Maybe the biggest piece of news coming out of Florida’s first day of fall practice was that freshmen David Sharpe, Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson are practicing with the veterans. Sharpe, nearly 6-7 and 336 pounds, has the size and quick feet to become a dominating left tackle in the Southeastern Conference. Considering Florida’s lack of depth on the outside, his rapid development will be critical since both D.J. Humphries and Chaz Green have had injury issues. Don’t be surprised at all if both Tabor and Dawson are in the starting secondary when the Gators open the season against Idaho on August 30. Either one could start at the corner opposite Vernon Hargreaves III but the more likely scenario has Tabor at corner and Dawson at the nickel.
For the first five or six practices, head coach Will Muschamp says the Gators will focus on installation of the offensive and defensive packages. The Gators will be in shells on Wednesday and full pads on Friday.
Although websites like coachinghotseat.com list Florida coach Will Muschamp as the college football coach under the most pressure to win in 2014, he is not the coach with the hottest seat in the his own conference. That honor goes to Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who enters 2014 with a nine-game losing streak. Here is a look at the top five coaches under pressure to win this year in the SEC.
1. Bret Bielema, Arkansas: Bielema seems to think that the grind it out style he used to go to three Rose Bowls at Wisconsin will work in the Southeastern Conference. Last year that style got the Hogs a 3-9 record and a nine-game losing streak to end the season. That was Bielema’s first year on the job. This is year two and it’s not going to be much better. Will Arkansas fans, who saw the program win 23 games and go to the Sugar and Cotton bowls in Bobby Petrino’s last two years on the job, stand for another rotten season? Will they stand for grind it out offense after getting used to throwing it all over the ball yard under Petrino? Arkansas fans have ponied up seriously big bucks to upgrade the football facilities. Another losing season isn’t going to make anybody happy in Hogland.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida: He is under pressure, but not nearly as much as some pundits might want us to believe. Jeremy Foley is firmly behind Muschamp and as long as there is measurable progress this year (Foley won’t name a number of wins), Muschamp will be back for another year. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of pressure. There is, but if the offense puts points on the board and the Gators are competitive while winning more than they lose, Muschamp will be here in 2015. Count on it.
3. Butch Jones, Tennessee: Since 2007 when Phillip Fulmer went 10-4 and lost in the SEC Championship Game, the Vols have had exactly one winning season and that was Lane Kiffin’s 7-6 in 2009. Jones went 5-7 last year but he’s got Tennessee fans excited about the future. A 5-7 record this year won’t get him fired, but it will put his butt squarely on the hot seat. But what happens if the Vols, who don’t have a single starter back on either the offensive or defensive lines, tank completely? Will the fans still be enamored with Butch?
4. Gus Malzahn, Auburn: He went 12-2 and was within a few seconds of bringing home a national championship in his first year on the job and only second year as a Division I head coach. What happens if Auburn isn’t nearly as good this year as last and Alabama wins a national championship? Will the fans give Gus a mulligan or will they turn on him the way they did Gene Chizik? Chizik won a national championship in his second year on the job at Auburn (2010) but was 8-5 and 3-9 the next two years while Alabama was winning national championships, which got him fired. Malzahn won’t get fired if the Tigers underperform in 2014, but if they don’t win at least 10 games and Alabama wins a national title, there will be some unhappy campers.
5. Mark Richt, Georgia: Although he’s won more games (126) in his first 13 seasons than any coach in Georgia history including Vince Dooley (98), he hasn’t won an SEC championship since 2005 and has never won a national championship. In the same time he’s been at Georgia, Auburn has won one national title while Florida and LSU have won two and Alabama has won three. If the Bulldogs don’t make it at least to Atlanta this year, Richt will be under the gun from impatient Georgia fans who think there is no reason why they aren’t winning national titles.
Alabama: Linebacker Trey DePriest began practice with a brace on his left knee and in a black no-contact jersey. With DePriest limited, Reuben Foster and Reggie Ragland are working as the inside linebackers in Alabama’s 3-4 alignment ... Blake Sims started out as the #1 quarterback with FSU transfer Jacob Coker the backup.
Arkansas: There is no quarterback controversy for the Razorbacks. Junior Brandon Allen, who completed only 49.6% of his passes last year, is the starting quarterback and all the others will be battling for the backup job.
Auburn: With quarterback Nick Marshall (marijuana citation) suspended for game one, Jeremy Johnson will be the starting quarterback against Arkansas in the season opener ... Marshall might not start the first game but he’s been tearing it up in practice. He went 15-17 throwing the ball in the second practice.
