In its 2014 football yearbook, Athlon Sports did a flashback to the top 40 players in the football recruiting class of 2009, what they did in college and where they are now. The top 10 players in that class were (1) Matt Barkley, QB, USC; (2) Russell Sheppard, QB, LSU; (3) Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame; (4) Bryce Brown, RB, Tennessee; (5) Jacobbi McDaniel, DT, FSU; (6) Rueben Randle, WR, LSU; (7) Devon Kennard, DE, USC; (8) Craig Loston, S, LSU; (9) Garrett Gilbert, QB, Texas; and (10) Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. Some other notables were (15) Xavier Nixon, OT, Florida; (16) Jelani Jenkins, LB, Florida; (20) Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama; (26) Andre Debose, WR, Florida; (31) Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia; and (32) Gary Brown, DT, Florida.
A quick look at the top 10: Barkley never won a championship at USC but he did start four years and was an NFL fourth-rounder. Sheppard never played quarterback, never became an effective wide receiver and went undrafted. Te'o made All-America and was a second round draft pick. Brown transferred to Kansas State and was drafted in the seventh round. McDaniel had 95 tackles in his career and two sacks then went undrafted. Rueben Randle made All-SEC and was a second rounder. Devon Kennard made All-Pac 12 and was a fifth rounder. Craig Loston made All-SEC but was an undrafted free agent. Garrett Gilbert transferred to SMU where he was 12-13 as a starter. Kirkpatrick made All-America but never made first team All-SEC. He was a first rounder.
Of the notables, Nixon started five games as a freshman, 33 in his career and was an undrafted free agent who stuck in the NFL as a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts. Jenkins started 31 games in his career, made 180 tackles and was drafted in the fourth round by the Washington Redskins. Richardson made All-America and was the third player drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. Debose petitioned for and was granted a sixth year after missing two full seasons with injuries. He will be a senior at Florida this year. Murray set plenty of SEC passing records but never won a championship. He was a fifth round pick by the Chiefs. Gary Brown never played a down in an SEC game and was dismissed from school after numerous problems including an arrest for striking two women at an off-campus party.
Of the entire top 40 for 2009, there were four first round picks – three from Alabama (Kirkpatrick, D.J. Fluker and Richardson) – along with three second rounders, four fourth rounders, one fifth rounder, one sixth rounder and one seventh rounder. There were 25 who never were drafted and one (Debose) still in school.
ESPN.com, which is counting down its 50 best coaches in college basketball, slotted Louisville coach Rick Pitino at #5 Monday. With four spots still to be revealed, Florida's Billy Donovan is assured of a top four finish. The four finalists – Donovan, John Calipari (Kentucky), Mike Kryzyzewski (Duke) and Tom Izzo (Michigan State). If I had a vote, I would rate Donovan #1 and this is not just the orange and blue blood whizzing through my brains talking here. Cal, Coach K and Izzo all work at schools with incredible tradition and basketball resources. Donovan didn't have to build the Florida program from scratch, but he's made the Gators a national powerhouse without anything close to the advantages or resources that Cal, Coach K and Izzo have. In his 18 years on the job, Billy Donovan has won two national championships (2006, 2007), made it to the Final Four two other times (including a 2000 second place finish), made seven trips to the Elite Eight including the last four in a row and six SEC championships. Only Adolph Rupp (27) and Joe B. Hall (8), both of Kentucky have won more SEC titles. My guess is ESPN will rank Billy #3 behind Coach K and Cal. If I had been voting, my top five would have been Billy, Coach K, Rick Pitino, Bill Self (Kansas) and Calipari.
