offseason. The Dawgs lost two games to close, both coordinators, a 1,000 yard rusher, the nation's best CB and their top three wide receivers. Hell yes, Kirby Smart has recruited well and they will say "next man up" in Athens. The article LITERALLY says that. It's just safe to say the gap between Georgia and Florida closed a great deal. Doesn't mean it does not still exist. Just that it is closing. If you can't admit that after Georgia's Sugar Bowl embarrassment, you are pearl clutching. That's fine, that's what fans do. But it isn't objective.
Enjoy! Definitely agree having Gary, Bush and Higdon would massively change the prognosis.
That's a fair take. Of course, Michigan was a win from the Playoff, and their only losses were to teams in the Playoff or NY6. But I think you're right, and the better framing would have been that Florida collecting three high quality wins hasn't happened in a while and that's usually a sign of a pretty good football team.
Authors Note: This was written last week. Some numbers issues, coupled with a few rumblings out of Miami,make the Zipperer race really about Miami and Florida at present, even if Zipperer was also very high on Alabama in the process. Still-- he and Summerall are largely thought of as a package.
Breaking news for smatsatUGA: No joke. The piece notes that FSU is down. Everyone recruits Florida. The article makes the nuanced distinction that Meyer was winning battles at four specific programs that were pipelines for UF. He turned off the pipe at those schools. Now it can be reopened.
Aww the bowl season, or as Tennessee fans call it, the "troll the comments boards of New Year's Six teams" season, since they don't have a bowl of their own to discuss :)