Georgia: Cornerback Shattle Fenteng, a juco transfer expected to start this year, left practice Monday afternoon with an undetermined injury ... Linebacker Ramik Wilson was not dressed for practice Monday ... Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd was in a non-contact jersey.
Kentucky: Freshman nose tackle Matt Elam will probably run with the first team before too long. He’s 6-7, 375 pounds. Kentucky coaches are hoping he gives inside push to open up the outside for defensive end Bud Dupree ... Wide receiver Alex Montgomery (recovering from a torn ACL) was the only no-show when practice began Monday.
LSU: Safety Jalen Mills, who has been suspended since punching a woman back in May, was charged with simple battery, which is a misdemeanor on Monday. That carries a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in lockup ... Freshman wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Tony Upchurch practiced with the veterans Monday morning.
Mississippi State: Sophomore Jamal Clayborn has the task of replacing All-SEC left guard Gabe Jackson, who was a third round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders. Clayborn is 6-4, 315 and a weight room warrior with good feet.
Missouri: Missouri lost wide receivers who combined to catch 167 balls for 2,468 yards and 25 touchdowns. Obviously, finding wide receivers is the main focus for the Tigers as camp begins.
Ole Miss: Offensive tackle Christian Morris, who signed with UCLA but never enrolled last year, is still waiting for a waiver that would allow him to play immediately. He tore his Achilles early in spring practice but is practicing and working his way into shape.
South Carolina: Running back Mike Davis wore a yellow, no-contact jersey the Sunday because of a nagging hamstring ... Backup quarterback Brendan Nosovitch is taking reps at tight end.
Tennessee: Quarterbacks Justin Worley and Josh Dobbs traveled to California to work with quarterback guru George Whitfield in the offseason. Whitfield has tutored Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel among others.
Texas A&M: The Aggies’ much-maligned defense spent the offseason trying to get physically stronger. Linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni is visibly bigger after adding 20 pounds of muscle. He’s 6-3, 245 now.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores are changing offensive schemes under new coach Derek Mason. Kyle Woestermann, a defensive end last year, is now a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme ... Last year’s leading rusher Jerron Seymour has sat out the first few practices.
Heisman Trophy quarterback Jameis Winston took out a $10 million insurance policy in the offseason. Monday, the Tomahawk Nation website reported that Florida State will pay part of the premium to the tune of $55,000 or more. The money will come from FSU’s Student Assistant Fund and it is perfectly legal under NCAA rules. Per the NCAA website, the Student Assistant Fund “shall be used to assist student-athletes in meeting financial needs that arise in conjunction with participation in intercollegiate athletics, enrollment in an academic curriculum or that recognizes academic achievement.” Per the NCAA, the conferences – in this case the ACC) – are in charge of oversight and administration of the fund including interpretations of how the money can be used.
Under a new NCAA rule that allows senior recruits planning to enroll in January to sign financial aid agreements with their school on August 1, Clemson has more than half of its 2015 commitments signed on the dotted line. The financial aid agreement doesn’t bind the kids to Clemson but it binds Clemson to the kid as long as he chooses to attend Clemson and enroll early ... Miami quarterback Kevin Olsen has been suspended for the season opener after failing a drug test. That could open the door for Kansas transfer Jake Heaps, who is on his third team (BYU two years, transfer to Kansas where he played one year) and is immediately eligible as a fifth year graduate ... Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post questions whether Al Golden is the right coach to lead Miami ... The Big Ten is 8-25 since 2010 against ranked teams from the power five conferences and 7-15 against the SEC ... Texas is practicing in all white helmets. The signature longhorn decal has to be earned in practice ... Stud freshman running back Joe Mixon won’t get to practice at Oklahoma until his legal issues are resolved. He allegedly assaulted a woman on the OU campus. It will be next week, at the earliest, before there is resolution ... Baylor’s new state of the art stadium will feature five food stations, each with a different cuisine including Cajun and Italian ... The family of Ted Agu, who died after taking part in a team training run back in February, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the University of California ... Utah has six scholarship quarterbacks eligible to play this season.
Who is the most important freshman for the Gators as fall practice begins?
Jan and Dean were a nice doo wop duo until Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys (with help from Jan Berry) gave then the the song “Surf City” during one of his famous tiffs with dad, Murray. “Surf City” changed Jan and Dean from weekend singers taking a break from their college studies into music superstars almost overnight. They had a very good run from 1963-65 singing surf and car songs, but their stardom came to an abrupt end when Jan Berry suffered serious head and brain injuries from an auto accident near “Dean Man’s Curve” which Jan and Dean made famous in 1964. No Surfboards and Fast Cars Week would be complete without “Surf City.” Lead guitar on the song was played by Glen Campbell.