Just when the fine folks in Chapel Hill thought it was safe to go back into the water, the NCAA delivered a notice that it's planning to re-open its investigation into academic misconduct within the athletic department at the University of North Carolina. UNC needs to be worried. Very, very worried. Since firing whistleblower Mary Willingham, the Raleigh News and Observer produced a scathing investigative report into the academics of the basketball program that fully supported Willingham and allegations by former Tar Heel star Rashad McCants that the basketball program was up to its wazzoo in academic fraud. Then there is the felony criminal fraud trial of former UNC faculty member Julius Nyang'oro, who ran the African-American Studies classes that are at the heart of the fraud investigation. He's been rather cooperative with former federal prosecutor Kenneth Walinstein, hired by the university to get to the bottom of this dungheap. Because the school has already been hit hard by NCAA sanctions to the football program, these allegations could lead to the death penalty. I would bet Roy Williams isn't sleeping well right now and that the agent of football coach Larry Fedora, brought in to clean up the football mess, has every athletic director of a power 65 school with a coach in trouble on speed dial.
While the Ed O'Bannon vs. the NCAA trial was going on in Oakland, California, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was interviewed by CBSSports.com out in Eugene. Asked if college football players should be paid, Mariota responded, "They're talking about college athletes. Looking behind me, these facilities. The resources we get around here. We'll never get this much help in our entire lives." Mariota wasn't called to the witness stand because there Judge Claudia Wilken had already deemed any athlete since 2005 as a class-action plaintiff, but as Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandell points out, "What about someone who played a little earlier than the period in question? Maybe former Xavier center David West, the 2003 AP Player of the Year who went from overlooked prep school recruit to college graduate and future NBA All-Star, would have made an impression on Wilken?" Yes, what if the NCAA had called on one of the numerous success stories that are out there of athletes who made the system work for them? Of course, the NCAA didn't but that should come as no surprise to anyone who's followed the organization closely the last 15-20 years. The word that tells you the real reason the NCAA was on trial in the first place is arrogance, which the NCAA has turned into an art form. If you or I had committed as many tactical blunders as NCAA president Mark Emmert over the last 3-4 years, we would have been run out of town on a rail. That Emmert still has a job is mind boggling but just one more example of how arrogance has taken over in Indianapolis where the NCAA calls home.
Three years after signing a rather unprecedented deal for a second round pick – four years, $3.6 million – Chandler Parsons can count on the kind of payday that should make him financially independent for life. He's a restricted free agent, which means the Houston Rockets can match any offer for him and the numbers are expected to be four years and something between $36-48 million dollars. Parsons is one of only seven NBA players who averaged at least 16 points, rive rebounds and four assists per game last year (CP's numbers were 16.6 points, 5-5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game – and the people who do efficiency ratings for the NBA consider him one of the best players in the league. He's rated the ninth best free agent on the market by Sports Illustrated. The Rockets don't want to lose Parsons but would dangle him as bait in a sign and trade deal with the right team for the missing piece to a Houston puzzle that isn't very far from championship contender status. Not bad for a kid that a lot of fans thought was a throw-in to keep Nick Calathes happy when he was recruited.
The fine folks in Hueytown, Alabama will honor one of their own Saturday when they hold "Jameis Winston Day" in honor of Florida State's Heisman Trophy winning quarterback. There is no denying Winston's talent on the football field and baseball diamond. There is serious reason to question whether all the circuits connect between his left and right ears, however. Given that Alabama is the state that produced super fan Harvey Updyke, who poisoned the oak trees at Toomer's Corner in Auburn, you have to wonder if Jack's Foodland in Eva, Alabama will revive its "Jameis Winston King Crab Legs" special ($17.99 per pound) or if some zany Alabama fan will manage to insert the Publix surveillance tape of Winston on his high crimes and misdemeanors tour of the spring into the highlight reel when they start showing Winston's top plays of the last year.
Which of Florida's incoming freshmen will have the greatest impact in 2014?
I'm a big fan of so many of the legendary old blues singers who came out of the Mississippi delta prior to 1940. One of the greats was Blind Willie Johnson whose song "John the Revelator" is a true blues classic. I love this version performed by the California-based band Dustbowl Revival, which I recently discovered. One of the reasons I like their music is because they do everything from blues standards to bluegrass to jazz, and sometimes all in the same song. For a California band so much of their music sounds like it's straight from New Orleans.