Robbie Andreu is a veteran SEC sportswriter. He has covered the Florida Gators for The Gainesville Sun since 1993 and has been writing about baseball and college and pro football since graduating from the University of Florida in 1977.
In fact, Robbie has missed only one Florida football game since taking over the beat in Gainesville. He missed to 2006 game against FSU in Tallahassee. But we’ll give him a break. He stayed home for the birth of his second child.
Andreu has spent his entire career in the Sunshine State. He has worked for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel for newspapers in Clearwater and Bradenton. In addition to the Gators, he has also covered the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Hurricanes.
Anyway, somehow I was able to con this grizzled veteran into providing some insight for us on the Gators as our guest for this week’s “Opposing View.” Here’s what he had to say about the 2014 Florida football team, which enters Saturday’s game against No. 11 Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) with a 3-3 record and 2-3 in SEC play.
Q: The Muschamp Factor: Just how intense is it in the Gator Nation to make a change at head coach? Will it come down to the Georgia game or something that Jeremy Foley will absolutely wait until the end of the season to address?
Andreu: “Heading into the season, Gator Nation was pretty much divided down the middle about Muschamp. Now, the consensus seems to be it’s time for Foley to make the call and fire him. The Missouri game seemed to be the tipping point, with the fans booing and chanting “Fire Muschamp” in the second half. If the Gators aren’t at least competitive in this game Saturday, there’s a chance Foley could go ahead and do something next week. I don’t think Muschamp has to win this game to make it to the end of the season, but if the Gators play like they did two weeks ago, he’s probably gone sooner than later.”
Q: How’d Florida get into this situation, in your opinion? Obviously, offensive production has been the key issue holding back the Gators. But is that just a Muschamp creation or was it an issue before he got there?
Andreu: “To me, the biggest issue has been with the offense and the fact the Gators have not had a good quarterback since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season. In fact, you can trace it back to the year before that, when offensive coordinator Dan Mullen took the Mississippi State job. Even with Tebow, the offense was very inconsistent in 2009 and nowhere close to what it was the year before. So, the downward offensive cycle at UF actually started the year before Muschamp arrived. It doesn’t help that the Gators are on their third offensive coordinator in four years under Muschamp.”
Q: Obviously, Florida is among the best in the nation on defense. What is it the Gators do and who in particular is getting it done for them on that side of the ball?
Andreu: “Muschamp has a proven defensive system and most of the players have been in it for two, three or four years and are very comfortable in it. It’s a very aggressive defense with a lot of stunts up front and man-to-man coverage in the secondary. The defense has improved since the loss to Alabama, especially in the secondary. The guys who have really been getting it done on defense are cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, linebacker Antonio Morrison and defensive end/outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr.”
Q: What’s the take on Todd Gurley’s situation from the Florida perspective? Never minding the will he play or won’t he play rhetoric, is there any sympathy you can sense about ownership of one’s likeness, image and signature? Does it come down to wanting the best shot of beating Georgia?
Andreu: “Muschamp and several of his players have said they want Gurley to play because they want to face a Georgia team that is at full strength. The feeling down here (and around this team) is that Gurley should have been rule eligible by now, that he’s been penalized enough for something that seems minor.”
Q: Clearly, you’ve covered way more wins than losses since you first started covering this rivalry. What have been your observations of Mark Richt and what he’s done with the Bulldogs to make the series competitive again?
Andreu: “Remember how consistent this program was under Vince Dooley? Well, Richt has gotten the ‘Dogs back to that point. He’s got a great system, a proven system, and the players believe in it. And it works. After what Spurrier inflicted on the Bulldogs in the 1990s, UGA needed a coach with the “It” factor to make this rivalry competitive again, and Richt has done that.”
Andreu’s prediction: Georgia 31, Florida 20.
Andreu: “Based on where the two teams are at right now, the score shouldn’t be that close, but this is a rivalry game that so often is still in doubt going into the fourth quarter. If the Gators can take care of the football and play sound defense, maybe they have a chance to hang in there until the end.”