Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is in need of a new target

Action speaks louder than words, but stats don’t lie.

They might explain in part the Josh Freeman quandary.

The Tampa Buccaneers quarterback leads the NFL with 13 interceptions, after throwing only six last year.

Most disturbing is that nearly half of his picks (6) have come when he has thrown to tight end Kellen Winslow, according to Pro Football Focus.

His sideline arguments with Winslow have been well documented, and it makes you wonder if the tight end is putting pressure on Freeman to throw him the ball in bad situations. The six picks when targeting Winslow are twice as much as any other Bucs player.

It’s time to break up this relationship, but the stubborn Winslow can’t accept reality.

Freeman has been picked off three times throwing to Arrelious Been and twice when Preston Parker has been his target.

Throwing to Winslow has become high risk with low reward.

He is averaging 3.4 yards after the catch and 9.1 yards per reception, which is well below the NFL norm.

Winslow was Freeman’s favorite last year, but everything comes to an end, and it seems as if the surly tight end can’t accept it.

People laugh when Freeman says he is a better quarterback this year.

But he does have some factual ammunition to support an argument that he is victim of a poor receiving corps.

Among the regular starting NFL quarterbacks, Freeman and Michael Vick lead the league in most passes dropped by their receivers with 27 says PFF.

It doesn’t help that he the Bucs’ Mike Williams are tied for second among NFL receivers with eight drops. Williams is only averaging 3.4 yards after the catch, which ranks among the bottom third in the league, and he is catching 54.2 percent of the balls thrown to him, which also ranks him among the lowest in that category.

Holtz, Muschamp teetering

What do Skip Holtz and Will Muschamp have in common?

Answer: If they were cats each would still only have about two lives left.

They are both running programs that are teetering on the brink of disaster guaranteed to upset their fan bases.

Muschamp deserves a more sympathetic ear. Expectations are a lot higher at Florida and he is trying to fit square pegs into round holes in taking Urban Meyer’s spread offensive type players and incorporate them into the pro style system run by Charlie Weis.

Still, that doesn’t explain a highly touted defensive line that has been a huge disappointment, a leaky secondary and all those penalties.

Speaking of penalties, is there something in the water in our state?

Four of the nine most penalized teams in major college football are from Florida. The Gators head the list of 120 FBS teams averaging 8.3 penalties per game. FAU is the fifth most penalized team followed by FSU (tied for sixth) and USF at ninth.

Throw in the Bucs, who are the fourth most penalized team in the NFL, and you start to wonder if all this heat takes its toll on a player’s mind or ability to function with discipline.

The two most disappointing things in Gainesville this year are quarterback John Brantley’s ankle and Weis.

Weis got more ballyhoo and hype than Muschamp and hasn’t been able to deliver. But you can’t fault him for lack of depth at quarterback and running back and a receiving corps that has trouble getting open and holding onto the ball.

Holtz has fewer excuses at USF. He is in his second year as head coach and inherited quite a few talented players from Jim Leavitt, particularly on defense.

His late game defense was non-existent in losses to Cincinnati and Rutgers looking confused and misguided.

Stats never lie, but they can confuse!

USF is ranked 96th in kickoff return defense, but first in the country in punt return yardage defense. It is the only team in the country giving up minus yardage (minus-2 per return).

Those stats won’t win Holtz a lot of sympathizers, but he can get a lot of people off his back with a win over Miami this Saturday, though these Canes are a mere shell of their former selves.

Axon good fit at WKU?

Could Ben Axon be the next local kid to find a second life at Western Kentucky under head coach Willie Taggart?

The former Manatee High standout running back is home after a season that didn’t work out at Holmes Community College. He did have a very productive year at Butler Community College in 2010.

Axon could give WKU a nice power back like the kind Taggart coached at Stanford when he had Toby Gerhart, who is now with the Minnesota Vikings.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be contacted at 745-2112.