As the pieces of the puzzle that will be Florida football are put into their proper places the next few weeks before the season opens against Idaho, take note of two players in particular. If Kelvin Taylor is ready to take that next step forward in his development, as coaches believe he is, and Matt Jones is healthy and hasn’t lost a step after microfracture surgery on his knee, then the Gators have the potential for a rather scary running game. When you spread the field the way coordinator Kurt Roper plans to do with this offense and then you unleash a couple of downhill power runners against a defense that has to take on the look of a picket fence to cover the field, the potential is there for the kind of running game that will indeed make the passing game so much better.
When an offense goes three and four wide with a running threat at quarterback and power guys who can grind linebackers to pulp toting the rock, something has to give. Commit the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage to stop the run and you risk the ball going over the top in the passing game. Leave stopping the run to the front seven and the possibility exists that the defense will get sliced and diced with the running game.
Of course, it all depends on the running backs getting just enough of a crease to pop into the second level. Both Taylor and Jones have the size and physicality to turn the running game lethal. By going to this spread offense, Roper doesn’t need five grinders on the O-line, just five guys who can get in the way of someone long enough for the back to hit the hole. If they do their part, then the Florida offense should be the best it’s been since 2009.
If you needed further convincing that the NCAA is a bloated bureaucracy with more rules and regulations than it can enforce then consider this: Among the 22 secondary rules violations submitted to the NCAA by the University of South Carolina was one for excessive icing on cookies that were given to recruits on campus. Although cookies are not specifically mentioned in the NCAA rule book, South Carolina compliance saw the excessive icing as a potential violation of NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124. The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, decided that it won’t process this as a violation. The old rule book needs to be scrapped and a new one needs to be written, one that is streamlined and uses common sense. How many recruits do you know that would be swayed to sign with a school because of the icing on the cookies?
Alabama: With Eddie Jackson still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the spring, Alabama is taking a long look at freshman corners Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey. Currently Bradley Slyve and Cyrus Jones, who both got some starts last year, are running 1-2 but that could change. Additionally, freshmen Laurence Jones and Ronnie Clarke are getting reps at safety although Landon Collins and X have a firm grip on their starting jobs.
Arkansas: Bret Bielema says he has one goal for the Razorbacks in this first week of fall practice. “Look, let’s find out who can play football,” the Northwest Arkansas Gazette reported. “Just let our guys play some basic instincts and not complicate things with calls. We’re going to install and do some things but I really want to know on Saturday going into Sunday review, who do we think can help us play this year?”
Auburn: Devonte Danzey, a real bust last year after he transferred in from Hutchinson Community College, is getting second wind on his career now that Alex Kozan will miss the entire 2014 season after undergoing back surgery. Danzey has gained 13 pounds, up to 296, and he has the first shot at replacing Kozan at left guard. CORRECTION: Nick Marshall WILL play against Arkansas in the season opener, but will not start. Marshall was given a citation for marijuana earlier in the summer.
Georgia: John Theus is alternating between left and right tackle. On the right side, he’s alternating with Watts Dantzler and Kolton Houston and on the left side, he’s getting reps with Mark Beard. Houston is also working at left guard. The only two positions that seem settled on the Georgia offensive line right now are center (David Andrews) and right guard (Greg Pyke).
Kentucky: Juco transfer Ryan Flannigan needs to be ready to play immediately and make an impact at middle linebacker where he is replacing last year’s tackles leader Avery Williamson ... Wide receiver Demarco Robinson, who was suspended the last two games of 2013, is practicing with the team although head coach Mark Stoops says there are still some hoops that have to be jumped through.
LSU: Anthony Jennings has started fall practice as the #1 quarterback, but freshman Brandon Harris could very well emerge as the starter ... Safety Corey Thompson and defensive end Jermauria Rasco practiced with the #1 defense Monday. Both missed spring practice while recovering from surgery.
Mississippi State: With 20 of 21 players returning to the defense and quarterback Dak Prescott poised to have a great season, Mississippi State believes it’s ready to challenge for the SEC West title this year. “This is the year right here,” wide receiver Jameon Lewis told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Last year Lewis caught 64 passes for 923 yards and five touchdowns.
Missouri: Marcus Murphy, who ran for 601 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, is being given a look at wide receiver. It’s part of an experiment by head coach Gary Pinkel to see if he can get both Murphy and Russell Hansbrough on the field at the same time in Missouri’s one-back offense.
Ole Miss: Six players are battling for the #1 tailback position but it’s likely the winner of the battle will come from Jaylen Walton, I’Tavius Mathers or Akeem Judd ... Freshman linebacker DeMarquis Gates has been a standout in the early going of practice.
SOUTH CAROLINA: The early star in the South Carolina camp is do-everything Pharoh Cooper, who lines up all over the field. As a wide receiver, Cooper has been owning the middle of the field where the safeties can’t seem to cover him ... Freshman corner Chris Lammons is off to a good start and could be in the mix for a starting job.
Tennessee: Head coach Butch Jones was dissatisfied with Tennessee’s practice Monday. “We have to stop losing before we start winning,” Jones was heard shouting at his players per the Chattanooga Times-Free Press ... The Vols moved freshman Jashon Robertson from defensive tackle to the offensive line. The situation is so desperate on the offensive line that former walkon Jacob Gilliam is running first team at left tackle. Tennessee is the only team in the country without a single starter returning from either its offensive or defensive lines.
Texas A&M: Sophomore Kenny Hill is taking the snaps with the first team offense but for how long? Freshman Kyle Allen is expected to win the starting quarterback job ... On the defensive side of the ball, the Aggies are trying to find a linebacking crew that can get the job done. The Aggies finished last in the SEC in defense last season when they gave up 476 yards and 32.2 points per game.
Vanderbilt: Quarterback Josh Grady has asked for a position change and will move to wide receiver, which he played in 2012. That leaves five players in the running for the starting quarterback job.
The highest price ticket for the first college football championship game under the new playoff system will debut at $650. The highest price tickets for last year’s BCS championship game between FSU and Auburn had a face value of $385. Said College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock In an email, “The price is a bargain for the most important, most talked about, most in demand college game of the season ... arguably the most compelling game ever.”
Let’s see, if you bought the high priced tickets ... two tickets at face value, $1300; two round trip tickets Orlando to Dallas, $700; room at a 3-star hotel near Jerry’s World where the game will be played, $750 (three nights @ $200 plus parking and taxes); rent-a-car $225 (three days @$50 plus taxes and gas); parking at the stadium $20; food for two people, $300. With miscellaneous expenses that figure to be at least $3500, I think a lot of folks will find it such a bargain that they watch the game on their 60-inch (or more) high definition TV at their own home where they can drink whatever they wish and won’t have to stand in line to use the bathroom.
Should the Gators advance to the national championship game – yes, that’s quite a reach but it’s preseason so all things are possible in the minds of optimistic fans -- are you willing to part with the dollars to see the game in person or will you save the bucks and watch the game at home on your big screen in high def?
The Beach Boys defined the times in the fall of 1963 when they released “Little Deuce Coupe,” an album all about cars and Southern California which stayed on the charts for 46 weeks. The album featured four songs that got plenty of air time on the AM waves including “Shut Down” and “409” but the song that really defined the album and the times was “Little Deuce Coupe,” which became a sing-along standard for any Beach Boys concert in future years. The car about which the song was written was a 1932 Ford Coupe that had a flathead Olds V8 and was owned by hot rod collector Chili Catallo.